I looked along the deck at the picture of youthful beauty alongside me, all the long tanned legs and all the long blond hair fluttering in the breeze, and I looked out at all the beauty around us, all these magnificent tropical islands with their perfect white sand beaches; and then I looked back at the beauties beside me, and grimaced as one of them leant over the side once again and let rip with another stream of projectile vomit, another free meal for the fishes below, gripping on to the side for dear life so she didn’t fall in along with it as the boat rocked & rolled in the swell.
It should’ve been an idyllic scene, a boat full of backpackers, young and carefree, sailing through Australia’s Whitsunday Islands; but it was a scene of abject misery, of landlubbers learning what it means to have no sea legs.
Mastering my own desire to puke (I just about managed to keep everything down throughout the trip), I made my way back down below to the cramped living quarters, where several more bundles of misery lay in their bunks. Catching my Irish boatmate’s eye, we shared a chuckle; pretty sure we were the only ones aboard who saw the funny side, as grim as the humour involved was.
But really, you had to laugh; a couple of days earlier he and I had caught each others’ eye and shared a chuckle as we realised we were on a ‘party boat’ with just two other guys (from Germany & Mexico), the crew of 3, and some fifteen German & Swedish girls. Wahay, we chuckled to each other, we got lucky here! 3 days of partying in paradise here we come!
But the weather had other ideas. It was 3 days of tropical downpours, storm winds (strong ones – two of the other boats suffered snapped masts), and churning seas; a 3-day exercise in self-inflicted suffering, a veritable vomit coaster of misery. It was hilarious.
At least when we put ashore to visit Whitehaven Beach (shown in pic at top) we could enjoy dry, stable land, and anchoring at night in sheltered coves gave us respite. The Irishman and I got the cards and liquor out each evening, determined to make a good fist of it, but unsurprisingly there weren’t many takers with most opting for an early night.
So what’s the moral of the story? None whatsoever, really, it’s just an amusing travel memory. I guess there could be something in there about things not always going to plan etc, but the most practical lesson would be – don’t go sailing in storms. Especially if you’ve literally never been sailing. Pretty obvious really. Check the forecasts, and if it looks bad just hang out in Airlie Beach until it improves – the partying there will be better than anything on a ‘party boat’ anyway. And come to think of it, avoid the boats marketing themselves that way – they’re the shitty cheap ones, and you get what you pay for (one poor German lass on our boat got ravaged by bed bugs, which on top of the seasickness left her in absolute tears. That wasn’t funny at all, and the crew insisted she must’ve brought them with her (which is possible), though it appears not to have been an isolated case).
So, there you go, the wonderful Whitsundays – hope you have a better trip than I did!
For more Australia stories click here, and see my Australia overland page
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