Tonga Moon explores Middle Earth

I know our blogging frequency has dropped lately. We’d like to claim this was the result of tough passage-making, high dramas and unique cultural experiences. Obviously any kiwi travelling through Australia would be enjoying an element of unique cultural experience…well, unique experience at least, even if it is limited to watching the All Blacks wallop the Wallabies over a few pints of triple X. OK, perhaps not so unique. But to be honest our last few weeks have been pretty cushy and hardly worthy of blog entry.

We’d traveled down the inshore coast of Fraser Island for a reprovisionig stop at the strangely named harbour of Urangan, and decided to spend a night there. Rebecca and Luca had asked a local how they pronounced the name of their port, and received a garbled reply that sounded much like someone clearing their throat. This coincided with our introduction of “Lord of the Rings” films to the older boys, a move Rebecca and I figured was guaranteed to spawn an obsession anything like as rampant as Harry Potter, and of course it has. The boys decided that Urangan was simply a neighbouring town of Rohan in the realm of Middle Earth, but they certainly hadn’t expected to find the local boat club populated by orks.

As fate would have it, the marina manager who’d allowed us to moor alongside the boat club turned out to be a dwarf, a fact that I later regretted imparting to the boys. “Ooh, does he have a beard?” they asked. “Yes, actually he does”. “Was he wearing his helmet?” “Nooo, I think he takes it off when he’s looking after the marina, maybe keeps it out the back in case of pending battles”. Now they were truly hooked. “Can we go and see him Daddy?” And so dwarf viewing plans were laid amid much speculation as to his axe-wielding expertise.

We eased ourselves alongside a seagull poo-covered jetty, with the Hervey Bay Boat Club building looming over us. But it seemed that any boating element associated with the Boat Club had been shouldered out by the much more profitable business of wining and dining the old folk. In place of a battered wooden bar lined by salty wind-blown seadogs exchanging tall tales of roaring seas, was a huge emporium filled with blue-rinse wrinklies intent on winning lotto. We found ourselves in the surreal situation of being moored alongside a bar/restaurant/bingo hall/gaming lounge affair where a sleazy two-piece band sung “The girl from Ipanema” on their hammond organ and bossanova drum machine whilst a handful of game old birds shuffled their zimmerframes around the dancefloor, and a disembodied voice quietly announced “legs eleven, 27” over the loudspeakers. The staff seemed utterly unused to yachties frequenting their premises, but given that our only access from the jetty was straight through the clubhouse they were forced to endure us, doing so with unwaveringly frosty looks and snarky “are you from that boat there?” enquiries. So this is where Saruman bred his dark army.

From here we entered into the Great Sandy Straits – the shallow passage that runs some 50 miles between the mainland and Fraser Island – and dropped anchor at Kingfisher Bay. This seemed like a good stopping point for the boys, sporting as it did a yacht-friendly island resort that offered free access to a swimming pool and pool-side bar.

By now we were confirmed members of the “grotty yachties” brigade, even more so in our case as we’re approaching the end of an 18 month no-income sabbatical and so need to watch our pennies even more fiercely than before, and have found we’ve become shameless freeloaders and happily enjoyed these poolside pleasures for the last few days. Mind you, of course with Rebecca and I having been “brought up right”, we could only postpone the inevitable feeling of freeloading guilt for so long. Eventually we both knew we’d have to pay, and so decided to bite the bullet on an evening meal out. A pizza evening was decided upon, and we sat in mute wonder as our poolside table was laden with pizza and chips. A rare break from Daddy’s habitual stirfry, the boys eyes were glazed with the sheer wonder of bought food, and we staggered out that night with full stomachs and still a doggybag to go.

We have just two weeks left before a theoretical departure date from Brisbane across the Tasman (weather permitting), so we’ve starting to watch the weather forecasts for discernible patterns, fingers firmly crossed for a favourable forecast that will carry us a good way along the 1350 mile route back to Auckland. In the meantime, this feels like a pretty cruisy place to unwind in preparation. 

