Saturday, July 30, 2016


Matt Sinclair (Runner-Up) and Elena Duggan 2016 Winner.
One of the desserts the contestants had to replicate during this season.
Heston Blumenthal's "Verjus Egg" (Don't be fooled by the simplicity of appearance - appearances can fool)!

I’ve watched and enjoyed every season of MasterChef since its conception in April, 2009.  MC remains one of my favourite TV shows. From the first words uttered by host judges, Gary, George and Matt I’ve been captivated. And, I must admit, when Marco Pierre White makes his guest appearance my heart rate goes up a few notches!  

My goodness! I even got to like Nigella Lawson after her appearance as a guest judge on this season’s show!  Wonders will never cease!  

Seven years ago Julie Godwin deservedly earned the crown, making her the first winner of the expertly-produced show.  Both Goodwin and runner-up Poh Ling Yeow remain familiar names and faces; as are other from previous years.

This season’s worthy winner, Elena, and second place-getter Matt, both held me in thrall from the first episode through to the Grand Final.  All the contestants in this season did. It was wonderful watching each and every one of them grow in confidence and expertise. Every one of them showed great promise.  I'm sure bright futures lay in store for them. 

This year the kitchen was filled with exceptional talent who were willing to learn and experiment.  Watching the cooks test themselves to the limits and beyond - watching them grow in each cook - was inspiring.   And it gave me a rude wake-up call!   Who was I trying to kid all those years I cooked in restaurants etc?  From now on I’ll take my place at the tuck-shop call-up...even they mightn’t think I’m worthy!

That the last four who reached the quarter finals were Queenslanders wasn’t the only reason keeping me glued to the screen (nor were my jam-covered fingers. The bakery’s jam-filled doughnuts are a trap for the weak-willed.  I don’t deny I’m weak of will when it comes to the goodies on offer at the North Tamborine Bakery). 

The Grand Finale telecast last Tuesday evening was extremely entertaining.  It held my attention from beginning to end, as I’m sure it did many other viewers.

Second-place getter, Matt Sinclair, although born in Sydney, sensibly followed his parents to Noosa a number of years ago.  That’d be a no-brainer; an easy decision to make.  Elena Duggan, this year’s title-holder grew up in Noosa – a fantastic place to spend one’s childhood and early teenage years.  Elena and Matt make one proud to be a Queenslander – but then, I’m always a proud Queenslander – born and bred.

MasterChef 2016 overflowed with adventurous amateur cooks. Each of the contestants had a good attitude.  They were a pleasure to watch. There was no cattiness, back-biting, tearing-down or nastiness; no cynicism, envy or bad manners like that shown in many other reality shows. Respectful fair play between the contestants and genuine liking for one another were on constant display.  Similar behaviour applied to the judges.  Manners never go astray, no matter what the situation.  In a world seemingly filled with people who gain pleasure from tearing others down MasterChef is a breath of fresh air.  

Over the years many clever cooks have passed through the show, not allowing anything to deter them; showing their brilliance and imagination; testing their skills, and, often, forging forth, not knowing if they had the skills or not.  In almost every case the contestants proved they did, or at least had the guts to try.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained; nothing learned.

On the road to fulfilling their dreams they refused defeat, not recognising the word. 

Throughout this season just finished, and all before, the contestants have been generously guided by the judges and the show’s guest chefs.

The Grand Final was suspenseful, particularly after Heston Blumenthal arrived bearing his dessert “Verjus in Egg” dessert!   

Egg? An “Egg?”  An egg like I’ve never seen before!  When I saw the “Egg” I almost headed for the hills never to be seen again!   One hundred steps to complete the “Egg”!!  It’s a recipe far too complex and long to include here in my post.  It’s enough to scramble the most brilliant and inquisitive of minds!  I’m sure none of you will be replicating Heston’s recipe, anyway.  I know for certain I won’t be!

Halfway through watching Matt and Elena re-creating Heston’s creation I realised my mouth was agape and I wasn’t breathing; and hadn't been for quite some time. 
I experienced a variety of emotions during the Grand Final (as well as in previous episodes).  I laughed. I smiled. Unashamedly, I shed some tears.  I was tense. I was in awe; and, at times, overcome by pangs of hunger.

Once upon a time I believed I was a good cook.  Once upon a time I cooked professionally.  I earned my living by cooking for a demanding public. Once upon a time I frequently hosted dinner parties and luncheons at home to be shared and enjoyed with friends - once upon a time.  That was then; this is now.

Through MasterChef I’ve discovered – I’ve been rudely woken up to the fact - I have no idea how to cook! 

From this day forth I’m going to stick to grilled cheese sandwiches and Vegemite on toast. I’ll lash out on Sundays with avocado mashed liberally over a bagel.

Avocado Baked Egg:  Preheat oven 218C.  Halve and pit avocado; scoop out a bit of flesh from centre of each half. Lightly season; crack 1 egg into each half; place into small ramekins; bake 20-25mins. Remove from oven; drizzle with Tabasco or Sriracha sauce; season; sprinkle over chopped fresh herbs and/or chives/shallots. Eat as is, or spread on toast.

