Stories

Short stories written by the crew while on night watch. A notebook in the cockpit, intended to take log notes, was pressed into service to capture the creative products of wild imaginations on a dark sea… Beware, some of it is, if not scary, pretty alternative!

Things are getting tough round here – we are having difficulty remembering which day of the week it is and when exactly it was that we arrived …and then concluded it really didn’t matter and quite frankly wasn’t relevant! That aside, I’m pretty sure this is our fourth night and third complete day at Great Keppel Island.

We spent yesterday (as predicted) snorkelling and swimming, looking for crabs in rock pools, games of frizbee, gleefully diving off your dad’s shoulders, and a quick geology lesson from Dad about the local topography and quartz formation (which the boys confirmed from their personal knowledge based on the game ‘Minecraft’!).

In my effort to ensure that ‘everyone gets plenty of fresh air and exercise’ I suggested we explore a bit. I’d collected a map from the island’s pub the day before (or was it the day prior to that? Who knows…). We walked from the end of Svenson’s Beach up and over the saddle into the adjacent bay. Stunning views and more of the clearest pure water. Oscar, ever keen to climb every blasted rock face we encounter was appeased by Gerhard suggesting that we scramble to the top of the peak. I will at this point in time clarify that the map I had in my back pocket was not consulted by either (ir)responsible parent, and on inspection later in the day did not at any time suggest that there was a footpath up this headland. Off we all trotted and started scrambling – the ‘mountain goat Oscar’ taking off whilst being reprimanded by his mother for using plant material as a sensible handhold. I then realised that the scrappy vegetation was the only thing available to grab and was a lot more stable than the rock face. Little Hugo, apprehensive and more wary despite his bravado, came up gingerly with Gerhard at the rear. There was a yelp, scrabbling feet and a falling of rocks – and Hugo’s little voice called out ‘are you ok Daddy?’. Dear God, I thought, please let him be safe – there is no way down from here other than by a violent and awful descent. He was fine and on we went to all reach the top and find….a lot of bloody scrappy trees. A lovely view admittedly, but Gerhard and I just silently looked at each other and wondered whether we hadn’t just been a bit daft. Anyway, the kids were fine – thought it was marvellous sport that daddy had a big stick and was bashing his way through the undergrowth to try and pick us a way back down to the beach. Completely oblivious to the fact that he and I were thinking ‘argh! snakes!’ They sang songs such as ‘if you’re happy and you know it bash a tree!’ etc and copied Daddy’s actions with their own big sticks. I was quite glad to be able to walk back on the sandy beach at the end of that little debacle.

Our other encounters with nature yesterday were a little more gentle. The water is so very clear here, it’s like swimming in a pool. As the dinghy motors on we see rays hiding in the sand under the boat, just their outline and their eyes peering out in an almost ghostly appearance. And then as we came back across the bay for our final swim of the day – there was Mr Dugong: quietly gliding through the water, coming up and then diving down again. Gerhard went off with the snorkel to follow him – but he missed him – I got to enjoy watching him potter about the bay from my perch on the shore.

After a long and bouncy night, with the waves rolling in on to the beam side of the boat, we went off to explore the island further…following the map and beautifully marked footpaths!

Only wild goats and beautiful blue and white butterflies were our companions today. Oscar as ever entranced by walking through a cloud butterflies and trying to get them to land on him. We walked across to Butterfish Bay (the boys scrambling up steep sand dunes) and beyond to Wreck Beach – which was wild, windy and empty but for us, and reminded me of my walks on the Gower in South Wales. We walked through bush land, looking back through to the far side of the island, confident that we were the only people to be there enjoying the view today. We arrived back at the beach to our dinghy four hours later – the boys still chatting (and chatting) even after all of the walking…

We finished the day with swimming (gorgeously nude for the boys) on ‘our’ beach – all to ourselves – again.

And tonight is looking like it’s going to be another windy night as the boat rolls and I listen to the wind howling through the rigging. Time for bed …

We set sail again on the Friday for Rooney Point at the northernmost tip of Fraser Island. A wonderful day for sailing – and again and again we are treated to turtles and dolphins, and the elegant humpback whales sharing the ocean with us.

The boys climbed sand dunes and played in the waves – we were all by ourselves but for the pelicans sitting at the water’s edge and whales gracefully passing by into the bay.

The boys have been brilliant. Happy and enthusiastic – and so reveling in time with their father, and in our time as a family. We have to take it in turns to see who sits next to daddy each mealtime. The loser gets the booby-prize..mum!! Gerhard looks relaxed and tanned …. and I look as if I’ve been let out on day-release from the leprosy colony! 🙂 The aftermath of the sand fly attack has 10 days later all but disappeared.

As we travelled to Lady Musgrave Island (a 4.30AM start and arriving just before sunset) there was no wind, so a tedious day of slowly motoring along – rolling with over the swell and Hugo lethargic with seasickness. Today’s sightings again included acrobatics by dolphins, whales, turtles, birds, marlin and some flying fish – much to Oscar’s delight. He sits out there at the front of the boat with his dad and chats about I’m not sure what – for hours.. 🙂

We left Lady Musgrave before sunrise this morning, heading for Gladstone where we will sit out first a string northerly, followed by strong southerlies, all kicked up by the nasty East Coast Low heading for Sydney.

Having thus far been spectacularly unsuccessful on the fishing front, I had replaced the line and lure (blaming my equipment!). Around 10AM we had a bite, and a fight on our hands. Sitting under the dinghy hanging from the davits, I finally landed the beast, much to the boys’ excitement. Redeemed myself! My ego was further boosted hearing Oscar tell his friend on the phone later “and you know what else is awesome about my dad?”!

Lady Musgrave Island was stunning. Gerhard taught the boys to use their new snorkels and fins and off we went.
They took to it like…fish to water! Hugo dived down with his father and I tried to keep up with Oscar who was chasing after fish across the reef. What looked a small reef shark caught Oscar’s eye as well as a beautiful turtle swimming which we followed for a while. Both boys seem to manage to squeal and talk underwater…can’t imagine who they get that from!

With both boys safely back in the dinghy Gerhard and I snorkelled a little more. Gerhard came back and indicated that I get myself on board, and mouthed the word “shark”! He’d seen one on the edge of the bit of reef, about 5-6 feet long. His immediate thought was ‘how on earth are we going to get Gilli back into the dinghy quickly?’. He had been trying to work out whether to get in first and then drag me in (and how to explain to my mother that he’d left me in the water to be chewed on by a passing shark as my legs flailed in the water enticingly) or to be chivalrous and get me I first and then follow, but would we both be a lunchtime snack for the shark? My climbing into the dinghy from the water with snorkel, fins and wet suit has been less than nimble and the cause of great mirth (and on my part disbelief that I can be quite so hopeless) in honesty it makes no difference whether I’m kitted out for snorkelling or just in my swimmers, I’m still hopeless!

The sunsets at Lady Musgrave were delightful – which we enjoyed with the bottle of bubbly given to us by our estate agent on the completion of our house sale, and Foie Gras sent from my friend Wid.

Lady Musgrave Dinner

Lady Musgrave Dinner

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