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ISLANDS OFF THE QUEENSLAND COAST

ISLANDS OFF THE QUEENSLAND COAST

Article by Ruth Main

Cruising around Australia is not the easiest voyage in the world. I well remember being told, ‘If you can sail the Australian coast, you can sail anywhere’. I took that with a grain of salt.

But after spending seven years sailing overseas in Asia and the Indian Ocean (following our three years around Australia) I have to agree. The seas generally are much flatter than the oceans, the winds less changeable (in direction in particular) and the season changes are much more defined. In fact, we have encouraged folk wanting to cruise to head north, go to Asia and enjoy it.

But I confess, if we had not spent the years on the Queensland and WA coasts, I do not think we would have developed the love and desire to go further and see more. It gave us a taste of a wonderful lifestyle and a unique way of seeing a country. It gave us lifelong friends and special unforgettable experiences, ones which would not have happened as a landlubber or tourist. We had also spent several years cruising the relatively isolated West Australian coast and learned to love the isolation and be able to experience nature at its best.

CRUISING ALONG QUEENSLAND’S COAST

We have travelled along the coast of Queensland, and our favourite destinations while cruising the coast were the islands off shore. We were cruising in our catamaran, Tusk.

The standout is Lizard Island. I know… it’s a long way north (and east) but worth every nautical mile to get there. The crystal clear waters make for stunning diving and snorkelling. The beaches and coves are pristine, and the walks over the island are varied with surprises at every bay.

You do need to go well stocked up with provisions, as the resort is not there to provide supplies to grotty yachties. But the fishing is excellent and the anchorage very protected and safe. All the yachties have wonderful camaraderie both on land and sharing sundowners on the beach.

Upolu Cay was another standout for us. We had friends with us, including Miriam who was celebrating her 60th birthday. We had the Cay to ourselves, a tiny sand dot in the middle of the ocean. It was a memorable evening watching the sun set with a bubbly in hand, not another soul in sight.

We have had several visits to Fraser island. We knew nothing about it prior to our first visit – and we loved it. The whole concept of the place is so much in keeping with the environment – the buildings and tracks around having minimum impact. The anchorages along the west coast of Fraser were some of our most memorable – seeing the dingo saunter down onto the beach and watching the little red hermit crabs scurrying along only to vanish when disturbed.

Magnetic Island, specifically Horseshoe Bay, is another lovely destination and anchorage. Florence Bay was great too if the northerlies were in. Catching up with our marsupial friends, the koalas, is a must do. The whole island has a laid back casual feel.

Anchoring off the Low Isles was an unforgettable experience. Once all the daytrippers had gone, we were lulled to sleep by the gentle cooing of the doves nesting in the trees. By sunrise, they would have all flown the coop, leaving their babies behind.

While we have loved the Whitsundays, it is very hard to find a private ‘park’ for the night. The beauty of being on a catamaran is being able to get into shallower anchorages. We found that in Gulnare.

I guess this all leads to what a cruising yachtie is looking for. We always enjoyed getting away from civilization, from cars, and buildings – to get away from built-up areas. The perfect anchorage for us was a protected secluded cove, a sandy beach and nary a sign of man anywhere. These sites get harder and harder to find.

(This article is a revised version of the excerpt from the book Cat Trax by the same author.)

As a result of our wanderings, I collated our stories, the places we went and the people we met. It started as articles for cruising magazines, then into a book. A Cat’s Trax resulted. It is largely about our time on Backchat, a 49ft Crowther (not Tusk which we cruised in Queensland).

We spent time through Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines, and circumnavigated the Indian Ocean. In all that time we met nothing but friendly, hospitable people, and visited some very remote islands and areas – something you can only do in a boat, particularly a catamaran.

Experiences like being in the middle of the Boxing Day tsunami, having Backchat picked up in a water spout, visiting villages with inhabitants who had seen few white people, cuddling orang-utan and spending months without seeing a car, shop or building were what made our odyssey so memorable.

A Cat’s Trax is available at Boat Harbour Marine in Scarborough Marina. www.boatharbourmarine.com.au

 

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