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Whitsunday Islands

We relax on a sailboat for three wonderful days.

semi-overcast 22 °C

The train arrives and we know we are in seat nine and ten, but not the car. We were told to board the train at car B and someone would be around to tell us where to go... We sat in car B in nine and ten...but no one stopped. We held off unpacking until finally we learned someone else, who had boarded the stop after ours had nine and ten, and they were sitting in six and seven. Finally someone came and she was ticked, not at us, but at David who was supposed to be checking tickets....who wasn't. Once he left the car she said he was driving her crazy so not to worry if we heard screaming. David returned and I suggested we could move to the other car....that seemed to be the best. The other couple were to have come on at Sydney so he assumed we were them....lol

We are now settled. I am watching the Great Gatsby and we have ordered our dinner with wine. The seats are pods are so new and so cool!

Dinner
Lemon Poached Chicken, mixed greens and balsamic reduction
Pepper crusted lamb, cauliflower mash, sugar snap peas and Shiraz jus
Vanilla panna cotta and mixed berry coulis
Wine and tea

The ride is smooth and quiet and I sleep really well. The whole thing folds away during the day. Our breakfast arrives early because we are supposed to be getting off early, but the train is late and we could have had our breakfast when the rest did.

The bus picks us up and a whole bunch of Schoolies get on the bus. We are the only people over 18 on the bus, other than the driver. We drop one group, then another and finally the last get off in town with us. They have a secure area for the Schoolies here. They all have badges after they pay the $50. There is a dance on the beach for them today with lots of security.

We check in for our sail and learn it is today not tomorrow. Hummmm, when did I miss that. No worries. We walk up to our apartment and she just switches today over to the 19th when we get off the boat. We pull out what we need for the boat and Lisa at the apartment takes our packs to store. Back down to the town we pick up a couple of towels, two cloth bags and some after sun lotion. I think we are ready to go. Roger gets some wine to take with us.

There is a market on and we hang out listening to the entertainment. This guy is good and does some nice covers. We have some fruit for tea and later decide to eat at the Hogs Breath cafe. They are all over and we feel we should eat somewhere we can't eat at at home. It is okay. They put slices of beetroot in their burgers in Australia. I like it better than dill pickle.

We wander and it is time for the boat. The walk leads around the harbour to the marina and we can see the crew getting the boat ready. She is 41 feet, a cat named Whitsunday Blue. The others gather. An older couple, Barbara and David from England, a couple our age, Janet and Michael from England, their son Jonathan and his partner from Sydney and us. The crew is Aaron, a funny straightforward Captain and Rea the mate and cook.

Aaron goes through all the safety risks and use of toilets before we get underway, once we are away Rea goes through the housekeeping rules and gets us settled in our cabins. We get an aft cabin, queen bed with ensuite. Yippeeee! I thought we had to share a toilet, which always means making sure you are decent in the middle of the night, but we all get our own. The rules online for packing etc are very specific, but they are not is worried once you get aboard. Ie, they said no wheeled suitcases would be allowed on board so we picked up a couple of soft cloth bags, but Janet showed up with the case and no worries. I guess during the day it lives on the bed and at night in front of the door. There is almost no storage.

We motor for a while and the boat bounces and wallows before we put up the main and jib, then it smooths out. The sun is setting and we can see, fireworks on the mainland and the clouds building around us with thunder and lightening in the distance. We motor into a protected bay on Hook Island in the dark. It takes a long time for the storm to find us and then the rains pour, but we move inside for our dinner and Aaron give so us a chart talk about the islands, the sea life and the history of the area. I am so ready to sleep after our early start.

We are up early. At this time I am sitting forward on the nets and the sun has peeked over the hills and the heat is wonderful. The breeze is cooling and it looks like we will have a wonderful day. All during our trip butterflies drift by, black with a yellow stripe. Some time six or more one after another flutter by.

