Landlubber David Whitley gets a taste of sailing without leaving the beach in Northern Queensland.
It’s a wonder that everyone in Mission Beach doesn’t have one of these babies. The four villages that make up the area are spread four or five kilometres apart, and the most direct path between them is straight down the 14km-long beach.
As I stand on the shore, considering the post-pub transport possibilities in a one taxi town, Chantelle pulls up her Blo-kart. It’s an enormous contraption that she somehow pulled out of a bag half the size of a surfboard. At the bottom, there’s a metal frame with wheels and a seat. On top of that, there’s a big sail.
She seems a little apprehensive. “There is enough wind, although it’s a little flaky,” she says. “It’s possible, but there’s a big but…”
What she means is that there’s a big butt. “Well, you saw how fast I was going,” she dithers, eyeing up my somewhat ‘sturdier’ frame. “The problem is that the bigger, heavier and taller you are, the more wind you need.”
I’ve come this far, and I’m not backing out now. And if that means trundling across the sand like a pensioner on a stairlift, then so be it.
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I slide down into the seat, and Chantelle tries to show me the ropes. Or rather, rope. I’ve got one to which controls the sail, plus some bicycle-style handlebars for steering.
“There are no brakes, and it’s currently in the stop position, facing directly into the wind,” Chantelle explains. The principles, I’m told, are close to those of sailing. Keep the sail at roughly right angles to the wind direction, and maintain momentum by zig-zagging (or tacking) across the sand.
It takes a few episodes of shamefully slumping to a halt before the idea clicks, but before long, I’m carving across the sand, picking up speed and performing hairpin turns. Dog-walkers on the beach shoot looks of abject pity at the slightly slow child attempting to play King Hoon.
Everything feels faster than it probably is – in the same way that going 30km/h on a motorbike can feel faster than going 50km/h in a car. But when the wind hits the sail and the kart flies through the wet sand, it’s virtually impossible not to grin like a glee-infused simpleton.
It’s fun in the way that a well-made family comedy film is fun, even though instructions inscribed on the sail insist that Blo-karting can be a very dangerous sport. Those wanting a proper hardcore adrenalin activity are advised to look upwards.
At one point, Chantelle plonks a flag in the middle of the beach. I operate under the impression that this is for performing doughnuts around, but she soon indicates that I shouldn’t be going past it. “The skydivers are about to land,” she says.
Sure enough, five parachutes are flitting through the air, with Dunk Island in the background. Those who have descended from 14,000ft are pumped-up whooping like the audience on the Jerry Springer Show.
They may be getting the rush, but I’m deliriously content with my somewhat unique soft option; tugging on my sail rope, pootling across the sand and making a mental note to steal one in time for the Friday night post-pub taxi scramble.
David went Blo-Karting with the Mission Beach Adventure Centre.