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Train Whistle Blowing - 3. TWB Ch 3

“Probably not, I will ask our neighbours to look after him during the days, until after the funeral is over and done with, then we can decide what to do after that,” Mum replied.

A few days later, Mum and I travelled up to the airport to collect my Uncle Rangi, who was quite a solid built man, who would easily drop someone in a tackle, and he nearly squeezed all the air out of me as he gave me a welcome hug. “Hello little sister, it is good to see you again after such a long time,” Uncle Rangi said before giving Mum a tight hug as well.

When we arrived back home, I went next door to collect Fraser, while Mum helped Uncle Rangi to settle in, with him taking the study next to my room, for the time that Uncle Rangi is with us. When I returned to the house with my little brother, Mum and Uncle Rangi were in deep discussion and they stopped talking as we entered the house.

“Uncle Rangi, this is my little brother Fraser,” I said making the introduction, and Fraser took one look at Uncle and scooted behind me, which made Uncle Rangi laugh. “It is ok Fraser, this is our Uncle,” I tried to explain, but he remained in hiding behind me, until I sat down in the lounge, and Fraser followed and sat on my lap, and soon he drifted off to sleep.

“Dad’s body arrives tomorrow morning, so can I get you too look after Fraser, while we go to the Funeral Home and start making the arrangements?” Mum asked me quietly, so as not to wake up Fraser, and I nodded my head yes.

“I have contacted the school, and told them what is happening, and they are fine with you taking some time off school,” Mum added. “I would prefer to go to school if that is ok,” I replied, “If that is what you want, that is fine with me, but you will need to take one day off to come with me and Uncle Rangi to the funeral service,” Mum said softly.

I went to school the next day, riding my bike, which takes me about twenty minutes from our home in Casuarina Court, and shortly after locking up my bike, Rick and Jacob appeared. “What are you doing here; we thought you would be at home with your family?” Jacob asked me.

“I needed to keep my mind busy and try and not think about the upcoming funeral, which I have been told to attend. Mum’s brother has arrived, and he is helping with looking after business, and our neighbour is looking after Fraser during the day,” I replied.

“Ok, well like we said before, if you need anything, just ask, and in the mean time we are here to support you, ok?” Rick said to me, and as I nodded my head, as I noticed the brothers were wearing black armbands.

“Thanks, and also thanks for those too, it is appreciated. I got to go to admin and let them know that I am here,” I replied, before starting to head towards the admin building, but I stopped when I heard another student call out.

“Hey Atkinson, what is with the black armbands? Did your pet monkey die or something?” the student said loudly for all to hear. “No you moron, it is a sign of respect for a good friend who is in mourning, so how about you do the same, since he is a student at this school,” Rick called back angrily.

“Oh… sorry, I guess I shot my mouth off before thinking again… sorry. Um, who is it that is in mourning?” the student responded, “Work it out for yourself; Jenkins, and be a bit more respectful with our fellow students,” Rick said before he and Jacob followed behind me.

“Boys… Mr Mitchell, we were not expecting you to be at school until sometime next week,” the deputy principal said to us as we entered the reception foyer. “I need to keep myself busy sir, and Mum has her brother with her, to help her out,” I responded.

“I presume those arm bands are for Hunter’s sake?” the deputy principal asked the Atkinson brothers, “Yes sir, that is correct, we were with Hunter when he was told the news, so we are here as his support team,” Rick replied.

“Very well, I will allow the arm bands, only until the funeral thou, I will mark you down as attending school Hunter, and I will arrange the school chaplain to have a chat to you in a day or two, that is all, you can go now,” the deputy principal said, and we headed back outside.

The next few days were a bit of a hazy blur for me, and on the day of the funeral, I dressed in my best suit, with a dark blue tie, and Mum said that I looked very smart, and she was very proud of me. Mum had arranged for a cremation funeral service, and it was held at the funeral home out on the Flinders Highway, about 12 kilometres out of town, which has a nice country feel to the place.

