DAY 5 – FRI 22 SEP
Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island
Got up early and prepared to sail across to Hamilton Island. When attempting to tilt the outboard engine up on the tender just prior to departure, I discovered that the tilt mechanism was broken. Rang HI to see if they had a recommended Yamaha repairer – they said yes – in Airlie Beach!
So remained in Airlie, taxied out to Whitsunday’s Yamaha who, while busy, offered to conduct repairs between services. They had the motor back to me to within 3 hours. I left Abell Point Marina at 1300 for my first decent solo sail across to Hamilton Island to meet the Admiral and Cabin Boy who were flying in.
Wind was 10 knots from the N – NE which was perfect. Headed through Unsafe Passage which was a lot less daunting then it sounded although there was a ripping tide running it through it!
Raymarine Tiller Pilot was excellent! (Still trying to work out a name for it – Barry, Ray, Otto or do we name it after single handed Australian female sailors – Kay, Jessica, or Lisa?).
I was very amused when the family Matriarch (thanks Mum) – SMS’d me to make sure that I had eaten lunch, just as I was trying to work out how, and what I was doing! So SMS’d her back!
Wind died out after a few hours so started motor sailing. Arrived at Hamilton Island Marina at 1740 hrs to find Admiral and Cabin Boy waiting to take the lines. It had been a long day for them as well – their flight departed CBR at 0720 hrs.
I really enjoyed the sail across – yes its only 18 NM however got a real sense of achievement out of it! Matriarch requested proof of life on arrival (thanks Mum again – I am almost 49!).
In case I had been delayed, either on the road or due to weather, we had prebooked a room at the Reef View Hotel – so we all got to take advantage of it on the Friday night. We had a great evening meal at Co Co Choo Restaurant.
DAY 6 – SAT 23 SEP
Hamilton Island to Nara Inlet, Hook Island
Big breakfast at the Reef View Hotel. The Admiral and Cabin Boy went for a morning swim and last burn around in the Buggy getting ice and breadrolls. There is a new IGA on the Island which is excellent. There was some discussions about were we should go with a weeks worth of northerly winds – do we go to the deep south and explore the southern island group, or head north to Hook and Whitsunday Island? We consulted the local pilotage and cruising guide – 100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands.
On a previous bareboat charter the Admiral and I had a great time on Langford Island and wanted to take Cabin Boy there. So we decided that the first night would be spent at Nara Inlet, on the southern edge of Hook Island.
An easy departure, we commenced sailing into N – NE 10 knot winds towards Nara. We had a great sail and only dropped the main when were at the entrance to Nara. We motored up the inlet and dropped anchor in the small bay at the head of the inlet on the eastern side, which 100 Magic Miles states is sandy bottom and clear of coral – not so! After anchoring we got in the dinghy and motored around the boat as the water colour was different in some patches. We threw Cabin Boy overboard who reported that there were reefs either side of the boat.
Up anchor and moved back out into the main inlet. Had a very quiet night, cooked a chicken rogan josh and before retiring Cabin Boy, who had been reading 100 Magic Miles, pointed out that Nara and Macona Inlet are reputed to be spawning grounds for Hammer Head Sharks. Nara Inlet probably isn’t the best place for swimming.
DAY 7 – SUN 24 SEP
Nara Inlet, Hook Island to Langford Island and return
Up early with the sun, had our breakfast on board and then packed up and started motoring for Langford Island, off Hayman Island. As we passed up the western side of Hook Island, just off False Nara Bay, the Admiral spotted something about 300 metres away – between us and the island. Thar she blows! There was a pod of whales which decided at that moment to put on an acrobatic show – we saw mother and calves tail slapping, jumping, breaching and frolicking for the best part of half an hour. It was an amazing display – Cabin Boy calls it a life experience and we clapped and cheered. We were so excited watching it that none of us thought to run below and get a camera.
We then continued on with a great sail towards Langford Island and arrived early enough (1030 hrs) to pickup one of the four public moorings. The first mooring pickup of the trip – we need a bigger boat hook (Admiral says we need a bigger boat)! The pennant on the mooring was as thick as Cabin Boys leg! We were greeted by a turtle who swam over to visit us, and a number of large coral fish!
We motored across to the island (Langford and One Foot) and spent the next two hours swimming, wading, and exploring. It was great watching the Island disappear with the rising tide. Cabin Boy and the Admiral walked along the island and discovered huge mounds of coral (metres high) washed up from the recent cyclone. We now have a new coral collection to bring home!
We had lunch on board before departing to the south with a brisk N-NE wind 10-15 knots and had a cracking downwind sail back to Nara.
We got back in late in the afternoon and followed three other trailer sailers into the inlet. Another Noelex 25 from Sydney, and two Careels – one from the Blue Mountains. We anchored in Refuge Bay (which Cabin Boy informed us that 100 Magic Miles says used to be called Shark Bay). He declined the offer of another swim.
