Words by Sara Mulcahy


A wise man (Plato to his friends) once said “Necessity is the mother of all invention”. And lovers of the great outdoors here in Port Douglas will tell you he was onto something there when it comes to the fishing shirt.

Back in 2018, Tessa and Darroch ‘Syd’ McMonnies were sailing the ocean blue with their fishing charter business, taking visitors on day trips from Port Douglas to chase Coral Trout, Spanish Mackerel and Giant Trevally. When you’re out on the water seven days a week, a cool and comfortable crew is paramount, and the pair wanted to kit out themselves and their team with clothing that fitted the bill.

“Syd was out on the boats all day, every day, even in summer when it was super-hot,” says Tess. “He was dying of heat, and we could never find anything for him and the crew to wear that looked respectable and was cool enough to wear all year round. There didn’t seem to be anything out there that was made in Australia, for Australian conditions. I thought, we can definitely do better than this.”

With a background in photography, fashion and textiles, Tess took the wheel and designed a new take on the fishing shirt — one that was UPF50 sun-safe and super-lightweight, with vented panels down the sides for that crucial airflow. She hand-drew the simple yet stylish designs inspired by their life on the Reef. After seemingly endless researching and trialling of fabrics, she found the perfect manufacturing partner in WA, and the first shirts went into production.


“One of the most important things for us was to have our sun shirts Australian made, so we could control the quality and the materials being used,” explains Tess. “I know it’s not always an option, but I think if you can, supporting Aussie owned and made is definitely something you should be trying to do.”

It wasn’t long before curious passengers aboard the fishing charters were asking about the crew gear, wondering if they were available to buy on board. And so the first sales were made. Tess and Syd then started loading up the car on weekends, taking explorative stalls at local markets in Palm Cove and Yungaburra near Lake Tinaroo. They soon realised they had something big on the line.

“The response was amazing,” says Tess. “There was a gap in the market for something that was easy to wear and versatile, with more subtle designs. We found we were selling to a range of different people from sailors and anglers to bushwalkers and paddleboarders. While the designs definitely lean towards the water, it’s not all about fishing! We had something that felt and looked great, and that anyone can wear out in the sun. It all grew from there.”

Tess is a lifetime Douglas Shire local. Born on the now defunct maternity ward at Mossman Hospital, she grew up with her family in the Mowbray Valley. After high school, she decamped to university in Brisbane to study fine arts and fashion design, which she used as a springboard to head overseas and explore the world.

“We had something that felt and looked great, and that anyone can wear out in the sun. It all grew from there.”

Syd is from Sydney. (Before you start thinking, that’s a coincidence, it isn’t. His name is actually Darroch, but in true FNQ style, none of his new friends could get their tongues around it, so they used his hometown as an easy alternative.) Syd grew up on Sydney Harbour, spent his childhood on boats, and headed north in the 1990s.

When Tess met Syd in Port Douglas in 2011, they were united by their love of life in the tropics, and a passion for the outdoor lifestyle from the ocean to t

“Drawing and art and working with textiles is a passion of mine,” says Tess. “But my other love has always been the ocean and the Reef and working on boats. Syd’s always worked on boats and has been a skipper for many of the local tour companies. For a long time, I worked as an underwater photographer so I could bring those two worlds together. That’s why Anchorline is the ultimate job for us because we’re selling our own lifestyle. Every weekend we’re out on the water with our two daughters, fishing and spear fishing and paddleboarding and exploring, and the inspiration for the range starts right there.”

Anchorline officially launched in 2020. The website went live in January, a month before COVID-19 shut down the world. Plans to do trade shows, expos and markets went on hold, and the business was left to tick along slowly online. Once things started to open up again a year later, Syd and Tess took a leap of faith and sold the fishing charter business to concentrate on the brand full time.

“A year and a half ago, we took on TS Print & Embroidery, a garment decoration business which meant we could do even more of the Anchorline production ourselves,” says Syd. “We screen print and embroider all our shirts on site here in Port Douglas. We’ve grown both businesses quite substantially over the past 18 months and life is consequently pretty hectic right now!”

“Every weekend we’re out on the water with our two daughters, fishing and spear fishing and paddleboarding and exploring, and the inspiration for the range starts right there.”

When they’re not working, Tess and Syd and their daughters Pearl, 8, and Nella, 6, love to spend time on and in the water, whether it’s a quick sprint out to the Low Isles to snorkel with the turtles, or a longer trip to the sand cay at Undine Reef, or the Tongue and Batt outer reefs on a calm day. They’re currently planning a camping holiday further north to Lizard and Hope islands. But it’s not purely time out. Each trip they take, they’re gathering inspiration for new designs, taking photos for marketing campaigns, and testing new products in person, to work out what works and what doesn’t.

“Everything gets trialled and tested before it goes on sale — especially by the kids,” laughs Tess. “We like them to flog everything before we try to sell it to anyone else!”

And it’s not just the immediate family that’s putting the merchandise through its paces.

“We’re very lucky with the support that we’ve had locally,” says Syd. “Extended friends and family are such great advocates for the brand. There was a group of people who went up to Cape York recently and they sent us a photo from The Tip of 13 of them all wearing our shirts.”

If you think Tess and Syd are living the dream, well, they kind of are. Except for all the hard work of course. The range has now expanded to include UPF50 neck buffs, caps, bags and cotton T-shirts, screen-printed with hand-drawn mud crabs, box jellyfish and the ornate crayfish that has become Anchorline’s signature design. The immediate plans are to expand into a few more retailers around the country to further broaden the range. But the couple are determined not to lose sight of the core values of the brand.

“Our vision isn’t ever to become a big commercial operation,” says Tess. “I want to always keep it true to us. But one day it would be great to be able to just create the content and have a team to do everything else.”

“Our ultimate dream is to be out there living the lifestyle that we’re selling.”