Thursday, 29 October 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Wonderful Whitsunday Islands

 Hamilton Island Marina, Queensland

27/10/2015 Wonderful Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsunday Islands in mid north Queensland is well known as the cruising sailor’s mecca. After spending a couple of months here we can see why. The beautiful bays, the turquoise colored water, the coral reefs and the high tree covered hills form a spectacular landscape.

The weather at this time of year also adds to the summer holiday feel. It has been around the 25 to 28 degree mark most days. There has not been any thought of a windcheater or jumper and the doona has long been packed away.

Everyone around these islands is on holiday. There is a large fleet of yachts and catamarans on hire, with groups of people on board each one obviously enjoying themselves. These can be hired pretty much like hiring a car and as it was for Leanne and I it can be an introduction to cruising sailing.

Even the wildlife quite enjoy interaction with visitors to the islands. At Hayman Island’s Blue Pearl bay Batfish swim at the back steps of the boat. At Stonehaven, Nara Inlet and Tongue bay there were many turtles bobbing up here and there and at Hamilton Island the cockatoo’s wait to steal your chips or pizza.

 Our visitors enjoyed their introduction to the Whitsunday islands as much as we enjoyed hosting Ian and Sue, followed by April and Wayne.  April and Wayne are great friends who were involved in most of our fun times when we were quite new to the boating life.

Easy Tiger’s Whitsundays itinerary this year started with a reunion with Bossa Nova at Gloucester passage. This was the scene of the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Clubs annual get together. There are 2 very casual resorts there and a few long lunches were “sampled”. Leanne and Amanda went on a morning fishing charter, but unfortunately, fish were the winners that day.

From Gloucester Passage, we ventured south to Woodwark Bay. That was where we found kamakazi garfish. For some strange reason, these little fish would hurl themselves from the water on to Easy Tiger’s back steps. Suppose suffocating is better than getting eaten?

Leanne then left from Airlie Beach to go to Cairns for three weeks to help our daughter. I stayed on board Easy Tiger and got some unpleasant tasks done, like replacing the toilet outlet hose.

After a week of being home alone, Ian Sulley flew in from Adelaide and again in the company of Bossa Nova, we returned to Gloucester passage for a few days.

Ian and I made our way down to Hamilton Island via Black Island, Macona Inlet and then had a fun “race” with Bossa Nova under screecher from Whitehaven around to Gulnare inlet. It was sort of like two snails going in the same direction.

We picked up Ian’s wife, Sue at the Hamilton Island Airport.

Amanda and I are AFL football fans and the team that I support (West Coast Eagles) made to the grand final. So a big day was had at Hamilton Island with a champagne breakfast, watching football, Sausage rolls at half time and a roast dinner to finish off. Unfortunately the hawks finished off the West Coast Eagles.

Blue Pearl bay was our next stop. There we had the friendly long and short finned Batfish, (like angle fish in your aquarium) about 400mm across, swimming at the back step of our boat.  Lucky for these fish they are not good to eat as we were hand feeding them and it would have been so easy to scoop them up.

Then back to Airlie to sit out some windy weather, to restock and to pick up Leanne.

Leaving Airlie, we had a very lively sail across to Stonehaven anchorage in gusty wind. At Stonehaven we had Turtles lazily cruising past the boat. They would float near the surface and lift there head up to look around. Once they saw us though they were keen to dive and disappear.

Snorkelling among the fantastic coral was next on the agenda. Blue Pearl bay was the best place for beautiful and diverse coral fields. It was hard however to judge whether there was more fish or more backpackers in the water. Boat loads of backpackers arrive every hour, dropping their cargo into the water and collecting them up again with loud reggae music summoning them back aboard.

Our next stop was Nara inlet. This is perhaps the most scenic anchorage in the Whitsundays. At the far end of the inlet the water is really bright blue. The banks are high hills with many tall Hoop Pine trees reaching up. There is a steeped path going up to a cave that has Aboriginal paintings from many years ago.

Tongue bay was our next port of call. There were more turtles there. A steep climb up to the Whitehaven beach lookout was well worth the effort. At the top the view over the swirling water in several shades of turquoise and blue, outlined the pearly white sand is astonishing.

Ian and Sue flew out of Hamilton Island. We had a couple of nights at Cid Harbour with Bossa Nova and fifty or so other boats including a floating night club that serenaded us with doof-doof music until the wee small hours.

