The Whitsundays the way they should be enjoyed

The Whitsundays the way they should be enjoyed

The next week of cruising was ultimately wonderful as I had the extreme pleasure of having four lovely ladies as crew. Three of them, being local girls who work on the dive and excursion boats, came with local knowledge which was invaluable.

The first trip was a day voyage to a good dive site with freshly PADDI certified and ready to dive Rebekah. Rebekah works on one of the larger excursion boats. She is an Aussie girl through and through, raised in a small farm town in Queensland. As with many Aussie young people she has already accumulated a wide range of traveling and life experiences taking her to Alberta and British Columbia. This is one Queensland girl who has seen snow. I was happy to show her the joys of diving and she took to it like a seal.

Along for the ride came Finnish traveler, Rikka, another local excursion boat worker. Rikka is a bouncing Scandinavian who loves adventure and always seems to smile. Sadly her work schedule prevented her from coming on the longer trip.

Back in Airlie Beach I pick up an American girl I had been talking to for months via Findacrew. Alicia had migrated to Australia from Texas and was had instantly found a job, not hard with her extensive credentials and talent. She had a week off and jumped at the chance for a Whitsundays adventure.

Alicia is simply a marvel; before thirty she has had an extensive acting and modeling career, a law degree a CPA certification and a career history that includes working at NASA. Not to mention a gourmet cook. So, yes boys, the Furthur galley found a Sport Illustrated swim suit model making me a scrumptious breakfast—not bad for an old salt!

Upon her arrival Alicia and I popped over to a remote anchorage for some kayaking and skorkling before we picked up the other crew and headed on our great adventure.

Back in Airlie Beach we picked up Kristen, the boxer/dive instructor (see the boxing post) and Rebecca, aka Bek on Tuesday night so we could make a predawn departure to the outer reefs. The weather prediction showed no winds over 15 knots and sun so we were off and ready to enjoy Bait Reef. The wind kicked up a bit more than advertised but dropped as we got to the reef. We picked up a mooring and were pleased to find we had the whole reef to ourselves.

Kristen and I did the first dive as she showed me the wonders of “the Stepping Stones” a series of eight large bommies—tall round coral heads—that you can serpentine around. We saw a cornucopia of fish including two sharks. I really enjoyed following someone who knew the terrain.

Back on Furthur the girls jumped into the traditional “Poo poo platter” and then prepared a gourmet feast. Alicia orchestrated the cooking and the meal was amazing. Before we dug in we observed the delightful ritual of sharing what we were all grateful for. Not a hard task for me at this point.

Comfort on the reef is determined by wind and tide, if the wind picks up at high tide the seas can come over the reef and bounce around a bit. This occurred that night and morning. We put out the Role X flopper stopper first thing in the morning—should have done it the night before.

Kristen, Bek and I did another dive around the Stepping Stones or “Stones” as the locals call it. I made the comment that if I were a dive guide around something called the stones I would name them; Mic, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie. Jumpin’ Jack flash played in my head the whole dive.

This is reef diving at its best, the cave like passages between the bommies make for mystical views as the sunlight filtered down the huge cracks. The fish population is simply stunning. One could not count the types of coral and many grow to huge sizes. This is what we came for.

Sadly the weatherman was a bit remiss in his predictions and the 20 plus knot SW winds persisted. Along with the offshore wind came a cold front, dropping down into oh so frigid 70’s! With the boat bouncing and the sunbathing inhibited the crew petitioned for an escape. Not wanting a bikini clad mutiny I began the ritual of loading all the floating toys, retrieved the Role X and hoisted anchor. The crew all adapted instantly to these tasks so my job was nil. By this time the crew could launch and retrieve the dinghy, fill the air tanks, drop and pick up the anchor and secure a mooring. All I had left to do was write this piece.

With council from the Kristen and Bek we headed to the famed Whitehaven Beach. Often listed as the most beautiful beaches in the world we found the claim to be totally justified. We dropped anchor in Tongue Bay just before sunset and awoke with the glorious prospect of white sand in places it should not be. After landing the tender ashore we took the short walk to the lookout platform where I met my new friend Cody who is an excursion guide as well. We dropped down the beach and felt the silicon sand between our toes as we strolled across the large spit to the lagoon entrance. At the edge where the emerald sea meets the white sand we plunked down for some sunbathing. This is white sand like you dream about and it goes for miles. The silicon sand will clean you jewelry and gives you tootsies a good scrub too. The colors are those of post cards and the posters I used to glare at for hours mentally escaping the grey Seattle sky.

As if by signal we all popped out of our dreamy sand filled state and headed back to the trail. I joined Alicia who was still walking along the shore as she asked for some pics with the glorious back ground. Gee what a captain has to do, hahaha.

Back on the boat we enjoyed another great meal and decided the wind now favored heading to another well known dive site, Mantra Ray Bay. We had the pleasure of a slight following breeze the two hour jaunt to our next destination. Again we found the Atlantic Clipper who had shared the previous night’s anchorage. This is a party boat supreme; at only 70 feet it sleeps 60 and caters to young back packers. Complete with water slide and very loud sound system blaring techno dance music she is cool to see but now a good neighbor overnight so we are glad to see them pull anchor and leave.

We grab a mooring and Bek and I start planning our next dive. This is easy, the site is right off the boat and we have a splendid long rather shallow dive amongst coral and schools of fish. As Bek had not done a night dive we start planning but the cool evening, wet suits and the option of just hanging out on the boat win over.

After two nights of heavy “meaning of life” movies with thoughtful yet not gleeful endings; Pay it Forward and The Five People you meet in Heaven, the girls petition for a happy ending. Mmm let us ponder; young girls, happy ending—Johnny Depp to the rescue and I punch in Don Juan DeMarco and my movie selections talents are redeemed.

Again we arise to a glorious sunrise, this time with calm winds. As I write this yet another fantastic breakfast is being prepared by my crew-hey I made the coffee!

As with all the great adventures this one must come to and end. We head to the quiet seclusion of Nara Inlet which would allow is an early arrival at Airlie Beach; Alicia had an early flight and Kristen a dive class to teach. Hey Kristen got good news as soon as we were in inter net range again—another fight! This on in July at a rural and rough and tumble mining town in the outback. We wish her victory!

While at Nara we hiked up to the aboriginal cave archeological site to see the cave drawings. Reminiscent of Northwest pictographs, these dated hundreds of years ago and told of life of the original residents.

Back on Furthur we enjoyed our “last supper” and a great night of laughs and tales. I arose pre dawn expecting to be alone and quietly pull anchor and depart, not the case. Alicia had already prepared a mangiest feast of three types of French Toast and set the table complete with electric candles. I was handed a cup of hot coffee —yes do note this all by a top model—I do like to rub it in boys—

and fired up the Cummins, pulled anchor and off we went in the first hint of light. The two hour passage back to Airlie Beach found the girls hustling about cleaning the boat and making sure I had left over meals all planned.

Back in town the girls washed the outside of the boat and packed, Kristen’s dive boat picked her up right off Furthur and I bid Alicia farewell as she left for the airport with Bek.

More than a few times on this voyage the thought has passed by me that this is all just too good to be true and I am really back in my office in Seattle in the midst of one of my famous day dreams—and I will soon awake to find it all a dream… this was one of them.