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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Whitsunday Islands


Can't remember what our last update to this site was about, so might be repeating things. We left the marina last week and sailed out to Shaw Island for a few nights. This provided a much needed break from marina life. I saw what I thought was a seal or sea lion swimming about quarter mile away from our anchored boat. Later I learned that there are no sea lions or seals in this area so it had to be an Australian snubbed fin dolphin. We also saw some very large turtles and a few smaller green turtles. On the way back both our fishing reels went off at almost the same time, but the lines got tangled and by the time we got them both in there was no fish still on the hooks. A man at the marina later told us that it probably was Spanish mackerel because they were running where we were sailing at the time. Zach learned how to steer the boat using the autopilot. We were surprised how quickly he understood wind angles and following a plotted course. He can read a chart pretty darn well, better than some adults we know.

Saturday night was the Monster Truck Show. It would cost $95 for the 3 of us or $100 for a family of four, so we told Zachary he could ask one friend to go with us. He chose Kate -- not because she is a pretty blonde girl but because she is the "calmest" of all the kids he met at the marina (that is his description, not ours). She couldn't go but her younger brother John was available and eager to see the big trucks. It was a bit cold for us sitting in the bleachers for this outdoor activity, so we ended up leaving shortly after intermission. But we had seen the monster trucks, the monster motorcycle, the jet van, the dirt bike race and the dirt bikes jumping over 12 parked cars. There was even a huge crane that dropped a Holden and a Ford. (A Holden is a brand of automobile manufactured in Australia.) I don't know what the attraction was about dropping cars from over 100 feet in the air, but the little kids loved watching it. The highlight of the evening was a spectacular fireworks show. Far better than we would ever have expected in this small town. BTW, since it was July 4th they played the American anthem as well as the Australian antem. It was nice to see that at least 90% of the audience stood for the US anthem, so some goodwill still exists for the USA.

The x-ray Sunday morning showed that Zachary's bones had not shifted further and that calcification was forming around all points of the break and thickly joining the ends of the broken bone. Looked like it was rapidly growing together. The doctor said that with a child this young the bone would remodel as he grows so everything looked good. We had planned to pick up the final items of bread, milk and eggs after the hospital visit but soon learned that all supermarkets in Mackay are closed on Sundays. So we picked up one bottle of milk from the expensive marina superette and departed around 11 a.m. Zachary's parting words to his new friends were "Don't forget everything I taught you." He had taught them out to play poker and how to play several DS games. I'm sure his parents will be grateful and will think of Zach as they tell their kids that they cannot have DS games.

Seas were a bit rough outside the breakwater of the marina and we immediately changed our destination to a more sheltered anchorage. Darn!! We had wanted to anchor at Ball Bay in hopes of seeing the wild kangaroos that supposedly play on the beach there, but that bay would be too exposed in these seas. So we changed course and headed to Goldsmith Island in the James Smith Group of the Cumberland Islands. This was a perfect anchorage -- shallower entrance than we like with our 2.1 meter draft but very comfortable once inside. The next morning we changed destination plans once again. We had planned to go to Shaw Island but wind was from unfavorable direction. Rather than motor we changed our destination to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Absolutely everyone had told us we must visit Whitehaven as it is the prettiest beach in Queensland. En route we passed Pentecost Island; it looks more like it belongs in French Polynesia than in Australia.

We have been at Whitehaven Beach for 2 nights and will stay here at least one more night. This is the longest beach we have visited since starting cruising. The sand is like powdered sugar and almost as white. A really pretty place and a calm anchorage in the southeast winds. The 5-meter tides twice daily can be a challenge when leaving your dinghy on the beach for any length of time. We watched other dinghies get stranded way up the beach as the tide went out or float off as the tide came in, so Bill brought our dinghy anchor and a very long rode and securely set our dinghy anchor well ashore, leaving the dinghy floating as the tide receded. Made it easy for us to retrieve our dinghy.

Each day large day-tourist boats arrive with hordes of passengers to fill sections of this long beach. It costs about $150 per person to come out here for the day, which is certainly more than we would ever pay for a day on a beach. A sea plane also arrives at least once per day. He landed right in front of our anchored boat one time. Then he motors right to the edge of the beach for his passengers to exit the plane.

Yesterday we walked the beach until our feet hurt. Then came back to the boat and let Zachary play in the water while sitting in a bosun's seat suspended from the mizzen boom. I controlled a halyard with the electric winch and raised and lowered him at his commands.


He wanted us to get in the water with him, but we don't do cold water. The water temp is 76F and that is too cold for Bill and me.




No fish caught yet. Zachary's casting reel broke when we were at Shaw Island -- the handle fell off and was lost at sea. The other casting reel onboard is a spinning reel and he can't do it using only his left hand. Bill tried to buy a new reel but can reels are scarce in Mackay. The one he did find was far, far too expensive. Zachary said that Bill needed to save his reputation that "Papa can fix anything." So once we arrived at Whitehaven Beach Bill managed to manufacture a handle for the can reel. It looks strange because the scale is all wrong for the reel, but it works fine and Zach has no trouble using it. Since Zachary can occupy himself casting for hours, it was mandatory that we have a functioning casting rod and reel for him to use.



This morning a couple of whales swam through the pass between Haslewood Island and Whitehaven Beach. From the size of the spouts it appeared that one was much larger than the other, so there were probably mom and calf. Zach said the dorsal fin looked like Orcas, which, if true, means that these are really porpoises and not whales. Orcas or killer whales are not really whales; they are the largest porpoises.


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