September in the Whitsunday Islands..
Leaving Areté in the Mackay Marina while we returned to Tokyo for Michiko’s wedding gave us a break from the sailing and the opportunity to catch up with some family and friends. Our flights went through Sydney and Brisbane so we had the views of the Great Barrier Reef both coming and going. On our return flight September 5th as we were approaching Mackay airport the clouds opened up with a clear view of the marina and Areté tied off in berth # T-43. The wedding was maybe the best ever and the hospitality at Funi-san house is always world class but it’s truly a great feeling to be back aboard..”home is where the boat is”…that’s what our card says and everyone knows the feelings of being home….I’d hoped to sail out the following day, the Mackay Marina is not cheap, but I am. We arrived to the same winds we left a week before 25~30 knots from the SouthEast. Weather Mackay forecasted lighter winds in a couple days…Hiroko hit the Caneland Shopping Center for serious victualling. I bought 40 liters ( two 5 Galllon jerry cans) of unleaded fuel and borrowed a garden hose from on of my yachtie neighbors to fill my water tanks….Later when I returned the hose I found out they were also from the USA and invited them to join me for happy hour at the yacht club for the $1.50 pots of beer… Three interesting people from San Francisco one was a political activist, one was a vet tech and one was a lawyer who worked to make sure developers and city planners provide for affordable housing. They took six months off and came to OZ bought a boat and had planned to sail it to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, PNG and back to Australia put the boat up for sail and head back to the states…They had many a run around with the bureaucracy and needed to Australian register the boat, they opted to sail North from Brisbane to the Whitsunday Islands and put the boat up for sale with the brokerage at the Mackay Marina.
We had planned to sail out the following day, though it was blowing 30 knots in the morning and next to Areté was one of those 1 million dollar catamarans, on our lee side I might add…This also being a Friday, it didn’t take much to convince Hiroko to stay in the fancy marina one more night….It’s a sailing superstition is never to start a voyage on Friday ( though we were technically just continuing our trip North after a break) The British Navy back a couple hundred years ago built a ship of the line (a sailing battleship ) Named it “Friday”, they hung the keel on a Friday, launched it on a Friday and it left port on it’s maiden voyage on a Friday….It was never seen again..
Saturday September 8th; I’d hoped to get away about sunrise as the wind comes up soon after sunrise. I’d explained to Hiroko just how we’d get Areté out of the berth without bumping anything especially not the French fancy Catamaran next to me…We removed all the mooring lines leaving a stern line and bow line, I was to drop the stern line, jump aboard and pop the motors into reverse and Hiroko was to walk the boat along the finger using the bow line and the cleats to keep the boat from drifting downwind into the Frenchman’s catamaran. The wind was side on and blowing pretty hard, somehow I got out without a bump and I looked at the dock and there is Hiroko standing there not onboard. I guess I’d forgotten to explain when to step aboard…Either way we were away and back in the wind, sailing downhill to Brampton Island. There is something special about the Whitsunday Islands kind of like the feeling I had when I first visited Yosemite, majestic or whatever it sure ain’t just another place…The anchorage at Brampton has a fringing coral reef like most anchorages here in the Whitsunday’s. We has an Angle fish of some type swimming around us at sundown that was 2~3 feet, top to bottom…The weather forecast said Northerly winds and that was not what I wanted to hear….The following day we motor sailed about 20 nautical miles to Thomas Island we had whales swimming past us headed South and I started to realize that maybe we are too late in the season…?
Thomas Island is quite a magic spot itself…Three white sand beaches, rocks with oysters at low tide for Hiroko, tropical fish swimming around Areté and turtles popping up every few minutes. It was not difficult or dull spending the next three days on the hook in light winds, sunshine, and views of a half dozen islands in the distance. One evening about sunset I spotted a group of whales breeching a few miles away with the sun setting behind them it silhouetted them and their huge splashes in peachy colored shades…
Every morning I turn on the VHF radio at 6:15am to listen to the weather forecast and everyday it was “North by Northeasterly winds 10~15 knots with afternoon sea breezes”.
September 12th we weighed anchor and sailed slowly again the whales we saw were waving to us with their tails as they headed South and we tacking trying to get North…
We anchored in Chance Bay on Whitsunday Island with lots of the fancy charter barebaots they rent here in the Whitsundays. A huge flock of Cockatoos in the trees ashore about sunset, not a bad place at all…With the light winds and sunshine we decided to head for Whitehaven Beach the following morning on the North side of Whitsunday Island. This is the beach you see on all the travel brochures as it’s one of the prettiest beaches on the planet.
In light winds it’s quite the spot too….we dropped the pick, anchored off the white silica sand beach 30 meters offshore in about 20 feet of crystal clear blue water. Water temperature was 22 degrees, (that’s about 72 degrees in the old way of counting)…We enjoyed the next 4 days in swimsuits or less, swimming off the back steps, paddling the kayak and playing on the beach. Hiroko does yoga and I tinker with my boat, we had a large squid that seemed to be guarding the anchor chain and a huge Stingray seemed to like the shade Areté provided. There were helicopters and sea planes landing right off our port side. I guess at the exclusive 5 star resorts they fly honeymoon couples out to Whitehaven to sip champagne….one of the gals wore her wedding dress ( I hope it was a rental). There are lots of backpacker tourist boats and bareboat charter boats and they all anchor down at the end of the beach opening up miles of space between Areté and the rest of the pack, just the way I like it too! One day we went up into Hill Inlet with the tide. Now we are 11 days out of Mackay Marina the food stock is in need of a few things and no change in the weather so we decided to motor sail up and around Whitsunday Island stopping in at Macona Inlet for the night before crossing the Whitsunday Passage and into Airlie Beach.
Being unemployed for the past three years and living on a yacht without TV I’ve had the opportunity to read a few hundred books, some of them a couple times…I often write down things I like from these books and one that comes to mind is what Ernest Hemmingway said; “ Never forget the weather” as I look back and proof read this blog I think he would see I took that to heart. Living on a cruising catamaran weather is top priority. I talk a lot about anchorages and location because “without geography you’re nowhere”…Mark Twain said “Write what you know about”. So I guess I should talk a bit more about the fine home brew beer I brew onboard. O~well maybe next time….