We boarded the Solway Lass tallship ready for a 3 day/3 night sailing adventure through the Whitsunday Islands! She was a beautiful ship that was built in 1902 in Holland and also worked in both World Wars. It was eventually sold to Sydney Harbour as a floating restaurant where it was restored and then finally purchased by Southern Cross Sailing Adventures where it now works in the Whitsunday Islands via Airlie Beach.
Not much was done the first night we set sail. It was 7 o'clock by the time we boarded so we mingled with our fellow ship-mates and got our eyes adjusted to the darkness. We finally set anchor around 10 pm in the passage between Whitsunday Island and Hook Island. We couldn't really see much because it was so dark so we just went to bed in our cabin below the ship deck.
The next morning we set sail again and travelled around the northern tip of Whitsunday Island and south along the eastern side. We anchored in Tongue Bay and 10-12 people at a time boarded the little dingy to be transported to dry land for a hike through the trees to Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven Beach has been voted the sexiest beach in Australia. I don't know what that means because I didn't think it was that great. However, the weather was cold and raining so maybe it could have been better if there was sunshine and a heat wave. The pure white silica sands and the blue green water was still amazing. We found a spot in the bushes to change into shorts, in the meantime getting bitten by millions of mozzies (mosquitoes). I have 15 mozzie bites on my legs alone! We walked along the shore and in the soft sand until it was time to head back to the ship for lunch. During lunch I spotted a brown sea turtle swimming near the surface.
After lunch we set sail again, this time north along the eastern side of Whitsunday Island and then up along the same side of Hook Island until we anchored at Luncheon Bay. The rope swing was introduced and a few brave souls decided to plunge into the water. It looked cold, just because the weather was cold and windy, but everyone who jumped in said the water was amazingly warm. I didn't trust them, but I wouldn't have jumped off the rope anyway.
The weather the next morning was even worse. It was raining a little harder and the wind was bitterly cold. We were supposed to go snorkelling, but I really didn't want to and not just because of the cold. Dying crossed my mind of course. But Aaron's puppy dog eyes convinced me to try it out. We grabbed our snorkelling gear and a noodle and headed out towards shore in the dingy. We hired wet suits for this event but forgot them in storage with our big bags. Damn. In just our bathing suits it was freezing. We waded into the water and I temporarily forgot that I hate water. I shivered the whole time. I managed to get over my fear for a little bit and actually try snorkelling. It was really cool! We saw lots of neat coral and bright coloured fish. To our surprise we were the last ones to get out of the water and head back to the ship - we didn't even want to brave the cold in the first place. Everyone else only stayed in the water for about 15 minutes. We were proud of our Canadian cold bloodedness.
Back on board the ship we stopped for lunch and then sailed to the next little cove, Maureen's Bay to do some more snorkelling. This time not so many people wanted to snorkel for a second time so I managed to convince someone to let me borrow their wetsuit. Aaron still went without a wetsuit - very brave. This time it was much warmer and my lips weren't blue for half an hour afterward. There were so many neat fish and coral. It was amazing! I even got to swim through some fish and touch them. Back on board the boat Aaron decided to play Tarzan and swung off the rope swing. Like a little kid he kept going back for more. It looked like fun but there was no way I was going in again.
Instead of using the engine to power the boat along the crew actually climbed up the masts and lowered the sails. We sailed with air power alone! It was so cool. We were actually travelling quite fast. We anchored again at Cid Harbour and stayed up late talking to some crazy Scottish and Australian people.
The next morning we got a ride in the dingy over to Sawmill Beach and then hiked through the trees to Loggers Beach. There were lots of cool stuff in this area. We explored the shore for small creatures and shells and were not disappointed. We saw lots of snails crawling up rocks and crabs scurrying underneath the rocks. I also spotted a black sea cucumber hiding under a rock. Of course I had to poke it with a stick and it sucked everything up like an accordian. We walked further along the beach and climbed some rocks where we spotted another sea turtle lazily floating along the surface, but he disappeared as quickly as we spotted him.
That was pretty much the end of our trip on the Whitsunday's. We tried to sail back to the Airlie Beach Harbour but the wind was not strong enough, so Captain Marcus succumbed to engine power so we would make it back in time. The crew was awesome and the sailing experience was great, despite the bad weather.
The next morning we made the long journey to Cairns and are thinking about doing some more trips out to the Great Barrier Reef and to the rainforest in Cape Tribulation before we begin our journey back home! Yay! There would be no better time to come home than just in time for Canada Day.