New Year’s Eve 2015 was the departure of David’s, Adam’s and my Whitsundays sailing boat, the Tongarra. After eating and registering David and Adam, the three of us went together to the Tongarra, not knowing what to expect from our crowd. I had not been able to book onto the Atlantic Clipper, the proper ‘party boat’, at such short notice, but my research had indicated that the Tongarra looked similarly party-ish.
As it turned out, I couldn’t have been happier with my choice. Our boat was a catamaran and a lot smaller than the huge Clipper, but even before we boarded and were meeting the other passengers any concerns as to their affability were assuaged. It also helped that I was already getting along so well with two of my fellow passengers, so didn’t fear being stuck on a tour without kindred spirits, like others I have been on. As soon as we boarded, put all our goon (cask wine, the Australian backpacker’s staple) in the eskies and met our hilarious Australian guides – you can’t make this up but one had a large southern cross tattoo on his back – I knew we were in for a good one. As soon as we set sail we cracked open the goon and got to chatting and getting to know each other in the beautiful sunshine and eventual setting sun. And I did I mention it was New Year’s Eve?
Apparently all boats – including and especially the Clipper – normally shut the music off at midnight. However, it was at midnight (and the very beginning of 2016) when everyone seemed to suddenly get their energy. We were dancing, making human pyramids and having a brilliant time under the clear night sky. I was furiously acting as iTunes DJ, along with another Londoner, Jack.
A few hours later the smaller group of us who had been getting along so well cosied up together in the mattresses on the top of the boat (everyone slept on the deck, across which a tent canopy had been pulled). We giggled like we were on school camp – the naughty kids keeping up the ones who had gone to bed earlier. The next morning, I lay on my mattress next to my new friends watching the sky turn pink and orange among wispy white clouds over the gentle blue ocean.
We were up bright and early for breakfast and jumping in the ocean. Having already done a ‘night drive’ we didn’t have to be up as early as other boats and could disembark and go straight to Whitehaven Beach and Whitsunday Island, which was incredibly beautiful. The whole group of us spent three or so whole hours enjoying the beautiful beaches and sea and generally gasbagging.
The rest of the day involved more sailing, cruising and talking, and stopping periodically to snorkel. I found the coral and fish we saw to be more spectacular than the Great Barrier Reef and Dave agreed – so maybe we went on a dodgy reef trip! I also wasn’t the only one cracking open the drinks at about lunchtime: we were all there for a good time and again continued on talking and dancing til 2am, with no request from the crew to turn the music off.
After more cruising, talking, snorkelling, jumping in the water and delicious food we arrived back in Airlie Beach at about 11am.
But this was a tour on which everyone had gotten along so well, so that was by no means the end of it. After checking into our respective hostels – I was again coincidentally in the same room as my New Zealand friend – many of us immediately met up again at the outdoor pub David, Adam, Fredo and I had been frequenting for lunch, and then continued on to lounge around at the lagoon.
After getting ready – three of us girls in my hostel dorm – we again all met up at the ‘official’ after party at the bar next to Nomads/Base, and kicked on for our own unofficial bar crawl. At the end of thte night I was very sorry to say farewell to the people I had gotten along so well – and I don’t often say that. As I repeatedly told the two Australian skippers on our boat, it’s all about travel luck – and I had had plenty of that this time.
The next day, I relaxed by the lagoon before heading home, a smile on my face on the mini bus to the airport.