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Taipan 4.9 Whitsunday Islands Cruise

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I just got back from an excellent 190 km beach camping trip, I thought I would do a bit of a write up if somebody wants to do something similar they can learn from our experience.

Plan: Sail around Whitsunday and Hook Island from 22 - 29 July catching the tourist sites, spearfishing and having a good time.

Shakedown Run, Fri 15 July - Townsville

I needed to check if the Taipan would actually float with all the fishing and camping gear and a week’s worth of food and water. As my crew couldn’t make the shakedown run I had a friend come along who was approximately the same weight. He had never sailed before so I took him for a quick return trip to Magnetic Island to introduce him to trapezing on an empty boat. Wind was about 20kts from the E with about 1.6m waves at the island. Came back and loaded the boat, my idea at the time was to mount two 100mm dia x 2.6m PVC tubes with screw caps fore and aft under the tramp with a third PVC tube as a dummy spinnaker pole. I moved the boat from the rigging area to the beach using the PVC tubes as rollers, it seemed to work well. I then put 15L of water in both hulls under the front beam and filled all 3 PVC tubes filled with water to simulate the weight of the camping gear (85kg total). I took the boat out in the bay, it sailed surprisingly well for a fat pig. So we headed out to Magnetic Island to see how it would handle the rough as it was now gusting to 25 kts.

In the rough the boat was faster; it would drive through the top of the waves and wouldn’t pop up in the gusts. We came back from Maggie then did a quick capsize just off the beach to see it we could get it up again and it was OK. Rolling the boat back up the beach I noticed the PVC pipes were sticking in the sand and the boat was sliding over the tubes. This was causing a high point load on the hulls and cracking the gel coat – not good.

Spent the next 4 days grinding out the damage then doing a bottom job on the Taipan. Decided to change to beach rollers and carry the camping gear in a mesh bag made out of trampoline material 2m x 2m with an opening at the front and a clear plastic chart case sewn in the top in the middle. Eyelets were added to each corner to tie the bag to the top of the tramp. I then had a large flat bag filled with smaller dry bags that would not snag the ropes or interfere with the jib blocks or rotation spanner.

Fri 22 Jul - Airlie Beach

Managed to get my Taipan set up at the Airlie Beach sailing club by 9.00am when I got the call from my brother that his Virgin jet had been grounded by ice at Adelaide Airport, was now running over 3 hours late and his connecting flight to Proserpine had been missed. We were supposed to get an early start for the crossing to the S end of Whitsunday Island and camping a Chance Bay or Whitehaven Beach. My brother ended up arriving at Mackay (2 hr drive away) at 5pm. Checked over boat then drove to Mackay. We made the decision to shorten the trip by not sailing to Whitehaven Beach but sail directly through Hook Passage then S to Peter Bay on Whitehaven Is saving 22km in distance.

Sat 23 Jul – Airlie Beach to Peter Bay approx 45 km (20 km offshore)

4am start, boat was ready to go at dawn at Airlie Beach but there was dead calm where yesterday there had been about 15kts. Forecast was a S 15-20kts in morning rising to 25kts in the afternoon. At 8.30am decided we could wait no longer so we drifted out, once out of the bay we got into 15kts from the S and in no time were at North Molle Is. In the channel between North Molle and the Whitsunday the wind and swell picked up to about 20kts and 1.3m swell and we were reaching, the crew was single trapping trying to take some weight off the stays and I was trying to sail conservatively trying not to break the boat. Then I stuffed it and drove us into the back of a wave and we pitchpoled. We got the boat up and continued playing it cautious though we did overtake a couple of yachts and got to Hooks Passage by 1030.

Hook’s passage went well and we turned S for Peter’s Beach. As we were running late we started to get wind against tide with a bit of a venturi effect in the channel between Dumbell Is and Peter Head. Waves were a sharp 1.7m with only about 5m between them and the occasional gust to 25kts and we were working our way upwind. It was not nice and I sheltered behind Dumbell Is thinking about turning and running to Hook Passage. After looking at the chart and the laminated pilot map for Peter Bay I realised Peter’s Beach was just across the channel on a reach so we went for it and got there at 1230. This was the hairiest bit of sailing the whole trip and it’s not one I would like to repeat.

