It is funny how things go. We never thought we’d spend much time in the Whitsundays, but we have been in the region for seven weeks!
Normally we stop at Airlie Beach for provisioning then quickly move on to avoid crowds, charter boats, murky water, all things we dislike. But this year is like no other. Our health issues slowing us down, our late arrival in Queensland due to COVID, the unrelenting SE trade winds making a return south difficult and the lengthy wait to get anything you order delivered, all conspired to keep us in the Whitsundays longer than anticipated.
Our sojourn in the islands has proved to be enjoyable though. We feel so lucky to have been here with freedom of movement and a relatively normal life. It makes us appreciate every bit of beauty we see. And we shared some of this with our cousins Grant & Deb, and a few cruising friend, a bonus!
Above the waterline the archipelago looks as breathtaking as ever: some 74 stunning islands, lush vegetation, exquisite sea colours… your quintessential tropical paradise. Under the surface, there is no denying that the fringing reefs around the islands have deteriorated a great deal: very turbid water with only a few meters visibility, a lot of sediment, much more algae smothering the sea floor, hardly any healthy hard coral left. And yet there are areas of lovely soft coral, even if the Jaws music is playing as you snorkel!
During the last two weeks of our stay we made a point of going to places we had not been to before. With our need to delay our departure to collect the tool we ordered, we took advantage of the conditions. We discovered Saba, Chance, Crayfish bays while the breeze was from the north and May’s Bay when the southerlies returned.
Saba, on the eastern side of Hook Island was the most peaceful.
Chance Bay was an attractive bay at the southern end of Whitsunday Island, although a bit too busy for our liking with commercial tourist boats, superyachts and even sea planes. We spent a night there and did the walk across to Whitehaven Beach, but left it too late in the day. It was very hot and the beach was full of tourists pouring out of tours boats. So we quickly turned tail!
Also at the Southern end of Whitsunday Island and just around the corner from Chance Bay, Crayfish Bay was tranquil, far less crowded and with our favourite Pentecost Island in the background. But it was a tight little cove with bommies that snagged our chain even though we were anchored way back in sand! We eventually managed to get away after Wade dived down to dislodge the chain from under an isolated coral head.
The southerlies returned for a few days and we spent a night at May’s Bay, another new spot for us on the western shores of Whitsunday Island. The only boat there, we enjoyed this beautiful sunset.
There is still more to see, which is the great thing about the Whitsundays. But that is it for this season!
We have re-provisioned at Airlie Beach, filled up the water tanks and washed the boat down at the public jetty, ready to make her salty again! Today we are heading south at last pushed along by a short bout of northerlies.
We left without the right angle drill we were waiting for, a purchase intended to stop any more tendon damage from sails winching. We will pick up the gear further down the track, a very annoying affair, but that’s a story for another post!