10 October 2007

a blur of turtles, sea and bulls

Doof, doof, thud, giggle. Repeat for 20 minutes with increasing volume. That’s the sound of four-year-old Abby using my cabin roof as a gym mat. I’ve had five hours sleep, tops. After two consecutive nights and part-days sailing, and barely a loose minute in over a week, I’m swallowing expletives. Give in, get up, make coffee. Find a spot to watch the world go by. You should see the view. Regrettably, you can’t, since the camera has succumbed to intermittent sea trauma. I kinda know how it feels. Anyway, we’ve got a yellow ribbon, Mission Beach, unfurling on our right, Dunk Island on our left (where I once face-planted the water in a feeble attempt at waterskiing.) The wind is blowing raspberries, mocking us with not even two knots on the nose. It’s a total glass-off. And bloody steamy. But what a view. I pull out the notepad to start some serious catch-up.

Skip, from the wheelhouse: “Sam, can you do a watch?”

Days and bit days “off” have mysteriously been sapped by such calls. This morning though, I surreptitiously scribble with one eye on the horizon. Still loving the deckie duties... Last night on watch I advanced to unsupervised plotting of waypoints. Feels rather good to make the boat swing to a new course. In the dark. While everyone sleeps.

The past 10 days have been a blur of hyperactivity. I will do my best to update significant goings on during the rather large gap between posts.

We had two days of turtle-tagging at Cape Flattery with Dr Ian Bell and Sam Dibella from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. They brought two very large green turtles up onto Pelican’s beach for a scientific once-over. At which point, naturally, the camera had its first hissy fit.

We did loads of day sails at Flattery, where the Hopevale mob had set up camp. On our first day turtle tagging we orchestrated an unscheduled lunch for 33 people (thank you Mr Heinz). We also did a girls-only sail which included the women Elders.

The ABC guys spent quite a bit of time aboard and were loads of fun. Cam the cameraman (of course) and Paul the sound guy are really dry. Jeremy – who also runs the Laura festival and various other Indigenous arts festivals – is a hoot. On their second trip to the boat, the guys brought lollies (currency, I suspect, for our coffee). They are without cooked food at camp and surviving on bully beef and muesli bars, so were fortunately capable of appreciating our sausages-and-beans lunch. They also send us chocolate when they split camp. I love the ABC. The 7.30 Report will probably broadcast our piece next week. Listen to skip’s radio interview
and see my photo (the lead one) incorrectly attributed. (My love lessens somewhat.)

We also celebrated second mate’s very important milestone birthday with bacon and eggs and banana smoothies. We were invited ashore for a meal catered by a bush chef: campfire pot-roasted lamb and vegies. This was followed by pancakes with fruit salad, line dancing with the women Elders, a talk by our turtle friends and a doco about a 23 year old native American chief’s quest to preserve Arctic land from drilling (courtesy our digital storytelling guru). A superb finale, with campfire smoke wafting in the projector's beam and the lazy clack of the genny simulating a movie reel. We sit on milk crates. Me, with a snoring six year old in my lap.

On Saturday we hired a four wheel drive to visit the Hopevale Rodeo. Lots of red dust and angry cattle. Despite misgivings, it provided some great photo ops. (Camera now settled into temperamental stop-start modus operandi.)

Back in Cooktown, we did a couple of day sails with Wujal Wujal mob and people with disabilities. Core crew celebrated the end of project at Cook’s Landing – the kiosk outside the barge we tie up to – with ginger beers all round. (We remain dry until Cairns.) Skip affirmed his satisfaction with crew and I'm officially welcomed to 'the family'. We enjoy a celebratory dinner courtesy the ANZ and motor south to Cairns, where the Pelican brood has our last supper together.

After less than 24 hours in Cairns, we set off before midnight, leaving first mate behind for some well-earned G&Ts by the pool. We have Estelle B and Abby aboard, along with Kelly, a percussionist who will get the kids drumming. Arrived Cardwell yesterday afternoon for the Caring for Country Indigenous Land and Sea Management Conference. Am not going to be responsible for telling the crew that Malcolm Turnbull is in town. It would count as aiding and abetting.
We will hopefully get to check out the Girringun Cultural Festival, which follows the serious talkie part. We’ll be doing day sails with Indigenous kids and conference delegates throughout the week.

Cardwell is bizarre. It’s a retro beach town with a couple of fish and chip joints and a pub. The marina is just south of town and is v plush, with resort buggies and McHoliday Mansions. We have round-the-clock use of a palm-fringed pool and clean hot showers, and Pelican has a whole pontoon to herself (unlike our pit-stop in Cairns where her bow hung two metres off the finger). We’re all happy.

Marina fees are also substantially lower and skip is considering keeping the boat here for our scheduled “week off”. Meanwhile I’m doing some quick sussing of the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island and reprioritising a looming article deadline.

In other news, I’ve signed on for the delivery to Melbourne (four weeks of island hopping proved too much to refuse) and for Two Bays in Melbourne in December.


austin said...

Hey Cook,

Nice to find your blog!
Welcome aboard!
Above is my blogging ramblings home.


Mum said...

So you've made us Grandparents at last! What is the six year-olds' name and why keep us in the dark so long? He/she obviously received the Grandfathers' snoring genes! Enjoyed the detail of the latest blog - glad you're still enjoying but hope you can catch up soon on the beauty rest. Spray and salt work similar wonders on trashy digital techno gear as eucalypt seeds and road dust do I see! Oohhh, Sam (with despair in voice.)

the cook said...

Hey Austin - thanks for the welcome and dropping by. Very good 'twas to read your "ramblings" and have added you to my links. Hope dat's OK.

Mum - hahaha, no. The Pelican family comes with various kiddliewinks who have generally made themselves at home on my lap, cabin roof, etc, while incessantly probing "why?". Am looking forward to beauty rest at Bingi... day sails this weekend followed by scramble to meet deadline for a still unwritten article and probable Thorsborne Trail hike next week. Poo to seeds and dust too.