Tomato, Avo & Vegemite Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Butter 1 side of 1 slice of grain bread; place butter side down on hot grill or skillet; place cheese on top. While this toasts and cheese melts, butter both sides of another bread slice; spread Vegemite on one side; lay tomato slices on top; then add avocado slices on top; place the melted cheese piece of toast on top; then lay uncooked half on skillet to toast.

Balsamic Blueberry Grilled Cheese Sandwich: In saucepan on med-heat, combine 1/2c fresh or frozen blueberries, 1-1/2tbs brown sugar and 1tbs balsamic; bring to slow boil. Crush berries as you stir with spoon; after 5-6mins, strain to separate syrup from berries. Save syrup for another use. Spread blueberries onto 1 slice of sourdough; top with Havarti, Mozzarella, Swiss, Gouda or a combination of all, some fresh spinach or rocket, then more cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper; Top with another slice of sourdough; toast both sides of bread.

Egg & Salmon Bagels: Whisk 6 room temp eggs, 1/3c milk and 2tbs finely chopped chives together; set aside. Toast 4 plain, split bagels. Heat non-stick pan over med-heat; add 2tbs butter; melt, swirling to cover pan base. Add egg mixture; cook, not stirring, 30secs. Gently push eggs around pan every 15secs until soft folds form and one quarter mixture is unset. Remove from heat; gently fold mixture once more. Spread toasted bagels with cream cheese; top with smoked salmon and eggs; season; serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


"Lady" One of the Resort's Wallabies
"Cheers!" From Me!
Resort Staff Outdoor Dining

All Aboard the "Reef Venture"!

But it sure does help. It does make things a lot easier on others, as well as upon one’s self. 

In the mid-Eighties my staff and I were living a unique existence working on a tropical island in Far North Queensland where the “only footprints on the beach were our own”; or those of our resort guests; and those of the wallabies with whom we shared the island.  The wallabies often enjoyed strolling along Orchid Beach and splashing in the shallows under the light of the moon.  They didn’t mind getting their tails wet in the waters of the Coral Sea.  Like we mere humans, they, too, enjoyed the freedoms offered by island living.

The resort’s brochure advertised “max – pop - 30” (as in “maximum population 30...not Max’s Pop); and that was on a busy day.   The resort’s 15 cabins were equipped to house four persons, but in the majority of instances couples chose to visit the island.

Did I say “working”?   We did work - of course we did - but one would have to search high, low, wide and far to find a better place to work.  Similar would’ve had to be done to find a workplace offering as much fun while working. 

My staff numbers varied between 12 and 16, depending on the season.  The staff enjoyed a special time in their lives; shared experiences and friendships like none they would’ve chanced to do if they’d remained on the mainland or elsewhere. 

A couple of bad apples tried to upset the apple cart, but they were sent packing, or were taught certain facts of life, and told to pull their head in.  On a whole, those who worked at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island were great. I’ve mentioned previously some have remained my friends to this day. As with rotten apples - one or two bad ones don’t ruin the whole carton.

Each time I think about “Ann” (not her given name), a young lass who worked for a while in housekeeping I can’t help but smile; and I still sometimes shake my head in wonder.    

21 years of age “Ann” was a Mackay girl. She was the daughter of a friend of my brother.  She was in search of a job so I offered her one.  “Ann” was nice, quiet type of girl, but I, along with her workmates, soon learned never to say the words: – “How are you?” to her. 

When we foolishly asked the question, the floodgates gushed opened.  There was no holding her back!  Her reply flowed freely.

For one so young she had every ache, pain and ailment listed in medical books in a dedicated medical library! 

How she got out of bed each morning was the eighth wonder of the world!

It was painful - and boring - listening to her woes.  Her workmates and I soon learned not to ask.

Talk about “Sorrowful Sam” – compared to that young woman Sam had nothing to regret or be sorrowful about. “Ann” had every base covered.   

Even after she became romantically entwined with a fellow co-worker her attitude didn’t alter.  How he put up with her moaning (from her aches and pains) was also a wonder.  However, he was a simple soul who helped out in the ‘field’ on the maintenance side of things.   (Their pairing didn’t continue after they both left the island.  They went their separate ways).

The young man concerned was more of a “go-fer”; and boy, did he go when he drove the resort’s Toyota ute, the only vehicle on the island.  He almost wiped out a cabin, once...Cabin No. 15.  He only knew two speeds – stop and go like a bat out of hell.   

Almost every day, if not every day, I told him to slow it down, not to rush madly into everything he did, but my words of advice never sunk in. I’d given up advising him or suggesting he slow down, so “told” him I did.

Whenever he drove the vehicle along the jetty to meet up with the “Reef Venture’ in order to off-load provisions, gas bottles etc., everyone held their breath. We cleared the deck and stayed well out of his path.  Poor Bob, the skipper of the “Reef Venture” feared that one day he’d end up with the ute on board his boat!   It never happened, thankfully.  How or why it didn’t still amazes me!

