The Whitsunday Islands were named by Captain Cook who thought he passed them on Whitsunday 1770 , although it was in fact the day after but nevertheless the name has stuck . They lie off the Queensland Coast and are the partially drowned Cumberland Mountain range but provide a spectacular cruising ground with an enormous choice of beautiful anchorages, beaches, reefs and hikes …a real cruising mecca.
Jane Houng joined us for our initial exploration but her arrival was greeted by a blocked forward heads which proved annoying but manageable and we did not want to delay our cruise to fix it as Jane had only a short holiday with us.
So on Friday 1st June we sailed over to our first anchorage in Nara Inlet on the south of Hook Island which is one of two deep fiords on that coast and very beautiful .The water was flat and the fiord sheltered so we got the dinghy in the water and had a look at the coral .For the next three days we moved to new anchorages around the coasts of Hook Island and Whitsunday Island ; Butterfly Bay, Stonehaven, and Sawmill bay. The wind was in the prevailing direction from the south east so it was impossible to go to the eastern side of the islands. We did try one morning leaving Butterfly Bay but once out of the lee of the land both the wind and the waves picked up seriously so heading into both became too uncomfortable. We retreated quickly back to the sheltered side and headed for Stonehaven which was well sheltered. Every anchorage was lovely with beaches and walks and sometimes clear water although the coral was a little disappointing.
The next day we moved to Sawmill bay where we attempted the hike to the Whitsunday peak but were beaten by the falling light, it gets dark at 17.30 in Queensland so as late starters the light often runs out.
Sadly Jane had to return to Hong Kong on 7th June so we sailed back to Airlie Beach on Tuesday 5th June a lovely sail across in a good wind and flat sea. Jane left by train from Proserpine the next day but it had been a very enjoyable few days.
Now it was back to work for us and the first problem was unblocking the heads! Not surprisingly it proved rather difficult to find help as it is not a job anyone is rushing to do. A very kind boat neighbour had tried before we left but without success. After a few fruitless phone calls John tried the personal approach and prevailed upon a very kind man from the workshop in Abell Point Marina to come and help us. John gave him the story of our voyage so far and as he also dreamt of a circumnavigation himself he took pity on us and with the help of a high pressure hose and a blocking device the pipe unblocked much to our delight. We were expecting Malcolm and Glynis Gibson,our partners for the Pacific crossing ,to join us and so we really needed two functioning heads for their visit . We sent an immediate message to them with the good news and they booked their flights to come and join us. Boat problems never come singly so the next problem was one of the fridges was not working to full capacity and knowing that cold beer and gin and tonic with ice would be a high priority on the next Whitsunday Cruise repairing that had to be dealt with. Luckily the fridge just needed a top up of gas which is what we had suspected and that was easily done .After provisioning to fill the newly cold fridge we left for Hamilton Island to meet our next visitors on Sunday 10th June .
Tides are a significant feature of Whitsunday cruising so moving about needs planning to use them to their best advantage . We stayed one night en route to Hamilton to get this advantage and we anchored off Long Island in Happy Bay but sadly it had seen happier days as there was a deserted resort on the island which did not look very happy now . We went ashore the next day while waiting for the tide which favourably coincided with the arrival of Malcolm and Glynis’s flight and met the caretaker there who told us we could not go into the empty resort, but we had a walk and a swim . We then motored the few miles to Hamilton Island and docked in the marina there in perfect time to meet the flight .We were then quickly away to a nearby anchorage but not before Malcolm had bought a large box of beer obviously worried we might not have enough! This brought back memories of the large number of cartons of chateau Clos he bought for the pacific crossing which we kept finding hidden in the boat for a long time afterwards! We had a beautiful calm evening so plenty of time to catch up on our latest stories. Luckily for the next few days the wind was from the north west so we could explore anchorages that had been impossible the previous week with Jane so the next day we moved to Chance Bay on Whitsunday island from where we could walk to Whitehaven Bay, a magnificent beach with the finest sand I have ever run through my fingers .It stretched for miles and once the tourist boat had collected most of the people on the beach it was quite deserted. We wandered in admiration along the shoreline stunned by the enormous expanse of sand which seemed to reach infinity, we had a quick swim before walking back .
The next day’s excursion was to Tongue Bay as we were still able to stay on the eastern side of Whitsunday Island and there was another walk where we could view the magnificent sand of Whitehaven from a height which gave us a different perspective of the geography. Our evening entertainment on both cruises was Bananagram a fast version of scrabble which proved very popular and enjoyable with all our visitors .
We continued to Border Island a little further north and this time sheltered from the south east as the weather looked as if it was going to change but it was another lovely anchorage with a walk to the top of the hill which was a little rougher than the ones on Whitsunday island but the views made it all worthwhile.
Time was drawing to a close and we had to return to Hamilton Island so we had our last night in Macona Inlet the other fiord on the south of Hook Island and the next morning our plans for a final swim were jettisoned as the sky was cloudy and the cool south east wind was back . We had quite a rough trip back to Hamilton Island with the wind and the tides upsetting the millpond seas we had grown accustomed to over the last few days.
It was farewell time again as Malcolm and Glynis left for the airport but we felt we had done justice to the Whitsunday Islands with our two cruises and there had certainly been no disappointments. The wind continued to pick up during the afternoon and our dislike of manoeuvring in small spaces in strong cross winds made a longer stay in the marina seem a good option.