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Sailing in the Whitsundays

The Whitsunday Islands, off Proserpine in central Queenlsand, offer some of the most idyllic sailing opportunities in the world. Seventy-four islands, just 10 inhabited, are sprinkled about the Coral Sea between the coast and the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef offers protection from large waves, and the central location of yacht hire companies at Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island means sailing is easily done regardless of wind direction. For most of the year the prevailing winds are from the southeast, meaning on the nose sailing is rarely an issue, regardless of your daily destination. Airlie Beach yachts can also be ferried for pick-up at Hamilton Island, putting your start in the middle of the island group. The islands are part of Marine and National Parks, and all can be visited and moored off, giving your sailing the added activities of bush-walking, beach picnics, and beachcombing. Virtually all the island resorts welcome daytrippers, and so enjoying a restaurant lunch or dinner can also be part of your sailing day.

Tall Ship Solway LassThere are several ways to sail the Whitsundays - shared sailing on a scheduled departure larger yacht (typically 15 to 25 passengers), shared sailing on a small yacht, both keelers and catamarans (4 to 8 passengers), and private yacht rental either bareboat or crewed, again keeler or catamaran. Scheduled sailings are crewed. Each has its own advantages. For those more used to keelers, the flat sailing, large area, shallow draught and sunny conditions make catamarans an ideal choice for Whitsundays sailing.

Scheduled sailing on larger yachts

Southern Cross Sailing Adventures and Oz Adventure Sailing offer scheduled larger yacht multi-day sailing experiences. Boats range from traditional Tall Shiptrimaran Avatars to America's Cup racers, even the very fast 67ft Formcatalina 36ula One Sailing trimaran Avatar. Oz Adventure, Sunsail, Cumberland Charter Yachts, Queensland Yacht Charters and Charter Yachts Australia offer private yacht charters, both bareboat and crewed. Prices start from about $450 per night to about $1100 per night for bareboat, and from about $1200 per night for all-inclusive fully crewed yachts. Most bareboats can be hired just with a sailguide and /or a cook for around $250 - $300 per day, as opposed to a fully crewed hire. Larger yacht scheduled sailings start from about $450 for 3 night adventures, and scheduled small yacht sailings about $800 for 3 night adventures. Naturally there are a bunch of additional costs to the basic rate, including insurance, fuel charges, Marine Park fees, etc, but it's difficult to give these here as they are mostly spread across the entire hire, so number of days can make a significant difference. Generally, allow at least and additional $250 - $300 to the total hire cost.

Generally most private charters have minimum rentals, usually five days, at the quoted rates. Shorter periods are available at increased rates, and also often as standby rentals. Small and large scheduled sailings range from 2 nights up, but are mostly not longer than one week.

Bareboat charter companies can usually provide provisioning, both their pick and, within reason (remember this is a smallish town in a reasonably remote location), your pick.

For experienced sailors with reasonable time available, bareboat charter offers the best rate and most freedom. (If you haven't sailed before, or only on small craft, you can get a half day training lesson, then bareboat charAmerica's Cup yacht Siskater for a rental cost lower than a crewed or sailguided charter.) For a more luxurious, and lazy, experience, private crewed chartecatamaran Getawayrs offer the same freedom but with no work needed, including no meal prep and cleanup. For inexperienced sailors, or those who want to learn a new style, such as keelboat sailors wanting to learn to sail a catamaran (it's not much different, other than going through the wind and docking), and for those with shorter time available, then a small yacht scheduled sail may be best. Most economical are larger yacht scheduled sailings, which also offer a good chance to meet new friends. Many people new to sailing like the stability and level sailing of a catamaran; others prefer the traditional lean when sailing a keelboat. All boats carry ancillary equipment such as snorkeling gear and dinghy/outboard; some - especially larger boats - have sailboards &/or inflatable kayaks. Oz Adventure Sailing has regularly scheduled departures with scuba diving from the boat. None of the private charters are set up for diving, but the boats can meet dive operators at places around the islands to enable you to scuba dive, and some of the scheduled small and large non-diving boats do the same.

 

map of Whitsundays

Click to enlarge