Peter’s Beach was a nice spot sheltered out of the wind with good coral and it was not in a green zone. So once we had a fry up of bacon and eggs we went underwater fishing. Coral was good and vis was about 20m. There were half a dozen 1m long Queensland Groper sitting in a coral cave and it would have been easy to spear one but it would have been a waste of a fish with just two of us and no refrigeration. We ended up catching a pan sized cod but I somehow lost the catch bag on the swim back in. Cooking up more bacon about 10 kayakers arrived for the night, 8 of them were 20yr old PE teachers in bikinis, the night was looking up. Drank our first 2L goon bag-Vodka with Blood Orange- don’t buy it, it felt like it was alcohol free.

Each night my brother slept on the tramp under the mainsail and I slept in a Hennessey Hammock .

Sun 24 Jul – Peter’s Beach to Crayfish Bay 15km

Kayakers were up at 4am and left at dawn, after talking to them that was typical as they had to leave and enter their campsite at high tide. Which meant long days on the water. We were up and had bacon and eggs again before a leisurely sail north to Hooks Resort in Hook’s Passage in a 10kt southerly. At Hooks Resort I took in an extra 15L of water (making a total of 45L, 24 x 600mm bottles (15L) in each hull tied in a mesh bag under the front beam and a 10L bladder in tramp bag). We wouldn’t be able to get a water resupply for 5 days and I carried extra in case we were stuck in place due to high winds. Had a couple of quick beers and feed before the tide turned in Hook’s Passage. Hooks Resort is the oldest resort in the islands and needs a revamp but I felt it has the best feel of the resorts I visited, I could easily spend a night in the campground there.

Then we sailed to Crayfish Bay and set up camp. Crayfish Bay definitely was the highlight of the trip and in hindsight we should have stayed 2-3 days but it was the start of the trip and we didn’t know what campsites were to come. Visibility was excellent at about 30m with the bottom of the bay at 25m and coral around the bay which dropped off like a ledge sharply to the bottom. At places there were literally thousands of fish in front of you with the big fellas at the bottom. Spearfishing here didn’t work out as we had left the weight belts at home as the boat was overloaded. Trying hard to work our way down we were scareing the fish and we were limited to about 3-4m deep dives trying to be quiet. We spent about 1.5hrs working our way around the bay before we had a breather on the beach at the N end. Turtles were common with some very large ones in the distance and whale song in our ears. We swam back to the southern end of the bay. Found the Crows had attacked our dry bags looking for food causing some holes in the drybags and plastic bag liners, there were fixed by gaffa tape. Had a big fry up of potato chips and the last of our bacon (no fish unfortunately).

Mon 25 Jul, Crayfish Bay to Steens Beach via Manta Ray Bay 15km

It’s late; I will continue this thread if there is interest


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Packing Check List

First Aid Kit



aqua ear

butterfly bandages

pressure bandage

triangular bandage

waterproof bandage

cotton adhesive tape

band aids

safety pins

cotton swabs

eye drops

petroleum jelly

two field dressings

In Personal Dry Bag attached to bodies

Zylume light stick


Old CD as signal mirror

$200 emergency cash

mobile phone


hat with elastic chin strap

(in lifejacket) red hand flare

(in life jacket) Pealess whistle

Life jacket








Bailout Pack (waterproof dry bag attached to boat)


survival blanket

smoke flare

Credit cards

2L water

light sticks


4x museli bar

two garbage bags




fishing tackle


watch compass

Handheld marine VHF in waterproof bag

notebook and pencil in plastic case


spare batteries (for both GPS and torch)

specs and spare sunnies


lip balm

camera dry bag


In Map case sewn to trampoline

Laminated Charts Aus 252 , Australia East Coast Whitsunday Group

fishing zone map laminated A4 with pilot guide supplements

OHP permanent pens

Laminated tide tables


Henessy hamock

Sleeping bag

mozzy net

Sleeping pad

Covered shoes for resort

old track suit pants


Sunglasses with strap

Collared T shirt for resorts (good one)


Fleece top

Spear guns

Trolling lures and line on rubber bungy with caribiner for boat

Goggles and snorkel


thermal top and bottom

lightweight raincoat




shitter paper - baby wipes

dental floss

pack towel

insect repellent



tin plates

knife fork spoon

paring knife

tin mugs

fry pan

cooking oil


dish washing liquid


Food 9 days worth

Water held is 32L with capacity to take on additional 10L if required

Fibre glass repair kit

Spare halyard lock

40m of 6mm Spectra rope

Spare shackles and clevis pins

Rudder Pintle

Shackle keys

Epoxy repair

gaffa tape

50mm elec tape


Beach roller

6 tie down straps

hand reels

1L shellite

sail makers sewing kit

Add mooring rope to boat

disposable waterproof camera

camping permits

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Mon 25 Jul, Mackerel Bay (Crayfish Beach) to Steens Beach via Manta Ray Bay 15km

