Out of My Whitsundays

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Tales of Travel and Woe

It seemed like a good idea. I was going to Airlie Beach on the train (another post) so I needed to find something to do while I was there instead of just turning around and flying home. So I decided a boat tour was just the thing.  I trolled the internet to find just the right one.  Then I found the site that said “No backpackers and no children” and I was sold.

The novelty of it being an old-fashioned wooden sailboat was an added bonus.

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It really is an amazing boat, The Alexander Stuart. There is a book on board explaining how one family along with a family friend hand-built the boat of a 30 year span. The craftsmanship is exceptional.

I had very specific visions for the trip. I wanted a slow, lazy trip involving a lot of sitting, some reading, a bit of scenic panorama viewing, and absolutely no thinking. When I learned that my friend and I were the only guests on this tour I was both ecstatic and apprehensive. Not liking people, I was very glad to be free of small talk and telling people about the dietary habits of the people of Tepozlan (see About page for explanation). However I was acutely aware that as the sole passengers, we would be unable to fly under the radar.  The staff would be focused on us entirely. This created a sinking suspicion that slow and lazy would be off the menu. (By the way, Sinking Suspicion is what I will name my own yacht when I win the lottery).

Upon boarding we were taken to our cabins. Being the only guests we were upgraded from our shared twin bunk room.  Yay!!  The crew referred to the rooms as staterooms.  I’m not entirely sure what distinguishes a cabin from a stateroom, but on size alone, I’ll go with cabin.  I’m not complaining. I was quite in love with the warm wooden coziness of my tiny space, but I imagine staterooms to be much grander.

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As most boats do, it curves to a point in the front, so too did the bed. The bed was also very short. Again, I’m not complaining because I am also very short, and I enjoyed feeling much taller than I am, when my feet were flat against the wall.  I dreamt of life as a supermodel, reaching top shelves and folding bed sheets without dragging them on the ground.

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But I did wonder how on earth anyone over 5’4” could possibly sleep. Even more, how could two people sleep comfortably since these rooms would typically house couples. What about two tall people?!  I mean, people usually choose to mate with their own species. Yes, I’m referring to tall and short people as different species.  Like Hobbits and Elves.

We then went up to the deck for snacks and a debriefing of what to do in the event of an emergency. This mostly centred around what to do if you fall overboard. So what are you meant to do if you fall overboard? Make as much noise as you can.  Barring a lung-full of sea water I assure you, I will sound like a hundred angry cats being bathed. Should someone else go overboard, my job is to point and make a lot of noise. Yep, point and scream.  Kudos to sailing people to go with the instinctive response of most humans.

The weather called for strong winds for the entire trip. Being a sailboat this was probably a good thing, but it did make for some very rocky seas and insane, untamable hair. Despite the headband and hair tie, I continually found my hair whipping my face like an unresponsive mule.  I tried to wear a hat, but the wind actually blew it off my head, and into the sea.  Luckily, one of the bean bags off the deck snapped its tether and also went over, so my hat was saved in the rescue mission. Making the hair situation worse, I was not allowed to wash my long hair in the shower as it would gum up the works. I was, however, allowed to wash it with a hose on deck.

If I thought the cabin was small, the toilet/shower/sink was positively microscopic.

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Someone pointed out to me that this would not be a good bathroom to be seasick in.  But also, there were 4 men on this boat and men aren’t known for their accuracy on steady ground let alone on rocky, turbulent seas.  Maybe the bathroom is this small to limit the distance that someone could tip over?

The rocky seas made for amusing movements. Every time I walked down the hall to my cabin, I essentially pin-balled the entire way.  Near the end of the trip, it became a kind of game, trying to make my last bounce shoot me into my own cabin.  It was a tough shot, but I nailed it a couple of times.

Unfortunately, my initial fears of being the only guests were founded, and for 3 days we were harangued about not taking part in all of the activities. Hiking during march fly season (horse flies to Canadians) is a recipe for disaster. And I can assure you, no one wants to see me in a neoprene dive suit. No one. 

The other problem with being the only guests, we were required to help with raising and lowering the sails. Danger, Will Robinson.  Now, recall my inability to walk down the hall without bouncing off the walls. Now put me on deck with nothing to hold onto except a wiggly rope. Despite my fervent assertions that I had the upper body strength of a kitten, and my obvious inability to stay upright on the rocking boat, day after day I was tasked with helping to raise and lower the sails while the deckhand barked incomprehensible orders at me.  I’m on holiday!!!!

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The crew made my every attempt at perfecting sloth near impossible.  However by the last day they gave up trying to make me into an adventure traveller and we enjoyed a quiet day just sailing around, enjoying the amazing views.

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My favourite picture from the trip. Also illustrating the lilt of the boat.

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All in all? I probably wouldn’t do it again. The focus of these trips appears to be much more on activity than the inactivity I was looking for. And activities that are not particularly appealing to the middle-aged, slightly overweight, book-nerd set. But there were sublime moments of peace and beauty that could only be had from a sailboat.

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The sea will never be my life, my love or my lady, but watching the moonrise through the porthole, then heading to my cabin to be rocked to sleep by the sea herself is something to treasure.

Comments
  1. Carrie says:

    Awesome Jay! You have an amazing gift of bringing words to images, which are the kind of books I read.

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