The marlin that got away

It seemed that the turtles were late nesting this year and very few had been spotted on Lady Musgrave Island coming ashore to lay their eggs, so we didn’t venture ashore on our intended nocturnal expedition. But the turtles must have been aware that they’d let us down in this respect. They seemed to be overcompensating by appearing for us in the water at every opportunity. They followed Gabriel and I spearfishing off the outer reef, they popped their heads up obligingly as Rebecca tried to photograph them snorkelling, and this morning the boys yelled at me “watch out, you’re about to run two over” as we exited the lagoon channel. This cry came when we were struggling to exit a tight rocky channel in a strong contrary current, both engines going full pelt to maintain steerage, and much though I love turtles I’m afraid I love our yacht more, so deviation from course wasn’t an option. These turtles weren’t dumb though, and however sluggish and chilled they may look in the water, when threatened they can produce a fair burst of speed and they took off like a shot. They are amazing creatures, well deserving of Rebecca’s adoration.

The lagoon was full of other creatures though, and the spearfishing had been excellent in providing the family with coral trout, sweetlips and cod for supper each night. But the sharks were also numerous, and seemed to have an uncanny sense for when there’s free fish on offer. So our spearfishing was conducted as drift dives alongside the inflatable dinghy, and Gabriel and I had several occasions to exercise the now well-established “Nolan rapid water exit” procedure in all it’s undignified glory. Most were black-tipped reef sharks, only really interested in the fish, but we’d seen a couple of larger marked sharks that we didn’t recognise and decided they weren’t to be messed with. The constant presence of these beasts certainly added a certain frisson to the dive and served to exercise the neck muscles nicely!

We’d hoped to spend several more days at Lady Musgrave, but on Sunday night after a long-term forecast that had lulled us into thinking we could stay for longer, we experienced an unexpected Southerly swing and a wee isolated front that built to over 30 knots, and we did a quick re-evaluation of the weather forecast to discover it had all changed, and our quiet Northerly window was closing out. So we departed the following morning, along with several other yachts that had clearly heard the same forecast, sad to be forced out of such a wonderful spot. The next leg was down to Fraser Island, and given the pending strong wind warning for Hervey Bay we needed to make it to shelter that day and so sailed into the evening, finally dropping anchor late that night just hours before the SE’erly gale came through.

Fraser Island is a world heritage site, claimed to be the world’s largest sand island stretching some 120 km along the southern Queensland coast. As a yachtsman it has the added attraction of offering an inland route South, taking some 100 miles out of the exposed coastal passage and providing flat waters and plenty of anchoring options along the way. And because it’s a sand island, the anchorages are beautifully protected on flat shelving sand, so excellent holding that equates to sound sleeps. This was definitely for us.

Funny though, how Australia manages to introduce new hazards just when you thought things were getting safe. We’d survived a couple of months in croc country, transited through the breeding grounds for lethal stingers (forget man-of-war jellyfish, these Irukandji are tiny, transparent and much more scary), snorkelled in shark infested waters, and had finally left Northern Queensland – which surely must be the epicentre for all things naturally nasty – and were luxuriating in the possibility of a hazard-free playground for the kids, when we’re introduced to dingoes. Now, what we know about dingoes is probably the same as all other non-Aussies… which is a) the old “dingo stole my baby” story, a still hotly debated case of alleged dingoes abducting an infant, and b) well, they’re dogs, so how scary can they really be?  Apparently, pretty scary. Scary enough for the  beaches all along the Fraser Island coast to carry warning signs for parents not to leave children or teenagers unattended, what to do if approached by a dingo pack etc. We met on yachtie who claimed to have been stalked by a dingo, and another that insisted dingo strikes were common. Yikes. So I guess each beach visit still carries that little element of danger, something to keep us on our toes.

Meanwhile, Gabriel is in heaven having in the course of one day found a rappela lure discarded on the beach to claim as his very own, and on that same day managed to hook a marlin on a home-made lure. We’d humoured his earlier insistent attempts to make his own rappela by helping to carve the body out of wood, fashion a plastic bib, drill holes for the hook attachments and after a couple of days’ endless discussion and work, only then come to the realisation that it was never going to be strong enough to survive a fishbite. But we persevered, and the following day had a passable imitation to troll through the water. But to no avail, Gabriel watched it spin in our wake for just a few minutes before announcing that it wasn’t spinning correctly and had to be abandoned. Phew. But when it comes to piscatorial pursuits, this boy is determined.  He now insisted on making another, and after much further debate (and, I should add, a certain element of heart-sink on my part at the thought of further likely wasted work), we settled on trying to make our own pusher.  So once again we carved the body, drilled and epoxied weights to counter it’s buoyancy, drilled holes for hooks and strung up a steel trace, and with a similarly low level of expectation of success as before, it was proudly launched into the water early one morning as we motored South along the Fraser Island coast.

