18 August, 2006

When we last checked in, we were in Mackay and about to head off around the Whitsundays.

First stop was Brampton and Carlisle Islands. The two islands are joined by a narrow sandy channel, which dries at low tide. Most yachties anchor off Brampton Island (where the resort is) but we chose to ‘drop the hook’ (I’m getting very nautical now aren’t I !) off Carlisle Island. There was only one other boat, and it was more sheltered there from the winds. We had two days at Carlisle, and I got to try out my new wetsuit, having a look around the coral. We had a giggle to ourselves as two guests from the resort got transported over for their ‘secluded beach picnic’ option – away from the resort – only to have we two intrepid yachties tromping past them and probably spoiling their little romantic getaway!

Next stop was Hamilton Island to pick up Cushla. As well as being really pleased to see her Dad (and me I hope!), she was also pleased to be in the warmth after her first week of holidays in chilly Melbourne. After spending the night at Hamilton Island, we then set off around the Whitsundays proper.

First stop was Cid Harbour. This is a popular anchorage for cruisers, in that it is totally sheltered from the prevailing southerly swell, and also the first stop on the way up to the best diving and snorkelling areas. We shared the anchorage with at least 40 other boats, so there was always something going on. Here’s a photo of Cush and Shane enjoying sundowners. (For the non-nautical readers, ‘sundowners’ is a well-established tradition called drinking and eating while ejoying watching sun go down. Not wanting to risk the wrath of King Neptune, we have decided it’s best to follow the tradition ….. )

For me boats are fascinating; much like at ‘home’ where you drive past and check out other peoples houses while out for that Sunday drive, I am now always checking out other people’s boats!

We spent the next night at Nara Inlet (at the bottom of Hook Island), and then the following morning it was off to Butterfly Bay. Our friend John had told us that the snorkelling here was great. We stopped on the way at Stonehaven Bay and had a fish. Cushla’s infamous fishing skills were still in evidence …… seven in total – all bream – so that was dinner taken care of!

Butterfly Bay was magnificent for snorkelling. Although Cushla was a recalcitrant snorkeller (still love that word Woody!!!!), she conquered her fears and braved the watery depths. She was rewarded with magnificent coral, metre wide clams, a turtle, along with many many beautiful brightly coloured fish. The snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and surrounds is absolutely amazing. Here’s a photo of the girls about to head off …..

The wind blowing a steady 20 knots from the south really determined our movements around the islands, but we still managed to get to Whitehaven Beach. It is famous worldwide for its magnificent fine white sand, for those technically minded, it is 98 percent silica, so they say. It’s the beach you see on any brochures advertising the Whitsundays. The water is a beautiful blue, and crystal clear where it meets the sand. We arrived there mid-morning – with only about three other boats and 15 or so people there – but within half an hour all the tourist day trippers descended. At the end of the day the beach was back to just a few boaties which was lovely.

We heard last night that next Thursday a HUGE beach party is on at Whitehaven. Six thousand plus people, beer tents, live music all day, guess where we are going!!!! Sounds like a good party ……

After a hurried farewell to Cush at Hamilton Island, we went back to Cid and Butterfly, then off to South Molle Island, which has a resort on it. As it was our fourth anniversary, we just had to take advantage of the facilities - massage/restaurant/bar/golf course. It was hell….. Another beautiful anchorage, this is the view looking down over the bay.

We are currently at Airlie Beach, on the mainland. It is a real fun town, full of Pommy backpackers, good bars, yachties (as it is race week) and the internet! We are one of hundreds of boats anchored out from the yacht club, and it’s only a short ride into town for a latte. We did say after all that our intentions were to cafĂ©-hop up the Queensland coast!

We soon discovered that swimming here is a little hazardous!!!!

Shane thought that the crocodile in the photo had a lovely smile, but then remembered the rhyme "never smile at a crocodile".

We are liking it here so much that we have decided to stay a week, to catch up with washing, provisioning, and many other things that need doing. Oh, and watching the rugby….

Heather and Shane

PS. Doug – just for you….. No, Heather doesn’t need a ‘chuck bucket’. She hasn’t fed the fishes yet and doesn’t intend to!!! Actually, she’s coping better than she thought, and only took seasick pills as a preventative measure for the first week or so. Are you still taking them on the Earnslaw!!!!!!! Lake Wakatipu can get so rough, can’t it!!!!!
With love,
Shane Posted by Picasa

01 August, 2006

In the Tropics

Just a short note to let you all know – it’s official – we are now in the Tropics.
Last Monday, 24 July, we sailed across the Tropic of Capricorn, marked by a dotted line in the ocean. Well, it was on the map anyway …..

It was at about this point that we discovered a stowaway on board by the name of Paddington, or some such other pseudonym.

When we found him, he certainly wasn’t shy, and demanded to have his photo taken going over the Tropic.

We spent our first night out from Gladstone at Great Keppel Island, along with about 30 other boats anchored in the bay there. We thought the island (and the resort) were highly over-rated, but the island did have lovely white sand.

We had lunch at the resort at Great Keppel, well, the seafood pizza that we managed to eat in between fighting off the lorrikeets. Beautiful birds, but quite agressive in their search for food.

We left Keppel at 3 o’clock in the morning, and had a mixed sail heading north, with a stop at the Cannibal Group of islands (I wonder why Cook named them the Cannibal Group???). Next was a stop at Curlew Island.

On our day north from there, we had a very quiet run in to MacKay, apart from passing another 20 or so freighters anchored in the bay waiting to load up with coal. A bonus that day was that we saw more dolphins, and also two whales – a Mum and her baby – and we hope to see a lot more as we hear they are pretty common around these waters at the moment.

The freighters might be a bit hard to see in this photo, but I think you'll get the idea of how they are all lined up on the horizon.

We are now safely ensconced at Mackay and have just finished provisioning for the Whitsundays as we hear it’s very expensive there. We are a bit concerned that we have spent more on liquid supplies than food! We hope the former lasts longer than the latter!!!!

Mackay is really taking off. It’s going the same way as SE Queensland; the population is increasing at quite a rate. The taxi driver today told us 1500 people a month are moving to the city. Shane even noticed the difference in the city from when he was here a year ago.

We pick up Cushla from Hamilton Island on Saturday and look forward to a week cruising with her around the Whitsundays. The weather continues to be lovely and warm (average 25 degrees during the day) and we managed to find a pub to watch the rugby – with sound – on Saturday. Yay – the AB’s. We watched the game with a couple from Bluff – Helen and Ian – who are making their way up the coast in their boat. We are following similar tracks so no doubt will bump into them again.

It’s all been a bit of a rush up to now – having to get to places to meet people by a certain date – so we are now looking forward to a very leisurely passage around the Whitsundays. Clear blue waters, white sand, sun, and leisurely days will be us for the next little while …..

By the way, this is what the boat looks like from 50 feet up, at the top of the mast. If you look real closely at the photo, you'll be able to see the pained look on Heather's face, having winched Shane to the top ...... Posted by Picasa