Landing a big one

The days no longer have their original names, they are numbered instead. It’s Day Four of our cruise on the Reef Prince, but it could be Day 40, it seems so blissfully long ago that we left Sydney. The real world recedes as we cruise along the Kimberley coast.

It’s an exciting morning for DD, who catches his first-ever fish – a 10kg Spanish mackerel. Chef Jayden fillets and cuts it into pieces, crumbs them and serves us fish tacos with homemade mayo and shredded cabbage slaw for lunch. Delicious.

I ask someone with wi-fi how the COVID situation is unfolding in Melbourne and they tell me a second week of lockdown has been declared. It’s hard to get my head around while cruising in the middle of the vast, untouched wilderness.

It’s so peaceful to sit on the deck and gaze at the turquoise water with a glass of ice-cold water in hand. I wasn’t a fan of drinking water before the cruise, but the days are so hot and busy that I find myself gulping down glass after glass.

Day Four is one of the quietest days of the cruise according to Trip Director Paul. We make the most of the chance to relax a little. Expedition cruising is a lot more active than I was expecting. There are snatched moments to read on deck, but the days are pretty hectic when they start with sunrise and a spot of fishing at 5.40am.

I’m thrilled to get a swim in the sea in the afternoon, albeit while nervously eyeing the water for sharks and crocs. There are even a few little waves and I relish the chance to bob up and down in them. I’m the last to return to the sand, reluctant to leave the warm, turquoise water.

Back on the Reef Prince, we slake our thirsts with beers and ciders from the bar, which we take to the front deck to sip as the stunning Kimberley scenery slides past. It’s mesmerizingly peaceful and we slip into silence, which is punctuated by the gentle clink of cheese knives during afternoon tea. We’re not quite sure how we will return to normal life after being served hot breakfasts, freshly baked cookies and muffins for morning tea, hot lunches, afternoon nibbles and a two-course gourmet dinner every night on the cruise.

As the sun begins to set we move to the back of the Reef Prince for a better view, past First Mate Fritz smoking Spanish mackerel on the deck to make pate, and also the laundry, where I spot my cossie hanging on the clothes line and realise DD has rinsed and hung it out for me. Gotta love a man who does your washing.

Everyone starts snapping photos of their drinks on the edge of the boat with a sunset backdrop and we marvel that photographing champers has become a thing.

Rhonda buys a prosecco from the bar and five of us take turns trying and get the perfect shot of it.

Everyone heads inside to get ready for dinner. I linger in the gentle breeze, watching the last of the pink rays, sipping a glass of rose as my cossie sways in the fading light. I am hidden away, but Fritz seeks me out so I can try his pate, piled onto crackers. I nibble it as I tap away on DD’s laptop, writing my HouseGoesHome post.

The pate is DELICIOUS. Fritz is a man of many talents. Warthog stalker, mackerel smoker, expert angler, first mate and mechanical engineer … among other things. When he leaves the Reef Prince in Darwin he’s heading to the mines for a stint.

He’s not a man who deems anything to be outside his job description. Earlier in the day, when he saw the young female crew members cleaning the ship’s windows, he didn’t hesitate to swing into action to help them. Jess, the Chief Hostess, tells me later that he’s also been helping them polish the cutlery.

After eating more of DD’s Spanish mackerel for dinner, Paul tells us about the activities for the next day, which involve a slightly arduous climb up a waterfall. He informs the 24 passengers that he believes only 12 are capable of making the trek, but refuses to be drawn on who the 12 might be.

Fritz starts making secret hand signals and thumbs up signs at us across the room. We’re obviously among the fit 12. DD is stoked to be among the chosen few, but being under 60 is pretty much all it takes to get a guernsey.

However, Paul makes the trek sound so hard that he doesn’t get his requisite split of 12 people for the two boats. He has to reassure and recruit people to even up the numbers, including the two oldest passengers who are a sprightly 77.

I’m a little nervous about what lies ahead, as it includes hauling ourselves over rock cliffs with ropes and swimming 20 metres across a waterhole. I’ll be doing that on my back and hoping for the best. The most I learned to swim after years and years of childhood lessons was to dog paddle five metres. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Click here to read more about day four of our adventure over at The Thirsty Travellers.

Song of the day: Dave Matthews Band “Big eyed fish”

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