real life

Wine. Sunsets. Yachts. Snorkelling. The most addictive holiday ever.

On the back of the boat
Just about to hop off the back of the boat and go for a snorkel. (Photo by Michael Condon, Lucid Media)

 

By NATALIA HAWK

Are you the kind of person that enjoys spending ten days on holiday at a beach resort, moving from the pool to the restaurant and back to the pool again, occasionally getting a massage at the resort spa?

Would you be perfectly content doing not much at all besides working your way through a pile of books that have been collecting for a few years now?

If so – don’t sign yourself up for a sailing holiday through the Whitsundays.

If you’re the type of person that prefers adventure, exploring new places, fresh salty air, boat shoes, coral reefs, turtles that pop their heads through waves to greet you, deserted beaches and watching the sunset while drinking wine ON YOUR OWN PERSONAL YACHT… this kind of holiday might be for you.

A month ago, I was lucky enough to experience this very holiday – sailing through the almost unbelievably gorgeous area of Australia that is the Whitsundays.

Picture this: You have your own cosy double berth in your own personal yacht. You wake up in the morning, make yourself a coffee in the fully equipped kitchen, then wander up to the deck to stretch out in the sun and admire the rolling green islands and beautiful azure waters that surround you.

You start sailing when you feel like it. You sail over to a bay and anchor for the morning. After enjoying some fresh watermelon, you find your snorkel and dive straight off the back of the boat, swimming over to the reefs that run along the shoreline. When you get bored of tropical fish spotting, you paddle over to the beach and spend some time just sitting on the shore… enjoying the silence that surrounds you.

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Lunch is a fresh seafood platter. You eat it with your legs dangling in the water, throwing prawn heads straight off the side of the boat. And before you know it, the sun is setting and you’re hopping in your motorised dinghy to pop over to the beach and watch a great big ball of fire sink straight into the ocean. Wine is compulsory. So is a camera.

Sunset
Hello sunset. (Photo by Michael Condon, Lucid Media)

You enjoy dinner on the deck of the yacht – steak or barramundi freshly cooked on the barbeque, salads prepared in the kitchen, apple pie cooked in the onboard oven. There are a thousand stars in the sky as you sit back with another glass of wine and listen to the iPod you’ve plugged into the speaker system.

For three days in June… all of that was my life. Give or take a couple of long strolls along beaches and hours upon hours of gazing out to the horizon. Now I understand why people sell their houses and give up everything to buy a boat and sail around the world for several years on end. Being so close to the elements is addictive. And the sense of freedom is exhilarating.

Now, please don’t kid yourself that I am some kind of professional sailor. My boat licence expired about three years ago and I barely know my port from my starboard. The best thing about the Whitsundays bareboating experience is that it’s completely accessible to everyone, whether you classify yourself as Complete Landlubber or Essentially Popeye.

You begin by flying into Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach, depending what suits. From there, proceed to Cumberland Charter Yachts, who set you up with your yacht of choice. You pick the boat, depending on how many people you’d like to come along. The smallest in their fleet is a 32 foot yacht with two private double cabins and one bathroom – ideal for two couples who don’t mind sharing. Or you can go all the way out and get the biggest in the fleet, a 47 foot catamaran with four private double cabins – all with ensuites and air conditioning. Alternatively, you can pick anything in between – there are 23 vessels in the fleet in total. We had a beautiful 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom yacht named ‘Olivetta’.

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Olivetta
Olivetta. (Photo by Michael Condon, Lucid Media)

You can, of course, hire someone to sail you all around the Whitsundays while you sit back and relax. But that’s not really getting the full experience – and Cumberland Charter Yachts know that. So when you arrive at the marina, they’ll brief you for 3-4 hours, depending on your experience. They’ll take you through everything to do with safety, navigation and marine park regulations, as well as the systems on the boat, anchoring and sail handling.

If you still feel uneasy after the briefing, you can also hire a sail guide to accompany you for just a few hours and help you learn the ropes (pun completely unintended, I swear). But I promise that the entire thing is a lot more simple than it looks. Not to mention that the boat is equipped with everything you need to make the journey as stress-free as possible. A GPS complete with depth indicator, an auto-pilot function, and – best of all – a motor. You don’t even have to put up the sails if you really don’t feel like it.

Once you set off into the big blue wobbly, you’re free. With only your maps and nearest and dearest for company, you get to pick the destinations. Having no fixed address for a period of time is an experience everyone needs to have once in their life; settling off to sleep with waves gently lapping against the porthole of your cabin is like nothing else. Waking up to a different bay every morning is a life you’ll very quickly get used to. Your only obligation? Radio in to the bosses every so often, just so they know you’re okay.

No fixed address.
No fixed address. (Photo by Michael Condon, Lucid Media)
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As for food – it’s entirely up to you. We ate courtesy of Whitsunday Provisioning, who will stock your boat according to your budget and taste preferences. Think: croissants with jam for breakfast, quiche and seafood platters for lunch, pasta and salmon fillets for dinner, fruit and cheesecake for dessert. They’ll deliver it to your boat for you, ready for it to be stored in the fridge and pantries onboard.

If you’d prefer to plan yourself, there are three supermarkets on Airlie Beach where you can stock up on supplies, as well as several bottle shops. Tip: Always buy more wine than you need. Always.

Now… I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that even though you’re sailing around the Whitsundays on your own private yacht – it’s still entirely affordable. Charter fees range from $420 per vessel per day for the smallest yacht to $1200/day for the biggest catamaran.

A seven day charter starts from $2350 depending on the size and style of the vessel. That’s around $85 per person per night for four guests aboard the 34 foot sailing yacht. With eight aboard the biggest vessel in the fleet, it’s still only $162.50 per person per night.

And now for the bad news. Oh wait… there is no bad news. You have your own yacht for a day, or a week, or a fortnight. What more could you want?

If you want to try your own sailing adventure, go here and here to start your planning. Alternatively, you can also take part in one of the events happening as part of the Season of Sailing throughout 2013. Why not consider one of the following:

Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race (Capricorn) 2 – 5 Aug 2013
Airlie Beach Race Week (The Whitsundays) 8 – 15 Aug 2013
Hamilton Island Race Week (The Whitsundays) 17-24 August 2013
Magnetic Island Race Week (Townsville) 29 Aug – 3 Sep 2013
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Nat travelled courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.
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