- Chief Steward
- Posts: 65
- Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:49 am
- Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
- Location: Blue Mountains, Australia
Hope this is useful to anyone contemplating a 'Whitties' trip!
MAC’n’ME in the Whitties
31AUG. Day Minus One:
Yesterday was arrival day in Airlie Beach and we had enough time to buy supplies instead of waiting till today. That left us with a very unbusy day today. Arranged temporary membership at the Whitsundays Sailing Club and recce-ed the ramp and parking area. Final supplies procured and we’re good to go for tomorrow. High tide is at 12:24pm tomorrow, so we’ll aim to depart the caravan park around 8:00am, fuel Mac and head to the sailing club. That will provide heaps of rigging time prior to launching as soon as the ramp is wet enough.
Whitsunday Sailing Club is a great kick-off point. $42 got us temporary membership consisting of ramp use, amenities use, trailer secure parking and car (unsecured) parking. The ramp doesn’t get as busy as the public ramp at Airlie, but its use dries up as the tide does out! Having used the ramp and parking at Shute Harbour on a previous trip, the WSC is a far superior option. The club is also a great place for a meal. While we chose not to, TS owners are allowed to sleep on their boats in the rigging area prior to launching should they wish.
Departed the caravan park a touch after 0800 and fuelled the boat. With the water loaded on board the day prior, Mac was a touch heavy! 60+ LTs of fuel plus 70 LTs of water. The goal was to launch either on or before the high tide. Glad we got there early as we needed extra time. Having raised the mast, the Genoa sock decided it would not haul down, so we had to lower the mast…remove the sock…and re-raise the mast. Finally got Mac’n’Me in the water…just in time for the Sailability flotilla to come in and want the entire jetty. Mad rush to load supplies, park the trailer and car, and then get the hull outta there!
We motored out from the moored boats and then set sail. Not long after that we had a shark cross paths with us. Not too sure what sort he was. Probably 4-5ft long. We set a course for Nara Inlet, but as we got closer, there were three moorings in False Nara Inlet just asking for someone to pick them up. Given there were a number of boats heading to Nara, and a night in Nara would be on the anchor, we decided to take a mooring and sleep a touch sounder. It's a little rocky, but that'll simply help the onset of sleep.
Just as we were approaching False Nara, a whale breeched a couple of hundred meters from us. Turned out there were two of them lazing, tail flapping, pectoral fin raising, and generally being lazy whales. We also saw some more whales further off behind us…must have been hiding as we went by.
After sunset, the place got active, fish-wise! Batfish hanging around the inflatable…and eating bread that “fell” in the water near them. Also pipefish and schools being chased by something bigger that resulted in them all jumping out of the water.
It seemed to take forever, but almost everything is stowed in its place now. What was supposed to be a methodical stowing exercise once along side the jetty ended up with everything thrown in when Sailability came in. All fixed now though. Bring on tomorrow…Langford Island and Butterfly Bay.
A rockin’ and rollin’ night at False Nara which was to be expected given wind direction and exposure. Departed for Langford at 0800. Some motoring to avoid multiple tacks, but some sailing too. Picked up a mooring at Langford and took Lil’Liebs (Aquapro inflatable with Suzuki 4hp) across to the sandspit. Had toasted sanga for lunch and then pushed on by Hayman Island, Bali Hai Island and around the western corner of Hook. While at Langford we spotted a number of sea turtles as well as a mum and calf humpback. Bub was slapping his tail on the surface of the water, while mum was rolling around, raising and slapping her pectorals. While we thought that was good, as we were leaving Langford we had a close encounter with a white whale (Migaloo?). I was on the bow putting the mooring line away when I heard a strong blow sound followed by an exclamation from Sharon. Looking up, there was the beast passing our bow R to L, and less than 20ft off the bow. Amazing and impressive, although the whale seemed to be not as excited as we were. Having gained our composure, we pressed on with only the Genoa out and maintained about 3.5kts. Rounded the point into Butterfly Bay, expecting to see most moorings taken, but it seems the northerly wind is keeping people away. We had our pick for the afternoon and evening.
Woke to strong winds; 20-25kts from the north…straight down the mouth of Butterfly Bay. We decided there was little point in going anywhere given the wind strength, sea conditions, and likely stirred up silt that would reduce viz for any diving. Also, there were no new boats demanding a vacated mooring, so we stayed-put. Lazy day, but nice and relaxing. Wind seems to have swung to be coming from the WNW now and is expected to abate overnight. Here's hoping.