Couldn’t get phone or VHF reception for a weather report. Packed up camping gear and decided to head north about one km to the coral passage in the middle of Mackerel Bay South where the best dive spot was. I was a bit apprehensive going in the passage as the passage was coral lined 100m wide, 400m long and dead downwind with about .5m swell. But we made it in and used the wheels to pull the boat up a cove with rocks about the size of footballs, placed lifejackets and harnesses under the stern then got out the skindiving gear.

We spearfished for about an hour and again the swim was fantastic but vis was down to about 20m. I tried burleying up the waters with a few small speared fish broken into small bits to see what would come up out of the depths but the grey shapes down there were very timid and stayed at the edges of our vision.

We loaded the Taipan up and the tide had dropped about 1 m making it very hard work to get the boat off the rocks without damaging it. It looked like we would have a hard time getting out of the channel with heaps of tacks and no room for error but one we were about 50m offshore the wind shifted around the headland and we were able to pinch up, paralleling the reef by 3m and made it out.

We sailed N around Pinacle Point where we got 20kt gusts and confused chop before we rounded the N end of Hook Is and pulled into Manta Ray Bay. There were several tourist vessels around and maybe 40 snorkellers in the bay. Here we had our first go at tying up to a mooring with lulls then bullets of 15kts. We overshot the first mooring but managed to grab the second. We tied up with a V bridle tied to the front beam just inboard of each of the hulls and a short bit of mooring rope. We furled the jib and removed the mainsheet from the boom but decided to keep the boom on and the main up. The result wasn’t pretty, at each bullet coming from a different direction in the bay the boat would still power up on the main and surge forward until the 20m of slack mooring cable stopped its progress. We had the boards and rudders up and sat on the boat for 15mins to see what would happen. The ‘Taipan on a chain’ act continued but it wasn’t causing damage so we suited up and went snorkelling. This was our first green zone snorkel (totally protected) and the difference in fish behaviour was massive, instead of being timid the plate sized fish would swim past in schools at an arm’s length and there was an inquisitive Maori Wrasse. So it was an excellent snorkel, but short at about 45mins as when you’re not hunting it is hard to keep the attention span up.

Untied the boat and headed N for a couple of Km to try and get out of the lee of the Is. We saw the most amount of boats in the N end of hook that we saw anywhere (there were southerlies at the time) approximately 90% of the boats we saw the whole week didn’t have sails up and were motoring. I can’t work out why you would charter a 40ft sailing cat then motor everywhere. The noticeable exception was Camira, an 85ft sailing cat that always had both sails up and was generally moving fast, we tried to outpace her a few times but always got smashed. Pulled into Steen’s Beach across the channel from Hayman Is for the night. There was a bit of confusion and we thought we were in a green zone and we didn’t go for a swim for fish, but later we found out we were in a yellow zone and could have had fish for dinner. Steen’s beach was OK, watching the charter boats come through the channel after spending the day at the outer barrier reef. Had phone reception.

Tue 26 Jul Steen’s Beach to Curlew Beach (Macona inslet) 30 km

Up at 5am and ready to go at dawn in order to get the current in the channel between Hayman Is and Stanley Pt going in the right direction. Then sat around to about 8am as we were using Airlie Tide times and there seemed to be a fair bit of difference at N Hook Is. Got smashed by cant see ums while waiting for the tide. Got through the channel after lots of tacks in fickle winds, then sailed past Hayman Resort for a look before heading between Langford and Bali Hai Is for a look at a tall ship that was moored there. Headed for Anchor point mooring as it was supposed to be the best dive spot outside of the green zone. After about 45mins of bobbing about trying I couldn’t make the mooring in the sketchy winds, got fed up with the lack of wind and headed S for Curlew Beach. Once in the channel the winds were S at 15kt with about a 1m swell. Did a few tacks along the coast then decided the centre of the channel was better, at S end of Hook Is we had a wind direction change and 20kts in about .5m swell. Had the best sail of the trip with a fast reach for about 20mins. Lost the disposable waterprrof camera overboard with all the action shots of the trip.

