|Townsville Yacht Club|
|Mount Bowen, Hinchinbrook Island...taken from eastern side - ocean side.|
|The Southern Cross|
‘Tis time for another Hinchinbrook Island tale…come sail with me beneath the Southern Cross….
The island resort was a-buzz! It had never seen so many people. Never before had it housed so many people. The resort was bursting at its seams and beyond.
A couple of months earlier I’d been approached by the “powers-who-be” at the Townsville Yacht Club asking for my participation in their grand endeavour…a yacht race planned to depart from the Townsville Yacht Club with the finish line being at Cape Richards Resort on Hinchinbrook Island. I was informed many sailors had already shown keen interest; they'd already signed the dotted line. Word was and had been passed around quickly and many more boats were expected to participate. Old salts and young ; male and female were ready and eager not only to check future weather conditions, but to jump aboard their boats, biting at the bit to cross the starting line at the Townsville Yacht Club once the starter siren sounded on their way to Cape Richards on the north-eastern tip of Hinchinbrook.
Mainsails were hoisted and checked. Jib stays, back stays, booms, rudders, mastheads, tillers, life-jackets and all else were being inspected and tested. Already on-board provisions were being listed and purchased in readiness to fill the galleys’ cupboards.
Having no hesitation in agreeing in playing host to the competitors, their back-up support crews, families, wives, girlfriends etc., I immediately went into full-on preparation-mode, too. A lot of planning and organizing was being done at both ends. Food provisions needed to be planned and ordered as did a more than ample supplies of alcohol and everything else pertaining thereto.
A massive task lay in ahead; time was of the essence. Immediate action was necessary. We island-dwellers couldn’t just pop into the nearest supermarket or liquor store pushing shopping trolleys to pick up items forgotten. Water surrounded our island home. Everything that was required to satisfy the many, varied needs of our expected guests had to come from the mainland. Nothing could be left to chance; nothing could be left off the extensive, lengthy lists.
The weekend chosen for the yacht race I had some guests booked into the island accommodation. Once the announcement was made that I was on board re the race the remaining vacant cabins were rapidly reserved by members/families of the boat crews.Within no time at all, the "No Vacancies" sign was hoisted...metaphorically speaking.
Naturally, I couldn’t house everyone in the resort’s accommodation. At the time I was managing the resort there were only 15 guest cabins. The maximum number of bodies the cabins could bed was four. At any given time the majority of the resort’s clientele were couples. There were occasions, of course, when a family of four; or, perhaps, two couples occupied/shared a cabin, but primarily, twosomes chose the island as their preferred holiday spot.
The resort’s advertising/marketing slogan was: “Maximum population 30; the only footprints you’ll see on the beach will be your own.”
The slogan, with minor alterations, has been adopted since by many other resorts. Proof, I believe, that it was a good marketing/selling tool.
Therefore I didn’t have enough cabins to accommodate the expected hordes preening themselves and their crafts in preparation to descend upon the island on race weekend. Fortunately, most of the yachties were prepared to sleep on board their boats; not that much sleeping occurred when the fun weekend finally arrived! And, after all, they had no other choice but to do so.
The yachts were set to leave Townsville at a designated starting time on the Friday afternoon. The Commodore of the Townsville Yacht Club, his assistants and I kept in regular contact throughout the Friday of the yacht race; from early morning.
As soon as the first boats set sail I was made aware of the fact. The pattern continued through the afternoon into early evening. Once night fell most of the boat crews then kept in contact with me, on the island via two-way radio. Between flittering about, being "Aunty Mame, the Hostess-With-the-Mostest" taking care of the diners in the restaurant that evening, I spent the rest of my time beside the radio keeping tabs on the progress of the yachts headed my way. The first boats were expected to arrive in the waters off the resort jetty sometime after midnight, and into the wee small hours of Saturday morning and thereafter.
My anticipation was at a high level. There was no way I could go to bed. I needed to stay by the radio.
Once the guests left the restaurant after their evening of dining and socialising; and after my night staff (chef, kitchen-hand, waitress and barman) returned to their quarters I raced across to my little house to have a quick shower and change of clothes; into more suitable, casual day-wear. I then returned to my post beside the two-way radio in my office, which was situated at the rear of the bar and restaurant…to wait for the arrival of the first boats. The radio needed to be manned; and I was the woman to man the two-way radio.
Regular updates came through keeping me in tune with the progress of the boats headed my way. I was comfortably ensconced in my office, but those on the yachts were out in the ocean fighting the elements and the darkness of night; and of the wee small hours of the morning.
I knew where I preferred to be; and that was exactly where I was – on dry land that wasn’t rocking and rolling. I’ve never denied that I’m a fair-weather sailor. Actually, I’m not a sailor, fair weather or foul. Sailing out on the ocean has never lured me into its clutches. I enjoy having my feet firmly on the ground far too much. For one thing, motion-sickness and I are uneasy, queasy companions; we don’t get on at all.
However, I know it is a much-enjoyed pastime and desire of many, including my ex-husband who had always wanted us to have our own yacht to enable us, one day to go sailing around the world, including our own local waters. Many hours were spent discussing his plan; a plan I cringed away from, but I also told him if he wanted to do it, he could by all means do so. And I meant it, with no nastiness or sarcasm attached. Sailing wasn’t and still isn’t something I’d feel at ease doing. But I do understand others feel differently about it that I do.
Randall, my ex-husband had sailed a lot over the years; most of which he did around the Newport area when he lived and worked in New York City back in the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies. I was happy for him to follow his dream; and would never have stopped him from doing so. He knew it was his dream, not mine.
When we were living at Noosa a friend asked him to join him in Cairns to pick up a sailing craft our friend had purchased. Said friend had never sailed in his life and he needed someone with experience to skipper the boat from Cairns back to Noosa. Randall jumped at the chance. I could see that he wanted to do the trip. His eagerness was palpable. The men wanted me to join them on the trip, but I declined. I would’ve made their life hell, not purposely, but I wouldn’t have been a happy person on board. Not one among the rest of the crew would want me as a sailing companion. My presence would have made the situation very uncomfortable. I knew that; I held no illusions. So, I could see no point in joining them if I was going to make their lives and my own, misery. Finally, my message got through, not with our my persistent reluctance and truth-telling!
Eventually, the men went sailing, minus me. I was very happy to remain at home alone until their return.
So, there I was - a keen and excited participant of the Townsville to Hinchinbrook Island yacht race; a happy co-organiser, one who was very willing to be the hostess, caterer and accommodation-giver; one who was also very pleased and contented to have her feet firmly planted on the ground, the sand, the deck and on floor of the resort's restaurant! I was ecstatic to be on the receiving end of the air-sea-two-way radio, sitting at my desk in my office.
The first boat crossed the finish line, which had been set out from the resort jetty, around 3.25 am Saturday morning. My staff was all tucked up in their beds (or perhaps someone else’s - I didn't keep check) making me the sole member of the island's welcoming committee; but that was fine. There was no way I wouldn’t have been there on the spot (jetty) to greet the yachts. Shortly after the first yacht arrived, three more boats sailed in.
I welcomed the crews and led them up to the restaurant. Upon my offer of tea or coffee, in unison they asked if the bar was open. What could I say? The island bar was never really closed. If and when needed, the bar operated 24/7. I held the liquor license; it was special license that covered island resorts. There were no limitations set that I had to shut the bar down at any given hour. If I wanted to keep it open all day and night, I could.
On that particular early morning I stepped behind the bar, happy to serve my new patrons with whatever they wanted. to drink; and that is what I did.
More to follow...so stop rocking the boat......this is only Chapter One.....