Sailing, sailing on the ocean blue…

Australia, RTW: 2007-2008, Scuba Diving — By on February 22, 2008 6:54 PM

The main reason we came to Airlie Beach is because it is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsunday Islands consist of over 90 islands, most of which are uninhabited and all but four are completely national parks. The blue green water surrounding these islands are marine park and fall within the Great Barrier Outer Reef World Heritage Area. The Great Barrier Reef is 40 miles from the mainland. There are several islands that are home to expensive resorts. Hayman Island is the most expensive island to visit as the cheapest room per night is $3000 and a hamburger will cost you $50!

We took a 2-day 1 night sailing cruise on the Siska, a racing Maxi sailboat. The Siska has won two Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races along with circumnavigating the world twice. In 1994 the boat was remodeled to accommodate 20 guests and 3 crew making the Siska one of “the most comfortable” overnight yachts to sail the Whitsunday Islands. We all find this claim very humorous once we saw our tiny coffin like beds we were to sleep in for a night! Mary quickly realized that she needed to stay on the top deck as much as possible if she were to survive the trip.

DAY 1: We departed from Shoot Harbor in Airlie Beach around 9 am and spent the morning sailing around the islands. The surrounding landscape and aqua water was beautiful! Mary and I helped the skipper by raising the sail which was a quite a workout!

After lunch we sailed to Whitsunday Island, the largest of all the islands. On its southeast coast is Whitehaven Beach, the longest and perhaps best beach on the islands. The beach is known for it’s bright white sand, which is 98% silicon. We did a short hike to Tongue Point where we had an amazing view of the islands and Whitehaven Beach. We spent a few hours playing at the beach and swimming in the ocean. We had to wear our stinger suits whenever in the water due to the timing of our trip and the higher than normal chance of being stung by a variety of scary Australian marine life!

We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling on the deck of the boat. We realized that once the sun went down there wasn’t going to be much to do so we entertained ourselves with games such as “Never have I ever”. Lauren dared me to jump off the boat into the dark water and swim around once for $1000. When she realized I was really going to do it and I didn’t find the idea as frightening as she did she took back her bet.

We docked the boat in the middle of the ocean near Luncheon Bay. The sunset was beautiful over the islands and it was awesome to spend the night out at sea. Stacy and I ended up sleeping on the top deck, as the cabins below were so hot! Yes we slept on a very hard surface, but it was amazing to hear the waves, feel the ocean breeze and awake to the sun on our faces. Somehow Mary and Lauren survived the night sleeping in the cabin below.

DAY 2: We started off our morning with our first scuba dive! We dove at the inner reef near Luncheon Bay. I was very nervous about diving and can say it was probably one of my biggest fears in life. The thought of being enclosed with water makes me feel very claustrophobic but I decided I should at least try it once. It helped that our instructor Brad was totally hot and made us feel at ease and gave us confidence that we could dive with no problems. We had a short dive lesson on shore and then literally dove right in the water. About 2 minutes into the dive I freaked out! I am not exactly sure what went wrong but it was a combination of breathing through my nose instead of my mouth and the water was super murky making it hard to see anything at first! I started feeling like I couldn’t breathe and I panicked and gave Brad the signal that I wanted him to take me up. Once above water I was gasping for air and doubted that I would go back down. Shortly after Mary became concerned and rose to the top leaving poor Stacy and Lauren alone at the bottom of the sea. Brad convinced both of us to give it another try so we did. On the way down my ears started hurting really bad so I had to go back up again, leaving the 3 alone again! Again, Brad convinced me to go back down and this time it was all good, and I became comfortable breathing and started to really enjoy the experience! We saw stingrays, brain corals, and many big fish. We went down as far as 25 feet and dove for 30 minutes. A coral stung Mary and she had an allergic reaction and I kicked one, slicing the top of my foot resulting in blood but thankfully no sharks! We all really enjoyed the dive and want to dive again soon! I plan to dive the outer Great Barrier Reef when I am in Caines, which is much further North than where we were.

In the afternoon we snorkeled off of Hook Island and then headed back to Airlie Beach. We were all very tired and tried to find a shady place on the boat as we had gotten so much sun! The sailing cruise was fun but we all agreed that one night on the boat was enough for us and we were glad to be back on land. We spent the last two days in Airlie Beach. Mary led us in a yoga session on the beach and we all relaxed at the lagoon during the day. In the evening we went out, there were many pubs with live music all of which seemed to have a love for Jack Johnson.

Today we leave Airlie Beach and the four of us are splitting up from here. Lauren and Stacy are flying to Brisbane together and plan to make their way down the coast to Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay. Stacy hopes to find a town she loves and will find a job. Mary and I are catching a flight back to Sydney and then we are flying in the morning to Christchurch, New Zealand. Mary will be with me in New Zealand for a week and I plan to stay for 3.5 weeks exploring both the North and South Islands.

To see all photos from Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands CLICK HERE!

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1 Comment

  1. Sue says:

    thanks so much for keeping this blog. i am going to miss hearing about Stacy but I’ll be following what is going on with you. Say HI to Mary for me!
    Sue Oleneack, Stacy’s Mom

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