A good breakfast and we sail for our first stop....it is so relaxing, I have a hard time not falling asleep on the net over the water. Sigh. Our stop is Whitehaven beach. We set anchor in the bay and tender to the beach. It is a walk over the island to the beach. The day is now somewhat overcast. This makes the day very comfortable. The water is warm and inviting. We do not have stinger suits and we are slow to trust that we will be okay. The stingrays are numerous at the beach and pass close to us if we stand quietly. There are some fish and we are treated to juvenile sharks. There are black tipped and reef sharks. It is at first strange to be in the water with sharks...and stingrays. We do spend a few hours here in the water and walking in the powdery sand. There is a German couple in long sleeved white shirts we see them at the look out, we see them walk to the tender beach, we see them walk back to the sandy beach and then back on the tender beach. We overhear them talking to different guides..they have lost their tour. What company....we don't know, how about your guides name...we don't know...he had a shirt with a flower on it and was darker skinned.....last time we saw them they were still talking to people. I am sure someone took them somewhere.

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We meet up with Aaron at one and walk up to the view point. I had seen pictures but I was not prepared for the incredible vista. The colours were amazing. My photos don't do it justice.

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Once back on the boat some plans have changed. The forecast is for thunder showers throughout the area and we are told the plan is for a snorkel over the coral before we head back to the same spot we overnighted last night. This is a good sheltered spot as the night before had been pretty wild for some other boats who had anchored else where.

Aaron takes his time instructing us on snorkeling gear safety and coral conservation. We get our gear, don stinger suits and are quickly in the water. We are the only ones there. The older man on the boat, David, struggled and ended up returning to the boat as did his wife. We stayed as long as we were allowed. The coral is spectacular despite the fact that it is now raining and thunder and lightning are circling us. Okay the lightening is still some ways away. We see a very fast turtle and many fish. At one time something hits my mask and rolls off...it is clear and colourless. A jelly fish? What kind? We see other jelly like creatures with a black center, a salp. A salp is a barrel-shaped, planktonic tunicate. It moves by contracting, thus pumping water through its gelatinous body.

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Back to the boat we get showered and tea is served. The thunder and lightening grows and the big rain hits. Tonight's discussion covers where we were today, and where we might be tomorrow depending on the winds.

The day dawns great again. The night was a little noisier due to a couple of party boats but we are tired and sleep well. There is some rain, but it quits and we can open our hatches to get some fresh air.

Stop one to snorkel is amazing. The bat fish follow us looking for a snack. They are big, well more than a foot long and about that tall. We feed them biscuits by hand. There are a many types and colours of coral and it changes as we swim along the shore. So many fish.

Back on the ship Michael forgets the rule one hand for the boat and takes a fall. He goes flat out and hits his back badly. At first he can't breathe or talk....it takes quite a while before they can help him up and sit. Once we anchor again they get him down to his bunk, but he's in a lot of pain. There is much discussion on how to deal with Michael. Later when we anchor again he is up and moving very slowly. There was some discussion about getting him off for medical attention. If they can hold out until tomorrow they will be flying to Sydney, Michael is now up and seems to be managing.

Tonight we end our day with a beautiful sunset. No other boats around as we drift in the waters before we head in to anchor. The ocean is dead calm. This is the first night without rain. It was wonderful to sit on the deck at sunset. While one might complain about the drizzle and rain, it has made the trip very comfortable. If it had been full on sun, we would be fairly fried. I can hear a kookaburra on the shore behind me, the voices drifting from the stern and the waves lapping on the hull. Can you say 'at peace'.

Our second snorkel is wonderful as well. The best... Swimming with fish that measure four feet or more. Humphead Maori Wrasse.

Our last morning dawns with a brilliant sun, the birds singing, the fish jumping. We are starting a little early today. Group one needs to get to Dreamtime Island before noon to catch a ferry and then a flight from Hamilton Island, the second have a long drive. They asked how we felt about the last day and we said we wanted our last day snorkel, we came a long way and paid a lot to have the trip cut short. It was a good compromise.

The last snorkel was great again. We saw other fish and coral we did not see at our other stops and this time the sun was bright.

The others are anxious to get their connections and are out of the water long before we were. Even so we got to daydream island and hour and a half before their ferry. Michael is doing much better, although he is still in a lot of pain. We are now on our last leg to Airlie Beach.

As we chat I realize they must have switched some cabins. I was sure we had a double bed with shared ensuite, instead we had a queen and private, they gave the shared with double to the young couple across from his parents. Even the older couple had the double with a private ensuite, but it requires you crawling up from the foot of the bed. I am just going to be happy and grateful.

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Posted by Mari Anne 19:34 Archived in Australia Tagged islands beach snorkel whitsunday whitehaven airlie

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