Graham is 13 and in Year 9 at High School in Cairns. But his life is not going well and he is faced by five major challenges. The one which dominates is his unhappiness with school and life. His ambition had been to become a ship captain like his father. The previous year he had joined the Navy Cadets full of hope. The discovery that he had an eye defect that permanently disqualified him from ever being a naval officer crushed his hopes. With his dreams shattered he left the Navy Cadets and tried to reject all things to do with the sea.
But it is not as easy as that. One of Graham's hobbies is making model ships and he has a large collection. He is also tied to the sea by the family connection of his father being the owner and master of a coastal freighter.
Graham has also reached the age where he is very interested in girls and is being torn by his physical desires and by the problem of trying to choose which girl to love. His little sister's friend Margaret loves him and makes no secret of it, but Graham is strongly attracted to the golden-haired Jennifer, a Navy Cadet and daughter of a British naval officer in Australia on exchange.
To add to Graham's woes are the three Year 12 bullies: Burford, Macnamara and Harvey. They make his life a misery at every opportunity.
The story is set in Cairns and revolves around sailing. Graham and his friends are challenged by a group of Navy Cadets led by Andrew Collins to a sailing competition. The girls: Carmen Collins, Jennifer, Margaret and Graham's sister Kylie, also compete. The story is set over two months and takes the reader into all the details of the group's lives as they struggle to win the sailing races and battle to overcome the bullies. It includes much authentic detail about sailing in small boats and of teenagers growing up in the tropical north.