After arriving in Airlie Beach, it was now a matter of waiting for good weather to explore the islands, heading out as much as we could and catching up on the ever-present maintenance jobs that crop up on a boat.
This is Peter on the bow of the boat pulling the windlass apart (it’s the winch that pulls up the anchor). We have been saying for a while now that we need to get around to doing that job. It has developed a slight slip when doing its anchor thing and I would rather not risk having to pull that heavy chain and anchor up by hand. As is usual with a boat, it became a bit more complicated but with the help of John from ‘Mad Macs’ it was all fixed and good as new.
The weather in August and September has been great, although it is starting to warm up. Neon tends to sit outside, overheat then come inside to collapse and cool down, with the normal light breeze keeping the boat cool.
One of our current travel buddies, ‘Shebeen’, have just come into the marina, so we’ll have some drinkies while working out how soon we can get to the outer reef. We are waiting for a consistent block of good weather so that we have the time to get out to the reef for a few days – it is an 8 hour run out and there is no shelter if it blows up into strong winds. In the meantime, we are happy choogling around the many close islands during the little breaks in the big South Easterlies. It is fortunate for us that we haven’t boated in the Whitsundays before, so everything is new to us anyway and it is a fantastic place to explore. And it’s also a good time to be visiting these locations as the usual armada of charter boats is only half the size – so only half the chance of a close encounter of the slightly out of control catamaran type.
What do Beilby’s do when the weather is too rough for boating; go to the local museum – Proserpine Museum this time.
The woodturners in Proserpine would seem to have gotten bored of making the usual wood nick-nacks, so they went big. They had to build a special lathe big enough to turn the bowl (the lathe is the blue steel structure behind the bowl) and the fully functioning pen was in the Guinness Book of World Records. I hope it hasn’t given Peter any ideas, as he was looking at it for a long time (Nat from ‘Shebeen’ thought he may have been trying to work out how to mount the pen in the bowl as a mast – don’t give him ideas!). He is still sad about having to sell all his woodworking gear when we moved back to WA from the farm in Victoria – downsizing from a 6 bay garage to a garden shed was not easy. I think Peter will get back into wood working when we eventually go to a land-based retirement.
The museum had some dusty but accurate reconstructions of pioneering life – I swear my grandmother’s toilet looked exactly like this. Although no green frogs in Kalgoorlie, there was definitely a red back spider and the sheets of newspaper on a hook.
Peter gave his heart a workout by tackling the steepest hill in Airlie Beach on his bicycle (he now has a battery supplemented model, just to keep his heart rate down a bit). The view was impressive (I may drive up there some time). ‘Opal Lady’ is parked behind the trees on the left, but the marina entry is clearly visible.
Early in September there was a wee break in the winds, so we headed out to the east side of Whitsunday Island to check out the iconic Whitehaven Beach (it’s the one on all the postcards). We anchored at Tongue Bay (just around the corner). Although many boats anchor at Whitehaven Beach itself, there is no protection from the easterlies. The lookouts and swimming beach for Hill Inlet (northern end of Whitehaven Beach) can be accessed, at the higher end of the tide, from Tongue Bay.
The view from the lookout is truly breathtaking; and I know you hear that a lot, but it really is. The sand bars at the front of Hill Inlet move around between seasons but are relatively easy to see (and it is all sand, so no probs when you hit them in the tender).
While we waited for the tide to rise so we could go into the beach (there is a set of red poles showing a deeper passage in, as the area around the beach is above water at low tide), Peter dropped a line off the back of the boat, but Neon was not impressed with what he caught. It is called a Golden Fireworm; pretty, but pretty weird at the same time and we thought it best not to touch it.
Golden FireWorm: Amphinomidae Chloeia flava, grows to 10cm long, very mobile with strong jaws and have been linked to some very nasty skin reactions from the stings. The spines will break off in the skin, resulting in a burning sensation, itching and inflammation for a number of days or weeks.
