CHAPTER 3 October 5 – October 13
Pearl Bay was a peaceful hideaway – a small keyhole in the coastline. As we left in the morning, a pod of whales were playing off the port bow, a family, as the young whales threw themselves out of the water seeming to try to make the biggest splashes. We saw the most yachts in the sae area as we have seen so far, most heading south, but a few intrepid souls battling against the persistent northerly winds.
We headed for Middle Percy Island, a place with some history. There were some strong currents between the islands, which was to become a regular event as the cluster of islands became more frequent. Anchoring in West Bay late afternoon, we were treated to a glorious sunset. Ashore at Middle Percy, is an a-frame that has been visited by passing yachties who have left a collection of memorabilia of their yachts which has accumulated over time.
Saturday saw us heading for Scawfell Island. Another granddaddy whale flung himself out of the water about 200 metres from the boat several time, and wallowed on the surface flipping flukes and fins and making tremendous splashes. He moved from one side of the boat to the other (thankfully staying at a distance!)
The closer we came to Mackay, the more bulk carriers we saw anchored – over 20 this time – we presume for coal (there can’t be that much sugar!!). The northerly winds were strengthening, so we changed our destination to the southern side of Keswick Island, a more protected anchorage. Finally connected the antenna booster, works well on the mobile when there is signal available, but it overwhelms the internet for some reason.
We have finally reached the Whitsundays proper, anchoring in Plantation Bay off Lindeman Island. We had sailed past the Ingot ad Anchor Islands. Someone surely had fun naming these – Goldsmith, Tinsmith, Solder, Farrier, Blacksmith, Hammer, Anchorsmith, Bellows, Ladysmith. The coastline of each varies, and you see every detail as you sail quite close as you thread your way through.
Time to pick up the first of our guests at Abel Point Marina on Monday. This area has changed greatly over the past three years. The marina has been extended to cover the Shingly Beach area (with some silting issues apparently) and the fuel wharf has been relocated and is now much more accessible. Of course, the mooring costs have increased to cover the re-development! (It is now more expensive than Hamilton). There is a new Centro shopping centre further out from Cannonvale – Woolworths and Big W and all the usual chain stores. Coles have taken over the IGA at Cannonvale, and the whole centre there is beginning to be refurbished. P&O’s Pacific Star was anchored off Pioneer rocks and there were lemming tourists being ferried back and forth. After picking up Carol, we had an excellent sail to Macona inlet – Allikat flew!
We are back in familiar territory now. Most of the popular diving and snorkelling sites have moorings to reduce anchor damage to the coral. Butterfly Bay still has some pretty spots, but the amount of bleached and dead coral has increased since we were here three years ago. There are still huge clams, anemone fish, and we saw a stingray and a small black-tipped reef shark. The next day we snorkelled in Blue Pearl Bay, where there is still a wide variety of fish and corals. About 16 large batfish congregated at the stern of the boat for most of the day. The overnight anchorage was on a mooring at Stonehaven, the first time we have ever stayed there – a calm anchorage for the northerlies.
Thursday saw us headed for Whitehaven, with a lunchtime stop at Hill Inlet, before we swam ashore at Whitehaven. The seas were choppy as the northerlies tended to increase in strength in the afternoons, so we headed through Solway Passage and anchored overnight in Chance Bay. A strong southerly change was expected on Friday night, so we made the most of the opportunity to explore the southern islands, lunching at Bill Bob Bay on the southern side of Shaw Island. What an idyllic setting – beautiful colours and calm! What a change of conditions as we round the point to head north again – 25+ knot northerly with the Passage really stirred up with wind against tide! We anchored back at Plantation Bay and watched the southerly change – a spectacular light show as the lightning continued for hours.
Time to pick up our next guests at Hamilton Is on Saturday. The winds had turned from the south by early morning. We had booked an overnight berth on Hamilton as their plane did not arrive till 3.45pm, so the afternoon was spent exploring the pools and the resort facilities, as Carol had not been there before.
from the intrepid sailors
John and Pam