Sailing in Paradise
Trip Start Sep 16, 2008
52Trip End Apr 02, 2009
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Where I stayed
The hostel Im staying in here is kind of out of town, but only a 5 minute walk. Its actually really nice because Airlie is mostly made up of backpackers I think, and the bars go pretty late. So sleeping in the actual town may have been a bit hard.
I had a couple days to kill before I left on a sailing trip Saturday evening, and I spent the days by the artificial lagoon that they have here, and the nights at various bars. On Friday I was actually able to watch a replay of the Sox - Rays game 1. Unfortunately they lost, but I did end up meeting a couple other guys from the US for the first time. They were from Minnesota and were Twins fans, so they were cheering against the Sox, but it was fun to talk baseball for a couple hours.
But anyway, the whole point of coming to Airlie Beach is to go sailing in the Whitsunday Islands. Pretty much everyone who travels to Australia does it, and with good reason. There are about 90 islands off the coast here, and they're all gorgeous. Plus there are reefs for snorkeling and diving, and beautiful beaches.
I'd booked a trip on the Solway Lass, which is a 106 yr old 'tall-ship'. It has 2 masts, 10 sails, and up to 32 people. It was built back in 1902 in Holland, captured in both World Wars, and hauled cargo around the world for 70 years. Now you can take it out for 3 day, 3 night cruises. A bus picked everyone up around 6:30 on Saturday evening, and took us to the marina. After boarding, being assigned a room, and stowing our bags, we motored out of the harbor in the dark. The first night we traveled for a couple hours, then anchored for the night between Whitsunday and Hook Islands. There was a good mix of people on the trip. Some young, some old, but everyone was really cool and there to have a good time.
The next morning we moved from our anchorage to a little bay on Whitsunday Island. We went ashore and climbed up to a lookout that lets you view Whitehaven Beach. It might be the most beautiful beach in the world, and thats not just my opinion, but the opinion of people who make polls like that. We eventually made our way down to the beach, and spent a few hours swimming and throwing a football around. (Australian football by the way, not American) The sand is brilliantly white, made of quartz, and very fine. Although it can be almost blinding when you have salt water in your eyes. After a few hours it was back to the ship for lunch. The food during the entire trip was great, and they fed us constantly. That afternoon, we were able to raise 7 of the sails and use the wind to get to our nights anchorage. On the Solway Lass, you actually help with the raising of the sails too, so I ended up pulling a rope to raise one of the upper sails on the main mast. It wasnt easy, but it was pretty cool to do. We didnt move very fast under sail, so we just had a nice relaxing afternoon watching the islands go by, talking and getting some sun.
We spent that night in a little place called Maureens Cove. Oh, and I learned that I love sleeping on a ship. The waves just rock you to sleep. Anyway, the next morning, we went snorkeling in the cove, and saw tons of different reef fish and corals. Its not actually part of the Great Barrier Reef, but there was still a ton to see. Im gonna have to take a day to snorkel the GBR too, and buy an underwater camera before I do, cause Id love to get some pictures of the crazy colored fish down there. After lunch, we moved to another little beach and did some more snorkeling. The beaches by the reefs werent that nice though. They're all made of chunks of coral that get broken off the reef, so its not that comfortable to walk or lay on.
After our second snorkel of the day, we moved to a new spot to spend the night. We spent some time here playing with the rope swing that they have hanging from one of the spars, and jumping off the ship. All the water around the islands is an absolutely incredible blue color, and really clear. You combine it with the green of the islands and it really does feel like paradise.
The next morning, our last unfortunately, we did some more snorkelling in a place where there were supposed to be a bunch of sea turtles. But only a couple people actually saw one. The beach though was sand, so it was much better for walking around and exploring. After we left, it was pretty much just head back to the marina for the rest of the day. We tried putting up some sails, but there wasnt very much wind, and we didnt move very far under wind power. Eventually we just had to switch back to the motor and head home.
So now Im back in Airlie Beach. Ill be here for a couple nights at least, and maybe Ill try to get a job on one of the sailling ships later. The whole cruise was great. I wish we'd been able to use the sails a little more, but no one can control Mother Nature. The crew was great, very helpful and seemed to genuinely enjoy what they were doing. And the other people that were on board were really friendly and everyone seemed to get along well. It was a pretty good mix of nationalitys too, English, Swedish, Italian, German, Israeli, Australian, Norwegian, me, and maybe a few others too. The beds were comfy, and the food was great. Overall, if you're going to do a Whitsunday cruise Id highly recommend the Solway Lass.