Maybe I was suffering from interstate jet lag.  I’d arrived back to the island around noon after being away for a week or so attending tourism conferences/trade shows in Sydney and Melbourne.  Early that evening I suffered a premature senior moment.

Most of my staff, other than the chef and his kitchen-hand, was gathered together in the staff-room enjoying their dinner.  Much laughter and conversation flowed around the table.  Finding them captured in the one room, it was a good opportunity to catch up on what had occurred during my absence. I stood at the doorway chatting pleasantly with my crew when “Ann” turned up.  She was running a little late for dinner, but that didn’t matter.

Not thinking, I asked her how she was – as one does.  I should’ve known better. I did know better....but in a moment of weakness...

Out of Ann’s line of vision, Bronnie, one of my staff, began acting like an insane, out-of-control flapper, waving her arms around, contorting her face . Her efforts would’ve given Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces a run for his money.  Her berserk miming attempts were meant to inform me to not venture further.  Bronnie’s frantic warning signals were too late.  “Ann” was on a roll.  There was no stopping her.  In detail, she told me about all her aches and pains.  I never again asked after her well-being. I learnt my lesson the hard way. 

For a young woman of 21 years living on a tropical island to appear at dinner in the staff-room dressed in fluffy pink slippers and a dressing gown as she quite often did explains her mindset, I guess.  Believing her dress code was inappropriate for an island resort I suggested she dressed to suit - just before she unpacked her wool and knitting needles, fortunately. 

The power of positive thinking sheds a bright light on life; being old before one’s time is wasting time better spent.  Even when the years have crept up...who says one has to act “old”.  I sure as hell don’t follow those misguided, misinformed words of advice.
If you’re asked how you are...tell a porky - say you’re doing fine!

Apple-Pork Ragu Orecchiette:  Add 1tsp olive oil to pan over med-high heat; add 375g minced pork; cook, 5-7mins; break up mass; transfer to bowl; set aside. In saucepan, add 2 chopped, thick slices of bacon; cook until browned and some fat is rendered; add 1/2c diced onion and 3 minced garlic cloves; cook 2mins; add 2 Pink Lady apples, peeled, cored, cut into ¼-inch thick slices and 1/2c dry white wine; cook until wine reduced by ¾. Add 1 can diced tomatoes, 1c chicken broth and pork. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat; simmer, partially covered 15-20mins. Cook 454g orecchiette pasta to al dente; drain.  Add 2tbs drained capers and 2tbs thinly sliced fresh basil to sauce; season to taste; top pasta with ragu.

Roast Pork with Roasted Pears: Preheat oven to 230°C. Heat 1tbs olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 finely-chopped brown onion, 4 slices finely-chopped pancetta and 2 crushed garlic cloves; cook, stirring, 5 mins or until onion softens. Add 1/2c coarsely-chopped macadamias. Cook, stirring, 3-4 mins or until nuts are lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add 1/4c toasted pine nuts, 1c dried breadcrumbs, 2tbs finely-shredded sage and1 lightly-whisked egg; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.  Place one, boned pork loin, about 1.5kg, rind-side up, on a clean surface. Pat dry with paper towel. Turn pork over and use a small, sharp knife to make a 5cm-deep cut under the eye of the meat to make a cavity for the stuffing. Place stuffing across the centre of the pork. Roll pork to enclose the filling. Secure with kitchen string, tying at 2cm intervals. Place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with 1tbs olive oil; sprinkle with 1tsp fennel seeds and salt. Use your hands to rub into the rind. Place 4 lengthwise-halved Williams pears around the pork  drizzle with 2tbs maple syrup. Roast in oven 30mins. Reduce heat to 180°C; roast for a further 45mins or until pork is tender and pears caramelise. Remove from heat; cover with foil. Set aside for 15 minutes to rest. Cut pork into slices; serve with roasted pears; drizzle over pan juices; serve with steamed asparagus and baby rocket (arugula) leaves

Beet Cheddar Apple Pizza: Make or buy pizza crust to yield 11x14-inch pizza. Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat oven 230C. Line baking sheet. On lightly-flour surface roll dough to 11x14-inch rectangle, working from centre; transfer dough to lined baking sheet; liberally brush surface with olive oil. Thinly slice 2 peeled small Gala or Fuji apples. Scrub, peel and thinly slice 2 small beetroots. Sprinkle over 3/4c shredded sharp cheddar; top with apple slices; tuck beet slices between apples; top with 3/4c shredded sharp cheddar; season; then sprinkle 1tbs chopped fresh rosemary over top. Bake until crust is crisp and golden, about 12mins.

Cheesecake Baked Apples: Chop tops off and scoop insides out of 6 Gala apples. Cream together 240g cream cheese and 1/4c sugar until smooth; mix in 1tsp vanilla, 1 egg and 1tsp cinnamon. Fill apples until ½ full. Place, not touching, on baking sheet; bake at 176C, 20-25mins. Cool completely in fridge. Serve topped with caramel sauce and chopped, roasted pecans.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


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 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 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 didn’t. He's a lovely young'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” 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.