I hadn’t thought of Airlie Beach as any more than a gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, but it turned out to be a really nice town with lots of palm trees. It’s a shame you couldn’t go in the sea without worrying about deadly marine stingers such as box jellyfish, but there was an attractive lagoon like the one in Brisbane. I was staying at Nomads for one night both before and after my Explore Whitsundays sailing trip, and I arranged to share a room with Amy, Verena and Roman, all of whom I’d first met in Rainbow Beach. We had dinner together and I tried kangaroo for the first time. It had a pretty strong flavour but it was quite tasty.
On Friday, May 4, I started my two-night sailing trip on the Boomerang, an 83ft maxi ocean racing yacht which used to be the fastest boat of its kind in the world. It was 20ft wide and had a 110ft mast, making it taller than the other boats in the harbour. There were 26 guests (including Hugo, who I first met in Byron Bay) and three crew on the trip.
We sailed to Whitsunday Island and we were given the chance to help raise the sails and to take the wheel. The skipper, Kane, attracted a sea eagle by whistling and waving his arm, and it swooped to catch some meat that he threw in the air. We spent the first night moored at Tongue Bay.
The next day, we went ashore for a bushwalk and to spend time on the beautiful Whitehaven Beach, which had the whitest and finest sand I’ve ever set foot upon. We had to put on stinger suits before swimming in the sea.
Then we sailed to Hook Island and went snorkelling in Luncheon Bay, which was incredible. The coral was amazing and the fish didn’t seem bothered by our presence. I was grateful that Ellen kept a close eye on me, as she’d heard about some of my water-related mishaps and I was feeling a bit nervous. Now I can cross snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef off my ‘bucket list’. I used up half the film in my disposable underwater camera and I can’t wait to get it developed. I’ll use up the other half when I go on a trip to the outer reef from Cairns, and I hope I’ll see the characters from Finding Nemo.
We sailed to Langford and I went onto the beach for a short time while some of the group went snorkelling again. I was gutted I left my camera on the boat because there was one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. In the opposite direction, the clouds around the nearly-full moon turned a gorgeous purple colour. That night, after we had moored at Stonehaven, we drank goon and played Thumper. It was the second-best day I’ve had in Australia.
On Sunday, May 6, we sailed back to Airlie Beach. I was thinking about Issie and Chris, whose wedding I was sad to be missing. Even though our legs were dangling over the edge of the high side as usual, the boat was leaning so much it was quite difficult to hold on at times. We overtook the boat with the not-very-classy name Spank Me, which had an hour’s head start. As we did a ring around it and jeered, some of the boys flashed at it. I suppose this wasn’t very classy either, but it was quite funny.
In the evening, the group was invited to meet at the pub Beaches. It was a bit disappointing that so few of the group turned up, but it was a nice chance to say goodbye to people. I walked Ellen to the bus stop and we saw an unusually large and bright shooting star, which rounded off the whole chapter of the trip perfectly.