Click on images to enlarge.
While waiting for the watermaker to be serviced, we also had to send our Fusion radio/hi-fi head unit back to Sydney, after the LCD display faded away. Getting the replacement unit back to Airlie would take about the same time, so on Wednesday the 15th September we set sail for Nara inlet on Hook Island in a brisk 25 knot S-E wind. We were hoping for a week of less wind to explore again, some of our favourite anchorages.
The next day was spot on in terms of our expectations, with the water in Nara inlet as smooth as a mirror. We set out early to walk up to the cave on the hill, where paintings of the Ngaro aboriginal people of this area can be seen. After a relaxed breakfast we motored to the next bay, Macona inlet before crossing from Hook Island to Whitsunday Island, where we anchored in May’s Bay.
The following day it was a short hop to Sawmill Bay on the western shores of Whitsunday Island – so named because of a sawmill that operated here in the 1800’s.
Soon after we anchored, we tackled the hike from Sawmill beach up to Whitsunday Peak, well worth the effort as the views from the top are spectacular.
The 5 hour round trip resulted in a surprise on our return to the beach, where the substantial 3m tide had left our dinghy high and dry, far from the water. It took some effort with two inflatable fenders, to drag the dinghy down to the water. We were cursing anew the Italian who had stolen our previous dinghy with its excellent fold down wheels in Naples. We will have to buy new wheels.
After sundowners on the beach with some friends, we returned to our boat for an early night, being quite tired. Not so – a 3 storey high motor cruiser with the quaint name “Exocet Strike” anchored near us (Exocet is an American war missile). The 3m wide television was pumping out music, full blast, day and night, while the happy blinged up people on board uttered shrieks of delight at the powerful underwater blue lights, creating a 10m wide Persil blue halo around the boat. The purpose of these lights weren’t apparent, save to say that sailors have anchor lights, and these lights are known as wanker lights. To keep these systems running, the engine was harmonising with the shrieks.
To quote David Colfelt in his delightful cruising guide “100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef” under the heading Anchoring etiquette: “And for those who may love the comforts of home wherever they are, including microwave ovens, TV’s, dishwashers, etc – all of which require the yacht’s engine to be run constantly to keep the batteries from being sucked inside out – spare a thought for those who have come to the Whitsundays to enjoy a bit of wilderness, away from the constant reminders of urban civilisation.”
Two days later we did the short rainforest walk from Sawmill Beach to Dugong Beach and afterwards we dinghied to Joe’s Beach for mobile phone reception to phone our daughter Karen on her 33rd birthday.
A slow sail took us northwest to Stonehaven Bay to pick up a Parks mooring. Four boats got together on “Freedom” of Rick and Elin Power to celebrate Rick’s 65th birthday. Rick is another one of the Japie boat people (6 months in Oz and he bought a boat). The wind forecasts showed a strong south easterly coming at midnight on the 21st, so we sailed back to Airlie Beach to anchor in the lee of the marina wall. Just as well, as the wind in the islands reached 48 knots – our maximum was 28 knots.
The next week was quite busy socially and sorting out boat issues. We made contact with Peter Varley and his partner Tanya, who until recently owned the same model Jeanneau SO439 as ours. This led to a few liquid occasions on Esprit, Sorrento’s and at their apartment overlooking the marina.
Old friends Kerry and Sue who we last saw in Greece on their Lightwave 45 cat, showed up in Airlie Beach on their friend Peter’s Lightwave 45 cat, as their boat “Billaroo” is currently in the south of Spain. More celebrations called for! We also had Rick and Elin on Freedom for dinner.
Next up, we took the opportunity of low winds to sail out to the islands – first night at Blue Pearl Bay on the West side of Hayman Island. On the way, Annie lost a big Spanish Mackerel, while bringing it on board, but soon afterwards landed two decent size Bluefin tuna.
The freezer is now full, so I will try and stop her from fishing. We had a pleasant 30 nm sail out to Hook Reef and then we anchored in Bait Reef, where we snorkelled a bit.
Cyclone Debbie which hit this part of the coast soon after we had been here six years ago, had devastated the coral reefs and we were disappointed at the nominal re-growth of the coral to date and consequently, the lack of fish. We, family and friends who had dived here back then, probably saw the reefs at its best. Hopefully it will recover again in another five years.
It was a pleasant sail from Bait Reef to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island in a 11-12 knot N-W wind. We picked up a Parks buoy in Tongue Bay and did the walk up to the scenic lookout above Hill inlet.
A light breeze allowed us to sail the 5km length of Whitehaven Beach, before going through the narrow Solway Passage against the tide, and then anchor and spend the night at Turtle Bay.
The following day we sailed through Fitzalan Passage between Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands, back to Airlie Beach through the “Unsafe Passage” between North and South Molle islands.
Cheers for now!