Whoever said oil and water don’t mix just simply hasn’t tried hard enough. Given the right conditions of extreme temperature, pressure, and agitation you can make a grey, custard like substance that will fill your whole engine and cooling system. Looks like we are here for a while!
So while we were stuck in Airlie Beach there was only one thing to do…. be appreciative of the fact that it’s the gateway to one of the most beautiful places on the planet – The Whitsundays. And as luck would have it our timing was impeccable as the Whitsunday Reef Festival, Airlie Beach Race Week, and Hamilton Island Race Week were scheduled to begin in succession over the course of the next month. So I put my name down on the crew available list on the Airlie Beach Race Week (ABRW) website and waited.
In the meantime we spent our days walking the four kilometres into town most days, checking out the Sunday markets (and other cameo days due to the reef festival), stand up paddle boarding in and around the Marina, hanging in the awesome pool at the Seabreeze Tourist Park in the afternoons and sharing a glass of wine or two in the evenings.
With only a few days left of ABRW I finally got a message from a skipper – Bruce, looking for crew. He said he’d had a couple of beers as it was a lay day (and it sounded like it it too) but to come down to the club and have a chat and a coldie. A few beers later at the sailing club, and then a six pack each on the boat while he showed me the ropes, and Bruce was steaming! I mean talking seriously left handed. I left promising to front up for lines off at 9am the next morning wondering what I had got myself into.
The next day Bruce was a little under the weather so to speak but turns out he’s a stand up bloke and we hit it off well. The boat – Tyee III, is a standard catamaran kitted out to race and the guys push her hard. With dagger boards, a bow sprit, self furling screecher, and a full compliment of race instruments she moves along at a decent clip. At one point we hit 18kn down wind, half an hour later we blew the head out of the spinnaker. However we had a great days sailing and finished up first and fastest. We needed to win the next day, and our nearest competition to finish fourth or worse to win the regatta for our division (for the third year running). We took line honours but unfortunately they finished just a few seconds behind us. It didn’t matter, it was a great couple of days sailing and Loreta and the boys came to the club that evening to enjoy Presentation night and meet the skipper and crew. Thanks very much to Bruce and Willo for the opportunity to sail on your boat, it was one I won’t forget.
Coincidentally, the night the ABRW wound up a good friend of Loreta’s flew in to town and we caught up at the presentations. Rob had extended a business trip so was there for a few days so we hung out at his pad- the Mirage Apartments most arvo’s, and in the evenings he would come to the caravan park for dinner and a few drinks. Perhaps just a few too many one night which saw us scoffing down Hungry Jacks five minutes before closing at midnight. One of Rob’s bucket list items was to take a helicopter joy flight to the Great Barrier Reef. He had booked a chopper through Helitaxi and there were three extra seats so he kindly invited us to tag along. An opportunity not to be missed so we hastily arranged a babysitter for the first time on our trip and off we went. What an incredible experience! It was great to recap on our charter around the Whitsundays as the helicopter retraced our bare boat charter almost identically, only this time in the opposite direction, anticlockwise. However, the addition of a detour out to the outer Barrier Reef was the icing on the cake. Hardy Lagoon (the most photographed reef of the Great Barrier Reef), Hook Reef, the River (aptly named for its deep blue channel) and Bait Reef are simply stunning. Words do not describe and we cannot thank Rob enough for his generosity.
After Rob left it was back to the daily grind – walk, swim, SUP, eat, drink, sleep. You know, the really difficult stuff in a really terrible location. All until I got another call up for crew at the Hamilton Island Race Week (HIRW). This time Mark and Mandy aboard Pindamara needed a bowman as they had a couple injuries in the the first few days of racing. So I packed a bag and it was off to Hamo again. We had three days of sailing with mixed conditions from near calm to thirty knots, with mixed results, but what a great bunch of guys. For a keen sailor from the West it was great to be involved in HIRW which is undoubtedly Australia’s premier sailing event. With Audi providing free champers at the sailing club (for those in the know) and the likes of Mark Richards and Wild Oats XI participating it was an absolute buzz to be part of it. Massive thank you to Mark and Mandy firstly for the opportunity but just as much for your hospitality over the three days. I cant wait till next time I get to be part of HIRW!
One of the best things about being stuck in Airlie Beach so long was the amazing people we met. From the semi permanent and permanent staff at Seabreeze Tourist Park – thanks heaps for looking after us. To travelers just like us, people from overseas, the East coast, and other fellow West Aussies, that we know and just happened to bump into a couple of doors down.
In particular Stuart and Tegan and their kids Jemelia, Byron and Lachlan, arrived out of the blue one day. Like us they are taking time out to travel around Oz, only in the opposite direction. Loreta and Stuart worked together over ten years ago and had rarely seen each other since. So while I was away sailing at Hamo they all hit the pool, went to the markets, grabbed fish n chips one night, and spent time catching up over a few cold ones in the evenings. Their boys are a bit older than ours so a bit of friendly competition on the BMX’s and in the pool saw Thomas’s confidence grow rapidly in both areas and it has been great to watch it continue to do so. Especially in the pool, he now pretty much swims unassisted without the floaties. I only got back from HIRW a day or so before Stu, Teeg’s and the kids had to leave so I didn’t get to spend that much time with them but it was great to meet them nonetheless.
We met Pedro, Rita, Francisco, and Theresa because Thomas wanted to play with the boy behind us. Specifically his toys, but once Francisco caught sight of our tub of toys it was game on. Thomas and Cisco quickly became friends as did we with Pedro and Rita. Like us they have a blog; The Bag of The Unexpected, chronicling their travels however these guys are doing it on a global scale. They are a Portuguese family, living in Spain, and have traveled the world with their kids. Very inspirational! Who knows maybe one day Lapyear will go global…
And then there’s Tanya and Mackenzie, another inspirational pair! We didn’t realise but we had bumped into them at Byron Bay some two months prior and then again at the Seabreeze pool. Tanya is a mum with a blind daughter traveling the East coast on their own to document the experiences of home schooling, life education, life on the road, and expanding Mackenzie’s opportunity to experience the world without vision. Its all pretty outstanding, credit to you Tan! They also have a blog; The Road Unseen, which details their triumphs over adversity faced.
With the car repair nearly completed, and set to be ready for me to pick up some 56 days after we broke down, we did one last hurrah through the Whitsunday Islands. All for nix, thanks to Willo for giving me the ABRW regatta second place prize – a Cruise Whitsundays voucher. We had a great day visiting both Daydream and Hamilton Islands, whale watching from shore, hanging with the wallabies, and swimming in the resort pools.
Finally, the day had come for me to pick up the car and drive back to Airlie beach from Townsville. We were all set to hitch up the caravan and hit the road the very next day.