We’re in the middle of nowhere. Really, miles and miles from the nearest help. We’ve sailed without seeing land for three days straight and we’re somewhere between Paul Reef and Heralds Prong Number 2. We’ve seen sharks and whales and dolphins and turtles and an astonishing amount of coral. We’re discussing the finer points of dinner later and suddenly, a bolt from the blue hits – it really is the most acid-tangy royal blue out there – as an engine roars towards us from behind. We run out to the deck as the plane passes low overhead then banks steeply upwards and away. It appears and leaves, its loud hum carried cleanly away from us by prevailing wind, in what must be ten seconds flat.
Right on time, less than two minutes later, we receive a call on the radio. “Barefoot, this is the Australian Border Force. Over. Please switch to channel 32, we have some routine questions for you. Over.”
We’re so remote, bobbing in waters so unused to traffic, that we’re under surveillance.
The whole brief episode is a thrill for me, but is fairly routine for Dean Cropp, aka the Barefoot Captain (pictured on his adventures above, photographed by Franziska Link).
My piece in this week’s Good Weekend Magazine in the Sydney Morning Herald emerged from that recent jaunt to the outer Great Barrier Reef and into the Coral Sea – which is where Cropp spends a good chunk of time each year. Lucky man and lucky me. On the other hand, he did make us swim with sharks… and don’t, whatever you do, offer the guy a banana.