The Stewart family buy a boat, jack it all in and go sailing!

Finally – we’re cruisers!

It’s an overcast grey morning and we’re anchored in a bay, surrounded by scrubby low land. There are a few other boats dotted around at anchor in the bay. We arrived yesterday, after finally, finally leaving our “home” berth in the marina and saying “adieu” to Airlie Beach.

Iron Will has been in the pen since we bought her, four months ago, back in May. We had to have a marina berth to get insurance. We also knew if would be the best way to get work done. And that transitioning to living on board would be easier in the marina, both physically and psychologically.

But that lease ran out yesterday – a Friday! – and it was time to get going. We could happily have stayed another week or two; the rigging guys still need to fit a couple more bits and do the final rig inspection. And Matt had his op only last week and should still be taking it very easy, PLUS the marina were throwing their annual Reef ‘n’ Beef party, free to all those with a berth (Matt LOVES Reef ‘n’ Beef).

But no, it was time to go. The weather forecast wasn’t great; after weeks of beautiful weather – glorious sunshine and light airs – a change had come through and we girded our loins for a bit of a blow. Matt chose a nearby bay to anchor in that didn’t involve crossing the Whitsunday Passage and was happy that the wind and tide would both be with us.

We lashed everything down on deck and stowed everything below.

We explained to Tilly and Sasha that it might be a bit bumpy and they had to tidy their cabins so that their toys were safe.

We dug out the ensign and hoisted it up the backstay. We did one last rubbish run to the bins and returned our marina key cards.

Then it was time to go. Our lovely marina neighbours – who bring our girls gorgeous little gifts on their visits and throw the best sundowners – took our departure photo and waved us off from the end of the pontoon as we motored out.

The girls perched on the pulpit until we passed through the marina breakwater and then a nervous mama called them back to the cockpit.

The sun was sparkling on the waves and we pointed our bow North. We had a fairly uneventful run and the kids even got their lego out on the saloon table. Matt gave me the helm and he went up to the bow to do some last minute jobs on the anchor and ground tackle.

After an hour or so, we turned into the bay we had chosen to shelter us from the south-easterlies, and everything got a bit lumpy for a while.

Iron Will lurched from side to side, spray was flung dramatically over the sides and crashes and bangs came from below.

Matt took the helm while I went below and steadied the Lego and children. Tilly took to her bunk and held on, and Sasha came back into the cockpit with me. She looked slightly green about the gills and very unhappy. She curled up in the sheltered corner, protected by the dodger, and the bottom lip started to wobble. I thought she’d ask to go home, or say she hated boats. Instead she cried “I wish I didn’t get seasick!” and my heart swelled for her. No question of turning back for this little adventurer.

The lumpiness didn’t last long, and soon we were tucked away in a sheltered corner of the bay, bobbing around at anchor. The kettle was on for tea and we broke out the gingernuts. Order had been restored.

We passed a happy day beachcombing, making cupcakes, eating cupcakes and doing boatjobs. Dinner was beef stirfry with mountains of broccoli – got to use the green stuff up whilst we have it – followed by more cupcakes, with custard this time. We finished off with a game of Monopoly.

Our first day out was a success.

I confess to being frequently ambushed by elation. We were finally doing it! Out here!

The four of us, on our strong and sturdy boat, together, happy and self-sufficient.

We all slept well, lulled by the rocking motion of the boat at anchor. It’s still quite breezy, 20-25 knots, but we have a great anchor and good holding.

This morning, a turtle came over to say hello as Matt and Tilly and I sat here in the cockpit. His big shell broke the water and his wise-looking old head popped up, close enough to see his beaky mouth and beady eyes. He swam along on the surface next to the boat, to our awed delight and muffled squeals. Tilly dashed below to wake her sister and get her to look out her porthole, and still he cruised along. He was making a curious gasping sound that made me wonder if he was alright, but I think that’s just how they breathe. Eventually he decided he’d seen enough, and dived below.

He left us feeling very lucky and also hungry. It was time to go below and make scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast.