Southern Whitsundays

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August 6th 2013
Published: August 6th 2013
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The last three days here in the southern Whitsundays have been glorious. Clear sunny days and starlit nights, with light winds and calm clear water.

Saturday there was just a light southeast breeze blowing, so with the engine in idle as a backup, we sailed off the anchor and turned north away from Brampton Island. Under gib alone and with only about 5 knots of wind we coasted along quietly and the mere ten mile journey took 4 hours. But the water was flat, the bright sun keeping us warm, and with Alex sleeping we had lunch in the cockpit. Then out of the blue the tail of a humpback broke the water's surface a couple of hundred metres off the starboard side. A short while later we saw the two humpbacks arching their backs a few times as they headed south. This was the first time either of us had seen whales from our own boat. A priceless moment I have waited a long time to experience.

The wind did rise to 10 knots but this occurred as we came between Goldsmith and Linne Islands so it dropped off soon after. We were in some confused water from the currents between the islands and although we were still moving through the water we had come to an actual standstill over ground. So of course with the engine now on, a few minutes later we had wind again - the strongest all day! So we motor-sailed the last couple of miles around to the northern side of Goldsmith and dropped anchor with four catamarans in beautiful Roylen Bay well out from the fringing reef.

Being a long way from the beach we were spurned on to try the old heavy outboard we have, on the light dinghy. Its 2kgs heavier and twice as powerful as recommended for it but I figured if we only ran the engine a half rate we should be OK. Took a little effort to get her going but once she was, we ran well straight to the beach. Left the dinghy on the water's edge and I reassured Naomi we didn't need to pull it higher as we wouldn't be long. Strolled up the beach passed the camp site and had a look down the dried out creek bed. Came back to the beach and Naomi excitedly pointed out that the dinghy was floating away! I ran down the beach as fast as I could over the small stones and broken coral, stripped and rushed in after it, now about 10 metres out. So we nearly lost two dinghies in the space of a week!

Back on shore, after Naomi helped me carry it up the beach a little, I embarrassed her by playing football with Alex in only my underpants until I dried off (don't know why she was worried the other people were right down the other end of the beach). Returned to the boat and tied the dinghy with two ropes.

Sunday was another beautiful calm day and as I had breakfast in the cockpit, saw a whale passing east about 1/2 km away.

We have been needing the internet to look for items for sale, like a new dinghy, a watermaker and sorting out an agent to organise our cruising permit in Indonesia. We are now erring more in favour of following the archipelago again as although it may be lacking wind, its a more trodden route and therefore less remote if we run into problems, especially as its our first sail abroad.

However our internet signal was poor so I had the brainwave of sticking Naomi's iphone, which we use as a hotspot, in a small weighted backpack and hoisting it up the mast, and it worked really well.

With freedom of an engine on the dinghy we went for a bigger explore. Back to the beach where I planned to climb the hill overlooking the bay. With steep rocky terrain like Tynemouth Island that had destroyed my walking boots progress was slow. I was deterred by the fear of snakes in the long grass which had me looking down at my feet, and then almost falling prey to walking face first into some big spiders hanging in their webs between bushes. Added to this the occasional green ant climbing up my legs I stopped before I reached half way. Got some great shots and came back down to find Naomi reading and Alex 100m away playing by himself in the sand.

Motored around to the bay to the south which was even more pretty with 5 separate beaches. Came back for bangers on the BBQ for lunch. We a had a large school of fish loitering around the bow of the boat and Naomi caught a couple for bait. Took these in the dinghy back to the headland between the two bays but the current was now strong which made it difficult as we would quickly drift over our tackle. Back at Luna Ray, Naomi caught a few small fish while I did more research. As dusk drew in a little swell came into the bay, which swung our mast around and the rucksack & iPhone with it. As I tried to get it down it swung all the wrong directions and got tangled in the other ropes and wires. Now too dark to see the mess to untangle, we found the torch didn't help much as we discovered it needed charging. So we had a few hours without internet until the torch was charged enough - and then we were both frantically swinging ropes on the deck until we finally retrieved it.

Monday 5th August. Had a lazy morning and caught sight of another passing whale. Naomi made some delicious apple cinnamon muffins for morning tea and then we sailed off the anchor again - this time without the engine off.

The wind dropped off as we got away from the island but we were still making 2 knots with help of the current.

A very lazy cruise, Alex asleep and Naomi playing her PS Vita in the aft cabin. Eventually the wind dropped more and then the sails were lolling about so I put on the engine. Motored between Fairlight and Dead Dog Island and came around to the anchorage on the north side of Thomas Island. Another beautiful bay with 3 pretty beaches separated by piles of boulders & fringing reef, framed by steep hoop pine covered hills.

We went for our obligatory explore of the beach, threading our way through the coral and returned to the boat, briefly pausing to say hello to another couple on a boat from Brisbane "Celebration". Overnight the swell came into the bay giving us a moderately rolly night so didn't sleep well.

Tuesday morning, visited the beach nearer to us and I attempted to climb the hill as the dense bush had been thinned by fire. Only got about half way up as it wasn't as thinned as I hoped and I was getting charcoal marks all over me as I pushed through the dead wood. Came down and cooled off with a little swim with Alex who loved being swung through the water. Naomi stood at the sidelines, still finding the water too cold for her delicate disposition.

When back at the boat, got ourselves together and set off to our next nearby destination. This time the west side of Shaw Island at the southern end. Motorsailed most of the way, and when I turned the motor off the wind was about 5 knots, so again mostly with aid of current we drifted along at 2.5 knots. Saw another humpback heading south as we came around Platypus Rock (the southwest tip). I was keen to stay further north at Neck Bay but didn't think it would be good protection from the swell, and indeed where we dropped anchor has been very flat. Chilled in the cockpit the rest of the afternoon, with apple piklets for afternoon tea and later rum & coke for sundowner. Cruisey!

Additional photos below
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Naomi relaxing againNaomi relaxing again
Naomi relaxing again

resting her back from lifting dinghy!

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