Thursday, July 28, 2011

Whitsunday Islands - Part 2 (25th - 29th July)

After snorkeling at Blue Pearl on Monday we decided that Stonehaven Anchorage would be a good and comfy spot to spend the night.  Luckily we managed to score a mooring which is pretty much surrounded by the coral fringing reef which is always nice.

Just because we hadn't had quite enough snorkeling it was back to Blue Pearly Bay on Tuesday.  On this occassion we timed our arrival for a bit later in the morning and managed to get onto a suitable mooring pretty quickly.  Again the usual herd of fish came out to greet us for feeding - amazes me that they all seem to have endless appetites!.  Before long we are donned in our wet suits and snorkeling gear to delight in the coral and fish that inhabit this lovely bay.
Nara Inlet - Sally at Anchor
As we haven't been off the boat for almost a week we leave Blue Pearl Bay and wander our way down to Nara Inlet with the plan to stop over for the 2 nights remaining before we head back into Airlie Beach.  We find a nice little anchorage and as it is getting a bit late in the afternoon we opt to have a swim off the back of the boat before settling in for drinks at sundown.  Apparently the rumour is that Nara Inlet is the local breeding ground for Hammer Head sharks!.  Luckily enough we didn't get the opportunity to see one however, the time in the water seemed just a little shorter than usual.

Nara Inlet - Ngaro Rock Art

Wednesday and we decide to wait until lowish tide before we head to the beach at Nara which has a short walking track up to the site of the Aboriginal Rock Painting done by the local Ngaro People which is quite fascinating but as with all these things it is now all roped off etc to protect it from the humans that visit.

After our 10 or so days wandering around the Whitsunday Islands it is time to head back into the chaos that is Airlie Beach.  We have heard from Michael Arcaro who is up at Airlie this week doing some work on Verve so we catch up with him for a spot of dinner at the Whitsunday Yacht Club which has a view to die for.  It is always good to catch up with someone from home to hear how things are going down south. 

We will be staying at Airlie until Sunday when we will head over the Hamilton Island to pick up Rick  Potter who will be on-board for the next part of the adventure to Townsville.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Whitsunday Islands Part I (18th - 25th July)

Balancing Rock
South Molle Island
Monday morning and we leave the chaos of Airlie Beach and head to the quieter waters off South Molle Island.  We were hoping to drop into Day Dream Island for lunch on the way but as it is also awash with people and water craft we decide to go direct to Bauer Bay on South Molle.  As it is a lovely day we decide to tackle one of the walks at South Molle which covers the north east part of the island and takes us to Balancing Rock, Lamond Hill and back to Bauer Bay via Paddle Beach.  We have a quiet night in at South Molle and prepare ourselves to take on the summit of Spion Kop on Tuesday. 

Again the weather is sunny and warm so we head off on the walk to Spion Kop which is not all that long but does take us past some great look outs and the view from the top is excellent.  After a spot of morning tea at the Spion Kop look out we wander back to the boat only to find some very friendly bat fish on the way back to the boat.  Luckily we have packed some bread so couldn't help but to give them a few morsels.
Bat Fish Feeding
South Molle Island
View of Bauer Bay from Spion Kop

Wake Boarding at Whitehaven
As the forecast for the next few days is looking really good we decide to move to Whitehaven Beach on Wednesday.  The wind is back a bit today so we have a good sail around and as usual when we arrive the place is just going off with charter boats, ocean rafting craft, float planes and plenty of bare boaters to boot.  Luckily most of them leave in the afternoon and leave the rest of us in a bit of peace and quiet for the night, apart from some yachties that have taken up wake boarding at dusk!!
Whitehaven Beach - A Day in the Life!

We take the walk around the Solway Circuit and over to Chance Bay on Thursday morning before the chaos starts yet again!  Whitehaven is kind of one of those places where you can spend hours just kind of watching the coming's and going's and never get tired of it!

