Monday, May 8, 2017

Enjoying the Whitsundays

Our time in the Whitsundays was limited to about a week due to a number of factors: 1) our continuing quest to head north to reach Thursday Island in the Torres Strait before our visa expires on the 23rd of May; 2) the cloudy weather and very strong south easterly winds that were blowing day and night, making a comfortable anchorage hard to find; and 3) the unfortunate/costly and unexpected need to replace the bearings & oil seals in both our sail drives that run on the shaft that joins the engine and saildrive together, resulting in more time in the Abell Point Marina, and less time in the islands than we had expected or hoped for. We also did not get the opportunity to get to the reef proper, with the winds being so strong, and the reef being too far for us to do a day trip, we would have had to stay out there overnight, which was not really an option. We also heard that many of the pontoons and moorings that are laid out at the reefs had been destroyed by cyclone Debbie. So we decided we would try our luck further north, near Cairns or Port Douglas, where the reef is much closer to the mainland, and hopefully within an easy day’s sail. But needless to say, we did take in a few of the famous sights of the Whitsundays before heading out of Abell Point Marina on a very rainy Thursday, May 4th.

After our stay in Hamilton Island for Benjamin’s birthday, we headed towards Whitehaven Beach to see what all the fuss was about. We had a terrible ride there…about 2 hours of bashing into 20 knot winds and the subsequent waves and swell. At one point I heard Dave say, “Mom, are you OK?”, and the reply came, “I’m fine…just petrified!”. As we rounded the corner into Solway passage, we were granted some relief, and the passage itself, which can be notorious if the wind and tide are against each other, was actually fine, and a reprieve from the bashing we had just endured!

An attempt to capture the boat crashing into the waves - it's a hard one to catch on camera

Relief!  Rounding the corner - first glimpse of Whitehaven beach

For us, Whitehaven Beach was a bit of a disappointment to see. It didn’t help that it was a very windy, overcast day, so we didn’t see the beautiful blue of the water, and the white sands were just a trickle against the dead, cyclone-bashed trees behind.

Our view of Whitehaven Beach - somewhat disappointing!

We decided not to stop and carried on around the corner into Tongue Bay, where we picked up a mooring and took the dinghy ashore. From there, we took the pathway up to the lookout point, which allowed us a spectacular view onto Hill Inlet, or the “zig zag” as Gaby likes to call it. Hill Inlet is a large estuary, with mangroves and shifting sandbars. Here you could see the beautiful blue of the water and white silica sand. On a good day, we could probably have taken the dinghy in here, but it was too windy and rough to make that ride around Tongue Point, so we took it all in from the hill above! A quick walk down to the beach allowed the kids some extra time on Terra Firma before we headed back to Cool Runnings.

The pathway up to the lookout point

Selfie with Hill Inlet behind

Hill Inlet

A closer look - it was high tide, so the "zig zag" (sand bars) were not as pronounced

Cool Runnings "stamp" on the beach - the last time we did this was in Gadji Bay in New Caledonia!

On the beach near Hill Inlet

Enjoying the fine, soft sand

Gaby waits for her dinghy ride back to the boat (and contemplates life)

I found this beautiful heart shaped rock on the beach at Tongue Bay!

While we had initially thought of staying overnight in Tongue Bay, the easterly swell was consistent, and hitting us from the side, which would have made for a very uncomfortable night, so we left the mooring, and instead headed back to Hook Island, where we knew we could find shelter inside Macona Inlet, the neighbor to Nara Inlet where we had stayed previously. On our way there, we passed through Hook Passage, and where previously a small resort and underwater observatory was located, was now just damaged buildings, and the remains of a pier, completely washed away…another victim of cyclone Debbie.

Half the pier is completely gone, and the observatory tower pretty badly damaged

We dropped anchor in Macona Inlet, which was bigger than Nara, and therefore not quite as spectacular, but it offered us the shelter we were looking for. We still got the occasional “bullets”…strong gusts of wind that are forced over the peaks of the mountains and funnel down into the anchorages, but they just lasted a couple of seconds, and then were gone, so nothing to worry about. We were the only boat there, and enjoyed our solitude until the next day, when 2 other boats arrived.

