If any post shows it is worth looking for the positive and not letting yourself feel depressed by set backs even if it is not always easy, this post is it. There is a lot to be thankful for, so make yourself comfortable, enjoy and like us, just go with the flow!
After hosting friends on board, we needed a change of pace. With the prospect of a week of kind weather, we headed for Little Black Reef, a 50 nm passage from Airlie Beach. On the original program: some quiet time snorkeling, fishing, surrounded by stunning graduations of aqua water. But the wretched forecast changed twice in quick succession. First our week at the reef was reduced to three days including getting there and back. It was still worth the effort as you can tell from these shots, taken on arrival.
But then overnight things got worse. We woke up to yet another change in forecast: sunny but too windy with 20 to 25 knot gusts offshore. We resigned ourselves to the fact we had sailed 50nm, only to turn tail the very next day, without even getting in the water!
The saving grace was that the passages were active both ways, especially on the way back. We saw two whales, a sea snake, and with two reefs in the main and a few twirls in the jib, we were flying on our way back to the Whitsunday Islands with a beam sea and plenty of white caps. It was a wet and wild ride!
Have we told you the weather is so topsy turvy that it is hard to plan anything, really frustrating and unseasonably cold? Even Bengie thinks so!
Top end of Hook Island
Although coming back to the islands was a bit of a letdown to start with, we made the most of the weather we got: windy, but sunny. We found a scenic spot to hide in at the top of Hook Island – Maureen Cove. It was pretty, protected; we were comfortable sitting in the sunshine in flat water while the wind was blowing up high and we enjoyed a bit of internet detox! We even went for a snorkel, knowing it would not be flash, but on the lookout for small treasures. We really had to search in all the dead stuff, but did find a couple, notably a Crinoid, and Tunicates which made the dive passable.
Just as we were coming back to the dinghy mooring buoy, Wade said: “give me your camera, dive down the rope to the bottom and listen”. Whale songs is what you could hear! What a treat! And Wade used the camera too while Chris was not looking. Check this out!
Being right next to Butterfly Bay and our first round of snorkeling quite ordinary, curiosity got the better of us. Still in our wetsuits, we dinghied to the entrance of the bay, tied to a small buoy and went for another snorkel to check out the conditions there. This bay is probably the best snorkeling you will get at the Whitsundays. Certainly not great, with low visibility, hard corals struggling to survive, not a lot of fish, but there are plenty of soft corals. So again we focused on the best we could find, and here it is:
Our next move was to Tongue Bay where we were due to meet up with cruising mates on Wind Song II. We first met Simon and Amanda at the Percies two years ago, kite surfed with them and really hit it off. We are plotting some adventures together.
Although Tongue Bay has no phone or internet coverage, it is a pleasant spot to chill out. We anchored past all the public moorings so we could stay as long as we liked without getting hassled. It is a well protected anchorage in strong southerlies, with easy access to the famed Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. With the wind still blowing hard, there was talk of a kitesurfing attempt on the other side of the hill, at Whitehaven Beach, no less! But would not you know it, the wind died down! So instead Amanda and Chris flew their drone from the beach at low tide. Not too shabby.
Bengie had fun too. We took her for a walk on a tiny little beach in the mornings. She had not been for a while and looked like she enjoyed her outings: happy little meows, digging in the sand, trotting, climbing up some rocks, chewing on blades of grass, rolling in leaf litter…
Then it was time for a bit of exploring: we took the tender out of Tongue Bay around to the entrance of Hill Inlet and as far up the inlet as we could. The creek goes a very long way!
Hill Inlet is one of these iconic spots: a large estuary with mangroves and shifting sands surrounded by high hills. It offers fantastic exploring in a dinghy. Low draft vessels like catamarans can get in near high tide, but you have to be prepared to end up high and dry as the water ebbs. There are only a couple of holes where boats can stay afloat. With no mini-keels, thin rudders and daggerboards on Anui, we are not prepared to beach her! So Hill Inlet is out of bound for the big boat, but not for Speedy Gonzales, our tender!
It was great fun going up the estuary, following its meanders and sneaking through sand banks and shallows. We stopped at a couple of spots to fly the drone and take a few photos.
But the tide was ebbing and the water disappearing fast. With the potential to be locked in, unable to get out again even in the dinghy, we did not stay long. We went as far as we thought was safe then turned back. Next time we will attempt to get there on a rising tide to allow more time to explore!
We are staying at the Whitsundays till the end of the month. We have a couple of errands to run at Airlie Beach and are also picking up our friend Bill who is flying up from the Gold Coast to join us this weekend. He has been recovering from surgery and is keen for an escape. We will have him on board for a week or so, cruising around the islands and venturing to the reef if the weather allows, maybe even returning to Little Black!