Whitsunday Magic

After a lovely calm night, and Sophie and I woke to a beautiful morning. We had a lazy start and a swim, but headed off at 11 to ensure we could get to Hammo by 1 to pick Lindy up. However, I had not accounted for the whale watching we had to do, or the 2 plus knots of current against us as we headed south. We arrived a little after 1 at Hammo, then had to queue to get a berth, but at least Lindy was there to meet us and help catch lines! We picked up a bag of ice, then headed out, this time for Cid Harbour, as even though it would be busy, it would be closer for picking Pete up in the morning.

Once anchored, we swam again, this time with a little less trepidation, and prepared sundowners and snacks. It was another very pleasant evening, we had dinner on deck and retired early so we would have time for a morning swim.

Another lovely morning, breakfast, swim then early prep to make sure we arrived at Hammo in plenty of time for Pete. We again had whale watching on the way, as we watched mum and baby breach, fin slap and just cruise down the Whitsunday Passage. As Pete’s plane landed, we were ready to enter the marina, and were able to offload rubbish, buy beer and ice and stock the wine cellar with the case of wine Pete had bought before heading south down Dent Passage for Thomas Island, 15 miles away.

It was a warm and pleasant motor sail to Thomas Island in a light east to northeast breeze, and we arrived around 3:30 to find several other boats already anchored. We found a spot and dropped 50 meters of chain to allow for a 4 meter tide, as we arrived about bang on low water. We were in a very pretty little bay with a sandy beach and fringing reef, but it was late to snorkel, so we settled for a swim, content to snorkel in the morning. As were were on the south side of the island, the sun set for us way ahead of real sunset, but it was a lovely night so we opened our last bottle of champagne (winch handle saubrage of course!) for sundowners and ate dinner ( paella) on deck.

I did not get off to sleep really well and felt the breeze come in and change direction and at 2:30 am I checked our situation and we were now sitting to a southerly, which was pushing in at 15-20 knots. Pete was up too and checking the anchor, as we were now on a lee shore with a falling tide. The anchor was holding well, and whilst it was a bit uncomfortable, we seemed to be ok. Pete was able to get back to sleep at around 4 as we passed low water, but I couldn’t relax enough and tossed and turned until 8, when we got up, had coffee and breakfast and upped the anchor. All the other boats that had been there were long gone!

Given the change in breeze (which had not been forecast) and that it looked like it would stay in the south for the day, we changed our destination from Keswick to Scawfell. It was a bit overcast and rainy periodically, and we were just motoring into it, so I tried to catch up on sleep for most of the trip. Sophie did most of the steering and Lindy kept the troops fed and watered. Eventually, the sun made an appearance as we neared Scawfell, and even though the island is high enough to generate its own cloud, it cleared as the afternoon progressed. We anchored and swam, and then took the dinghy in to investigate the snorkelling, as it was low water and we could see lots of exposed coral.

There was an amazing amount and variety of coral, but we were at low water Spring tides, so a lot of water movement meant the visibility wasn’t great. We decided to try again tomorrow, when the sun was high around midday and it was around half tide. Back to the boat for sundowners and a fantastic sunset, followed by chicken fajitas for dinner on deck.

Saturday morning was a scramble to get internet so Lindy and Sophie could book flights from Mackay. Signal was extremely limited and eventually it was easier to send a text to Will in Sydney and ask him to book the flights! That settled, we headed in to the beach in the dinghy to explore the shore. It was breathtakingly beautiful, with little to disturb the tranquility of heavily wooded hills behind the beach. Camping is allowed in a limited, and probably only level area, with a rain water tank for fresh water and a bush dunny. A group of people were camping and Pete chatted to them a little, as Lindy, Sophie and I explored the beach.

Back at the boat, we rustled up some lunch, and then went for a snorkel at a different area. Again there was huge variety of coral and lots of fish, but poor visibility. However the highlight was that we could hear whale song when we we were under water, so we spent a lot of time holding ourselves under to listen to the whales! We continued with this back at the boat! A turtle came to visit, and we thought he may be interested in Pegasus that we had inflated and hung off the back. He kept coming by very close and eventually we got pics of him!

The sunset was obscured by cloud and we had a little rain that evening, but another comfortable night, despite the expected change in breeze to northerly. After coffee and a quick breakfast, we headed off for a lunch stop at Keswick, as we had decided to have a night at Mackay Marina so we wouldn’t be rushing on Monday.

As it turned out this was probably a good plan as our anchorage at Keswick was not ideal. It was lovely to sail down the Egremont Channel between Keswick Islad and St Bees, and both islands looked lovely, but our chosen anchorage in Basil Bay wasn’t great. We could hear the anchor scraping, and we didn’t feel like we had caught, though as the wind was light this wasn’t a huge issue. I agreed to stand anchor watch while the others sought out the coral gardens indicated by the 100 magic miles.

Snorkelling spots could not be located, we suspect because the tide was too high, but again we swam and listened to the whales u der the water, as they were very loud here. We thought we may see them, but we could only glimpse two in the distance. Around 1, we set off for Mackay, calling ahead to book a berth. It was a bit of a let down to approach the industrialised main land later that afternoon after the beauty and tranquility of the islands.

Nonetheless, we appreciated the showers, laundry, rubbish disposal and convenience of a marina and also the chance to eat ashore, so no one had to wash up! Lindy and Sophie kindly treated us to a delicious Thai meal, where we had lots of seafood to make up for the lack of catching it!

In the morning we were able to hire a car to get Lindy and Sophie to the airport, and to buy a few extra fresh provisions. That completed, we prepared for sea and Pete and I began the final phase of our voyage, just us and the cats. We departed Mackayand the Whitsundays, first destination Curlew Island, ETA 5:30 pm.

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