After the funeral, which had about fifty people attending, most of them I did not even know, but I did see the whole Atkinson Family plus my school deputy principal and chaplain at the service. A wake gathering was held at the yacht club, which Mr Atkinson had arranged the use of the facilities and the catering.

The following day, I returned to school for the last day of the school week, and once again I had Rick and Jacob providing me with support, and at the end of the day Rick suggested that we head down to the Yacht Club for our final look at Trimaran, before it is handed over to the new owners in the morning.

I laughed at this comment, and both boys looked at me strangely, not sure, why I had laughed. “The new owner is my Uncle Rangi, he was going to come and collect the yacht this week, but he came early when he received news of Dad passing away,” I said to them.

“Wow, now that is a weird coincidence or what,” Rick said in response. “Yeah, it was a bit of a big surprise to me too. “We haven’t told anyone yet, but we may be moving to the Cook Islands. Mum is a trained nurse, so she can get a job easily there, and we have family to support us there,” I announced.

“Oh, well that really sucks, I will miss having you around, and trying to beat you in swim races,” Jacob said to me, which made me smile, “Yeah mate, I will miss you too, I have really enjoyed having you as my best mate,” I replied.

“Was your uncle going to sail the yacht on his own?” Rick asked me, “No, I found out the other day, that he is going to sail it to Devonport, where two friends will fly over too, and together they would sail the yacht to Wellington and then onto Rarotonga, which is the capital of the Cook Islands. From there it is 250 kilometres to the island that our family lives on,” I explained.

“Wow that is some distance away, are they in a very remote location?” Rick asked, “No, not really, the family own their own little island, which is only about 15-acres in area according to Uncle Rangi, and it is just seven kilometres to the main island of Aitutaki, with 14 other islands in the group, which is surrounded by a coral reef, that forms a large lagoon,” I replied.

“Sounds like paradise,” Jacob commented, “Yes it is according to Uncle Rangi, and with all the research I have done lately, it does look like paradise from the photos I have seen,” I replied smiling. We rode our bikes down the three kilometres to the yacht club, which took us about ten minutes, and Mr Atkinson was on the deck of the yacht when we arrived, as Rick whistled to get his attention.

Not long after, Mr Atkinson arrived on the dinghy, “Hello Hunter, how are you keeping?” Mr Atkinson asked me, “Doing ok thanks Mr A, I have had these two keeping me going with support,” I replied, “Dad, you didn’t tell us that Hunter’s uncle is the new owner of the trimaran,” Rick enquired.

“I thought it best that the Koteka family make that decision,” Mr Atkinson replied. “Koteka is my Mum’s maiden name,” I explained to Rick and Jacob. “Well, I have finished with the deep clean of the yacht, so it is ready for the handover tomorrow morning,” Mr Atkinson announced.

“Well, I am glad that it is going to a good family. Hey Hunter, do you know what your Uncle will be doing with the trimaran?” Rick asked me, “No, I haven’t got around to asking him yet, although Uncle Rangi is a pearl fisherman, so he may use the trimaran instead of the traditional double outrigger,” I replied.

With it being Saturday, I went with Uncle Rangi to attend the official handover of the Trimaran, he was very pleased with how it looked, the settlement was finalised, with the final payment made, and to celebrate, Uncle Rangi invited me and the Atkinson boys to go out sailing with him.

Making a quick trip to the shops to buy some food and drinks, we boarded the trimaran, and I helped Jacob to put the food and drinks into the fridge. “Ko te iramutu, kua noho koe I tetahi wa ki te kaitiaki?” (Nephew, have you spent any time at the helm?) Uncle Rangi asked me.

“Ae, tata ki te toru haora,” (Yes, about three hours) I replied in Maori, “Good, you can take us out then,” Uncle Rangi said switching to English.

“Ok you scoundrel crew, lets get sailing,” I called out, and both Atkinson boys folded their arms and frowned at me, and I just laughed.

