ship's log

Tuesday 1 August - Sunday 6 August - Australia


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Tuesday 1 August to Friday 4 August

It's the anniversary of our departure from Malta. We motor out of Mackay, and head up to Goldsmith island, about 40 miles to the North. The prevailing South East Trades are blowing strong, so we scoot up there fast. It is another quiet anchorage, and we enjoy the peace.

On Wednesday we make the long hop up through Solway passage to Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday island. This is six kilometres of pure white silica – one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. As we approach the passage, the fishing line fizzes out, and very soon Mark has (at last) landed a fish. Mark’s fish has been long awaited. He has had several near misses due to bad luck, and has not managed to land one yet. To everyone relief, he expertly reels in a really handsome tuna, which is sizzling in the pot within two hours of being landed.

Whitehaven beach is indeed spectacular, but on the first day we do not see it in best light. The weather has turned for the worse, and it is grey and rainy.

One of the best things about having Nina on board is that she is an expert at Reflexology. She treats us all to as many sessions as we can beg of her. Its wonderful therapy and has helped ease all manner of aches and pains on board.

On Thursday it has cheered up a bit by mid-morning, so we dinghy ashore for an explore, a long run, and a swim.

By Friday we are ready to head for Laguna Quays. The weather forecast suggests a big trough on the way. I am determined to arrive in Laguna Quays, our final destination, in good weather. So we slip anchor and head off in the morning. It is a 30 mile passage, with a 25 knot wind on the nose for part of the way. We have three reefs in the main and a small jib. By wiggling our way via the lee of Shaw island we are able to minimise the discomfort of heading into the steep seas. For the last hour we are able to free off and reach into Repulse bay. Our destination, Laguna Quays marina, is soon in sight. We are all wearing our red ‘Lazy Duck’ T-shirts. We hoist the Big Red Battle flag for the last time. Crowded House are singing on the cockpit stereo system. As we swing into the marina entrance, the first chords of ‘Don't dream its over’ strike up. A genuine coincidence. It’s another emotional moment.

Soon we are moored up for the last time. We settle her in to her home for the week, hook up water and electricity, and have a big celebratory lunch on board.

Saturday 5 August to Sunday 6 August

Over the weekend, we begin the mammoth clean up of the Duck, before handing it over to John and Emma Ripard, who will cruise the Whitsundays for three weeks. We are determined to get her looking as good as she can, so there is a fair amount of graft involved. Everybody sets to with a will, so it does not take long to shine her up.

John and Em arrive on Saturday, as do John Ripard Senior and Rosette, who will cruise with them.

Also in the Marina is an old school friend of mine from Malta, Martin Pisani. He and I have been in touch over the last year, after twenty years of no contact. He had emigrated to Australia, and set up a successful design business. He became seriously ill with a brain tumour recently, so he sold the business and now lives on his 35 foot yacht ‘Scirocco’. He does not have full use of his right arm and leg, and yet has managed to sail his boat up from Sydney, doing some of the passages single handed. His courage and determination fill me with admiration. It’s a delight to see him again, and a lesson to all of us on the indomitability of the human spirit.

So now we are moving into a swish apartment in the Laguna quays resort for a few days to chill out and get used to sleeping in a bed that does not move. At the end of the week we fly down to Brisbane to spend a few days with James and Scott Mackay, and incidentally, do some yacht racing. Then we head for Sydney, where we will be based for three weeks. We will meet up with Butch and Ali Giltinan, some friends from London, and CJ from Malta. I am heading down to Falls Creek for a few days to take part in the Kangaroo Hoppet, a Cross-country ski marathon.

On August 31st, we will fly back to London, back into our old lives. Except our old lives will not be the same. Many people have asked us how we will be able to go back to normal life after this trip. I can honestly say I have no idea. I have never done it before. No doubt we have changed, London has changed, Monitor, if I know them, will certainly have changed. But that’s exciting and we are looking forward to it. We have had a really amazing time. We have got to know our friends really well, and got to know each other better than we could ever have in our old lives. It has been a blast. And now that won’t ever change.