We motored over to the other NX25 to say hello. The skipper is a friend of Matt O’s and was on the look out for us. Peter C (Razzamattaz) and I have corresponded previously and it was great to put a face to a name. They had two adults and three children on board and were up for the school holidays. We sat in the tender tied up to them for great chat and then headed back to Quo Vadis. The Admiral whipped up butter chicken and roti and then off to bed.
About 0200 I was woken up by the boat rocking and very heavy breathing. Checked on the Admiral and noted that she was looking at me in some alarm. We went outside to see a large phosperent circle of 50 metres radius with Quo Vadis at its centre. We have a very bright mast head light and believe that its reflection on the water was attracting smaller fish, then bigger ones! A pod of dolphins was circling the boat and raising a cloud of sediment. Taking turns, one at a time, a dolphin would dart into the centre of the circle (us) and eat the fish that were confused and trapped within it. The boat was rocking as dolphins darted under it, leaving torpedo like wakes. One dolphin hit the floating rope securing the dinghy to the boat with his dorsal fin as he darted between them.
It really was the most amazing thing that we have seen. We tried twice to wake Cabin Boy but he was too heavily asleep. The burst speed of the dolphins was amazing, as was their coordination with each other. I had never really considered them an apex predator – but do now! The Admiral and I sat in the cockpit for an hour watching them until they had eaten their fill and moved off. Back in bed at about 0300 too excited to get a good sleep!
DAY 8 – MON 25 SEP
Nara Inlet, Hook Is to Hill Inlet/Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Is
Cabin Boy woke up early and couldn’t understand why his parents were less than responsive to him. . . .
We had a quick breakfast then set off for Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. We went through Hook Passage – the narrow channel between Whitsunday and Hook Islands, under motor and once through raised sail for the trip south along the eastern side of Whitsunday Island towards Hill Inlet. Cabin Boy was very excited that he was in the Coral Sea and the next stop on the north east horizon was Vanuatu!
Winds were light – about 5 knots so we motor sailed the whole way. We anchored off Hill Inlet and dinghyed into shore to check out the channel into it. Hill Inlet is a large estuary with shifting sands and mangroves.
It is not accessible to keel boats and has to be navigated in and out of at high tide. There was a tour operator there that runs high speed Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats out of Airlie Beach for day trips to Whitehaven. Cabin Boy and I walked across for a chat. They offered great advice about entering, which of the two channels to take, and where you could cross from one to the other. We were advised to go in the last full hour before high tide, so we had a chance to float off if stuck, and to anchor in not less than 1 metre if we did not want to stay for a very a prolonged period.
Admiral took the helm while I spotted, and Cabin Boy relayed instructions. All went well, including when Cabin Boy decided to relay his own advice to his mother about where she should steer and how fast she should go. We anchored in 2 m close to the back of Whitehaven Beach, and then swam ashore.
The water and sand are as advertised – pristine and clear. We watched throughout the day as the hoards of people left by tourist boat, float plane and helicopter – leaving the beach completely deserted but for us. The N and NE winds had meant that most boats were not anchoring off the beach, instead taking anchorage on the south side of Whitsunday Island. As the tide receded I tried to scrub the bottom of the boat to prevent marine growth – unfortunately the tidal flow was too strong, so I left this job for the following day.
We had heard horror stories about sand flies, midges and mossies. We put up mossie nets, sealed the boat up, and lit a bug candle. We didn’t really experience a problem – whether this was the wind throughout the night, our distance from the shore, or our preparations I’m not sure.
DAY 9 – TUE 26 SEP
Hill Inlet to Turtle Bay, Whitsunday Island
We woke early and we quickly jumped into the dinghy and headed across to the northern end of Hill Inlet/Whitehaven Beach where we climbed the National Parks track to the look out on Tongue Point. We were the first of the day to go to the lookout and got to experience more wildlife – rock wallaby and a brown snake! The Admiral was very calm in pointing out to Cabin Boy that it was 30 cm from him and not to step on it!
Great views from the lookout and then we headed back down to the dinghy and motored back Quo Vadis for a late breakfast. Cabin Boy and the Admiral went for a swim, while I scrubbed the bottom of the boat as best I could in the tide, that was now going in the opposite direction! After a communication error I walked the 5 km down to the southern end of Whitehaven Beach, and then back, looking for the crew, while they stood by the dinghy for 60 minutes looking for my tide swept corpse!
We had lunch, played some cards and waited for the best tidal window. At 1430 hrs (high tide 1502 hrs) we headed out into a 15-20 knot NE wind. We made the choice to move to the northern most channel as we felt it gave us more options in the stronger wind. It took a long time to get out, however we felt a real sense of achievement in doing it as a family.
