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The Whitsundays: What sort of holiday requires instructions?
Our first holiday as husband and wife was a disaster. This is not counting the honeymoon obviously, because honeymoons must be resolutely remembered as blissful, otherwise the union is doomed. But our first holiday thereafter, still newlyweds, still getting used to life in tandem: disaster.
No one actually mentioned the word divorce so early in the piece but when youve got one sailing boat, five days of unseasonably appalling conditions and two captains overinflating their sailing experience and underreporting their bossiness, thats the threat lurking behind every curt instruction.
What sort of holiday requires instructions? Well exactly. A holiday in which one person must necessarily take charge in a bossy-boots kind of way is no holiday at all. Add to this disgruntlement the necessity to yell to be heard over roaring winds while you veer dangerously off-course, and you start dreaming of a holiday to get over the holiday.
This is what we imagined: the becalmed beauty of the Whitsunday Passage, that spectacular collection of islands protectively nestled inside the Great Barrier Reef, safe from prevailing winds; bright blue languid days gliding over turquoise waters, taking turns at the tiller in our togs; finding our own private cove as the sun goes down; diving into warm pristine waters; the tinkling of intimate laughter; the fizz of champagne and the sizzle of prawns on the barbie.
This is what we got: driving horizontal rain (freezing); cyclonic winds (freezing); nasty, choppy, steel-grey water (freezing). A heaving boat, the relentless slap, slap, slap of the hull, no reprieve in quiet coves, and yelling from stern to bow. Ill look at the map, you steer! No, Ill steer, you look at the map! Release the cleat, I said, the CLEAT.
Our combined minutes of sailing experience brought us undone when we hit a reef on day two, with a sickening crunch and lurch onto that pale bit on the map that youre supposed to avoid. Cant you see the red lines? The RED LINES!
Ill save you the pain of days three and four and take you straight to day five: a mayday call, a rescue mission, and a midwater transfer from lurching boat to lurching boat.
A friend of mine once said he reckoned the best test for any new relationship is the camping trip, but the yachting in cyclonic conditions with next-to-no sailing experience trip will do the trick too. If you can make it through that, calmer waters await. Lucy Clark