Tweet Manookatoo Adventures: Wandering the Whitsundays

Monday, 2 October 2017

Wandering the Whitsundays

Nara Inlet
After farewelling Kirsty at the Port of Airlie on Monday afternoon, we cruised out to Hook Island, arriving at Nara Inlet just before 5pm and anchoring in the busy bay just near the reef. With school holidays in three states, there were many charter boats around, but it was calm and peaceful on the water and we enjoyed a quiet night.
Tongue Inlet
Tuesday morning was time for exercises on the Flybridge! After a warm session in the sun we were both glad to hit the water for a cooling swim, then breakfast. Not long after that we raised the anchor, heading out of Nara Inlet and around the top of Hook Island. Passing Hayman Island but not wanting to go closer to yet another abandoned resort, we entered Butterfly Bay and pulled up a courtesy mooring near a reef. We donned the snorkels and flippers for another session, but found the coral here was not great, as it was also impacted by Cyclone Debbie. Later we enjoyed a sausage sizzle lunch, then dropped the mooring to continue around Hook Island, approaching but not stopping at Border Island, heading instead for Tongue Bay on Whitsunday Island, where we pulled up a mooring to stay for the night. With so many charter boats and tours around, it really feels like we have reached the Whitsundays - but we intend enjoying the "100 Magic miles" for the next week or two in spite of the crowds!
Whitehaven Beach
A stiff north easterly breeze made conditions a bit "rolly" for much of Tuesday evening and night, but by Wednesday morning the sea was much smoother. We dropped our mooring in Tongue Bay soon after breakfast and headed around Tongue Point to the beautiful Whitehaven Beach. While the tour boats favour the southern end, we dropped anchor right on the edge of the shallows at the northern end, rowing the dinghy ashore for a long walk along the beach. Whitehaven is famous for its pure white sand which, despite the evident devastation of felled trees and dead vegetation from Cyclone Debbie, remains as beautiful as ever. Returning to Manookatoo, we moved further up the beach, this time swimming ashore for a southerly walk, turning around when we reached the crowds. We swam back to the boat; hard work against the waves! After a cuppa we moved again, taking the Solway Passage around to Chance Bay and dropping anchor with the intention of not moving again today! Many boats, including a fleet of small half cabin cruisers, are moored here - Whitsunday Island sure is popular. We swam and lazed the afternoon away, enjoying watching other boaties - and seaplanes - maneuver for the best position in the bay. Another beautiful crimson sky rewarded us as the sun set.
Chance Bay
With limited opportunities for walking, we were ready for another exercise session on Wednesday morning, followed by a swim in the lovely, 24 degree water and breakfast as we watched the first seaplane of the day arrive. Soon after breakfast, the captain rowed the dinghy ashore - there is a problem with the outboard he is doing his best to fix. With marginal success, he returned to Manookatoo for a well-earned swim before we took the dinghy for a "test run" to the beach. The first mate decided to swim back to the boat - a distance much further than she thought!! Following a restorative cuppa, we raised the anchor to continue cruising, travelling 3 nautical miles to the next anchorage, Turtle Bay - so named because of the large population of giant turtles making the bay their own. We dropped anchor as close to shore as we dared, enabling us to swim to shore if we felt like it, which we did before lunch. We had intended cruising further after lunch, but were so taken by this location that we decided to stay, moving Manookatoo into deeper waters where we were a little further from the many other boats on anchor. We lazed and swam another afternoon away - it's a tough life on Whitsunday Island!
Gulnare Inlet
On Friday morning, after another swim and a lovely breakfast on the back deck, we raised anchor again, cruising out of Turtle Bay and into the Fitzalan Passage. We passed the high rises on Hamilton Island and picked up a mooring at Henning Island, rowing ashore for a walk along the beach and around the rocks before returning to Manookatoo for a swim. Henning Island is popular with tourists staying on Hamilton - they hire small runabouts for the trip across and snorkel in the shallows just offshore. Later, after lunch, when the tide was sufficiently risen, we dropped the mooring and headed into Gulnare Inlet, a deep, tidal estuary on Whitsunday Island. As the afternoon passed and the tide continued rising, other, larger boats entered the inlet, renowned as a "hidey hole" when the wind gets up, but also a pleasant place to stay in the lovely weather we are currently experiencing. Another peaceful night - still with marginal reception and therefore no television - was spent enjoying dinner and a bottle of red on the back deck.
With a footy grand final to watch on Saturday afternoon, the captain raised the anchor early and we headed west towards Airlie Beach, having booked a marina berth at Port of Airlie Marina. We arrived soon after breakfast, taking a walk through the bustling tourist strip checking out likely TV watching places and deciding on the Whitsundays Sailing Club. We secured a table on the deck, with views across the bay on one side and the TV on the other, enjoying a seafood platter for lunch - with the most enormous tiger prawns you could imagine! They must have been a good omen......there were only three others watching the game, so when half time came we moved camp, deciding that while "Magnums" is the busy backpacker venue, its outdoor screen and packed beer garden provided a lot better environment for cheering on the Richmond tigers to their first flag in 37 years. The First Mate was so excited! The noise at the end of the game was deafening, so after a few rounds of "We're from Tigerland" we headed back to Manookatoo, where the captain had thoughtfully recorded the game so we could enjoy the speeches and accolades in quiet comfort. We had champagne to celebrate and a delicious barbecue before retiring for the night.
Beer-hall Airlie style
Sunday was "housekeeping" day, so we packed up all our washing and headed to the laundrette early, returning to Manookatoo for breakfast and then grabbing the keys to the courtesy car. We visited Bunnings, Woolworths and BWS, then took a drive out to Shute Harbour, once the main port for the whitsundays region but now wrecked - devastated by the twin effects of Cyclone Debbie and the two new marinas and a cruise terminal built so much closer to town. Returning the car and unpacking our purchases, we ventured out on foot, checking out more of the town and enjoying a swim at the lovely lagoon on the foreshore - with the tide out it was a much more attractive proposition than the beach! We lazed the afternoon away, venturing out for a late afternoon drink at the local beer hall but deciding not to attempt a repeat evening at "Magnums" to watch the NRL grand final - the combination of an early start due to daylight savings (in the southern states) and being Victorians in North Queensland Cowboys territory convinced us that staying aboard and watching the game in peace was a much better alternative!
Another refreshing swim!
The sun is rising earlier than ever now and, with no daylight savings here, we were awake on Monday morning before 5am and ready for a long walk well before breakfast. We took the scenic walkway along the waterfront and around to Abell Point Marina, admiring many very large boats before returning to the lagoon for a refreshing swim. It is the Queen's Birthday holiday here today so even the supermarket doesn't open until 9am. After breakfast the captain had another attempt at fixing the dinghy outboard while the first mate bought a few last minute supplies, then when she returned we cast off our lines and headed east again. With cloudy skies and the occasional light shower, conditions are fairly humid, but once we cleared the mainland the breeze was pleasant as we cruised across to Whitsunday Island, reaching Cid Harbour and dropping the anchor just after 1pm. Lunch and a lazy afternoon - with a refreshing swim - enlivened our senses. We will spend the next few days visiting a few more of the beautiful bays, islands and inlets around the Whitsundays before we venture further north.
The Captain's Log
Distance travelled: 91.4 nautical miles
Fuel consumption: 93.9 litres
Cruising time: 15 hours, 55 minutes

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