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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Then we were drinking wine and playing a card games.
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
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.
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