Friday morning and it is time to move on again (mind you the average sail these days is between 5-10NM so hardly taxing) with the plan to head to Tongue Bay which is at the north end of Whitsunday Island.  As we had been warned this seems to be the latest place for everyone to hang out and is looking really busy so we elect to move to Apostle Bay which is just next door and have the place to ourselves - apart from a couple of green turtles and also a couple of Dugong's which seem to call this place home.  We are pretty excited as it is really rare to see Dugong's.  Most of the afternoon is spent on the back of the boat looking out for more turtles and dugongs.

As we have down plenty of walks we figure it is now time to get in some hot snorkeling action so on Saturday morning we head off to the north end of Hook Island .  Our first stop is into Manta Bay (luckily we are the only ones here - yet!).  We pull up a mooring and before you know it we are feeding fish off the back of the boat.  This place is pretty awesome for snorkeling so we are both in the water pretty quickly to check out the coral and endless supply of fishies.   Just as we get out the water the charter boats start to arrive so we consider our timing to be "spot on".
In the afternoon we move down a couple of bays and pick up a mooring for the night and again go for another snorkel to check out the scenery in this bay. 

Sunday morning and we are hoping to get back into Manta Bay but unfortunately miss the chance as all the moorings are taken so we move along to the next bay which just happens to be empty and also has some lovely snorkeling so we can't complain!

Seems like we still cant get enough of this snorkeling stuff so we head over to Blue Pearl Bay which is on the western side of Haymen Island.  Luckily there is a mooring left and we quickly grab it as they are very sought after in this part of the world.  With a name like Blue Pearl you can only imagine how pretty this place is and again how good the snorkeling is.  Wish we had an underwater camera but we don't so you will just have to imagine how good it is.

At this stage we are planning to head back into Airlie on Thursday so will hopefully get to write another update then on the rest of our time in the Whitsunday Islands.

BTW I had a triple thriller weekend regarding sporting activities.
Carlton quite easily accounted for Essendon (and Eddie got 8 goals - *YAY*)
Stoner won the Moto GP at Laguna Seca
Cadel Evans - the first Aussie to win the Tour de France


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brampton Island to Airlie (via Hammo and other islands) - 9th to 15th July

After a few lovely days at Brampton Island we started to make our way north towards Hamilton Island (more affectionately known as "Fat Island")  The first trip we did on Saturday was a 10NM hop to Goldsmith Island  We had a lovely sail with gentle winds and arrived at Goldsmith at around 11.30am.

Sunday we had a similar jaunt but this time around 10NM to Thomas Island sailing via Coppersmith and Silversmith Islands.  The winds were a bit more lively and we made good time into Thomas Island.  As there are plenty of fringing reefs in the anchorage at Thomas it was an excellent spot to go for a bit of a snorkel and check out the local coral in the arvo.  To our surprise we happen to come across 3 turtles during the swim which was pretty awesome. Not sure who was more surprised - the turtles or us!!

We know we must be getting close to the madness of the Whitsunday's as we spotted our first bare boat today!  Monday and we have another short hop to Shaw Island which is part of the Lindeman Group.   Today we did a PB and managed to get our anchor down well in time for morning tea at 10.00am.

Tuesday morning and we are off to Fat Island.  We took the scenic route to Hammo via Pentecost Island as they wont allow arrival's before 11.00am.  The marina crew at Hammo are fantastic and not only lead you to your berth but also help out with lines, setting fenders and anything else that might be required at the time.  Hamilton Island, as is expected, is a hive of activity and there are plenty of holiday makers which is great to see as many of the other resorts are looking a little down in the mouth or shut.

Cocktails at the Bommie Bar - HIYC
We went up to the new yacht club for a couple of pre-dinner drinks and watched the sunset which was pretty nice before heading over to Romano's for a swish dinner!  The next day at Hammo we decided to take the bus ride around the island and went over to the main resorts to check out life on the other side!

As the winds are forecast to blow again on the weekend accompanied by some rain we decide that it would be prudent to head over to Airlie for the weekend - via Long Island.  This will also enable me to go and watch the big game of Carlton V Collingwood (not sure if that is a good or a bad thing yet!)

