Maybe it`s because I slept most of the day away, or perhaps I`m on edge about tomorrow`s passage through the shallows and mangrove islands on the last part of our journey south to Southport and the Gold Coast, but here I am up on deck in the middle of the night anxiously having a look around.
Toward the mainland I can see the glow of the lights in the suburbs of Brisbane, but everywhere else is velvety black under the stars. I know that the low mass of mangrove covered Peel Island is quite near and that it will be expanding as the tide drops and exposes more and more of the coral flats all around it. We are anchored in water only twelve feet deep but that counts for a lot of water in these regions.
There is another reason for my unease, and it has been with me ever since we arrived in Australia, I am still lost somewhere between the wild ocean and the populated land - a kind of no-man`s-land culture shock - and this anchorage brings it all together for me. I am glad to be safe in this sheltered place and yet it feels like I am in an oppressive backwater and that I have lost something vital to my life.
The stars overhead begin a high peeping sound, and I swear I can see them flicker. As the sound grows louder and swirls around me I realize that a large migrating flock of shore birds are circling around and landing on the edges of the island out in the darkness. As they settle to feed and rest they are greeted by the harsh calls of the resident swamp birds. I listen there on the deck of my boat and gradually feel my tension evaporate.
A migrant myself, what I am experiencing is a sense of being welcomed to this ancient land by wild nature itself. I stand quietly and feel that the lonesome sound of birds are calling out a greeting in the night, telling me that there is a place for me here too at this threshold of a new land.
Safe in the harbour at last - a song by Eric Bogle.