Bareboating in The Whitsundays – Take Two

(Location: The Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia)

In 2015, we returned to the Whitsundays for Andy’s birthday. This time, we chartered a 41′ Bavaria and hoped to see some whales.

Trip Summary

  • Temperature: high of 23 (perfect), lows at night around 18 (need jumper/sweater)
  • Water temp: too cold for Jennifer. Around 22c
  • Wind: 15-25 (gusting to more than that), mostly south south east
  • Marine life: humpback whales, dolphins, and too many turtles to count
  • Successful mooring grab ratio: 4 out of 4
  • Successful anchor drop ratio: 2 out of of 2
  • Mysterious bruises: 5
  • Bottles of wine: 4

Trip Details

We don’t do gifts. Not for Christmas. Not for anniversaries. And not for birthdays.

Instead, our tradition is travel. And for birthdays, the birthday boy or girl gets to pick the destination. In 2015, I chose Ubud. Andy chose the Whitsundays.

Yes, we’d been there before, which kind of breaks one of our rules. But the Whitsundays is one of a few destinations that we will visit again and again.

This was a short trip – a week in total. We flew direct on Virgin Australia from Melbourne to Hamilton Island, and then took the Cruise Whitsunday ferry to Airlie Beach. The town has grown a bit since our last visit, and now has a new marina (the Port of Airlie) which meant a taxi from the ferry rather than just walking through the marina.

Arriving Hamilton Island Arriving Airlie Beach

Aboard the Ferry Ferry to Airlie Beach

We didn’t do any provisioning ahead of time, opting to just go to Coles like we did last time. If you are interested in how to provision for a five night charter, our shopping list is here. We chartered a 41′ Bavaria from Whitsunday Escape.

The Y-Knot The Y-Knot

We created a rough itinerary for our five night charter.


Our first night was a sleep aboard. After taking care of provisioning, we walked into town (10 minutes along the waterfront boardwalk) and went to dinner at Fish D’Vine. When we got back to the marina, Andy realised that he’d misplaced his phone. I called it, hoping to hear it ring somewhere on the boat, but no luck. I fired up the Find my iPhone app, which showed his phone was at the restaurant. I checked again a few minutes later as we headed back to the restaurant, but now it was up in the hills. Ugh – someone had it. I used the app to lock it, and put a message on the screen to call me. I checked the location again and now it was all the way down by the port. Had he left it in a cab?? I tried phoning the cab company we’d used to get back from Coles, but the lady on the phone said I’d have to report it in the morning. After talking Andy off the ledge, we called a cab and had the driver radio cabs in the location of the phone. The cabbie (from South Africa) was super helpful and seemed to love the adventure. Phone found.

Abel Point Marina Abel Point Marina Sunset

The next morning we had our checkout with Tim at 8am. We’d gone through a lot of the paperwork the night before, so it went pretty fast and we were one our way by 10am. It was sunny and 23c, the winds were 10-15 (and blowing in the right direction), the seas were calm, and there were whales ! It could not have been a more perfect day. Our plan was to overnight in Nara, but the wind took us to Stonehaven so we picked up a mooring and decided to head south the following day.

Abel Point Marina - Sunrise Departing Airlie Beach
Captain Whales !
Captain First Mate
Stonehaven Sunset Stonehaven Sunset

When we’ve sailed in the BVI or Grenadines, you really don’t hear from the charter company unless you have a problem. In the Whitsundays, there are two daily checkins, called the “sched”, at 8am and 2pm. They read the weather and check everyone’s locations and plans. During the afternoon sched, we learned that the winds would be shifting to south/southeast around 4am, and would be blowing quite hard for the next few days. We scrapped our plans to head south on Thursday and instead did a quick motor up to Butterfly Bay. There were plenty of moorings available, and the bay was fairly calm and not disturbed by the southerlies.

We were itching to get south though, so on Friday we decided to head around the top of Hook Island and then down the east coast to Whitsunday Island. When we mentioned our plans in the morning sched, they didn’t exactly say “no” – but they said it would likely be rough so make sure to close the hatches. It was fine sailing west along the top of Hook Island, but got a little hairy when we rounded Pinnacle Point. At the time it seemed like it would never end, but in retrospect it was 2 uncomfortable hours so not a hug deal. We arrived in Tongue Bay around 11am and dropped the anchor. The bay was pretty busy with day-trippers until about 1pm and then was completely deserted. We decided to move to an open mooring for the night.

View of Whitehaven from Hill Inlet Whitehaven Shifting Sands
Whitehaven Selfie Whitehaven

Low tide was around 4pm, so we took the dinghy ashore around 3 to hike up the to viewpoint at Hill Inlet. This is an easy hike – about 4km return – with views that are simply amazing (especially at low tide). I was disappointed that we didn’t bring a tripod and my programmable remote for a time-lapse, but then found an in-camera setting so we propped the camera up on a railing and hung out for a little over an hour.

We returned to the beach around 4:30 to find our dinghy stranded due to the low tide. It must have been quite a sight to see Andy and I portaging the dinghy a good 250 meters 🙂

Saturday we got an early start and dropped anchor at Whitehaven Beach. The winds were strong and from the South, but the bay was relatively calm. We spent the day walking on the beach and marvelling at the super yacht anchored in back of us.

Seaplane runway Whitehaven Pano
The Y-Knot at anchor Really big boats
Whitehaven Sunset Hoping for a 2016...

The winds were still blowing on Sunday when we started the journey back to Airlie Beach. We didn’t need to return the boat until 10am Monday, but we had an early flight so planned to spend the last night in the marina. We made good time heading north, but had to drop the sails to get through Hook Passage. We reached Abel Point Marina around 1:30 and picked up a mooring to tidy the boat before going into the marina. Tim took us to the fuel dock ($45 total – that’s how much we used the engine) and then backed the Y-Knot safely back into her berth. After devouring a pizza at Sorrento, and taking a very long shore shower, we walked into town for some ice cream.

Monday morning we did our final checkout, and caught the shuttle to Prosepine/Whitsunday Coast airport (most direct route to Melbourne on Mondays). Yes, we’ll be back.

In case you are interested…

Bareboat Shopping List

  • Coles Peri Peri Chicken
  • Steaks (2), and frozen beer battered chips (Fries)
  • Coles Lasagna – the large size, not the one that says it is two servings
  • Spaghetti, Bolognese Sauce, Italian Sausage, and garlic bread
  • Oatmeal and frozen blueberries for breakfast, also a three pack of croissants (impulse buy)
  • Salami and assorted cheeses for lunch/snacks
  • Loaf of bread and peanut butter (in case we got desperate – didn’t really touch either)
  • Bag of Doritos (another impulse buy)
  • Drinking water and gatorade
  • 4 bottles of red wine, a six pack of beer, and a four pack of random raspberry vodka drink
  • Coffee, instant, blech

The charter company provided a “starter pack” which included things like toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, soap, etc. We also brought salt, pepper, and steak seasoning with us. And a very large bag of these addictive honey roasted cashews that we call crack nuts.

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