Thursday and we leave the madness of Hammo and on the way to Long Island we spot our first Maxi - Ragamuffin - heading over to Whitehaven Beach.  We pull up a mooring in Happy Bay which is just off the Club Crocodile resort and make our way to the beach.    The resort hasn't changed very much since we were up here in 2003 but seems to be doing quite well and we find out that there are some nice walks on the island so figure the walk over to Palm Bay would be a nice way to spend the afternoon.  Along the way we spot a wildlife in the form of a scrub turkey.  There seem to be plenty of these on the island along with the usual Curlews that hang out in the resort and also the Lorikeets which flock around the resort at dusk for the daily feeding.  After having a couple of sun-downers at the beach bar whilst we wait for the tide to come back in we then went back to the boat for a quiet evening on board.

Long Island - Scrub Turkey
Curlews @ Club Crocodile

Friday and the forecast is pretty much holding up so we are going to head into Airlie Beach for a few days to do the usual marina stuff before heading out for a couple of weeks exploring the Whitsunday's
Bird Feeding @ Club Crocodile

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mackay to Brampton Island (3rd to 8th July)

After a few good days in Mackay, while the wind continued to blow, we finally made our escape on Sunday (3rd July) and the forecast is looking good for the next week at least.

Scawfell Island Camping Area
Our first destination is Scawfell Island which is about 20nm North East of Mackay.  We had a great (and quick) sail with a lively 15-20knot beam reach!  We decided that a leisurely afternoon was in store so retired to the aft deck for some reading and as always the obligatory swim. 

Scawfell Island Beach
On Monday morning we were both keen to go and have an explore so the dinghy was quickly inflated and we were off to the beach.  Scawfell Island is pretty much untouched so it is virtually impossible to do too much walking apart from the beaches but they are pretty nice so we didn't mind.  It also gave our dinghy a nice chance to catch a few rays whilst waiting for us on the white sandy beach.  We have heard on the grapevine that there is some pretty good snorkelling at Scawfell so we make plans to check out a few of the bommies in the afternoon.  As with all these places tides seem to make a big difference to everything you do.  Unfortunately for us it just happened to be high tide on the afternoon of the 3rd so although the coral and the fishies looked great they were all about 12 feet below us.

Bearing this in mind we decided to change to order of proceedings for Tuesday and snorkeling was on the list for morning activities.  This time we decided to go a bit further afield so the dinghy came with us and after finding a suitable rock to tie it to we were both in the water having an excellent time exploring all things underwater.  The coral was amazing and in really good condition with little sign of damage from weather etc.  

Blue Tiger Butterfly
Brampton Island
Wednesday morning and we decided that it was time to move on again so we are off to Brampton Island which is around 20nm North West of Scawfell.  We arrive and there are plenty of other boats in the anchorage and it seems like this is a popular place for boats of all types to visit especially as it is renown for having some excellent walking tracks.  We have also been told that the resort has recently shut down which is again a bit sad but there are also rumours that it may be redeveloped - I guess time will tell. 

After our first shore party on Tuesday afternoon we have re-named Brampton Island as Butterfly Island as it is literally swarming in butterflies which is just beautiful.  Wednesday and we are off to do the Island Circuit Walk which takes you on an 8km jaunt around the island.  There are some amazing sights with one of the most special views being that of Oyster and Dinghy Bays.  We stopped for a bite of lunch at Turtle Beach (they do have excellent names for their beaches up here) before finishing off the walk followed by a refreshing dip off the back of the boat.

Oyster & Dinghy Bay's

Turtle Beach

Carlisle Island
The one walk everyone must do at Brampton is the Brampton Peak walk so we are up early to hopefully get the best of the wildlife on this walk.  It is not all that challenging but it is a couple of km's uphill so you certainly know you have been on a walk when you get to the top.  The have put up a couple of excellent lookouts so again you get some great views of Carlisle Island next door and islands further afield.

Tomorrow the plan will be to head up to Goldsmith Island and then keep moving north as we close in on the Whitsunday islands proper