Mooring Shuffle

We finally left Airlie Beach last Saturday, headed for Stonehaven Anchorage on the northwest shores of Hook Island, in the hope that we would go from there to the outer Reef. The weather however has slowed the pace down a little with stronger south-easterlies than we want to be at an exposed reef. So instead, we are spending a few days exploring around the northern part of the island.

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We had been to the Whitsunday Islands on charter yachts before, but now that we are here on our own boat, things are a little different. So let us describe how things feel.

First of all, it is really special to be cruising such an iconic group of islands on Take It Easy, probably because it is so renowned. Most anchorages in the Whitsundays are surrounded by tall, heavily treed mountains overlooking the turquoise waters. In the sunshine the colours and scenery are stunningly beautiful. It is warm and with the trade winds at this time of year, you are assured of good sailing.

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Bird Island and the Spit

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Black Island, with Stonehaven Anchorage in the distance

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The view from Langford Island lookout

The wildlife is amazing as always. Whether it is the birds, such as the Ospreys and their messy nests, a Humpback Whale and calf frolicking, or big bat fish patrolling under our moored boat, you never can tire of seeing all these creatures. It is a wildlife photography heaven!

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Mum and calf, floating on its back, fins out, white belly showing!

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Osprey on its big messy nest

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One very alert Osprey close up

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Two Roundface Batfish lurking under our hulls… the welcoming committee! They are really big!

The last time we were around these parts, the water was clear, the coral vibrant and fish life abundant. Several years and a few cyclones later, the latest in March 2017, we have to say there is a lot of storm damage. So the bays open to the Northeast such as Butterfly, Manta Ray and Luncheon Bays, which offered possibly the best snorkelling on Hook Island, are a sorry sight. There are upturned coral heads, broken branches and the water clarity is poor. When you know what a healthy reef looks like, it is quite sad. There are however a few pockets of corals that attract little damsels.

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Bommie at Stonehaven

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Leafy coral at Butterfly Bay

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Lemon Damsel at Butterfly Bay

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Beautiful soft coral at Butterfly Bay

One of the things we find awkward cruising in the northern part of the group is that most bays are either very deep for anchoring or full of rubble and coral bommies. So far we have had the chain wrapped around rocks twice, which is OK if Wadie can dive to the bottom to clear it, but in 12 meters plus, Weaky Wadie can’t hold his breath that long! We are therefore reliant on picking up a public mooring. However, unlike at the Southern Reef, the moorings are only for two hours not 24 and unless you can pick one up by three o’clock in the afternoon when you are allowed to stay for the night, you keep having to shuffle off! It is tedious. Some of the bays, such as Butterfly Bay have enough moorings available that you don’t feel too bad if you overstay, but at places like Langford Island, boats will wait just outside of the mooring area and the pressure is on once your two hours are up!

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TIE moored at Butterfly Bay

We have tasted better things and can’t say we are enamoured with the conditions. As for the quantity of yachts, especially charter yachts, well, don’t get us started on that one! You know what we are like with crowds. Even if we were prepared for it, it still irks us.

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Cat city at Butterfly Bay

Despite these drawbacks, we are enjoying our time here and have a few bucket list items to tick away, one of them anchoring inside Hill Inlet, Whitehaven Beach, the other getting to Bait Reef, offshore of Hook Island.  We will keep you posted on these endeavours! And we will soon welcome our dear friend Sue who is joining us in a week or so. We will explore the Whitsundays a little more together, spending probably more time in the southern islands of the group which are less busy and out of bound for rent-a-yachts. Sue is a regular visitor on Take It Easy and we will be together for at least a month, slowly heading south to get out of the cyclone zone by 1 November.

Stay tuned for more Whitsunday adventures. We are off to Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Island next!

20 thoughts on “Mooring Shuffle

  1. Looks amazing, even with all the crowds. We chartered about 8 years ago over Easter. We call it the Wetsundays as it poured with rain and blew about 25kts the whole time. Not exactly a relaxing holiday… 😉

    • Yes, March/April is still the wet season. Nothing but sunshine, with 15 -20 knots, good for sailing, but too blowy for the outer reef. Your comment about the Wetsundays made us laugh. It’s like us a few years ago renaming Whitehaven Beach, Whitehell because of the sandflies!

  2. Wonderful photos again! It’s sad about the corals and storm damage, I hope they grow back. Safe journeys guys! 😎

    • Hi John, Thanks for the feedback. Some bays get more battered by the cyclones than others. There are pockets that are still beautiful underwater, and the scenery above the waterline is superb.

  3. oh, i’m so jealous! I love the Whitsundays so much and Waz and I dived on Butterfly Bay when we were there last. I know what you mean about the deterioration of the sea life and corals.
    However, it’s still a gorgeous paradise and so good for the soul, eh?
    Thinking of you both.
    Love,
    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, Thanks for saying hello. We have been thinking of you too. Now at Blue Pearl Bay and the fish life was so much better! Coral still battered but at least it seems to be recovering. It was so nice we will do a post on that next!

  4. Great photos Chris! I’m curious to know how did you shoot the one of TIE below water level? 🙂

    • Hi HJ, just realised I did not reply to your question… the photo of Take It Easy at the mooring is taken with my underwater camera. I am in the water with the camera at water level. I like taking those sorts of shots…

  5. I agree. The main group is now so overcrowded it’s uncomfortable. A few years ago I had an irate American charterer charge up on his dinghy demanding to know why we hadn’t moved after two hours. We were actually at anchor with 80 metres of chain out…

    Cruising in the southern Whitsundays is so much more peaceful. The islands off Mackay are also worth spending some time around and even further south the inshore islands are pretty much deserted.

    Really envying you guys. Enjoy!

    • Hi Terry, really nice to hear from you. We are hoping it will be quieter in the southern islands, but waiting for a friend to arrive so making the best out of the region.
      We noticed Macanudo is for sale. Are you trading up or giving up?
      Take care.

      • You know how it goes – everything has a price. A boat broker friend told me Macanudo is worth far more than I’d estimated, so if someone stumped up with the money I guess I’d sell her. Perhaps. Maybe. My family and friends are adamant that I’ll never be able to replace her with better

        This week she is at Sandringham being re-rigged with Dyneema. It’s stronger and lighter than stainless and they reckon it will last 20 years.

  6. I can’t wait to join you, it is oh so exciting to check out all of the above with you both, my friends. I will let you know when I book to come to Proserpine. I now have to contact Di to get a date for her return so she can look after Pepa.

    • Can’t wait, Sue. There are some good spot to see up north but it will be nice to wander around the southern Whitsundays group – a first for us all.

  7. Good heads up on the moorings I have taken note for when we visit eventually. At least our backyard is less crowded.

  8. Thanks Chris for your recent update. Love reading your posts and seeing your pics. We have made it to Bateman’s bay, now waiting for the next opportunity to get around the corner..

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