It was love at first sight. My heart pounded. A wide smile spread across my face the first time I set eyes on
After Christmas and New Year were washed out on Newry Island by Cyclone Joy, I was hoping Easter would bring with it good weather and loads of guests. It did. The weather for the four days put on a welcome display of clear blue skies, light sea breezes, warm days, cool nights, with the ocean, shimmering like diamonds under the golden sun, hardly stirring except for its gentle lapping on the shore.
Guests began arriving on the Thursday before Good Friday. Earlier in the day, I made two trips to the mainland to pick up my visitors. Some arrived by their own boats. A couple of trawlers anchored out in the channel between my island and
On Good Friday morning, Geoff, the skipper of the prawn trawler asked if I would like some fresh sand crabs.
“Sure! I’d love some, Geoff,” I answered. “How much do you want for them or what do you want for them?”
I never bought seafood when I lived on
“I don’t want anything for them,” Geoff said. “I won’t be going into Mackay until next Tuesday, so they will be no good to anyone by then. They are yours to do with what you want, otherwise I’ll toss them overboard.”
Expecting maybe a bucket-load of sand crabs, to my surprise Geoff arrived ashore with a very large, heavy-duty plastic container full to overflowing with fresh crabs. I rounded up my wide-eyed guests and handed out crabs to them, free of charge. I figured they had cost me nothing, so my guests should enjoy them. I didn’t feel it right to charge for the crabs.
It was a wonderful sight watching the stunned guests, sitting on the beach with containers filled with crabs as they cracked them open, savouring every last morsel of the delectable things. One guy was really in his element. I’d filled up a supermarket plastic shopping bag with sandies for him and, alone, he ventured out to the point where he sat at the very edge on the rocks, looking out to sea with his bag of goodies between his legs. His wife, who didn’t eat seafood, and I watched from afar laughing as he obviously was enjoying his piece of “heaven”.
Just outside from the bar area on the concrete deck looking out to the ocean and surrounding islands was the area where I cooked most evenings when I had guests on the island. A large six burner gas barbecue held pride of position, together with outdoor tables and chairs. The moment I fired up the barbecue my two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky, were right there, salivating, eagerly awaiting the evening’s fare. They knew what was to follow. They weren’t silly. Their diet was mainly seafood, with some fresh meat thrown in for good measure. Pushkin and Rimsky didn’t even have to get their paws dirty as the guests willingly peeled prawns for them. What a life!
During the day, the guests swam in the calm waters of the Coral Sea, relaxed with a book, some fished, others laid under the palm trees fringing the beach contemplating their lives or whatever, or went for walks across the island through the forest. The children played freely and safely on the beach.
A koala decided to join in the weekend festivities by sitting in a low tree all throughout the weekend at the start of the trail across to the other side of the island The guests, particularly the children were delighted by its appearance. I asked everyone to look but not disturb, and this request they adhered to, happy just to look. The koala remained in his spot until the Tuesday, when the winds changed direction to south-easterly. Once the winds arrived, he moved further inland.
Even though I was busy most of the time, running the bar, catering and doing my other daily chores, I relaxed too, as my guests weren’t demanding. Each afternoon, with the children helping, I built a fire on the beach for the evening. After the evening barbecue, the fire was lit, a guitar or two magically appeared and a sing-a-long inevitably started, mingled with lots of conversation and laughter.
The beach in front of the bar and dining area was relatively safe for swimming. When the tide went out, it went out a long, long way leaving mud flats to battle. However, when the tide was in, the water flowed gently over clean sand, caressing the shoreline, making it an ideal swimming spot. Because of the position of the bay and the distance from the warmer waters of the mainland, the island didn’t have a box-jellyfish problem. The stingers are more prevalent in the warmer, coastal and estuary waters. Similar conditions applied at the main beach at Hinchinbrook Island Resort. Pulling into the boat ramp at
I hated having to take the De Havilland out when it was low tide, as I would have to plough through the mud to reach it, not being able to row my little boat out to where it was moored. The De Havilland was always moored a couple of feet out from the bank of the deep channel between Newry Island and Outer Newry to make it permanently sea-worthy, particularly if, God forbid, an emergency arose. Naturally, I tried to organize all my boat trips to the mainlnd around the high tides. This was not always possible, of course.
