The Whitsundays In Winter

August 2021

We have arrived at Airlie Beach for a little Marina time before we start exploring this world-renowned cruising area. The general plan was to go out exploring for a couple of weeks, come in for rest and supplies then repeat. Firstly, though there seems to have been a spate of accidents which has allowed me to practice the first aid skills.  The dude on the boat next door lopped half his big toe off in a deck hatch – messy.  I don’t think it’s re-attachable, too much crush damage.  Peter bagged the toe, so he is having a glass of red as a reward for following instructions correctly [bag in bag in ice slurry – you need to keep it cold but not frozen]. [Update: Poor Steve is walking around with a huge bandage on his foot and no big toe – it couldn’t be salvaged]

Next, while Peter was polishing the boat, he managed to cut himself. Not a huge cut but it shows how careful he’ll have to be for a while, as with the 10 billion blood thinners he has to take for the next 12months, he bleeds like a stuck piggy. 

As usual there is a constant maintenance schedule for the boat (and for those who know me; yes I have a checklist and schedule in my diary).  I guess you could choose not do it, but we’ve found that way leads to more work in the end (and because Karma is a b###ch it will be somewhere in inconvenient circumstances).  I’m currently defrosting the fridges again.  It’s going to have to move to monthly on the maintenance schedule because once we move into a humid climate the freezer plates in the fridges just keep freezing over (any suggestions gratefully appreciate).

Street/Beach Art

I do love a bit of street art or sculpture in this case.  This is a  turtle sculpture that has been concreted onto rocks at Shingley Beach (just next to our marina).  He/she doesn’t look too happy about being there, but I’ve noticed turtles don’t seem to ever look happy – they can’t smile, so how can you tell?

The Rabbit Terrine was ‘to die for’

Airlie Beach is also full of restaurants and here Peter is getting reacquainted with his favourite Italian restaurant  (La Tabella Trattoria, on the Esplanade).  August is still cool in the evenings here, hence the jumper.

Me and my dream car

August is the month for the Great Barrier Reef Festival and one of the events that we bumped into was the ‘Revvin’ the Reef’ car show. I found my retirement car; a 1965 GT Mustang in magenta (same age as me and in my colour!).

You have to love the clean engine

Peter seems more a Chevvy man; it’s a mean, green revving machine…

Although it seems the Holden Panel Van brought back some fond memories from his misspent youth in Kalgoorlie. Taylor was concerned that we would spend more of his ‘hard earned inheritance’ (silly puppy, he knows we are leaving him nothing to inherit, we own a boat, otherwise known as a money pit).  Unfortunately, I don’t have anywhere to park a nice car for the foreseeable future, so the Mustang will just have to wait.

Never a chance to chill for long; the lockdown on the Gold Coast is lifted so Peter had us on a flight to Brisbane that afternoon to pick up the car for another drive back up the coast.  The lovely Mac’s drove our car to the train station, so we could just head straight off (they have to finish working on another friend’s boat and then we’ll meet in the Whitsundays next month).  I have heard others say that driving on Queensland country roads is boring, but we have not found this to be so. Obviously they have never done the Nullabor – that is a long, fairly boring road if there was one (it’s flat desert and straight as a die for 146.6km of its total 1675km).  When we were here in Queensland 30 years ago there was a lot of roads works going on and there still is (quite possibly on the same sections of road)! As long as you’re not in a hurry, the driving is quite comfortable and the truckies are well behaved (there are a goodly number of passing lanes) .  There is even a section of the Bruce Highway that has a quiz with answers on road signs (and do you think I can remember what the highest peak in Queensland is?)

‘AraRoa’ (a Nordy 60’ formerly ‘Last Samurai’) that we had become friends with the owners down in Sanctuary Cove arrived.  Terry and Jenny are new to Nordies, so Peter invited Terry over for a tutorial whenever he was doing some engine maintenance (and a second set of hands is always helpful).

You’re looking the wrong way Terry

Peter was such a good teacher that he included how to bleed an air bubble out of the system when changing the fuel filters (he assures us all it was a deliberate air bubble – really?).  Terry is not shy about stating how much he doesn’t know about things mechanical; but he is keen to learn, has made friends with mechanical types, and has a sat phone (for Jenny’s peace of mind).

A Noggle of Nordhavn people

‘Sally Forth’ also arrived at the marina so we took ourselves out for a very pleasant meal (in truth it doesn’t take much of an excuse). We are not sure of the collective noun for a group of Nordhavn owners, so we decided to call ourselves a Noggle of Nordhavn owners (again suggestions happily sought)  [left to right; Terry (AraRoa), Mark (SallyForth), Peter (OpalLady), Jenny (AraRoa), Sally (SallyForth) and Suz (Opal Lady) behind the camera].

