Sailing Away around the Whitsundays
5 Feb 2007
|Friday 2nd February was a lot better weatherwise, I actually managed to walk down the main street of Airlie Beach without an umbrella! At 2pm I walked to Abel Point Marina with my bags of essential items for the trip, having left my main rucksack in storage at the OzSail offices. I saw a group of (obvious) backpackers and, making sure they were going on the same boat as me waited for a member of our crew to tell us what to do. We rented our stinger suits, as it is jellyfish season and part of the trip included free snorkelling as well as a free dive at the Great Barrier Reef. We then walked to our boat, which was to be our home for the next 3 days and 3 nights.
Unfortunately, shortly after setting sail the rain started. Also, for one Canadian guy this meant the loss of his hat and a Vegemite fine as we had just been told we weren't to throw anything overboard!
We moored for the night at Nara Inlet at Hook Island, and Justin (the Canadian guy) had to eat a teaspoon of vegemite, which he didn't like very much. It caused many of the British travellers to start a debate on how Marmite is far superior. I was on the few who said both were disgusting!
Anyway, back to the sailing aspect of the weekend. Saturday dawned, rainy and the rain was pretty much consistent for the entire day, which basically meant everyone was cold and wet. 4 of the guys were seasick (none of the girls though!). We left Nara Inlet and sailed to Tongue Bay, where we got taken to the shore of an island where there was a lookout (due to the weather you couldn't see very far though) and after about a 10 minute walk through the forest and mangroves you get to Whitehaven beach. The following link should take you to pictures of what it's supposed to look like when it isn't rainy season! The sand was extremely soft and still looked (kind of) white.
We didn't stay very long at the beach as there wasn't anything to do apart from walk along and try and imagine it in the sun. Shortly after this experience, 3 people left the trip in the afternoon and got on another boat back to the mainland. The rest of us braved the weather to moor at Blue Pearl Bay for our free scuba diving session and snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef. It was good, but slightly disappointing as visibility under the water was very poor, at about 1-2 metres. Still, we saw lots of fish, but sadly no Nemo's.
Waking up on Sunday, you could immediately tell that the rain had stopped, and when you went up on deck, you could actually see the horizon, and the islands that were around. The sea was calm, and there were batfish swimming around the boat.
Murry, our Skipper, upon hearing me saying that I wanted to see a Sea Eagle, actually called what I assumed was the bird call for them, and amazingly, one flew up from the trees of the island and started to fly around, even catching a fish from the water! After this there were many more that day, so I was very happy, especially as it was another animal ticked off my list of 'Australian Wildlife I want to see before I leave'. We sailed to Mantaray Bay where several of us requested to do another dive, as it only cost $50. Before our dive we went snorkelling, and saw hundreds of fish, it's so amazing to be surrounded by them in the water. There was even a huge Hump headed Maori Bass (if I remembered the name correctly anyway).
Then came the dive, and just before I was about to go in we were informed that the group before us had seen a shark... I still did the dive anyway, I mean, I can swim fast, it could eat someone else first ;-) AND I've had practice at punching underwater, so I'd hopefully get it's nose if it came for me, hehe. Not that they are human-eating sharks there anyway. Before I could worry about seeing a shark though, Casey managed to kick my regulator out of my mouth, but I got it back in ok, without anyone knowing. Then Tom (our dive instructor) indicated a shark - but I didn't see it as visibility was still poor. The coral was beautiful, and there were more species of fish at this site. The second shark Tom pointed out, I saw, but it was swimming away, so I was happy about that, although, I must admit, it was pretty awesome to see a shark! Tom pointed out 4 more sharks, but by the time we got up to him, they had gone. However, the rest of the dive was not without incident, as Neil kicked my mask off, causing me to panic slightly as the last thing I saw was Tom swimming into the haze, and I couldn't get his attention. Thankfully, Casey saw me indicating that I needed help, once I'd managed to get some of the water out of the mask and had it back on my face. Tom found me and took me back up to the surface, where I could tell him what had happened and we went back down to finish the dive. (The spot on the map is where we actually dived, just off of Hook Island).
So, after a very eventful dive, we went back to the boat, where we discovered that although the sun hadn't come up, several people had managed to get burnt.
We sailed to Black Island, Murry's favourite out of the 74 that make up the Whitsundays. Unfortunately it started to rain, but not too badly and it stopped after a while so we all headed to the island to stretch our legs. Tom had a kite and we took a couple of footballs with us. Several of us went for a walk and found a quiet rock pool, there was a Sea Eagle sitting on a branch of a tree, not caring that we were just below. There was also a pretty big spider who had made his web between two rocks.
Then we headed back to the boat for our last dinner and evening aboard our yacht. The food they cooked us was really nice, and despite the rain I had a good time. It would have been nice to see the Whitsundays in the sun. On the way back to Airlie on Monday the sun actually appeared, which caused everyone to smother suncream on themselves and sit on the side of the yacht.
On Monday evening a table was reserved for us in Beaches bar, which was really good. The Canadians were supposed to have got a night bus to Cairns but as it happens, the road north was still blocked, but if you wanted to go south you could. So I decided to miss out Cairns, due to the fact that hanging around in Airlie Beach wasn't appealing as it consists of one road, I didn't fancy being at Cape Tribulation in Thunderstorms and the cyclone was supposedly heading for Airlie Beach. Therefore I cancelled my Cape Tribulation tour and booked a bus back to Brisbane for Wednesday night. Woohoo, 19 hours on a coach!