A few day-trippers arrived each day over the Easter weekend, setting up their own picnics along the beach or at the tables under the trees. Fishermen came and went after a couple of cleansing, refreshing cold ales at the bar. The island was alive with happy, trouble-free holidaymakers. That is, until Easter Sunday night when a “tinnie” bearing four, drunken, young fishermen arrived. I’d never set eyes on them before, or after, for that matter.
They staggered noisily up to the bar around demanding drinks and food. In no uncertain terms, I told them I thought they had had enough to drink by the looks and sounds of them. I wasn’t happy about having to feed them. There was no way I was going to cook them a meal at that hour of the night. By this time, my island guests had eaten at the barbecue and were now up along the beach enjoying the fire.
The rowdy infiltrators demanded something to eat.
“All I have left are meat pies. I will heat some up for you,” I told them, reluctantly. “But, I’m telling you this…if I see the pies again…you guys will be cleaning up the mess, not me!”
I didn’t need a crystal ball to know I would “see” the pies again! Of course, I was right in my assumption! I handed the young fellows the hose and made them clean down the deck where the regurgitated pies covered the concrete. When they finished cleaning up their mess, I asked them to leave.
Upon noticing the fire up the beach, the renegades informed me they were going to join the guests.
“No, you’re not!” I said firmly. “They’re my paying guests enjoying time with their children. They’re entitled to their privacy. You will not go up there. You’ll get into your boat and go back to wherever you came from! You will leave them alone! Now, get going!”
They mumbled as they staggered down the beach towards their boat. I watched from the deck as they maneuvered the she-oaks and palm trees. Hitting the centre of the beach, they veered right in the direction of the fire and my guests.
Letting out a growl, I headed off after the pests, catching up with them just as they were approaching the guests. Steering them about face, I marched them back along the beach. They didn’t notice that I was walking at an angle, forcing them closer and closer to the water’s edge. They were too busy cursing me. Far too busy calling me every name they could muster to notice with each step they were getting into ankle-deep water. My feet were still dry.
“I’ve heard it all before.” Was my non-interested reaction to their abuse . “Say what you wish, but you are not staying here!”
Continuing with their diatribe, one of them blurted out for me to take care of a particular portion of his anatomy that is akin to poultry. As quick as a flash, without thought, I retaliated with a very apt reply, which embarrassed him in front of his mates. Without another word from any of them, like little lambs they stumbled into their boat. Without a backward glance, they headed back out to sea. I had no idea where they came from and I’m sure they had no idea where they were headed! It was not my worry. If they were stupid enough to travel at night in their little “tinnie” in the state they were in, I wasn’t going to be their keeper. Their bravado was restored the further they traveled from the shore. Their infantile abuse re-commenced. Around and around like the idiots they were, they circled one of the trawlers anchored out in the bay, shouting and yahooing. By this time, the men guests joined me. Geoff, who had donated the crabs, agreed with me in that we hoped “Rollo”, a trawler-man who never set foot on the island, but always anchored out in the channel before heading to Mackay, would wake up. “Rollo”, like all trawlers, carried shot-guns on board! How we wished “Rollo” would wake up! I reckon those four fellows shouting abuse would have sobered up pretty damn quickly and high-tailed it out of there before they could call out for their mothers!
I joined my guests around the fire after the unwanted disruption. The women informed me they’d told their husbands to give me a hand. Their husbands all said, “Naah…Lee’ll be okay…she’ll be right! She’ll take care of them!”
“Thanks, guys!” I laughed.
They would have been there for me if I had needed them, but I preferred to handle situations like that myself, where possible when they arose.
From the direction my inebriated, bad-mannered visitors had headed out to sea, I think they are now just motoring into the west coast waters of
By Tuesday, everyone had departed. Once more I was alone on the island except for Pushkin and Rimsky, and of course, the koala! It had been a wonderful Easter, unwelcome visitors notwithstanding. I settled into a peaceful few days until the next boat arrived or my next trip to the mainland to meet new guests. I was grateful for the respite as the south-easterly winds arrived on the Tuesday morning. The winds always made it difficult for me to row my little boat out to my island boat, the 21-foot Trojan De Havilland, which was moored out in the channel. It was a sight to behold, me trying to “marry” my little row boat up to the bigger motor boat with strong south-easterlies blowing!
The link below gives you a bit of the history of Newry Island.