Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Outrigger update

Re where the outrigger teams came from to compete at Hamilton Island: add Hong Kong and Canada to my guess of the east coast.
And the dancing in the street went till 2am!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A change of view

This morning's start to the Outriggers' six-man team final.
We've never visited Hamilton Island before having been put off by the horrid 70s high rises that are a blight on the Whitsunday landscape.
Having biked and walked around the place for a few days, I can happily report that the architecture since those times has improved enormously. There are some stunning homes here that fit the landscape beautifully. Hopefully one day the high rises will come down and be replaced by structures that tie in with the tropical surrounds.
The island is amazingly well cared for with lots of walking tracks scattered with picnic tables and seating. Free buses run clockwise and anti-clockwise but golf buggies are the main means of transport - and there are hundreds of them.
We appear to be the only cyclists on the island - and I know why. I've walked up and down more hills than I have ridden as they are so steep.
For the past few days the annual outriggers' (canoes) carnival has been in progress, today being the final day. Crews come from up and down the east coast (could be further for all I know) to compete. The practice days were held in perfect weather but the wind has picked up over the past 48 hours and teams face 25 knot+ winds today as they row around Dent and Hamilton Islands competing over a distance of 45 km.
Hundreds of support boats lined up with the outrigger canoes for this morning's start. It was quite a sight. We were both amazed at the speed of the six-man team of outriggers as they powered past us to round the southern end of Dent Island. The support boats carry replacement rowers, who drop into the outrigger in relay as a rower tips him or her self overboard into the sea to create a vacancy! The plan is that the support boat then picks them up.
Last night's celebrations (and there have been many over the past days) included a spectacular fireworks display off the marina point. No doubt Hamilton Island will turn it on tonight to celebrate the end of the competition. Should be good!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Cruising with the crew

When the sun finally bursts through, things like updating the blog are abandoned in favour of snorkelling, swimming, sailing, mountain climbing and exploring.
Amazing what you can cram into a few sunny days!
The Whitsundays turned on its best face for the second half of our guests' stay aboard.
The morning after huddling around the Cobb oven, we were snorkelling in Stonehaven Bay then sailing down to beautiful Cid Harbour in perfect conditions. The forecast altered from three metre seas to a flat sea with a 10 to 15 knot breeze - quite a turnaround.
Tranquil Cid Harbour did not disapppoint. We explored Dugong Beach just before the sun dipped over the horizon then spent the next morning climbing the 437 metre Whitsunday Peak to take in a 360 degree view of the islands. Spectacular and worth the climb.
The view from Whitsunday Peak 437m

Catching the last of the outgoing tide, we motored through Hook Passage that separates Hook and Whitsunday Islands, and headed to Cateran Bay on Border Island. Luck was on our side as we arrived just as the boat on the only large mooring headed off.
Some clever manouevering by our helmsman had us on the mooring just ahead of another yacht and within the time frame that let us stay put overnight.
Snorkelling gear was again donned to enjoy the beaut coral in this bay. In the morning we climbed to the top of a nearby hill to take in the view our next destination, Whitehaven Beach. It was a tricky climb as the track is extremely overgrown and we were all very aware of the possibility of death adders hidden in the undergrowth.
Sea Piper and others in Cateran Bay.

A couple of hours later we were anchored off Whitehaven and exploring the pristine beach and lagoon nestled behind the northern end of the bay. The sand is so white here it dazzles your eyes. At the change of tide we were treated to the sight of armies of turquoise-backed crabs emerging from holes to march towards the water in the lagoon. In the quiet all that could be heard was their clickety-clack sounds as they scurried forward.
Whitehaven Beach.
An overnight anchorage in Tongue Bay was followed by an early start to take us through the Solway Passage in the final hours of the incoming tide, thus avoiding the swirling whirlpools of a surging tide or, worse, trying to get through against the tide.
It's the first time we've had the opportunity to explore the southern end of Whitsunday Island and we were able to spend a glorious few hours in the aptly named Turtle Bay - watching turtles and doing a bit of beachcombing, before rounding the corner to the resort centre of Hamilton Island, where we had booked into the marina to farewell our guests.
It was with much sadness we said our goodbyes the next morning to the best crew we've ever had (now there's a challenge). We'd had a ball, and had all learnt heaps - not only about sailing but card games and horse racing too! You have to do something on those rainy days!
Goodbye to the #1 deck crew! We'll miss you.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sunny one day.....? One day!

