Yachtmaster trainee Sarah assumes the role of skipper for the day as the students prepare for their trip to Sydney

Day 47 – Thursday 26th August

With anchor watch leaving us feeling a little worse for wear we took a while to come round this morning. Whitehaven beach looked incredible as we chatted on deck about our watches and the pleasures of interrupted sleep. Fay’s bacon and egg butties hit the spot and we got under way by 10am.

I was skipper for the day, with Howard as my able ‘navman’. After weighing anchor and hoisting sails we headed off towards Hook Island. We had beautiful sailing conditions: a broad reach in a heavenly 15 knot south-easterly breeze. This gave everyone the chance to relax and Richard the opportunity to run through a knot refresher session.

A tricky passage between a couple of islands definitely raised Richard’s blood pressure as we had to time our gybes by depth alone. Howard had to leap from the chart table to the deck to check positioning and instruct on obstacles like reefs and sand patches. It was my responsibility to call the gybes giving the crew enough time to react. To make things a little more difficult, the wind seemed to back and veer randomly causing a headache for Sam on helm. We got through the passage with only a few hairy moments, and anchored in a lovely inlet for lunch and a quick swim. Richard then took great pleasure in telling us the bay was well known for shark breeding!

The afternoon stretch back to Airlie Beach was a fantastic blast across the top of the Molle Islands. By the time we reached the marina everyone was pretty exhausted and I had the horrible task of dishing out cleaning duties.

Even though we had a great day and reached our destination successfully, I was a little disappointed with my passage as skipper. I felt I could have communicated instructions a bit clearer and in some situations reacted faster. However, this was my second turn as a skipper and the first was a million times easier, crossing the Channel in England, as it was predominantly motor sailing. It’s all a learning experience and I know I have at least another skipper passage, one that counts towards my Yachtmaster, to complete before Sydney.

That evening we regrouped with the rest of our group and swapped diving and sailing stories over a few well-deserved beers.

Day 48 – Friday 27th August

Richard gave an in depth brief to all eleven of us (the diving students have rejoined us) for the next part of our course – the 21-day offshore passage down the coast to Sydney. We’ve got a number of stop offs enroute including a two day break at Fraser Island to relax. Along the way we each have to be skipper for at least one passage of 60 miles and practise a number of exercises including MOB, mooring and general boat handling. Crews were assigned to either Richard’s or Chris’s boat. I’m with Richard onLet Loosewith Fay, Nick, Rob and Howard.

Rob and myself were given the very responsible task of victualing and spent a very taxing two hours in the supermarket buying food for the next five days. We ended up filling two trolleys and probably bought enough food for both boats combined. We’re certainly not going to starve!