The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Final Thoughts on Hamilton Island

Posted by: melissa

Despite its rainy beginning, yesterday turned out to be a pretty nice day.  The downpour settled down at about 11:00 a.m., so we rented a golf cart (a buggy, as it’s called here in Australia) to go out and explore the island.  We opted for a full day’s rental, but we pretty much saw everything in less than two hours.  We had lunch at the local chippy which was the best fish and chips I’ve had since New Zealand.  It was still cold and overcast, but at least fairly dry. 

We returned the buggy, cleaned up, and went to dinner at the fine-dining restaurant in the yacht club called Bommie.  It was okay, but like many fine dining restaurants in Queensland, it seems like the abstract idea of what someone who hasn’t eaten in many true fine dining restaurants imagines a fine dining restaurant to be like.  The yacht club is a beautiful building with fantastic views, I like the design aesthetic of the restaurant, and the service was excellent (if a bit obsequious).  Not much else to report however, except a quite hefty tariff.

If the Whitsundays are the Bahamas of Australia, Hamilton Island is supposed to be the Hamptons.  I guess I could see it.  It’s definitely expensive here.  There’s a variety of resorts and restaurants and water-based activities to suit any taste in the higher end budgets, but there’s just not much to it.

All in all, Hamilton Island feels very sterile and master-planned in a kind of Potemkin-like way.

It’s 9:00 a.m. now.  Hamilton Island Marina has a “check out” time like a hotel – 11:00 a.m.  Luckily this vaguely corresponds with the tidal chart, but the first hour or so of our 3-hour jaunt to Airlie Beach will be against the current.  Abel Point Marina suggested that we arrive around 2:00 p.m. to be safe on depth.  I’m headed out to the bakery for a couple of pies and sandwiches for the afternoon.

Hamilton Island

Posted by: melissa

At AUS$110 per night, the marina is prohibitively expensive so we plan to stay three nights only.  Unfortunately, we awoke to rain this morning.  At these prices, you’d think they could serve up some better weather.

Yesterday, we walked around the marina complex area and visited the yacht club.  Andy had a couple of business logistics to take care of so we set off to find an Internet café with a printer and some lunch.  The Reef View Hotel promised a serviceable business center, and Sails Restaurant provided a serviceable lunch.  Afterward, we visited the ice cream parlor and walked the docks looking for familiar boats to no avail.  We took an afternoon rest, cleaned up, went to the yacht club for a sundowner, and hit the Manta Ray Café for a pretty tasty pizza complete with possums sniffing our feet and begging for crusts.

Spectacle at the Hamilton Island Marina

Spectacle at the Hamilton Island Marina

The Quick Passage to Hamilton Island

Posted by: melissa

The good news is that the insurance rider is ready to go to the tune of AUS$250.  The other good news is that the Hamilton Island Marina has availability for us.  The other good news is that the latest weather advisory just expired so the delay is officially over.  Luckily we had fun neighbors over the weekend so we spent some time with them up at the pub.  They left Mackay today headed for Papua New Guinea.

Our 6-hour trip to Hamilton Island was pretty uneventful except for an amazing whale sighting – probably the best we’ve ever had with countless full breaches, full fluke, fin slaps, the whole kit and caboodle.  Absolutely amazing. 

The marina is located on the west side of the island in a channel about 1-mile wide flanked by Dent Island to the west.  As we passed Lindeman Island and Pentecost Island to starboard, some strong and strange swirling currents bounced us around a bit as we approached the channel between Hamilton and Dent Islands, but it quickly subsided.  We announced our arrival, and the marina warned us to stay at least 300 meters away from the edge of the airport runway which seemed like really good advice. 

Instead of just telling us our slip assignment, the marina sends out a guy in a dinghy to “welcome” us and “escort” us to the slip.  I guess that’s considered really good service or something, but our escort was late and we were annoyed.  We loitered in the turning basin waiting for someone to show up while stressing about low-tide and other boat traffic.  Why can’t they just give us the slip number so we can get out of the way?  The guy finally showed up and said he was waylaid by a migrating whale.  Okay, whatever.  The tide was way low, and we were surprised that we didn’t have some bumps along the bottom along the way.  The neighbors came out to help with lines, and invited us over for some beers and conviviality which was fun.  We went out for mediocre Italian and retired early in anticipation of exploring the island tomorrow.

The Whitsunday Islands, Queensland

Posted by: melissa

I describe the Whitsundays as the Bahamas of Australia.  They are located of the coast of central Queensland about 560 miles north of Brisbane, and just south of Bowen.  The Whitsundays are two mountain ranges cut off from the mainland during the last great thaw around 10,000 years ago which flooded the continental shelf (also creating Tasmania and accelerating the creation of the Great Barrier Reef).  With 74 total islands of varying size, the Whitsundays are continental islands with the same rock, flora, and fauna as the mainland, surrounded with fringing coral reefs. 

Captain James Cook discovered the islands while sailing up the coast of eastern Australia in June of 1770.  Cook named the actual islands the “Cumberlands” after Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland and younger brother of George III.  Cook named the stretch of ocean now referred to as “Whitsunday Passage” in the mistaken belief that it was discovered on Whitsunday.  However, later research of Cook’s Journals showed that the date was actually June 4, 1770, or Whit Monday, due to a time-keeping error. 

