Balmain Bug

30 Nov

A Balmain Tiger

A Balmain Bug, that’s what Captain Kieran intimated we would get if we were foolish enough to swim Dawnies to Cockatoo. He said we would emerge from the water covered in muck and then fall foul of some sort of bacterial infestation.

Well, I’ve got the Balmain Bug. I’ve been a victim of this contagious viral outbreak since 2001 when I moved to the ‘Insular Peninsular’ from the East. My symptoms grew worse in 2005 when the Tigers won the premiership and fans painted paw prints all over the pavements and black and gold bunting fluttered for weeks in Darling Street. Having swum Dawnies to Cockatoo the weekend before last, I am now gripped by the fever.

One of the oldest pools in Sydney looked schmick in the sunshine (not just that reflected by Mrs Sparkle and the Sunrise Sisters in their yellow and blue togs). There was music, massages on the deck, boxes of fruit and barbequed bacon and egg rolls. It was a festival.

In the water, the Balmain bugs weren’t to be seen although there were quite a lot of squishies as Dory would say (jelly blubbers I think, is the technical term).

Flat crustaceans found in Sydney Harbour.

Balmain Bugs, flat crustaceans found in Sydney Harbour.

Can Too Kim had to fish a few out the bottom of her togs after she had finished trawling for them in the 2.4km. She went all the way round the island, undeterred by its reputation as a den of iniquity.
The Sydney newspaper, the Empire, described Cockatoo Island in October 1857 as ‘A hot bed of vice, a nursery of crime and a den of the blackest infamy where crimes that would rise the blush of burning shame upon a demon’s cheek are nightly perpetrated’. No, that didn’t bother Kim (the vice or the split infinitive). She was more bothered by the need to complete the swim in a timely fashion as it is carefully aligned with the Sydney Ferries’ timetables. As it was, Can Too (and a few other back of pack swimmers) did stop the ferry.

If only I had been there (round the other side of the den of iniquity, instead of just swimming there and straight back for the sausages). I love ferries almost as much as I love Balmain (where most of them sleep at night). And just to prove it, even though this is a swimming blog, and yes I know that I am a hopeless ferry spotter but…for those of you lucky enough to commute by this fantastic method of transport, why not cut out the attached little aide memoire and wow your fellow passengers morning and night with tales of the namesakes of Sydney ferries.

There are 9 catamaran ferries.  They were built in the 1980s.  They are named after 9 of the 11 ships which comprised the first fleet and arrived in   Sydney in 1788.  The 2 ships which are not commemorated are Prince of Wales and Lady Penrhyn.  The first fleet consisted of 2 naval ships, 6 convict transports and 3 storage ships.

Charlotte (CT) sailed so poorly that she had to be towed for the first 2 days of the first fleet’s voyage.  Her convicts were discovered to be     counterfeiting coins below deck.

Supply (NS) was the swiftest sailor in the fleet.  She acted as a scout and messenger.

Scarborough (CT) was the 2nd biggest ship in the fleet.  She carried male convicts only.  During the voyage, a convict plot to take over the ship was discovered and the perpetrators flogged and transferred to another ship.  Scarborough is the only ship to also sail in the second fleet.

Friendship (CT) was the punishment ship for naughty convicts although she had troubles of her own.  There was fighting between the mariners and the sailors and seamen were often found in bed with the female convicts.  Friendship left Sydney with Alexander later in 1788 but never returned as she was wrecked off the Straits of Maccassar.

Borrowdale (SS) carried various stores including 18 turkies, 87 chickens, 2 stallions and 44 sheep.

Golden Grove (SS) also carried various stores including 589 womens’ petticoats and 1 dozen tin saucepans.

Alexander (CT) was the most unhealthy of the fleet’s ships in terms of sickness and deaths.   On her way to Sydney she carried male convicts.  On a subsequent voyage, most of her crew died of scurvy but were fortunately replaced by the surviving crew of the wrecked Friendship.

Sirius (NS) was the flagship of the first fleet.  She carried personnel, boats, sheep and guns.  She sailed poorly as she was overladen.

Fishburn (SS) carried various stores including handcuffs and brandy.  The departure of the first fleet was delayed for a day as Fishburn’s crew went on strike over a wages dispute.

How might your day be affected if instead of the hardworking Sirius, the militant Fishburn or Scarborough picks you up? Would your chances for scoring with a fellow passenger be improved if Friendship takes you home tonight? If you’re running late, pray for Supply to steam into Sydney Cove and not Charlotte. Pretend you’re on Noah’s Ark on Borrowdale. Step aboard Golden Grove and wonder at the 18th century priorities between petticoats and saucepans.

Despite the prediction of pollution, the water was quite clear

Despite the prediction of pollution, the water was quite clear

Coogee, last weekend couldn’t have been more different. The only common elements were jelly blubbers and sunshine. It was bumpy out back. And Graeme Brewer (maybe I did listen to you on Heron Graeme, because), I kept asking myself ‘What would Popov do?’ I found the answer and I survived my first proper surf swim of the season…..

“The water is your friend… don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.”
Alexandr Popov

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