Lost at sea: sailing at the Whitsunday Islands / by Jessica Lee

 We pulled into Airlie Beach just as the sun was setting. It looked like paradise. For a nice long stretch, there were dinghies and yachts set on water with a vibrant purple and orange backdrop. Right from the get-go, I knew I wanted to live here. The air was relaxed and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

I had never seen so many sailboats in one place at the same time and I wanted to absorb the sailing culture into my being, be with the people who love sailing as much as I do, breathe in the salty air; soak up the atmosphere.

After cooking a meal on the beach, we settled in for the night. I woke up the next day and knew I wanted to go sailing.

I booked a two-day, two-night sailing trip and got on the boat later that afternoon (the boys didn't want to come because of the added cost- they waited on land and did some work). It was very spontaneous and I don’t regret it at all. Here’s a tip for all of you: booking things last minute doesn’t give you a lot of time to pack (I had twenty minutes to cram my things in a bag) BUT you tend to get the best deals because they’re trying to fill up spots on the boat.

Here is a photo of the boardwalk on the way to Abel Point Marina where I boarded:

The day was perfect. The water was shimmering, there was a slight breeze and the sun cast a warm glow on my skin.

I absolutely adored the dock. In a few years when my ship comes in (hopefully), I'd love to have my own beautiful white yacht.

I enjoyed admiring the boats and speculating and imagining whom the yachts were named after and why.

I also enjoyed that the sailors actually wore boat shoes. It confirms the stereotype but it isn't contrived.

The sailboat that I boarded was run by a company called Southern Cross and was named Boomerang. It was raced from Sydney to Hobart a decade ago but now has been converted into a tourism boat.

There were 19 passengers in total, which was a great number. It wasn't too crowded and not too lonely either.

This was my berth.

And this is what the general area below the deck looks like:

My bed was right beside the main dining area, thus guaranteeing that I wouldn't miss any meals (especially breakfast) because I'd be woken up by the commotion beside me.

Here is a photo of everyone on the deck:

One day I'd like the experience of actually sailing somewhere by my own effort instead of being taken care of a crew, but I suppose this is close enough for now. When we were far away from land, I looked out to sea and tried to imagine myself as Captain Cook or some sort of explorer like Columbus, but I just couldn't because we were too well taken care of- not that that is a bad thing, but I feel lazy, coddled and useless when I spend most of my day suntanning on the deck instead of being productive. It was lovely and relaxing though.

The crew made sure we weren't relaxed for too long though as we were called to help raise the sails.

Here is a photo of the men working hard to raise the main sail by rotating the gears:

Gorgeous right?

We lay sprawled on the deck, hair softly blowing around and the sun working on our skin.

If you turned your head towards the water, there would be mountains in the distance and a stretch of  turquoise sea for miles around.

The sun soon faded and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset as we anchored ourselves for the night.

The thing about being on a boat with 19 strangers is that soon these people aren't strangers anymore. With nowhere to go on a small ship, you get to know people quickly. There is also no such thing as being put on hold by someone attending to something else more important because there are no emails to answer, no important phone calls to make; nothing else that begs for attention.

We woke up at 6:30 am the next morning to get a good start on the day.

I saw my first sunrise in Australia. And it was from a boat too. We ate breakfast and drank hot tea as it slowly lit up the water.

I somehow knew it was going to be a good day.

After breakfast, we were taken to White Haven Bay, voted the 2nd best beach in the world.

I'm not sure where the best beach in the world is, but on my list, White Haven ranks number 1.

The water was clear and a lovely shade of turquoise. The sand was almost white and according to the crew, 99 percent pure silica, which is a higher standard than required for making glass.

The beach was unpolluted and only had a small amount of people on it, making it peaceful and wonderful.

No one is allowed to live here, which keeps the place unruined and paradise-like. There were few foot prints. It felt like we were the first to discover the island.

Look how clear the water is:

It was incredibly easy to float in too.

Check out the funky wave patterns on the sand:

There was also some coral that washed up on the shore.

I picked a piece up. Turns out coral is bone-like and not soft and squishy like I had imagined it to be.

We hung around the beach, tanned and did some typical beach activities. 

We attempted a pyramid which was a success for about one second.

Then it was time to head back to the boat as the tide was changing in otherwise we'd be stranded on the beach- which wouldn't be such a bad thing as it is so beautiful. But we had other things to do and other places to be.

Like eating lunch:

Or catching more rays.

I sat at the bow of the boat for a while and pretended to be an explorer and then a mermaid. And then I pretended I was on the Titanic and that I was Rose. I stretched out my arms and waited for Jack Dawson.

I waited for a long time.

No one came.

It was disappointing but my spirits weren't sunk as we got to go snorkelling, which I will write about in a future post.

As the day ended, we stopped off at a random island to enjoy another sunset.

It's a peculiar feeling, being on a small boat for two days.

It's not quite like being on a cruise ship where there is an endless amount of things to do such as casinos, shopping, food, hundreds of people to talk to and other attractions.

You're given a lot of time to reflect and think, to relax and re-evaluate on your travels so far. You get to know the few people on the boat quite well if you There really isn't much to do on a small boat, but at the same time it is paradise. I didn't want to leave the ship but at the same time I knew there was a lot more road I had to travel and many more places and things waiting for me in Australia.

Regardless, if you're ever in the Whitsundays, don't stay landlocked. Definitely shell out a few dollars and experience being out on the water.