Neither of us could quite believe that our utterly non-scientific design actually looked pretty good, but it seemed that this impression was shared by a hungry marlin who struck it just minutes after it’s first launch. OK, it wasn’t a huge fish, but unmistakably a marlin with it’s long bill and high dorsel fin, big enough to warrant some unspoken questions as to what on earth we’d do with it if we ever landed the thing. And after playing it hard and towing it along for some 15 minutes I think we were all somewhat relieved when it broached close to the boat three times and finally spat out the lure. Although perhaps not openly acknowledged at the time, this was the best of all outcomes. Gabriel could rightly claim to have created a marlin-catching lure, the rest of the family could reinforce the heroism of the moment with the tale endlessly recounted, and for my part I managed to avoid the indignity of trying to land and subdue a fish that was unquestionably my superior in strength, speed (and, Rebecca might argue, intelligence).  A win-win!

Don’t burn bras on coral atolls

Coordinates: 23deg54S, 152deg24E
We’d spent a happy few days at Keppel Island, sheltering from a SE gale that blew several other yachts in seeking the same refuge, but the sea was calm this side of the island and we all bobbed happily around while it blew itself out. The boys chased wind-blown tumbleweeds down the beach, we attempted a largely out of control kite-flying session, and all was well onboard.

We’d heard about the reefs and outer islands in the Capricornia waters, which pretty much represent the far Southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, and feeling like we’d still not seen the full glory of Australia’s famous reef system we decided to head out to Lady Musgrave Island. Although a bit of a slog out to sea some 90 miles from Keppel, the island lagoon has an incredible reputation and this was to be our last outer reef visit before heading down to Brisbane, so we figured the trip worthwhile. Besides which, Gabriel and my spearguns had been stored away unused for several weeks now, and they were calling our names.

On the way out we dropped into Keppel Bay Marina for one night to reprovision. Man, it’s expensive parking a catamaran in a marina. This is only the 2nd night in 16 months that we’ve spent alongside, an achievement that we’re pretty proud of, and we had to make every penny count. So home schooling that day was postponed whilst we watered, refuelled, shopped, scrubbed, spruced and generally tore around getting jobs done. We’ve found that marinas are wonderful places for gathering advice, solicited or otherwise, and work is hampered by a constant stream of interested sailors passing by and wanting to chat. Marinas breed a social life all their own, particularly this one which seemed to be populated by many yachts travelling along the coast, live-aboards who’d retired onto their yachts or were taking sabbaticals like us. For those with more substantial budgets, I guess marinas posed less of a financial burden and the sailors sat on their decks watching our whirlwind of activity with some amusement, doing their best to interrupt when they could. But given the depth of our ignorance about Australia, many of the interruptions yielded helpful info about the passes, currents and anchorages we’ll be seeing down the coast, so much time was spent chatting. Not sure whether it’s us exuding an air of general uselessness or their irrepressible urge to provide advice, but we’ve often found ourselves the beneficiaries of overzealous advisors, this time in the form of our neighbour who insisted on photocopying local charts and providing us with paper guides…all most welcome.

So we took off and spotted the island after two uneventful days sailing. Lady Musgrave is a tiny island sitting inside a mile-wide lagoon about 40 miles offshore, accessed through a narrow channel that takes you into a wonderful coral lagoon. It’s beyond us why they’d name such an incredible place after the American wife of a notable Australian who, once widowed, took off to the UK to run the anti-suffrage movement. I couldn’t see the connection between anti-bra burning and coral atolls myself, but that’s just me. Regardless, it is the most beautiful place. Turquoise waters inside the lagoon surround a sand-fringed island that is a breeding ground for terns, boobies and other impressive seabirds, along with one of Australia’s largest turtle population. Rebecca was in heaven. The turtles were everywhere, popping their heads above water to check you out from the boat or beach, a constant companion for all visitors.

