|Orchid Beach, Hinchinbrook Island|
|City of Bellingham, Washington State, USA.|
|David (one of my island chefs - in the hat) and Jamie on board the HMAS Topper|
|Jamie and Daina|
|High Country, Victoria, Australia|
Margaret’s posts on her blog “Thoughts & Happenings have inspired me to write further about my time at the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island.
Presently, Margaret is on a winter odyssey – from Tasmania in the south to Cairns in Tropical Far North Queensland. To get to Cairns she passed through Cardwell, with majestic Hinchinbrook Island sitting off the coast to the east, reigning over the area. Cape Richards where the resort was is on the far north-eastern point of the island, not visible from the mainland.
Margaret's posts and photos have made me feel a little homesick for an area that once played a huge role in my life; a place about which I cherish many, many fond memories. I enjoyed my time managing the resort...it was a unique and wonderful experience. The following is quite lengthy....I hope you find time to read it.
Guests who visited Hinchinbrook Island came from all walks of life, from overseas, intrastate and interstate. A few “name” people came for a “hide-away” break from the burdens of the “real world”. Cape Richards Resort wasn’t fancy by any means...it was very laid-back, natural and relaxed. No bells, whistles, streamers, gold-leaf taps or marble-floored entrances were needed. Although, some of the guests and staff could whistle up a lot of fun; ring a few bells and wave a few streamers if needed. Toilet paper rolls were always good substitutes for streamers....multi-purpose.
I loved watching “Midsomer Murders” on television - and, at times, I still enjoy watching the re-runs...particularly those with John Nettles starring as Tom Barnaby. In fact, only last weekend I watched, again, Nettles’ final episode in the series. He retired from the role, handing over the reins to Neil Dudgeon who plays John Barnaby, Tom’s on-screen cousin. I still prefer Nettles over Dudgeon...personal choice, of course.
I have mentioned previously somewhere down the line and years, John Nettles holidayed at the resort for a week back in 1986. John was as nice a person in real life as he appeared to be in this television series and in other performances. At the time of his visit, he had a girlfriend, Sue, who was a London nurse. Sue accompanied him on his visit. She, too, was a very nice person. They flew under the radar and just blended in with the rest of the guests, not demanding special treatment or attention.
John Nettles was only one of many “known” people to spend time at the resort. Nettles was just one of many people who stepped away from their normal day-to-day routines. What my guests did for a living; how grand their lifestyle or how much money they had in the bank or elsewhere mattered not to my staff and me. Once our guests set foot on the island...they set foot upon an even, level playing field. Each were treated the same...the same preferential treatment, no matter.
One of the joys of the resort was everyone mingled together over evening drinks during "Happy Hour", and then dinner. I welcomed the guests as if they were guests in my own private dining room. When they first arrived to the island they were greeted as if they were guests to my home. From the word “Go” I instructed my staff to do likewise - as if they were guests in their own homes.
How much or how little anyone had in their bank accounts mattered not at all. There was no “pose” and no “poseurs” (except two or three, but they were rapidly and subtly brought back down to earth with a jolt, with no prisoners taken!) Each guest was special in his or her own way.
A group of four arrived by sea plane one Saturday. The two women, both in their late fifties or early sixties had been friends for years I soon discovered. With them was the daughter of one and the son of the other. Out of the Grumman Mallard into the punt they stepped, not so gracefully (but who cared?) and not quite sure of what lay ahead. The tentative looks upon their faces mirrored many who had gone before - and of those yet to visit and partake in the island’s charm.
Over dinner that evening I spent much time chatting with the new group at their table. Jo, the daughter of the Australian woman, worked in the film industry. A few years earlier she had worked on the production of “The Man from Snowy River”, the 1982 movie based on Banjo Paterson’s poem of the same name. The movie starred Kirk Douglas, playing a dual role, Jack Thomspon, Tom Burlinson and Sigrid Thornton, among others.
Jo had some interesting stories to tell about the making of the movie and Victoria’s magnificent “High Country” where the story was filmed.