Weather: S15-20 changing to E10-15 later in the day.
Wind is now from the south, having shifted through the night. Seems to be abating in strength as the morning progresses, but every now and then a bullet whistles down the bay.
Sailed from Butterfly Bay to Luncheon Bay…not far but nice enough. Wind still strong, so we were getting 4+kts just with the genoa. Grabbed a mooring and Lil’Liebed across to the beach. Very nice. We then grabbed our stinger suits, fins and facemasks and Liebed around to Manta Ray Bay. As soon as we stopped, out came the fish, including Sharon’s giant wrasse mate from eight years ago. He was just as friendly as before…probably remembered us. There were also a couple of other big’uns but I can't recall what they are…will have look them up. They were cruising around; inquisitive, but not as friendly as Mr Wrasse. They had remoras hitching rides and all the big guys had cleaner wrasse doing what cleaner wrasse do. After lunch we took Mac’n’Me around to Manta Ray Bay for another swim and sailed back towards Butterfly in the hope of a mooring. Hope was in vain at Butterfly, but we found one in nearby Maureen Cove.
Still closer to 20kts wind than 10kts.
An easy sail between Maureen’s Cove and Nara Inlet. Averaging 3.5kts as well as getting over 4.5kts every now and then. We decided to anchor in Refuge Cove. A great spot we remember from our first Whitties trip. Millpond quiet over night…no rolling, no mooring buoy bumps in the night. The Monson anchor seems to be a beauty as it has grabbed nice and firmly…of course we still have to recover it this morning!
Weather E 10-15
Departed Refuge Cove and motored further into Nara to check out future anchoring spots. A shallow draft such as us can tuck in nicely right at the end of the inlet, and the bay on the right further on from Refuge looks equally good. Keel boats beware.
Called Hamo and arranged a berth for two nights (7&8) and then hoisted sails. The wind was bang on our nose, so we beat towards Cid Island and then tacked to Whitsunday Island a touch north of Cid Harbour. Just out, we lowered sails and started the donk to motor in. Dugong Inlet looked great so we picked a spot and anchored. Sawmill Bay was chockers with boats… Cid City! We Liebed over to Dugong Beach and met some fellow trailer-sailerers who were anchored just off the beach. They will dry out at low tide and plan to stay there for a few days. We returned to the beach for ‘sundowners’ with them. A good nights sleep; while there was some gusty breeze through the night, no rolling!
Weather E10-15 later 20
Motor-sailed part way down the passage between Cid Is and Whitsunday Is. A nice shower of rain as we entered Whitsunday Passage. Motored into the wind all the way to Hamo. Called up the marina on VHF to confirm arrival and desire to arrive via fuel dock. Motored in to what felt like a very crowded marina and headed to the fuel dock to find both sides taken already. We snuck up to an adjoining finger wharf and tied up to wait. One successful docking. Once there was space available, we cast-off…did a “u turn” and tied up at the fuel dock. Two successful dockings. Topped up our tanks and then headed to our allotted berth, tying up without a problem. Three successful dockings in one day. Didn't hit or threaten one expensive vessel. Always a good start!
A much needed shower, followed by a beer and mojito by the pool…followed by a beaut steak at the marina pub. Not quite the experience when we arrived on Liebling eight years ago, but good nonetheless. Clothes have been through the washing machine, so tomorrow we should be completely sociable!
A lazy day on the island. In the afternoon, we took the credit card for a walk to the General Store for provisions and came back somewhat lighter. $40 for a slab of 600ml water….! Still, if you buy a single 600ml water anywhere on the island, it's $4.00, so I guess it's ‘cheap’ to buy a slab of water. Dinner at Co Ca Chu on Catseye Bay. Very nice indeed.
