Monthly Archives: October 2011

Bulimia Onboard the S.V. Whitehaven

On our last day at sea, we could snorkel before we threw up the sails (hence the nickname bulimia) and set sail for home. Not many people seemed enthusiastic about this because it was a 7:30 am dive time. The day was a bit windy, and the sun hadn’t even had time to warm the water. A couple of people who really seemed to enjoy snorkeling dove right in. It took others the promise of seeing sea turtles to schlep on their wetsuits and dive in. I don’t even know if there really were turtles in the area or if Dave was just putting them on. In any case, most people didn’t stay in the water longer than 15 minutes because of the temperature.

When everyone was safely back onboard, Lauren and Leon hoisted the sails at Dave’s command. Dave cut the motor and away we went. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a sailboat before and the quietness of the vessel as it cut through the water was magical. The only sound I heard was the flapping of the sails in the wind and the crashing of the waves as we moved through the blue sea. A book in hand, I headed to the front of the ship to lay out in the sun and just enjoy the ride.

Slide Album: Whitsunday Sailing
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Whitehaven Beach and Attack of the Killer Coral

This morning we woke up to the sounds of the ship’s motor chugging away as we sailed into Tongue Bay. This bay is the commercial access point to the famous Whitehaven Beach, which lay just up and over a hill through some native bush. The walk couldn’t be too bad as we didn’t have proper footwear, only slippers or barefoot.

After taking the group to shore in the dingy, Lauren led us on a bush hike and told us about the island, plants and Aboriginals. At one point, she stopped us on the trail and told us stick out our tongues so we could taste some bush tucker. Bush tucker is pretty much anything that Aboriginals ate to survive, and I was a bit skeptical about whether I should comply with her request. However, some other brave souls (they were German) did and ended up licking the ass end of an ant. Lauren had pinched the ant by the head and was touching its butt to their outstretched tongues. Peer pressure made me cave and when it was my turn I dutifully stuck out my tongue. The ant’s ass tasted tangy like a lemon, which I suppose isn’t too bad a taste if you had to eat tons of them for sustenance.

When we reached the top of the hill, the view of Whitehaven Beach was simply amazing. The sand was extremely white and fine because its made of silica. The water was a wonderful turquoise blue to match the almost cloudless sky. I had never seen anything so perfect. In the shallow water below, we could see dark shadows and Lauren told us they were manta rays. We tramped down to the beach and had a great time lounging in the sun and sand.

Slide Album: Whitehaven Beach

We returned to the ship and geared up for another snorkel as Dave motored us to our next destination. At this site, the snorkelers had to get into the water over the side of the dingy, Navy Seal style. There was no tip-toeing in from shore this time. I decided to stay in the dingy with Lauren so I could get some photos of the group and chum the water with fish food. Apparently, the fish weren’t as friendly or abundant at this site and took a bit of encouragement before they came out to play. The water was nice and blue though so visibility looked like it had improved.

At Dave’s last stop of the day, the tide was going out quickly and we had to walk quite far from the dingy to shore to see an Aboriginal cave drawing site. Because all the Whitsunday Islands are protected environmental areas, we had to avoid all coral and other marine life as we went ashore. This was quite impossible and we had to play hopscotch in thigh-high water to avoid the coral. Unfortunately, I learned not to every play with coral because they don’t like to play fair. As I trying to avoid the most obvious formations, a hidden coral family decided to jump up and attack me on my left big toe. Argh! Three weeks of climbing mountains and my first injury is from a sneaky little coral formation.

I made it to shore and hobbled uphill to the cave paintings. Dave told us that Aboriginal medicine men used to cast evil spirits into this cave so they wouldn’t do any harm to people. It was here that I found two other passengers with injuries of their own. One girl looked like she had gotten a jellyfish sting across the top of her foot. Another girl had been seasick for most of the trip and now looked about ready to pass out. Maybe the evil spirits had escaped from their cave jail and were affecting the group?

Slide Album: Whitsunday Snorkel

After the somewhat spooky history and cultural lesson, we all return to the ship in a somber mood. The three of us required first aid and our injuries and illnesses were documented on the ship’s log. Lauren offered to clean out my cut, but I told her it wouldn’t be necessary. I used a needle to dig out any coral bits I could see, but nothing was too deep. I was given some disinfectant cream and had to hobble around for the rest of the time so as not to get the cream on anything while air-drying my cut.

Tonight’s sunset viewing was from aboard the ship as we headed toward yet another harbor to anchor for the night. Again, the view was amazing. Perhaps the sun in Australia is different from it is in Hawaii? Maybe it’s closer to the earth or something? Whatever it is, it makes you see the world around you just a bit differently than you normally do. You start to get all deep and introspective and contemplate answers to the world’s problems as if one good idea can solve everything. And maybe it can, if you just continued to watch the majesty of Australian sunsets?

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Snorkeling and Sunsets at the Whitsunday Islands

I awoke to another wonderful day and just knew that the sailing trip would be great. The crew of the S.V. Whitehaven consisted of Dave, the skipper, and Lauren and Leon, the deck hands. Lauren also served as tour guide and ecological expert while Leon prepared all of our meals. We set sail and headed out to open ocean. The farther we got from shore, the more I realized how much I enjoyed being on the water.

At our first stop, we donned lovely, fashionable wetsuits and did a bit of snorkeling. I think wetsuits are the worst fashion tragedy ever, but I guess they’re better than getting stung by jellyfish. Australia has a jellyfish that is the deadliest in the world. I hear that when you’re stung by them, you can die from the shock of the pain. If you don’t die straight away, you wish you would because the pain is so intense. So with that in mind, I wriggled into the suit and hopped into the water.

Slide Album: Whitsundays Adventure

Even though I’ve grown up on an island and have lived within 30 minutes of a beach my entire life, I can’t say that I’ve actually spent much time there, especially in recent years. And when I do go to the beach, I definitely don’t do any snorkeling. I’ve never even been to Hanauma Bay before! So it was a bit difficult for me to put on the gear (snorkel, mask and fins) and waddle into the water from a beach made of coral rocks. Just thinking about it again makes my poor feet hurt. Apparently I’m what you call a tenderfoot, even though I clearly remember running around barefoot as a kid.

Once I was finally in the water, I was glad to have chosen to bring a noodle with me. A noodle is a styrofoam-like tube that helps you float. I put that noodle under me and off I went looking for fish. And, I didn’t have to look very far as the fish were everywhere. The visibility under the water wasn’t great, but the amount of fish made up for it. They weren’t even afraid of us – these big, awkward-looking whale-like creatures fumbling around them. There were so many different kinds of fish that it was simply incredible! When it was time to get back onboard, I didn’t want to leave.

After changing back into some warm clothes, we hopped aboard the skiff and headed back to shore to watch the sunset. I don’t think there’s anything like watching a sunset at sea. The color of the sky against the darkening water makes you speechless. Unconsciously, we all seemed to hold our breath as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon. At dusk, the glorious orange sunset morphed into a deepening purple with hints of pinks and golds. It’s moments like this that made me realize just how special Australia is and why I’m so lucky. In fact, it has made me realize that life itself is cause for celebration when you can witness such inspiring natural events like this. But why does it take coming all the way to Australia to realize it?

Slide Album: Whitsunday Sunset

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