Arriving in Goldcoast under spinnaker was a fabulous way to begin our stopover. Not only did we have an exciting finish with 2 other boats close behind us as we crossed the line, we were treated to some Aussie sunshine too. Finally, the much promised in the brochure, downwind sailing. It was a relief to be floating along to the finish instead of beating our way over the line. As we came into the marina the shore was dotted with little groups of people waving to us and our boat song was playing. Once again, it felt amazing to be part of something that people turn out to watch. It wasn’t long before we’d cleared immigration and were off to the Southport Yacht Club for a fantastic welcome; dinner, drinks and live music. I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess the effects of this heady cocktail on a crew who have just sailed hard on a dry boat and are seeing sunshine for the first time in weeks. You can only imagine how we danced the night away into the ‘wee small hours’ with our kilts flying!

Throughout the stopover the yacht club staff did everything they could to make us feel welcome and to cater for our every need – “can we store haggis in your fridge”, “could you recommend somewhere to stay”, could we borrow a room for”, “where do I find”. As yacht clubs go this one was fantastic, the best we’ve been to yet. It was also nice to be in a place where we had enough space to moor all the boats next to each other. The banter between boats is great fun and it’s also quite amusing to pop along to your neighbouring boat to borrow a cup of sugar/screw driver etc.

In my assistant engineering role (yep, miraculously I’ve not been fired yet!) Sarah and I managed to take off our pullpit to be sent in for repairs and with the help of our stand-in skipper we even managed to get it back on and sealed. Quite a task in very hot weather in a very sweaty boat below decks.

During the stopover our boat was one of the ones used for a training sail for the new leggers. I went along to assist our stand in skipper, for the day. He was under the assumption that I knew what I was doing and that I might be useful! Rich (the stand-in skipper, not Daisy/Tring) asked me to do the safety brief above deck for the new guys, now I talk to people at work all the time about stuff but the difference this time is that I don’t feel nearly as confident in the subject matter, so, ‘fake it ’till you make it’ and ‘act as if you know what you’re doing’ and I went for it. I actually quite enjoyed it and it made me realise how much I’ve actually learnt about sailing during my time at sea.

I also had the pleasure of helping Anne (one of our leggers) with the victualling for this stop. As with the yacht club the local supermarkets were hugely useful. They even started to gather our full trolleys for us, put them through the till and pack the groceries. Along with answering our numerous questions “where would I find”, “can I pre-order”, “do you have any more of”. Imagine your local shopping run… well this one is on a grander scale but still in the same supermarket. A full crew, 3 meals a day, £3.50 per head, 8 weeks of food from Oz to China. Cue, 12 full trolleys, lots of empty shelves, running out of tuna, flour, hot dogs, powdered milk, baby wipes, cuppa soups, beans etc. 67 tins of beans is a lot of beans and so the list and the large numbers go on. Now run all these items through the till, pack them into normal sized shopping bags, then into a small hire car (numerous trips!) then up 14 flights to someone’s apartment (car in car park, out car, through double fire doors, wedge them open, into the only working lift, wedge that open, fill the lift, up to the 14th floor, stop at ground as someone gets in, stop at floor 14, person still in lift, ask them where they are going, ‘floor 18’, on we go to 18, back down to 14 hoping no one else gets in, open lift doors, wedge them open, all out of lift, open apartment door, wedge that open, move the furniture in the living room back against the walls, fill with food, repeat!”) then unpack from all the bags and sort into similar piles of stuff, wonder where the tuna has gone, take off all the cardboard outers, write in permanent marker on all the cans in case the labels come off, take out all the rubbish, pack into day bags, re-load all into the car and do it all again with the fresh shopping. Phew, but not over yet as it’s still to get onto the boat. So, now we have to find a marina trolley to take it from the car down to the boat and make a human chain to get the numerous heavy bags (remember all those tins of beans?) off the trolley, up onto the boat, down the companion way and then into the saloon, not done yet!, we have to find a place to store them on the boat, note down where that is then type it into a spread sheet so that in 7 weeks time we can remember where the raspberry flavoured jelly went. Now, I hope you never complain again about having to go to the supermarket!!!

Race start was made quite interesting by the big swells that the area was experiencing due to the cyclone season. It was fascinating to watch our boats getting bounced around like corks while the safety and media boats just kept disappearing from view behind some big waves as we sailed past Goldcoast beach. We are now sailing north with the wind behind us and the sun beating down, all in all a very different Christmas experience than we are all used to and one we will remember forever – bring on a fabulous Christmas day at sea!

The longer stopover gave most of us the chance to spend some time exploring the local area and enjoy the company of friends and family on the run up to Christmas. Christmas over here is a bit more relaxed than at home, I guess that’s what sunshine does for you. Our boat is now looking suitably Chrismassy with tinsel, Christmas balls and a festive Hector. The question we all have though is will Santa find our bunks? Paul, his wife Katrina and Keith have been working away like little Christmas elves and we are going to be treated to a special Christmas day breakfast and dinner courtesy of them and some of their family traditions. Paul and Tring will be in the galley full of festive cheer as they slave away preparing the fabulous meal. It’s a bit hot for Santa hats but we may encourage a few Christmas Carols from the galley.

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