Curlew beach was nice with large oysters at low tide, didn’t swim just kicked back with a goon bag. Had phone reception.

Wed 27 Jul Curlew Beach to South Molle Island 25km

Up in the morning and into a 10-15kt southerly (forecast for 25kts in afternoon), One tack run to South Molle Resort (Koala Adventure Resort – horrible name), place was almost deserted, we saw 4 guests in the time we were there, place was being run on minimal manning and the pool had a fair bit of junk in it. Cheap rooms but the place was dead so we decided to head off and find a camping beach. Bought a BLT and it was OK. Decided to go to Sandy Beach as that had the best diving locally. Had a good run around the S end of S Molle to Sandy Beach – which is actually a steep coral beach. Went diving in 2-3m vis. No big fish but a few plate sized fish were found. Was interesting as it was instinctive shooting in low vis as you and the fish saw each other at the same time. We swam well away from each other due to the low vis. Sandy beach has a composting toilet and it stank, all other campsites had a long drop which actually were quite pleasant with no doors and generally a good view from the dunny. Also Sandy Beach was not sheltered in a SE and across the water you could see the gusts coming for us at regular intervals about 200m apart. So stayed there in 20kt gusts (at night it sounded like 30kts), generally an unpleasant camp and one to be avoided.

Thur 28 Jul South Molle to Airlie Beach via Daydream Is 22km

Forecast was 15-20kts picking up to 25kts in afternoon and hanging around for a few days so we decided to play it safe and head back to Airlie Beach. Checked out Daydream Island on the way back, didn’t look too nice, bit like a suburb plonked on top of a small island. Finished the morning with a double trap reach into Airlie Beach for the last 6km after staying well to the N of Pioneer Bay.

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Thoughts and what I would do differently

- At this time of year campsites were deserted, except for the first night and we had the bays to ourselves each night

- Daily temps were in the low 20s, nights around 10, most of the bays are nicely sheltered from the wind, shorts weather during the day with a spring suit on the boat

- I wouldn’t bother with the Molle Group or Long Island, you can get better Islands at Magnetic (Townsville) or Fitzroy (Cairns)

- Scamper does camping island transfers http://www.whitsundaycamping.com.au/ It can drop off caches of food and water at campsites (prepared by you, or pay extra for them to do it). I will probably do this next time, as sailing a Taipan that handled like a Hobie wasn’t much fun in the light stuff.

- Midgees were around at a few of the campsites

- Next time I will take lots of plastic screw top containers to hold stuff in the tramp bag, the dry bags couldn’t handle the scavenging by crows at Crayfish bay and Steen’s Beach. The crows have learnt to rip the bags open to find food.

- Anaconda gear is cheap Chinese crap – you get what you pay for

- The beach wheels while heavy did give us a lot of flexibility in getting ashore, we could go where the kayaks or larger boats couldn’t

- Beach wheels give a good backrest in the lighter conditions

- You will get a bit of minor damage to the boat, bottoms of my centreboards and rudders need chip repairs after the trip

- Use the book 100 Magic Miles for info on the Islands. I photocopied and laminated about 25 pages and made a book that would sit in the chart case sewn to the tramp bag. It was excellent for telling you where the good spots were and giving you greater detail where the reef is.

- 100 Magic Miles also is full of warnings on the channels, 5 kt currents, whirlpools big enough to spin small yachts and tidal overfalls. Reading it gives you a good dose of caution

- The Taipan performed fantastically but in the bigger swell with an overloaded boat I did have visions of the chainplates ripping out of the hull. Jim Boyer built an excellent boat 20 yrs ago.

- Have a seaworthy boat, to get this boat up to scratch for this trip I replaced all standing and running rigging, new mainsheet blocks, new rudder cases and cross tube, new halyard lock, new boom, rebonded the bulkhead under the main beam, restitched the tramp and the boat has a new front beam and spanner about a year ago.

- I have not sailed one but I think a Tornado would be the ultimate boat for a trip like this. In the wind against tide conditions the Taipan was too short, it would bury the bow into the next wave and hobie horse badly (or use a Nacra 5.8)

- The idea of the tramp bag hold all the kit worked well and the sheets didn’t get caught up too badly

- I should have put a new rubber on my gun before I left (or bought a bigger gun) you need a long range in clear vis waters.

