Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Back in the Whitsundays

Well we are back in the Whitsundays on our way south. The region is a huge tourist area with Airlie Beach a backpacker hub with heaps of backpacker accommodation as well as being the gateway to the islands. Most of the bareboat charter fleets operate out of Airlie now with only one from Shute Harbour and one from Hamilton Is. Despite all the tourists and charter boats it is still a fantastic boating area with 74 islands to explore and plenty of safe anchorages no matter which way the wind is blowing.

We arrived here on Sunday and went directly into Macona Inlet to catch up with friends, Mark & Susan off "La Scandell". They joined us for drinks, dinner and a talkfest where we caught up on each others adventures since we were last together at the start of the Louisiades Rally. It was great to catch up and hopefully we will again in the Sandy Straits on the way back to Brisbane.

By the time we left on Monday to go into Airlie Beach to do a small amount of provisioning Mark & Susan were already into their maintenance day - painting the decks.

The trip from Dunk Is has been mixed. Dunk to Orpheus Is then to Horseshoe Bay Magnetic Is were good days, not too long, calm seas and reasonable winds. We got into Horseshoe Bay in time to go ashore for lunch at the gallery/restaurant Barefoot, Food & Art. We had lunch there on our way north and were glad to get there in time to experience it again. From Magnetic Is to Cape Upstart was a long day (11.5hrs) into a choppy seas with the wind just off the nose. We were able to motor sail but it was a very rough & uncomfortable trip. Cape Upstart to Gloucester Is was also long (10hrs) but better conditions.

Today we woke to totally calm conditions - not a breath of wind. We decided to have a Whitehaven Beach stopover on our way south. By the time we got to Whitehaven the wind was up to 10 kts but it was still great to anchor off the brilliant white beach in clear waters. The beach is 5 Km long so there is plenty of space for everyone. On previous visits we found that most of the yachts and the big day charter boats from Airlie go to the southern end of the beach where they spill a couple of hundred tourists onto the beach for a few hours, so we anchored towards the northern end of the beach where there weren't any other boats for about 300m in either direction. Perfect for a quiet swim off the back of the boat. Within an hour we had 2 boats come an anchor within a 100m and a helicopter land on the beach straight in from us with a couple who spent 30 minutes on the beach having a bottle of champagne but not even getting their shoes off and feel the sand on their feet.

We have come around to Crayfish Bay on the southern side of Whitsunday Is for our night anchorage, very protected for the current northerly winds. Tomorrow we will get away early and put a few big days in to take advantage of these northerly winds and get as far south as we can while they last. If the forecast holds we should make Yeppoon by Saturday/Sunday where we want to catch up with friends and will need to reprovision. If the southerly trade winds hold off a bit longer then we may hopefully get to Bundaberg mid next week where we leave the boat for a week while we go to Brisbane to catch up with Brian Rooney, Ann's father, for his 80th birthday celebrations.