Moving on from Stonehaven, we cranked the iron sails and headed North through the passage between Hook Island and Hayman Island and round to Butterfly Bay. Due to the relatively narrow passage and multitude of fringing reefs, the charter company has this as an engine only zone, so we slowly motored taking in the fantastic scenery of a tropical tree covered rocky shoreline, whilst keeping a close eye out for outcropping reefs. Considering Hayman Island was hit hard by Cyclone Debbie, it did not look too bad from a distance, but with the sort of dollars this exclusive island can pull in, I’d imagine its full steam ahead to get it back up and running.
The moorings in Butterfly bay were looking pretty full, especially as the charter company had crossed out a few of them due to nearby bommies, so we headed into the nearby Maureen’s Cove which was free of any competitors for mooring space. First mate (Daughter #1) directed us to a mooring and we picked up without any issues, that is until I came forward and noticed that my crew had not been paying attention and hooked us up to a yellow mooring rated for a smaller vessel.
The moorings in the Whitsundays have colour coded markings for vessel size: Brown 6m Tender only, Yellow 10m Mono or 9m Cat, Green 20m Mono or 18m Cat, Blue 25m Mono or 22m Cat and Red 35m Mono or 30m Cat. After a quick change of mooring we were ready to explore and dropped the two rental Kayaks overboard. Personally at $280 for both of them for the week, I thought it was a bit pricey, but happy wife, happy life.
From a distance the sliver of beach at Maureen’s Cove looks like a pristine white sand tropical beach, bordered by massive volcanic rocks which have been polished brown and smooth by a millennia of weather and storms, with a lush, dense green backdrop of sub-tropical trees running steeply all the way up to Hook Peak at 459m above sea level. Whilst still beautiful, the reality was a bit of a comedown with the beach being quite unhospitable and made up of piles of dead and sharp coral, so decent footwear is important. The bulk of this coral was probably delivered by Cyclone Debbie in 2017 as Maureen’s Cove took a major hit, which also damaged its surrounding reef system, although the snorkelling was still pretty spectacular with a wide array of marine life, bommies, coral and caves, which earnt this stop a big thumbs up from the family.
After a few days of moseying around the North of Hook Island, we decided to head down to Whitehaven Beach, which as we had been informed on more than one occasion had been voted the world’s most beautiful beach multiple times. It was whilst preparing to get the main up, that I broke a golden rule of sailing, that being ‘Though shalt always wear protective footwear’ which was a big mistake, as one of my toes had a serious run in with the furler jammer and definitely came off second best, with half a toenail missing, split straight down the middle, along with a couple of large lumps of flesh, the calm and tranquil atmosphere of the Whitsundays was split asunder by a few choice expletives. Still, being a mere flesh wound and leaving a trail of blood down the starboard side, up on to the cabin roof and then the cockpit roof and back down, the main was still raised in a timely fashion.
The difference in sail size from my normal 34’ Mono’s main to the Leopard was huge and was quite a struggle to pull up single handed, even once it was on the winch it was still hard work and I had a good feeling that the winches on-board this Leopard, although being a standard fit were undersized, either that or I’m really showing my age.
Whitehaven was around a 22nm sail around Hook Island, past Nara and Macona Inlets and up through Hook passage between Hook Island and Whitsunday Island. More from luck than judgement we nipped through Hook Passage on a slack tide, for a nice and easy calm passage and headed South along the East side of Whitsunday Island. The scenery in the passage is stunning with a steep craggy and rocky tree lined ridges interspaced with white sand tropical beaches – It’s the stuff of postcards.
The scenery down the East Coast of Whitsunday Island, is no less spectacular. On one side you have a couple of small tree studded islands with the vastness of the Ocean heading out into the Outer Great Barrier Reef and on the other, Whitsunday Island with its rocky tree lined shoreline and its bays and inlets, it really is paradise found. Just after Tongue Bay, which is a nice deep bay with lots of moorings and good anchoring with protection from everything except a northerly to easterly, is Hill inlet.
We came past at near to low tide, which is by far the best time to view this mangrove lined inlet, as you get to see the warren of exposed silica white sand bars, interspaced with winding channels of crystal clear turquoise water. Even the anchored monohulls at the edge of the inlet and the multiple cats further in, drying out like sea lions basking in the tropical sun, could not take away the serene beauty, instead they created a sublime juxtaposition of nature and man, bringing a breath taking silence over the boat and something that words cannot truly describe.
From Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach starts, a slowly curving tree lined bay of roughly 4nm of pure white silica sand. Whitehaven was practically destroyed by Cyclone Debbie, with massive beach erosion and large scale destruction of the tree line fringing the beach and whilst the devastation to the tree line is still visible to some degree, with the first few rows of trees all dead, the local rangers and Queensland government have done an amazing job of bringing back to life this iconic beach.
To Be Continued……