The adventure of Skipper Scott and Captain Cotton
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The hostel we had booked was $14 per night so we were not expecting anything great - It was rubbish but strict as we are on budget we stayed for the two nights booked. The bonus was it has free Wifi so it gave us a great chance to speak to family and friends and catch up.
Airlie Beach itself is a very small town which is packed with tourists, I could hardly hear an Australian accent in earshot. It is the base from which to explore the Whitsunday Island. The cruse boats leave every morning and those who arrive back in the afternoon’s party with their new found friend in the evenings. All we saw on the lead up to sailing is groups of people either walking about with goon (a box of wine costing $10 – not real wine) in preparation to take on to the boat, or people staggering around drunk in celebration of their return. It was the same every day but funny to watch.
We had booked to sail on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and return on Boxing Day so we had a few days to kill before we set sail. We found ourselves down at the lagoon most days swimming and on the evenings having a BBQ. The lagoon was so lovely, it was made for everyone to swim in as the sea is too dangerous as its home to Box Jelly Fish (one of the world’s most dangerous jellyfish). One of the evenings we had a BBQ there as watched the fork lightening over the sea, it was incredible to watch and another we bought takeout pizza and sat there while we ate it.
The following day we walked along the coast to the next town Cannonvale to collect a parcel from the post office. Finally I have my new passport all present and correct. The lovely 'every house should have one’ Kim sneaked in a $30 voucher for us to buy some treats for Christmas, also included was a selection of perfume from Di to keep me smelling nice and a box of chocolate digestives. What a fantastic parcel it was, it felt like Christmas Day. We decided to get the air conditioned bus back to the hostel so as not to melt the biscuits, and as expected they only lasted two days.
We headed down to the Oz Sail office the day before we sailed to check in and after we left the girl called us and said she had a free upgrade for us to sail on a bigger boat with less people for an extra night with a dive thrown in too, so we leaped at the idea, what a fantastic freebie. We made our Merry Christmas calls back home and the following day we set sail.
The boat we sailed on was called Spank Me, an 82’ Maxi that won the Sydney to Hobart race in 1986, now it would normally house 28 people but there was only 14 of us so there was a lot of space. We met each other and the crew at the harbour then jumped on board and set sail. We had Chris (Skipper), Ian (first mate), Jan (cook) and Hayley (Diving Instructor) and what a great bunch they were. We set sail at 3pm and sailed to Hook Island. Chris updated us on what we would be doing on the trip and also told us because of the bad weather that was due the route would be confirmed day by day. We sailed for two hours and all got to know each other and when we anchored Jan had spaghetti Bolognese ready for us which were really tasty, we all had a few beers whilst getting to know each other then got our heads down for the night. It was rather windy that first night and the boat was rocking all over so not everyone had great sleep. Justin and I had a double bed and because of the storm the rainwater leaked into the boat wetting him so when I awoke Christmas Day he was gone, he had crawled into another bed to keep dry.
Christmas Day (Spank Me Day 2) and we were all up early in high spirits, Jan served us our Christmas breakfast then we sat on deck as Chris sailed us to Tongue Bay, there had been an extreme weather warning overnight so we couldn’t sail to the famous Whithaven Beach but we did stop at Whitsunday Island where we saw lots of giant turtles in the water, they have to come to the surface every 15 minutes for air so we stood a while to spot them. The tender took us to shore and we walked up to a lookout and get some pictures of Whithaven beach. The rain started and we all got soaking wet but when we did walk down to the beach it stopped and it became a big brighter. The sand was white and the water was warm, we saw Sting-Rays and Lemon sharks swimming in the shallow waters. I decided we would make a sandman so we started to build it and as we did, more and more people came over to help, it really was great fun. Once we left to get back on the boat we sailed to the eastern side of Hook Island and got in the warm water to snorkel. We had to wear stinger suites as it’s a box jellyfish area and it became a joke throughout the whole trip, when any of us went near the water Hayley would shout “stinger suit”. The coral was amazing and the hundreds of fish were swimming around us all the time. But because the weather was bad so visibility was good but not fantastic so Hayley wanted Chris to take us to another spot where we would get our diving lesson, but when we got there the storm came again so it was called off until Boxing Day. We moored at Cave Cove that evening and Jan had cooked an amazing beef roast dinner, so we all relaxed with drinks and music whilst eating our Christmas Roast. I sloped off to my room to open my Christmas Present from Lea, it was so touching the gift she had obviously spent a lot of time and thought putting together, it made my day – Thank you Lea. The evening was great fun, whilst everyone was trying to take nice photos together, Hayley was stepping in the background mooning “It’s just what I do” she said making us all laugh.
Boxing Day (Spank Me Day 3) and this was the day we got to dive, after another stormy night the weather eased so we took the tender into the bay where five of us had our diving lesson. We were a little worried about how it would feel under water, but after a briefing from Hayley we were all diving down to the reef, swimming over the coral spotting all the different kinds of fish. We did have an underwater disposable camera but it was really tricky to take the photos without a screen so we tried our best. I really enjoyed it and will defiantly pursue a diving course again, who knows where!
Chris sailed us to Langford Island where we jumped in the water again to snorkel, we saw a sting-ray and a turtle on the sea bed. We the sailed to Black Island and jumped in again this was the best reef we saw on the trip I swam off ahead and saw some large shark and a huge spotty sting-ray and hundreds more fish it was mind blowing, but as we swam back to the boat the current was really pulling us the other way so it was a big struggle to get back to the boat but we did in the end with a little help from Ian. We spent most of Boxing Day in the water by the end of the day my bottom lip was shrivelled as well as my fingers and toes....not a good look! As we sailed a little further to moor up for the night we passed another boat so Hayley decided we should all give the other sailors a ‘Spank Me wave’ basically a moonie, so we did it was such a laugh. Because of the weather warnings we didn’t get to go out as for as the outer reef so once we moored Hayley took us up to a bar on the island which was in a really tiny resort, we had drinks and played ball games around the pool for a couple of hours and then took the dreaded walk back through the bush, there was all kinds of noises coming from the bushes, god only knows what beasties were lurking in the dark. We had seen a massive spider on the walk to the pub so we were all desperate not to walk into its web on the way back as it would have been the size of my cheek.
Spank Me Day Four and we set sail back to land, we took it slow as we had loads of time. The crew had taken a Spinnaker sail and decided to hoist it up the mast to try it out, it was massive but unfortunately the wind had dropped so as marvellous as it looked we weren’t actually going any faster, but we could see the pure excitement in the crews eyes as they tried it out. The whole trip was amazing and all the time the crew taught us how to sail, they got us all involved in hoisting up the sail and bringing them down. Justin was a Primary Grinder and I tried my hand at being a main grinder. Ian also Ian let us try our hand at steering the boat which was amazing fun. The boat had the largest mast in the Whitsundays but that day it had the largest sail, so we all felt very privileged.
When we arrived back to Airlie Beach we all arranged to meet that evening for a meal and some beers. We checked back into our hostel and went straight to bed and slept when we awoke we felt really dizzy and a little sea sick, more so than we did on the boat so we took some tablets and off we went to meet everyone for some free beers. We all exchanged email addresses and off we went clubbing in our flip flops, we had a great night out and it was the perfect end to a really amazing trip. Certainly a Christmas not to forget.