Once we had set sail, with a cooperating crew, I tried to remember everything that I was taught and it was not long before we were heading east into the Spencer Gulf, and I was really enjoying being at the helm.

Rick kept a close eye on what I was doing, while he kept the sails trimmed, but he did not suggest anything to me, instead he let me work it out on my own. After four hours out, we arrived back at the yacht club, this time taking the trimaran right up to the beach.

“I don’t know about you sir, but I was very impressed with how quickly your nephew has caught on with skippering the yacht, I didn’t need to intervene at all,” Rick said to my Uncle. “Yes, I notice you watching him like a hawk, and I also notice the big smile that you and your brother had, for most of the trip,” Uncle Rangi replied.

“Yes sir, that is because with just the short hour of instruction I gave him, plus the three hours at the helm, he knows exactly what to do, and we are very proud of his achievements,” Jacob said, with Rick nodding in agreement. “Thanks guys, I guess I am a natural at it,” I replied.

After Uncle Rangi and I had anchored the yacht off shore, and swum back, we headed back home, and Mum was happy to see us. “How did the hand over go? I presume that you went out for a bit of a sail?” Mum said to us, “That we did little sister, and your son is a natural talent for sailing,” Uncle Rangi replied.

I headed to my room to have a quick shower and to change, before returning to the lounge room where Fraser was now playing with his toys on the carpet. “Uncle Rangi has suggested that we join him for the sail back to Rarotonga. Do you think you will be able to handle some long shifts helping Uncle Rangi with the sailing?” Mum asked me.

“Wow, yeah I guess that will be ok, if Uncle Rangi is ok with how I have done so far with sailing?” I replied.

“Of course I am, although we have not been out in open waters yet, but even in the Spencer Gulf when it got quite choppy today, you handled it very well,” Uncle Rangi responded.

We spent the next two weeks going through all of our possessions, where we donated a lot of stuff to charity op shops, and we sold the family car, while most of our good furniture was loaded into a small shipping container, ready to be shipped to Rarotonga, and the rest was sold.

We spent the second week staying at a local motel, and after a sad farewell to my friends, with a few weeks of supplies, we left Port Lincoln at dawn, with just the Atkinson family there to see us off. Uncle Rangi had me do the first four hours at the helm,

We had just passed Cape Spencer, when Uncle Rangi took over at 10 am, and he let me know that he had been doing some chart work and with discussions with Mum, they had decided to moor overnight at Jaffa Marina, and that we would be arriving there just after sunset tonight.

At 2 pm, I relieved Uncle Rangi at the helm, and he informed me that we had just passed Blow Hole Beach. At 6 pm, Uncle Rangi relieved me at the helm, with just a two hours remaining before we arrive at the Marina.

I was surprised how well Mum and Hunter were taking the small confines of the yacht, although for the first six hours, with a safety vest and harness rope attached, Hunter was able to spend some time on deck, and he watched me with great interest, when I was at the helm.

Once we entered the Great Australian Bight, when the seas were a lot rougher, Hunter was confined indoors, which he did not like at all and when not at the helm, I was keeping my little brother occupied with games, which took some strain off Mum.

Copyright © 2021 Preston Wigglesworth; All Rights Reserved.
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A great chapter, tinged with sadness by the funeral of his Dad. The whole family is moving to the Cook Islands, his Uncle having bought the trimaran, suggested they join him for the sail home.

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Great chapter, although I thought the brothers name is Fraser not Hunter. I hope the whole trip is going to be safe and that nothing happens to the trimaran during the trip to the Cook Islands. 

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In ref. to Butcher's comment above, the last few paragraphs of the chapter you have Hunter and Fraser names reversed.

Edited by soundtechmc
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The black armbands were a lovely touch.

The inclusion of spoken words in Maori is a great addition to the story. I don't understand a word of Maori, but it is such a pretty and joyful sounding language

The measured pacing of this story is spot on, it matches the family's apparent stoic acceptance of the death of their husband and father, and the pace of the travel being undertaken by the family after such a shattering event. 


Edited by Summerabbacat
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