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Published: August 19th 2013
Well its Saturday night in Airlie Beach and we are anchored out in the bay amongst the other hundred boats with the sound of live music blasting out from the main street as part of the Reef festival which wraps up race week here.
We spent last night in the marina, not knowing beforehand that we had arrived in Airlie at the start of the festival. In the evening, from the path into town, we watched the fireworks across the water which had Alex quaking.
There was a funfair for kids and street stalls. That night too there was a DJ on stage in the mainstreet and we pushed through the crowds with the pram trying to pick where to eat. Naomi decided she fancied a kebab so we pushed back through the crowds only to find it wasn't where she thought it was. It was now close to 9 pm and we settled on a chico roll and a serve of chips from take away that doubled as a convenience store. Then the pinnacle of the festival.... watched Timomatic come on stage to sing several of his hits! Yeah I'm not his biggest fan but it was a
worthwhile free show.
We got to the Abel Point Marina from Cid Harbour after a few hours of perfect sailing, 12-17 knots on the beam, sunny skies and only a little chop across Whitsunday Passage, arriving bang on noon. As we approached, boats were coming and going in all directions and we passed some big yachts racing further out to sea. Because of race-week we were stuck on "U" jetty which is way back in the west side of the marina and it appeared a little neglected as as low tide there were some big sand banks sticking out of the water making some berths unusable. I think it added an extra kilometer on the return walk to town too.
Airlie Beach is a significant milestone for us as this is where we bought Limpopo three years ago, our now recently sold old sail boat. This was our first "big boat" and as we sailed it to the Gold Coast this is also the most northern point that we have sailed to.
Of course Naomi had to answer her need for McDonalds for lunch and then we walked a couple more kms to "Ocean Services" that had
been recommended for selling used dinghies. They had one that looked good but needs some work before they sell it and its a bit pricey. Took a look at their life-raft options too.
We couldn't stay as long as we liked as we had to get back to marina as Naomi had organised Coles to deliver a load of food to the marina. A very handy service for only $5 as we didn't have to waste time and effort to travel to the supermarket as Naomi was able to choose the food on the internet the day before when we were out at the islands. The guy had 9 crates for us and even came down to the boat to deliver them.
Today we had a busy morning, getting gas in a couple of our bottles, washing clothes, loosing Alex briefly but long enough to bring Naomi to tears, showering, a quick trim of my hair and then out back on the water. Leaving the marina we turned right toward the anchorage in front of town, had a short dispute about whether this area was just for moored boats or whether you could anchor there, and
Luna Ray is out there somewhere
then dropped the pick in a suitably large gap.
It is a cool spot to stop, a nice breeze to take away the midday heat (which I am starting to struggle with - a worrying thought as its still winter), boats everywhere (moored, anchored and moving varieties), the town and beaches in the background and helicopters flying overhead every five minutes. There was no protection from the northeast wind but with the waves on the nose there was just some light rocking. This evening the wind shifted to the south which swung us side onto the waves and it has taken a few hours of rolling before they slowly subsided into their new direction.
Took the dinghy to the beach next to the lagoon, McDonalds again!, had a snoop around the sailing club and then to the main street to see the parade. A string of cars and trucks carried brightly dressed local groups throwing out sweets.... but the kids standing in front of us got most of those.
Getting back in the dinghy was tricky as the waves on the beach were bigger now but we faired better than the couple next to us that really
got swamped, and we left as the guy was up to his chest in the water trying to pull their boat out!
Before getting to Airlie Beach we have had another beautiful week in the Whitsundays, boosted by the company of our friend Michelle joining us for 5 days. The marina fees at Hamilton Island are high but they do send out a couple of guys to escort you to your berth, you can pay them on the dock, the showers are great and you can use the island's resort facilities.
We picked Michelle up at the airport as its only a 5 minute walk from the marina and later took the free bus to the beach side resort for cocktails by the pool along with what turned out to be massive portions of nachos and wedges.
In the evening took a walk along the marina shops trying to decide if we were hungry.... dinner ended up being ice-cream. Took a look outside the yacht-club which is a magnificent structure but sadly looked deserted apart from a few staff.
The next morning we were out early to ride the bus around the
island, stopping at One Tree Hill for five minutes for pictures. Got dropped off at the bakery and left the marina at 9 am. Motored around the top of the island and then a very casual sail in light winds along the bottom of Whitsunday Island, veering off to get a closer look at some whales along the way.