Departed Hamo at 0815 and motored into the head wind through Fitzalan Passage. As the ‘100 Magic Miles’ book suggests, in the prevailing weather conditions, in was quite rough. We had a less than happy Admiral for a while. Was able to angle-off and raise the genoa which helped stabilise the boat and add a couple of knots to our speed. Got to Solway Passage faster than expected and rode the tidal current through the passage. I estimate we got 4-5kts extra from the current. The water action was quite unique…lots of turbulent flow with peaked waves of very short wavelength. Funny that, after reading about Solway Passage and that it can be quite troublesome, it was certainly a new experience, but not difficult at all. Having said that, we had wind and tide not opposing, so that would have been in our favour. Got around the point and into the lee of Whitehaven Beach. Much calmer…happier Admiral! We cruised north along the beach to Hill Inlet and were able to pick our way through the shallows and into the inlet. Anchored between four cruising cats and watched as the tide quickly receded and Mac dried out. Admiral wasn’t well due to severe stomach pain, but after a few hours was ready for a short walk on Whitehaven. Flood tide is pretty impressive in Hill Inlet. It got us switched around our anchor, but it still seems like it's bedded in OK. Haven't hit anyone yet.
Weather: S 20-25kts
Open waters still look as rough as guts. There are boats traversing along Whitehaven, but they make seriously hard work of it. We choose to avoid that! We stayed in Hill Inlet for a lazy day. Sundowner drinks with the crew of the three cats who are also here.
Still staying away from the crappy conditions. Morning tea with the cat people and then a walk up to the top of “The Elephant’s Head”. Great view and actually got some phone coverage, so we checked in with the kids.
Did some running repairs on the inflatable.
Outside conditions remain the same, but Monday (Day 13) is forecast for 15-20kts and friendlier seas. Stayed put for the day. Took Lil’Liebs over to the northern beach and walked to the lookout. Great view. Also walked to Tongue Bay hoping it might be more protected, but pretty much the same as Hill Inlet. Got back to Mac’n’Me in time to be invited to a beach lunch by the “Cat People”. Nice lunch and nice people.
Sea conditions are expected to be better from tomorrow (presently 1.5-2metres, hopefully 1.0-1.5m tomorrow). We Lil’Liebed up further into the inlet today. Lots of favourable anchorages and dry-out points, but also closer to the mangroves and the bitey insects who live therein! No matter how far up the inlet we went, the wind continued unabated…only its direction changed as it worked its way through the little valleys and re-entrants.
Went for a walk along Whitehaven Beach in the arv. Still very blowy and rough seas. Spotted the pair of sea eagles again and got some good pics.
The aim for tomorrow is to depart Hill Inlet and head north via Border Island. If a stop at Border isn't viable, then we will continue up the east side of Hook Island and around to Butterfly Bay…unless seas prove it best to divert through Hook Passage and run to Nara or Cid. At least we have options!
Departed Hill Inlet just after 9:00 and wended our way out through the shallows. Seas were still up to 2m as we left and turned north for Border Island. Put out some headsail and motorsailed so the batteries would get a healthy charge. A rock and rolly leg, that's for sure. Sharon rode the bow as we departed Hill so she could spot less shallow paths. Rounding the NW corner of Border the seas calmed considerably. As we entered Cateran Bay, there were moorings available, so we picked one up and had lunch. Still windy with high cloud. I want to go diving, but the light levels won't be all that great.
Went for a snorkel…water clarity wasn't great, but it was still good. Lil’Liebed across to the other side of Cateran and dragged Liebs around as I swam. We decided to stay the night, and as the sun set, the wind picked up. Easy 25+ kt gusts regularly blowing through and sea state to match. Won't be a comfortable night to be sure. Very, very dark in Cateran Bay. We're the only boat and the only light visible is the northern marker light at the end of Hook Island and two ships way out in the shipping lane. Oh, and a slight glow over part of Hook which would be the lights of Hayman Island.
Not the most comfortable night on anchor or mooring! Not only did the wind not let up, it gusted frequently well beyond 25kts. Lost of rocking, rolling and Mac-Dancing. Far less sleep.
Departed Cateran Bay at 0715 and motor sailed across to Hook Passage. Wind was against tide and the sea conditions were ‘interesting’… Quite vertical waves in the narrowest part of the passage and far smoother seas beyond the old underwater observatory.
Got back to Cid Harbour and took up residence just off Dugong Beach in about 2m of water at low tide. Anchor is firm, so a good night’s sleep is expected. Back to Hamo tomorrow for replenishments and a real shower and then heading back to Hook Island.
Weather S 15-20kts
Motored to Hamo and returned to our same berth as before. Shower!! More provisions, then a couple of beers/wines at the pub. Refreshing. Met a couple of young blokes who work on Hamo…co-own a 23ft trailer sailer. They used to crew Nokia, but felt that was a tad too serious so ‘upgraded’ to the TS. Stereo speakers on the spreader bars and a shot dispenser in the cabin. Good on ‘em! Also bumped into a fellow M26M owner tied up on another arm. Clearly, boats (and same boats) generate quick and easy conversation.
