A Day Sail in the Whitsundays

We have reached the Whitsunday Islands. These tropical islands off the coast of Queensland are where Australian sailors dream of spending winter; the number of charter yachts anchored around us is witness to that. After a long sail we reached Shaw Island in the south of the archipelago and hid from the strong trade winds in its shade. Heidi studied the pilot books and declared Sawmill Bay as our next target. The Bay was only twenty nautical miles away and, if we lazed around in the morning and used the falling tide to help us along, would be an easy day sail.

The lazing around went well and getting Artemis shipshape is now a well trained “standard operating procedure”. As we lifted anchor, the wind was behind us and, as soon as we left the bay, the effect of the following tidal stream could be felt. The sun was shining so we sat outside and hand steered towards the distant outline of Dent Island.

Neill handed over the tiller to Heidi and went below. Just as he returned and stuck his head out of the companionway a large wave approached. Heidi could read in his face that “something” less good was about to happen. The wave smothered Heidi and continued on to soak Neill. Luckily he blocked most of the water from heading below so we only had a minor flood in the kitchen. Neill stripped his wet clothes off, used them to begin mopping up the worst of the salt water and then got dressed in dry clothes before relieving a dripping wet Heidi. Heidi added her sodden clothes to the collection in the sink and then began some serious wiping up.

By now we had reached the passage between the islands and the current was running at three to four knots. With a bit of sail we were making eight knots whether we wanted to or not. Heidi had a hard turn to starboard (right) planned through a small passage between two islands. We jibed the sails, pointed right and – kept going straight on. With more sail and a few more course adjustments we were managing to juggle tide and wind to head through the passage. And then – of course – a huge motorboat appeared coming towards us. For a moment the situation could be described as tense. Heidi called the motorboat on the radio and said “We are under sail and are trying to maintain our course but it is difficult”. His answer was a curt “Understood!” and he turned to pass far away from us.

With the motorboat gone, the tidal stream dropped to less than two knots and the wind to a breeze and we could relax and enjoy the sail around the corner to the exotic Sawmill Bay.

Later the kitchen, oven, walls and floors had been cleaned with fresh water, our clothes were washed and hanging in the cockpit and we could enjoy a sundown drink and reflect on our quick day sail.

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