Friday, July 08, 2005

Sailing the Whitsunday Islands

Arr shipmates, thar be booty for tha takin round thar islands, arr! Took a tall ship cruise around the fabulous Whitsunday Islands, setting out from Airlie Beach. Great fun was had by all pretending to be pirates for the 3 day / 2 night onboard trip. The crew soon got fed up with our pirate talk no doubt, and I think they were also fed up with our excessive alcohol consumption from the "bar", such as it was (a locked esky!). Not that *I* was drinking to excess of course - but the large collection of Irish backpackers certainly did, so I felt obliged to prove the staying power of the Scots :-).

The Whitsundays themselves are breathtaking, and the heritage-listed sailing ship we were on was undoubtedly the best way to see them. The first day saw everyone gripping on for dear life as the ship rolled from side to side and waves washed over the decks. Snorkelling on the first day was phenomenal - hitting the water from the boat as opposed to off a beach means you see the reef unspoiled and so much closer. The food onboard was excellent and plentiful, the drink flowed well (amongst the Irish!) and we saw the most amazing sunset over the islands. The view of the night sky stars was unsurpassed, a clear night with no light pollution for miles around.

Day two looked promising at daybreak (a well-positioned porthole above my bunk ensured I was always first awake) but by the time breakfast was finished the rain had set in for the day. We made for Whitsunday Island and arrived at Hill Inlet in a haze of drizzle. The inlet overlooks the famous Whitehaven Beach, which was awesome to see and run along, even in the rain. It's certainly worth a return visit in better weather!

Day three saw the weather break for the better and we trekked across from Dugong Beach to Sawmill Beach, splashed in the Coral Sea and soaked up some rays. After another fab lunch we set the 3 sails and blasted back to the mainland with yours truly at the helm for a while - and yes, we *did* make it back ashore safely!

I'll be relaxing around Airlie (which doesn't have a beach really) and the Whitsundays for about another week before heading down to Hervey Bay and Fraser Island.....


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