Whitehaven Bay, Whitsunday Island
Sunday 28th May 2017
Distance run: 143 nm
No need for an early start, so we had a chilled morning and lifted the anchor after lunch on Friday. We expected 10-15 knots of wind, but when we got out there, there wasn’t enough to sail by. We motorsailed in up to 6 knots of wind on flat seas and waited for the wind to fill in. With the engine running we had plenty of power, so we ran the watermaker for four hours to top up the tanks. It seemed that it was going to be a slow, noisy and boring passage when finally at around midnight, the wind picked up and we were able to turn the engine off and sail. We had a cracking sail, even better than the last, and made excellent time, which meant we would catch the tide just right to continue to Whitehaven Bay on Whitsunday Island. From Shaw Island we would need to go through two narrow passages, and these had to be done with the tide going with us rather than against us as they run fast through the bottle necks.
We made it to Shaw Island just on slack tide and managed to sail through Kennedy Sound and the gap between Lindeman and Shaw Islands, and then on across a lumpy 9 nmiles to Solway Passage between Whitsunday Island and Haslewood Island. By the time we got there, the tide had picked up a bit of speed, and with higher land either side of the passage we could see that the winds would be flukey, so switched the engine on as a precaution. What an exciting ride! The tide was running at 3-4 knots and as we reached the narrow part of the passage the wind went every which way and died, leaving the sails totally useless. For a brief interval during which we pulled in the sails and put the engine into gear, we were a floating object at the mercy of the current. Fortunately it wanted to take us exactly where we wanted to go! The sea was boiling as we passed through and out the other side of the passage, and the famous Whitehaven beach came into view.
A broody Whitehaven Bay comes into view from Solway Passage. The chart showing us making our way through Solway Passage.
Or rather what was left of Whitehaven beach after cyclone Debbie came into view. It was still a breathtaking bay that curved round for 7 kilometres, but the white silica sand had been washed away and the trees behind had suffered badly, their branches bare and broken. Many had been uprooted and lay where the wind had dropped them. So sad a reminder of the great forces of nature. We dropped the anchor in 5 metres of turquoise blue water and grabbed a quick bite of lunch while the squall clouds passed over, then dropped the dinghy and headed ashore for a walk along the beach.
The sad sight – the beach and trees stripped by Debbie.
Looking along the sweep of Whitehaven beach, still stunning. Some white silica sand remains in places.
On Saturday morning we made an early start to walk up to the viewpoint and then over the island to Chance Bay before the ferries began arriving with the daytrippers. From the viewpoint we could see the entrance to Solway Passage and across to the Lindeman Islands. (We could also get a weak cellphone signal which meant we could check whether our newest grandchild had put in an appearance yet! No news though.)
The track up to the lookout began near a restored patch of beach. Further in, the plant life is already beginning to regenerate and recover.
Solway Passage with the Lindeman Islands in the distance. Checking if grandchild #4 has put in appearance yet!
We continued across the island to Chance Bay where the only way onto the beach seemed to be down a sand slide! Going down was easy, going back up not so much!
Sliding in a ladylike fashion down onto the beach at Chance Bay!
The untouched beach at Chance Bay. Looking from the beach across to the Lindeman Islands.
Back at Whitehaven beach the daytrippers had arrived, and after our hot walk we envied them wallowing in the crystal clear waters and wished we’d packed our swimmers. So we nipped back to the boats for a quick cuppa and then went ashore again for a swim. We were surprised at the strength of the current in the shallow water just off the beach. After a long, cooling soak, we went for a last stroll along the beach then made our way back to the boat for a quick lunch before setting off for Tongue Bay, just around the corner.