As has been the theme of our adventures so far, we always run out of time due to our lack of ability to stick to a plan…or be on time anywhere. Hence our decision to fly back up to the Whitsundays and become part of a crew to sail a 50ft yacht from Airlie Beach to Brisbane. With Bluey in storage in Brisbane we headed up to meet the skipper Pete and two other crewmembers Mike (American) and Julia (Swedish). Initially, the plan was to leave on Saturday however ongoing strong winds meant we were “stuck” in Airlie Beach for a few nights…we survived!
Given the delays we decided best to go for a test sail towards Hayman Island, I could think of no better way to prepare for our voyage than tearing the headsail…prepare for the worst, hope for the best? Back to the marina with our sails between our legs, literally. Nothing like a few beverages at dinner to lift our spirits so it was decided that we try our luck again this time with just a main sail.
To Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island we go, for a day of snorkelling and ‘crew training.’ Feeling a little better about our chances on the high seas we headed back to port and were rewarded for our sailing efforts with some humpback whales! Things were looking up.
Finally the winds started to settle so Tuesday we took off for Brisbane, just 550 nautical miles of sailing to do. Day one was an easy sail through the islands to Whitehaven Beach. A visit from some dolphins to bid us farewell and getting to sail through Hook Passage were some absolute highlights…after a sunset swim and dinner on the back deck we were off to bed early to get ready for a huge day of sailing ahead.
5:30am we took off and spent the day navigating through the Whitsunday Islands on our way South. The scenery we passed was breathtaking, the huge expanses of ocean and towering islands were like nothing we’ve seen before. I became designated chef (desperate times) while Chocco was killing it on the wheel. We had a visit from a turtle and late in the afternoon we took on our first shipping channel. I would liken it to a battleships scene, with so many ships anchored out at sea, we were all on alert to avoid a collision with any ships on their way into port. Once we were out the other side we decided to sail through the night. Chocco so kindly offered us up as first victims to do watch…I nearly choked on my dinner (and mentally strangled Chocco) at the thought of being up past 9pm! However I am so glad we did it, sitting out there by ourselves with the most amazing stars…was about as romantic as Chocco could handle without breaking out in cold sweats. At 1am I headed to bed, leaving Chocco to sail for another 2hrs with Pete and Mike. What a man!
After all the efforts of our non-stop sailing we decided to anchor in Supply Bay just north of Gladstone for a well-deserved rest. We spent the afternoon relaxing and swimming before getting an early night again. This time we were up at 12:30am to take off while the wind was being kind to us. Chocco, Mike and I made up the team…all keeping watch as we navigated through more Islands! With no moon the stars were unbelievable and just after 5am we got to see the moonrise, life was pretty good. Another hour of sailing and Pete was up to take over while we all hit the sack. Where on earth is Julia!? Yet to resume a vertical position for more than 5 minutes and was still lying on the back deck, crippled with seasickness…*tiny eye roll.
We were heading for Bundaberg when we decided to head into the sleepy old town of Yeppoon to deliver Julia to the bus that would take her back to Brisbane. It was getting late, so the only thing left to do what hit the pub, oh and have a shower (it’s the little things)…and then there were four!
No thanks to the wines, we were up a little later than expected to fuel up and continue our journey south. What a beautiful morning for a sail through the Great Keppel Islands and a visit from a sea snake this time. Exit sea snake…enter MASSIVE FISH!!! Suddenly it was all systems go when the line ran out, headsail in, main sail let out and motor on…all while Mike was battling on. 10 minutes later and we had ourselves a Mackerel Tuna, not good enough according to the boys so he lived to see another day.
Continuing on, we passed over the Tropic of Capricorn and while we had initially decided to sail through the night the wind had other ideas and picked up to 30knots so around 9pm we pulled into an anchorage just north of Bustard Head…not a bad decision given the recent boat sinking in Bustard Bay.
A new day and the mornings on the yacht were getting better and better. With good wind, beautiful sunrises and cool weather it was the only time I’ve enjoyed 5am. All this said, we were starting to wear out, the sail was taking a lot longer than planned as we sailed into the wind day after day…never has an object emulated my feelings so well as when the headsail ripped. It was done, I was done…time to jump ship. While we had an amazing time, we were ready to get back to Bluey and continue south on our own journey. Mike was also getting off so it was decision made.
With no headsail, we motor sailed through the day past Agnes Waters and Bundaberg and into the night to make it to Hervey Bay by about 1am. Again Chocco and I did the night shift and what a send off we had. The cooler temperatures made the stars so much brighter and to top it all off we got to see the bioluminescence lighting up the ocean as we punched through the waves. The stirring of the water light the plankton up into bright blues and greens. You can imagine after 7 days of sailing…I thought I was just going mental, well more mental.
So 7 days later we were back on dry land in Hervey Bay, catching a greyhound bus back to Brisbane to get Bluey before continuing our East Coast adventures. Our destination is Newcastle but we’ve got tons to explore along the way.