Friday, August 27, 2010

Final Impressions of The Whitsundays

The urge to travel further north is urging us onwards and so we spend our last few days in this famous playground. I have loved the markets at Airlie – they provided me with a bounty of salad ingredients. Cooking is fast becoming one of my favourite pastimes with salads being the number one meal.

We sailed across to Cid Harbour to meet Rene's uncle Nick. He helped us out (again!) by welding a new head onto our winch handle. It now works so much easier and makes us a safer vessel which we can only be happy about. Roseanne, a boat we'd met back on Scawfell Island anchored next to us with two guests on board. One of them, Fiona, cut my hair on the back deck and now I'm sporting a very short, boyish look! Both my sister and Rene have also had a turn at cutting my hair the week prior, so I've got a variety of styles going on! 
A very sweaty climb up to Whitsunday Peak.
We went on a fantastic walk up to the highest peak of the Whitsundays. Rob, from Roseanne, impressed us all as he ran up! - he actually enjoyed doing so as he's a marathon runner! For us, walking, it was a slow, steep climb through picturesque humid rainforest. Amazing panoramic views from the peak. Well worth the sweat and sore calf muscles. Looking back over the photos, I discovered that the camera lens is dirty and needs to be serviced. Oh no! Now both cameras are out of action! 

Stunning views of The Whitsundays.
No wind so we motored over to the southern anchorage of Haselwood Island. It is famed as being an important spawning ground for the coral reefs of the area. Our snorkel there was indeed the best we've seen on this trip so far with some deliciously visual corals. Amazing soft corals moving and swaying about with the underwater currents, a Nemo fish peering out from his sea anemone, gigantic groper and surgeon fish lurking in the darker waters, tiny fish that stared up at me with their innocent eyes. Brilliantly coloured corals growing haphazardly like they belong in a Dr Zeuss book. The visibility was still quite murky – it always seems to be here. A romantic night at anchor alone with the brilliant full moon.

Hopeful Rene with windgen #2
Second attempt at a wind generator is proving to not be as successful as we'd hoped. It only puts in a little power and only if the wind is 20knots or over! I'm dissillusioned with ebay and will try to avoid it. All purchases we've obtained through the site lately have been duds. I even had to sell my fold-up bike back in Yeppoon as it didn't work!

We've been having frequent soul-searching discussions about what to do next. By next I mean, once we reach Cairns (which is fast-approaching). When we set off 3 months ago, we said that we would make a decision once we reached Cairns. Along the way though, we've discovered that there are many things to organise and do in order to take a yacht to another country so our decision has been pushed earlier. Our current plan is to attempt to sail into Asia. It seems to be the calmest, safest route to take and we can both pick up work there easily enough (we hope!). It's also not too far away to come back if things don't work out the way we hope they will. My only real reservation is that I still don't enjoy sailing that much (unless it's calm!) I'm hoping to have a third crew-member to help split the shifts more easily... any takers?

So, after hopefully getting at least one of my cameras operational again, we're heading towards Bowen and beyond...

Excesses of The Whitsundays

One of the sea planes.
A helicopter wedding!
This part of the world is famous for attracting the rich and famous. During our month long visit here, we've been witness to some of the excesses of this place. Power boat-loads full of bikini-clad tourists pumped up on grog, speeding from one island to the next, stopping only long enough to pose for pictures. Races involving 150ft super-yachts many times the size and price of normal yachts. We even saw a helicopter wedding on Whitehaven! Two separate choppers chariots arrived: the white one held the bride and the blue held the groom. They landed on the beach, hopped out, had their ceremony, posed for thousands of photos and then buzzed off in the blue one. The whole thing only lasting about 30 minutes – we wonder how long their marriage will last! Sea planes have landed and taken off just near us, light aircraft do tricks, loops and dives for thrill-seekers until they vomit. Planes fly in configuration in the air above us and we've even seen fireworks at night. Party boats pump out music in paradise and just yesterday, a large white catamaran full of semi-naked young, fit, attractive men with an overweight, older, unattractive man showering naked, in full view of everyone on the back deck. As we motored past he continued to shower oblivious while the young men dived in to the water around him.

What a crazy playground this is! Time to move on to quieter waters. It has been a blast and we've loved it here. I hope to return sometime to once again swim in the glowing, aqua waters of Whitehaven.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wonderful Adventures In The Whitsundays

I can't describe in words the experiences we've just had this past week with my sister Jez and her girlfriend Tamsin. I hope that the many photos I've included here will explain our story....

Rene, Cerae, Jez and Tam loving life in the Whitsundays!
We had the perfect weather - perfectly calm with just enough wind to hop amongst the islands here, perfect company and loads of fun. 

A Whitsunday postcard moment atop Deloraine Island.
Cerae & Tam stinger-suit bandits!
Clearing our frisbee court of stingrays.
Snorkel-drifting from the dinghy.
All of the islands we explored are national parks so they are exquisite, each is different and beautiful in its own way. We loved Border Island for the steep craggy rocks and snorkeling. Deloraine Islet was special because we anchored in deep water (23 metres) and had to put out 70 metres of chain! We were the only ones there and it was so amazing to explore the beach made of smooth coral and to climb the volcanic cliffs to watch whales swimming past below. 