The lagoon is firmly on the map for Australian cruisers so there’s typically 5-10 boats anchored here, and the island even has a small campsite for the intrepid who get dropped off by a charter ferry and left for several days. Still, we were some distance offshore anchored with coral all around us, and our first night brought 20 knot winds that ensured regular anchor checks through the night. Fortunately, the island has a small lighthouse, and this shone nicely through the porthole in our cabin so we could wake up every hour to so and check the light from the comfort of our snug bunk to assure ourselves that we were staying put. This anchor anxiety (have we coined a new phrase here?) is standard practice for us, particularly when anchored in a place where dragging could mean catastrophe. We’d arrive at a new place, drop anchor, dig it in and dive on it to check it out, but regardless it would always take a night of strong winds to prove that we were solid. The second night we could relax.

Anyway, the fishing is excellent our first spearfishing trip giving us two large sweetlips and a coral trout – and it is said that the turtles can be seen laying their eggs on the beach at night. So we’re planning a night-time expedition ashore this is something we have to see.

Fingers plugging holes

Much of our time at present is spent discussing the weather, even more so than your typical one-track yachtie sorely short of more interesting conversational topics. And let’s face it, when you’ve been stuck on a boat for months on end, what else is there to talk about? More so though, because we need to get South down the Queensland coast to meet our Brisbane pre-Tasman crossing rendezvous in about a month, and the prevailing winds are still SE tradewinds and therefore agin us. But as November marches on towards Dec, the Queensland coast enjoys occasional spells of lighter-wind North-Easterlies, and all the yachts that have ventured up to tropical Queensland sit waiting for these light wind windows to leg it South before the next tradewind blows in.

We’ve been trying to identify the weather patterns in order to time our passages between island stops. As always, timing is everything. If you get it wrong, you could easily find yourselves stuck in a dodgy bay for several days, or caught mid-passage by strong headwinds. So far so good, since arriving from PNG we seem to have had a pattern of 4 days of tradewinds followed by 2-3 day light N-wind windows, and have been able to time our passages accordingly.

So it was that we sat on the glorious white sand beach of Whitehaven Bay, pouring over weather maps with our French friends from Here Nui, both deciding to grab the latest window to head South; and we travelled in convoy to the remote island of Scawfell for a short overnight stop before heading on. Nothing particularly remarkable about this island, except that in the 30 or so minutes it took to find an anchorage we must have spotted over 10 turtles swimming around, their heads bobbing up above the water like little old bald guys, the larger of them carrying impressive barnacles on their shells. This being her favourite creature of all, Rebecca was in heaven, last seen muttering something to the turtles along the lines of “whatever you do, don’t swim to PNG”.

Sadly we parted company with Here Nui in that bay, finding our travel agendas starting to diverge, although still hoping to reconnect further down the coast. We’d spent a very happy week cruising together, so both left feeling pretty good. We planned to cover the 160 miles down to Keppel Island in one go, keen to complete the day and a half passage before the weekend, which was forecasted at over 25-30 knots SE.

We’d had some problems with our new mainsail, mostly related to my attempts to reuse battens from our old one, and after several popped battens and a broken end unit I’d finally accepted defeat and traipsed around Airlie Beach seeking a sailmaker who could fit us out with the correct ones. It wasn’t easy persuading the bus driver to let me on carrying two 4 metre long fibreglass tubes, but my best English twit accent won the day and we’re now properly set up. All wrinkles eliminated, the sail rises majestically above the decks and pushes us along beautifully. This is something we should have invested in from the start, of course, but better late then never, I find myself gazing lovingly at it wanting to tweek it just that tiny bit more.

We suffered one more wee drama before leaving the Whitsundays – cruising life would be just too dull without regular dramas don’t you think? – this one involving unexpected water pouring into the port hull.  We’d had an intermittent problem with our port hull bilge pump sometimes pumping, sometimes not. For some reason that had managed to evade repeated diagnosis attempts, we’d had a slow and persistent leak in that hull for some time that seemed to increase in volume when on passage. Not a comforting discovery. And on the trip back from PNG the bilge pump proved unreliable which meant hand-pumping the bilge every few hours. Although still unable to identify the water ingress source, we’d decided to replace the pump and at least be confident in getting rid of the wretched stuff. In the process of unscrewing the base of the old pump, I’d removed four surprisingly large screws to find air hissing in through the holes, shortly followed by water. A lot of it. So I crouched there with my fingers stuck in the holes, shouting for tools while Rebecca and the boys ran around like mad things grabbing stuff. Our best guess is that we’d created an opening for water in the keel when we touched coral a few months ago, but the previous owners had screwed the bilge pump too deeply into the hull, creating holes into the keel. So the good news was that we seemed to have located the leak. The bad news was that water was pouring in and I’d removed the bilge pump – a classic and all-too-familiar case of trying to fix something and making it worse. This was Nolan DIY at it’s most sophisticated! Fortunately we’d kept a stock of fast-curing underwater epoxy putty (not the first time we’d had cause to use it, either), and before too long we had a more permanent, if not elegant, solution and I could recover my fingers from each hole. We’ve been checking the fix regularly since and so far it seems to be holding well. Here’s to many more months of dry bilges.            

