Finally leaving the Whitsundays

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!

Sunset at Airlie Beach

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.

Saba Bay
Early morning at Saba Bay
Soft Corals at Saba Bay

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!

About to go for a walk at Chance Bay
Green Sea Turtle poking its head up
Sunset at Chance Bay

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.

Crayfish bay – we are on the left hand side.
Tiny little beach at Crayfish Bay

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!

21 thoughts on “Finally leaving the Whitsundays

  1. Gorgeous pictures, Chris. Those places are beautiful! I’m glad that everything is going well. 🙂

  2. More very beautiful photos! The Green Sea Turtle is amazing! I’m sorry you guys didn’t get the important part your after. The Airlie Beach sunset is so beautiful, you two are so blessed! Safe travels. 😎🙏🏻

  3. As always a lovely post, I always look forward to them. Update on us, we are now the owners of the Elite 11! Very much to now learn, hope to see you on the water some time. Kathy and Peter

    • Wow, fantastic! Congratulations to you both. Looking forward to meeting up with you somewhere. Learning… yes that’s a lifelong endeavour!

  4. Bye bye Whitsundays, have a safe trip south. Glad you were able to explore some more gems. Love the turtle. Enjoy

    • Thank you Sue! We might not get very far on this leg, but at least we are moving! Keswick/St Bees for a few days as the wind shifts too far East for us to progress further… a good excuse to explore there!

  5. 7 weeks sounds a bit short but sweet. Still, you guys have packed in some amazing sights. Here’s hoping for some balmy northerlies! Happy sailing!

    • Oh Elgar for us it is a long stretch in a region we normally would not spend much time in! But doing what you planned this year was just not possible so we made the most of our time in the tropics. Good sailing today but we haven’t got very far before needed to stop and wait! Have a look at a map: we are at Keswick/St Bees Islands for a few days!

      • Looks like you’re well placed away from the mainland when any sort of northerly comes. About half way between Cairns and Brisvegas? I can see you wouldn’t want to do much tacking over the rest of Qld. Are you wintering back in Melbourne again?

      • We are staying in QLD for summer (wintering for us has just past in the tropics). We are too scared to get stuck down south again if we cross borders! It is going to be stinking hot but that the price we’ll pay. The heat is already building: well over 30 in the past week!

  6. Love the pictures. Just a heads up. There is a moderate to strong La Nina in the tropical Pacific in place this summer. This usually means stronger more persistent easterly trade winds, more frequent wet or cloudy weather along the east coast of Australia and probably some flooding events. I would rather be there than here. Enjoy your dream life.

    • Thanks Phil! We just need a few days of northerlies to get down to the Gold Coast! Stuck at St Bees Island for a few days while it blows from the East!

    • Hi Mike, yes and it was right next to our boat, with its carapace at the surface and its head going in and out of the water, just taking a look and a breath, then looking down underneath!

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