Wednesday 10 – Hectic Percy
At anchor West Bay, Middle Island,
Wednesday morning, I arose shortly after the sun, went on deck, stretched out my arms, and felt the warmth of the mild winter tropical sun on my skin. Ahh, the tranquillity! Ahh, the serenity of a still relatively untouched corner of this crazy world.
Then, not five minutes later, a large motor boat rounded the southern headland of the bay. Then another one. And another one. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by no less than twenty large motor boats, all dithering around looking for a spot to anchor. The serene bay was soon transformed into a power-boatopolis. Large rigid-hulled inflatable dinghies with powerful black outboards on their transoms, as well as the odd child-powered paddle board and kayak, were soon criss-crossing the bay. I had never seen West Bay so crowded before. I went below for breakfast and tea, seeking that quiet inner serenity that supposedly no one can touch.
The plan for the day was to hike up to the Homestead where John and Kate, the current leaseholders, live. With the peace of the bay blown away, this now seemed a very good plan indeed. The four and a half kilometre hike took us along the dirt road that John keeps clear with his regular trips around the island in his four wheel drive utility. The island has dense vegetation consisting mostly of eucalypt, wattle, and other common species of Australian bush that I, as a long-term sailor, know very little about. As we got up higher into the hills, the cooler moister air supported more of a rainforest environment and the path became greener and darker in the shade of the overarching trees, the path lined by buttress root systems and vines spiralling into the canopy above. Every so often we would pass through a cool glade and set off an avalanche of blue-specked monarch butterflies. And then we were into the open cleared land of the homestead. John had driven past us (offering us a lift in the back of his tray which we politely declined) and had left the gate open for our arrival.
Kate greeted us from the veranda and soon had us settled to a freshly squeezed icy lime juice, discussing the island’s history and its flora and fauna, while collecting some fresh fruit and vegetables to help restock Sylph’s larder. It turned out that Shipwreck was in one of the outhouse sheds butchering a feral goat that his beautiful slim partner, Beck, had shot earlier that morning, her first kill. Shipwreck soon had us lined up tasting the island’s mead. We thought the passionfruit vintage particularly tasty so a litre bottle was added to our grocery basket. With our shopping basket full, we accompanied Shipwreck and Beck back to the lagoon via the short path. Along the way I managed to extract a little of Shipwreck’s story from him.
Born in Pennsylvania, he was raised within a devout Christian family. He told me that in Pennsylvania when you greet someone, the second thing that gets asked is what church one goes to. At twenty two, he moved to California to go to university where he jokingly says he grew up. He changed his major several times, starting with physics, moved through mathematics, and ended up in comparative literature. After completing his studies, he ended up as a tour guide, initially in California, where he met Beck, an Australian tourist. Along he way he had owned a couple of yachts and, from what I could work out, sailed them mostly to Mexico. They have all ended up as wrecks, hence his name. He had invited Beck to come travelling with him in Mexico, but Beck’s parents were suspicious that he would steal her passport and sell her into the sex trade. Instead they offered to buy him a ticket to Australia to see if he was genuine. Shipwreck suspects they did not expect him to accept their offer as they genuinely thought him part of some Mexican drug cartel but, of course, he did accept. Since then it would seem that Shipwreck and Beck have rarely been apart. Shipwreck is now forty, and after jumping through numerous bureaucratic hoops has a partnership visa with Beck and is well on his way to obtaining full citizenship. They both live in the little Hood 23 that we saw high and dry in the lagoon the day prior, which has been their home for the last two years. This, I guess, is love.
We left, Beck at the lagoon to return to their Hood while Shipwreck, Kate and I continued to the beach to pay a call on Steve, the local writer and sometime film producer, who lives in the tree-house just above the beach, close by the A-frame. Shipwreck sung praises to Steve’s writing and presumably, as a comparative literature major, he knows a thing or two about good writing. We enjoyed more yarns about the island and its history with Steve over a few meads. Steve, unsurprisingly, is another interesting character but I will perhaps tell some of his story another time.
From the tree-house we all adjourned to the beach to join the throng of partying motor-boaters who had, it seemed, an open bar under pitched awnings with tiki lights and a fire being lit as the sun was setting. Before joining the party, Kate and I had a dip in West Bay’s cool waters and a fresh water shower in the tin shower alcove behind the A-frame. For motor-boaters they turned out to be quite a nice crowd. Their flotilla consists entirely of Rivieras and the annual pilgrimage is organised by the Queensland sales rep. It turns out this convoy of boats was the same line of boats we had watched exit Moreton Bay in Indian file (or formation one in naval parlance) as we were leaving Tangalooma, only twelve days ago. Later that night, Kate was kindly assisted back to Sylph via one of the flotilla’s large inflatables while I enjoyed the short row in the light of the waxing moon.
All is well.