If you do touch one, remove bristles with adhesive tape, wash with soap and treat pain with ice. There was no mention of medicinal gin but I’m sure that is just an oversight.[Reef Creature Identification – Tropical Pacific, P Humann and N Deloach, 2017, New World Publications, Florida, pg. 66]
We took the tender around the point to do a spot of fishing at Hill Inlet. There I was Zen-ing out with the stingrays when we were buzzed by something significantly bigger than a mozzie. The chinook must have been doing tactical flying training as it was hugging the contours closely – love the sound of those things and the technology that keeps them in the air is amazing.
We floated the tender up the inlet on the rising tide. The sand is very fine and the waters are full of life; so many sting rays we lost count, turtles just lazing around and of course fish and birds. We found a few catamarans sheltering behind the first curve of the creek, but there isn’t enough depth to get our Big Girl in there. Catamarans have some definite parking advantages (for those unfamiliar with cat design; they have no bottom depth in the water and can be beached (they won’t fall over).
Unfortunately, none of the fish felt the need to throw themselves on my hook, but it was a very relaxing way to spend a day. And we had a lovely swim off the sand bank on the way back – crystal clear water, fine sand and no crocs or sharks (just lots of sting rays).
We thought we would do a circumnavigation of the Whitsunday Island for the trip back in to Airlie Beach and came across some of those impressive currents that are mentioned in the books. Around the southern side of the island going through the Solway Passage the boat was pushed 23o off the course set [the auto pilot holds the boat to a course, but the course isn’t necessarily what is on the chart (straight line to where you are going) as you have to allow for currents etc. So as long as the red line ahead of the boat is going the right way, we are happy regardless of what the actual numbers say. It can be quite challenging navigating though, when you are pointing in one direction but travelling in another].
Four days later we were heading back out to Tongue Bay to meet up with ‘Shebeen’. We were more than happy to head back there; it’s pretty, there are fish and I can go swimming. They had friends on board and were doing the ‘iconic beach’ thing (as would we if we had friends visiting). Peter impressed everyone (including himself) by doing a quick run near the reef and bringing back a coral trout for tea within 5 minutes!
We all went for a swim on that fine white sand the next day. There was some giggling when we saw a group of tourists (come out from Airlie Beach on the speedy yellow boats) running to save their bag from a group of pesky gulls and another group who obviously didn’t know about rising tides and just got to their gear before it was inundated (we were not in a position to help either group). The beach was busy but easily accommodated all the groups and the clear, cool water is relatively shallow for a goodly way out, so there is plenty of room to frolic. I know the photo is very much a tourist set piece, but that tree trunk commands a wonderful view and the soft, smooth, patina worn from godzillions of keen clamberers is gorgeous.
Two days later we were both heading to shelter to ride out a bit of nasty weather. We chose Gulnare Inlet again and ‘Shebeen’ went off to Cid Harbour (more room for their bigger boat). We ended up having ‘One of THOSE Days’.
When we got there, we didn’t get to put out as much scope as we would normally (that’s the amount of anchor chain the boat hangs off, so to speak) due to a catamaran that parked behind us. They followed us in and then parked right behind us – as if we look like we know what we are doing! But we thought we’d give it a try and adjust later if needed; and Peter wanted to make use of what was left of the tide to get some crabbing done. So, we headed out in the tender. Half an hour later Peter was looking like a warped Father Christmas delivering inappropriate gifts to crabs after he caught the inflation tag on his life vest in the pot he was throwing overboard (hehehe). An hour of that I got to row more than a wee bit of the distance back to the boat because we ran out of tide. And I’m still working out how it is Peter’s fault that I had hit the prop on the bottom (I’m not saying ‘again’, but we are all thinking it). No biggy, but it definitely proved we were running out of tide and had best get the pots back in – and because we were in a hurry the tender ended up needing a good clean as there were bait bits all over the poor little thing. We didn’t get back to thinking about the scope until 1am when I had to wake Peter because we were dragging due to the wind now approaching gale conditions. (The winds that night had picked up to 45knots or over 80km/hr as measured by Oz on ‘Shebeen’ in Cid Harbour). The cat behind us had moved as they were also dragging. Re-anchoring was a relatively simple task, albeit Peter got a bit cold standing up the front to anchor in those strong winds. With a lot of chain out the rest of the night was much more relaxing. We were not the only boat needing to re-anchor that night; but I would rather not have been one of that number as it can be a bit stressful. The Learning Takeaway from that night – if you think you might need to re-anchor, just get it over and done with and DO IT WITH PLENTY OF SCOPE.
