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Sailing around Australian East Coast  Sydney — Cairns — Sydney , July-December 2007

Whitsundays adventure with Guro and Karin


Some info about Whitsundays


There are around 75 islands in Whitsunday group and they are stretched for 100 miles from Mackay to Bowen. Their magical silhouettes together can be seen from far away in the blue haze. Among the orange rocky shores there are stripes of yellow and white beaches, surrounded by reefs and aquamarine waters. It is futile to try to describe with words the beauty in front of us.

According to the prevailing theory they are two mountain ranges drowned millions of years ago. Now you can only see their tops covered with trees.

The islands had been discovered by Captain Cook in the end of 18th century. He liked the place: “good anchorages everywhere”.

Later Whitsunday passage was used for navigation between the north and south of Australia inside the Barrier Reef. It wasn’t completely safe though and shipwrecks did happen. For that reason the government of that time planted coconut palms on the islands and set free a few goats and pigs to provide some food for shipwrecked sailors.

In some places there are serious magnetic anomalies and using just compass for navigation is not safe (my instructor Brian told me this on the skipper course).

Luckily now most of the modern boats have electronic chart plotters and this is not a big problem anymore. 


Most of the islands are National Parks and are protected, however there are some resorts. The first resorts started to appear in the 1920s in “Robinson Crusoe” style – just a group of tents for people who wanted to escape civilization (like it existed back then :)). Then the resorts were getting more sophisticated.

In 1970s cyclone Ada completely destroyed everything on the islands and they had since been rebuilt completely. New resorts appeared one after the other, and the most famous of them Hamilton Island Resort was built with high-rise hotel buildings and houses owned by celebrities. Hayman Island is the fanciest and most expensive resort. 


We arrived to Airlie Beach, the tourist capital of Whitsundays. This place has the biggest charter boat fleet in Australia. You can rent a boat here with a crew or bareboat and skipper it yourself. Or you can go for a cruise on a bigger boat (backpackers do that).

We anchored in the Airlie Bay for the night and drove the dinghy to the shore. It was the first time we stepped a foot on land for the last week and were happy to get some take-away food and ice-cream.


Guro and Karin visiting


Guro and Karin came to visit from Sydney. As we didn’t have a car, picking them up from the airport wasn’t an option, so we met them in Abel Point marina. It was good to have them visiting as there were just Gonzie and me until now.


Daydream Island


In the morning we did a big shopping of food and wine and set sail to Daydream Island.

It was good to have girls on board: we drank wine and ate strawberries coated in chocolate, talked about the news and gossips from home and were, in general, enjoying ourselves.


On the way to the islands we saw the whales again: mother and calf were sunbaking in the blue water.

Daydream Island is very small and the closest to Airlie Beach. Having anchored we swam over to visit the island.

Daydream Island is a private resort with a rather romantic history. In 1930 a young couple with their Airdale dog went sailing from Sydney to Cape York in their boat “Day Dream”. They went as far as Whitsundays and when they saw this little island (which was called West Mole at the time) they fell in love with it and persuaded the owner to sell them the island. Later they settled on the island, re-named it to “Day Dream” after their boat and opened a resort. (I read this story in “100 Magic Miles” book).


We walked around the island and swam back to the boat. Gonzie hooked up two hammocks and we watched sunset drinking wine.

I cooked yummy coral trout spaghetti in wine & sweet chilly sauce for dinner.  

The first day the girls are here is full of interesting stuff. They probably think we live like this every day. In fact, Gonzie & I felt like we finally arrived where we wanted after all these rough passages and moving forward in a hurry all the time; finally we can relax, swim around the boat and visit the islands –some sort of “holiday inside the holiday”.


Hamilton Island and Whitehaven Beach


In the morning we decided to visit famous Hamilton Island. Having arrived we anchored opposite Catseye Beach – the main beach of the resort.

The girls and I took a swim to the island (the old dinghy engine broke down) where the watersports worker form the resort met us to complain about us anchoring in the area where he planned to run jetskis in 2 hours. The guy wasn’t very nice and our first impression of the resort and island as a whole was a bit ruined. Neither “100 Magic Miles” book nor the chart mentions that you can’t anchor there. Resort owners probably don’t like sailors anchoring and they want them to come to the marina instead to pay money for the berth.

The island is very touristy with high-rise hotel buildings and more expensive accommodation near the beach. The beach is full of people –probably tourists from Sydney and Melbourne came to warm up a bit in tropics in winter.

When we returned the watersports guy was happy we‘re leaving and now he had to worry about finding the owners of the other boat anchored there. Good luck with that, I thought, there are better places to go anyway, and after swimming back to the boat we left for Whitehaven Beach. 

The beach is a long beautiful stripe of fine white sand on the eastern side of Whitsunday Island, the biggest island in the area. It is a national park and there are no resorts. However the place is very popular and there are heaps of other boats parked next to the beach.

Karin and I swam over to the beach and went for a long walk on the white sand.


Guro cooked Asian beef noodles with mushrooms and green beans – it is delicious and I’m happy to have someone else taking charge of cooking.

The girls baked a chocolate cake to celebrate my birthday that was 10 days ago, and we watched sunset eating cake and drinking wine.



