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Sunset on sailing boat in the Whitsundays, Australia

Whitsundays Tall Ship Sailing

By Pippa Yeates

Last updated: 29th March 2012

Waiting at the bus stop in Airlie Beach, the trip of a lifetime, we’ve been waiting and saving for, for weeks! A French and an English girl sit giggling with excitement and anticipation as the bus pulls up to pick us up for our Whitsundays Tall Ship Sailing trip! Jade and I met during out travels around Australia working on a banana farm and we are now the best of friends! Months of lugging our bags around Australia, we’ve been handed these tiny fabric bags to take on trip as we aren’t allowed a load of stuff and our own bags aren’t suitable for the environment. So we crammed a selection of bikini’s and jelly shoes in and we’re good to go! It’s 7pm as we pull up to the harbour where the bus has taken us to join the Tall Ship. We’re guided down the pier and onto the most amazing boat I’ve ever seen! The sun was long gone but the heat of the day was still all around us as we climbed onto the deck. The stars and the moon are out – it’s so magical, all the lights on the boat are twinkling in the water of the harbour, we’re so excited! We soon get to know the other guests on the trip, there’s 9 of us from all over the world and a crew of 6 and we soon realise we’re the kids of the group as we delve into the Pirate fancy dress box! It’s one of the smallest groups the team have had on board, so I think we’re really going to be living the life of luxury and get special treatment!

Like excited little kids, we go under deck and check out our room, there are 2 bunks, though we have the whole room to ourselves! After a homemade pumpkin soup and garlic bread from Kylie the most amazing chef, we all sit around the big wooden table under the moonlight and swap stories of our travels and where we’re all from! We sail through the night, excited for where we will wake up in the morning.

Day 1

Refuge Bay to Tongue Bay

Pippa Yeates and a fellow traveller in wetsuits on the beach

I creep up early at 5am for a glimpse of the sunrise and soon climb back into bed when I realise all the excitement has worn me out! Back up about 7.30am we all meet for buffet breakfast on top deck in amazement of the beautiful scenery we have woken up to! Fuelled up for the day, the team take us on a skipper boat over to the mainland. We take our camera’s and head off for a walk to the lookout, wandering through the trees, we are suddenly immersed into the most breathtaking views I have ever seen at the legendary Whitehaven Beach. I literally feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven! We learn about the landscape and a cheeky Gecko leans in on our tourist photo’s! I never want to leave! Although, there isn’t a shop or any people to be seen anywhere so I don’t think I’d last very long! With my memory card nearly full, we put the camera’s away and slip into our super sexy wetsuits – these are essential here as there are tiny little jellyfish in the water and loads of sting ray swimming around right next to our legs – they’re massive!

The sand is incredible; it’s as white as snow and is some of the finest sand in the world (be careful of your camera here – you don’t want the sand in the lens!). We lay around on the beach making sand angels and run around in awe of the amazing scenery and show off in our new florescent bikini’s and bronzed tans!

The crew entice us back to the boat with a gourmet lunch, well practically drag us, kicking and screaming – I don’t want to leave! We soon find out that each time you go off for fun, you come back to fresh fruit platters, cakes and biscuits galore and amazing lunches – hopefully we don’t eat too much and sink to the bottom of the sea!

Then we helped to prepare for the sail! Three of us worked together to pull the sails up – it was so cool, although a bit difficult for my weedy arms, even after carrying around about 30kg of luggage for the past 7 months! It looks like a proper pirate sailing ship with all the sails up, I keep thinking Peter Pan is going to fly in any minute! I wish… I really don’t ever want to grow up! I want to stay on this boat and live this amazing paradise lifestyle forever!

The boat was swaying quite a lot today as we came out to the north-eastern part of the journey so I felt a bit seasick! I soon distracted myself by taking the wheel of the boat and felt like a true captain! We lay on the top of the boat sunbathing, eating fresh fruit and just chilling out listening to music and living the Australian dream! A few times I went to get something to read or write but I decided all I was going do for the next few days was lap up all the good food, sun, sea and everything I possibly could and not think about anything – such a hard life!

Tongue Bay to Butterfly Bay

We went to Hook Island and walked to a butterfly creek, it was pretty hard to find after the crew dropped us and left us to explore the island. We were walking over all these rocks trying to avoid the horrible green ants and mosquitoes that were trying to bite us, I accidently shook a branch trying to stabilise myself only to disturb a beautiful mist of butterflies! Everything is so magical – the wings glistening bright turquoise blue and black in the sunlight.

We could have continued to explore like little kids all day but jack came back on the boat to pick us up and told me to leave all the beautiful heart shaped coral reef and incredible shells as this is a protected area – you can’t take anything with you! When we got back to the boat there were nachos and dips awaiting our return! We sat on the deck munching away and watched the sun set. A lovely hot shower and fresh clothes (Pirate clothes of course!) later and I stupidly ask Jade if she has a hair dryer.. I think I got a bit carried away with the luxury lifestyle – I think all the sea water has gone to my head already! We decided to raid the fancy dress box and perform our lifelong ambitions as pirates! Rum on board, Damo challenged us to eat with our pirate hook and an eye patch on in return for a few drinks! I tried but… its really hard! I ended up chucking the plate of food on the floor – oops! A few funny pics later followed by chicken satay, rice and salad for dinner, Mark, the Captain sat down at the long table where we ate dinner and told us a bit of the ship’s incredible history under star and moon light. He told her history so well, he obviously loves the boat and his job – they have the best jobs ever! I wish I wasn’t sea sick and afraid of heights because I would want to work on this boat forever! It was really dark and the only light was coming from the main one on our deck, one other boat nearby and the stars glistening in the sky. We looked over the side of the boat and heard little noises from dolphins just out of the deck light splashing in the water. I wish we could see them! It was so cool knowing they were just there swimming alongside us whilst we’re sleeping under the deck! We saw lots of really big fish and Mark told us about which fish ate which! After everyone gradually left for bed, I led on the deck by the wheel of the boat and looked up at the stars. I saw three shooting stars and made a wish!