After that little blow the weather was continuing to be friendly, so after ‘Shebeen’ dropped off their guests to Airlie Beach we both decided to choogle a bit further north. Our first anchorage at Double Bay (the west one) was nice, but a bit rolly.
We are trying to find out how shallow we can really go when setting the flopper stoppers (there is no manual for those things) – we found it! Oz and Peter had a ‘fun’ time retrieving the flopper stopper from the mud (and the anchor chain that it had picked up). Poor ‘Opal Lady’ looked like she had had a few too many, with the flopper stopper acting like a second anchor off her side. Good to trial these things in gentle weather, as in rougher seas this could have developed into a rather bad situation.
We then popped around to Little Jonah Bay, so that Oz and Peter could have some time ‘not catching fish’. Nat and I went for a walk around the headland (more of a rock climb in places), but we did get to swim in a delightful rock pool half way around the headland and there was some really speccy geology going on in places.
On the eastern side, there was still a tide mark dune full of pumice from that huge raft of pumice that washed up on Queensland’s coast in August-ish 2020 (created by an underwater volcano near Tonga).
And I fail to see how there could be anyone who wouldn’t find this weathering pattern fascinating.
The weathering shown above, was on the outside face of this very striking formation. In this photo you may think Nat is probably celebrating having left me at the top to wax lyric about fracture patterns and basalt intrusions (and following the recent pumice dissertation I wouldn’t have blamed her)…
but she was just happy to get to the bottom of it and find a perfect rock pool to cool off in.
Peter and Oz picked us up from the beach on the other side of the headland, and claiming that there were no fish in this bay, suggested we move on to The Cape Gloucester Resort to buy a seafood lunch instead.
So the next day we moved on to Cape Gloucester Resort (a very nice anchorage – lots of boats, but lots of room too). It was AFL Grand Final night and apparently, we ‘needed’ to be near TV coverage.
The resort bar/restaurant was full, but service was good. The bar is known for their prawns and they are totally excellent and the serving sizes are huge. Affogato for dessert and retire back to the boat for the night. Definitely baked beans on toast for tea that night.
Having sorted the Footy-fix we moved away from the madding crowd to Gloucester Island.
There is a funny story in this photo (well it tickled my fancy anyway). Behind ‘Opal Lady’ there is anchored a tinnie with a pair of fishermen working incredibly hard. We had just anchored up at Gloucester Island, when they came tearing into the bay, zig-zagged around for a bit until they found the right spot, dropped anchor right behind us and then just kept on bringing up good sized fish. Oz and Peter are in the tender on the right, ‘drifting’ casual-like over their way. They caught absolutely nothing until the young dudes headed off and then Nat and I (we were doing some beach walking) were killing ourselves laughing as the engine powered up and they raced onto the spot.
We did have fresh fish for tea that night though.
From Gloucester Island the weather looked like picking up, so it was time to head back to the marina. We were also noticing the periods of calmer weather were getting longer so we were starting to get excited about being able to head out to the outer reef.
Neon’s contribution to science – the Feline Indicator of Boat Comfort (still in development)
Level 1 – boat not moving or seas flat
Level 2 – 5 knots off port stern (slight surfing motion) – some ‘claw into cushion’ action
Level 3 – 10 knots off port bow (rocking horse motion) – curled for support and claws engaged
Level 4 – 15 knots off port stern (slewing motion) – full body support
Level 5 – 15 knots abeam (rolling motion) – wedged between pillow and sofa with optional throwing up
I had a request for a photo from when we are choogling in 45knot winds. Point 1 – we work hard not to be travelling in those conditions, and 2 – I would have slightly more important things to be doing in those conditions than taking a photo of Neon. I’ll bear it mind if the opportunity arises, just for the sake of completeness of the Feline Comfort Factor scale, although I do think that photo would just show a red rump sticking out from between the pillows on our bed.