A quick trip to Airlie Beach for restocking turned into a full on race with the Bossa Nova. Unfortunately while we were going nicely and reasonably well in front, we took an unexpected sharp turn and some of the sail ropes got tangled up.  That allowed Bossa an opportunity to pass under us and form there we couldn’t catch them. They were presented with an appropriate trophy that night in Airlie Beach.

April and Wayne arrived at Hamilton after a long trip for Wayne. He had flown from Barrow Island to Perth, Driven to Bunbury, then turned around and Driven to Perth, flew to Sydney then to Hamilton Island. We were very gad that they made the effort though. So the first night was a pretty quiet and early one.

We hired a golf cart and spent the first afternoon and then the next morning cruising around and seeing all the sites of Hamilton Island, twice. There’s not that much to see. The views for One Tree Hill are amazing.

With our new guests (old friends) aboard we tried to get a mooring at Blue pearl but they were all taken. There are a huge number of courtesy moorings at the more popular places in the Whitsundays. Unfortunately there are also a huge number of boats wanting to use the moorings. So finding one available in your place of choice is a bit like taking a ticket in a raffle. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.

After a night at Black Island we had better luck with moorings at Blue pearl, early the next morning. The moorings have a time limit of 3 hours on them, but no-one seems to take any notice. Many spend a couple of days on the same mooring without feeling guilty.

After spending the morning snorkeling over the fascinating coral at Blue Pearl, we then went to Nara inlet.

The wind had swung right round from the previous week. So we were then able to experience some different bays than we had been in with Ian and Sue the week before.

After a brief stop at the iconic Whitehaven beach we ventured along the bottom of Whitsunday Island and parked in Turtle bay for the night. Strangely, even though it is named Turtle Bay this is the one place we didn’t see any Turtles.

Next day, our skipper for the day, Wayne, piloted Easy Tiger around to Lindeman Island’s Plantation bay. Here we rode the dinghy around the corner to the Lindeman Island Resort. Luckily we weren’t going for coffee or lunch as it has been closed for a number of years and is in a terrible state of neglect and disrepair. The sign pointing to the Discotheque demonstrated the time of it’s heyday, the disco era of the eighties.  

The derelict resort on Lindeman Island

Sadly the next day April and Wayne departed from Hamilton Island. We fell into a bit of a lull, then summoned just enough energy to prepare for the trip south.

Now we are on our way at snails pace to Brisbane for a couple of months that will include a family Christmas and some guests aboard Easy Tiger for New Years Eve. From there, who knows.

One things for sure though, we are both already looking forward to visiting the Whitsundays again next year.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Being Resourceful

Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, Qld

18/10/15 Being resourceful.

People that are involved in cruising sailing are an eclectic mob.  There is such a wide ranging personality type, an extensive list of different backgrounds and therefore a diverse skill set whenever a number of them are together.

Take sailing experience for example. Some folks have been sailing since they were mere ankle biters, learning the ropes (so to speak) in tiny dinghies. Others like myself, have had no experience with any boats until they took the plunge into boat ownership in a serious way.

We met a couple last week who fall into the latter category. Geoff and Sue had never sailed before. Like us they decided to start fairly well up the scale and purchased a 45foot Yacht. In America, California to be exact.  As all good resourceful newby sailors do, they then set about sailing it back to Australia. Being really resourceful types they found crew to assist. The crew didn’t know anything about sailing either. But being resourceful types they managed to get to Hawaii, changed crew (to even less experience) then on to the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and then Townsville. Geoff says that he would like to change a few things on his boat (like get a para anchor) before he does some really serious sailing!

What struck me most during our conversation with Geoff and Sue, plus during our time with Ian and Sue (who are relatively new to boating) is that to be a cruising sailor you do have to be pretty resourceful.

A cruising sailor has to be prepared to find a water leak in the forward cabin, be able to bend into all types of positions that would make a contortionist proud and try work within the limits of whatever tools are on board.

A saying I heard recently was that owning a cruising sailing boat amounted to carrying out repairs in exotic locations.

That may be true as this week, I have replaced an engine water pump at Hamilton Island, done a quickie repair to the anchor winch at Whitsunday Island and repaired an oil leak in the engine bay while anchored at Airlie Beach.

Nearly all the other cruising sailors I have met, have many tales to tell of fixing things like water leaks and electrical problems. We met another cruiser last week who has spent 8 years building his boat. Where did we see him? In the marina at Airlie beach doing repairs.

Without meaning to be judgemental, I have known some boat owners who give off the impression of being no where near practical or what I call resourceful. Yet these folk have astounded me by shaping up when the moment arrived.

