An overnighter at Great Keppell was all we needed before we continued our trip north to warmer waters. Our plan was to sail to Island Head Creek in the Shoalwater area some 47nm from Great Keppell Island however we soon discovered that the Shoalwater area was off limits to boaties and anchoring until end of July. It wasn’t a problem though as we just sailed through the night around the Defence Department defined ‘marine danger zone’ onto Scawfell Island, some 175nm away from Great Keppell.
The sail went very well with consistent 15/20knot winds, although at times the wind was variable upon which we’d drag out the spinny or sail winged out. This kept us busy on the second day of our trip and we made good time to Scawfell Island, arriving by mid afternoon on Thursday 14 July. We could have kept going but the weather deteriorated; cold grey skies and heavy rain smothered us as we approached Scawfell Island. We couldn’t actually see the island until we were about 3nm away as grey clouds were low and heavy with rain. We ran the watermaker for a couple of hours while the engine was on during a windless leg of the trip and took advantage of the fresh surplus by having a wash and soaking a load of washing in my ‘slosher wosher’ (25 litre contained strapped to the stern – works a treat!). With no phone access out here we receive weather reports from VMC Mackay on channel 21 or we can use the HF.
Up early with improved weather we dinghied to the island for a look-see. It’s beautiful looking out from the island towards the clear turquoise, spotting small black tip sharks and rays at the waters edge. It’s also warmer on the shore as we look out towards Blue Heeler bobbing around in the light chop. Motoring back, by mid-morning we’d raised anchor and swiftly rode the developed trade winds 28nm to Brampton Island where we anchored by early afternoon.
It’s so peaceful being away from the bustle of life in the city. I’m sure there’ll be a time when I may want to go back to life on the land, although that thought is far from my mind at this juncture. Sure the days tend to run into each other but every night I have new neighbours, sunrises are unique and each sunset holds the promise of a new home the following day.
Next day after giving Wayne a haircut, we set the spinnaker sheets in anticipation of a spinny run all the way to Shaw Island, just next door to Lindeman Island. Wayne dragged the large spinny on deck and tied the sheets we’d setup earlier. With the auto-pilot on a course of 290 degrees, I hauled on the halyard until the doused spinny reached the top of the mast. Moving swiftly to the cockpit so I could manage the sheets, Wayne pulled down on the ropes of the douser to reveal our lovely blue and silver spinnaker which exploded into the sky above Blue Heeler. Filling immediately and setting perfectly we sailed around the islands of the Whitsundays.
Two hours into our pleasant journey we had to gibe and head north-east keeping Goldsmith Island to starboard. We managed to head up in a northerly direction for another hour before gibing once more on a direct course until we reached Shaw Island – a zigzag trip of some 30 miles from Brampton Island. The last leg of our trip had us soaring along at a swift 6-7 knots but we needed to turn to starboard around the westerly tip of the island. We managed this and dropped the spinny at 30 degrees reversing the steps we’d taken earlier – Wayne doused while I simultaneously eased the spinny sheets and promptly moved to the mast to untie the halyard and drop the spinny. It was an especially good trip and I expect we’ll have more days like this up here. Blue Heeler sailed along so evenly that I managed to bake some bread rolls to have upon arrival at our anchorage at Shaw Island with the aroma of baked bread wafting across the three catamarans already at anchor!
The next morning we lazed around reading while the wind blew up to 20 knots outside – a little windy and lumpy to get the dinghy off. I was keen to get onshore for a walk though and by lunchtime the wind had died so we setup the dinghy and motored across the turquoise waters to the white sand. We met a couple of guys from another boat and we chatted for a while before inviting us to their boat for a drink. We accepted their invitation and after we’d finished walking around the beach a little longer looking at rocks, coral pieces and a large turtle in the shallows, we motored across to their boat. Both guys are originally from Melbourne so it wasn’t long before we were all applauding our decision to spend time in the warm sunshine at the Whitsundays rather than a cold and wet Melbourne winter…brrr!!
We arrived yesterday (Thursday) at Airlie Beach sometime after 3pm. We had an excellent run, passing by well-known holiday islands such as Dent, Hamilton, Daydream, South and North Molles and of course, Whitsunday Island. With the main and genoa fully out in 20 knot southeast winds, once the wind shifted further to the south, we furled the genny and dragged out the large spinny for a downwind run, but we had a 2 knot current against us causing us to travel surprisingly slower than expected. It’s a good feeling arriving at the official centre of the Whitsundays – the Mecca of sailing in Australia. The photos don’t truly reflect the beauty of the area – it’s absolutely picture-perfect up here and the weather is idyllic for sailing.
A day out today in the main shopping strip of Airlie Beach, stopping for lunch (with hot chippies, yay!) washed down with a well-earned cold VB. Today’s stroll down the main strip was fairly quiet and we saw plenty of backpackers in town – Airlie Beach is a ‘hot spot’ for travellers with a number of nightclubs and pubs to keep them occupied in the evenings. Yachties were conspicuous as they made their way back to dinghies tied up at the Whitsundays Sailing Club jetty with a fresh supply of groceries bulging out of heavy green shopping bags. We joined the ranks and after we’d dumped our garbage from the past couple of weeks, we went to the supermarket and filled some shopping bags with fresh food and returned to Blue Heeler. We made a return trip in the dinghy to the local BWS to bring back some tipple. For the record, my backpack can carry four x six packs of VB stubbies plus two x four litre casks of wine! This supply should last for a few days…er, I mean weeks!
But our stay will be short-lived. We’ve stocked up with fresh supplies, waiting until we get to Bowen or Townsville for a larger victual. Until we arrive there, we’ll head out to Whitsunday Island and Hook Island for the next few days to do some diving, snorkelling and generally relaxing…