Boat names can be funny things. We kept the original name for our boat, because ‘Opal Lady’ is clearly identifiable as Australian and we are hoping to get her overseas eventually. I know there are serious people out there who frown on names being amusing, but I don’t mind having a giggle. Some of the best recently;
‘Titanic’ – I guess the original was indeed a good ship, it was just a bad set of circumstances and a stressed captain that sent her down – and the iceberg of course. Not many icebergs in Queensland so they should be ok.
‘Ritalin’ – not sure what they are trying to suggest there, but I imagine it has a fair turn of speed.
The catamarans have the best time with their names. We have recently come across ‘StrayCat’, ‘PsychoPuss’, ‘Cattitude’ and my fave ‘Phlat Chat’ (it works in a number of languages).
A simple filter change on the watermaker.
For those who know one end of their water filter from the other, yes, they should all be white and we should have changed out the filters a wee while ago – but you know how it is.
Replacing a wavy washer on the windlass, greasing and liberating the clutch so the anchor can do a controlled free fall.
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 depth).
Anchored Tongue Bay (eastern side Whitsunday Island): 12/09/2021 (2 days) and again 19/09/2021 (2 days), 20 14.410S, 149 00.862E, in 4.8m with 2.1m tide, 27m chain, scope ratio HT 5:1. Winds E 5-10knts, SE 5-15knts. Phone reception for 5 minutes, just north of Lagoon Rock as running south along Whitehaven Beach, otherwise some reception at the second lookout over Hill Inlet. [Marine Park Yellow Zone (there are conditions on fishing), [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019] [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 185-186] [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 200-203]
Travelled through Solway Passage (south side Whitsunday Island) with a 23o current pushing to south, in 23m depth, travelling at 6knots. [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 199] [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019]
Anchored Gulnare Inlet: 21/09/2021, 20 17.665S, 148 57.242E, in 4.8m with 3m tide, 20m chain, scope ratio HT4:1. Winds SE 10knts. Storm surge on HT and swing due to wind change depth to 6.5m, scope 2.5:1, dragged, winds ESE 27knts gust to 45knts. A very secure anchorage when anchored correctly. [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 191] [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019] [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 182-184]
Anchored Double Bay, (western); 23/09/2021, 20 11.363S, 148 36.011E, in 4.1m with 2.4m tide, 30m chain (scope ratio HT8:1), exit 300o. Winds ESE <10knts. Rolly but secure. As lifted anchor we swung over a shallow area (1.8m), maybe a small sand bank? Good holding, sticky mud on anchor. [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 144] [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019] [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 192-193]
Anchored Little Jonah Bay; 24/09/2021, 20 05.070S, 148 32.126E, in 5m with 2.6m tide, 40m chain, scope ratio HT7.5:1, exit 360o. Winds ESE 13knts. [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 137] [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019] [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 194] Colfelt is the better reference here.
Negotiating Gloucester Passage to Cape Gloucester Resort; do not cut the corner between Passage Islet and the mainland, access to Cape Glouester Resort is from almost due west. There is a clear path of red markers, cardinal markers and danger markers to follow; be familiar with the chart before you get there. [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 134] [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019] [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 195]
Anchored Cape Gloucester Resort; 25/09/2021, 20 04.029S, 148 26.282E, in 4.7m with 2.2m tide, 35m chain, scope ratio HT 7:1. Winds E 10knots. Mud stuck on anchor (difficult to wash off). Boaties very welcome. [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 135] [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019] [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg. 195] Colfelt is the better reference here. [Fish Finder magazine, 2020, pg.272-273]
Anchored Squally Bay (west side of Gloucester Island); 26/09/2021, 20 00.432S, 148 26.423E, in 8.1m with 2.1m tide, 50m chain, scope ratio HT 6:1, exit 320o. Winds ESE 7knts. Sticky mud on anchor (difficult to wash off). [100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef – The Whitsunday Islands, D Colfelt, 13th ed, 2020, pg 133] [Marine Park Zoning Map 10 – Whitsunday, Qld Govt, 2019] [Fish Finder magazine, 2020, pg.272-273]