I am Adam Brent; my father owns a factory making, would you believe, toilet pedestals. He is famous in Australia for the quality, and elegant looks, Mum says that I should be proud.
Hell if she had to put up with the jokes at school, she wouldn’t be so happy about it.
This story is about the great Christmas holiday we had last year.
It began one day when Dad announced that we were going on a cruise. As I had planned my holidays around hanging out with my friends, I was a little less than enthusiastic. Dad tried to generate some enthusiasm by saying, “You’re going, and you will have fun.”
Since I have seen Dad’s idea of fun, yep, I was still worried.
The appointed day arrived, and we were driven down to the docks where Dad kept a launch, which is for fishing around the bay; yet another thing that made my non-friends jealous. There was a change, at the jetty was a ship as long as the dock which Dad had told me was 140 feet.
“Wow, what a great boat, I would love to have that one, who’s is it?” I asked enthusiastically.
“Technically it is a ship because it carries a boat,’ Dad said pedantically pointing at a dingy hanging from the stern, “And it's mine at least for the cruise; I like it too, it is the Ocean Dream.” Sounding proud and excited.
“You aren’t joking, are you?” I said, unable to believe my luck.
“No joke it’s true. Let’s go aboard and meet the crew.” With that, Dad led the way up the gangplank and introduced me to Captain Alberts, First Officer Webster and Cox’n Jones, Tom, Terry and Fred being the deck crew. Later we met Engineer Smyth and Greg, the engine hand. Dad informed me that was how I should address them but otherwise keep out of their way.
The steward, named Alice showed me to my cabin and settled my luggage then gave me a tour around the ship so that I knew where the galley and dining room were as she was also the cook. “Later before we set sail I will instruct you on safety, emergency stations and other drills,” Alice said.
About an hour before departure, Alice gathered Mum, Dad and myself and put us through the drills. Mainly it consisted of ensuring we knew where to go if there was an emergency.
After this, I went with Dad to the navigating flat where the captain briefed everyone on the route that he would be following to the destination. We would go up the east coast of Australia inside the Great Barrier Reef, then swing out and island-hop to Honiara the Capital city of the Solomon Islands.
“Do you hear there, Hands to leaving port.” The Captain announced. I stood with Captain Alberts while the deck crew, Terry and Fred, paired to cast off the hawsers mooring the ship to the dock, Terry clambered on board the Dream and helped Fred securing the ropes in their cabinets.
Coxswain Jones moved the vessel away from the dock using the side thrusters then advanced the engine throttles to slow. The Dream then gathered way and curved towards the channel leading to the bay heads. Reaching the heads and gaining seaway following a curved course north towards the Reef. The weather was bright and calm, despite weather reports promising some exciting times.
“All being well we should keep ahead of the weather change, so should have a smooth trip through this vessel can handle fairly rough going,' Dad said.
After an hour, we passed Sydney Heads and continued north towards Forster-Tuncurry, where we would stop to ensure that all was well with passengers and provisions. The course set by the Captain to two nautical miles from the coast; to avoid the South Ocean Current as dramatised in the movie ‘Finding Nemo’, further out there wasn’t much to see except the ocean.
This course allowed us to watch the coastline drift past as we headed north. Rugged cliffs interspersed with golden beaches, inlets to harbours were only evident by slightly darker water of the river outflows and the presence of small craft. Occasionally groups of houses stood out from the bluffs as we cruised past more settled areas. As we sailed past Newcastle, there were about twenty bulk carriers anchored waiting for harbour dockage.
I sound knowledgeable because I was standing next to Cox’n Jones as he kept a watch on the port side and was giving me a running commentary. We were getting on famously, provided when I asked a question it was when he wasn’t busy, and I waited patiently for the answer. Terry was at the wheel with Fred on the other sponson keeping watch; Captain Alberts roamed from the chart room and the bridge, occasionally calling course changes to maintain safe clearance from hazards.
“We will harbour overnight at Tuncurry then leaving early in the morning to head to Coffs Harbour the next day.”
Captain Alberts delayed the ship's passage through the heads until the high tide; this was for extra clearance over the bar, then we cruised to a mooring spot then used the dingy to transport the family ashore to have a quiet night. Crossing the bridge into Forster, there was a kid’s theme park where I wore some energy off while my parents wandered through the shops to settle their 'Sea Legs'. After a suitable time ashore we boarded ready to have a calm night before leaving in the morning on the tide. This departure occurred just before sunrise when waking from my sleep, and the ship was at sea already. Taking my station beside Cox'n Jones, I soon settled into the routine of the next leg.