A view of the entrance of Macona Inlet

Knowing we had to be back in the marina on Wednesday, to have the port side sail drive bearing replaced, and being too lazy to fight the strong winds that were blowing, we spent the next 2 days in Macona inlet, enjoying being at anchor and not having to move! We got the SUP paddleboards out, and spent a day exploring the reef just beyond our anchorage. Dave flew the drone and got some spectacular footage. Unfortunately the water clarity was very bad. Diving into the water, we couldn’t see even a few feet in front of us. Other people we had spoken to said the water is normally crystal clear, so this was another unfortunate side-effect of the cyclone. So much debris in the water has resulted in a fine film of “dust” in the water, making the water very cloudy. Added to that, we had to wear “stinger suits” (just full length wetsuits) to protect against stings from the deadly Irukandji jellyfish. In theory, we were out of the “dangerous season”, but we didn’t want to take a chance, and wore them anyway. We opted to stay on the paddleboards and enjoy the water from above. Dave and I did clean the hulls, and, while it was difficult because the visibility was so bad, we were happy to get the chance to do it, since we are now in croc country, and you are not going to see me in the water anytime soon!! We were also pleased with the new antifouling paint (Micron Extra) we’d put on when Cool Runnings was in the Boatworks, which seemed to be doing a good job keeping barnacles off, and all there was, was a thin film of slime that needed to be wiped off.

A cool drone shot of Ben and Gaby on the paddleboards

A slightly closer one with Cool Runnings in the background
One more drone shot of our floating home enjoying the solitude of Macona Inlet

I almost forgot to mention one of the most important tasks accomplished while at anchor in Macona Inlet…”Dodgy Dave” got a haircut!! If I recall correctly, it was William Voerman who came up with the nickname “Dodgy Dave”, (along with “Richard Gere”, which, personally, I can live with!!), but “Dodgy Dave” was particularly apt, since, with his long hair and often unshaven face, he could look a bit “dodgy”!! William also coined the phrase, “drop the anchor and your attitude!”, but that’s another story altogether! I couldn’t bring myself to go right to a “Number 2”, so we agreed on the middle road…a little shorter, but still longer than he used to wear it!! Let us know what you think!!

On Wednesday, May 3rd we sailed back to Airlie Beach to Abell Point Marina. It was a brisk sail, with strong wind making it much quicker than we had expected, and we arrived early. We took this opportunity to head to the fuel dock, and topped up with diesel for the big boat, and petrol (gas) for the dinghy. Then we headed over to our berth and soon we were plugged into power and the vacuum cleaner came out and everyone got into the cleaning mode. The boat got a good clean inside, and out, and by afternoon the Yanmar mechanic came to work on the engine. On Thursday morning, in the pouring rain, Rosemary, Gaby and I took the marina courtesy car to the nearest supermarket, and did another shop. I’m in this frantic squirrel mode…the thought of knowing that after Cairns there are no more big supermarkets, and I don’t know what awaits us in Indonesia (I’m not expecting much in the way of being able to provision, except, hopefully, for some fresh fruits and veggies at local markets), and my next real “1st world” supermarket will probably be in South Africa in November, has resulted in me buying, buying, buying….my freezer and fridge are full, and every nook and cranny is stuffed with some type of food, but still, I buy, replacing what we’ve eaten, so that we leave Australia with our food stores FULL and my family won’t starve over the next 3 or more months!! So, with another shop done and sail drives repaired, we left Airlie Beach at about lunchtime on Thursday, May 4th, in pouring rain and poor visibility, and headed north, leaving the Whitsundays behind us.


  1. I love the drone shots. It looks like it gets to quite a height. As for Dave's hair, I was liking the long look. Was hoping that I could see him in a ponytail and get him back for all the Steven Seagal jibes I got ;-)

  2. Aghhh Fluolker...too funny!!!! That is going back a few years!!!! All the best my boetinlaw and hope to see you all in the not to distant future! Take care and love to the family...Dave.

  3. Belinda Pickering BentleyMay 10, 2017 at 2:29 AM

    Hi Gudrun and Dave it brings back wonderful memories and a small measure of envy to read your blog. You are so right to stock up on food. Indo was bleak. Beautiful but your boat is over run with locals. Sort of trading stores where everything tastes like soap powder. Except for Bali of course. I remember in Flores our guide/motorbike driver wouldn't stop so I could buy lots of pumpkins for soup. Found out later it's considered as pig food. Keep sailing and keep blogging and we will see you in SA. Happy to wash everything that's salty!

  4. Received load and clear "Cubcon" ;) Thanks for all the good times in Gold was awesome seeing all the "builders" again!!! Cheers Dave