Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Whitsundays 2015: Preparation

The plans for Dreamagic’s 2015 sailing calendar went a bit haywire early in the year and I found myself with the time, the inclination, but not the crew or the destination. Destination was an easy one, Cairns - Whitsundays- Cairns over a 2 month period. July August September would take in the three race weeks, Airlie, Hamilton and Magnetic Island, and the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club rendezvous. It would also take in my birthday.

Crew was a bigger problem. I can appreciate that not everyone can or wants to go for an 8 week sailing holiday so I chopped it into manageable chunks. Embarking / Disembarking points would be Cairns, Townsville, Hamilton Island, because that is where the airports are. So the adventure started to take shape. Leave mid July, 2 weeks to get to Hamilton Island, 4 weeks in the Whitsundays, 2 weeks to get back. Enthusiastic to make this happen, I floated the idea of joining the boat among my friends, starting with close ones and working outwards. However, whether they thought it would not happen, or didn't realise what was on offer, I didn't get far. Although I had a few nibbles, no one was biting my hand off to get on the boat.

I appreciate not everyone has my love of sailing, anchoring off deserted islands, fires on the beach, sundowners with fellow travelling yachts, listening to music, swapping stories, strumming guitars and sharing good food and wine. I don’t understand why they don’t, but it does take all sorts to make the world and if everyone wanted that lifestyle, there would be thousands of yachts out here.

Someone mentioned Gumtree, a free-ish online classified ad service. I put an advert on there, which was free, and bumped it up to keep it on the front page for a couple of weeks, which one pays for. I was very pleased with the responses and the next job was to try to sort them out and get a crew together.

Obviously I had never met any of these people and in hindsight it was going to be pretty amazing if the selection process produced 8 people who, not knowing each other could then live harmoniously for various parts of 8 weeks. Imagine putting a selection of people in a 44 foot container, locking the doors so they can’t get out, shake well for weeks and see who is talking to each other when you open the doors. With 6 people on the boat at a time, there are 36 individual relationships to manage. If just one breaks down the boat is a small place to be. Fortunately I didn't ponder this question at the time, just set about paring down the list of people who showed interest to a manageable level.

The criteria I set was not sailing ability, although that would be helpful, and it was neither age nor gender based. I just wanted to go and have a good time with easy to get along with people who had a positive attitude, didn't baulk at the first sign of adversity, and had a willingness to pitch in and sail the boat. The idea in my mind was to go sailing with friends, albeit new friends, rather than have a more formal skipper and crew arrangement, or worse still skipper and fare paying passengers with high service expectations.

With this in mind I wrote to everyone and explained my idea, directed them to this web page, my facebook page, that of Dreamagic’s, and of course Dreamagic Bob’s. In return I asked for their Facebook pages, and that they drop me a line with who they were and what they were hoping to achieve. The results were interesting.

I had a number of people who were trying to run. Run away from something or towards something is possibly a question they need to ask themselves but they were dissatisfied with their life and wanted to change it, and the popular view of sailing is that it's the perfect vehicle to do that. Listen to Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney often enough (I just realised as I write this I am anchored off Fitzroy Island and JB is playing in the background,) and you can believe that the sailing life is all wine, women, songs and sailing. It can be, but the cleaning fairies and the maintenance gnomes don't always come each day to make it as easy as that.

It great source of information was Facebook. (I knew there had to be some use for that.) Looking on someone’s Facebook gives you a fair idea of who they are, what they like, what their values are.  It's possible to form an opinion of whether they are outdoor sorts of people, if they are particularly political and if so what those beliefs are, if they are strongly religious, or someone who’s idea of a good time is to be wasted somewhere at 3.00 am, or curling up with a book at 8.00 pm.  In the absence of any other reference material I used a combination of their emails to me and Facebook to make the first cut.

To wander off the track a little here, some people reading this may think I am being discriminatory against overly political or overly religious people or people who I don't consider are like me. You are right, I am. I am against overly anything, except an appreciation of Jimmy Buffett. In my defense, I don't actually care what people believe, I know people who think there are spaceships behind the moon who are waiting to rescue them when the big bang happens, and another who believe they can hear voices that instructs them to tell others, for a modest fee, how to run their lives. They are nice people who just have different views to me, but I am not trying to organise a life changing experience for anyone, I am not running a business, I am not organising a support group. I am just going on holiday and trying to find people I would like to go with. Undoubtedly what our present Government is doing is either wonderful, or criminal depending on your persuasion. I don’t care, and moreover I don't want to discuss it. Evangelical anything tires me at my stage of life. here endeth the sermon.

OK, I am back, and clearly you are still here. That’s great. Having whittled down the list and culled those who had watched Pirates of the Caribbean once to often, women who were more curious at my relationship and financial status, (both….complicated), people getting over major upsets and disappointments in their lives that sailing could fix etc, I sent emails out to confirm dates and times. I also asked for a small contribution to the overall costs to be transferred to my account to pay for provisioning, fuel etc. This last request was really more to get commitment. It's wasn't a lot, we don’t know each other and I feel uncomfortable asking someone I have never met for this, but I can’t put t together if I have a couple of dreamers along for the planning ride, who enjoy getting involved, and telling everyone what they are doing, and then at the last minute change their mind. (It happened, with one girl telling me a week before we left she could not commit until the day before we pushed off whether she was coming as she may have to help her aunty move some boxes. She may not be in a position to make a decision, fortunately I can.)

Finally, crew organised, flights start getting booked, and I tried to get everyone involved at the outset in the planning. One way of doing this was to think of the provisioning. I asked everyone to come back with some recipes for what they would like to cook and I would make sure that those ingredients were on board. For the Cairns out leg I had 4 crew, which meant 8 people, who were meeting the boat along the way, would start the adventure with us vicariously. I felt it important to keep these guys engaged so that they didn't fly in like rock stars and expect it to happen, especially as our mobile phone coverage down the coast is not that good, regardless of what the telcos will tell you.

Our departure date was set for July 18th. Two weeks before, armed with the recipes and what aaI knew had to be put on the boat I went shopping for the non perishables. I also embarked on the myriad of jobs that needed to be done to make an 8 week sailing trip feasible. The engine and gearbox were serviced, all the ships batteries were replaced, a wind generator and solar panel were fitted among other tasks. Every  time something was ticked off the list, two more found their way on. It's a daunting task but fortunately I have done this a number of times before, including twice when going to the Louisiades where there is no help and support available. At least we are only coastal hopping. The key is to appreciate that the boat will NEVER be ready, and to keep uppermost in your mind a line from the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end”.

In the final two days the perishable provisions were stowed on board. Meat had been deep frozen in friends freezers and then put into Dreamagic’s. The day before we left the ham, bacon and smoked goods that I had previously ordered were collected, bread was bought, the local bottle shop was visited, the water tanks were topped off and, except for fuel, the boat was ready. Now I just need crew.

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