Goodbye and thanks to all of you who have been part of the trip, either on board or through e-mail

NB This website and the e-mail will remain operational at least until April 2001

Bird’s Eye View – 3 August 2000

How many times have I tried to imagine how this moment would feel? Exactly a year after departing Malta, we are bobbing at anchor in the Australian Whitsundays with no more serious sailing to do and a life of civilisation ahead. Only a few days ago I had begun to feel this moment would never come! Our first days out of New Caledonia were perfect, with gentle sunny south easterlies blowing us in the right direction at 6 knots and no seas to speak of. On the second day, as you’ll have read in the previous log, we had the most memorable visitation yet from two 40 foot humpback whales. They circled and followed us for almost an hour, dodging our bows and swimming straight for our broadside only to veer off at the last minute leaving us gasping with tension. I didn't realise that whales could be just as playful as dolphins when caught in the right mood. We had lots of dolphin visits too – one particular character seemed to crop up every time. He had a large chunk out of his dorsal fin and was the one who played chicken with our bows and showed off with how he could do backward flips only inches from the front of the boat. It was easy to imagine how he would have sustained his injury!

A few days into the passage we hit a cold front, which gave us horrible turbulent, cold, wet, windy conditions increasingly on the nose, and we took an age to get through it. The night was pitch black and the squalls came regularly from somewhere in the darkness with no warning, bringing stinging rain and big gusts of wind. The waves seemed enormous. Topped with roaring white horses lit up with eerie phosphorescence, they leered over the guard rail before lurching into the cockpit, sometimes filling it up to my knees. As the boat powered through the water it kicked up foam all around which flashed with bright sparks of light like a Christmas tree. With a boatful of eight crew there wasn’t room to swing a cat so we had to really take care not to let the saloon turn into a salty, sodden heap of harnesses, oilskins and bedding. We had 24 horrible hours with lots of sea sickness and water gushing in through every single little crack it could find. There was so much water coming over the decks that the forehatch turned into a mini waterfall and the girls had to move out of the forepeak. We put Sarah on the floor in the saloon and Hannah head to toe with Nigel on the long bunk and somehow we managed as the boat heaved up and down and from side to side. It was only afterwards that we discovered that water had even found its way into what were hitherto bone dry lockers, and everyone’s clothes were drenched too.

However, all that seems a long time ago now that we’re safely tucked up at anchor off the 6km Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Although the weather has been less than perfect since we arrived here, we’ve relished this chance to simply relax and enjoy our last few days before handing over to John John. It’ll be a sad day when we do, because Lazy Duck has been a very happy and comfortable home to us – and especially solid and safe. We can’t thank the Ripards enough for lending her to us; she’s a very special boat. So we’re off back to civilisation and that all important long hot bath which I have missed more and more as time as gone on. But I know I shall miss this wonderful nomadic life – we’ve met some great people along the way and visited some of the most beautiful places I shall ever see. One thing I’ve noticed is that the further away from civilisation one goes the uglier the fruit and veg become – but they’re far more delicious. It’s been a true culture shock arriving in Australia to find all the old familiar choice in the supermarkets, but the perfectly smooth, tapering, orange carrots on display are no match in flavour for the bulbous, grey things I found in the Galapagos. I also missed the stall at the exit which should have sold chilled green coconuts with a straw – there’s nothing more refreshing after a morning’s hot shopping. This trip has filled our every waking moment for the last five years and I can't imagine how it’ll be without it to think about and plan for. Jonathan has been tireless with his research into everything from safety gear to places to visit and it’s really down to his skill as a skipper that the trip has been such a success. And then of course the twenty sets of crew who joined our burgeoning extended family along the way were all a big part of making our year so much fun. Roll on Project Number Two!

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