Thought we'd do a little bit on the blog about one of my favourite places and to be honest of the best sailing and cruising grounds there is around, the Whitsunday Islands and a trip we recently did south to Keswick Island.
I've been fortunate enough to sail around this area since I was a kid. We first sailed here as a family during 1989 onboard our 54ft ketch Japara. The memories are still vivid and it was my first taste of true paradise and sailing as a kid so it has a special place in my heart.
The Whitsundays are a group of 74 Islands that are located on the central Queensland coast. Most people will know them that read this but some may not so I'll give some basic details here and will also put a few of my favourite spots. The Islands start just off shore from Mackay and run north towards Bowen. The two largest and main Islands are Hook and Whitsunday. These two are around 15nm offshore from Airlie Beach as prove to be the most popular with some of the best anchorages and beaches. There is also some amazing walks to be had in the area as well.
We have been fortunate enough over the last few months to have some fairly calm weather with light northerlies that have hung in for days and even a few weeks. Meaning we've been able to get out around the Islands to the south that are normally more exposed with the strong trades that blow in the area.
Last trip we did we made it down to Shaw Island just south of Linderman and were able to anchor just off the beach putting out the stern anchor and sitting in around 5ft of water at low tide. It was awesome and with the dead calm conditions it was surreal to wake up in the morning to rich turquoise ocean of glass.
From Shaw we sailed down to Cockermouth where we spent a nice night at anchor before heading to Keswick early the following mooring. On the way down to Cockermouth we passed several schools of dolphins and also a mother whale and her calm slowly swimming south. This time of the year there is so much wildlife around it's awe inspiring!
There are moorings at Keswick that you can use but these group of Islands don't really have a great all round anchorage, they are really best visited in calms or when the winds are low and seas calm. The water between Keswick and St Bees is deep and there is strong tidal flows between them so it can be a difficult and ordinary anchorage so making use of the moorings is best advised.
We spent a nice night down at Keswick visiting some close friends and having a nice lunch ashore at their home. With the anchorage not being the best we only stayed the one night before sailing back to Shaw. We had a nice light north east wind that went further east as we sailed north. It was a great run up and Spirit sat happily on 8-9 kts upwind. Just awesome flat seas where we don't get wet is the best when we sail to wind. Anything above 15kts and we start to get pretty wet onboard.
We were the only boat at Shaw Island, well on this side anyway. There wasn't another boat to be seen and we once again dropped the anchor in shallow water and put out the stern anchor to secure Spirit and allow us to get in closer to the beach. We spent another two days here lying around and just relaxing, cooking, eating, reading, sleeping and paddling out SUP's around exploring.
You'd think you'd get bored doing nothing all the time but that's just it. After a few days your body just seems to get into the swing of things and everything seems to slow down. You seem to love in slow motion and your body clock adjust to the sunrises and sunsets. It feels incredibly natural and healthy to live like this and one finds that the day fills with the little things like cooking and looking after oneself. It's so nice to have the time listen to be able to hear yourself and to hear what's important to you and that you need to be happy. I'm sounding a bit deep here but life is truly so simple we do need so little to be happy. For myself it's just the ability to live freely and simple that I enjoy most and to have the ability to do things without the normal day to day rush.
From Shaw Island we headed north to Hamilton where we picked up some more fresh fruit and veg. After nearly a week on our own at Shaw the sudden influx of people and things was intense and we quickly chose to get out of there and move onto May's Bay another favourite anchorage just south of Hook Passage. It's a great spot as there's normally no one else there and you get to see an awesome sunset if the weather's right over the Molle Group of Islands.
Next day it was off to Nara inlet. This has to be one of the best all round anchorages within the Whitsunday group as it's calm in most winds and provides great shelter from nearly all directions. We tucked right up in the end of the main arm where the water's flat and wind was just barely noticeable. If it's blowing strong directly from the south it can have a little bit of chop enter but I've never seen it really bad in here. We enjoyed a day here paddling, swimming and relaxing before we sailed back to the mainland.
This group of Islands is a must place to visit and sail around and I hope this little story of one of our adventures here inspires you to do just that ;-) I've also posted a few new videos on our youtube page so if you'd like to see some more of the area check them out.