Once out we raised sail and headed south for Solway Passage, followed by a 15 knot northerly. The tides flood south and ebb north, so we were a little concerned about getting to the passage at 1600, an hour after high tide, now with wind against tide conditions. 100 Magic Miles does not recommend the passage for small yachts and trailer sailers in adverse conditions due to up to 5 knot currents, overfalls, and whirlpools that spin a yacht around 90 degrees. We hit the Passage doing 6 knots, towing the dinghy. Our B&G instruments give an indication of both Speed over Ground (GPS) and Boat Speed through the water (Paddle Wheel). It also calculates tidal set, direction and speed. At one stage we were doing 7 knots boat speed but only 3 knots speed over ground. The northerly wind is funneled through the gap and quickly raised to 20 knots. We had the well plate off, and the engine up but ready to go, and ended up one of the last yachts through the passage, surfing as we went. Highest boat speed yet recorded!
The Admiral was anxious but not distressed and we had one of our best ever sails together. The Admiral has asked me to amend this and say that she was on “high alert” but not alarmed. . .
Once through we headed to the southern end of Whitsunday Island, and then west towards Turtle Bay. We arrived just on last light and picked our way through a very crowded anchorage to the head of the bay, where we anchored in shallow water and had a restful night.
DAY 10 – WED 27 SEP
Turtle Bay, Whitsunday Is to Hamilton Island Marina
It appears that I have wired up the solar charging circuit incorrectly – the fridge has shut itself off and the house battery is flat. So the decision was made that we would come back to Hamilton Island to restock on food, drink, ice and to recharge the battery. We left Turtle Bay and motored around to Hamilton Island to take a pre-booked berth in the marina. A nice motor along the northern shore of Hamilton Island, past Catseye Beach and the six star Quarlia Resort. From this aspect it was easy to see the cyclone damage and the amount of rebuilding that is taking place on the north and western side of the island.
Ariving at the Marina we called on the VHF and were given instructions on which side we were to prepare fenders and mooring lines, and that we were to wait for our concierge to come out to greet us, and that they would guide us to our berth! We explained that we were less than 8 metres overall length and were familiar with the marina. Apparently it doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80 metres! Bit of an overkill for a trailer sailer! A chap appeared in a RIB only a few feet shorter than Quo Vadis and we followed him into the Marina. He then parked and leapt out to catch our mooring lines as we pulled in. $80 a night gets filtered water, electricity, and the run of the Island including all pools, beach access, and water sports (paddle boards, catermarans, snorkeling etc).
On arrival we started recharging batteries – ours and the boats! After our first shower for five days it was off for lunch at the Tavern, then to the pools for swim with Cabin Boy. I had the most expensive haircut of my life ($39) which the crew says was worth it as it cut the grey out!
A buggy was also hired so we could do some more Island exploring. We’ve decided to spend an additional day in the Marina to catch up on washing, refuel and provision and to have a look at the solar charging circuit to see if it can be easily fixed.
All told we are having a great time – the boat really has exceeded our expectations in a wide range of conditions; the Admiral would like a larger one in the fullness of time; Cabin Boy is enjoying himself and the run of the boat forward of the mast. No fixed plans yet – we are considering crossing to Abell Point so that the Admiral can visit Airlie Beach for the first time, or heading south – we will see what the weather forcast looks like! We are looking at heading out again on late Thu 28th or Fri 29th and will need to be back in on Tue 3rd for the Admiral and Cabin Boy to fly back to CBR.
DAY 11 – THU 28 SEP
Hamilton Island Rest Day!
Had a great dinner last night at Manta Ray Restaurant. The Admiral did not enjoy the Pepperoni Pizza nearly as much as Cabin Boy and I. However the long G&T, and then a mojito put her in a much better mood! She says it was her her rocket, gorgonzola, walnut and pear salad? My two mojito’s didn’t hurt either!
There was live music on the waterfront that we listened to and really enjoyed, and then went back to the boat. We were still able to listen to the live music until midnight! I have been reading The Lord of the Rings to Cabin Boy each evening. The most amusing thing is it puts his mother to sleep who then wakes up 45 minutes later wondering what part she has missed!
We went for a walk this morning along the water front while Cabin Boy slept in (why he can’t do this when we are anchored I don’t know) and he then read a book in his man cave (V-Berth).
Most of the laundry has been done this morning. Shared breakfast this morning of coffee’s, hot chocolate, with fresh from the bakery – ham & cheese croissant, chocolate croissant, and fruit scroll.
Will remain here today, and head off on Friday morning, early. Will update and post Part 2 after Wed 4 Oct.
We have done a bit over 75 NM so far. Navigation has been dead easy and we really have enjoyed using the plotting board – it has a white board on the back which we can write our passage plan, tides, waypoints, weather forecast on it in permanent pen. There is a plastic cover over the chart which allows us to draw our planned and actual route. I do like my toys and had thought about a chart plotter – there is no need up here, and the wider perspective of the 1:75,000 chart is far easier than peering at a 7 inch screen. The B&G instruments with a GPS antenna/flux gate compass are brilliant.
Weather has been excellent – N to NE winds 10 – 15 knots, with the odd gusts to 20 knots, although this was only really through Solway Passage. Temperature has been around 27 degrees and the skies blue and clear.
I’ve consumed most of my bandwidth for this month – will post again in early Oct.