Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pirates of the Coral Sea

6th August 2011
Hamilton Island

Pirates of the Coral Sea

We crossed from Cid Harbour to Nara Inlet for the night. Nara has to be seen to be appreciated and I could not do it justice with words. Its like a Norwegian Fiord (Not that I have ever seen one) with wooded cliffs that drop straight into the sea. It’s long and narrow and very safe from wind and waves. Someone told me after we had been swimming that it’s actually the breeding ground of the hammerhead shark. My personal view is that even if it is, they are probably too busy breeding to be worried about me. Now if it was the FEEDING ground I may have been more concerned.

We had rendezvoused with Time Lord here and had sundowners on board before retiring.
Friday dawned miserable. The wind was up, the rain was in and visibility was down to about 300 meters. However the oracle worked its magic and we felt our way across the bay to Hamilton Island. Islands loomed out of the mist, safely to our port or starboard and we drank coffee and hid under the dodger relying on the autopilot to actually do the work.

We arrived at “Hammo” at about 10.00 and by then the rain had given way to brilliant sunshine. We phoned the Marina Office and asked if the berth we had pre booked was available as we would like to come in. Very politely we were refused entry until 11 “because none of the guests from last night have left yet”. We picked up a mooring and waited until our room would be ready.  Meanwhile, we might as well have a drink at the bar.

We called again just after 11 and a polite young man suggested that we put our fenders on the port side, that is the left side, attach our mooring lines front and aft and proceed to an orange buoy just inside the marina where we were to wait for the concierge to help us berth. We explained that we actually had picked up somewhere that the port side was the left side, that we were not a charter yacht, and that if they told us where the berth was we could probably park it ourselves. “Madam, we greet every boat” was the transmitted reply.

We entered an extremely crowded harbour and took up station as directed. One of the problems that non boat people possibly don’t appreciate is that unlike a car, one cannot just stop a boat. Like an affectionate puppy, you can tell it to stay, but if something catches its attention it will wander off. In our case anything large, shiny and expensive and Dreamagic is fascinated and drifts towards it. I whiled away the time practicing my seamanship skills trying to keep 44 feet and 12 tons of boat from hitting anything while Rona radioed the Marina Office to see if anyone was actually going to come out today.

The Marina Office was busy speaking with another yacht that wanted to “Just come into the fuel dock, but if we stay another hour is that OK? And do you have a supermarket? And what is the price of a can of tuna? And do you have a TV guide?” And…… can you get off the bloody radio!!! He was told the fuel wharf was full and to wait until he was called. Capt’n “I Own the Airwaves” wasn’t happy and wanted to be allocated a temporary berth at no charge until the fuel wharf became available.

Meanwhile the Hamilton Island ferry had given three short blasts and was reversing to leave the harbour. This was going to be tight with us doing laps at the entrance but it was doable. That was until Capt’n Airwaves, now Capt’n Foxtrot Oscar* decided that the Marina Office hadn’t a clue and decided to enter the harbour anyway. On entry, he realised that with a ferry bearing down on him he needed to move but his options were limited by a Bavaria 44 circling the entrance. He started to gesticulate to us in a sign language which roughly translated to “You are in my way. Can you sink because we need to be where you are”. Gosh, really?

Now entering stage left as the drama unfolds is a stink boat whose sheer size means we have to peer up to our first spreaders to see the diminutive driver, naturally dressed in blue and white, and with an embroidered cap. This boat has every toy imaginable but has been tastefully boganned by the addition of a Pirate Flag flying from one of its six aerials. Driven by Capt’n “I didn’t get where I am today by asking permission” he is taking his guests out doing whatever stink boats do, and either he is late or the two million horsepower diesels cant go any slower. Whichever, there is no slowing down and like an All Black seeing a gap in the Australian defence he is charging through.

The ferry manages to leave, we were lucky enough to have been on the edges and could move over, but Capt’n Foxtrot Oscar hadn’t been so fortunate. He was visibly shaken by the whole experience and we stood by and watched him very tentatively coax his boat towards the fuel dock while we waited for the concierge. If this is what it’s like now, I can’t wait for the egos of race week to get here!

The concierge came alongside and politely told us he would show us to our berth. We obediently followed his dinghy to a berth that was surrounded by monster stink boats of the same dimensions as the one that had provided so much amusement so recently. Marcus, (the concierge) was on the dock to hand our lines and welcome us to Hamilton Island. He asked if we had been here before, gave us a map, and told us about the amenities. He complimented us on our boat. “It’s a 44 isn’t it?” Difficult to hide given Bavaria 44 is written on the side, we agreed.  “That will be just $115, thank you”. We were booked for two nights.  That was a tad expensive, usually we pay about $45 a night but hey! this is Hamilton Island and it will make collecting our guests, flying in tomorrow, that much easier. No, that’s $115 per night. Marcus produced a wireless EftPos and I am sure I saw the Centurian on the Amex card lift his shield over his head as he went through the reader.

And not a sign of Johnny Depp

*Foxtrot Oscar is phonetic alphabet for the letters F.O. When using the radio they have a significance that I am sure Google would reveal if you need more information.

And just a thought, but why is Phonetic not spelt with an F?

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