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

Island time

We’ve done it! We’ve cracked a week at sea!

Well, when I say at sea, I actually mean pottering around the delightful Whitsundays. But the point is; we haven’t had to go back into port to get anything fixed, which is a first for us.

The boat systems were mainly in great working order when we bought her back in May, but when we cast off the docklines and started actually sailing a month or so ago, there were a few hiccups to sort out.

As I may have mentioned before, Iron Will was built to go to the Antarctic. Which is, obviously, both a) a long way from anywhere, and b) very cold. This means that she was built with whopping great tanks for fuel and water, as well as being very solidly built and well insulated (which is surprisingly effective at keeping the boat cool in the tropics).

Daily chores: cleaning the solar panels

So when our marina pen lease ran out and we actually started really using and testing the boat, we found that yes, we could store and cook plenty of delicious food to keep us going. We also found that, despite no watermaker, we could easily make our fresh water last. But we found that we kept running low on power! We knew the previous owner had installed some whopping you-beaut batteries, and the boat also has a diesel generator, wind generator and solar panels! So we really should have power coming out of our ears.

It took several weeks of coming and going from Abell Point Marina, pulling long lengths of metal out of the engine room, electronic boxes coming out and going in, generous friends lending us time and expertise PLUS professional help to get the whole thing pretty much sorted out. So we are delighted to be “out here” a week later, on the hook, making our own power, running our fridge and freezer and all the assorted systems that you get on a boat with our power bank fully at 100%.

We’ve had probably the best week so far too – Matt was keen to sail to Gloucester Island and the area around Montes and Earlandos, in the Northern Whitsundays. It’s a beautiful area, and so different from the Central Group. It also has none of the charter boats you get in other areas. In fact, very few of any other sorts of boats! It’s drier and more rugged, and felt more beautifully remote and wild to me (even though we went ashore at The Eco Resort and bought a bowl of ice cream for the kids!).   I loved drinking the stunning scenery and trying to capture the wild beauty with paint and photograph.

Matt loved it as it is full of marine life. Beautiful stuff to see like turtles and dolphins (is it just me, or does it feel like a lucky blessing when dolphins visit your boat?) and yummy stuff to catch and eat like whiting and mudcrabs.

Mudcrabs are delicious and also cost around $50/kilo to buy, so you feel very smug when you’ve caught them in the wild.

And whiting are probably my favourite fish; sweet and delicate and there are heaps and heaps of them, so you don’t feel guilty eating them.

So our routine would be to go ashore with cast nets and painting gear and two small girls in what Ithink of as “sun armour” – long sleeved sunshirts, quick dry shorts, hats and sunnies – and spend happy hours variously cast netting, getting arty and splashing about in pretty turquoise creeks.

A few days ago, with the forecast for stronger winds coming, we pulled up the anchor and had a fabulous day’s run (with all three sails up! another first!) across to Hook Island. Hook Island has various little hidey-hold creeks where you can tuck away from a stiff breeze.

It’s wonderful in here, the steep-sided craggy green hills run down to soft sandy beaches and impossibly-coloured aquamarine waters.

We’ve even got some jobs done; the winches needed servicing and we’ve made a start BUT there are 13 of them!

Sasha also wanted to learn to drive the tender, so Matt has taken great delight in showing her how it’s done and letting her get the hang of it …. there have been lots of circles and zig zags around the big boat as her shorter 7-year old arms get the hang of steering an outboard, but she’s shown remarkable aptitude for the whole thing.   She’s certainly very determined.

Matt made the mistake a couple of days ago of mentioning that it’s less than 60 days til Christmas. We now have two girls with their noses glued into a Lego catalogue and Sylvanian Families catalogue respectively. Tilly has drawn up a “Christmas Countdown” calendar in red and green and stuck it up in the saloon. Most mornings we can hear them chatting in their cabin, discussing their various objects of desire.

Tilly has one thing on her list; a Lego Sunshine Catamaran. Looks great. Tilly then counted up all the items that Sasha has ticked in the Sylvanian Catalogue: 49 items! She’s even cleared out her fairly limited toy storage to make space for all the goodies she’s hoping to get, and we now have an actual bin liner full of her old stuff to take of the boat. (There were tears when we confirmed that a Wish List is just that, you don’t magically get everything on the list because it’s written down).

We’re planning a couple more days here before we head back to the mainland to shop for groceries and take on fuel and water. We’re even thinking this might be our last visit ashore before we start heading south for our Christmas cruising ground of Hervey Bay and Fraser Island.

But for today we’re just looking forward to a visit from our lovely ex-marina neighbours on their beautiful boat Allure. I’m off now to make a lemon drizzle cake for morning tea.

Life is good on Iron Will.