Anchored off Whitehaven Beach just before high tide and took the dinghy to explore Hill Inlet. Wound our way over the shallows and found our own little sandy island to stop at. After lunch back on Luna Ray we motored around to Tongue Bay thinking it would be calmer. Unfortunately some swell worked into the bay and things got very rolly through through the night so Naomi slept badly. Fortunately for me Michelle had brought lots of cocktails and my indulgence meant I slept soundly through it all.
In the morning we cautiously paddled over the coral to the beach and took the walk up to the magnificent lookout over Whitehaven beach and Hill Inlet, spotting a small dark snake along the way. For the rest of the week there was barely any wind so we motored
everywhere on calm flat water, under warm clear skies, making it easy to eat underway and Alex could escape his usual confines of the car-seat. Awoke each morning to peaceful millpond like water, listening to the occasional bird squawk and deep breaths from surfacing turtles, as the rising sun gradually lit up the surrounding steep green hills.
On the way to the north side of Hook Island we stopped to look at whales again and were joined by a large ex-racing boat carrying lots of backpackers pumping out dance music.
Took a mooring at Pinnacle Bay, paddled to shore and Michelle and I went snorkelling (saw a turtle) while Naomi stayed warm with Alex on the beach made of dead twigs of coral. Headed over to Butterfly Bay and as there were no moorings left we had to use all the chain for the first time in 15m of water.
Next day we chanced apon the last available mooring at Blue Pearl Bay, east Hayman Island. Michelle and I snorkelled again around the south end, the visability wasn't great but plenty of fish, including a group of squid, and big bommies. Naomi picked us up
in the dinghy and we dropped in on the spot where she once dived years earlier near the resort access for the beach. Here there were even more fish and so tame, as I swam into the schools they were so slow to move I thought they were going to hit my mask! Also saw a few impressively big wrasse.
We slightly overstayed our 2 hour limit on the mooring and headed down to Nara Inlet. On the way saw some whales broaching and veered off to get a closer look. Got up nice and close -the girls were worried we were inside the 100m limit but I was able to use the radar when it splashed to see we were 107 m away from them. The cub was doing most of the jumping and twisting into the air while the adult did a lot of splashing with its fins and tail, but when the adult did broach the sense of power was scary. In fact it got a little nerve wracking as we drifted and the whales turned our way bringing them only 50 m away just when the adult did a prolonged session of tail whacking. Awesome
to be so close to these magnificent creatures! We had the mainsail up and jybed around until they stopped playing and then for a while followed them at a distance as we were all heading south, and a second adult appeared.
I later read the guide book myself and found that all boats in a certain Whitsunday Whale protection zone which we were inside are not allowed within 300m.... oopsie~!
The next morning we paddled over to the Ngoro Cave paintings and I took the same photo I have taken from the walkway that I have taken with two other boats I have brought here. After a messy muddy incident with bringing up the anchor we motored south to drop off Michelle at Hamilton Island. The chain had jammed on the winch and rather than get my hands dirty to release it as it was thick with mud I released the gypsy wheel a little - this backfired as it was not little enough, the chain spun off the wheel and flew back into the water, spraying mud all over me and bow.
We were planning to moor nearby and bring her in by dinghy
Our dinghy (draining) and Luna Ray behind - photographic deja vu
but had the clever idea of coming in to get a little fuel and she was able to get off at the fuel dock. The other boat there was also helping himself to the fire hose to spray his boat down, so we did the same to refill our tanks and wash the mud off around the anchor well.
So a little deflated with one less crew, Naomi feeling like our holiday was over (holiday from what?!) we headed north and around to Cid Harbour and anchored off Sawmill Bay.
I climbed Whitsunday Peak on my own the next morning as it was a little too much like hard work for Naomi, and would have been a struggle with Alex. Took the handheld VHF in my bumbag so I could let Naomi know when I needed to be picked up from the beach at the end. It was a steep walk but well made with lots of stone steps.
Just before the top there were beautiful clear views down to Cid harbour and I was able to call Naomi to give her an update. Then at the very top the stunning views were to the
south to Hamilton Island, including looking down on the planes landing there, and the various islands we had visited behind it in the distance, also over to the mainland and back across to the east and a glimpse of Whitehaven beach.
The following day was our long awaited return to Airlie Beach. From here is new sailing territory for us both. We have decided we will skip Indonesia until next year but are now wondering if we can join the Louisiades rally leaving Cairns mid - September.
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