Kite time

Potter we did, but not for long, when the subject of the assymetric spinnaker came up. Once we had got around Fraser Island, we had pulled the assymetric out from under the bow and had it in the storage cabin, in case we wanted to use it, but we hadn’t had the right conditions or inclination! Today however, we had 8-12 knots and about 110 true wind angle, and this looked pretty steady, so we decided to break out the kite, and the various bits of string to help fly it.

Set up of strings, hoist and set all went very nicely and we were creaming along comfortably at about 8 knots. However, we had decided that we would break our journey at Goldsmith, rather than arrive at Long Island in the dark. and this meant we needed to gybe to make Goldsmith. As a lark, I set up my phone to video the gybe using the tablet water proof cover attached to the back gate. We hoped it would go well! We set the autohelm up for a 20 second gybe, Pete went to ensure we were clear on the bow and I set the autohelm and managed the sheets. It worked perfectly, though was a tad slow if anything, but looked great on the video! We settled once again, at around 8-9 knots, creaming into the island in full view of a number of boats anchored in Roylen Bay. We were not game to film the drop with the potential for an absolute disaster, but in the end it went well. We simply bore away to almost dead downwind, Pete gathered the foot and I dropped the halyard slowly as the kite got blanketed behind the main. We got the whole lot on deck without a drop of water, stuffed it in the bag and then headed in to anchor.

It was a very pleasant evening at Goldmsith, though a little cool, so we didn’t swim before cooking dinner and heading to bed early. We would need an early start in the morning to ensure we had the tide with us to head up to Long Island, though it was only 20 miles away.

There was a little cloud around in the morning, but it cleared as we got going and suddenly we started seeing whales everywhere. I thought I had heard whalesong in bed, and sure enough they escorted us north to Long Island. We flew the assy again, though the wind was a little lighter, and ended up backing and dying away altogether, so we dropped it – another great drop, though made possible by the wind kindly assisting by backing it on to the main! We had a fantastic sighting of whales just before we turned the corner at Long Island, with a pair of whales at first tail slapping and then breaching, as though they were dancing together. We arrived at Long Island, Happy Bay to see another devastated resort, waiting on the beach. This one had clearly been hammered by the cyclone, with the vegetation, especially the poor palm trees, looking pretty bare, and some even blown over.

We headed into the beach one the anchor was set, as we knew there were a couple of walks here, and we hoped the trails would be in good repair. We strolled through the deserted resort, but couldnt locate the walk south, so we decided to head around the Whitsunday Circuit, which takes you up and around the hills to the north, and finishes back at the beach. We were prepared for a poorly maintained track, as we have seen elsewhere and Pete even had his new machete with him, however, this was a great track and in good repair. It was actually easy compared to some of our earlier walks, despite quite a rise and subsequent descent. Whilst there was evidence of some of the foliage being storm damaged, there was still enough to prevent any really good views, especially into the anchorage.

Returning to the boat, we relaxed and planned our next few days, hoping to get to Whitehaven and to find some good snorkelling. We also wanted to work out where it would be best to overnight once we picked up Row from Hammo on Friday. So far we were liking Happy Bay, which was very comfortable, but our other option was probably Cid Harbour, and as Pete had not been there we wanted to test that out. We were also keen to do the Whitsunday Peak walk, which started from there. Based on the forecast, we decided to head to Whitehaven in the morning, do the Chance Bay walk, then overnight at Tongue Bay. From there we could head to Cateran Bay at Border Island and see what the snorkelling was like.

After a very comfortable night at Happy Bay, we headed off and sailed around to Whitehaven via Fitzallen Passage and Solway Passage. This was our first close look at Hammo as we passed close by its northern coast, and the devastation was apparent in the lack of vegetation. In fact, Qualia was laid bare, with hardly a tree or shrub in sight, other than the new plantings we had heard about. Not much privacy now for those very expensive pavilions! It was also possible to see so much more of the development that has gone on over the last few years, which is usually well hidden in the greenery. Equally devastated was Whitehaven, which had a gorgeous green backdrop to the white, white sand and the turquoise sea. The vegetation has been stripped, and the greys and browns of dead wood now provide a disappointing counterpoint to the white and turquoise.

