Life's a(irlee) beach

Thu 24 Jun 2010 21:36
Thursday/Friday morning, 23rd/24th June
Previous Anchorages
Scawfell Island 20:51.6S 149:36.0E
Whitsunday Island, Cid Island 'harbour' 20:15.75S 148:56.5E
Current Location Airlee Point Marina, 20:15.8S 148:42.75E
Very much enjoying what we both regard as thoroughly deserved R and R here after our long jouney up from Bundaberg, and which culminated in our lightning Whitsunday Islands Cruise. We wrote last in the desolation of Blunt Bay: a wild but lovely anchorage in the Percy Islands, part of the Northumberland string of Islands: how homesick were our forbears! A late finish to the day, and the howling wind did little to lift me early from my bunk the following morning. It was 08.30 hours before we were off, but we were quickly making good progress with a rising wind dead astern, and what I judge from the books to be rather typical trade wind conditions: moist air creating very hazy conditions, and moderatly strong winds of between 20 and 25 kts. We expect 25 to 30 further up the coast, so we must get used to it! The crew emerged an hour later with the usual demands for breakfast: the remains of our fresh fruit (Kiwis), ryvita and nutella! Well, better than fried eggs and bacon! Got a bit mixed up during the afternoon when I visually confused Scawfell
island with Derwent Island and spent half an hour gybing the spinnaker pole so that we could alter course, then half an hour verbally abusing the GPS, questioning both its competence and parenthood, before appreciating that we were headed in the wrong direction entirely! Fortunately we lost little time, and after an excellent daylight run of nearly 70 miles we ran under the lee of Scawfell at about 19.30 hours, and rounded up into the aptly named Refuge Bay on the north west facing coast. To our surprise 5 other yachts were tucked in there as well, one without an anchor light nearly paid a heavy price for that misdemeanour, but H spotted him just in time, and told me just where to drop the anchor, for which advice I was very grateful, as I do tend to dither about such matters. Hannah was well motivated: she was starving, as usual, and in need of her supper! Feasted on curry sauce, rice and nan bread (the nan bread imported to Oz and made in England: what sort of carbon footprint is that?!). Fruit for pudding, trying for at least some of our five a day!
Woken at 6am the next morning by a brief downpour, and after a cup of tea I was off at about 07.15. Quickly became apparent that we were in for a windy day, and I pulled down the third reef which seemed a bit chicken, but the boat was then far more comfortable, and she and the skipper less stressed, so that must have been the right thing to do. Anyway it didn't stop the log maxing out at over 12 kts during one particular headlong surf down an overtaking wave. By lunch time we were in the Whitsunday Group. Once again verdant steep sided islands, but some fine beaches too. Some of the Islands have been developed, one in particular, Hamilton Island, has high rise hotels, and its own airstrip. This is where the well heeled go. Others, like 'whitsunday Island itself, are protected with strict regulations about camping and walking. After an afternoon cruising through the archipelago we ended up in Cid Harbour, fortunately a large expanse of sheltered water, as there were over thirty other yachts at anchor: mostly chartered catarmarans and monohulls, just a few yachts from down south, but no one obviously making the long journey up north: I think we must be amongst the last of that particular migration, we hope to catch them in due course. A peacful nights anchorage and a trip ashore in the new dinghy the next day for a little exercise: a hike to the next bay, called Dugong Beach. We didn't see any, but a good walk, quite steep in places, amongst the trees and creepers. Hannah collected different coloured leaves, quite the little botanist. Our chosen landing beach was downwind of Fleck, and getting back with the oars proved very difficult: a kind Aussie from Lake Macquarrie, south of Brisbane, gave us a tow in his RIB. Over lunch we sailed in very boisterous conditions accross the wind, through the very appropriately named Unsafe Channel, and back to the mainland at Airlee Beach. This is a backpackers place, with tour operators luring the youngsters away to the islands for one or more days of fun and diving, and the high street packed with bars and campervans. The excellent lagoon - a swimming pool by the beach - did tempt us in, but it was quite cold. We stayed in the Marina, as we needed a good scrub up, fresh water, and supplies. A good supermarket a 2km shoreside boardwalk from the boat gave plenty of exercise. Baskin Robbins ice cream dented the health benefits. Off today, I hope: a strong winds forecst 'kept' us here yesterday: a rather easy decision given the comforts ashore. This morning it has been rain as usual at first light, so an excuse to finish the blog, and have my first cuppa.