“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Exploring new places, adventures, fresh salty air, silently gliding through waters, coral reefs, turtles popping their heads through waves, deserted beaches and watching the red sun set into the ocean. These were the things we had in the back of our mind when we signed up for a three day Whitsunday sailing cruise.
After our “extensive preparation” the day to set sail had arrived and we headed for the harbor to become acquainted with our new home for the next three days. Our yacht was the Ragamuffin II, a 16 meter ex-racing yacht designed for the Admirals Cup by Ben Lexcen, Australia’s famous Americas Cup Yacht-Designer and built by yachtsman Syd Fischer. After competing in races around the world, including the “Admirals Cup” and “The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race” she finally settled in the Whitsundays:
Our skipper Dave welcomed us aboard and gave us a short introduction about the dos and don’ts after distributing the bunks.
Not that spacious for 12 passengers and 2 crew members… We’d all have to cuddle up a bit during the next three days 😉
We left Airlie Beach harbor and set out for sailing the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsundays consist of 74 islands located in the middle of the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Once again it was Lieutenant James Cook who named these island after sailing them on the 3rd of June in 1770 on -what a surprise- Whit Sunday.
Our first stop was Blue Pearl Bay:
By the time we arrived the sun had fought its way through the clouds. We cast our anchor and strengthened ourselves with tea and sandwiches, …
… and soaked in the sun on deck 🙂
The Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and bustling with coral and marine life. Time we got to see it up close and snorkel the reef!
Here we learned that no beach in Australia is entirely gadfly-free and the way to nevertheless enjoy them is to wear stinger-suits. These suits prevent the painful and potentially dangerous stings from contact with certain jellyfish. As an extra they are really good sun-blockers, but of course they aren’t very helpful in encounters with crocodiles…
It’s a small flaw having to wear a suit like this on paradise beach, but considering the risk of jellyfish stings we could be facing otherwise, it seems a smart choice. This means you will be seeing more of us wearing these snug black suits. If this is too disturbing for you, please stop reading here 😉
As soon as we got into the water there were gazillions of fish all around us and they seemed at least as curious as we were:
Since all fishing is prohibited in these waters, the fish know they have nothing to fear…
These yellow-fins aren’t the only ones around. We saw fish in all colors and sizes:
This one should probably visit the fish-dentist:
Snorkeling deep enough one can get a close look on the amazing colors and shapes of the corals:
Once we finally had enough of snorkeling and surfaced, we saw that in the mean time the clouds had caught up with us.
Nara Inlet, our overnights anchorage, was not far and after dinner we all sat up on deck and enjoyed some drinks. Most of the people in our group had traveled to New Zealand before or were coming the other way from South-East Asia which gave us plenty of topics for conversation.
Luckily neither of us two had any problems with sea-sickness. Before we started out we considered taking tablets against motion-sickness, but once we started reading the package leaflet with all the possible side effects, we decided to give it a chance and try without them.
Lying in our bunks we were both quickly lulled to sleep by the constant swaying back and forth. It almost felt like lying in a cradle and we had a great nights sleep. The next morning many of the clouds had disappeared and as we started out towards Tongue Bay the day looked promising.
After breakfast everybody gathered on deck. Clearly this is the nicest place to be and extremely relaxing to just sit and watch the horizon pass by as we approached our first destination.
In Tongue Bay we anchored Ragamuffin and came ashore on Whitsunday Island.
From our landing point it was only a short walk to the Hill Inlet lookout from were we had an amazing view over Whitehaven Beach. Definitely one of our top five beaches we have ever visited:
Best spot for a group picture:
And the “small group” selfie:
On the way down to the beach we passed grasstrees. They grow only 1-2 cm every year and can live as long as 600 years:
Down at the beach the scenery did not loose any of its beauty. Endless seeming white beaches with shimmering endless shades of turquoise water:
Whitehaven Beach is one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches and also the largest of the 74 islands of the Whitsundays. The brilliant quartz stretches over six kilometers and is one of the cleanest in the world.
The sand consists of 98 % pure silica and is in fact so pure, that it has been used in the construction of the lens for the Hubble telescope.
