Smithsdownunder
Our journeys around Australia

17-Apr-2005
   
Just a short 130km hop along the coast to stay at our next destination, the Whitsundays. The main place to stay in this area is Airlie Beach but it's a bit busy with loads of clubs, backpackers and bars so we decided to stay about 33km away at the very much quieter Conway Beach. We booked a day trip on a catamaran, which took us out to Hayman Island to do some snorkelling on the reef and then on to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. This is the 7km long white sandy beach that features in lots of adverts for Queensland.

The catamaran boasts that it's the world's fastest commercial catamaran and I think it might be true. On our trip we recorded 22.5 knots, which is good going for a 25mtr long vessel the size of a tennis court. It was all very new having been built in New Zealand late 2004 and had only been taking passengers for the last 3 or 4 weeks. It was built of fibreglass and carbon fibre. The mast and boom were also completely made of carbon fibre and I think there it has a bit of a design problem. The mast is shaped like an aerofoil and rotates with the main sail. To do this it is mounted on a large pivot which creeks and groans very loudly under load. During sea trials, the original mast snapped off so load sensors had been fitted to warn of excessive loads. These were beeping every now and again! It was an impressive vessel though.

'Camira'

Camira
Camira under sail

When it was launched it was called 'Tsunami' but out of respect (and for marketing reasons I suspect) they renamed it 'Camira' which is an aboriginal word meaning Wind. I think the sail had an unfortunate design on it that looks like a sumo wrestler blowing hard. Or is he throwing up!

Camira's sail and carbon fibre mast.

The same company operate a jet powered wave-piercing catamaran, which travels to the outer reef. It overtook us on this occasion but the Camira was quite capable of keeping up with it in the right wind conditions!

'Seaflight'

Seaflight
The snorkelling between Haymen and Hook Islands was a bit disappointing compared to the Fitzroy Reef we visited a week or two ago. The visibility was poor and a lot of the coral was damaged. I lashed out again on another $20 camera and took some underwater photos but haven't had change to get them processed yet. If any come out, I will post them here.

Whitehaven Beach is a 7km long stretch of pure white silica sand and is rated as one of the top three beeches in the world. I think the beaches at Cape LeGrand near Esperance in Western Australia had the edge though. The water was a lot warmer here; a very pleasant 26deg. It was still stinger season so we were supplied with stinger suits from the catamaran for snorkelling and swimming and had to be careful and stay just on the edge of the water if swimming without them.

Camira anchored off Whitehaven beach

Whitehaven Beach
Ali on Whitehaven Beach

Whitsunday Island is a national park so there are no buildings or roads, just bush and beach. Although there is no road access there were helicopters, float planes and boats of all descriptions taking people to see the beach.

Whitehaven Beach

We had some good winds to take us back to Airlie Beach and this is when we managed to get the speed up to 22.5knts. Although we were running a couple of hours behind schedule, we had a bonus sunset cruise home.

Sunset from the Camira

Sunset over the Whitsundays