WHITSUNDAY NOTES — from “Sure Thing”  NX990
(after ten visits travelling from Lake Macquarie)

These notes are based on personal experience & preference and do not take away any responsibility for choice or action from each individual skipper.

This is the life!

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Having tried all variations we prefer to travel via Gunnedah, Narrabri, Moree with overnight at Goondiwindi. Day 2 via Miles,  Banana, Westwood with overnight at Rockhampton. Day 3 to launch at Airlie Beach and be on a marina berth by mid afternoon. This averages 1850km.

We use the Abel Point Marina ramp for the convenience of leaving our vehicle in the vicinity for provisioning etc and taking an adjacent marina berth on arrival. Since 2010 many areas are 7-day maximum ticketed parking however in 2011 some free parking remained opposite the water police near the ramp.  Other ramps are at the nearby Cannonvale VMR station and at the Whitsundays Yacht Club.

Vehicle & Trailer
We have used the kind invitation of Peter & Carol Gault to leave our trailer on their property out from Airlie Beach. Temporary membership of the WYC may also allow trailer & vehicle parking at the Yacht Club. A number of caravan parks allow trailer & vehicle to be left there for a fee.

Everything required will be available locally and there are Coles & Woolworths supermarkets plus butchers who will prepare and vacuum pack cuts to suit. Fuel bought at a service station does not attract an extra which is levied on boaters at marinas.

Two must-haves are tide tables which are available from Whitsunday Fishing World Cannonvale and the book “100 Magic Miles” which should be read & understood cover to cover beforehand. A VHF radio is essential and good weather reports are given on charter company schedules on channels 81 & 82 from 8-9.10am and 2-4.45pm daily.

Heading out
The desire will be to cross the passage typically to Cid Harbour, Nara Inlet, Macona Inlet (all well protected) or Stonehaven and the best option will depend on wind, tide, weather conditions and departure time. Less attractive options without crossing the passage might be Funnel Bay, Woodwark Bay or Bauer Bay.

Public moorings have been placed in the locations most frequented by charterers, together with reef protection markers inside which anchoring is prohibited. There is a 2 hour limit on moorings from 7am to 5pm and after 5pm one can stay overnight so gaining one at 3pm is a competition. During school holidays in particular there is an increasing trend for all moorings to be “taken” well before 3pm with an occasional visit by Parks & Wildlife inspectors to clear out offending boats. Overnighting on a mooring can be a problem in any swell as the boat continually rides up onto the mooring with a loud thud and chain linkages & shackles can be noisy.

THE MOST CRITICAL PART OF THE CRUISE and where no compromise should be taken. Each day begins with listening to the weather reports, checking tide charts and planning the day’s adventure and where to anchor that night. 100 Magic Miles gives recommendations for anchoring with a special section for trailer sailers which should be followed as a minimum.

Anchorages can be crowded and whilst most heavy boats tend to swing to the same direction together, trailer sailers can at the same time swing around full circle on their anchor depending on wind & current. Most charterers do not know this and often anchor too close for comfort in which case discussion should begin immediately. The trick is to try and avoid “rolly” anchorages which can be difficult given the strong currents and “open water” swell. A stern anchor is useful in some anchorages to keep the bow pointing into any swell.

Best snorkel
In order of preference; Blue Pearl Bay, Manta Ray Bay, Raven’s Cove,  Cateran Bay, Butterfly/Luncheon/Maureen’s, Dumbell Island, Chalkies Beach.

Further afield
Woodwark and Double Bay good for fishing, quiet but no swimming. Thomas Island, Shaw Island, Lindeman Island. South Molle Island is now Backpacker’s destination. Long Island (Club Crocodile) does not have much to offer for an expensive mooring. For the more adventurous, island hopping from Mackay to Bowen.

Sawmill Beach in Cid Harbour to Dugong Beach easy. Hill Inlet lookout from Tongue Bay easy & spectacular. Spion Kop on South Molle Island medium & spectacular. Whitsunday Peak from Cid Harbour for the fit and is spectacular, likewise Passage Peak on Hamilton Island.

Lovely Spots
Turtle Bay and Chance Bay (but not in southerly or SE winds) are beautiful, anchor over sand with views south to Pentacost, Shaw & Lindeman islands. Whitehaven is a must but is always a rolly anchorage if overnighting with the extreme southern end being best. Chalkies Beach is a nearby option with views to Whitehaven, snorkelling but limited room due to a severe dropoff to deep water. Hill Inlet is popular for trailer sailers but the mozzies & sandflies own the place.

Typical daily averages (total for two persons) 3 litres drinking water plus 5.5 litres other fresh water.

Our Plan
Provision for 10-12 days at a time with refrigerator, generator & ZODIAC tender. R&R & reprovision at Hamilton Island at least once. Reprovision at Airlie Beach and attend WYC Wednesday night for roast dinner. If time is limited then planning around the weather forecast and tides is critical to try and get to the best spots. During August the SE trades are usually still blowing strong & constant and by mid November the weather becomes oppressive and the stingers are around. September is generally good & October the best. Our goal because we allow two and a half months cruising is to swim & snorkel several times a day in top spots, read lots of books, eat VERY well, meet other trailer sailer crew, enjoy good sailing with whales, dolphins, turtles, sea eagles…

Alan Benn.
November 2011.
NX990 “Sure Thing”.