03 July 2019
"Please call to book your time slot for diesel".
Never seen that before. But then, we've never seen a fleet of high speed, hundred foot aluminium catamarans flying out the harbour at upwards of thirty knots, hauling nervous and slightly nauseous tourists out for their first sight of the Great Barrier Reef.
We tried to get a booking for our modest needs but one of the fleet was due in for a fill - seven thousand litres. All part of the eco-friendly tour.
Not to worry. The plan was to fill up in Port Douglas anyway. After all, we knew Port Douglas.
First stop however was Michaelmas Reef, one of the more accessible reefs twenty miles or so off Cairns. We had a cracking sail out and by the time we got there it was blowing thirty knots. The tourist boats were in ahead of us and a sizeable crowd of flesh was lying on the sand dune. Which is in fact the island. Some were frolicking at the waters edge. Some snorkelling. Some wondering what the heck that catamaran out there was doing.
Which was......flapping. We'd let the main halyard go and the sail, which, unusually hadn't dropped like a stone into its bag but instead fluttered down to half height and stopped like Norah Battie's bloomers in a blow. A quick and dare I say, athletic jump onto the saloon top, (there were girls watching after all), a haul on the luff and most of it came down leaving just an annoying scrap waving at the tourists. Then, with timing reserved only for yachtsmen and firefighters at their Christmas party, there came the sound of an alarm. Now, when you're main is flapping around and you're winkling your way through an unmarked channel in twenty five to thirty knots, it's not a great time to hear alarm bells. Port engine alarm bells. Brilliant.
I'd had enough of driving on one engine back in Townsville, mostly in circles, so decided the prudent thing to do was make a clean exit and leave the sand dune to the tanned and scantily clad youth and make haste to Port Douglas. The sacrifices we have to make. And annoyingly all the noise turned out to just be a slightly loose fan belt. Anyway, we'd been promised crocodiles in Port Douglas and we quite fancied spending some time on the river croc spotting.
What Bill hadn't mentioned were the "no-see-ums". Australia's answer to the Scottish midge and both species should re-named "gonna bite youse". We didn't see any crocs but we were bitten to pieces making another swift exit, us clad in long everything, reeking of DDT and looking like we were carrying the Black Death.
Which we might be.