Rotten night’s sleep for me for some reason.
Departed Hamo at 0800. Motored into the wind most of the way to Nara, but were able to get the genoa out for a bit. Had a wonderful whale encounter just north of Cid Island. Anchored at the top of Nara for lunch and will stay the night. Then head on to Manta Ray Bay for last few days.
Weather SW 15-20kts
Departed Nara and turned for the north end of Hook island. Wind against tide made for some rough seas. Two metre swells rolling through plus strong gusts had us heeling and rolling. A less than happy Admiral resulted. Got to Stonehaven Anchorage and, having decided to call it quits for the day, took a mooring. Serious bullets abounded, one which almost lifted Lil’Liebs clear of the water and another that had Mac’n’Me swing wider than I’ve ever seen her dance. Thankfully they abated as night came and allowed a fairly good sleep. Off to Butterfly Bay tomorrow..
Weather SE 10-15kts
Actually went straight by Butterfly and took a mooring at Luncheon Bay. Before departing Stonehaven, I went for a snorkel on the nearby extended bommie. Fantastic coral in both type and condition. Well worth the swim. No great demand for moorings at Luncheon Bay, so we stayed on one all day. Snorkelling before and after lunch. Fantastic fish life. We took some bread with us and became very popular.
Mid afternoon, I took Liebs around to Manta Ray Bay and then to Pinnacle Bay for a look. Saw the Nav light we were seeing from Cateran Bay at Border Island. Very rough in Pinnacle Bay…specially when Liebs ran low on fuel and I had to top her up from the fuel container. Went back to Manta Ray Bay and got popular with some bread. Crazy fish life. Wally the wrasse dropped by again…very cheeky fish that one. No fear.
After dinner, I went for a night snorkel. Pretty disappointing actually. Oh well…I gave it a shot.
Weather SE 15-20kts
Super crappy night’s sleep. Roll and roll plus mooring buoy beating itself against our hull. Bullets galore throughout the night. Departed Luncheon Bay after bacon and eggs for breakfast. Heading for Nara as the overnight stop before recovering to Airlie the next day.
We were transiting the mouth of Butterfly Bay on genoa alone when a big bullet hit us. I was on the lee side having just moved forward to adjust the dagger-board, so I guess my leeward weight only made matters worse. We instantly heeled well beyond 35deg as I struggled to let off the genoa, but the damage was done: a very upset Admiral. Sharon was rightly scared as it looked and felt bad, but Mac did what she was supposed to do and started to round-up into the wind which quickly reduced the heel and we straightened up. After a quick recovery we sailed the remainder of that leg with the Genoa sheet in my hand! Fickled winds through the Hayman Island narrows meant we started the engine a few times and then motored into the head wind around the western point of Hook Island. Sea conditions were just what a shaken Admiral didn't need as they were easy 2.5m swells with a pitch that had Mac bucking off a wave crest and smacking down into the trough. We took a few waves over the bow which certainly looked impressive. We finally got to the calmer waters of Nara and anchored in Refuge Cove with some frazzled nerves. Calm conditions expected over night and favourable 10-15kts tomorrow are expected for our return to Airlie Beach.
Day Twenty One!
We departed Nara and back into Whitsunday Passage to see one of the bit commercial power cats from Hamo zipping by northward. As it went by, the skipper gave us a “beep-beepity-beep-beep”...we can only conclude it was one of the guys we met at Hamo with the specced-up trailer sailer. A unique greeting as two vessels pass!
A great sail across from Nara to Airlie with a steady southernly pushing us along. We took a mooring outside the WSC breakwater to wait for the tide to come in. We relocated after some lunch to just outside the WSC duck pond and anchored so I could go across in Lil’Liebs to position the trailer on the ramp for recovery. Having dunked the trailer, it was going to be a simple matter of recover the anchor and motor straight up onto the trailer. Well that was the idea at least. The anchor decided that it was well and truly stuck...even when I motored forward against the rode, it would not budge. Given the car/trailer were waiting on the ramp, I decided to snorkel down to see what was fouling the anchor and not waste further time. Discovered the anchor had snatched an old chain running N-S about 100 metres out from the mouth of the duck pond. After some wrestling, I got the anchor un-snagged and re-set in the muddy bottom. A quick swim back to Mac’n’Me, recover the anchor successfully and we were away.