Cruising up here during the winter months is a patience game.  You have to sit out the SE winds and wait for a break and then be ready to take advantage when they occur (and have a backup plan for when the break doesn’t last as long as expected).  We really wanted to head out to the reef, but that would need a really good break in the weather.  In the meantime, we used smaller breaks to explore the nearby islands.

An evening at Nara Inlet

This is Nara anchorage on Hook Island, looking towards the entrance we came through.  It is part of a set of long fingers along the west coast of the island and we are tucked up two thirds the distance along, out of the wind.  We’ll be here for 3 or 4 days waiting for another break in the winds.

Some of the excellent information signage

The provision of information in the Whitsundays is excellent.  Nara even has an audio station for listening to the stories of the Ngaro peoples of the area.  This is a photo of a display of the archeological history of the area.  The Nara Inlet cave is accessed via a set of easy to find steps on the eastern side of the inlet about 2/3 the way in.  It’s not a very impressive cave, but I could see it being very comfy for sheltering from these winds back in the early, early days. There is an entire section of rock wall on the eastern side of the inlet that has been graffitied.  This was the thing to do back in the day, but frowned upon now (it is illegal).  One of the names that stood out as we were puttering past was “Sirocco 30”.  What’s special about that?  Sirocco came through the Whitsundays enroute to PNG back in 1930 and was skippered and owned by Errol Flynn (he of the ‘Australian Crawl’ song, a swashbuckling Aussie actor from the b&w movie days – I recall he cut a rather flamboyant figure in tights for Robin Hood in 1938).

I guess the fish don’t know its raining

The little dark spot between the two boats is Peter fishing in the rain, because it was the right tide.  Neon was disappointed when he got home with no fish.

Nara Inlet looking north

Obviously, this is the place to be.  We have 9 boats further in than us and 5 further out.  We thought this anchorage was getting crowded with 15 here, but we just had afternoon tea on another boat (their dinghy motor stopped so we towed them home and were invited in for a cuppa).  They have been here when the whole inlet was lit with anchor lights at night! That would be too crowded for us, I’m not that sociable.  Many of the hire catamarans from Airlie Beach are directed to come here if the weather is not good because it is a very protected anchorage, though not from the south, as the wind whips in rather fiercely we’ve found.

He’s on

The Hunter was out again for a quick troll along the edge of the inlet, revealed at low tide, just to see if anything was out there – and there was a meal sized Skippy wanting some short-lived adventure.

Waiting for Dad fillet tea

‘AraRoa’ came in to Nara, so Terry and Jenny popped over for tea. They are using their new, little inflatable tender.  They decided they wanted a backup for the big tender, after having nothing for the previous few weeks because of a failed davit.  We also have a similar small backup (although ours is old and needs bailing out regularly, but I can launch it on my own – maybe in some future budget cycle we’ll get a shiny new one, but it’s not high on the list of priorities).

The closest you get to Uber out here

I had been hearing an unfamiliar burbling noise from a pipe loop in the salon.  The loop was for the genset outlet, so learning from previous experience Peter decided to assume that something was awry with the genset and set out to investigate.  Terry got a lesson in changing water pump impellers and tracking the pesky pieces through the cooling system for the genset (it had indeed parted ways with some of its splines).  Next morning the burbling noise had gone – another tragedy averted (ok a bit dramatic – I’ve been watching commercial TV news).

Looking north from our anchorage

After Nara we headed around to our new backyard, Cid Harbour on the western side of Whitsunday Island.  Everywhere is close here, it only took 40mins to choogle here.  Neon had only just settled down for a travel snooze and we were anchoring up (he’s recovering from the shock with another snooze).  We’ll stay here for a week or so as the weather for heading further out is not good.  Cid Harbour is quite pretty and there is plenty to do. Again, there are a lot of boats here; this is the busy season for the Whitsunday boating fraternity. 

Dugong Beach (sans Dungong)

A lovely day for a walk from our little beach, Sawmill Beach, through the forest to Dugong Beach (1.5km away).  Yes, there had been a sawmill here (1890-1904 after which they ran out of commercial Hoop Pine, as did the other islands in this group).  This means that most of the tall, impressive Hoop Pine on the island is regrowth. I can see why people would want to swim here, but there are signs on the beaches and even floating out in the anchorage warning about the Bull Sharks (there has been a number of attacks in this anchorage). While walking back from Dugong beach, I managed to turn my ankle, so we couldn’t do the big walk to the top of the island for a week.  One of the nice things about Cid Harbour is that there are plenty of turtles around. Love turtles. Although there are supposed to be some around, we did not see any dugongs.