Whitsunday wonderland

Maybe we’re letting the poetic run away with itself here, but we’re beginning to understand why the Whitsundays have become such a celebrated destination for cruisers and yacht charterers. Best described, in NZ terms at least, as a tropical Malborough Sounds, the beaches here are quite idyllic and the bays sufficiently numerous to make cruising a pretty risk-free pasttime.
If you’ve been following this blog and you’re not already utterly nauseated by endless tales of sandy beaches and warm watery frolics, then I fear this entry may knock the final proverbial nail in the coffin. Prepare the sickbags. We’ve tried hard to portray this trip as one of hard graft, great discomfort, personal deprivation and terrifying danger, but there’s really no disguising the holiday nature of this latest cruising spot. As if the rest somehow wasn’t, this part is sheer indulgence. Read on at your peril.
After a short stop at Airlie Beach where we reconnected with our French friends and reprovisioned, we followed their advice and set off in convoy to the celebrated Whitehaven Beach, claimed in effusive online websites as the most photographed beach in Australia. It is 5 kms of pure white silicon sand and turquoise waters. Actually, the onshore wind pointed us to the opposite bay, Chalkies Bay, which although smaller has all the same characteristics. Charter boats of all shapes and sizes speed out here for daytrips leaving only harder-core cruisers inhabiting the place at night, but the beach is long enough to avoid grockle congestion. We happened to time our visit over the Melbourne Cup weekend, when most Australians take off and get wildly drunk anywhere in earshot of a TV or radio. So we shouldn’t have been surprised to find ourselves surrounded by launches with revellers determined to party all night long. Of course it would have been downright churlish of us to try to quieten the revelling by protesting that we had kids on board – anyone with kids will know that they’ll sleep through the loudest party quite happily, and in fact it’s the parents who are left awake and wide-eyed, cursing the fact that they weren’t invited. Actually after so many months of Indonesian and PNG remoteness we quite enjoyed evesdropping on other boats’ parties. Tragically it now seems we are living our social lives vicariously through others’.

It’s common to hear offshore cruisers being snarky about charterers, and we’ve been determined to avoid joining their ranks; not least because we’re in an ex-charter yacht ourselves and so are commonly mistaken for the same. Charter yachts have just as much right as us to be here arguably more, because they’re paying so much. But having sat at anchor in this bay for a few days now, we’ve started to see a pattern of yachting ineptitude amongst some of the chartered boats that will keep us in stories for some time to come. Such as the 38 foot catamaran peopled by 10 young party animals intent on having a good time. They anchored next to us and after half an hour of rock music and serious drinking leapt into the water to go snorkelling, one of the crew dispatched to bring along more drinks balanced precariously on a surfboard. A couple of hours later they roared off to their next destination, to be spotted a short time later firmly stuck on a reef round the corner. Or the daily occurrence of yachts charging into the bay and dropping anchor right next to us, leaving no swing room and forcing the inevitable suggestion that they might like to consider buggering off somewhere else. Snarky? Not us.

We’ve enjoying spending time with our friends on the yacht Here Nui. It’s been a lovely change to cruise alongside another yacht, something we haven’t done at all before now. Jean-Michel and Marielle are from New Caledonia on board their 45ft yacht with 12 year old son. Originally from Paris, they display all the unconscious sophistication and glamour of their homeland, without thankfully the haughtiness. Determined this time not to be caught out as the country bumpkins that we really are, Rebecca and I have probably gone overboard with the kissing, determinedly reaching for both cheeks on arrival and departure, and so far we haven’t been rejected. As new friends we’re both cautious not to overdo each others’ company, but the occasional meal or drinks on each others’ boat, and the daily of exchange of children, has been great. Yesterday they took all three of ours over to theirs for pizza the boys were agog in anticipation and Rebecca and I enjoyed a rare few hours of childless bliss. So we sat there on our quiet and empty boat, discussing what on earth we’d now do with our time, and both came to the same conclusion: eat, drink, and do what our neighbourly party animals would no doubt be doing after eating and drinking. So we wolfed a packet of crisps, gulped down a Bloody Mary, and broke out the tiddleywinks set.

