2011: Whitsundays, Australia
This web page contains the logs of a sailing trip that I took with my family, not with S/Y Thetis but with Razzle Dazzle, a chartered catamaran in the Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef region of Queensland, Australia. The logs cover a period of one week. The logs are illustrated with photographs and maps. They also include some and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.
Tuesday April 19 to Wednesday 20, 2011
Alice and I flew from Washington, DC, to Brisbane, Australia to visit our daughter Cynthia Riginos who lives there with her husband Scott Shomer and our grandson Alexander. Cynthia is on the faculty of the University of Queensland where she teaches biology and does her research in molecular genetics specializing in marine organisms.
Cynthia and Alexander met us at the airport on Tuesday and drove us to their house in Taringa, a district of Brisbane. Cynthia had to go on to her laboratory so Alexander hosted us. Later Scott came home and even later so did Cynthia.
On Wednesday morning all five of us took a taxi to the airport and then flew for 1½ hrs N to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. There we checked-in at a very nice hotel and stayed in two individual bungalows.
Thursday April 21, 2011 Day 1
In the mid morning we took the ferryboat from Hamilton Island to Airlie Beach Marina on the west from where our charter was to begin. The ferryboat ride lasted for 1½ hrs. During this time Alexander became very friendly with the skipper who gave us all sorts of sailing and snorkeling advice about the Whitsunday islands.
At the marina we were met by Wayne and Robyn Horne, the owners of Whitsunday Luxury Catamarans, a small charter company. They took us to the Australian built Fusion 40' sailing catamaran Razzle Dazzle which was going to be our home for the week. She has 4 double cabins, 3 bathrooms with heads, twin 30 hp Yamaha sail-drive engines, 3 photovoltaic (solar) panels, 600 aHr service batteries, 400 l Diesel fuel tanks, and 700 l water tanks.
After we moved our belongings aboard, Wayne told us that he would return at 1 PM for our “familiarization” session which could last for about 4 hours. We first went to a marina café for a light lunch and then returned to the boat to wait for Wayne. Instead of Wayne another man wearing a Razzle Dazzle shirt arrived. He introduced himself as Tony and said that he will conduct the “familiarization”. First he showed us the on-board copy of the indispensable 100 Magic Miles cruising guide. Scott also had a copy with him. Tony explained the cruising area and told us that we will be called twice a day, at 0820 and 1600, by the on-board Iridium satellite phone which we were to use for reporting any trouble or emergency such as being stunned by the extremely dangerous box and Irukandji jelly fish.
After this initial introduction, Alice and Scott left to buy provisions while Tony went over Razzle Dazzle’s safety features. After that we took the boat out of the harbor. Tony showed us how to maneuver her under power utilizing her two engines, raise and lower the sails, anchor, and catch a buoy. Her mainsail is full battened but she has a very small headsail jib. Her anchor is lowered and raised by an electric windlass and then is secured by a snub line. While I was bending, leaning over the bow safety line to engage the snub line, the upper safety line snapped and I almost fell overboard. I caught my self in time but got a very nasty bruise.
By the time we returned to the marina Scott and Alice, with a cart full of provisions, were waiting for us. Tony left, wishing us a pleasant week. We stowed, as best we could, our clothes and provisions and then took a long walk ending at a Thai restaurant where we had a very nice dinner. By the time we returned to the boat we were all rather tired and went to bed.
Friday April 22, 2011 Day 2
We all slept well. Today our charter begins. We departed the marina at 0900 and headed for the Nara Inlet on Hook Island. As soon as we cleared the harbor we raised the mainsail and opened the headsail. We had a very nice and fast sail, doing better than 8 knots with the 5-10 knot SE breeze. We arrived in the Nara Inlet [20° 07.9' S 148° 54.8' E] at 1127 after 24 nM. We anchored in 7 m depth allowing for the almost 2 m tide.
