Posts Tagged ‘Hook Island (Nara Inlet)

Nara Inlet and Airlie Beach

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Abel Point Marina, Airlie Beach

20° 15’ 52.95” South

148° 42’ 41.77 East

Photos Australia/Airlie-Beach/

Just as monkeys in Thailand can be trained to gather coconuts from tall palm trees, this Crew is able – with guidance – to perform simple tasks in areas inaccessible to The Captain.

‘I’ve a nice job for you’


‘See if you can disconnect that red seawater hose leading to the exhaust injection nozzle of the generator at the back. I can’t get enough leverage’

‘OK, sure’

Crew insinuates herself between various greasy hunks of ironmongery in the stern. The result is reminiscent of Tenniel’s illustration of Alice in the Rabbit’s house:

‘Erm…which red hose?’

‘The one at the back.’

‘Oy! Five hoses here, all at the back!’

‘The one behind the black hose.’

‘The big fat black hose?’

‘That’s the one!’

‘Does the end of the red hose look as if it’s been chewed?’

‘That’s it!’

Crew tugs at hose and after a couple of minutes gets it off.

‘Got it.’


‘Hey – help! You need to pull on my feet to get me out of here…’

Further forays, and probing with crochet hooks (very useful gadgets and, no, I don’t crochet though am crotchety often enough) while being issued strict instructions not to be in a hurry, got the nozzle clear. The Captain got it all back together and flipped the switch. It worked: water gushed out the correct hole at the back of the boat as seawater circulated to cool the freshwater which cools the generator.  But the next time it was turned on no water appeared. So we went through the whole procedure once more. It worked again, once. And then we began Da Capo. ಠ_ಠ

So we left lovely Nara Inlet and the Whitsunday Islands and have been sitting around in Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach for the last 4 days.

The original plan had been to spend a few days at Cid Harbour at Whitsunday Island, but the day we arrived the anchorage was packed with boats trying to escape the wind and unpleasant chop. We anchored, then sat glumly for while. There was nothing to see, the anchor was dragging very, very slowly through the soft mud, the wind was still howling around our ears, the sea was choppy even within the anchorage, more and more boats were coming in…the devil with it!

We upped anchor and left for what is supposed to be the most secure anchorage in the Whitsundays – Nara Inlet.

Nara Inlet, Hook Island, Whitsunday Islands

20° 08’47.06” South

148° 54’ 34.97” East

Photos Australia/Nara-Inlet

Nara Inlet is beautiful – almost like a fjord, there was less wind and few other boats. The surrounding hills are covered with hoop pines and airy eucalyptus trees and strange, weathered blue-grey rocks, like magic mushrooms or slumping moon meringues, line the shore. In the mornings and evenings, at the other end of the inlet, we could see flocks of white cockatoos whirl among the pines like snowflakes.

While anchored there we launched the brand new hard-bottomed dinghy and took it to the far end of the inlet where a short uphill walk leads to an Aboriginal site. It was pleasant to be on land again, the views of the inlet were stunning, and the site was interesting though most of the rock paintings were much faded.

Then the problem with the generator arose and instead of sailing on to Butterfly Bay and Stonehaven Anchorage at Hook Island, and then to Blue Pearl Bay at Hayman Island for some snorkelling, we ended up here.

The problem turned out to be an intermittent electrical connection rather than a mechanical problem. Brushing by the connection en route to clearing the hose got it to start up, deceiving us into thinking our efforts with the nozzles and pipes were having an effect. Also, the engine mounting bolts at the back had sheared, which let the machine give a rabbit-like hop when it turned on and off. We only discovered this by accident while trying to fix the first problem. I believe that’s called a ‘silver lining’. A hopping engine would inevitably have become a leaping engine in a few weeks. The way this trip has been running this would have happened somewhere really convenient – like off Arnhem Land – leaving us with strictly rationed fresh water supplies and having to run the main engine, using lots of diesel, for power until reaching Darwin.

It’s been a dirty, sweaty and irritating few days, especially for The Captain, who’s been rather heroically doing a dockyard job – streaming with sweat and looking wilder and grubbier as each day progresses toward its frustrating dénouement. Although he enquired ahead by phone the marina repair people here have been less than helpful due to lack of manpower and materials. They could easily have said they were too stretched to take on the job. Had we known we would be taking taxis into town to get bolts engineered and we’d have to be lifting the generator ourselves with the main halyard, we’d have sailed straight to Cairns to get the problem diagnosed and fixed. Tempers have not been improved by the fact that the moment we arrived the miserable weather became warm and the 25 knot winds we’d been dealing with until then turned into gentle breezes.

