Unexpected Personal Lessons from a Sailing Holiday in the Whitsundays

I’m just back from a 2-week bareboat catamaran sailing holiday for four in the Whitsundays.  Great weather, great snorkelling, company of great friends who were competent sailors (I’m not), light winds (not so good for our captain who liked to sail rather than motor), lovely scenery  and quiet inlets made for an idyllic holiday…But two weeks on a boat allows for a lot of personal time (you can’t snorkel, swim, sail, fish or even eat for long periods in a day), so I made some unexpected discoveries about myself.

  1. I really missed being connected to Internet.

As the Whitsundays are a major tourist centre, I was surprised that we didn’t have 24/7 coverage.  But the charter company told us we wouldn’t.  And we didn’t.  And I missed it.  Even when we were connected, it was variable, slow and consequently frustrating.  I realised I’m hooked on my international news and email connections and it disrupted my new blogging practice.

  1. I’m addicted to sugar.

I’ve always been a sweet tooth.  OK, our boat had space limitations, but our shoppers for the trip inexplicably decided to have no chocolate, no sweets, no desserts, no biscuits, no snacks.  Our evening joke of ‘Wouldn’t a Tim Tam be great…just one…’  became a true lament.  Now, I like my fruit and vegetables, my muesli, my wholemeal bread, but no sugar treats made me realise that I truly am addicted to it, much as I’d like to think I can ‘control’ it.  It made me look at dieting difficulties in a new light.

  1. I like active holidays.

I’m not the go-to-the-beach-and-chill-out type of holiday person.  For me, a holiday is a time to be active.  I love walking, skiing, unusual experiences, but not doing nothing.  I learnt to weigh anchor, hook moorings, winch up the mainsail and the jib, lower and raise the dinghy, drive the dinghy and more.  But these were things that had to be done, not things I wanted to do.

Our sailing holiday had a lot of downtime.  When you are motoring, only the helmsperson is really active.  Snorkelling takes only an hour a time.  Swimming much less.  We only got off the boat once or twice to go walking.  Meal preparation became an opportunity to do something!! I found I really missed the high activity level I normally have in a holiday.

  1. I really need my personal time.

There’s not much room on a boat for four.  Even being off the boat is essentially a group activity (especially when you aren’t a competent sailor).  As an introvert, I craved my time to be alone.  I like my own company.  I do good work by myself.  As soon as we finished the trip, the first thing I wanted to do was just go off walking alone – be active, but be alone.

  1. Waste management is challenging.

I like to think I’m a conservationist, a greenie.  But we happily dumped our toilet waste in the sea – along, it seemed, with everyone else, from what floated by – and the kitchen waste also went out on some automatic system we didn’t wish to discover.  Our other waste built up around us – packaging, unused food scraps and many, many bottles.  We tried to minimise it, but having your waste mount up for two weeks right next to you is very disconcerting. There seemed to be a lot of it…

On the positive side, we only had 600 litres of fresh water and four of us managed to make that last around 8 days, primarily by having no showers (salt water swims and snorkels and sponge washes sufficed), minimising cooking and washing use and using salt water for the toilets.  Since the Victorian daily target is 155 litres per person, this seemed an outstanding achievement.  Also instructions to use no more than 4 sheets of toilet paper at a time…really…seemed impossible at the start, but dramatically cut down on our usage.

Boats are small and restrictive…except for sailors

This was my third ‘boat’ holiday in 18 months.  Each time I’ve felt restricted by the space and especially on this, the smallest one.  There’s nowhere much to go, the cabin space is only good for sleeping, the bathroom works…just.  And a tall person has to keep their neck bent to stop bumping their head (I was a very slow learner).  For a few days it is OK, but it convinced me I don’t want to become a sailor.  I like my home comforts.

The trip was a ‘bucket list’ trip for our captain.  He and his wife loved it and I was very happy to be there. It was an ‘experience’ holiday.  Snorkelling was the highlight for me, but I discovered that I am – really – dependent on some aspects of civilisation that I had not thought was the case …and I wanted them back!


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