Being resourceful to me, is taking the time to identify a problem, being practical in mapping a plan to solve the problem and then carrying out the plan.

Of course there is always the equally resourceful way of fixing something. Call someone in to fix it for you.

There are not too many I know that go down this path too often. Using tradies at every turn is a very expensive option and even modest repair jobs can erode the kitty very quickly.

Plus the folk that go that way don’t get to enjoy the skinned knuckles, the strained muscles, staring at pieces that don’t fit, working with tools meant for something completely different and finally the thrill of the test drive, to find it still doesn’t work!

So my best advice to anyone thinking of buying a boat and going cruising sailing  is to be prepared to fix any part of your boat at any time anywhere. You are going to have to be resourceful.

Leanne took these great shots of Whitehaven Beach form the Tongue Bay lookout.

All manner of transport is used to bring visitors to Whitehaven Beach.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Sailing Around Australia; Visitors!

Hayman Island, Whitsundays, QLD

8/10/2015 – Visitors

Since our sailing Around Australia adventure on Easy Tiger began in 2013, it has been Leanne and I on board. Our social life has come form people we met on other boats or along the way. So the idea of having visitors stay on board made us a little nervous.

That’s because we worry about the weather, the provisions, providing interesting destinations and claustrophobia, as a boat can be a very confined space when you are not used to it. We also had an unpleasant experience when we chartered a boat with another couple some years back.

I am sure that everyone who is the slightest bit social able, knows that there is a little apprehension when you invite people around to your house. So if your house was a small space that floats at the mercy of the weather, then you might understand our higher level of anxiety.

We had Leanne’s sister, Sue on board for a couple of weeks in May, which was good. We were in Sydney harbour and the Hawkesbury river which made the destinations easy. Sue was a good “guinea pig” as she is family and really hard to offend. Sue shares Leanne’s love of fishing so it was really easy to keep her amused.

We also had friends from Paynesville, Leanne and Phil stay for a few days in Sydney as well, again all ok with interesting places to pull up and things to do. Being only a few days made it easy to keep up beat as well. These were “new friends” so also a good test to “see how we go” with hosting visitors on Easy Tiger.

Now we are in the Whitsunday Islands and have arranged with more friends to join us for some time aboard Easy Tiger exploring the many islands, bays and anchorages in this cruising sailing mecca.

Ian and Sue were booked to join us at Hamilton Island on the 3rd of October. Ian offered to change his booking and come a week earlier to help me out which was really appreciated as Leanne, unexpected, had to go to Cairns.

I was quite a bit apprehensive about this as all our married life Leanne has been our social director. To have to entertain someone else for two weeks was something I was not used to at all.

While Leanne was in Cairns I had 6 days by myself to fill in, I tackled a few less pleasant jobs on board including unblocking toilet hoses and fixing water leaks in the engine bays. These are extremely unpleasant tasks and can bring out the worst in me, so much better that I am out of earshot and no one has to witness my little vents of frustration.
Once these jobs were complete I was ready to be moving again. I can’t imagine being in the Whitsunday Islands and not going being able to sail around. The timing of Ian’s arrival was perfect.

We spent the first day stocking the boat (with men’s food like white bread and sausage rolls) sailed up to Woodwark bay, then up to Gloucester Passage the next day to “hang out” with Bossa Nova who also had guests aboard.

An invitation was extended to all aboard Bossa Nova, for dinner aboard the batchelors boat, Easy Tiger. Amanda accepted the invitation very guardedly and then as if according to some plan, offered to bring a salad.

Everything must have gone all right those first few days because on Ian’s recommendation wife Sue also changed her flight to arrive a few days earlier. Either that or someone reported our daily menu to her and it was a rescue mission to save us from ourselves.

We then had five days on board which included Blue Pearl Bay, Macona and Gulnare inlets and a couple of days at Hamilton Island Marina to watch the football grand final.

Then it was back to Airlie Beach to restock the boat with Girls food ready For Leanne’s return.

It has been a real delight having Ian (who has been given the title of 2nd Mate) and Sue on board. I was worried that they might find the life on board Easy Tiger a bit slow paced as they are both pretty active people at home in Adelaide.

I think though, the fact that Ian has taken to “power napping” in the afternoon for a couple of hours and that Sue is well on her way to reading every book we have on board, that they have fitted into the cruising sailing lifestyle very very well.

Blue Pearl Bay off  Hayman Island.

The batfish hanging around the back of the boat

Make it easy to keep the visitors entertained!