They say Britannia rules the waves and our new member Michele Hutchinson is a case in point. Picture her on night watch at the helm of the 33ft yacht Zephyr south-bound from Exmouth across the Channel. It’s stormy and ahead, tankers and freighters are crowding the channel lanes. Michele’s three exhausted companions are asleep below, trusting her to monitor the radar and thread a safe course between cargo giants. She’s immune to seasickness and happily takes the long night-watches. The all-female-crew of four on the Westerly yacht, with its wooden interior, is skippered by a veteran 65yo sailor with full sea qualifications. Michele herself did a course involving a ticket as “competent crew”. 
 She says, “I had to work out what sort of a ship was coming and our courses. I loved it. There was only once when I wondered if our trusty yacht would go over from big waves. But out there in the channel it could be so peaceful with nothing but water and sky 360degrees.”
British waters are notoriously fickle but during four seasons of sailing the foursome went around the Scilly Isles, the Orkneys up in Scotland and the Greek Islands. Their most adventurous trip was to the South Pacific around the Bora Bora Islands during 10 days in a rented 40ft catamaran. 
“The skipper said that every seawoman would get seasick from a certain type of wave and she was right, I got seasick twice,” Michele says.
Sailing was her hobby in retirement in Devon. Her early career included film and TV production – much like our TV serial maestro Susan Bower. Michele worked as assistant/chief administrator to the light entertainment producer-director of commercial Thames TV. “I had to do nine months of technical training for the role. I collated everything he needed, like how many cameras and sound gear needed for a production. Jobs we did included The Benny Hill Show, the film Plank with Eric Sykes, and lots of sit-coms and variety shows.”
Note for film buffs: The Plank (1967) is a slapstick comedy about the misadventures of two builders who are short of one plank. Although not strictly a silent film, it is unusual in having little dialogue; instead, the film is punctuated by grunts, other vocal noises and sound effects. The cast features many of the top comedians and comic actors of the time. 
Michele quit the full-time TV role to bring up her children Fleur and Sophie. “I kept myself busy by starting and running a catering business and a baby-sitting agency from home. Then we had a longing for Barcelona and lived there for nearly a year. On my return to live in London I took jobs in administration.”
Pic left: Michele and daughter Sophie at Paradise Cave, Phong Nha and after a mini trek on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, early last year. 
She’s also lived in the Cayman Islands for two years where Fleur was born in Georgetown, Grand Cayman, before returning to London and settling in Winchester, famous for its cathedral and the alleged round table of King Arthur.
Three years ago she came to Australia because she thought Melbourne was one of the nicest cities anywhere, with its parks, river, beaches, culture and restaurants. In any case daughter Sophie was already here. Sophie is the first female director her engineering company has ever had, and specialises in sustainability and well-being aspects of design. Ironically, Michele’s now eager to dash back to the UK (Edinburgh) to become a grandmother to daughter Fleur, but is ensnared in COVID restrictions.
Is Michele now a dinky-di Ozzie? we asked. Not exactly. Sophie got permanent residence and was able to bring out Michele on an aged parents visa (no disrespect intended by us to the youthful Michele J). 
Michele’s interests include cinema, opera, mahjong, rummy tiles, and travelling. She’s been a committee member of WUF (Women of the University Fund) charity which operates in the grounds of Government House. She’s had two hip replacements over the last few years, which ended her hopes for success as a pole vaulter. J
Footnote: as we in Bearbrass are long-time literati, we have modified Shakespeare slightly to fit in with Michele’s story. Here goes:
  • Henry IV: Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast 
    Seal up the ship-girl's eyes, and rock her brains 
    In cradle of the rude imperious surge, 
    And in the visitation of the winds, 
    Who take the ruffian billows by the top, 
    Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them 
    With deafing clamour in the slippery clouds, 
    That with the hurly death itself awakes? 
    Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose 
    To the wet sea-girl in an hour so rude; 
    And in the calmest and most stillest night, 
    With all appliances and means to boot, 
    Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down! 
    Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.