Sydney sea cruise – making new mates and having a whale of time

First responder families taking part in a recent whale watching cruise went out to sea hoping for an interaction with the massive mammals; to their surprise they ended up enjoying the time spent with fellow landlubbers just as much!

Fortem Australia recently arranged this very special experience on beautiful Sydney Harbour. The day got off to a magnificent start. Even as participants pulled up to board the boat at Circular Quay, it was clear that it was going to be a good day for it. The water sparkled under the clear and constant sunlight and the harbour was mostly glassy, with whitecaps faintly visible towards the mouth of the Harbour.

For those on-board, feeling the sunlight on their face and the slight chill of the sea wind was a welcome reprieve from the day-to-day stresses of work and life in the NSW capital.

Ann*, an attendee from NSW Police, says escaping the routine and grind of the city was a big part of the experience for her.

“I went along to the whale watching, mainly because I wanted some ‘me’ time – really as a way of reconnecting with myself and having a bit of time out of the house, as I’ve been indoors a lot lately, after having had some recent surgery,” Ann explains.

“I suppose you’d say it was a bit therapeutic – as police we see so much at work, when something like this comes along and you can go out for the day, it’s really quite a welcome relief – it’s a bit of a circuit-breaker.”

Fortem’s activities organiser Caroline Lockyer, says that as the cruise went on, everyone found it easier to unwind.

“I could definitely see people starting to relax and the conversation started to flow a bit. I think it’s natural that we bond over shared experiences and watching a humpback mum playing with her calf is definitely a very special shared experience.”

After a bit over an hour at sea, the boat turned around to make its way back to the harbour.

For Caroline, whale spotting aside, one of the real highlights of the trip happened once the attendees had set foot back on dry land. Police officer Ann ended up grabbing a coffee with a female colleague and her father, despite having never met before attending the cruise together. 

“These guys had started talking on-board and realised they had worked with the same people, but at different times and places,” Caroline says. 

“It’s one of the things I really get a kick out of seeing in my role – we are always talking about the importance of building social connections in our activities, so to see it happen as a result of something you organise – it’s just really lovely.”

Ann ended up having a leisurely coffee and a chat with her new mates, in a café just off Circular Quay. 

She says she was happy she’d taken a punt by getting out of her routine and going along on the cruise, and will be spreading the word to her colleagues in NSW Police. 

“It’s really made a difference for me – it’s put a spring in my step and I’ve made some new mates. It was a terrific experience.”

To see upcoming Fortem activities in your region, visit the event calendar on our website.

Mental health resources for first responders and their families can be found in the Fortem Resource Library and check our calendar of wellbeing activities for events near your.

*Name has been changed at the request of the interviewee

Fortem activities, events and community engagements are designed to support the mental fitness of our first responder families. Read more about Our Approach.
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