"Triple 300," she answers, meaning three 300hp engines. It doesn't surprise me. The MV Flatback cruiser had shown a very surprising turn of speed several times over the evening as Georgia and her two brothers — “you got the family crew tonight” — had taken us and the rest of the group on the Sea Darwin ‘Fish and Chips Sunset Cruise’ around the harbour area. The engines had been pushed to full song between points of interest, which certainly upped the experience compared to similar trips we've had elsewhere.
But the power parts are only the in-betweens. Links between the highlights as the cruise goes from bright through sunset to dark. That’s a pretty quick process in the Tropics, without the slow passage through twilight we’re used to in Ireland.
The cruise begins with a complimentary beer or fizzy stuff if that's your preference. An effective ‘get you in the mood’ ploy. After introductions, Georgia then brings us along by the Australian Navy headquarters for the patrol boats which police the Timor Sea, mostly for illegal fishing, but also monitoring for any would-be illegal immigrants.
The pointing out of expensive housing on the passing coastline is thankfully brief, then it's time to pull ashore to pick up the evening meal courtesy of local fish restaurant Rachael's Seafood Shack, with an apparently very good reputation. Numbers had been phoned ahead, the individually packed meals come in insulated bags, quickly distributed as one of the brothers takes the helm and points us seawards again.
There's a short explanation from Georgia, reflecting the importance the family put in sustainable tourism — every year Sea Darwin leads a group of 30-plus people to nearby Bare Sand Island to clear it of accumulated marine debris. “The fish is threadneedle salmon, caught as a byproduct of fishing for baramundi. But our supplier goes to the Fisherman’s Wharf every morning specifically to buy it, making sure it doesn't go to waste. The potatoes for the chips come from our original home, Tasmania, and the containers are made from a sugar cane pulp, renewable and completely biodegradable.”
It doesn’t sound like a restful couple of hours. But it actually is. There's something about the enthusiasm of Georgia and her brothers not just for their business, but for life itself, which paradoxically slows one down. And of their clear concern for the environment of the Top End, the colloquial nickname for the upper Northern Territory, which is reassuring.
Many of us on the trip that night are of an older generation. Which is the nature of the tourist business during Darwin’s dry season. But there's a magic in the night which somehow makes us all feel a tad, or more, younger again.
Reminding us that youth is not just for the young … and that it is wonderfully infectious.