After lunch we launched the dinghy from its davits went to the shallow beach on the E side of the inlet to snorkel. Because of the danger from the box and Irukandji jelly fish, whose stings could be fatal, Cynthia had bought Lyrca suits for all of us. We had put these on before entering the dinghy. On our way to the beach we saw a large manta ray and we all got rather excited. But our expectations were dashed because the sea was very murky owing to the sediment caused by the recent heavy rains and the cyclone which had hit Queensland earlier in the year. Our snorkeling was anticlimactic.
Nevertheless, we had a very pleasant evening with a pasta dinner. By 8 PM we all felt very tired and retired to our berths.
Saturday April 23, 2011 Day 3
Everyone got up early and after a leisurely breakfast we went ashore with the dinghy and walked up a steep but well tended path to a cave with Ngaro aboriginal paintings. The view of the inlet from up the hill was very nice but little did we know that this would be our only hike during our week in the Whitsunday islands. All our other subsequent landings would be on beaches with vegetation so thick as to be impenetrable.
At 0950, after we had returned from our hike, we raised the anchor and motored via the channel that separates Hook and Whitsunday islands. After we cleared the channel, which can develop an appreciable current, we raised both sails and headed to the N side of Border Island. After 11.5 nM we arrived at Cateran Bay [20° 09.3' S 149° 02' E] at 1205. It was fairly deep here and we anchored in 11 m depth. While anchoring we had a mishap. Because of the depth, I did not want to slowly lower the anchor with the windlass motor via its push-button but instead, as is my usual practice in Thetis to release the capstan and lower the anchor fairly quickly but still under control. Razzle Dazzle’s windlass is inside the chain locker but does not have a separate release lever. Instead one loosens the capstan with the winch handle. I did this successfully but when I pushed the “down” button without removing the handle, the windlass turned with the handle and its bronze bolt that attaches its rope drum to the capstan was sheered off.
After this eventful anchoring we all went snorkeling. The snorkeling here was much, much better than yesterday’s. The water in this bay, which opens to the N, was much clearer. We saw lovely coral formations of many colors: lavender, white, blue, red etc. We saw giant clams, some with blue mouths, some with purple, and others with red. And, of course, we saw fish. Myriads of exotic fish of various sizes, colors, and shapes. All together we had a great time.
For dinner, Scott grilled chicken on the cockpit’s gas grill which we all ate with great relish along with good Australian red wine.
Easter Sunday April 24, 2011 Day 4
As soon as I was up I saw Scott hiding chocolate Easter eggs all over the cabins and the cockpit. When Alexander got up we told him that we had seen a flock cockatoos descending to Razzle Dazzle. He immediately said that, being at sea without bunnies, the cockatoos must have brought and hidden the Easter eggs. He searched and very soon had found them all.
Later I was unsuccessful when I tried to raise the anchor. While the windlass did work, its capstan was too loose to raise the anchor. I tried to secure it as best I could with its broken bolt but I was not successful. When Wayne called us on the satellite phone we explained to him the problem. He advised us to return to the marina for repairs. It took us two hours to raise the anchor. This was accomplished by a combination of muscle power, (Scott and I), by Alice attaching a line with the anchor hook and operating the halyard winch, while Cynthia drove the boat to ease the tension on the anchor chain.
By 1030 we were finally free and underway heading back to Airlie Beach. Unfortunately our plans to visit the famous Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island had to be abandoned. After motoring through the Hook-Whitsunday channel we raised the mainsail, opened the headsail and turned off the engines. We had a wonderful broad reach sail at times doing 11 knots! We arrived at the Airlie Beach Marina [20° 15.9' S 148° 42.7' E] at 1350.
Wayne was already there waiting for us. He spent all afternoon making an improvised repair to the windlass, since as it was Easter Sunday, he could not get any parts. He ingeniously drilled the capstan and its axle and then inserted a section that he cut to size from a hex key. This now locked the capstan to the axle.
This was a long, tiring, and frustrating day. For dinner Alice cooked a pot roast.
