Rachel Smith and her husband Rob traded their seaside lifestyle in St Ives in Cornwall, UK for the red dirt of the Goldfields over 10 years ago. While embracing the challenges of working as a GP on the edge of the desert, Rachel and the Kalgoorlie community create and celebrate their ocean to outback opportunities.It’s not a typical Kalgoorlie day when you are invited by a ships’ Admiral to the extravagant, exclusive seafood banquet at the esteemed Hannan’s Club. The Middle Island Fishing Crew grew from 1947 when a couple of blokes made a tactical move to cook their wives a seafood dinner to show their gratitude for getting leave for a week’s fishing on the south coast. Over 60 years on, the boys still go fishing, still come home, still cook a seafood dinner – now a major event on the local social calendar with around 600 invited guests.
Invited last year, Rachel and Rob seized the chance to join the sumptuous feast, knowing that the value of the evening reached farther than the great taste of 100 dozen fresh oysters, whole baked fish, sheep and pigs on the spit, goat curry and roo stew.
Around $15,000 is raised annually for groups including voluntary Sea Rescue Groups on WA’s south coast, the RFDS and the Leeuwin Foundation. Up to six Leeuwin voyage placements are raffled
and winners nominate deserving Goldfields youth to sail on the tall sailing ship. “We were keen sailors back in Cornwall to the point of harbouring two dusty boats in our Kalgoorlie backyard and, after hearing great stories from friends,
I won two adult berths on the Sail Training Ship Leeuwin,” Rachel said.
Work commitments interfered so instead they joined a youth voyage as trainee volunteer crew members. Open to adventure and blow away the dust and cobwebs, Rachel sailed from Fremantle to Bunker Bay and back over a week as one of six females in a thirty-six member crew. On this voyage, a small permanent crew were supported by volunteer crew members, who sailed alongside a diverse bunch of teenagers, many of whom were working towards nautical accreditation.
With background knowledge of the challenge and value Leeuwin offers young people, Rachel felt prepared for the voyage. Forging friendships with young people over long night watches and seeing them grow as they faced different challenges form fond memories for Rachel. “Working outside one’s comfort zone refers equally to mental and physical realms in my view, and Leeuwin tackles this on a number of levels,” Rachel reflected.
“Whether it’s participants wanting to go home when they arrive or eager to stay when it’s time to go home, a Leeuwin voyage reinforces the importance of relishing the present moment. Responding to orders when dealing with urgent situations, such as furling the
sails before an oncoming squall hits, reinforces that hierarchy and conformity has an important place in teamwork. Supporting each other to develop their own skills makes the team stronger and the friendships deeper,” she remarked.
Back in the District Hospital in Kalgoorlie, Rachel sees herself as fortunate to be part of a community with diversity to offer a wide
range of facilities, networks and new opportunities, but remains connected in a creative way that celebrates life and builds resilience. The flow-on benefits of the Middle Island Fishing Crew is just one of these examples where the sky …. errrr, the sea has no limits.
By Sally Thomson