- Spearguns fitted nicely strapped to the beach wheels shaft (in between the wheels) you could use the wheels without removing the guns

- Half the daily trip time could be spent getting in and out of the bays going slowly and with a person up front looking for bomies, bays were full of holes and bullets. I found it was easier to furl the jib and use the main only to catch the wildly swinging gusts (I race cat rig).

- Bareboat charters weren’t too friendly when we had a chat to them, it appeared as if we were spoiling their self perception of being big ocean voyagers. They didn’t like being beaten by a beach cat when offshore.

- Didn’t have Telstra reception on E side of Hook or Witsunday Is

- Daily weather reports were on VHF on 81 and 82 at 0800 and 1600. I couldn’t get VHF reception E side of Hook or Witsunday Is

- There is a 1300 number for the Beauro of Met, its forecasts were more accurate than seabreeze when offshore.

- Mooring with the mainsail up is not the best, try to work out a system that you can drop the main on the water and have spares if you drop parts over board.

- Have an EPIRB attached to each person, the biggest risk is getting separated from the boat

- You can hire an EPIRB for $80 a week through the internet, http://www.epirbhire.com.au/ worked well

- Camira (85ft Granger? sailing cat) looks like a fun day trip, the boat is seriously quick under sail full of tourists.

- The tourist boats stick to tight schedules and herded the snorkelers though the water, there was more varied fish after the tourists had left and the more timid fish came out.

- Don’t worry about a good shirt or shoes for the resorts, they were relaxed about us coming through in sailing gear

- Airlie Beach hasn’t had much money spent on it for the last 20 yrs, it’s looking very tired and run down. It needs a refresh if it wants to get the tourists back.

- WSC will allow out of town sailing club members to rig up on their lawn if you ring and ask first, there is also free long term parking in the lower car park.

I’m thinking about doing a similar trip in late Oct early Nov for two weeks (just before start of stinger season) when it’s warmer. Sailing the Lindemans, Whitsunday and Hook. Would hang around the NE sides. Probably would get food and water dropped off at the camps by Scamper for a better sailing experience. Later in the year the SE trades become more moderate and there is less chance of becoming stuck in a bay if the wind picks up for a few days. My crew can’t make it so if you have a seaworthy Tornado or 5.8 and you’re interested, I’m in. Otherwise I may be looking for a crew.


0419 201133

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Picture of loaded Taipan

Unfortunately all of my on the water action photos were lost when I dropped the disposable camera trying to take photos when trapped. Here is the best loaded boat photo I have, you can just see the stitched on chart case on the tramp bag. With all that gear the boat still didn't weight as much as the average beach cat.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Unbelievable lady she's been chatting to us on the beachcatsaustralia.ning site heres a link to the video


theres another guy Beto Pandiani thats been chatting to us on the site and he's even more unbelievable, he's posted pictures and video of sailing a 20ft Hobie from Antartica to Artic via America, Australia, Greenland plus everywhere else heres a link to the video if your interested and find his homepage on the site for his blog and the pics of him sailing around icebergs etc


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  • 5 months later...
  • 3 months later...

I recently did a second trip to the Whitsundays. This may be the best time ever to go sailing there, with the collapse of the tourist market in QLD due to the high Aus$ and Euro woes the Whitsundays in places feels deserted. Support the locals and get out there, as a bonus you may get a deserted island to yourself.

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Fantastic thread! You are responsible for me signing up just to be able to reply!

Love the photos and great log. Bet those pe teachers were jealous.

We did a similar series of trips in our prindle 18 with front tramp and much like you had a ball.

It's funny we did a similar capsize drill in air lie also- but our winds were more favorable- 15 knots mostly- still flew past most bareboats and sea kayakers though...

The Prindle was ideal as it has asymmetrical hulls and we used this to good effect sailing some really shallow sections without the sideways drift.

What a place to sail and snorkel- the walking too was great- the little peak above butterfly bay was such a great outlook over the island.

We had a great setup with water bladders in the hull and our pump connected to them, sectioned of an area for thin bags and a tubular netting held dry bags and an esky. Front was set up with mesh pockets in front tramp for dive gear. W always rolled the front tramp back for the crossing and weird current sailing after a spectacular flip in port Phillip bay

Would go back with a couple of small boat sailers in a second.

Shame I sold the prindle- looking for a windrush 600 to continue the dream...


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