I had planned to hitchhike to Darwin from Sydney, but after arriving in Cairns, my husband and I got jobs. I worked at a shrimp factory and he for the railroad. Then after hearing more and more about rains and flooding in Darwin, things changed. I saw a notice on the Cairne’s hostel wall asking for people to crew on a yacht. I felt excited and intrigued. One worry was that it had taken the young and inexperienced crew six months to get to Cairns from Sydney. They had run across rough seas. The navigator didn’t have any sophisticated instruments, only the stars. He quit. Regardless, we decided to go and take a chance. We wanted to sail with the crew of thirteen up the Great Barrier Reef to Thursday Island, Timor, then Bali. It was supposed to take three weeks. My job consisted of vacuuming once a week and helping to paint the rails. I loved that spectacular wooden boat, a 72 foot ketch.
So in a couple days, off we sailed, stopping at little deserted islands every night. We all slept on mats on the deck. The warm weather felt great. I don’t think I had ever felt so relaxed. I had been in speed boats and canoes, but never a sail boat. The closest I had come was riding a motorcycle with the wind in my hair back when helmets weren’t mandated.
We had no showering facility since the captain reserved that for his first mate, his mistress, and himself. We tied a bucket to a rope and drew up water to pour over ourselves. Then at sunset, when the ocean turned smooth and still like pink glass, we put down the anchor and swam. Then we would eat tuna we have caught from a line dragging after the boat. The chefs, we had two young Australian ladies cooking for us, chunked up the tuna into fresh coconut milk and its meat from Cairns into a large bowl, adding a touch of lemon. We ladled it over rice. Now THAT was some fresh suisi, delectable!
It took one week as planned to get to Thursday Island where things were going on at one place only, a large bar with huge windows and no glass. A pleasant wind blew through as we all drank xxxx Aussie beer and sang songs. Some we knew; some we just at pretended to know, enjoying the jovial feel of the island.
The captain and the first mate bought food for the two weeks left of our trip, so off we sailed, out of sight of land. In the days that followed we watched the sunrises and sunsets as if they were our favorite TV shows. “Now that’s entertainment.” It felt wonderful to feel like a speck in the huge ocean!
To be continued