SHAG ISLAND CRUISING YACHT CLUB RENDEZVOUS 2013
"The SICYC Rendezvous have been running annually in August for a number of years now starting in 2009 but this was to be my first one. I had been invited by friends to stay on their beautiful Dufour "Mystique" for the event and how could you say "No" to an opportunity like that. So, having packed enough clothes for a month including jumpers, tracksuit pants, socks and the like, I headed off to Tullamarine Airport to leave a cold, blustery winter's day in Melbourne for Hamilton Island.
On arriving at Hamilton Island I had to quickly divest myself of a jumper and undo shirt buttons to try and get comfortable, yes sweat was already running in that wonderful tropical sunshine. Onto the ferry and half an hour later I was at Abel Point Marina. It had been eleven years since I had last sailed into Abel Point and the changes were already obvious.
Off the ferry, purchase a few essential supplies and I was soon walking down A Finger to my friends and Mystique. A kiss and a hug and some abuse from their cockatiel and we had cast off lines and were leaving Abel Point and headed north for Gloucester Passage. The celebrations weren't to start for a few days but we were going early to help with the prior organisation. The winds were slight so we were motor sailing but it was great to feel the gentle roll of the boat and hear the ripple of the water as we sliced our way through it.
A few boats had already arrived in the anchorage so we circled for a little bit before finding an appropriate spot just off from the Eco Resort, dropped the pick, backed up to set it and killed the motor. We were here! The dingy was quickly unloaded and we made our way ashore. Old friends were there, so kisses and hugs all round, a coffee and then off to Montes Resort five hundred metres down the beach to where most of the activities were to be held.
At Montes all of the accommodation had been booked out months ago and folk had settled in. More hugs and kisses all round with a real sense of excitement in the air. Already it was clear to me that this was something special, there was a feeling of community with genuine warmth in the greetings and multiple conversations erupting constantly. Like the movie says, "Build it and they will come!" Already there were people from all over Australia there as well as from overseas but the locals clearly shared ownership and they were busy erecting marquees, building stages and dance floors and bringing in seating. Others were off servicing and registering a barge that was to be taken to Shag Island for other activities. Yep, this was going to be something big.
Over the next couple of days work continued at a frenetic pace, multiple trips to the airport to collect folk flying in, allocation of tasks and urgency increasing as more boats continued to arrive. The number of yachts was to build throughout the event to over one hundred and eighty with remarkable diversity. There were trailer-sailers, wood, steel and fibre glass yachts, catamarans, tri-marans, sloops, ketches and motor yachts, but all were there with one purpose in mind – to celebrate the brotherhood of cruising. The program kicked off officially on the Thursday with the signing on of new members. Over the four days almost one hundred new members joined, taking membership to over two and a half thousand.
I guess part of the attraction is this is a mutual support group with members all over Australia as well as fourteen other countries in the world. Already the club burgee is well known throughout Australia and is an instant invitation to say "Hello Sailor". Sail into any port where there is a resident member and there is friendship and support if needed – all for a small one off payment that includes the club polo shirt. Cruising into Airlie Beach "Shaggie" a late model station wagon donated by a club member is available to other members for a modest donation and the replacement of fuel used. Join and instantly you are a life time Vice Commodore of SICYC receiving monthly newsletters, discount cards to the likes of Hogs Breath cafe and access to more laughs than most people can handle.
During the four days some fourteen hundred people participated in the event, all for the cost of a $15.00 wristband which provided Tai Chi on the beach in the mornings, live music at many of the events which participants danced the night away to, fireworks, valet dingy parking on Shag Island for the BBQ there, Polynesian Dance displays, on separate days a Polynesian dress-up and Pirate dress-up with prizes for the best costumes and Best Dressed Boat prizes for night and day. There was crab racing, kite flying, port and starboard toe nail painting, hair cutting by a bikini clad beauty, auctions of donated prizes such as a week's bareboat charter in Taihiti and the Whitsundays, a month's free marina rental for both a catamaran and a mono hull at Airlie Beach.
It wasn't just all fun though, apart from the significant input into the local economy particularly the venues of Montes Resort, the Dingo Beach Hotel and the Eco Resort, over $40,000 dollars was raised for Prostate Cancer and proceeds of the Pirate Day went to the local Volunteer Marine Rescue service, this being a significant fundraiser for them, recognising their service to the sailing community.
The event has become so notable there were representatives of the local press, a film crew making a documentary for Travel TV, the editor of Cruising Helmsman and a representative of the Queensland Tourism office. During the program there was also ABC Radio interviews of Ken Thackeray, who with his wife Rhonda, founded the club. After the event there were farewells to new friends made and promises to keep in touch and we sailed out of Gloucester Passage and back into Airlie Beach. The sadness of leaving was tempered by the sight of a whale close to us. Then it was back on the plane and back to wintery Melbourne. Ah well! My first action on going back to work was to apply for leave for August next year. Like so many others bitten by the SICYC bug, I will be returning for the fun. See you there, don't forget to say "Hello"."