Not to be confused with mooring buoys

I think they are trying to tell us something – there are half a dozen of these buoys floating out where the boats anchor.  Apparently, this is a breeding ground and the Bull Sharks are quite territorial.  We think we keep seeing the cutest little shark-lets.

We finally did the walk to the top of Whitsunday Island.  It took us 3 hours return (with a snack stop and phone call at the top). 

Information and walking sticks

There is a little collection of walking sticks leaning on the sign at the start of the walk up the island.  Most are literally sticks that people have picked up, but someone called NK had whittled theirs; and a very comfy stick it was too – Thanks NK.

The sign was lying!

It is pretty impressive from up here (looking south-ish)

It was quite a steep climb in places (Peter wanted to test his upgraded heart out), but the view was wonderful and we had excellent reception, so we phoned the Mothers while we were up there.

Aliens in the Whitsundays?

We came across a patch of seeming alien life forms on the track. The sphere is about 2.5cm across (1” in old speak), there was no noticeable smell and the ants were very busy on them. The Family and Friends (F&F) had a great time guessing what it was; a funky fungus was the top pick although young Max (nephew) suggested a terrestrial form of coral.  I sent a photo off to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens asking for help.

Pretty fungus

As a change to sunsets, I sent a series of Natural History pics to the F&F.  Whitsunday has a delightful range of fungus and butterflies….

and some very tenacious fig trees…

Hoop Pines are quite shaggy trees

and Mother Nature seems to know her way about regrowing a Hoop Pine forest…

Basalt (lava rock)

and of course, geology. You will find something very similar to this rock type on the mainland because, unlike most of the islands off Queensland that are sandy and coral-ly in nature, the Whitsunday Islands were originally a series of mountain peaks that were part of the mainland, before sea levels rose about 9 000 years ago (came as  bit of a shock to the locals I dare say – but they adapted and learnt to make boats).

Evening at Cid Harbour

It’s like Grand Central station here; boats are powering in to get out of some foul winds out there.  We don’t do bad weather, that’s why we are already here and staying for a few days yet.  It is a big harbour and has been used to shelter from high winds (Lindsay Heiser of the Hook Observatory, sheltered from Cyclone Ada in Cid Harbour back in 1970. He survived, but I wouldn’t want to do it myself).

More non-sunset photos from Cid Island (a little island across from the anchorage which is actually at Whitsunday Island).

Pebbly beach

We didn’t have much success fishing here, but the beach walk was lovely.

Sometimes the mud just doesn’t want to come off

A Captains work is never done; cleaning mud off the anchor after a week at Cid Harbour.  That conveniently located tap is plumbed to the fresh water but we have it on our next ‘To Do’ list to change it to salt water – it’s not like the anchor cares.  We’ve popped around the corner into a quiet little inlet with mangroves (Pugwash wants to go crabbing).  Gulnare Inlet is very sheltered (it is a local cyclone refuge), but access is interesting (only on the high tide for us, and even then, we were down to 0.5 of a metre which is a bit too fine for me (interestingly we found that the depths on the charts were significantly different to what we found, in a good way, it seemed to be deeper).  And you really need to watch your path at the entrance as there are sneaky rocky bits that stick out both sides). On the other hand, it’s quite secluded with only a few boats to share the scenery with.

The Bare Baker

He is at it again; I get a bit trim living on fish and salad and then he starts baking bread (and it would be a shame to let it go stale)

After a couple of weeks playing out here, we headed back to Airlie in what is nautically referred to as crap weather – not hideous, just uncomfortable.  Enroute we were hit, side on, by a big wave that had green water up the full height of the salon windows (Peter said he had water up the pilot house windows too).  We had found a solution for a constipated cat (although Neon is possibly never talking to Daddy again).  Poor Neon suddenly became very ill with shock (cold ears, foaming at the mouth and un-constipated over the bedspread).  He had spent the last few days recovering from another jump he landed badly (you think we’d be able to keep him from jumping on a boat, but no) and this roll must have pinged his dodgy hips a bit too much.  He spent the rest of the trip wrapped in a towel, with me busy syringing water between his clenched, grumpy jaws. 

There is an inch of water on my back porch

Unfortunately, I have not found a way to take a photograph that accurately shows the force or movement of the sea; it really is just something you have to experience. The positive for today was a brilliant berthing – just shows what you can do when you have to.