Having got the boat onto the trailer, we discovered a bit of a peculiarity...the ramp seemed to be a bit steeper than those we normally use, and that meant when the trailer is pulled up the ramp and the stern settles onto the trailer bunks, the bow moves away from the vee block. This is a normal occurrence with the whole geometry of boat and trailer, but seemed to be made worse due to the ramp. Multiple dunks and slow recoveries with some winch tightening along the way got us to where the boat normally sits...but not before the winch strap broke and the cheap metal of the winch body failed. A quick trip to the chandlery and we had a more robust winch. In slower time, I need to improve the winch pull geometry.
So, 21 days aboard (albeit with a couple of quick stops in Hamo for supplies and proper showers). Some great experience had. Some friendly fish met. Some playful whales met. Sadly, we didn’t get as far around in the Whitsundays Group as I had hoped: we got north of Hook Island, east to Border Island and Solway Passage. The southern group will have to wait till next time we’re there.
Some lessons learnt:
• While there is always an ongoing debate about what anchor is best, we found the Monson to be reliable and sure holding.
• No matter what plans you make, plan for the wind to actively work against that plan.
• Bullets can be nasty, even when you think you’re prepared for them.
• Wind against tide makes for an uncomfortable journey. (we knew this, but if wind and tide are opposing when you want to be underway, c’est la vie!)
• Trash storage is our limiting factor. We need to do some more thinking about how to reduce trash generation if we want to be aboard for longer than one week.
• We took 1 x 4kg and 1 x 3kg gas bottles for the Magma BBQ. While almost every hot meal was cooked on the BBQ, we never had to use the 3kg bottle. In fact, the 4kg has since been connected to the 6-burner BBQ at home and got quite a few BBQs out of it.
• The 4kg bottle was secured using a standard caravan bracket hanging off the cruising seat rail. Nicely out of the way and far safer than storage in the cabin.
• Use of a stern anchor in Hill Inlet’s high tidal flow seemed like a good idea to keep us true to our bow anchor rode, but proved to be a complete pain by consistently snagging on the raised rudders and motor (had to be raised due to drying out at low tide). With a solidly set anchor and generous scope, at full flood tide the boat completed a ‘U’ in the anchor rode without unseating the anchor itself.
• While the pictures usually make the Whitsundays look very benign, that isn’t always the case; particularly in smaller boats such as Macs. Be prepared to scrub a departure if the forecast (or weather on the day) indicates things might get uncomfortable. While we spent more days in Hill Inlet than we planned to, that was a prudent move...and provided us the opportunity to meet some great people and see some great wildlife.
• The portholes I fitted either side of the rear berth just before we set off were fantastic at adding fresh air and dropping the temperature.
• Whitsunday Sailing Club is the way to go for trouble-free launch and recovery...but watch out for the derelict chain just outside their little boat harbour.
• Towing from Sydney to just north of Brisbane on the first day of the drive up was being overly optimistic...we did it, but it was a long way. The next stop at Rockhampton was nicely placed and got us to Airlie Beach in early afternoon. The return trip had us stopping at Rockhampton and Ballina.
• Towing 2000km to get there is far more acceptable given the expectations of a great time about to be had, versus towing 2000km back home after the great time has been had.
- Chief Steward
- Posts: 54
- Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:02 pm
- Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
- Location: Mooloolaba ,Sunshine Coast, Queensland ,Australia
Thank you so much for putting in the time to tell us of your trip. I really enjoyed it. Nice to share your experiences. I hope to do the same thing soon one day in the future. How did you plan your trip? I see you have had previous experience before hand. I'm not really sure where all those places are so will take some time and google your trip on maps. The one sure thing about sailing is that it;s never" just plain sailing " as I tell my partner. Experiances come up to test you now and then. I hope you too some footage and post on You Tube. Let me know if you do. Thank you once again it was a delight to read. I really enjoyed it.
- Chief Steward
- Posts: 65
- Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:49 am
- Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
- Location: Blue Mountains, Australia
Certainly did some research before hand. I thoroughly recommend you get your hands on a book named "100 Magic Miles". Should be able to find it in Whitworths or BCF. It's the best reference for the area.
I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have if I can help.
- Posts: 1067
- Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:36 am
- Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
- Location: Gold Coast, Australia 26M "Little Annie" Etec 50
You could spice it up a bit with some nice piccies