On a Friday in August we became the first group to enjoy the South Passage experience on deck of a 100 foot tall ship. We embarked from Sara Carrigan Court and with Miss Connell and Mr Juniper accompanying us, were filled with excitement for our following four-day adventure under sail.
The six-hour bus ride did not waver the group's anticipation. A halfway stop to stretch our legs and fill up at McDonalds revived us, with a not so healthy dinner and at quarter to midnight we finally stepped foot on our home for the next four days. Everyone was struggling to keep their eyes open, as we were assigned our watch leaders and allocated bunks.
At 6.30am (or 0630 hours) on Saturday 26 August, we awoke to the uplifting sound of a bugle paired with the captain’s orders. Four at a time we entered the galley for our first round of breakfast, cereal and juice. Watch groups red, white and blue met together in our mustering stations to raise and set sail on one of the roughest and most treacherous journeys we would experience the whole trip. After leaving the comfort of the marina berth we entered what we thought was the wide-open ocean, instead being Hervey Bay. At a consistent lean of 30 degrees on the level-o-meter (a sinker attached to a string) everyone was wearing lifejackets and tethering themselves to anything that looked stationary. We ploughed through the waves and into the afternoon of our first day, with only a small number suffering the dreaded sea sickness. We ended our first day of sailing, full of travacalm, which did nothing more than send us to sleep at an early hour of the night. However, for most of us, our beauty sleep was interrupted by overnight anchor watches, which included taking location bearings, learning knots and completing activities with our watch leaders. We were enlightened with a few too many biscuits, warm tea, coffee and hot chocolates to keep us up.
The sun came up on one of our calmest days of the trip, not a cloud or wind gust in sight and anchored along the beautiful Fraser Island's’ west coast we were greeted with inviting and pristine blue water. After our two rounds of breakfast we were treated to an excursion to shore where we played frisbee and trekked along the coastline to find a secret lagoon. Soon after everyone started to get comfortable with the stable life back on land, we were hurried along by the crew and due to a lack of wind, motored south at a bearing of 210o along the coast of Fraser Island. Once again, grouped in two-hour watch rotations, consisting of the trip favourite deck check, starboard/portside lookout and the helm. Three at a time, we grabbed harnesses and lounged on the comfortable netting of the bowsprit and at the end of another beautiful day we enjoyed a once again, unforgettable sunset.
The following morning, we continued to sail south to Inskip point blessed again with little wind and calm conditions. That night, was the most exhilarating of the trip, for the first time, we had to keep sailing to make up the lost time caused by a lack of wind. Suddenly, we were hit with a large change in wind direction and were thrown from one side of our beds to the other. The sounds of sirens entered the cabin from an overflow alarm in one of the water tanks due to the dramatic lean of the ship. After another change in wind direction the crew above had to tack in the opposite direction expectantly throwing the people sleeping below, onto the opposite sides of our beds. Thanks to being effectively tied into our beds most came out uninjured, with the only exception of a bloody nose. Soon the rocking of the ship sent us all to sleep.
The next morning was our last on the ship, and as blue watch woke up for our last shift at 4.00am, we managed to watch the beautiful sunset arise. Then with a lot of pleasure, we awoke the rest of the boat with some attempt of playing the bugle. As the day progressed the entire crew had to complete challenges worth certain amount of points, that we could utilise if we were late into port, which we were… but - after our interpretive dances, one member learning 20 knots and another labelling parts of the ship - we managed to make up for our lost time. After we said our goodbyes at Manly port to the watch leaders, chef, sailing master and skipper, and started to wave as we saw the other sailing group approach, we all became very nostalgic very quickly. After tears, plans to steal the ship and keep sailing, music and ideas for what to do for the rest of the week, we were back at school and excited to see our families.
The group that left on the Friday afternoon, knew each other's names and some were friends, but when we all returned we were a close knit little group, bonded over midnight cups of tea, sea sickness, falling over in the shower and incredible laughter. The trip was truly amazing and we recommend it to all who have the opportunity to do so.
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