Arriving off Coffs Harbour mid-afternoon to time the high tide, of course, that meant traipsing around the shops as there weren't any amusement parks within walking distance. By now if you have seen one store you've seen them all, the souvenir shops were same anywhere so I was soon bored and asked if I could return to the ship and play computer games, as Alice was with us I was allowed to return early.
Again in the morning, we were at sea at sun-up and settled into the routine only this time, a storm cell had formed ahead "All passengers below decks," Came over the speakers from Captain Alberts. Secure all the weather hatches, sea state Zebra."
Cox'n Jones pointed into the wheelhouse, "Off you go." Then followed me in to grab his wet weather gear.
I made my way below as the deckhands did the circuit of the weather decks locking down hatches and applying additional latches on them. I could hear them yelling the state of each compartment as they went; as we waited, the wind and wave chop picked up as the sky became grey. Dad said."It shouldn't be too bad with the stabilisers, worst case we stand off to sea rather than try to enter the harbour. The rollers would reduce the depth in the troughs."
The ship started moving, with the storm coming from a different quarter to the swell and direction of travel.
Dad advised, "Keep an eye on the horizon and move with that; you may look like a dill, but your stomach shouldn't protest as much. Otherwise, lie down and enjoy the ride. Food will be the last thing on your mind, which is useful as Alice won't be able to prepare anything."
The day progressed without much change with the storm dissipating just before dusk; I couldn't indulge in my other pass times of reading or playing computer games as that made me queasy. Still watching the sea was entertaining with the waves and the seabirds wheeling along the troughs having fun.
"Captain speaking, we can't enter Coffs Harbour the bar is shoaling in the troughs, we will continue the cruise overnight the storm swells should abate soon, and the galley will ready for a light meal," Captain Alberts advised over the intercom.
"It only means we arrive at South Port a little earlier than planned, but we should be able to fit Sea World in while the ship is refuelling and we resume the schedule," Dad advised.
While the sea had calmed, there was plenty of movement, so I had an early night, eventually falling to sleep. Next morning the ship was standing off the Gold coast waiting for the full light to enter South Port Harbour. While we waited, a pod of whales swam past.
"Whales on Starboard side, we aren't allowed to be underway while they are that close," Captain Alberts said.
The ship hove to while the pod swam past, we were able to to have a front-row view of the action as they breached to have a good look at our ship as interested in us as we were in them. Tiring of us at last, the whales swam off to resume their migration. As the sun rose fully, the ship entered the South Port Harbour to arrange for refuelling; during this, we were to have some fun. When the crew had completed of the provisioning finished, the Dream was moved out to a mooring point to ready for the next day's move. I certainly enjoyed the entertainment, and by the second night, I was worn out and was willing to continue cruising to recover. I suppose that since the Dream was due to move on, I would have to be content.
The next leg of the trip was via the inner Reef to McKay, the next replenishment stop, before heading out to the Solomon Islands. As we proceeded up the coast, the temperature gradually became warmer, and the trees on shore were more tropical with sea life slowly changing. Most interesting was the 'flying fish' which erupted from the front of waves as they were scared by the ship or perhaps a predatory fish they glided for metres wagging their tails before splashing back down beneath the water. Dolphins played by riding the bow wave having no problem keeping up with the ship. While entertaining, the Sea World dolphins didn't look as carefree like these wild ones.
The ship followed the coastline to Mackay where we entered and moored at the refuelling quay. Alice and I went to the swimming park to fill in time. First, we went to the Blue Water Lagoon and when I had tired of that walked the Blue Water Trail, which took us past the docks and Botanical Garden.
The next day Captain Alberts welcomed Captain Samuels aboard to pilot the Dream through the Hydrographers Channel, which takes coal ships from the ports to the open sea beyond the Great Barrier Reef.
"The Bulk carriers can fit through, we should have no problem, but those are the rules," Dad explained.
The ship tracked slightly south of due east before swinging North East between reef outcrops and then due East. As we were cruising slowly, the small islands and barely awash reefs were spectacular with their colours and birdlife. I was almost too busy to notice when the Dream hove to, and Captain Samuels transferred to a small boat and then headed to a moored launch. Once clear we were underway headed towards the smooth water.
"Next stop Nouméa," Captain Alberts announced.
"Not much to see for the next day but the wildlife should be interesting if you are lucky," Dad said.
The sea was calm, and the birds and flying fish provided some entertainment with an enormous turtle surfaced off the port side took a look at the ship before diving again.