Past Trips

Spontaneous 6 Day Sailing Trip

After being out of the country for 6 months of adventure, I found myself bored after being home for just 6 weeks.  I was already dreading the impending return to work and was searching for something interesting to do with my last week of freedom before sitting back at a desk.   Uninspired I scrolled through Facebook and up popped a post in the She Went Wild Australia & NZ Facebook group that I couldn’t ignore. 

“Hey I hope it’s ok to post this in here, we are looking for volunteer crew to sail from the Gold Coast to Sydney we’re leaving tomorrow (Tuesday)! It should take 5 or 6 days and will be an amazing adventure. No sailing experience needed but it would be helpful if you don’t get seasick and are ok with doing night shifts. Check out our last adventure (linked)! Anyone is welcome so please share! “ – Heather & Pete 

My heart skipped a beat.  I counted the days I had free and worked out I’d return Sunday night, ready for my new job to start Monday morning.  I had another “this is so wild it might just work” moment, contacted them and then booked a 6am flight to the Gold Coast (QLD) where I would meet the crew the next morning. 

Day 1 

Once landed in Coolangatta airport I met Heather and Pete, a naturally attractive couple who somehow made track pants and sneakers look cool with a wide brimmed hat.  We were on the same flight but only meeting then because they had to sprint through Sydney airport to make the gates with 30 seconds to spare.  We laugh with shared adrenaline about it. 

Heather & Pete (tracks and runners not visible but definitely there!)

Together we caught two buses to the wharf where we did groceries for the week and met final volunteer crew member John who learnt about the trip on a gumtree ad.  John was a character, he lived off the grid on his property in outback Queensland and immediately jumped into telling us about his letters to the government to get out of paying tax and explaining why Trump was necessary for America.  We were in for an entertaining few days together. 

After loading the boat with belongings and groceries we started our trip down to Sydney.  It was warm and sunny, we were buzzing with anticipation of the days ahead and my head was spinning that only 24hrs earlier I had no idea I was going to be on a yacht.  Pete guided us out of the bay and then got straight into explaining how things worked.  I’d hit the jackpot with a luxury yacht meaning autopilot did most of the work for us.  The majority of my job was to keep an eye on the GPS for other ships, ensure we weren’t drifting off course, and to catch the spinning wheel and correct us when autopilot went into overdrive. 

Sailing at a considerably fast 7 knots the boys volunteered for the first night shift sending the Heathers to bed at 10pm.  Sleeping on the couch in the cabin was snug as I drifted off to sleep while we gently rocked. 

Day 2 

Relieving the boys Heather and I got up at 4am for our shift.  Conditions were calm so we wrapped ourselves in blankets and settled in for the sunrise in a few hours. 

Out in the distance we spotted whales so then kept an eye out for them.  All day we watched and counted as they passed, two breaching whales came so close I wondered if they were going to land on the boat.  The final count for the day was 17 whales.  That’s better than any whale watching cruise and I thought to myself how lucky I am. 

Watch this video!

Luck wasn’t all on our side though and weather forecasts showed a storm front coming our way.  Pete made the call to stop in the protected bay of Coffs Harbour for the night for some shelter.  Back on land I went for a run to explore the headland and marina, making it back just in time before it started to rain.  The rain got heavier and soon turned to hail; we were immediately grateful for Pete’s decision to not be at sea. 

While waiting out the storm at the marina we curled up in the cabin together watching movies and sharing stories over a few drinks.  It turned out John was quite the conspiracy theory expert (we should have seen that coming really) so he took the time to get us up to speed on all sorts of interesting things. 

Day 3 

Early in the morning John received a call from his wife reporting all the damage their property had received in the storm.  Downed trees blocked her car and water was no longer connected to the house.  Sadly, John had to leave to help his family, hitchhiking the 3.5hrs drive back to Coolangatta to retrieve his car.    

The weather didn’t let up for us either, so we hung out on the boat with other sailors ready to leave first thing the next morning. 

Day 4 

With the team now down to three we waited for the Southerly to die down and left the Marina at 10am.  The sky was still grey, the whales had gone into hiding and the swell was getting bigger.  Feeling brave I volunteered to cook lunch on the swinging stove in the cabin and passed the finished meal up the manhole to be eaten above deck.  It continued to rain so we huddled together under the awning, not game to risk sea sickness in the cabin below. 

The swell grew to a daunting 3 metres and in a few heart stopping moments the yacht was plunging side to side putting Pete’s seamanship to the test.  Before we could bring down the sail, we heard a loud crack and watched the boom pop out of place as it broke away from the mast.  Pete wrestled his way out to the deck and retrieved it before it could knock things overboard.. Heather and I took the wheel and cranks following shouted instructions through the wind. 

Things soon calmed down, so Heather and I took the first half of night shift with Pete coming up at 3am to swap with us.  With the cabin a mess from the rough seas there was water, pots, cushions and personal belongings everywhere.  With the seas still too rough to clean Heather and I made our way to the double bed where we rocked together for the rest of the night.  While I was unsure of what the weather was like outside, I could feel my weight being shifted side to side and outside I could hear the waves crashing on the deck above us. 

Day 5  

Through the early hours of the morning I could hear Pete playing the Yoda lip sync YouTube video on repeat.  We had hilariously become obsessed with the video when in Coffs Harbour, and he was now using it to stay awake while on solo night shift. 

After a few hours we joined Pete and together we made the most of our last day at sea.  The wind was behind us so we made great time; and as we got closer to Sydney we started passing larger cargo and cruise ships and could see land again.  Night shift roles involved closely watching surrounding vessel movement on the GPS to ensure we didn’t get too close to other boats in the dark.  Heather went to bed at 10pm but I stayed up with Pete to watch our arrival through the heads and into Sydney Harbour at around 11:30pm.  We made it.  Most importantly, I was going to make work on Monday morning.

Day 6 

Still on the boat we spent the morning cleaning; putting away items which had been tossed around the cabin, collecting the rubbish, hosing the deck and cleaning the kitchen and bathroom.  

Once finished we jumped in the tinny and Pete and Heather dropped me at Manly ferry wharf before they returned to land themselves. A quick ferry ride through Sydney Harbour and a train from the city and I was home. In my new workplace everyone chatted about their weekend and I shared how I spontaneously jumped on a yacht and helped sail from Gold Coast to Sydney.  It was a great icebreaker. 

If you want to meet Heather and Pete and experience a trip on the yacht you can check out their website at www.sydneysailingcharters.com.au.  

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