Sailing the Whitsundays (part 3)… a day on the Island and farewell.

by Anna Buckley

IMG_8155[1]We’d booked a berth at the Hamilton Island marina thinking it might be interesting to see what the place had to offer. That was at the beginning of our trip. Since then we’d been at sea for 6 nights and had settled into this boaty existence so well that we were a little reluctant to head to land.

Honestly I wasn’t expecting much… some tacky resort aging badly after its hey day in the late 80’s, overpriced beach wear, ridiculously expensive souvenirs and glitzy hotels.

I was wrong.

IMG_8188[1]Getting into the harbour wasn’t too tricky but quite intimidating having planes flying low, coming in to land, above our heads.

IMG_8120[1] We radioed the harbour master. He welcomed us to Hamilton Island, giving instructions on where to go and how to prepare for docking. I could see lots of boats, all sizes.

IMG_8165[1]Skip navigated his way around the traffic and within a few minutes we were met by a very capable man on a dinghy who greeted us and helped get ‘Rocket’ into its berth. He was so friendly, invited us to use all the Marinas facilities, told us to radio in at any time if we had problems and hoped we’d enjoy our stay. We were all delighted at how easy and stress-free this experience was.

Before heading to town we plugged in the electricity cable to charge the battery, filled up the water tanks and checked that all the ropes were secure. Once this and the general housekeeping had been done Lulu and I headed for the amenities block. None of us had showered for the entire time at sea. We’d swum every day, the water was divine, and didn’t feel that using up the boats precious supply on hot showers was really necessary. We’d been living in our swimwear and loose cotton shirts, not bothering to change our clothes from one day to the next. That was OK for our small crew, we’d obviously gotten used to the smell, but totally unacceptable for the people we’d be mingling with on land.
IMG_8128[1] Lulu and I walked the short distance to the pretty main street. Low rise bungalows scattered amongst palm trees, lush gardens, families and busy little shops.

IMG_8180[1] After asking the locals they pointed us in the right direction. We put a load of washing on, then headed straight for the showers. I emerged squeaky clean and dressed in a neat little navy striped skirt and white cotton T-shirt.

IMG_8146[1] While waiting for the others to return I indulged in a bit of a pedicure and topped up the polish. Looking at this image and see I really had gone feral… broken nails, salt dried skin and scars from the vicious sand-fly bites inflicted on me 2 weeks ago. The itching was unbearable and I would love to know if anyone has a remedy for the evil bugs and their vile bites?

IMG_8171[1] From our boat I could see the lunch time crowd building. We decided to explore the town and investigate.

IMG_8132[1] There was a wonderful bakery selling a large range of loaves and pastry treats. To our surprise everything was inexpensive and looked utterly delicious. I bought vanilla slices and a loaf of fresh bread… our  supply of sliced white had started to go mouldy! Further along was a fish and chip shop with, again, well priced seafood. Across from these two shops were tables, facing the marina, where the local wild life pestered diners for scraps.

IMG_8141[1] The island was beautifully landscaped, lush and green, palms and native Melaleuca shading the streets. We walked along the road, heading toward the beach on the other side, careful to avoid the golf carts zooming about the place. There are no cars and this seemed to be the most common form of transport around the place although a free bus roamed the island every few minutes to take you anywhere you needed to go.

IMG_8144[1]It was such a lovely place and nothing like I’d expected. No faded theme park feel at all. Photo’s with this cute koala were about the most touristy thing I found.

IMG_8135[1] On the other side of the island (about a 5 minute walk from the boat) was the beach, a few high-rise hotels and lots of people enjoying the little sail boats and kayaks. No noisy jet ski’s or loud doof-doof of beach side bars… just families having fun, soaking up the sun.

IMG_8140[1] I took this shot to show you the hill we climbed yesterday to get that picture of the islands. It is just discernible in the distance, the highest peak on the left and was a steep 2.5 km climb…my calves are seriously feeling it today!

IMG_8138[1]At the end of the beach a bride was having her big day. On the walk through the grounds of the hotel I saw the wedding marquee set up with masses of white flowers, roses flown in fresh for the occasion.

IMG_8179[1]As we walked home I saw the florist shop, with one last bouquet of flowers being bundled together, after what I assume had been a very busy day.
IMG_8172[1] To the left of the harbour we saw the docks and the barge that delivers absolutely everything on and off the island. Water, food and diggers all needing to be brought from the mainland.

IMG_8125[1]Skip couldn’t resist calling into the bottle shop. I followed him in and was surprised at what a huge range they had and how inexpensive it all was. He emerged with a couple of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc to top up our dwindling supply.

IMG_8178[1]It was getting late in the afternoon and I was thinking about what we’d eat tonight. We still had stacks of food and didn’t really need anything. There was a large general store stocked full of a huge range of grocery items and surprisingly not much more expensive than the supermarket in Airlie Beach. I was really surprised and had assumed to be paying exorbitant prices for the simplest of items.

