ith a special report this month on cruising and chartering in the Land Down Under.
Sailing in Cook's Wake: Australia’s Whitsunday Islands "Monday June 4th Winds at SSE and SE, a gentle breeze and clear weather. In the PM steer'd thro' the passage which we found from 3 to 6 or 7 Miles broad and 8 or 9 Leagues in length. It is form'd by the Main on the west and by Islands on the East, one of which is at least 5 Leagues in length. Our depth of water in running through was between 25 and 20 fathom. Everywhere good anchorage. Indeed, the whole passage is one continued safe harbour, besides a number of small Bays and Coves on each side where Ships might lay as it were in a Basin. This passage I have named Whitsunday's Passage, as it was discovered on the day the Church commemorates that Festival and the Isles which form it Cumberland Isles — in honour of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland." — Captain James Cook It's easy to feel the spirit of Captain Cook as you cruise between the islands on the northeast coast of Australia, in the clear waters of the Coral Sea. Dramatic green hills and steep rock cliffs were indeed reminiscent of the English Lake District, in the Duke’s Cumberland County, at least to the crew I was with in June, all of us either Brits or former British residents. During our recent cruise along the
No, that's not a bareboat's wheel. Although the author was sailing with friends, she could easily imagine bareboat chartering next time.
Queensland coast, we found that many of the islands that we explored — most with white sandy beaches — are as uninhabited today as they were in Cook's day. We often went 12 hours at a time without seeing another boat. It crossed our minds that Cook and his men missed out on many of the pleasures we modern explorers enjoyed, such as fantastic snorkeling, meeting friendly natives, and onboard happy hours sipping Australian syrah and New Zealand sauvignon blanc while waiting for dinner to grill. The Whitsunday Islands, a cluster of some 140 islands and islets, are the most popular yachting destination in the Southern Hemisphere for cruisers, racers and bareboat charterers. There are many options for connecting with a boat to take you out for a daysail, an overnight or a week or two of cruising. One reason to go now is the very favorable exchange rate. Four years ago one US dollar got you 91 Australian cents. Today, it gets you $1.41. That means boat charters, dock fees, restaurant dinners and provisioning are now competitive with the Eastern Caribbean Destinations — and in many cases cheaper. (And the BVI doesn’t have kangaroos.) Supermarket provisioning was comparable to the US, with restaurant meals cheaper than in much of the Bay Area. But you'll want to stock up on your favorite spirits at the airport's duty free shops before you fly in, as high taxes push up prices in Australia. Our time in the Whitsundays included a week bopping around the islands, relying heavily on 100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef Reef, David Colfelt’s bible that is now in its 10th edition. In addition to pointing us to snorkeling spots and things to do ashore, it gave ample options for protected anchorages, invaluable when winds picked up and kept changing directions. High-
lights included Nara Inlet, which looked more like a fjord than a typical tropical island. Snorkeling isn’t recommended here, though, as it is a hammerhead breeding ground. (How cute would it be to see baby hammerheads?) Instead, we made the short hike up to see the Ngaro Aboriginal cave paintings, a part of the Ngaro Sea Trail, which includes land hikes and sea passages around South Molle, Hook and Whitsunday Islands, highlighting the native people of the area. Other stops in the area included snorkeling at Blue Pearl Bay and a walk along famous Whitehaven Beach, which was gorgeous even on a cloudy day, but is probably most fully appreciated by helicopter. We skipped the island resorts, including Daydream Island, where moorings run AUS$150 a night and resort beach towels are available from Reception with an AUS$20 deposit. Unless you are a high roller, expect to skip One&Only Hayman Island, where one-bedroom suites run AUS$1,930 a night and mooring fees are AUS$175 for four guests (extra guests AUS$35 each) for those who want to access the restaurant. (Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.) Day passes permitting you to use the pool are $120 per person, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. With comfy berths onboard, we skipped camping options that
The December 2015 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.