Monday April 25, 2011 Day 5
We departed from Funnel Bay at 0840 and headed to the NW side of Hayman Island. Once again, we had a nice fast sail, both sails open. But the anchorage there was too deep for anchoring and all the moorings provided by the park service were occupied. So, we continued on and after rounding the N side of Hayman we headed for the N side of Hook Island. We arrived there at 1210 and we caught a mooring in Maureen’s Bay [20° 04' S 148° 56.4' E]. It took us 3 attempts because we were not too familiar with controlling catamarans.
In the afternoon we went snorkeling off the boat. Conditions here were even better than in Cateran Bay and the water was much clearer. It was a most enjoyable snorkel. While returning to the boat we saw a good sized batfish swimming under the hulls. Scott threw some pieces of bread overboard and soon to Alexander’s delight several of these large fish came for lunch.
Later we launched the dinghy and went ashore to the beach looking for a path. Scott and Alexander did venture further inland but the vegetation was rather thick.
By late afternoon no other boat had arrived and we had the anchorage all to ourselves so, although there is a 2 hr limit to the use of the park moorings, we stayed put for the night. For dinner we made a pizza.
Tuesday April 26, 2011 Day 6
After putting on our jelly fish suits we took the dinghy to the beach and went snorkeling. The bottom and the fish were even more fantastic then yesterday and the water was even clearer. Overall today’s snorkeling was spectacular.
We departed at 1530 and headed a short distance SW, past Maureen’s, to Butterfly Bay. Butterfly Bay consists of two coves. The W cove has many moorings but unfortunately all the moorings there were already occupied and so were the moorings on the E cove. Both coves have buoys designating areas where anchoring is not allowed and the allowed areas of both of them are fairly deep, over 14 m. We made two attempts in the eastern cove which is somewhat less deep, but I was not satisfied. To have a secure anchor at this depth I want to allow at least 60 m of scope. This is longer than Razzle Dazzle's chain, and even if we did anchor our swinging radius would not allow adequate clearance from the boats already on the moorings. So we gave up on anchoring and headed back to Maureen’s Bay where we had seen a free mooring. As luck would have it, when we got there two moorings were free and we caught one of these. During all these wanderings it had started to rain. By the time we were moored the rain was coming down hard and visibility was reduced. It rained heavily all night.
Wednesday April 27, 2011 Day 7
In the morning it was still raining. We tried snorkeling but the water was not as clear as it was yesterday.
At 1040 we cast off and once again went to Luncheon Bay where we did more snorkeling. This time the visibility was better. Cynthia and Scott took many underwater pictures using a camera and its housing that Cynthia had borrowed from her department at the University of Queensland.
We departed from Luncheon Bay at 1450 and went W to the east cove of Butterfly Bay [20° 04.4' S 148° 55.7' E] where we caught one of the moorings. Almost as soon as we got there it started to rain and it continued doing so through the night.
Thursday April 28, 2011 Day 8
This is the last day of our charter. The rain had stopped during the night.
We left Butterfly Bay at 0805 and sailed S through the Hayman Island-Hook Island island channel. We passed the crowded Stonehaven anchorage and then sailed E past Nara Inlet and entered the Macona Inlet on Hook Island. We anchored in about the middle of the inlet [20° 9.3' S 148° 55.7' E] in 5 m depth at 1120.
The water here was very murky and snorkeling was out of the question. Later it started to rain rather heavily again. Several minutes later we were hit by a violent squall, rain pelting the boat and wind gusting to 35 knots. Visibility was reduced to about 20 m.
We waited for the weather to clear and then we departed. The time was 1330. We motor-sailed with only the jib and headed back to Funnel Bay where we planed to spent our last night on Razzle Dazzle. We anchored there in 4.5 m depth.
By the time we anchored(about 4:00 PM) the rain has stopped. When night fell we could see stars. We grilled steaks for dinner.
Friday April 29, 2011 Day 9
We departed Funnel Bay at 1000 and motored the 2nM to Airlie Beach Marina where we were met by Wayne who helped us dock.
Wayne and his wife Robyn brought a cart and wheeled it with all our belonging to the front of the marina where we bordered a mini-bus that took us to the Proserpine Airport for our flight back to Brisbane.
This has been a memorable week and we all had a wonderful time.