Sailing the Whitsunday Islands
I’m a sailor, I sail, with the wind and the waves, Ahoy!
The arrival at Airlie Beach was…well we arrived! as the weather greeted us with tropical rain, and a cloudy overcast. I tried to convince myself that it was a great weekend for a sailing trip! A trip that would explore the world famous Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsunday Islands.
Our view of paradise got slightly distorted as we embarked from our 12-hour greyhound bus trip to the open seas, again. Greeted by our crew, we met Habibi, the low budget sailboat which held 25 backpackers in small dormitory, coffin like beds, sardined together to create a close ambience. We then met Dougie, the lifeboat, who deflated as we left port for the 2-night excursion. Piling into our lifeless, bed-less boat, Chelsea and I listened to our skipper give the briefing of the trip. Gale, was the shoe-less and reckless skipper, and yes, he had a mouth like a sailor. As he inhaled his cigarette in front of the no smoking sign, he told us the rules. He skimmed over the description of one of the most highly acclaimed island chains in the world, and ended his presentation by downing his first (and many to come) Aussie beers. Beauty.
Heading downstairs, to our coffin/window seat of a bedroom, I parked my things and prayed for the scarcity of bed bugs. Heading towards upper deck, I noticed the weather getting worse, I threw on a jumper (aka sweatshirt/jacket) and sat imagining I was Peter from the Bible freaking out at the worsening of the weather. Gale reminded me of Jesus, asleep, as he commandeered our boat. The waves heightened, the rain poured, and the mood was dampened. The on board food was cooked, and like a pack of wildebeests, the 25 student backpackers cleaned up the spread in a matter of minutes. Being full was not allowed. It was free, and you’d never know when you’d eat again. Towards the end of the evening, and after making it through the hurricane like conditions, we parked our boat in a small alcove and slept. We woke up the next morning, getting dropped off at Whitehaven beach, where the weather finally cleared.
The sand was the cleanest, and whitest sand I’ve ever seen, and the natural park was highly preserved and protected, there was to be no removal of shells from the beach. Ever….
The continued sailing trip on Habibi offered a chance to snorkel, eat, star gaze, chat and chat some more, as the rain continually came down. The use of the on-board washroom, proved for some good discussion. In order to properly flush, you must hold the button down for a few seconds in order to activate the small blade which would shred the paper. This button wasn’t discrete at all. Let’s say, you and the crew, knew what was happening down there. Frenzy set in, as the combination of people, and ‘on board stench’ creeped like hidden bed bugs. Habibi ended with a beautiful sail back into the harbour as the skies opened up and the scent of claustrophobia lingered in my nostrils. I put on my flip flops as we docked the boat, waving by to Gale and the crew.
I learned many things on that sailboat, many things. I’m still trying to figure out if that was a culture shock, or a vacation? If toilets really grind up paper, and if this was legal at all?
One of a kind experience, like non other. At least I got some shells.