One of our favorite things about travel is all the fantastic people we meet along the way. Back in October, we met a really cool couple in Fiji. We’ve kept in touch with them, and about three weeks ago, we were lucky enough to meet up with them again and spend a bit of time with them cruising the Whitsunday Islands on their beautiful boat, Gratitude.
After a few delays, and what I am sure were many stressful days of repairs on the boat while it was in dry dock the week leading up to our trip, we met up with Amanda & Gary at their marina in Airlie Beach on a Saturday morning. We were greeted by another very special member of their family, their adorable dog, Furgie.
It was her first time cruising the Whitsundays as well. I think she was still trying to figure out what was up with this house floating on water.
After a nice breakfast in the marina, and then loading up the eskys with ice, we headed out on the Coral Sea towards the Whitsundays.
The Whitsundays are a group of 74 small islands in the Coral Sea at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. A place of incredibly blue waters & beautiful deserted islands. We cruised around in the western part of the archipelago. Kyle even got to drive the boat, aided by an amazing GPS system.
We visited the deserted white beaches of Whitehaven, some of the purest sand in the world, made up of over 98% silica.
We swam in crystal clear waters with turtles and stingrays and anchored in quite inlets where we watched Furgie run along deserted beaches, so happy to be on land.
We explored forested little islands to the deafening hum of Christmas beetles and the laughter of kookaburras. One afternoon we saw large goanna or crocodile tracks in the sand and heard something rustling in the bush.
It was so cool to be able to cruise from island to island, landing on a beach here for swimming and a walk, then heading someplace else for a beautiful lunch. What a treat to be able to spend several days just chilling out on the water. But you know us, so you know there were a few funny misadventures along the way.
Our first evening, we ran the tender boat into a small bommie of coral and sheared something on the motor. No oars in the tender meant the 4 of us (plus Furgie) had to use our hands to paddle back to the boat as the sun was setting. The hilarity of the moment had us all laughing, and cocktails were in order once we made it back. In continuing hijinks with the tender boat, we also ran out of gas the next afternoon and had to row back to the main boat (we had learned to keep the oars in the tender by that time).
We snorkeled and swam and saw beautiful coral and a million harmless jellyfish and jellyfish eggs. As we were finally getting comfortable being in the water with jellies, I was stung by a jellyfish, quite possibly an Irukandji. Irukandji are poisonous but only serious if you have pre-existing medical conditions (which I don’t) or you are badly stung (which I wasn’t). So after icing down the stings with some cold cans of beer and a bit of PawPaw ointment, all was well. This time of year, they recommend that you swim in a stinger suit if you’re swimming along the coast, but the islands and reef are usually safe. I just got a bit unlucky, but was good as new an hour later. Later that afternoon, we leaped off the boat into deep water to swim with a large sea turtle…the Whitsunday’s version of getting back on the horse.
Throughout the trip, we were invaded by Marchflies. Every time we got close to land, those little buggers arrived in droves and lazily flew around harassing and biting us. They are easy to kill but also easy to obsess over and we spent many a morning and afternoon turning the deck of the boat into a battlefield, wielding our handtowels and playfully slapping our mates. Little Furgs had enough of them and turned a bin of clothing in the main cabin into her sanctuary from them. She spent most of the day hiding out in there. It was hilarious to watch everyone batting about trying to kill these things.
But at night, we were rewarded as the marchflies retreated, the sunset left us with beautiful silhouettes of islands and a perfect crescent moon, and galaxies came out to play in the night sky.
Our first night, we noticed tiny little sparkles of luminescence in the water. Gary stirred up the water with one of his fishing poles and it flashed bright green…our first view of bioluminescence. Quite possibly one of the most sublime moments we’ve had on this trip. Sitting in the darkness, watching the water glow, and enjoying really great conversations with new friends.
And every moment, our friends spoiled us with lots of laughter, breathtaking scenery, fantastic food, and plenty of cold beverages. It was great fun to get to know them better and share a place they really enjoy.
Far too soon, our time in the Whitsundays was over and it was time to head back to Airlie beach. Amanda & Gary, we had an amazing time with you both. Thank you so much for working so hard to have the boat up and running for our trip. And thank you so much for all the fun adventures (& funny misadventures) that we had along the way. It was a really special trip for us!
Ten days after we said goodbye to our friends in Airlie Beach, Cyclone Oswald roared through. Many yachts and boats in the area were damaged, and 6 yachts in our friends’ marina broke their moorings, crashed into the rocks, and sank. Our friends were lucky and Gratitude road out the storm very well. Since then, they’ve endured flooding and power outages throughout much of the East Coast of Australia. We’re glad to know they are both okay and currently in Mexico celebrating Amanda’s birthday with family & friends. Feliz Cumpleanos, Buzz! Hope you are both having a fabulous Mexican fiesta!
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