Magazine Article (Print) – Cruising Helmsman

Published in: CRUISING HELMSMAN, MAY, 2018


Title: When Opportunity Knocks: Diary of a Blue Water Virgin Part I


A completely impulsive decision

The last few days have been a blur. Sitting on the tarmac in Sydney I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Yesterday, later than planned due to weather, I sailed back into Mooloolaba after three months cruising the Queensland coast with my partner and fourteen year old son, on our own boat, Another Angel.  

Shortly, I’ll be in the air, on my way to Surunda Bay, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. I’m joining skipper Paul Dow, to undertake my first blue water crossing, crewing on his boat Skellum from Vanuatu to Bundaberg via Huon and Chesterfield Reefs.  

A completely impulsive decision led me to this moment. Now as the plane begins it’s taxi, a small knot of doubt sits like a hot coal in my stomach. 

Blue water virgin

The sum total of my sailing experience before my partner and I bought our first boat in December last year, was learning to sail as a teenager, living with my family on a 48ft catamaran for 4 years, 30 years ago, and a few weeks in coastal waters on my father’s catamaran in 2016, when we were seriously considering this lifestyle. 

My partner Steve has never sailed before, so I skipper our boat and he crews, and we learn together. Our dream is to sail around the world, but I’ve never been offshore.

When a post recently appeared, in a Facebook sailing forum (WWSA) asking for crew to help bring Skellum, a 46ft aluminium catamaran, home to Bundaberg from Vanuatu, it felt like opportunity knocking and I impulsively decided to say “Yes!”.  

Putting my dreams to the test, I needed to get out there. I wanted to see if I could really cut it on the open ocean. Now I’m hoping I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

My first challenge

Landing in Luganville on sunset, it feels like a long way from home. The skipper’s brother Nik will arrive in a few days to complete our crew, but I have come early to help Paul provision and get to know the boat before the crossing.

Collecting my backpack, I head outside looking for “Greg” the driver, that Paul organised to collect me and bring me to the beach at Surunda Bay.

Thirty minutes later it’s dark. The airport is emptying and there’s no sign of Greg. The airport is set to close with no planes due until tomorrow.  A little voice in my head is wondering what I’m doing here, but I ignore it and jump into a local taxi. I say a small prayer that the right place on the beach at Surandu Bay won’t be too hard to find on my own.  

My driver Opat is entertaining on the fifteen minute drive out to Surunda, but he has no clue about where the boats normally anchor.  We try a few dusty driveways in the dark without success. Finally we find one that takes us to the edge of the sand. I cross my fingers that I am in the right place and Paul is still waiting for me.

Read the rest of this article in Cruising Helmsman

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