And yes, I had to look it up.  A contraction of white and Sunday, Whitsun is a summer baptismal festival originating as a response to the ancient pagan celebration called Summer’s Day.  Later incorporated into the Christian liturgical calendar, Whitsunday is most often associated with Pentecost which is celebrated 7 weeks after Easter Sunday, which is the tenth day after Ascension Thursday.  Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples as described in the New Testament, Acts of the Apostles 2:1-31.  Whit Monday is also known as Monday of the Holy Spirit, second day of Pentecost, Second Whitsunday, or Holy Day of Obligation to Roman Catholics in Germany.  Whit Monday remains a public holiday in many Commonwealth countries. 

Captain Cook encountered Australia’s indigenous population for the first time while in this area.  The Whitsunday Islands were seasonally inhabited by the Ngaro people from about 7000 BC until 1870 when the Australian Native Police forcibly removed the remaining population and relocated them to a settlement on Palm Island and work camps on Brampton Island.  The word, Ngaro, means “vanishing” in Maori and Tahitian, a name which is unsettling in its appropriateness.   

Whitsunday Island is the largest in the group of islands which are organized by region:  the Sir James Smith Group (including Brampton Island to the south), the Anchor Islands (southwest), the Lindeman Group (the further north end), and the Whitsunday Group (east of Airlie Beach).  Whitsunday Island is home to national parks, campgrounds, the Cid Harbor anchorage, the Gulnare Inlet, and the enormously popular and unbelievably beautiful Whitehaven Beach.  The Whitsundays enjoy over 700,000 visitors annually.  Humpback whales are common from July through September as they migrate from Antarctica to breed and give birth in tropical and subtropical waters.

The City of Mackay

Posted by: melissa

We spent most of the day today in Mackay city proper.  For a city with barely 100,000 people, Mackay has a soul-crushing traffic problem.  It is seriously frustrating, and frankly, bizarre.  By some estimates, the Mackay area is the fastest growing population in Australia … I have no clue how that’s happening because there’s too much traffic to get here! 

The bus drops off at Caneland which is a fairly large mall complete with food court, Australia Post, Target, Woolworths (a typical grocery store), and a mish-mash of discount stores.  It’s a madhouse – troubled youths, morbidly obese, teenage mothers, and crass consumerism of made-in-China crap that nobody needs and few can truly afford.  Not a pleasant experience.

I did, however, enjoy my kebab from the food court.  The concept of the kebab is very popular in Australia … as ubiquitous as Subway, but rarely ever a chain.  Of course, with the accent, it’s pronounced Kuh-BABB (rhymes with “cab”).  Kebab restaurants can be Arabic, Greek, or Turkish themed, but the kebabs are usually very similar.  The one I had today reminded me a lot of Los Angeles’ much beloved Zankou Chicken … so delicious.

We also decided to grocery shop since we’ll be here through the weekend at least – depending on how quickly we can get the insurance rider for Airlie Beach and how quickly Hamilton Island can sort out their computer problems.  Plus, provisioning will only get more expensive between here and Cairns so better to stock up now.  After that decision, we knew we would need a taxi back to the marina, so we decided to hit the bottle shop as well.  Beer is really expensive in Australia, especially the Tasmanian varieties that I prefer – Cascade and James Boag’s – so when we saw some good prices at the Mackay Dan Murphy’s, we decided to really stock up with about 5 cases!  Oh yeah!

The respective stores held our purchases (refrigerated even, how nice) while we headed out for a walk to take care of some other errands and catch an early dinner.  The nearest Internet café with a printer and fax machine was located in the back room of a really nice bike shop.  Andy took care of some business items while I browsed the store.  I would love to get into cycling, but bike storage on the boat would be challenging … especially if I bought one of these bikes!  I would definitely not spend some AUS$1000 on a bike that would rust out while strapped to the side of my boat exposed to the corrosive marine elements.  Seriously, I don’t even want the outside of my boat on the outside of my boat much less an expensive bike! 

Chores completed, we sat down to an early dinner at an Indian restaurant next door to the bike shop/Internet café.  It was nice but could’ve been spicier. 

We walked back to the grocery store, picked up the groceries, loaded up a taxi, drove to Dan Murphy’s, picked up the booze, and headed back to the marina.  Of course, there were no trolleys to borrow so I walked the docks until I found one, and of course, it had a busted wheel.  With so much stuff and a compromised trolley, we had to make several trips to our berth in the most Siberian portion of the marina, so Andy took batch number one and I babysat the rest of the stuff.  The process took every bit of an hour.

Australians are very chatty and friendly and outgoing.  Even strangers on the street are always good for a cheery greeting and a clever quip of some kind.  A stand-offish Australian is rare, and I like that.  As you can probably imagine, I made a lot of friends standing there with 5 cases of beer!  “I wanna party with you, mate!”  “Now there’s the right kind of provisioning, mate!”  “Ah thanks, mate, but what’ll you be having?”  You name it, I heard it!