I don’t know when it happened but sometime after lizard island up the east coast, I started to find my sea legs. Slowly my guts stopped squirming at every roll of the ocean and sway of the boat. Finding myself spending more and more time at the helm (the wheel, in the cockpit, driving the thing). Everyday we had constant trade winds coming from the south-east blowing 20-25knots, our speed over ground being 8 to 10knots. Which in yachting terms is a pretty good speed. I was foolishly starting to think, this shit is easy. It suddenly wasn’t as daunting to be in control, in fact being in control was where I felt best. The position of the sails and the angle of the wind was even starting to make sense. I stopped losing it in the wind and having Andre awkwardly come out and put it back on course for me again. The rolls and sways that once gave me so much grief were now a way of predicting the movement of the STNT, allowing me to correct the course before she even deviated. I was really starting to get a feel for the boat. And it was great fun.
As I was spending more and more time at the helm, Luke was beginning to spend less and less. His roll of chef was truly cemented, often spending 3-4 hours in the kitchen making a huge horrible mess for me to clean at the end of the day. Not only was he cooking and preparing lunch and dinner each day for everyone but often he would cook extra meals (curries, pastas, stews etc), that were packed up and re-frozen. Stockpiling in preparation for when we sailed across the Gulf of Carpentaria which was predicated to take anywhere from 2-4 days depending on the winds. He worked hard and we ate well.
Because the winds were so good we made the most of it. Putting a lot of miles behind us, doing 50 to 80nm day hops. Some of the anchorages were in areas that didn’t allow us to go on land plus some afternoons/evenings when we arrived after a particularly long passage we simply couldn’t be stuffed to do anything else. Meaning we were spending a lot of time on the boat. All four of us. Together. Uninterrupted. For days at a time.
I must have higher tolerance levels then Luke because it was noticeably wearing him down and effecting him more. Luke’s pride was starting to clash with Andre’s systematic and controlling methods for everything. Hazels condition and inability to do much combined with her fussiness towards food and cleanliness was really testing Luke’s patience. It was mostly small petty stuff but when you are trapped sharing your personal space with someone for so long, living on top of each other, it’s the small petty things that amplify and really niggle at the nerves. They were still strangers to us back then, it’s a lot harder to forgive a stranger.
The few times we were able to leave the boat, be it to explore the random island we were anchored at or to have an unsuccessful fish from the dinghy. We would remind ourselves of the awesome opportunity we had in front of us. Realising how petty we were being and laugh it all off. But as these moments began to be fewer and farther apart. The patience levels of Luke were really starting to crumble. Collapsing the moment he finally landed his first decent fish.
In light winds we would often leave a line out trolling while sailing. Never with much luck until one suicidal fish decided to show up and ruin everything. A moment that is normally followed with a lot of cheering and high fives was instead met with barked orders from Andre trapped at the helm disparate to take over. As soon as the Spanish Mackerel hit the deck it was “Cut it’s throat! Bleed it out! Don’t let it spoil! Tie it and hang it over the side! Quickly, quickly!!“. Luke couldn’t handle it anymore and he finally snapped. “Fucking hell! Just let me enjoy the moment for fucks sake…”. This was Luke and Andre’s second confrontation.
After all the excitement, as Luke was down hiding in our cabin, while I was at the helm Andre asked me if I knew of a thing called “attitude”. Great here we go I thought. “What, is that a band from the 80s or something?” I tried to dismiss the conversation that was headed my way. It didn’t work. I copped a lecture about Luke’s attitude and how we both wouldn’t have a ride past Darwin. He would find someone else unless Luke could really pull his head in, “eat some humble pie” and learn Andre is the skipper. The boss. And most importantly never to be questioned and talked back to. Fuck I was angry at that stupid fish. I was given the task from Andre to speak to Luke about it. Suddenly I was thrown in the middle, playing the peace keeper role I always find myself in, juggling the information I was telling both of them. Back and forth. Being careful not to aggravate Luke’s growing hatred of Andre. Trying to feed Andre the information I knew he wanted to hear about Luke feeling regretful, ashamed and embarrassed for acting out like he did. He felt none of this. It was stressful. For a few days I thought I was doing well and on top of it all. Everyone was acting happy. But of course it didn’t last…
Below: Small video of one of Lukes attempts to catch a decent fish. You can hear Andre telling him what to do at the beginning. Luke hated that.