The Smallest One Was Madeline [50]

By Karl Noonan

City Tattler: “Hello Madeline. I have heard many fantastic stories of your travails, in fact I hear you were dragged across Sydney Heads once? How did that happen? Should we start at the beginning? Where did you start and finish? How old were you? That sort of thing…”

Maddie Noonan: “What is travails?”

Dad (Karl): “Maddie was just six at the time on a big adventure.”

Rob Mercer: “Maddie, travails means…”

Maddie: “I can speak for myself Rob, Dad. I remember very well thank you.”

City Tattler: “Yes, I see. Madeline, you were obviously very young. Weren’t you scared.”

Maddie: “Why don’t we start at the beginning as you suggested. Please call me Maddie. No, I was very wet and cold! And what is travails?”

City Tattler: “Sorry. Travails… it means physical toil or exertion, can be painful.”

Maddie: “Painful. I see. Dad put me in a buoyancy vest and a spray deck that grandma made for me that morning. It was yellow with an orange beak that I am supposed to pull to get out. I squeezed into the back hatch and Rob and Dad took me to Manly. I wanted to see the fairy penguins but it got rough and I got cold and very wet. Daddy and Rob haven’t stopped laughing. It wasn’t funny. I had water up to my neck. I kept telling Dad that I was cold and very wet. Dad kept saying we’ll get you warm very soon. You know it was really blowing and I was cold. Dad didn’t believe me until he looked back.”

City Tattler: “Thankyou Madeline.”

Maddie: “Maddie please.”

City Tattler: “Of course. Now Sharon, as a teacher and an experienced paddler would you see Madeline’s experience as a tad risky. What is your version of the day’s events?”

Sharon Betteridge: “They didn’t listen to me. What’s the point in explaining anything to you either. You men don’t listen at all. You’ll write what you want anyway.”

City Tattler: “Look, I’m just a reporter. Really, I’m listening. You tell me how it was. By the way, I’m not butch.”

Sharon: “Mmm. All right. Maddie’s father didn’t respect what I had to say. I told him a southerly buster was coming.

“We paddled off Rose Bay into a thick soupy, very warm Nor’easter. Anyway we were half way across the Heads and the southerly hit and the waves grew very fast. They were in a double kayak and I was trailing in my Mirage. The back end of their kayak went underwater right up to Maddie’s father in the rear cockpit and my Rob was definitely paddling uphill. He was working so hard my Rob. At about that time they realised what was happening. That’s when they both accelerated and the boat levelled up, took off and left me to catch up. The waves grew as they do in a 25 knotter. Anyway after emptying the boat and warming up on Quarantine Beach we moved over to East Esplanade beach.

“Maddie was soon her usual self in Manly Wharf’s ‘Tilt’. I gave Maddie $20.00 to play the machines and I held back the remaining $30.00 Maddie’s father gave us. She wasn’t going to get me to spend it all. I’m smarter than that. Anyhow Maddie was smiling all over again. The boys paddled back to pick up the cars. And that’s it.”

City Tattler: “Thankyou Sharon. I like the bit about the payoff to keep Madeline happy. Now Robert, how did you see it up front steering the kayak through a storm?”

Rob: “It’s not a long paddle from Rose Bay. Like Sharon said we expected the southerly. The clouds were so dark rimming Sydney in the south. Given we were experienced paddlers that wasn’t the problem. Maddie sounded OK. She just said she was getting wet and cold. Only when she said she was getting very wet did her father look back. Well I guess we were stunned to see the water flowing around her chest and to realise the cargo hatch was engulfed. Yes, I knew from the moment we were paddling uphill and pointing up while moving down the other side of the wave crests that the angle of the boat and trim was severely compromised. We decided to paddle like hell and that fixed the problem. Speed enough to surf. You know the rest.”

City Tattler: “Not knowing what’s going on so far up the front can be a problem. Thanks Rob, I like the way you put it. Now Dad, what really happened. What state was Madeline in when she landed on Quarantine Beach?”

Dad: “As Maddie said she was cold and wet. I can see you are angling for a drama here. You know you guys have a reputation for taking matters out of context. Look, you don’t need to put that on the record. Maddie has had a memorable trip and we are still amused by it, very amused. The day didn’t work out the way we intended it to but in hindsight it was memorable with a smile.”

City Tattler: “Thankyou. Madeline, you are a brave girl.”

Maddie: “Maddie pleeease. Geez…what a travail!”