Heading South

Much anticipation and some nervousness at the arrival of our new mainsail. In fact, nerves increased as we discovered progressively on our arrival in Australia that the sail wasn’t being made in Aus, but in Thailand. OK, we were fine with that as long as all import complications were taken care of. It then transpired that the man who’d sold it to us doesn’t live in Australia, but San Francisco. This somewhat negated our reasons for choosing him in the first place, which was to avoid complications of an overseas sailmaker and to have someone local we could turn to if we weren’t happy. Still, we live in a modern world and maybe our parochial views needed updating.
So the sail arrived and after a day and a half of messing about with headboard adjustment, batten fittings and other stuff, we hoisted the thing in the still of the morning’s early sunlight and stood back to assess. Much to our huge relief it fitted, and with a few more adjustments and general tinkering, once again we had ourselves a working set of sails. Yeah.
This coincided nicely with a favourable weather window for travelling South, so after a hurried final supermarket shop and refuel, we packed up and headed out. This was to be the test for our mainsail, an overnight trip of 120 or so miles down to the Whitsunday Islands where we’d stop and smell the roses for awhile.
These things never go entirely smoothly, of course, and we were about to cross the main Townsville shipping lane when we noticed a couple of battens coming loose, and a quick scurry up the boom revealed some problems with the batten ends. From my precarious position straddling the end of the boom some 3 metres off the deck I asked Rebecca if she could find me something to help re-secure the batten velcro straps. She disappeared briefly below, then appeared brandishing the broken end of a plastic fly swat, announcing that this would be the perfect implement. And she was right. Finally her policy of “never EVER throw anything away, you never know when it might come in handy” had been vindicated and she sat there smugly for the remainder of the afternoon, knowing that this now gives her free licence for further hoarding.

Gabriel had worked hard on boat jobs to earn himself his own personal lure, and the inevitably expensive trip to a fishing shop was required before we left Townsville. A kid in a candy store doesn’t come close to describing Gabriel’s glee as he surveyed rows of gleaming new lures, each one designed to attract the fisherman probably even more than the fish. To be fair to our budding young fishing enthusiast, our lure stock had taken a bit of a hammering in PNG, several bitten off or lost to aggressive spanish mackerel or other toothy critters. We’d moved to using steel trace in a desperate attempt to minimise further lure losses and this seemed to help. Still, we were down to Gabriel’s home-made lures variously made from PNG plants, beers cans and seagull feathers, and things were looking a tad grim. But on our way out of the shop the only thing looking grim was the bank balance, weighed down as we were with a selection of hooks, lures, bait and assorted fishing gubbins. I justified it in my own mind by estimating the cost of fish we’d catch and eat, and so was thankful when we did in fact hook a couple of good-sized eaters and could dine out on them for several days.

The trip down the coast was largely uneventful, other than during my midnight watch when we converged with a couple of unidentified boats, the lead of which started acting nervous, flashing torches at us and shining lights onto their sails (classic behaviour signalling unease with another boat’s position). This all seemed a bit unnecessary to me, so I called them on the VHF and much to my surprise discovered them to be two yachts heading South from the PNG rally. It transpired that they’d had a nasty passage to Australia, an equally tough trip down from Cairns and were a tad sleep deprived and jumpy. We parted radio company on good terms, and in fact the three of us kept pace for the rest of the night. It’s a small sailing world, thought us, as evidenced further by finding that our French friends on board Here Nui were in Airlie Beach, and seemed keen to hook up. So after a day and half passage down the coast we stopped off at Airlie Beach for parts and provisions, and were delighted to find Here Nui, complete with highly excited friend of our boys’ Johan bouncing up and down at the prospect of some playmates. So we’ve hooked up with them, the boys especially pleased to be hanging out again, and have set off on a few days combined cruising as we explore the Whitsundays together.