Friday, 30 May 2014

Bosun the Sea Dog!

The Australian Women's Weekly
Wednesday 17 November 1965



BOSUN the coconut eater. In Barbados in 1958, Bosun developed a taste for coconuts, fed to him here by Murray Davis. They had crossed the Atlantic from the Canary ls. A SEA-DOG in the making. 

Bosun, a genuine old sea-dog, looks like making another long sea trip very soon. A shaggy black and white mutt in the Disney tradition, with trusting brown eyes and all the rakish charm of the genuine blue-water sailor, he originally "signed on" at the tender age of seven weeks. Bosun aboard the yacht Kanga as a puppy, in Paris (picture right). The Seine and the city are in the background.

Now his family is looking for a tall ship prior to going down to the seas again and, naturally, Bosun will be a valued crew member. In fact, when Melbourne journalist Murray Davis and his English wife, Barbara, get down to practical plans, Bosun figures as largely as their two children, Kate, 6, and Paul, nearly five. Despite nearly six years of enforced land-lubbing, it should not take Bosun long to get his sea legs again.


His broad, splayed paws, which turn outward, and the tell-tale roll in his gait mark him as an old hand. The first year of his life was spent aboard a 39ft yacht, and it included an Atlantic crossing. On their first adventurous voyage, Bosun made three on what was actually a delay ed honeymoon. This time, the project is very much a family affair.

Their ultimate goal is Rhode Island, U.S.A., and for yachting correspondent Murray on-the-spot-coverage of the 1967 America's Cup. But this time they want something a little bigger, round about 50 feet in length, and more comfortable than Kanga, the converted 8-metre racing yacht, bought in Copenhagen, which took them down through the inland waterways of Europe to Spain, cruising in the Mediterranean, and across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Trinidad in the West Indies, in 1958.

During the next six months, if they can, they will buy a yacht in Australia and start across the Pacific. They will go through the Panama Canal to the West Indies, then up through the American inland waterways to New York. If they cannot find the yacht they want here, they will all go by ship to England, look for her there in Europe and then repeat their previous journey.


For the second time in his life, Bosun could have quarantine problems. When Murray and Barbara sold Kanga in Trinidad and booked passage for Australia, they had to ship Bosun back to England so that he could fulfil his quarantine time there before boarding.
BEGINNING a long trip. Barbara Davis, Bosun, and Murray Davis are aboard Kanga as the yacht passes through a canal lock in France on her way to the Mediterranean, before crossing the Atlantic to islands in the West Indies. 

PAUL DAVIS, BOSUN, AND KATE DAVIS (above) may well be the junior crew on an ocean crossing to see the Americans Cup when journalist Murray Davis, the children's father, makes the trip to "cover" the race. "If we find our yacht in Australia, Bosun can come aboard at once. Otherwise, he will have to go into quarantine again in England," explained Barbara. When Bosun first went to sea, there were no such tiresome formalities. He joined Kanga when she was moored in the River Seine in Paris, where Murray was doing a course at the Sorbonne. "My sister brought him over from England in a basket when she and her husband came to visit us."


"He was a member of the last litter produced by a charming bundle of white fluff and of no definite pedigree and the favorite wife of our family dog, a border collie. We just had to have him," said Barbara. Bosun took to life aboard immediately. In all his time at sea he fell overboard only once, and that was in the Canal du Centre, in France. But given the opportunity, he liked nothing better than a couple of over-the-side swims a day.

A safety harness was rigged for him aboard Kanga, and, before the Atlantic crossing began, Barbara made him a special life-jacket with his name on it. She also gave him a party so that his many friends could see him try it out. "The jacket buoyed him up so that only his legs were in the water. He looked like a hydrofoil, but took off like a bomb and whizzed round and round the yacht," she said. Bosun, she said, was thc most sociable soul, and loved parties and the bare feet and beards of all the "slightly kookie people who live on boats."

One of his favorite tricks when the Davises were entertaining in Kanga's cabin was to lie along the deck above and stick his head through the small porthole. "He looked exactly like one of those mounted heads beloved by big-game hunters, and many an unsuspecting guest got an awful shock when he caught that roving eye," she said laughingly.

In bad weather, crossing the Atlantic, Bosun took no unnecessary risks. He used to lie in the bottom of the cockpit or climb on people's knees to shelter under their oilskins. During the trip, Bosun's rations were tinned meat and cereal, but in the West Indies he developed an un doglike passion for bananas and coconut milk. So much so that when he went into quarantine as something of a celebrity, he found a big supply of dog biscuits, which the makers sent as a gift, very tame fare.

Like Bosun, neither Murray nor Barbara Davis was an experienced sailor when they first decided to go sea- faring. Barbara, born in Liverpool, came of a family with shipping connections and had dene a little social sailing.

Murray, a Melburnian, served as a ship's radio officer until he decided to try journalism in England. One of his assignments was the coverage of a boat show in London, and this is when the ambition to sail his own yacht was born. Later, he and Barbara met when they were both with the RAF, attached to the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany. Barbara was a Flight-Lieutenant and Mur- ray had a NATO post as an information officer with the rank of Squadron-Lcader.

He says she taught him to sail. She says he taught himself in one lesson when she took him out in a small yacht on one of Germany's' inland lakes. Both insist the plan to go ocean sailing in a big way did not stem from a passionate love of the sea.

Barbara considers sailing a good method of getting from point A to point B, but said that after she boned up on a number of sailing books during the five months they were in Paris and read of the storms the Atlantic could turn on, she was quite ready to call the whole thing off. "But except for very bad weather right at the begin- ning of our crossing, when we were both seasick and things were grim, it was wonderful," she said. "I read a book a day and spent hours playing with Bosun." Murray considers sailing a wonderfully cheap way to get around. "You have your house right along with you," he said.


"You have a degree of independence which people on land don't have. You're also more acceptable to the locals than an ordinary tourist who travels out of a suitcase." Murray said the chance to report on the America's Cup is not the only reason he wants to go to sea again. "The next few years will be the only ones in which we can do this sort of thing as a family. I want to have the kids with me. "Kate is six now, and when she turns 12 Barbara and I know we will have to settle down for her schooling's sake. "I don't particularly mind what I do for a living during the next three or four years. I shall try to make it by writing."


Despite their insistence that the sea itself holds no particular fascination for them, Murray and Barbara chose the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown to live in when they arrived in Australia. The sea is ever present at Williamstown, which is on a small peninsula. Its residents have an almost island-type pride in the fact that there's a blue water view from many bedroom windows and ships of every kind pass by or anchor almost in the backyard.

The Melbourne Harbor Trust has a floating plant and workshops there; the Navy has a dockyard; there are little bluestone fishing harbours; a motor boat club, two yacht clubs. The local pubs have names like The Steampacket. The football team is known as The Seagulls. Murray and Barbara bought a disused fire station, built in 1893 and one of the first of its kind in Victoria. In the teeth of violent criticism from many friends, who later piped very low, they converted it into a charming home. Putting this house on the market to finance their sailing project made them a little sad. (It is now sold.) However, both are convinced there will be plenty of time to put down permanent roots when they come ashore again. By then, even Bosun might be glad to take up life on land.

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