Having had a great couple of days on Hamilton Island it was time to move on to the sailing – the part of the trip we had really come for. The day was warm and sunny and with some time to spare before taking the ferry from Hammo over to Airlie Beach on the mainland, we took a look around the marina.
Then it was a quick coffee on the deck at the yacht club and off to catch the ferry.
We stopped in at a couple of the other island resorts to pick up and drop off passengers on the way. The Whitsundays is a collection of 74 mostly uninhabited islands about 900km north of Brisbane and sandwiched between the Australian east coast and the Great Barrier Reef. The islands receive more than 700,000 visitors every year, but most of them converge on Hamilton Island, so there are plenty of secluded spots if you have the means of getting to them.
We’d arranged to spend our first night aboard in the marina at Airlie Beach because we’d need time to provision. The team at Whitsunday Escape were really friendly and helpful. They showed us to the boat, we got a quick tour and then they left us to settle in. Finally we had somewhere to put the booze we’d carted all the way from duty-free at Christchurch airport. Sure , we got it duty free but it really wasn’t worth the hassle.
Not knowing the lay of the land we hired a car to help with the provisioning and drove a few kms out to Cannonvale to the supermarket. If we did it again we’d walk from Able Point Marina down town to Woolies in Airlie Beach which takes about 15 minutes and then get a taxi back with the groceries. Still, having the car gave us a chance to have a look around.
Once we were settled into the boat with everything unpacked and stowed it was time for dinner so we walked up to the marina base restaurant. We had a great meal and ended up having a few drinks with a group who were heading out to the islands the next day as we were. Just like any boating venue it was full of friendly people always ready to chat and offer advice.
The next morning it was time for our briefing and then we were off. The briefing was very thorough taking about 3 hours. The last part of that was out on the water though. Once we showed we could hoist and drop sails and pick up a mooring we were away. Never having sailed anything bigger than a 29ft mono before this was a big step, or so I thought. But once we got out there by ourselves, I couldn’t believe how easy she was to sail and how stable she was. Of course we didn’t know at this stage but when the forecast southeasterly arrived a few days later that ‘stability’ would be thoroughly tested.