After a brief escape to travel, I returned to Airlie Beach and the shock of working! My job was a decky for a company called Prosail. There were 3 boats I would work on; Condor, Hammer and Broomstick. Condor and Broomstick run a 2 day 2 night trip whilst Hammer is a 2 day 1 night trip.
Condor is 85ft in length and has won every major ocean race in the world twice. She is the only yacht to have achieved this distinction. These races include the Sydney to Hobart, Fastnet, Bermuda races and the World Maxi Championship. She is huge to work on. All the winches are massive, about the size of a motorbike wheel and this means that all sheets are under a massive amount of tension. Grinders have to be used to crank on the sheets more. I was forever being told to watch my fingers because one false move might mean the loss of one of them!
Broomstick stands slightly smaller at 76ft, built in South Africa and won the Cape Town to Rio Yacht Race. From there she went on to compete in many of the world's most famous blue water events including the Sydney to Hobart.
The smallest of the 3 vessels, Hammer is 75ft and was designed by Kel Steinman and owned and campaigned by Arthur Bloore. Throughout her racing career, Hammer competed in many blue water events and was best known for her five consecutive placings in the world famous Sydney to Hobart. She was one of the easiest to hoist sails on, requiring only one person to bounce up the head sail as opposed to 3 people on the other 2 boats.
Now sailing around the Whitsundays is a beautiful activity but working as a decky on a charter sail boat is slightly different. Below is a sample of the work entailed in a 2 day 2 night trip.
10.45am - Start work. If a boat is coming in from a trip, catch the lines as it comes into the marina. Help get the passengers off the boat. Start cleaning including cleaning all heads (toilets), sweeping and disinfecting beds, wiping down all the whites, cleaning the galley (kitchen), sweeping and bleaching floors, tidying then scrubbing down the deck. If the boat has been on a lay day then hopefully all this will have been done already. Make the beds (when full, Condor holds 29 passengers, Broomstick 25 and Hammer 22). Collect the food when delivered and start putting away. Start on the food prep. Ensure the boat is tidy ready for passengers.
1.20pm - Head up to collect passengers. Make sure they have stinger suits and are aware that there are no more shops out there etc.
1.30pm - Take passengers down to boat. One decky to go down and start allocating beds and taking passengers through basic rules of being on a boat, in particular emphasing what can and can't go down a toilet. Other decky to catch the lines as the boat pulls out of the marina and start preparing to sail.
1.50pm - Passengers upstairs for skipper safety briefing. Depending on skipper can be anything from 10 minutes to about 45 minutes.
Rest of afternoon - Sail and either snorkel or do a long sail and anchor closer to Whitehaven Beach
5.30pm (approx) Prepare snacks and dips. Put out and start preparing dinner.
6.30pm (approx) Put out dinner. Wait for passengers to eat, grab something quickly then start washing dishes and clearing away. Then, depending on the skipper and the alcohol on board put out evening tea and coffee. Clear, wash and put away
Rest of evening - Socialise with guests until reasonable time to go to bed!
Day 2 (tide dependent)
6.30am - Start preparing breakfast
7.00am - Wake passengers for breakfast. Start washing and clearing away as soon as possible.
8.00am - Get passengers to Tongue Bay. Walk them up to Look out, then show them how to get to the beach. Other decky to start cleaning the boat; cleaning all heads etc. Second decky to return and help with cleaning. Do any maintenance that needs doing. Start preparing lunch.
11.30am (approx) Collect passengers from beach. Either sail and do lunch on keels or have lunch before leaving.
1.30pm (approx) Snorkel. One decky to do snorkel watch and one to get afternoon tea and coffee and cake out.
3.30pm (approx) Second snorkel or sail
5.30pm - Start preparing nachos for evening snack. Once ready put out. Start preparing dinner
7.00pm (approx) Dinner and repeat from day 1.
6.30am - Repeat day 2. Strip beds, clean fridge and oven. Try to clean and seal off one head. Depending if time, further snorkel.
9.00am - Prepare to sail back to marina or if no wind motor sail
11.00am - Return to marina and see passengers off boat.
11.30am - Start cleaning; all heads, beds, galley, floors, decks etc. Either assist with next trip start off or ensure boat is all clean for a layday.
2.00pm - Finish.
Busy itinerary. On the Hammer the itinerary is all that but crammed into 2 days!
Adventure wise; so many stories to tell.
Trip 1: On Condor, a group of young Americans have just discovered alcohol. Due to tides they had to go on the beach in the afternoon. They come back completely hammered to the point where they can barely stand up. Have to yell at them to sit down as sailing, and in particular one had to be tied to the back of the boat as she was being sick. They pass out before dinner. One of them wakes up to find she can barely move her hand (turns out to be a fracture) and spends a good 2 hours in tears. Instead of calming her down, her friends start goading and teasing her. We have to separate the group and try to get the group to calm down. Continues for rest of night.
Trip 2: Strong winds on Condor. The skipper decides to do a backwards trip which does not work with tides. We are on a fast sail with a strong lean over to 45 degrees, waves completely covering the bow and splashing down the back. One particular wave crashes strongly against the boat but we think nothing of it. I am sat with Craig (other decky) enjoying the sail, when we see a bag go floating past. Wondering what it was, we realize that the spare number 5 sail has come loose and has washed over board. We do an emergency turn around to go and retrieve but the sail has been lost to Neptune, so we carry on sailing. All of a sudden the passengers start oohing. We look to see what they have spotted. Craig yells to the skipper to bear away. There is a mother and baby whale within 5 feet of the boat and heading on a collision course! We do manage to avoid them but only just. The rest of sail is without incidence. We head downstairs to do some prep, and realize it smells strongly of silage. The strong wave early has pushed the silage from the tank and it is now sat between the tank and the wall slowly oozing out onto passengers bags. b*****.
Trip 3: On Broomstick and we are racing Hammer. Beautifully captained we easily gain on the smaller boat and go to overtake. As per racing tradition, we get some of the rubbish and as we overtake dump it in their tender. Awesome!
Trip 4: On Condor, we are motoring back to the marina as there's no wind. Very still waters. We spot dolphins up ahead so go to investigate. They come to see us and start playing along the bow. See some whales so veer away from the dolphins to watch them. They go in for a dive so we continue our sail, only to be entertained by another school of dolphins. Then more whales appear alongside the boat, a mother and a baby. They dive under us and as they do so the boat vibrates and you can clearly hear them calling to each other. Mother and baby are clearly seen reappearing on the other side and start breaching out of the water. Amazing. More dolphins appear for the trip home.
So many other tales that I could go on. I worked with some amazing people, all who had something to teach me. In particular (and in no order) Azza, Micko, Pete and Rob as my skippers were so patient especially with my blundering skills and to all the deckies who have at some point or other helped me out, Tones, Craig, Gemma and Scotty. As much as I love sailing I have realized that I am physically uncoordinated. My brain knows what to do but there appears to be a missing link to relaying it to my body! In particular I cannot drive a tender and get it to come alongside a sail boat without touching the boat.
The Whitsundays are also stunning to sail around. The wildlife has been amazing - the whales, dolphins, turtles and feeding eagles. However, the job would be nothing without the people. Whilst in Airlie Beach I lived with Tones and his girlfriend Lissette. Both great people, who made my life there so enjoyable and who I will miss dearly. We had some fun adventures including completing part of the Great Walk with a 7am start! And they helped me celebrate my birthday with a fab bbq on the beach and then a night of alcohol.
Three months after starting in Airlie Beach it was time to start travelling again. It was sad to say goodbye but many more journeys to have!