The strong weather that had us stuck in Mackay continued, and we were there for almost a week in the end. Mackay marina isn't nearly as scenic as some of the places I've been stuck, and is a way out of the town proper, so it was a long week. Luckily for us, Tshinta, a yacht we'd kept encountering since Bundy, was tied up right next door, similarly stuck in with the weather, so we had good company - there were a few late nights at the Mackay Yacht Club. Peter, Feargus, Andy and Kate were taking Tshinta from Hervey Bay to Bowen, I imagine they've arrived by now.
When the weather finally eased off, we made a lunchtime start from Mackay (thanks to one of those late nights at the yacht club) and did a short sail to Brampton Island, where we anchored for the night. It's a popular anchorage - we were, amazingly, the first boat out the next morning, bound for Airlie Beach. The cruise up through the Whitsundays has to be one of the prettier passages I've made:
|Mackay to TOWNSVILLE!|
Airlie Beach is a beautiful spot, I can see what all the fuss is about. It's a backpacker haven, with a marina largely populated with cruise and dive boats of various kinds, and a bustling main drag, but we spent our evenings at the Yacht Club, naturally. We went looking for Kate and Andy's boat, Windale, on the hard there, but couldn't find it.
Bowen, the last proper boat harbour before Townsville, was our next stop. It was an easy day sail from Airlie, through Gloucester Passage, where we saw the North Queensland Cruising Yacht Club all out for a race - the Tshintas had warned us that the club would be deserted as the locals would be out at Monte's resort for the night, celebrating after the race. Sure enough, I couldn't get through to the club (I'd been hoping to borrow a berth for the night, from someone out at the race), so we ended up mooring in the Marina Pool. We dinghied ashore for meal at the club all the same.
After Bowen, we were looking at anchoring at Cape Upstart and Cape Bowling Green, making the final passage in three days. Being so close to Townsville, though, I was feeling an urge to press on. We arrived at Cape Upstart before sunset, but I decided to go on to Cape Bowling Green and make it a two day trip - then, when we reached Cape Bowling Green around midnight, we decided we'd just carry on through the night and into Townsville in the morning.
So, the final passage ended up being a bit of a long one, 22 hours to cover about 100nm. We spotted Castle Hill and Magnetic Island a couple of hours before dawn, and slowed ourselves down, reaching the Ross Creek entrance at about 0630. By 1000, we'd showered, arranged Contessa II's home for the next six months, and settled in at the bar. It felt so good!