Whitsunday Bareboating. By Josh Behrendorff

While I was a young uni student, I watched as my parents fitted out a camper trailer and their 4WD in preparation for a touring road trip around Australia. It was a new adventure for my parents as they had always driven straight through to their destination as opposed to the grey nomad thing of enjoying the drive.

 Two years ago when we set off on our first bareboat adventure sailing the Whitsundays, we didn’t know what to expect or how to pack for the trip. On the conclusion of that trip, the best way to describe the adventure to our family and friends was “caravanning on the water”. We fell in love with the laid back lifestyle of setting sail and enjoying the journey from point A to point B. A very different experience to that of my regular fishing trips in my trailer boat.webF

After our first bareboat charter a couple years ago with Cumberland Charters, we returned home to book our second trip only to have TC Debbie blow that plan out of the water in 2017. This year we chose to book a larger boat, the Seawind 1160, a sailing catamaran which had an upgrade on all the things we didn’t like on our last bareboat, the Latitude 1035.

The Seawind has a large open and covered deck that perfectly captures all the breezes without hindering the views or functionality. Loading the boat up at the marina was assisted by the helpful team of Cumberland Charter Yachts, however the gentleman who was managing the boat briefing couldn’t believe that I was allowing a bunch of bananas on board. He quietly spoke to me on several occasions questioning the idea of fishing rods and bananas on a boat. I assured him that we were going to end the myth of bananas and bad luck on boats this week.

Departing Abell Point Marina, we dropped out the trolling lines and set sail for Cid Harbour. We had planned to take the 2km trek to the top of Whitsunday Island. Yet upon arrival we decided on the easier option of putting our feet up and enjoying a few cold beverages to watch the sun set before getting stuck into our slow cooked silverside, compliments of the Dream Pot.

The forecast for the week close to 20kn of wind, not ideal boating weather, but great sailing weather and I was keen to see how the Seawind would handle the more exposed ocean swell on the other side of Whitsunday Island.

With the sails up we headed from Cid Harbour towards Hook Passage planning to have lunch on our own section of Whitehaven Beach. Not long after getting out of Cid harbour the starboard side trolling rod buckled over as the first fish of the trip took a liking to the 160mm Halco. My son Ethan couldn’t run to the rod quick enough and quickly brought in a school mackerel that was destined for dinner the following night.

On the exposed side of Whitsunday Island, the 1.5m swells were tumbling through and yet, the boat comfortably handled the conditions. My wife Faith gets motion sick quite easily, however for the duration of this trip she didn’t feel unwell once, nor did she take a single tablet.

Whitehaven Beach is something special, it is one of the must do’s while you’re in the Whitsundays, but it is far from my favourite place. It is far too touristy, with helicopters and planes buzzing overhead and all sorts of speed boats racing day trippers out to see the white silica sand.

I was happy to set sail the following day to head north towards my favourite anchorage, Stonehaven, towards the top of Hook Island. It is the perfect vantage point to enjoy stunning sunsets. We used this as our base point for the remainder of the trip, only doing day trips out to snorkel some of the fringing coral bays.

Have you ever wondered if there are mud crabs on tropical islands? I know I had, so I packed a crab pot. While the family was enjoying a reef walk on low tide, I ventured off for a walk in the opposing direction to determine if there was a little creek at the top of the bay.

My efforts were rewarded when I found this small dodgy little mangrove muddy hole, just big enough to conceal the single crab pot that I carried in. The look of this little hole had me on edge, it looked to be the perfect ambush point for a croc, which ensured I stayed back as far as I could from the waters’ edge.

I returned to my family walking the flats and it was amazing how quickly time passed by while watching turtles, rays and small black tip reef sharks swim between the small healthy and vibrant corals.

We were able to fuel ourselves up by cracking off some fresh oysters from the rocks. I only let the pot soak for a few hours, and that was enough to snare one of the biggest rusty bucks I have ever laid my hands on. The claws were as big as my palms and the crab would have weighed well over 2kg. This was more than enough for my family so I was quite content to bring the crab pot back to the yacht.

Luncheon Bay at the top of Hook Island was one of the best snorkelling/dive locations I had experienced on our last trip two years ago. I was super excited to get back up there for a snorkel with the family. You can imagine my disappointment when we realised that it wore the full brunt of TC Debbie last year which all but destroyed the spectacular corals. It was a wasteland, full of smashed coral debris pushed metres up the beach.webB

There were signs of the reef rebuilding but it’s tough to realise that it will be decades before it will return to its former glory. Our mood was quickly lightened as we trolled back towards our anchorage. The small Sebile barra lure was intercepted at a rate of knots. Faith took the strike as we watched line scream from the little Diawa Saltist. The first run was awesome taking the line down to the backing. Faith worked hard to bring the fish in as I refused to chase the fish from the yacht. As the fish neared the boat it took off for another run to my wife’s disappointment, but she had this under control and steered her first ever Spanish mackerel to the waiting gaff.

Our first Bareboat trip around the Whitsundays was great, although we over planned and had a daily schedule. I had expectations to be able to fish every night upon mooring and I wanted to spearfish. The focus of the trip was to take each day as it comes, eat well and relax. We were happy to fish, but we weren’t going to go out of our way hunting the fish. We swam with turtles, watched the whales and enjoyed the dolphins swimming on the bow of the yacht. Our 2018 trip was amazing.

The Seawind is an amazing boat, our week flew by and we are already counting down for our 2019 trip. If you would like to have a go at bareboating the Whitsundays, I highly recommend Cumberland Charter Yachts http://www.ccy.com.au/ who have a great fleet of boats and excellent service.

Until next time, stay safe and tight lines.