With all these kilometers of beaches we whipped out our stinger suits (better safe than sorry), put on a small dance of joy and raced each other to the water:
We managed to get some closeups of two stingray, which love to hunt for pray in the shallow water:
Since we had the whole afternoon to enjoy the beach we prowled up and down and explored it thoroughly:
When we spotted this flock of seagulls…
Andy was unstoppable and took off chasing them:
In the afternoon we gathered back at Ragamuffin:
Together with Dave and Chris we set the sails and headed for Mantaray Bay:
The weather was perfect and the mood on board was great. Everybody was relaxing and enjoying the sailing experience:
As we arrived a bit late at Mantaray Bay and the ocean current had whirled up a lot of fine sand, the snorkeling was not quite as good as the day before, but it served to cool down and wash off the sweat.
We continued on to Stonehaven, our anchorage ground for the night. The big ball of fire sank into the ocean while we ate warm nachos Chris had prepared and washed them down with cold beer.
For dinner Chris prepared a delicious seafood platter with fresh salad. The wine was not anything special, but in this surrounding it did not have to be. Everything was just perfect!
That night we had an incredible clear sky and Dave pointed out the Southern Cross and various other constellations from the thousands of stars in the sky. Although known as the cross, the constellation really looks more like a kite, clearly outlined by four bright stars just over the horizon and in the direction of the South Pole. The Southern Cross appears on the national flags of New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Brazil as well as on the Australian flag. By the way, to see the cross one must go at least as far south as latitude 25 degrees north, which means at least down to the Florida Keys or Hawaii.
Is there anything as peaceful as lying on deck with a glass of wine and watching the stars?
The next day we again woke early and headed for Blue Pearl Bay. This time however we would be diving! We met the rendezvous dive-boat and suited up:
Our dive-certification as well as our last dive had been several years back, but once you’re in the water and weightlessly floating between fish and corals, it all comes back 😉
This time we got to see “Elvis”, who is a huge blue Maori Wrasse fish and very friendly. He swam right up to us and let us stroke him 🙂
Elvis has a protruding humped forehead, fleshy lips and hangs out around Blue Pearl Bay as the biggest fish on the block. He is at least as relaxed as he is big and it seemed as if he enjoyed our gentle padding 🙂
Unfortunately this was when the little battery symbol of the camera started to blink red and therefore our last picture of diving… At least we got to entirely focus on enjoying this incredible dive in the Great Barrier Reef. What a bucket list thing to do!
Back on the boat we headed towards Longford Island to snorkel with the turtles. Of course we did not wear our stingray suits all the time and here Tini is mentally preparing for the strenuous snorkeling awaiting us 😉
Dave brought us close to Longford Island with the dinghy …
and we plunged into an amazing underwater world once again:
You’re thinking didn’t they mention something about diving with turtles? We did, but it took us some time to spot several of these very shy beauties. Most of them took off as soon as we spotted them, but this one was not quite as shy and lingered long enough for a nice picture:
When we got exhausted from snorkeling we swam over to the island for a rest.
Clearly Andy still had too much energy left, as he took off with a flotation noodle to startle up the seagulls:
After we all had enough, Dave came to pick us up and bring us back to Ragamuffin:
We just couldn’t get enough. After three snorkel and one dive session we still could have gone for more! Without sunglasses it was very bright, but this is definitely a happy face:
Back on board we had our last lunch, hoisted the sails and set out for Airlie Beach:
This time Tini got to take the helm and keep Ragamuffin on course:
At first all was calm, but after we left the protection of Hook Island, the wind filled the sails and we developed quite a list while Ragamuffin’s bow sliced into the increasing chop of the waves:
This was the sailing part that was the most fun! It was almost impossible to go beneath deck because the boat kept bobbing up and down so strongly. We really picked up some speed and kept cutting through the waves while all of us held on tightly…
Close to Airlie Beach the wind calmed down again and we all arrived back safe and sound.
Our GPS tracker recorded this three day sailing cruise. Here you can see an interactive Google map of our route:
What a great adventure this had been! Our expectations had been by far surpassed and both of us will definitely be looking more seriously into sailing.
With endless stretches of sand, crystal clear seas and and a great mix of weather we experienced the Whitsundays as paradise on earth.
P.S.: If you are wondering about the Arr! Arr! in the title, have a look at the definition of the urban dictionary:
Most often used by pirates, this is a word that can essentially mean anything. Usually a response in the affirmative, or general exclamation.
During our sailing cruise this was a running joke among our group… And you do feel like a pirate if you say it often enough 😉