Brrrr. This must be the coldest spell of weather for the Whitsundays ever.
Instead of basking in sunshine, we had to huddle around the new Cobb cooker to stay warm yesterday.
(The Cobb, by the way, meets all expectations and did a fine job of our lamb roast last night. Gotta love ebay for a good deal!)
Who would guess we're in Queensland, rugged up like this.

From Friday evening the wind blew, and blew, and blew and it got colder and colder.
We hightailed it out of Butterfly Bay early on Friday after a night of `bullet' winds coming down off the mountain and through the narrow bay we were in. Each blast was like a punch in the face. Whammo. It blew our deck sleeping guests back inside around 2am, which was just as well as rain followed soon after.
We've spent the past two nights in Stonehaven Bay on a mooring. This morning the weather calmed and a bit of snorkelling was possible before we headed south towards Sawmill Bay in Cid Harbour for our next overnight stop.
The forecast gives us expectations of some sunshine maybe tomorrow. Can't wait to defrost.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Flat out

Flat out testing the trampoline stitching.

A stitch in time

If it had to happen, the timing couldn't have been better.
On the morning we were upping anchor and shifting into Airlie Beach marina to pick up our first visitors, the stitching on the starboard trampoline gave way.
Normally I do all the forward work but this particular morning, Royden stepped out on the tramp to check something and heard an unmistakeable .. rriiiipp.... as the stiching under his foot let go.
Maybe my weight would not have triggered it so it made us shudder to think of somebody falling through mid-voyage or in the middle of the night. As it was, the tramps were the allocated ``guest room'' for two of our visitors who were to sleep under the stars in swags.

Looks safe but isn't. I've circled where the stitching is giving way between the two sets of anchor ropes.

The fortunate part of all this was that we were booked to overnight at a place built around boats and sailing. Johns Sails, near the marina, were extraordinarily obliging, agreeing to restitch both trampolines by mid next morning.
It was quite a job getting the tramps unhitched but, as they are light, we were able to carry one each up to the repair shop.
The other fortunate part was that our visitors provided extra hands to re-attach and tension the tramps.
The job was started in the marina until we reached our exit time, then continued at anchor just outside the marina, and when that got too swelly, we sailed across to Woodwark (fast becoming a favourite) for the final touches.
The deck sleepers were still with us in the morning - I guess that means all is well in the forward area again.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Matchsticks or masts?

Airlie masts, moorings and marina
For a moment I was confused.
Rounding Grimston Point to sail into Airlie Beach was reminiscent of approaching a matchstick forest - but without the canopy. There are hundreds of yachts here. It has to be Australia's mast capital.
And we've added another.
It's an interesting place. A bit more developed than when we were here last (about 10 years ago) but still firmly aimed at the backpacker.
It also has a great bus system which is an advantage when you're car-less and need to pick up parts from beyond the main shopping precinct.
We'll stay overnight and go to the foreshore market in the morning then head back to Woodwark for the weekend and a bit of fishing.
Swallows - cute except for their calling cards.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The route so far

Made it to Woodwark Bay just north of Airlie Beach today. We left Montes at almost the top of the tide this morning and had a smooth trip through the Gloucester Passage.
The landslides at Hideaway Bay stood out starkly as we left the passage and headed east, however the outgoing tide became a little choppy so after passing the aptly named Saddleback Island and George Point we ducked southwards and tucked in behind Olden Island for a coffee, lunch and a bit of mud crabbing (with no success however).
It's a very pretty place with a few bommies noted as we went ashore in the dinghy.
Anchoring the dinghy forward and rear to avoid beaching.
We set off again mid afternoon sailing in the lee of the small islands with the Code Zero pulling us along beautifully.
Our overnight anchorage - and maybe tomorrow's rest day - is at the bottom end of Woodwark Bay, surrounded by mountains and bird calls, it looks like a nice spot to explore.