Day 2

Today is our first snorkel and it’s at Naureens cove. It’s amazing to be in the water with all the fish and multicoloured sealife and we look radical with our snorkel gear faces! We saw a turtle, which I’m most happy about as it’s my nickname according to a lot of my friends and they’re just amazing to see swimming around in the wild! After a splashy snorkel session, we get back on the boat for fruit cake and biscuits, much needed after being in the sea all morning! Seeing as it’s a pirate ship, it wouldn’t be complete without (no, we didn’t walk the plank, but it’s just as dangerous) a rope swing! I can’t believe I went on it, I’m scared of heights and deep water, it was really fun even if I did totally wind myself in a not so cool belly flop fashion!

We sail off to our next snorkel spot at Liuncheon Bay. The beach is absolutely beautiful with loads of shimmering fish in the clear water, there is no-one else around, we have our own private paradise, it’s amazing! A break for lunch (I know we are getting podgy already!) and we sail to our third snorkel spot of the day at Mantaray Bay. Heaps (as the Aussies say!) of huge fish – Yellowtail, a Humpread Maori Wrasse named Elvis and a giant Trivalli (GT) which looks like a shark and the same fish as we saw off the side of the boat last night! Jade and I jumped off the boat straight into the deeper bit, and the others aren’t as rock and roll as us and they walked in to the sea from the beach. It is better to get dropped in the deeper sea because you’re just suddenly immersed in all these amazing fish it’s beautiful! You never have to spend time searching for sealife here as there is an abundance of life everywhere you look! Jack even threw fish food into the sea next to us so that all the fish fled and swam all around us it was amazing!!! We’re so lucky to be here, it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This particular area is under high security as it is such a protected area. Normally they do not bring people here because you are not allowed to come here with more than 14 people. Ordinarily they have too many people on the ship, but we are so lucky with our small group that we got to come here and see this beautiful spot, it is meant to be one of the best dive spots in the world! They even had little cameras in tiny bird boxes on the rocks watching people that come in so they can keep watch and you can only keep the ship there for a few hours. The water is so, so clear, you don’t even need to snorkel or dive to see all the fish and coral, just look in from the side of the tender and see everything!

We sailed on to Blue Pearl Bay and had some cheese and biscuits and all things yummy! Jan and Mick a couple that live in Brisbane, bought a bottle of champagne so we all sat on the rocks and drank a glass of champagne watching the sun go down behind our pirate ship. Jade did her usual and got drunk on one glass, I think I was closely following on a few glasses of champagne teamed with a day on the water and too much sun! We took loads of piccies and wrote our names in the coral that lay on the beach before heading back on the ship for some guitar playing sessions and more drinks! A huge roast dinner topped off the evening and we looked over the side for some more incredible night sealife. The captain and I spotted a poisonous orange sea snake swimming along the top of the water and in the mist deep in the sea I asked “what’s that?” as it came closer to the surface he stepped back in shock as a whole group of mantaray swam towards us, we counted about 12, they looked like ghosts under the water it was amazing and a major highlight of the trip!

Day 3

It’s our last day sailing around the Whitsundays from Blue Pearl back to Airlie Beach. After last night, we’re all feeling a little rough, but as our bodies hit the glistening water and we see the light of day we are soon back into the swing of things for another epic day! Another snorkel in Blue Pearl Bay and we saw a reef shark! Jade looks like the little mermaid with her red hair and shell bikini! We swim around with our snorkels on, another tough day, I know! All of a sudden, I swim into what looks like a sea full of glitter! I was in the middle of a shoal of fish, I tried to touch them but they swim past and all around you, it’s crazy how they never touch you! After a little food stop, we’re off to a small sand island called Langford Reef. We saw another turtle and chilled out in the sun, the sand is burning my feet! All day I’m finding more and more random pirate tattoos all over my body – luckily they’re only transfers! There’s a net at the front of the ship that I have been too wimpy to get into this whole trip and being the last day I finally pluck up the courage. I mean, I’ve seen a shark today, it can’t be much scarier than that can it?! The others stayed in there longer than me, I got scared I was going to fall through the net! We spend the afternoon sunbathing and talking with the others on the trip, swapping email addresses and pictures, and filled the guestbook with pictures of anchors, poems and comments of what an awesome adventure this has been! Using the binoculars, we searched for dolphins and whales on the sail back, I saw a whale!

I was almost on strike as we returned back to the pier and had to be dragged off so they could get ready for the next trip. They said if I stayed there they would hand me a scrubbing brush, I said “yes please”!

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