We drove until 11pm, before we were both so tried we had to stop and sleep. We stayed overnight in Rockhampton above an Irish bar, of all places! By 9am, we were on the road again to Airlie Beach and 7 hours later we pulled into the small town, checked in for our cruise the next day and headed back to bed in our new hostel.
The cruise didn't leave until 2pm on Thursday, so we had a nice relaxing morning by the Airlie Beach lagoon. You can't swim in the sea once you get past Rockhampton, as it is stinger season - when deadly jellyfish haunt the waters. Since I was here last, they had built a huge sea water lagoon, on the esplanade, so you don't have to even go to the beach! The 'pool' has sandy sides, life guards on duty, lush, tropical gardens with all the facilities for a BBQ or picnic; it all makes for a pleasant day out!
Our new home for the next 2 nights was a retired round the world racing yacht, called British Defender! Unlike our Fraser trip, everything was done for us this time - the crew cooked, sailed the boat, cleaned and even provided nightly music for us! Occasionally, we helped winding the wrenches to put the sails up, but that was about it!!!! As we left the harbour into the open waters, the skipper explained what would happen once we got sailing. Basically, when the sails were up and we got going, the whole boat tipped onto its side and we had to sit on the higher side, with our legs dangling over the edge. When the boat needed to change direction, the skipper and crew locked the sail to the other side and the boat slowly would tip over the other way. We all had to crawl and drag ourselves over the deck, which was practically vertical at some points, and sit on the other side! It was all a little scary, but still lots of fun!
We spent our first night anchored off Whitehaven beach - the famous beach on the islands. While the crew cooked dinner for us, we all sat on the deck, chatting, drinking and looking up at the stars. It was amazing how many more stars we saw out there, I think there was more light than black! James and I had been assigned a double upper bunk in the main galley, but unfortunately, it was so hot down there and cramped, neither of us got much rest, so in the middle of the night we took our bedding onto the deck and slept under the stars instead! (It could have almost been romantic, but for James' animal like snoring - a definite result of the 4 litre goon!)
Luck was not with us the next day, as when we got up the sky was overcast and it rained intermittently. We were ferried to Whitehaven beach by a small dinghy, but no sooner had we got there that the skies opened up and we got drenched to the bones. Some brave souls, donned their 'stinger suits' to have a swim at the iconic beach. In the next blast of sunshine, we climbed the short bush trail to the lookout point to see the swirly sands (I can't really remember the reason for the swirls!), which was really pretty and took a few photos. An hour or so of sailing later, we got to another bay, round the corner from Hamilton Island (the island where the man won the competition for the world's best job!), for some snorkelling on the starting point of the barrier reef.
Rain through the night, meant we couldn't really sleep on deck, so James managed to bag a bench at the dinning table to sleep on, while I had the whole bunk to myself. I spelt wonderfully, despite the heat!! My hubby really is too kind to me J. After more snorkelling the next day, we slowly crept round the rocky cliffs of the nearest island, while the skipper used a special whistle to alert the eagles we were there. Sure enough, we soon had 2 huge eagles circling the mast. The skipper then held up a left over sausage in the air, when the first eagle swooped down, he threw it into the air and the eagle amazingly caught it and flew off. The second eagle did the same, but missed the sausage in the air; instead he dived down to the water and scooped it up! Wow!!
It was soon time to head back to Airlie Beach, so up went the sails and we all climbed to the high side ready for the ride home. This time back at the mainland we had time on our hands, so we enjoyed a BBQ by the lagoon and a night out in Airlie Beach with some of the other people for our trip.