IMG_8177[1]But what really won me over was the discovery of my number one favourite kitchen utensil…the Victorinox serrated knife and only a dollar more than the discount home-wares store in Melbourne. I BLOODY LOVE THIS PLACE! It had been Lulu’s birthday so I bought her one as a gift but with the full intention of using it tonight…like most holiday accommodation the knives on the boat are a little blunt.

IMG_8150[1] We returned to the marina, our lovely little boat felt like home and I was happy to be back on board.

IMG_8145[1] Being that we were in the calm waters of this sheltered marina I decided to use the oven. I quickly threw together my one pot wonder, popped it in to bake and headed on deck to share drinks with the others while the meal cooked.

IMG_8155[1]Lulu had collected the laundry and my comfy cotton top was smelling like new. I couldn’t bear wearing the pencil skirt and the fitted cotton tee so quickly changed back into the clothes that had become my second skin. Relaxed and totally delighted with this surprising island, we toasted the success of our holiday, the pleasant discoveries we’d made and what a wonderful time we were all having.

I’d checked out the restaurant behind us and again saw prices that weren’t outrageous and, had I not felt obliged to use up all our food, would have seriously enjoyed having a night off and eaten there tonight.

IMG_8198[1]The following morning we emerged from the snug little harbour to a very choppy sea.  Skip had checked the weather report and the winds would be the highest we’d experienced. He needed to get us to a sheltered harbour nearer to our final destination. Tomorrow we would head back to Airlie Beach, return ‘Rocket’ to its home in the marina and end our wonderful holiday.

IMG_8207[1]We set anchor at a rather ugly mainland inlet called Double Bay. No lush rainforest or white sandy beaches, just scrubby vegetation, mangroves, muddy water and 3 rather ramshackle old boats already moored. Not a pretty place to end our holiday. It was as if we were being let down quickly, told our time in this glorious place was up.
Whitsundays_151613I cooked our last meal.

IMG_8224[1]And we ate a rather hearty ‘fridge clean/chuck everything in the pan’ pasta.
Whitsundays_090223I woke to a really cool morning and rugged up to drink my coffee.

Whitsundays_151751Lulu radioed HQ and we listened as the other boats gave their destinations…Butterfly Cove, Tongue Bay, Cid Harbour and Whitehaven Beach, all with exited expectations of what their days might hold. We knew these locations well and remembered the pleasant times we’d spent there, a little sad that we were heading home.

IMG_8205[1]By 9 am we were well on our way back to Airlie Beach. I spotted something in the distance, just below the water…could it be whales? I’d missed the first sighting. This time my camera was at hand, I’d been taking a few last-minute pics. A spurt of water and a long black fin appeared, click, click, it was a whale and if you look ever so closely you can just see the glossy body about to appear above the water. She followed us until we were almost home. At last I’d gotten my chance to see one of these beautiful marine creatures. What a lovely final farewell.

IMG_8227[1]We wound in the sails and once again Skip guided us safely back into the Marina.
IMG_8236[2] We packed up our things and said farewell to ‘Rocket’…what a good little boat she’d been. I vowed to return.

IMG_8237[1]We dragged the trolley back to HQ, handed over the keys and loaded up the car. Skip and Lulu were hitting the road again and we had a plane to catch.

IMG_8248[1] Skip drove us out to the small regional airport at Proserpine. I couldn’t help but notice the glum faces of passengers, rugged up and reluctantly returning to cold, old Melbourne. Does anybody ever want a holiday to end?

IMG_8257[1] As we went higher I could just make out a few islands dotted about the deep blue sea below. I felt a tinge of sadness that soon we’d be back, after 3 magical weeks away, to the hum-drum of our everyday lives.
IMG_8261[1]Melbourne totally lived up to my expectations… dull, grey and drizzly.

I got home, plugged in my computer and checked the massive number of unread emails. I’d been off-line for such a long time.

A letter from my sister…’ Have found some amazing wineries in The Hampton’s. There is a great little restaurant that does the most yummy soft shell crab. The weather here is fine and warm, bring light summery dresses. Can’t wait to see you soon, much love Jane.’

 My mood lifted, in 3 weeks I was heading to America. My new book is set there and I needed to do much more research. I’d be meeting my sister (who now lives in The States) in New York and we would be doing a road trip down the East Coast, looking for those out-of-the-way places, with stories to tell and food to be discovered.

I am a very lucky woman and life is pretty bloody amazing!

Cheers and thanks for reading, Anna x

Anna Buckley Books

LOVE YOU TO READ MY BOOKS.

The Lost Woman series follows the sexy adventures of Christina as she makes her way through a world of new media, design, fashion,  travel, and … men.

A perfect read for those of you looking for something after Fifty Shades of Grey.
The complete series is available now at Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, Barnes & Noble and iBooks, both as eBooks and print books. They can also be ordered from any book store, or by mail order on the BOOKS page.