Following our concierge in, I was a little nervous, as this would be the first time maneuvering Seafox in confined quarters and I was still getting used to handling her with the twin engines for steerage. Fortunately there was a minimal cross wind and the pen was of a good size, but as sods law predicts, just as I was bringing the stern around and coming into the pen, Seafox blew a coolant line on the Starboard engine, which I was turning with, giving an instant engine alarm to heap a bit more pressure on me. Fortunately I was far enough around that I could kill the engine after a couple of seconds and glide in, using the port engine to kill backward momentum. At which point my concierge tied off the lines, thrown down by my crew and then took payment for the night.
After exploring the island, dodging the multitude of golf buggies buzzing around like a swarm of bees and a swim in the very nice hotel swimming pool with some overpriced drinks, we stocked up from the local IGA, which was reasonably priced for where we were. The shower and toilet blocks were clean and nicely furnished and gave piping hot water and nice long showers were had by all, after the water restrictions of boat living.
The island has a good selection for dining varying from cheapish to expensive. To put some perspective on pricing, we all went out for breakfast at the local café and the cost was considerably cheaper than if I’d gone out in Perth our hometown for breakfast – go figure! The charter company had arranged a local mechanic to come out and replace the coolant line and we were all fixed up and ready to head off by the 11am checkout time.
From Hamilton Island, we headed up to Cid Harbour running alongside Whitsunday Island, with the wind whipping in off the stern at 17kts giving us a fun run all way down to Cid Island, which we decided to go around to continue the sailing a bit longer, rather than cutting up Hunt Passage directly to Cid Harbour.
Ed had suggested that to keep it simple with an inexperienced crew that I stick to tacking rather than gybing. Really, he was having a laugh, as trying to coerce this Leopard through the wind was not easy and nigh on impossible if you had to go through a current as well, leading to generous use of the Iron Sail, whereas Gybing with all the lines at the helm was a dream and created no issues at all with some careful management.
Cid harbour is a massive area of protected bays on the NW side of Whitsunday Island, which has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, with multiple shark attacks, including sadly a fatal attack. We arrived around lunchtime and there were already well over 20 boats anchored there, although I’m sure it could easily accommodate a hundred or more, so finding a spot was not an issue and with a mud/sand bottom, shallow 3-6m depths and good wind protection, even the most inexperienced will find a good spot and not drag. We anchored off Sawmill beach, which had a pleasant little beach with some picnic tables and a track for the dedicated up to Whitsunday Peak at 437m above sea level.
It was a short hop over to our last anchorage for our trip, Nara inlet on Hook Island, but a very rewarding sail, with multiple sightings of a hump back whale. It’s around 3 miles from the entrance of Nara to the end of the inlet, with plenty of good anchoring spots all the way down, although the most popular appeared to be right at the very end where the depth was around 6m with thick mud for good holding and with everyone wanting a piece of that pie the boats were quite tightly packed in here. This is also the location of the Ngaro Cultural site, which is a short trek inland showing ancient aboriginal artwork with informative displays and audio information. Just after having a swim and whilst putting the Kayak in the water, we got hit by what I can only call a swarm of Jellyfish, I have never seen so many in all my life, thousands of them gently floating by like dandelions on the wind. I’m not a Jellyfish aficionado, so I couldn’t tell you what type they were or if they stung, but that was the end of our swimming as I was not about to find out.
Seafox needed to be returned by 10am the next day, so we set off early and picked up a beautiful 15-18Kt wind smack on the beam as we poked our nose out of Nara Inlet. The sails were up in no time, with my now well-seasoned crew and we fairly flew back to Airlie beach running between 7-8Kts the whole way, whilst leaving a couple of Monohulls in our wake.
On approach to the Marina we gave the charter company a call on the VHF and they sent someone out to meet us and take over the boat for fuelling up. Our temporary captain, seemed very impressed that we’d only used just over a $100 of fuel for the week, as he explained that a lot of charterers never crack the sails and just motor around – What’s the point of that we both agreed. After a quick debrief, once back in the pen, our adventures in the Whitsundays was over, but a whole host of fantastic memories will stay with us and maybe one day we’ll return, in our own cat though next time!