Peter spent the next day rescuing what he could from his fishing tackle box.  It had been left out the back and obviously spent a goodly part of the return trip catching waves that were sloshing through the scuppers (our scuppers at the back are like little doggie doors on the bottom of the external boat doors – we have to have them to let excited wave water out, but I have found they just as easily let water in).

Neon Notes:

A good looking feline (I know)

I’ve gone nautical.  I don’t wear a collar when at sea, but I think it is a rather spiffy look for prowling around the boat when in the marina.  (Nb.  I have no recollection of an alleged bedspread incident).

Research Ravings: The Mystery of the Funky Little Alien Sphere on Whitsunday Island

The aliens have landed (and they are smaller than I expected)

Thanks to Jason, a botanist at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, for getting back to me.  He was impressed that we had noticed the little alien at all (go us) and identified it as a parasitic flowering plant called Balanophora.  Despite appearances, it is absolutely earthly and commonly called Fungus Root (charming).  The sphere is made up of thousands of female bits and the funky ring at the base is about 20 male bits.  The yellowish plastic like bits at the base are the leaves. So, F&F 0 – Botanist 1.

Boat Works:

After 2 years of unsuccessful tracking, I have finally found (3rd time lucky) the source of the leak under the galley sink.  It is not a big leak, which is the problem from a ‘leak finding’ perspective.  It was a small oozy crack in a pipe fitting which very slowly built up to a puddle that I would notice under my potato tray.  AND the crack was on the side of the fitting that faced a wall.  But all is solved now (crossed fingers – I’m tired of playing Winnie the Pooh in that cupboard).

Fuel filters on main and genset changed for new

Oil filters on main and genset changed for new

Topped up the fuel tank with 1500l diesel.

Changed oil in main gear box

Changed raw water pump impeller on genset (broken bits)

Loctite shackles on tender lifting straps (coming loose)

Secured petrol tank under the seat of the tender (was getting in the way when fishing)

Cruising Comments:

The Coral Sea Marina seems to have a continuous maintenance program; there is always someone doing something somewhere.  The relatively new floating ablution and recreation block, ‘The Ocean Club’, is conveniently located near us and is very impressive. 

It’s a bit flash

This is a photo of one of the 8 shower stalls for the ladies; well ventilated, well lit, and secure (key card access only).  The laundry has a bank of 6 washing machines and 6 driers.  Sometimes it is like Kings Cross Station in there, it is so busy.  There is unfortunately usually at least one machine down with problems to do with the money slots (I imagine salty coins don’t slide easily).  On the plus side, it is also well ventilated, well lit, has seating and ironing facilities (not that I’ve bothered to do any ironing for years now) and a change machine (notes to coins – very, very convenient).

This is a record of our experiences and is not intended as a recommendation for others. Phone reception on ‘Opal Lady’ is assisted with the use of a CellFiGo booster. We measure our depths from the lowest point of the hull (add 1.6m for actual water level height).

Anchored Nara Inlet on Hook Island: 17/08/21 for a week and 30/08/21, 20 08.216S, 148 54.774E, in 5m, 40m chain (scope HT 5:1 LT 8:1).  This spot (exact spot) has good phone coverage.  [Marine Park Yellow Zone (there are conditions on fishing), Marine Park Zones map 10], [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 188]

Anchored Cid Harbour on west side of Whitsunday Island: 21/08/21; 20 15.661S 148 56.547E; in 6.8m depth with 2.9m tide, 35m chain (HT 5:1, LT 9:1), exit 270o; muddy bottom with excellent holding.  [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 182]

Anchored Gulnare Inlet on Whitsunday Island: 28/08/21; 20 17.618S 148 57.295E; in 4.0m with 1.6m tide, 15m chain (3:1 as not a lot of swing room), exit 180o; not much mud on anchor. [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 184]

Header Photo – Nara Inlet (looking south)

PeterandSuz

We retired in 2019 to travel Australia (maybe the world) on our boat 'Opal Lady' (Nordhavn 43/37).

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Merry Christmas Pete and Suz!

    1. Thankyou Alana
      Our Bestest Chrissy wishes to you and yours.
      Suz

  2. Enjoyed your blog very much. Hope we get our Nordie to your side of the pond some day. Definitely noting where you have gone for future reference. Stay safe out there.
    Russ Frew
    Gray Wolf N55 27

    1. Greetings Russell, So glad you enjoy our little blog. Feel free to let me know if there is anything particular you would like us to add regarding the places we visit. We would love to catch up with ‘Grey Wolf’ when you get across the (rather big) pond. Calm cruising to you. Suz

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