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My family and I have just returned from the most amazing and memorable holiday; a week we will cherish forever. Thanks to Brett and Brenda, the owners of Integrity Motor Yachts, and Di and Mike Mathers, the owners of the Integrity 350 MKII Flybridge Much Karma, we spent a wonderful week cruising the Whitsundays. Anyone can take advantage of this amazing lifetime experience, and I know I reflect the sentiments of my family when I say only those that do it can appreciate that money can't buy experience a trip like this offers.
I'm in no way an accomplished navigator, and my family has limited boating experience, so it was definitely a trip where we had few expectations and a lot of nervous excitement about what the days ahead had in store for us. Now, you do need a certain level of boating experience to undertake the trip, but believe me when I say that if I can do it, anyone can do it. I urge anyone, boaties or not, to consider a trip like this.
Below is a blog of our amazing days aboard Much Karma.
Day 1 - Arriving at Abell Point Marina
Our day commenced with morning flights from Brisbane to Proserpine and a short 30 minute bus ride to Abell Point Marina in Airlie Beach. On arrival at the marina we got off at the wrong stop and lugged our bags a few hundred metres to the northern end of the marina. Abell Point Marina really is a stunning example of a quality marina, great facilities and it truly is the gateway to the Whitsundays. We found the Whitsunday Escape office and we were met by the very friendly and helpful Tegan, one of the many informative and pleasant staff from Whitsunday Escape. Most of the pre-trip planning and requirements had been completed weeks prior so there wasn't a whole lot to do apart from hand over the credit card bond and sign our lives away!
We stored our bags and took a short taxi ride to Coles at Cannonvale, only five minutes up the road. After a big shop we piled into a taxi for the return trip to the marina and then grabbed a trolley to take our supplies to the boat. This is where we first got to step aboard Much Karma, our home for the next week. Mike and Di have fitted the boat with all you need for a comfortable week. Plenty of accommodation, plenty of refrigeration and all the requirements you need for a week, or longer, aboard.
Tim from Whitsunday Escape then commenced an extensive briefing with me. My family walked the short distance to the Airlie Beach foreshore for a relaxing afternoon by the pool and gardens, also picking up our complimentary snorkelling gear from the dive shop. The briefing was fantastic. We went through all that I needed to know about the boat including a thorough review of the provided maps and my bible for the week, the 100 Magic Miles. Little did I realise how incredibly important this book is to ensure a safe, hassle free and weather friendly week cruising the Whitsundays.
After the briefing we then relaxed for a casual evening in the boat at the marina.
Day 2 - The journey begins
After a yummy breakfast at the Marina Kiosk we picked up the last of our provisions from the well-stocked chandlery at the marina. Tim joined us for the final departure including anchoring and mooring hints and tips outside the marina. After dropping Tim back to shore we then upped anchor and headed across the Whitsunday Passage for our first night at Refuge Bay in Nara Inlet. It's important to note that we had loosely pre-arranged our itinerary after speaking with friends and colleagues who had done the trip before, so we had a rough idea of where we were heading for the next few days. In saying that, you can't really get too tight with your plans as they are all 100% wind, tides and weather dependent.
Strong winds met us crossing the passage as well as a reasonable side on swell, but nothing too uncomfortable. Then the scene for what about to be set for what was to be an amazing week. As we started the last little downwind/swell run into Nara, a Humpback came up right beside us as if to say "Welcome to the Whitsundays!" Within an hour of starting our trip we had already experienced something amazing, and just the first of the memories we'll hold forever.
We anchored safely in Refuge Bay and had a quiet afternoon fishing and enjoying our first dinner aboard. The trip-long cards tournament commenced that night and no better way to share quality time with the family with little to no technological distractions. Although the wind was up and the boat had a swing, conditions were pretty calm.
Day 3 - Butterfly Bay and Batfish
Each day you have to do the daily scheduled checks with Whitsunday Escape, with the 8am schedule confirming your plans for the day and the 2pm schedule to confirm your final plans for the evening, being safely at anchor by 4pm. This is where the reliance on the 100 Magic Miles and the charts comes in. After reviewing the weather and our original plans, looking at wind direction and tides, we decided to head to Butterfly Bay via Stonehaven Anchorage. The southerly winds remained pretty strong so all looked fine for our plans keeping out of the winds.
Following the maps and marks is really important around Stonehaven and near Hayman Island as there are reefs and shallows either side of the channel. The cruise to Butterfly Bay is great, gets you out into a little bit of swell with the Islands offering a scenic backdrop. We picked up a mooring at Butterfly Bay, with a few bullets from the southerly coming down the mountain. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a stunning large Bat Fish, which proceeded to eat out of our hands. Another amazing experience, especially for the kids.
After lunch we ventured into the little beach at Butterfly Bay and had a snorkel around the reefs. The snorkelling was fantastic and quite possibly the highlight of the trip for my wife and kids. It was incredible to think we were the only people around and snorkelling with some beautiful marine life.
After another evening of cards we headed to bed only to be woken half way through the night by some quite strong swell. The kids didn't move all night but my wife didn't handle the rocking too well. This is where I learned to take more notice of not only the winds, tide and swell size, but also the swell direction. I checked and easterly swell was forecast, I just didn't take it into consideration. From then on in you can guess I did.
Day 4 - Butterfly Bay to Cid Harbour
Our original plans had us heading further around Hook Island ending up at Hook Island Resort, but learning the resort was closed and the weather not favourable we changed plans and headed back to Cid Harbour and Sawmill Beach. Another great run albeit a bit headlong into the wind and swell, had us arriving to an Easterly protected Cid Harbour and Sawmill Beach. It was great respite to have dead still conditions after the evening before and stunning weather. We swam, fished and my daughter had one of her special moments while paddle boarding. She was very brave and heading further from the boat towards the beach when she was greeted by a large turtle that kept her company for quite a while.