Sitting quietly, listening to the conversation circling the table, but saying little, was Jamie, the son of one of the women. He was one of the most beautiful-looking young men I had ever seen…have ever seen, probably. His blond hair, naturally streaked by the sun framed his near-perfect face. His clear green eyes displayed a youthful shyness. To match his good looks, he had the body of a Greek god. However, more important and more impressive than all of the above, his inner being was as beautiful, if not more beautiful than his outer appearance. Jamie was unaffected; oblivious to the admiring eyes directed his way. He was by no means vain. Quite a shy young man, Jamie lived in a world that, unfortunately in many instances, judges people on their outer appearance.
Jamie personified the saying – “There is much more to him/her than meets the eye”.
Jamie and his mother were visiting Australia from the US - from Bellingham, way up north in Washington State in the USA; a reasonably short distance from Vancouver, British Columbia - an area vastly different to Hinchinbrook Island.
Bellingham has a population of approximately 83,000 people, and is centered between Seattle to the south and Vancouver, B.C. to the north – with the Canadian border just 30 minutes away. Mount Baker is to the east and the Puget Sound with the San Juan Islands are immediately to the west. Bellingham is internationally known for its natural beauty, eclectic culture and sense of community.
Upon arriving in this country for a while Jamie had gained part-time employment in Melbourne to help cover the costs of his vacation, a job he’d given up to come to the island with his mother and her friends.
Over dinner the first night of his arrival to the resort I subtly drew him into the conversation. He’d not long turned nineteen years of age and was taking a year’s “sabbatical” before going to college when he returned to his home state and country.
During the following week of the group’s stay at every opportunity I continued my attempt to draw Jamie “out of himself”. I realised it must have been a little difficult for the young lad being on holidays with his mother, her best friend and Jo, the daughter, who was, at that stage, in her late twenties. Not an ideal age- group with whom a 19 year old should be spending his holidays.
On top of the obvious, Jo appeared to be in “recovery” from an unexplained malady of sorts and/or a broken-heart. Her somewhat morose mood wasn’t the brightest of company for anyone, let alone for a young bloke of Jamie’s years.
The day of the group’s departure arrived. Taking Jamie aside, I told him if he ever wanted a job during his stay in Australia, not to hesitate in calling me. I would find a place for him on the island alongside the rest of my staff.
To my surprise, couple of weeks or so later I received a telephone call from Jamie asking me if my job offer still stood.
“Of course it does!” I answered without hesitation. “I’m so glad you made the decision. When can you get here?”
Within a few days Jamie, with a wide, sunny smile on his face returned to the island
At first, my staff was wary. They eyed him off from afar, believing I’d made an error in inviting him into their midst.
Bronnie, for one, said to me when I announced that Jamie would be joining them;
“Do you mean that guy who was holidaying here a couple of weeks ago…the good-looking one?”
“Yes..that’s him,” I told her.
“But, he’s so stuck-up!” Bronnie retorted petulantly.
“How would you know that, Bronnie? You don’t know him. Just because he’s a handsome young man - it doesn’t make him “stuck up!” I said, more than a little agitated by her prejudicial attitude.
“Give the boy a chance when he gets here. I expect…I want you and the rest of the crew to give him a fair go. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I got to know Jamie when he stayed here, you didn’t! I took time out to get to know him...you didn’t. He's a lovely young fellow...you'll see. You’ll be surprised...and I believe. also, you might just learn a very important lesson!”
In no time at all, the staff, both male and female fell in love with Jamie. He was a fine young man one couldn’t help but fall under his spell. He had absolutely no airs or graces about him whatsoever.
David, my wild, cleaver-swinging chef (all in the name of fun) and Jamie became great mates. Their mateship was a perfect example of opposites attract. David was extremely outgoing; a true extrovert; and Jamie was the complete opposite, but they got on like a house on fire.
It was the best thing that Jamie could have done, come to work at the island resort. It certainly made his visit to Australia memorable - in more ways than one.
Even hard-nosed, prejudicial Bronnie wilted in his presence. She, too, soon became a good friend.
Daina, another lass who started working with me when she was 17, and who celebrated her 18th birthday on the island shortly thereafter- I threw her a Toga Part in celebration - fell hard for Jamie. It was much more than “friendship” that Daina felt towards Jamie. She became smitten; but Jamie didn’t encourage a relationship. He was seeking friendships only.
