17-23rd Oct: Cid, Stonehaven, Nara

After farewelling Nick, Kim and the beautiful Baby John yesterday we re-provisioned at the store on Hamilton and prepared the boat to leave. Steve’s birthday in a few days called for a celebration at the seafood restaurant last night, and a toast to Hamilton Island.

The tender has a hole, possibly caused when dragging it on or off the boat. Fix-it kit comes into its own.

The strong winds are back but we’re off anyway! We waited for the change of tide to take us north and, along with the south easterlies and just a jib, we made good time to Cid Harbour on the western side of Whitsunday Island. This is a beautiful very large bay with several beaches and anchorages that comfortably accommodated at least 30 yachts on the three nights we spent here. Cid Harbour is very deep and protected from all directions except the west, a benefit during World War II when troop ships anchored here; today you’re more likely to find cruise ships.

Sawmill beach, Cid Harbour. A truly lovely, very protected, anchorage.

Sawmill beach, Cid Harbour. A truly lovely, very protected, anchorage.

On the short walk across to Dugong Beach we reminisced about camping here with the boys in the 80’s and more recently doing this walk with friends we bare boated with several years ago.

It rained on and off on our second day here- our books received lots of attention.

The tender continues to deflate slowly – not happy!

Tuesday

Happy birthday Steve!

The winds are finally dropping. We head for Stonehaven, a bay on the north of Hook Island. A swell made the trip roly until we cleared Hook Passage. We picked up a mooring buoy and prepared for snorkelling. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has defined ‘no-anchor’ areas around many of the best fringing reefs to prevent them being damaged, installing mooring buoys for visiting boaties. These buoys have 2 hour ┬átime limits on them, though if you’re on one at 3pm you can stay till the next day. The buoys are very good with long floating tags making it so much easier to pick up than the ones we learnt on – the boat hook was the way to go with these.

We’ve been welcomed, and farewelled, by turtles at EVERY anchorage we’ve been to so far. It’s uncanny. I’ve decided the turtles must have formed a Whitsunday Ambassadors group, taking it in turns to volunteer to welcome boats to the anchorages.

Turtles came to meet us, and farewell us, at every anchorage. I think they've formed a volunteer welcoming committee.

Turtles came to meet us, and farewell us, at every anchorage. I think they’ve formed a volunteer welcoming committee.

We arrived early to catch low tide, the best time for snorkelling, and snorkelled around the southern end. By lunchtime we were the only boat there so felt no guilt remaining on a mooring, though we did move to the eastern end in the hope the bullets coming down off the surrounding hills would be less. They weren’t – one bullet we measured at 35kn (70km/hr).

We stayed overnight, with all moorings taken by 5pm. Despite the bullets the anchorage was good as the boat turns bow into them – bullets are fine (when securely anchored/moored), it’s a swell that rocks the boat from side to side that makes life miserable.

Wednesday

After breakfast we motored the short distance over to Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island. This is reputably one of the best snorkelling and diving sites in the Whitsundays. Again we picked up a mooring to be surrounded immediately by beautiful bat fish. I’d guess that people feed them, hence their interest in us.

Dreadful photo, but you can see the size of the fish that were swimming around our boat at Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Is.

Dreadful photo, but you can see the size of the fish that were swimming around our boat at Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Is.

After pumping up the leaking rear side wall of the tender, again, we motored to the southern end of the bay for some snorkelling, but soon moved up into the central area where there’s a narrow marked channel for dinghy entry to the beach – this was the better spot for the amazing coral and fish. Steve videoed some of what we saw.
View a short video of our snorkelling – it’s only 2 mins.

We started to get cold, and the day-tripper boats were disgorging tourists by the score, so we lunched onboard then left, heading north around Hayman intending to spend the night in Butterfly Bay. But the wind was now moving around to the north and someone told us they’d had a very roly night there last night. We continued our circumnavigation of Hayman Island, putting up the sails as we turned west; exciting sailing as we watched for and prepared for the bullets to hit us. We finally anchored in Refuge Bay in Nara Inlet anticipating a quiet night.

Thursday

It was like a mill pond last night! We’d anchored in 9 meters of water, but noted as we drifted on the anchor the depth would drop (rise?) to 4 metres – still plenty of water for us. In the sunlight and with such beautifully crystal clear waters we could see we were drifting over corals. If the other name for this bay wasn’t ‘Shark Bay’, rumoured to be a breeding ground for hammer head sharks, I may have been tempted to snorkel over it.

Today we went out to False Nara Inlet, a tiny bay just outside Nara destined to trick the unwary mariner. Here we picked up one of two mooring buoys then took the tender (after pumping up her broken wing again!) to the shore. The rocks were covered with the biggest oysters I’ve ever seen. This isn’t an often visited bay and few, if any, had been taken. Without moving more than 3 meters Steve had got a cup of oyster flesh for me – pity he doesn’t eat oysters!

My lunch today - 4 dozen oysters au beurre, fresh off the rocks at False Nara Inlet.

My lunch today – 4 dozen oysters au beurre, fresh off the rocks at False Nara Inlet.

A lovely swim followed then snorkelling over the coral bommies. I stayed mostly on the beach side so the coral was OK, but the fish kept me enthralled for ages – so beautiful. We investigated how we could get Top Shelf inside the fringing reef onto the gently sloping beach one day in the future to clean her hull – looks like a line from the middle of the two reef protection buoys on the southern side to the rock wall on shore looking out for two large bommies at the beginning. The water is so clear we’ll probably see them clearly.

We lunched here. By the time we’d finished there were three other yachts with us, one on the other buoy, and two anchored, one of which was a huge trimaran with about 20 bronzed, bikini-clad girls and half a dozen guys. They were ferried over to the reef to snorkel, which they seemed to enjoy, but they’d already missed the best time just before and during low tide.

I swear I’ve never seen anyone else at this little bay – seems like when one yacht anchors others just have to join them!

Back into Nara Inlet for another peaceful night.

Friday

The winds are back up again today – 20 knots from the north. No matter, we’re staying here today ready to sail to Airlie Beach tomorrow.

We spent a lazy morning attending to ‘business’ on our computers. I cooked one of my favourite meals, Pujabi lentils, while Steve inflated the kayak.

Leaving the Ngaro Cultural Site. Top Shelf is at the FAR end.

Leaving the Ngaro Cultural Site. Top Shelf is at the FAR end.

We paddled down to the far end of Nara Inlet where National Parks has provided a short walk and boardwalk to view an Ngaro aboriginal art cave. The Ngaro peoples appear to be one of the earliest groups of aborigines on the east coast of Australia. Archaeologists have dated their presence here back more than 6000 years. That all ended in 1870 though with colonisation. They were known as the saltwater people, travelling around the Whitsunday islands in their hand-sewn paperbark canoes, even as far out as the Reef. They were very accomplished mariners.

In aboriginal culture it is common to ask their ancestors for permission before entering certain sites. This sign asks the visitor to pause and think about the people who walked here before them and acknowledge the Ancient Ones by putting your hand over the handprint.

In aboriginal culture it is common to ask their ancestors for permission before entering certain sites. This sign asks the visitor to pause and think about the people who walked here before them and acknowledge the Ancient Ones by putting your hand over the handprint.

After visiting this Cultural site we paddled on down to the dry waterfall then headed back to Top Shelf- all up over an hour of kayaking – I’m going to be sore tomorrow!

Another view of Nara Inlet. See our kayak on the little beach in the foreground?

Another view of Nara Inlet. See our kayak on the little beach in the foreground?

To see more photos from this part of our trip CLICK HERE.