Day 34: Airlie Beach & Whitsundays
May 20, 2018
Today was the big day we embarked on our multi-day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands! We went next door to the travel agent for the briefing and paperwork and the operator said to me, “Did ya have a late night last night?”
I paused a second in shock because:
A. I did not go out, I stayed in blogging
B. I just woke up. Of course I’m not wearing my finest attire and a full face of makeup, but apparently without this it looks like I had a long night.
His opinion of me seemed to change as I parked my motorcycle in their lot and he remarked he’d never seen a woman on a Kawasaki before. Luckily he wasn’t on the sailboat, he just ran the tour desk.
With our bags stored and the motorcycles tucked away, we had a few hours to kill. With our time in Australia nearing an end, we realized we should probably book our flights home before prices rose any more. For the next two hours we searched site after site for travel itineraries and different flight combinations. We settled for leaving Australia mid-June and coming back to the states late July, with about a month to play around in Southeast Asia.
Relieved that our flights were booked, we focused on getting our last minute supplies for the boat: seasick medicine, alcohol, and lunch. Our sailboat was named Spank Me, so it was a bit of a laugh talking to other backpackers to find our group saying, “Spank Me? Spank Me, anyone?”
Luckily we found our group of 28 people at the Abel Point Marina and started getting to know our fellow boat mates. It was a young group, with the average age around 23, and a good mix of countries represented: Ireland, UK, Germany (as always), Sweden, Italy, Malta, and Denmark. We shuffled down the dock with wetsuits and bags in hand until we arrived in front of Spank Me, in all her glory.
Neil The Skipper, Zack the Host, and Ernst the Deckhand helped us climb the ladder to our home for the next few days. The safety briefing included shouting, “Man Overboard!” and a detailed lesson on how to operate the wimpy boat toilets. We all giggled a bit when the Skipper lectured if it had “wings or strings” it shouldn’t go down the toilet.
Soon we were motoring out of the harbor and we’re ready to sail. A handful of us helped out–Byron at the mast and me as a grinder on the gear handles. On the Skipper’s orders, we all turned the cranks and hoisted the rope as fast as we could to lift the sails. The wind billowed into the cloth and the boat cruised ahead, leaning perilously to the “sui-side” while we all scrambled to the safe side.
We continued like this for a few hours, sailing past forest-swathed green islands and rocky cliffs that made up the Whitsundays. I huddled against the rails with the British and Irish girls and chatted about what life back home was like. One girl was born in Uruguay and spent from 4-8 years old traveling the world on a boat with her family. Just as we couldn’t take the chilly waves splashing into our faces, we set down the anchor and watched the orange sun sink behind the islands surrounding the inlet.
Skipper gave us a briefing of tomorrow’s activities and the history of when “Cookie” (Captain Cook) first sailed these waters. He cracked jokes until dinner was ready, equating the face of a manatee to his ex wife and the taste of goon to diesel fuel. It was clear he’d been doing this for years.
Dinner was better than anyone hoped for, with savory beef stew, cheesy mashed potatoes, salad and coleslaw. I felt like I had worked up an appetite at sea, despite doing absolutely nothing demanding all day. For the rest of the night, we had some drinks on the top deck and got to know our fellow boat mates. Every time we heard a splash, we rushed to the rail hoping to see a shark. Without any shark sightings, we headed down below to our bunk bed nestled in the wall of the bow.
Seasick Medicine: $12
Drinks and Food: $20