To Daina’s credit, she didn’t push the matter once she realised the truth of the situation. She was happy enough with and valued a worthy friendship.
It wasn’t difficult to understand the girls falling under his spell...a spell he had no idea he spun. If I’d been their ages – late teens and early 20s, I would have felt similarly, I’m sure. I felt protective towards Jamie. He had an innocent vulnerability about him. He was a special young man. An aura surrounded him; all who met Jamie couldn't help but be affected, in a good way. Even my male staff warmed quickly to Jamie.
Shortly after 5 pm one afternoon I was returning to the restaurant after I’d raced home to my little house for a quick shower and a change of clothes in readiness for the evening to be spent in the restaurant and bar, carrying out my role as host; to mingle with my guests ensuring they enjoyed their meals etc.
As I drew near the main building I heard a lot of ruckus and much loud laughter. My mouth fell open when I saw, in the swimming pool David and Jamie having a whale of a time acting like a couple of pirates (eat your heart out, Jack Sparrow).
While I was away getting ready for the night’s events David and Jamie were having an event of their own! In my brief absence they’d carried up from the beach the resort’s little sailing craft...the Topper. Having plonked it in the pool, they then proceeded to plonk themselves upon the sailing dinghy. And there I found them splashing about like a pair of out of control dolphins.
The single-hull Topper is similar to, but slightly smaller than the multi-hull Hobie Cat.
Only about 11-feet long (3.3 metres), for safety reasons, the resort’s Topper was meant to be used only in the perimeters of Orchid Beach, the resort’s main beach. When not in use it was kept on the foreshore securely tied to a tree.
Without sounding like or appearing to be a tyrant, I had, however, laid down strict, firm restrictions to where the small craft could be used. Boundaries had to be made. I didn’t have the manpower to have someone on watch at all times, making sure guests followed my requests....requests made purely for the safety of the guests. And they were "requests", not rules or orders as such.
The moment I spied two of my staff paddling around in the Topper in the pool, whooping it up without a care in the world I blew a fuse, and a gasket.
Within me I could see the funny, but at the precise moment, face to face with what was in front of me, I kept a lid on any amusement I was feeling inside. I ordered David and Jamie out of the pool post haste, and for them to take the craft back down to the beach where it belonged. No “humming and ha’ing”...no hesitation, or I’d have their guts for garters!
I’ll never forget the look on their faces. They were like two little boys being harshly reprimanded by their mother for stealing lollies!
To this day, I laugh about it, each time I recall that moment...that late afternoon.
The cause of my anger wasn’t really about them. Their timing badly needed careful honing. They’d picked the wrong afternoon for their prank.
Only a couple of days before their innocent, harmless high jinks a guest, unbeknown by me, had taken the Topper and sailed the small wind-rider out far beyond the island’s permitted perimeters. To reiterate what I wrote above, I didn’t have the necessary rescue teams, lifeguards/lifesavers on call and on watch in case of emergencies. The small craft was suitable only for playing around in close to the resort's beach - Orchid Beach.
At all times the safety of my guests was my responsibility. That’s what I believed; and I held to that belief.
Bob, the skipper of the powered catamaran, “Reef Venture” called me on the air-sea radio as he neared the island. The "Reef Venture" was based in Cardwell on the mainland. It was contracted to the resort to deliver guests, provisions etc. Bob also took the resort guests for day trips to Ramsay Bay, the Brook Islands, Garden and Goold Island and, when the winds permitted, south to Zoe Bay on the east, ocean-side of Hinchinbrook.
Around 3.30 pm, with a boatload of happy, satisfied guests, Bob returned to the resort after a day out at the Brook Islands where the holidaymakers snorkelled, swam, enjoyed a picnic lunch while savouring the beauty and wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.
On the way Bob passed the errant guest heading out to sea – heading further east, next stop Fiji! Bob hailed the lone sailor asking if he’d like a tow back. The wayward sailor cockily shook his head and said he didn’t need any assistance. He told Bob he knew what he was doing and waved him on his way.
Bob continued back to the resort where he reported to me about his sighting, in more detail than what he'd told me over the radio.
