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.