I am planning a two week sailing trip to the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The Whitsunday group of islands is acclaimed as the best cruising ground in Australia if not the world. There is access to over 90 National Park Islands plus a choice of 9 different resorts ranging from Wilderness to 5 Star Luxury. All the major central islands lie within 2 to 15 nautical miles of the mainland - from 1 to 3 hours sailing from Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island. The islands are all within sight of each other, separated by distances from about 0.5 to 5 nautical miles. The Great Barrier Reef is located about 20 miles from the Whitsundays.
We will board our catamarans in Shute Harbor the evening prior to our departure. The vessels will be 43 feet in length with 4 double cabins and a dinette that can break down into a double. Although the boats will accommodate more people I am limiting 8 crew members per vessel. The boats are equipped with all the items that are normally found on charter vessels. In addition we will have a microwave, dvd player and a flat screen television.
The estimated charter fee will be $2300 per person. The cost includes the charter fee, damage insurance, linens, dingy/outboard, marine park fees and admission. All incidentals such as fuel, food, mooring and berthing fees will be divided equally among the crew. Transportation to and from Australia is up to each individual.
Although we will be considering some extra activities, participation will be purely voluntary. I know there will be a number of individuals, including myself, who may want to dive the Great Barrier Reef. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, charter vessels are prohibited from venturing out to this area in order to preserve the reef. There are a number of commercial operators that cater to divers and snorkelers by providing day trip packages. There is an underwater platform where you can observe the sea life on the reef if you are not interested in diving. There will be many opportunities to dive, snorkel, hike and beach time within the Whitsunday Islands.
We will be bareboating in Australia. This is a term used to describe chartering a boat without crew or provisioning. We will operate the boat ourselves, set our own itinerary and decide when and what to eat. No experience, no problem; by the end of the trip you will be an "old salt". There will be a qualified skipper and first mate on each vessel. I have been sailing for almost 30 years and hold a coast guard captains license.