Notwithstanding, we anchored and headed ashore near the camp sites, all fully occupied, and started the Solway Circuit to lead us to the Chance Bay track. Again, we found the tracks in very good repair, with all information plates in place and a great deal of new growth coming through. Yes there were areas of downed trees, and piles of dead and cut wood, but considering its dry season, there is a lot of new green coming through. It was a lovely walk and quite easy compared to some of our other walks, and we came out at a beautiful bay on the south side of Whitsunday Island, where we would never have been able to bring the boat because of prevailing onshore winds. Unfortunately, we hadnt brought the snorkelling gear, but we did have a swim in the clear and warm water inside the reef.

The return trip was much quicker, and the beach was even fuller with another few day trip boats having landed the tourists for a day at Whitehaven, but their hour was up and they were piling back on. We had another swim while we waited for the crowds to disappear and then headed back to WDS to cruise easily under jib the 3 or 4 miles up to Tongue Bay, our nights destination.

On arrival at Tongue Bay, we saw there were lots of moorings but all occupied, so started to scope out an anchor spot. However, a mooring came free and Pete decided we would try to take it, hoping that our new technique would prevent any keel wrapping. We beat another boat to it, but later when he tried to get on a free mooring, he got the mooring warp trapped in his bow thruster. Comeuppance! Our evening started comfortably enough and it was nice enough for dinner on deck, but as we were settling in bed, the ominous thumping of the mooring buoy on the hull began, and before we knew it we had another keel wrap.

This time we were methodical about our strategy. We decided right away that we would get off the mooring and drop the anchor instead, but first we had to extricate ourselves. Pete went forward with the new Ryobi spotlight and I handled the wheel and engine. We un wound by putting the wheel hard to port, a short, hard burst of forward on the engine, and we managed to swing the stern around and bring the mooring to the bow again. Phew! Drop the mooring pronto, follow our earlier track to the spot we had sussed out to anchor in, avoiding the other boats anchored and on moorings, and drop anchor. Fortunately this went smoothly, and we went back to bed at 10pm and slept much better than we would have on the mooring!!

We were woken up by day trip boats, full of backpackers, entering the anchorage with the stereo blasting at 0700. No doubt they were still partying from the night before and would walk over the Hill Inlet to recuperate in the still, clear waters. We beat a hasty retreat, heading out to Border Island, for some snorkelling at Cateran Bay. It was a short six miles, which we did under jib alone, as we wanted to arrive around 1000, low tide being around 1130 when the sun would be in a good position for underwater viewing. Astonished to see the anchorage empty when we arrived, we decided that we would pick up a mooring as there was a keen breeze blowing down the valley which would hold us well back on mooring buoy for the few hours we would be here.

We were about 50 m from the nearest coral on the mooring, so we donned wetsuits, fins and snorkells and swam over. We were delighted that the coral here looked in great repair, and the fish! There were more fish than we had seen anywhere, great shoals of them, all the typical tropical reef fish plus coral trout, sweetlip and plenty of others. It was bliss to see so much, looking so good after the disappointment at Pearl Bay. We went back to WDS for a cup of tea and to warm up before heading to other side of the bay in Goon Bag for another session. At first this didnt look fantastic, but as we got in amongst the shallower bommies it again all sprang to life. This was some of the best snorkelling we had done yet.

When we finally dragged ourselves out of the water, the breeze had come up more and the tide was turning, making it a perfect time to head in through Hook Passage to Macona Inlet for our overnight stop. A couple of boats were now looking to come into the bay, and we told them the snorkelling was great, and that they could have our mooring when we departed. We left with the bay filling rapidly, and Marine Parks establishing a new walking trail on the island.

We had a late lunch as we sailed to Macona, and managed the slightly tricky entrance with no issues. We anchored up near the small bay, with a whole bunch of other yachts, but there was plenty of space so it didnt feel crowded. We decided to take the Goon Bag into the little beach for sundowners, but none of the other boats seemed keen to do this. We did however meet someone who had left Sydney in November and was just cruising for retirement, and had a good old chat with him. He had been in Tin Can Bay (his Hunter draws 1.7 m!) for Cyclone Debbie, and had seen over a 110 kmh winds, but no damage.

Returning to WDS as the sun fell behind the hills, we had a vegetarian stir fry for dinner then did a photo reconciliation and review of the trip so far. Pete put all the photos on the big computer, and we decided we would make that the one place that photos would be retained, and also where I would now prepare the blogs. Everything in one place is much easier and hopefully will make the photo upload more straightforward.

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