Jez with her Yellowtail.
Jez caught this Disco Shark. We set him free.

Jez tried her hand at fishing and discovered that she quite enjoyed it. Many hours were spent, line in hand, book in the other, trying to coax those evasive fishies onto her line. We ate a few thanks to her efforts. I'm awed that she also was prepared to kill, gut, fillet and cook the fish as well as catching them!

Building sandcastles in the silica sands of Whitehaven beach.
Having a blast on Whitehaven - paradise!!!
Many games were played on the sand, in the water and on Anhinga. Gin Rummy was the card game of choice - hilarity abounds when combined with a few drinks! Frisbee was great in the water, as was Boules. Part of the thrill was that stingrays lurked at the edges of our game, secretly hoping we would throw them a turn! eeek!
Sailbirds cartwheeling with joy :D

Sailbirds become treebirds on Whitsunday Island.
Anhinga rests at Whitehaven.
Another perfect sunset.

Serenity whilst anchored at Haselwood Island. For one night we were the only boat there, so we took it in turns to shower naked on deck at dusk. Exercising on the beach - jogging, squats, kung fu, push-ups etc. My underwater digital camera decided to die... bum! Am hoping it's still under warranty as I'm so totally addicted to photography.

Sisters : )
Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday Island exceeded all of my expectations. It is indeed paradise on earth. Perfect, crystal-clear water, shining silica sand that continues for 5Km.... aaaaah! We walked the Ngaro trail, swam from the shore to Anhinga (!), drank Rose at sunset, built sandcastles, swam some more and Jez ran for hours along the beach. 

Jez and Tam - fantastic crew and great company. We'll miss them!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rocks, Rays, Tomatoes and Rowing

Rock cairns on Shaw Island.
Sailing here has continued to be fine. Rene can't wipe off his great big grin whilst Anhinga steams through the water on the way to yet another beautiful island.

Cerae making a rock cairn.
On Shaw Island we made a rock cairn to add to the others there - I wonder how they manage to stay standing in strong winds? The beach was made of billions of tiny shell rings. Not sure what creature they originate from but they're very cool! The stingrays here had thick, black tails and weren't very shy. Rene had a stand-off with one of them... and the stingray won by eyeballing him. 

Amazing donut shells.

Crazed tomato love!
Our outboard motor decided to die. I think it probably heard me when I said I wished we had kayaks - and so it died in protest! Not having the outboard makes getting to and from Anhinga much more difficult. We're now at Airlie Beach. It's exciting to be back in civilisation after over 1 month away. The cupboards were getting pretty bare - I was down to just a few old vegetables. Of course, the first food that I needed to eat was tomatoes! I had really missed them and experienced a foodgasm upon eating them again after so long without! :D

The Whitsunday Yacht Club jetty is a long long row away. Rene tried to help me row yesterday by holding up a towel to make us sail! It feels a bit frustrating to be boat-bound but tomorrow we'll be looking to replace our broken outboard motor. Rene spent almost a whole day pulling the old one apart and it still won't work. We're really looking forward to Jez and Tam meeting up with us this week and can't wait to get back out into the islands again. The beaches here in Airlie just aren't the same.

Happy grins at our favourite place - where the forest meets the sea with rocks.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Enjoying Sailing and Loving The Islands!

Sailor Cerae - Lovin' it in calmer weather
Captain Rene - Chillaxin'.
Natural Beauty on Pelican Island.

Since Scawfell Island, we've been island-hopping as each of these beautiful places are within a couple of hours sail of each other. The weather has been calm and nature has been providing us with constant amazement.

Rene was astounded at how much Keswick and St Bees Islands have changed since he was here 20 years ago. I was enthralled by some white wild goats who hung out on the rocky foreshore and am glad that Rene didn't manage to kill one for dinner! 

Red Coral Spawn.
At full moon the coral spawned, painting the sea water bright red in long wobbly strokes. A sea fog decended on the islands as did millions of butterflies. Imagine us sailing through a red sea escorted by thousands of blue and black butterflies! Bliss! 

On Brampton Island we hiked to the lookout and sat amongst the clouds in the moist rainforest listening to Coucal Pheasants and watching the butterflies glide about in the currents of warm air.
Millions of Butterflies!
Just one of the visitors on deck!
At Linne Island (named after the man who formulated the system of botanical classification) I wondered how much the island had changed from when it was first discovered by Europeans in 1802. Walking along the small beach, I got my answer. So much human-made junk in such an isolated place (old tyres, fluro light, rope etc.). Back when the Lady Nelson explored here all they found was a wrecked canoe which evidenced visits by Aboriginal people.

More whales - the biggest group yet – about 5 all swimming together. I still can’t get used to their size and beauty. 
Anhinga Anchored at Goldsmith Island.
Loving all of the coral here!

Relaxing beach time on Goldsmith Island. Playing boules at sunset and lying under the shade of some casuarina trees. Last night, we were serenaded by whale song! It echoed through the water into our boat and I drifted in and out of sleep, enthralled by the high pitched squeaks of a baby whale and the deep rumbles of its mother. 
Absolutely loving everything that nature is offering us on this trip (except big waves of course ;o).