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Cruise Whitsundays

  • Posted by Patrick Bollen
  • October 30, 2011 3:19 PM AEDT
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Arriving at Hamilton Island last week we were greeted by strong winds under a dreary grey sky accompanied by dismal, soaking, driving rain. 

Not the best conditions  for what I hoped would be a liesurely cruise of the glorious Whitsunday Islands. 

I was assured the weather would improve by those who live on the island - the weather forecast pointed to an otherwise forecast. 

We were greeted at the airport by the charming and smiling face of Sunsail’s  Guest Relations Manager Nuria who escorted Chris, Peter and I to the Sunsail Marina in Hamilton Harbour where we were introduced to Kate, who in turn showed us aboard our 384 catamaran where we stowed our gear before a thorough briefing. 

We three have a collective 100 years sailing experience between us as crew, skippers and owners of boats big and small but as a matter of course we were nevertheless required to go through the briefing exercise. 

After an evening on the island we shoved off the following morning for Airlie Beach, 20 nm away on the mainland where we provisioned the boat. 

The wind was blowing to 25 knots and the rain continued to fall from the ugly dark clouds. 

We set sail and made good speed covering the course to Airlie in just over 2 hours. Our best speed was 9.5 knots reaching from Pioneer Rock  west to the Abel Point Marina. 

The boat provisioned and the beers and wine carefully stowed we headed north to Grimston Point 5nm’s north of Airlie at the head of Woodwark Bay, a stunning deep bay with clear, pale green waters and some beautiful beaches. 

We motored to an anchorage in the south east corner putting the pick down in 4 meters just off the edge of a protective reef  about a hundred metres off the sandy fringe. 

Woodwark Bay is one of my favorite anchorages in the Whitsunday group.

 After a wonderful nights sleep we headed across the passge to Hayman Island, 18 nm to the east. 

The wind was still blowing and with the sky making a desperate attempt to clear we again set full sail and crossed the choppy sea reaching speeds to 11 knots. This catamaran was performing superbly. Better than we all expected. 

The 384 is an intriguing boat. First impressions find you trying to equate her lines to anything beautiful under sail but after time aboard and under sail the boat and her style, shape and sheer grow on you. She is a pretty boat, perhaps even an ugly duckling but what a remarkabe little vessel.

 She is comfortable, safe, spacious, airy, easy to handle, responsive and a dream to sail and manouevre. 

Compared with some catamarans I have sailed, the 384 is like a spritely sports boat. A great little entertainer. 

Sailing south of Hayman Island we headed to Butterfly Bay in the north west corner of Hook Island. 

This bay is a moorings only bay. Anchoring is not permitted largely because of the exquisite coral reefs surronding the fringe of this deep torquise inlet lying in the shadow of a towering mountain and huge rocky outcrops. 

Snokeling here is a must. With such expansive reef and many bommies a diver can experience some of the best coral reef anywhere in the world. 

My best experience was the the giant purple lip clam on the western fringe about six feet down. This bloke was about 4 feet across. He was at least 40 years old. Okay, he might’ve been a she but I was not about to ask or for that matter take a look/see. 

The next day we sailed south to Cid Harbour through the passage between Stonehaven on the west coast of Hook Island and the vast coral islet of Bali Hai [ Black Rock ]. 

I winter this is where the whales love to play. 

Cid harbour is about 9 nm north of Hamilton Island. Probably the best night anchorage in the island group due to its easy access. 

Cid Harbour is a deep sheltered bay with several beaches, mangroves, fringing coral reef and spectacular beauty. Ashore there is a trail which will take visitors to the peak that affords mind blowing views of the entire north end of the Whitsunday Passage. 

And the sunsets in Cid harbour will take your breath away. 

The walk is a two hour trek each way so remember to take water, a hat and insect repellant. 

After another blissful sleep swinging gently on the the anchor we headed back to Hamilton Island for an evening of further relaxation on the island regarded as Australia’s best island holiday destination. 

The next morning we would take delivery of Sunsail’s newest acquisition, a Jeanneau 41 recently awarded, European Boat of the Year. 

More to come.

 

Patrick‘Tenpin’ Bollen

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