WHITSUNDAYS PART II
Following last week’s article, we are now six days into an eleven day Whitsunday Islands bareboat yacht charter, on ‘Yellowfin’, and it has certainly lived up to all expectations so far. Our good friends, Ian and Robin Moustaka, organised the trip earlier in the year and it has been great to travel with people who have an intimate knowledge of the islands as well as all the logistics and issues that can arise when skippering large vessels. Ian and Robin are almost veterans now, with at least a dozen or more trips like this under their belt. Bringing a 38ft catamaran onto moorings, anchoring safely, negotiating busy marina pens and using sails at every opportunity requires good seamanship skills and a cool head. Ian has been excellent in this regard, although we have witnessed a few minor hiccups on other vessels with less experienced skippers. This has included tender ropes tangled around stern drive propellers, crew members dropping boat hooks and overheating due to running above the recommended 2200rpm. With so many vessels on the water here and listening to the constant radio schedules twice a day, you would expect more incidents really, but the system works really well. For those less experienced, there is assistance available in short time with an excellent VHF repeater system in place, covering all the islands. Hire company skippers will even come aboard and dock your vessel if required, to take the stress out of that part of your journey.
Ian, or Mossie as he is known, has been nicknamed ‘turbo’, because he loves to rise early and make the most of every day. Often we are awakened at 6am to the sounds of the anchor being winched, soon to depart for the next destination. There is no lounging around on deck drinking cocktails during the day on this trip and of course at every opportunity I am trolling a lure out the back or fishing from the inflatable tender. The best catch to date has been a 5kg spotted mackerel on the ever faithful pink Halco two metre diver, while bottom fishing has produced sweetlip, long nose emperor and many coral trout, but not one that has met the minimum 38cm required in Qld yet. There is an extensive network of Marine Parks within the Whitsundays which define the activities that are permitted to ensure a balance between short-term human needs to use the Marine Park and the long term needs of conservation. ‘Green’ no-take zones make up over 30% of the zones, however there are ample ‘yellow’ conservation park zones that allow fishing with a single rod and single hook per person only. So my popular two hook snelled rig has been relegated to the tackle box, but more than enough fish can be caught with a single hook.
The main islands we have visited include Whitsunday, Hook, North and South Mole, Hayman, Dent, Long and Haslewood. The carnage caused by Cyclone Debbie is obvious throughout the area, with many resorts damaged, trees flattened and extensive damage to the coral reefs, however, regrowth is well underway and in the aftermath tradies flocked in for the rebuild. It is incredible that most of the area was reopened to the public within only a few months of the category four system that sadly claimed 14 lives, making it the deadliest cyclone since Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
So if you love the ocean, enjoy sailing, fishing, snorkelling and are looking for a holiday with a difference, then organise a group of friends. Bareboat hire fees are quite reasonable, working out at about $100 per day per person per day for the seven on board our 38ft catamaran.
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