I'd now become pretty competent with reading the forecasts and looking at our trip plans, and knowing a visit to Whitehaven Beach was our trip priority, had planned for how the remainder of the trip was looking. We decided to head to Hamilton Island to pick up some supplies and to spend the day at the resort. The instructions from the marina were great and they escorted us into our berth for the evening and assisting with our tie up. It was really easy, without any reliance on my family, to help tie up.
We decided to hire a golf buggy for the day and explore the island, a great way to get around. After a nice lunch at the Tavern, my son wanted to do some para-sailing so I joined him on that and he loved it. His trip highlight, and a heap of fun for me too.
We had a nice dinner at the resort and then a relaxed evening in the marina.
Day 5 - My highlight
We got up early to take in a nice breakfast at the cafe near the marina, re-stock some essentials then the kids had a last swim before we departed at 11:00am. I spent some time at Hamilton Island years ago and was a bit reluctant about going there but my family wanted to. Have to say I was overly impressed with how the island has been tidied up. The facilities are fantastic, the food and shopping options great, and just a good feeling around the island. I was impressed with the staff and consistency across staff uniforms, for an example. The Oatley Family have done a fantastic job with creating a jewel in the Whitsunday crown. And not as expensive as I thought either, all prices were very reasonable.
After departing the island we had back around the Fitzalan Passage on the way to Whitehaven. The trip over was stunning. Beautiful post card conditions, warm weather and very cruisy conditions. Through Solway Passage we then turned the corner for our first glimpses of Whitehaven. Funny to say but I kind of thought the beach may have been whiter, or I was expecting a bit more. Don't get me wrong, it is still beautiful but I suppose I expected the white beach to just shine. We headed down towards Hill Inlet as my kids wanted to be where all the postcard pictures are taken. It was from here on that Whitehaven is now in our memories forever and we'd love to go back every day. You don't become aware of the colour and feel of the sand until you're on the beach. It is truly amazing, incredibly soft and white and like no sand I've seen before. We had a section of what is possibly the most beautiful beach in the world all to ourselves. We climbed the sand hills, swam in the crystal clear water, walked to Hill Inlet and swan behind the island too. Priceless and truly one of the most amazing family experiences we have ever had. It may sound funny but our family has never felt so close before than when we had that afternoon on Whitehaven.
We packed up and headed around to Tongue Bay for the evening as a southerly was due to hit again overnight. Kind of wish we could have had another day at Whitehaven but the southerly that was due was quite strong. Tongue Bay was great, another beautiful anchorage with heaps of room to anchor safely. There were turtles everywhere, maybe the same Turtle but he definitely made his presence felt.
Day 6 - Our last night
The southerly had got up as forecasted so we didn't really want to head back into it so we decided our last night would be in close proximity to Abell Point and protected from the weather. We decided to head back to Cid Harbour and went in through Hook Passage. The swell was up, tide was running and wind across us, so was interesting. The boat handled it with ease and my kids loved the waves coming onto the bow. Funny how a family of landlubbers had turned into sea and swell chasers.
On arrival into Cid Harbour it was again calm and we started thinking about maybe exploring further. After lunch we decided to try our luck crossing the passage in the wind and swell to end up at Long Island. It was a bit wobbly but was not very far so we travelled into the wind and swell for a bit then downwind and swell into Long Island and Happy Bay. There were plenty of whales frolicking and again the kids loved being so close to these giant marine mammals.
Happy Bay was interesting. Nice deep anchorage, plenty of moorings and not many boats there. We went into the Island for the afternoon and so glad we made the effort to travel that little bit further. The Resort has seen better days but was actually one of our best afternoons. The kids enjoyed playing pool, feeding the Lorikeets and Wallabies while we had a few refreshing drinks by the bayside bar. After a round of mini golf we headed back to the boat for our final evening, with some fishing and the final round of the cards tournament.
Day 7 - Sad to say goodbye
An early start had us cruising leisurely back to Abell Point Marina from Long Island. Pretty easy downwind run, with a bit of cross swell until we got behind South Molle, North Molle and Daydream Islands. Whitsunday Charters were ready for us as we arrived at the marina and Scott was terrific in helping us get fuel, prepare the boat for our departure and get ready for the coach pick up.
I was a little nervous to see what the fuel bill may be and was very surprised to see that we'd used around 250 litres at just over $450. I was expecting quite a bit more considering the miles we'd done. So it was up to pay the fuel bill then sadly say goodbye to the marina that started one of our greatest experiences ever.
Much Karma was our home away from home literally for six nights. At no time did we ever feel unsafe or out of our depth. So easy to handle, so safe at sea and so comfortable when anchored.
Whitsunday Escape gave us great info leading up to our trip so we knew what to bring and what we didn't need to bring. The staff were very informative and friendly, always available and very knowledgeable. Abell Point Marina is a great departure point and very close to all that you need to start a relaxing holiday.
From my perspective it is one of the greatest experiences of my life. I grew on my knowledge of navigating, experienced some stunning locations and enjoyed the most memorable family experiences. No doubt we are closer now than ever before.
The Pembroke family.
As a side note, Much Karma is being offered for sale right now as a fully tax deductible vehicle with five plus months of advance bookings, your chance to experience the Whitsundays and all for just $340,000. More than just a sensible investment. Click here for more information.