Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We Are Sailing....

With the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race well under way, I have had cause to remember and reflect upon my first experience with the Townsville to Hinchinbrook Island Yacht Race while I was managing the resort.

The resort, at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island, catered for 30 guests, 45 maximum, if more than two guests occupied a cabin. Fifteen free-standing cabins dotted in amongst the tropical growth bordered the foreshore along Orchid Beach. Our advertising logo showed lone footprints along a deserted beach (something that has since been adopted by others many times)..."a million miles from everywhere". The only telephone on the island was in my office with an extension to my home. No televisions graced the cabins or the restaurant area.

The air throbbed with excitement as the commencement of the race drew near. The yachts set sail from Townsville late on the Friday afternoon. All night long I remained close to the radio in my office, receiving regular updates of their whereabouts. I received word the first yacht was due to arrive around 2.30am. With much fanfare and elation, I greeted the winning yacht, inviting the crew to join me in the restaurant. Offering them refreshments, of course, they all chose beer or rum over coffee or tea. One by one further boats arrived. I spent the early hours of the morning greeting, meeting and attending to their avid thirsts. Around 7am, the first of my staff wandered down bleary-eyed. Soon their eyes popped open wide when they saw the crowds of happy sailors and the 'dead-marines' (aka 'empties'). At one table, empty cans of beer were piled high in a pyramid of proud glory.

We fired up the large barbecue on the deck to serve a welcome hot breakfast to both my guests and to the yachtsmen and women. The contracted boat from Cardwell docked around 9am with further guests. The seaplane arrived at mid-day bearing more. The island was swaying under its buoyant, lively load!

Boats kept arriving throughout the day. I lost count of the numbers of both boats, crew and resort guests. A huge celebration was planned for the evening. My resort guests were warned about the abnormal crowd and none were upset. Ripples of excitement flowed contagiously amongst everyone, guests and staff alike. My staff prepared themselves for the long day and night ahead. At that stage, I probably had 12-14 staff only! Everyone was on 'board' that weekend. Those not normally utilized as bar people quickly became in tune with serving behind a bar! They had no other choice! Laughter and much noise filled the air. The island wallabies viewed the unusual proceedings from afar wondering what the hell was happening to their normally peaceful surroundings.

Late afternoon everyone, yachties and guests alike, congregated on the large deck surrounding the pool, spilled out from the restaurant/bar area and hugged the gardens to the side of the main building.

Presentations were made to the winners of the race and to the handicappers before a barbecue feast was laid out. A festive mood heightened rapidly as the music grew louder and the merry-go-round of liquid refreshments flowed freely. The high-spirited crowd, of which I estimated around 250-300, were flushed with good cheer. The night was alive with rollicking, playful antics.

Around midnight the pool tempted many, of course. I could see by the looks on the faces of others, mischief was planned with me to be their chosen victim. That night I wore an off-the-shoulder, flowing black cotton dress. I had had three of similar style made especially as part of my restaurant in black, one white and one a sunny yellow. The design suited the tropics as it was cool, loose and tiered down to my ankles.

Always liking to be 'one step ahead' I went to the pool's edge and jumped in, feet first, much to the dismay of the good-natured conspirators! My black dress went up in the air, floating on the pool's surface like a huge black butterfly or moth! I swam across the pool amidst cheering and applause, satisfied I had short-circuited their evil plan! I raced back to my house and changed into dry clothes, re-emerging to continue on with the motley!

The party continued until dawn and thereafter. A champagne breafast/brunch followed. People were coming and going, some looking the worse for wear! I had had no sleep since the Thursday night. I knew none was coming my way until that night, Sunday. I survived on adrenalin and had no time to even think about sleep.

I had no idea who were my resort guests or who were off the yachts. So, I decided the best thing to do was just wait until the yachts left, as the majority of them were leaving sometime during the Sunday, whomever was left over were my resort guests! To add to the mayhem, the sea plane made its normal delivery, depositing further guests around mid-day. Somehow, it all worked out...don't ask me how, but it did. I think it was a bit like that night at "Scaramouche" restaurant I described to you in a previous post when we were over-booked to the hilt. I don't believe in panicking in such situations as that only makes matters worse. Things work way or the other and if done with good humour and a touch of insanity, all the better! That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

It was a great weekend full of hilarious, memorable moments. And through it all, there was not one hassle, not one unhappy, complaining soul.