I growled. I couldn’t believe anyone could be so stupid, but on second thought, I knew I should never be surprised by what some people will do! And the fellow heading off to South America had struck me as a bit of an arrogant know-it-all when he had arrived on the island. I’d not taken to him. And his actions, his behaviour were proof my impression of him was correct.
I scanned the ocean, but I could only see the ocean and the outline of the Brook Islands on the distant, eastern horizon. There was no sign of the lone sailor.
Dusk descended, to be rapidly followed by the darkness of night with still no sign of the idiot who was auditioning for a role as Robinson Crusoe.
By that stage, my heart was pounding. How could anyone be so stupid! My main emotion was mostly anger!
Ted, my head maintenance man was a level-headed fellow who knew how to handle boats. Being a keen fisherman, he also knew the local waters very well, having spent most of his life around the area. Grabbing our marine torch aka flashlight Ted jumped aboard “Lady of the Island”, the Abalone, the resort’s powered boat (4.65 metres or 15-feet) and headed out to sea in search for the “idiot”.
“Lady” wasn’t equipped for night travel, but Ted insisted he’d go in search for our thoughtless guest.
By that stage, I couldn’t care less what happened to the guest, I was so angered by his arrogant stupidity. My concern was Ted’s safety, not the fool who had displayed little regard for anyone else, including his own self.
Around 9 pm that night, Ted pulled into Orchid Beach, with the not-so-ancient-mariner on board “Lady of the Island”, and the Topper tied to the stern of "Lady".
The guy was in his early 30s, give or take. He should have had more sense.
I didn’t hold back in telling him so, either! I told him if he so much as put his little toe near the ocean for the rest of his stay at the resort it’d b e the last time he ever did so!
As far as I was concerned he was confined to quarters for the rest of his holiday. He was very contrite after my tirade. It was probably the first time in his life he’d displayed any meekness.
For the duration of his holiday, which was about three or four days, he was as meek and mild, watching his P’s and Q’s, dotting his “I’s” and crossing his “T’s”and on his best behaviour. On the top of my severe chastising I think his girlfriend had given him a tongue-lashing as well!
Therefore, when I spotted David and Jamie in the pool with the sailing craft so soon after the above-described incident, I saw “red”. Their actions made my words to the foolish guest appear redundant.
Anyway, my anger with them didn’t last for long. We laughed about it once they returned the boat back down to where it belonged; but they never repeated that particular bold feat! They'd received my message loud and clear!
Jamie’s time on the island was good for everyone, not only for him. He'd won the hearts of my staff, both male and female. Also, I think it served an important time in his growing up.
It was a Saturday. Jim, a journalist from the “Townsville Bulletin” - (Townsville is a northern city, 120kms south of the island) - arrived via the "Reef Venture" to the island around 9 am. He was visiting the island that day to gather information for an exposé he was writing about the island for his newspaper. I planned to lunch on mud crabs with him as we discussed the business of the day.
The telephone in my office rang.
A friend of Jamie’s was on the other end of the telephone, calling from Bellingham in the States. Jamie’s father had passed away suddenly. Dropping everything, I wasted no time going in search of Jamie.
Finding him, I took him to the beach, just the two of us. I sat him down, and then told him the devastating news. I stayed with him a while, quietly keeping him company to ensure he was okay; and when I thought the time was right, I left him to his own thoughts.
A little while later he came into my office. By then I’d organised a flight south for him to link to a flight back to the States, the same day/night.
Jim, the journalist offered to drive Jamie from Cardwell to Townsville airport. Bob agreed to take the “Reef Venture” to the mainland on a special, earlier, extra trip - taking both Jim and Jamie with him...a mercy trip.
It was all systems go for the next couple of hours. Jamie threw together his belongings and brief, grief-stricken farewells were exchanged between he and his work-mates. Everyone was upset. Daina was almost inconsolable. All of us had lost a good friend, a fun co-worker, who was genuinely a nice young man. Sadness engulfed us all.
After Jamie's sudden, unexpected, unwanted departure the staff gathered together in the evening and a small party “for” Jamie eventuated. We toasted Jamie's future and in his absence, we wished him well.
Some of the staff and I heard from him a couple of times after he returned to the States, but as life has a habit of interfering, contact was eventually lost.
Often I think of Jamie...and I hope life has treated him well.