Back to the land

The weather forecast is for winds at twenty to twenty five knots.   It’s already blowing white caps on the waters and whistling in the rigging.  We’re up early for our trip back to port.

Checking the chart once again, I can see that it’s going to be an exciting journey.   We will make our way down around the southern tip of Whitsunday Island, through a narrow channel called Solway Passage.   There will be reef on one side, rocks on the other and a lumpy sea from the action of the wind against tide.  Once we are out in the deep water to the South of the island, there may be some swell before we head through another narrow channel, Fitzalan Passage, to curl around the north of Hamilton Island and back to the marina.

The crew downs their doses of ginger seasickness remedies.   We recheck that all the hatches are closed, and we are off.

Richard grips the wheel and helms as I point out the marks and obstructions along our route.   The wind is growing stronger and stronger.   It’s gusting thirty to thirty five knots as we motor towards Solway passage.  

The reef extends out underwater from Haslewood Island to port and we need to keep close to Whitsunday Island to starboard.   The water on our left looks like a surf beach and to the right like a boiling cauldron.  Richard tightens his grip on the wheel and we push ahead.   We glance at the electronic chart for reassurance as we continue on a bearing that appears to take us directly into a rocky crag sticking up from the water ahead.

As the water gets deeper, the catamaran climbs and dips In the growing swell.   Olive whoops from behind me.   This is fun!

Hang on everyone, I call.  Able Seaman Jeffery is checking that the life ring rope is free of tangles in case of emergency.   We turn around the South of the island into deeper water.   We are on a roller coaster.  Safe now from the underwater rocks and reefs Alida is rocking and rolling in the motion of the waves and the two metre swell.

Hamilton Island resort can be seen in the distance.  It’s high rise blocks are distinctive in the green vegetation of the islands.   We point the bow in their direction and enjoy the rolling ride.

The island provides welcome shelter from the worst of the wind.  We turn into Fitzalan Passage and the sea bubbles and hisses over the reef to starboard.  Then the excitement is over.  Despite the thirty knot winds we moor safely in the marina.  It’s good bye to Alida and the Whitsundays.

The ferry trip back to Shute Harbour seems much quicker than it did six days ago.   We overnight at Airlie Beach, then drive all day to Cairns to meet up with Dominic and Suzanne.   Ready for the next adventure.

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