  1. Hi Lee,

    And a good time was had by all?

    I hope you had a merry Christmas, and a happy new year!


  2. Yes, I did, thanks, Janice. I'm planning a pleasant lunch on New Year's Eve to be spent with a couple of very good friends of mine and I'm looking forward to that. :) Happy New Year to you, too...I hope 2007 fulfills all your hopes and dreams. :)

  3. I love your stories, Lee. Incredible, and so far from the life here in Oakland.

  4. Thanks, Corn Dog...glad you enjoy them. They're all true! I couldn't make them up, so they have to be! lol Thanks for visiting. :)

  5. Hello Lee up on the Mountain! Wasn't the rain lovely? I,too, spent Boxing Day curled up with Oscar and a good book - it was such a good day for it.

    Talking of yachting - years ago (when I was a tad younger and fitter), I went on an overnight yacht race from Auckland to Kawau Island as "ballast". A great time was had by all...

  6. The rain has been wonderful, Robyn...just not enough of it for me...I want more and more of the beautiful stuff! We are supposed to get more over the next week from what I saw on tv this evening.

    I bet you did have fun on that yacht race...yachties are a fun mob...and Kiwi yachties even more so! ;)

  7. Anonymous10:44 AM

    I wish I could have been there. Did anyone take pictures?

  8. Good Morning Lee, I am sorry Santa didn't bring you what you wanted, bad Santa... but pleased to hear you enjoyed your day anyway! I agree about the forced elements of these celebrations, and sometimes wonder about forcing all the rellies together, and adding booze and a long long day - still...

    Do you ever miss Hinchinbrook? It sounds an idyllic place, or has it been overtaken by commercialism?

    You sre right, the 'boatees' sure like a drink or two. I was in New Zealand one year when the round-the-world boats came in - we got invited to a party they threw onboard one of the local ferries, that was, without a doubt, the BOOZIEST night of my life, bar none - good fun though...

    So then, have the Aussies (cricketers) redeemed themselves for you? Sad for the poms, I don't see how they are going to avoid a whitewash...

    How good has this rain been ... we were supposed to drive up to Brisbane on Boxing Day, we put it off because of that dreadful highway in bad weather, then we went the next day and it rained anyway! Had a nice visit with Noel's daughter and their 2 kids, more ham and prawns... and home-made sticky fudge...

    Now, I guess, off to the New Year - your planned lunch sounds like something to look forward to...


  9. Yes, I do have some pics around here somewhere, Steve...mainly when I was making the 'presentations' late afternoon. I don't have a scanner at the moment, otherwise I would show them. You certainly would have enjoyed yourself. :)

    I love Hinchinbrook, Della...I guess I do miss it in a way ...the way it was when I lived there...but the resort wouldn't be the same now...I was discussing this with a friend of mine the other night actually. I guess it was the time, the combination of people plus many other influences. The resort has changed since I was cabins built...the restaurant completely renovated and other evening I accidently came across "Overhaul" on TV, (I think that's what the show was called)and I recognised the deck area and the beach...the programme was filmed at the resort. The deck I organised to be constructed around the pool is still wasn't altered during the changes!

    It was a special time in my life, and I'm sure in the lives of all my staff who worked there. Fortunately, I realised the magic of the the time, as I believe most of the staff did...and the memories remain crystal clear.

    Commercialism hasn't totally engulfed the resort yet...and, personally, I don't think it ever will.

    The Aussie cricketers certainly did redeem themselves to me after their very minor hiccup! Poor old Poms...they need to rethink their game, that's for sure! We mustn't overlook the fact that the Aussies are the best cricket team in the world at the moment and are difficult to beat. With Warney and McGrath leaving the team, time will tell whether we retain that mantle. Our bowlers again excelled themselves in the fourth test. As did the two wonderful Queensland batters...Hayden and Symonds!! I adore Symonds...I think he's great.

  10. Man I loved this account. I gotta get a yacht. You're the best. Good stuff!!

  11. Glad you enjoyed my tale, was a fabulous weekend. I slept well on the Sunday night, I can assure you! lol