Between squeezing into tight spots and helping The Captain when he needs an extra pair of hands, doing the shopping and laundry and cooking and washing the deck and interior of the boat, I’ve been scouting around and taking photos.  Otherwise there’s little to do or see within walking distance.

Airlie Beach is anodyne verging on tacky. The foreshore has a nice man-made salt water lagoon so people can swim during the jellyfish ‘stinger’ season. A well-designed boardwalk leads west along the foreshore from Airlie Bay past the town and the marina and two more beaches before ending opposite nearby Pigeon Island. Along the main street of town are shops selling swim wear, travel & tour agencies, a drug store – no post office – and rows of bars and restaurants catering to a clientèle ranging from about 17 to 27, travelling on a limited budget. It’s obvious that people with money go to Hamilton Island or the luxurious resorts on various small privately owned islands within the Whitsunday group.

The marina is packed with large charter boats of various sizes, decorated with racks of wetsuits and scuba tanks. These take tourist groups out to nearby islands for day trips and longer cruises, snorkelling and diving tours, beach walks and barbecues. The biggest one is an enormous catamaran which looks like a slightly more aerodynamic Starship Enterprise. It comes in every night heralded by several mournful hoots of the ship’s horn. Crowds clutching towels and swimwear gather in the early mornings before their boats leave and listen solemnly to briefings given by people their own age but with woven ankle bracelets, better tans and more interesting hair (so far I’ve counted 4 young men with dreadlocks and earrings a la Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean).  “There will be plenty of food on this trip. For those of you who have been saving money, the next few days will reintroduce you to fresh fruit and vegetables, and we promise you will not be served pot noodles!”

A hike up into the hills behind town was a welcome chance to get some real exercise. Two wallabies broke cover and bounced down the trail ahead for a few hundred yards, dozens of large black and white butterflies floated through the trees and the light-dappled forest smelled delicious. I’ve been trying to define the scent and can only liken it to an excellent pale, aromatic pipe tobacco.

The coral growing under the jetty was a real surprise, because some of the formations are so large. Usually, when one takes photos of coral underwater, the result is dull without a flash. But because these formations are right under the surface it was possible to get true colours in daylight just by leaning over and casting a shadow over the water to remove most of the reflection. The only problem was not losing my balance and after one close call I made sure to keep my ‘centre of gravity’ lower to the ground.

The swallows: they swoop through the rigging, perch on safety lines, sit on jetties and mooring lines and anchors. They chirp and twitter constantly from the moment dawn breaks until dusk. They’re a species native to Australia and nearby islands called the ‘Welcome Swallow’ (Hirundo neoxena) and are utterly lovely. We first saw them in Geographe Bay in Western Australia some years ago, when dozens would roost overnight all over the (other) boat. They make a bit of a mess, but no creature so graceful can be called a pest!

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, although real Aussies, are definitely considered pestiferous because they eat houses – not entire, of course; they just gnaw on the softwoods used for window frames and weather-boards, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage if not stopped.

Green tree ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) are another species native to Australasia and are unusual members of the ant family. They’re also known as Weaver Ants, because they weave leaves together to form their nests. Adult ants form chains to pull the leaves together, then other ants bring larvae from the nest and squeeze them so they produce a kind of silk, which is then used to ‘stitch’ the leaves together. They’re aggressive creatures and swarm out when the nests are touched, biting and squirting formic acid.

There are many nests in the trees and bushes along the board walk and having read that they’re sometimes eaten and taste rather good, I tried one in the spirit of scientific enquiry. They taste O.K. – a bit like gritty lime juice – but I shouldn’t think they’ll be coming to supermarket shelves near you any time soon.

Tomorrow morning early we sail for Magnetic Island, leaving the Whitsundays, which have been a disappointment because of the weather and the seemingly inevitable delays which have again robbed us of precious time to do anything but travel north as quickly as possible, missing so much of what we’re here to see.

The plan now is to spend a couple of days at Magnetic Island, then do the same at Orpheus Island. Then we remain at Cairns for three to four days. We need to provision, because after that shops become less accessible. There will be minor boat repairs and I sincerely hope we’ll have time to take in a bit of the countryside further inland and some cultural sights before heading north again. There’s such a long way to go yet!

Until then,

Best to all from us both