Early in the morning Karin and I packed the sneakers and sport tops into the dry bag, swam over to the beach and went for a run. I’m not as fit as Karin and can hardly keep up with her – she was running circles around me! :) (Those who know Karin know that she’s very fit).  But I’m enjoying having my muscles working again: on the boat you don’t get much opportunity to exercise legs, having to sit down all the time (or standing up while steering). I had been doing some yoga in the mornings but running is different.


Later in the morning when we came back to the boat we heard loud music: a big catamaran full of backpackers was anchoring right next to us just to disturb our perfect morning. Then they started getting into their big dinghy to go to the beach, exactly to the spot where we were planning to go for a picnic later to deep-fry a fish.

Now we had to pick a different spot, so we put the petrol stove, oil, butter, fish and spices into the dinghy and swam over to the other beach, towing the dinghy with us. This was for the better as we got to snorkel all the way there and the coral looked nice. I even spotted a dotted eagle-ray.

When we arrived to the beach it turned out we forgot the lighter and I volunteered to swim back to the boat to get it – I was looking forward to having a new outboard for the dinghy.

As we are picking up a new outboard from Airlie Beach we want to be close to it in the morning. We anchored for the night in Macona Inlet in Hook Island and had tortillas for dinner.


And yet another Endurance 35 and a new outboard for the dinghy


In the morning we saw yet another Endurance 35, this one was made of cement her hull was painted dark blue. We again had a look at each others boats: she looked very different from our again and a bit more like the other Endurance we saw near Thomas Island.


Later this morning we stopped by Airlie Beach where Yamaha representative was waiting for us on the public wharf with a brand-new 3 h.p. outboard. Gonzie traded in the old Mercury to him for 100 bucks discount on the new one. We bought the old outboard second-hand before Lord Howe trip – it lasted that trip and then started to be pain in the butt, working only sometimes and wasn’t reliable. No way could we visit the reefs with that engine.

Guro and I went to supermarket to get some fresh stuff while Gonzie and Karin were waiting for us on the wharf.

Then we sailed to Hook Island and anchored at the western side (Stonehaven Anchorage) as all the public moorings were taken.


Bait Reef


The wind was 14-17 knots SE and we had a good run to the reef at beam reach. Karin enjoyed being at the helm and Guro hoisted and trimmed the sails – Gonzie and I can have a break now: we have a crew to do all the work for us :).

We were thinking of visiting Hayman Island, however the rule is to contact the resort first. We were trying to reach them on the phone, on the radio – no response. It looks like they don’t want sailors visiting the island. We also heard a story from other cruisers that they had been charged 50 bucks just to land their dinghy on the island to get a bottle of water.  Well, who cares about the resorts, we are going to the reef!

When we arrived to Bait Reef it was still an early afternoon. We grabbed a public mooring provided there so that the boats don’t wreck the corals with their anchors.  The water is crystal clear and we can see the bottom in 10 meters of water! There are giant trevallies, maori wrasses and other fish swimming in the water. Karin and I donned our wetsuits, geared up and went for a dive. It felt good seeing the reef again – the last time I dived on the reef was 4 years ago.  The place wasn’t a known dive spot, just some reef that happened to be under the boat, but the visibility was good and there where plenty of fish. When we came up Guro joined us snorkelling and taking photos with her new camera.


Later we had another fabulous dinner: Karin cooked lasagne.

Then we were drinking wine and playing a card games.  


Hardy Reef


In the morning we sailed another 16 miles to Hardy Reef. This place has a floating dive station where big boats bring tourists. A few people who work there stay on the station. They even have a pet grouper named Mildred.

Gonzie and Karin took a dinghy ride there to fill up the tanks and rent 2 extra. They got back excited and Gonzie said: “We should all really dive here – the reef is so nice!”

We did a dive each, first Gonzie and I, then Guro & Karin. It was a fantastic dive and we saw lots of fish. I wonder how all 4 of us with gear and 4 tanks fit into our small dinghy.

We have to sail closer to Airlie as the girls were catching a flight the next day.

We were considering Butterfly Bay in Hook Island but arrived there too late and all the moorings had already been taken and it’s too deep to anchor.  So we anchored in Stonehaven again.


Nara Inlet


In the morning we visited Nara Inlet – the most picturesque in the area. Then we climbed the top of the rocks from where opens a magnificent view over the water, which is of beautiful turquoise colour. There are also caves with aboriginal paintings form old times. Aboriginal people used to visit the island regularly in the past in a search of food.



The girls left last night and I feel lonely. I miss talking to them and swimming around the boat together. “We had a fantastic time together”, - I thought, eating the yummy curry that Guro cooked last night.



Having spent a couple of days in Airlie Beach doing the boat chores, the started moving up north again spending the nights on anchor at Daydream Island, then Olden Island, Bowling Bay and Cleveland Bay. I’m studying for CPA exam and Gonzalo looks after the boat – I only help him to put the sails up and lift the anchor.


P.S.: In the collage for this page I used a mix of mine and Guro’s pictures.



Humpback Whale near Daydream Island

Hammock time near Daydream Island

Hamilton Island

Empede anchored near Whitehaven Beach

Karin is winning the race

Empede at Bait Reef

Fish near the boat at Bait Reef

Whitsunday Island

Diving at Bait Reef

At anchor

Guro and sunset

Cooking on the boat is a tough business

Guro cooked beef noodles

Inside the boat

Nara Inlet, Hook Island

Sailing back to Airlie Beach

Empede in Nara Inlet

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