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I love the Whitsundays

Sailing - Bareboat Vs. Charter

Boathaven Resort - Friday, July 30, 2010
We get a lot of people that choose to stay at Boathaven Spa Resort pre and post sailing tours. so we get a lot of feedback about their experiences. Sailing in the Whitsundays is one of the most amazing things you could do in your life as it is the perfect backdrop for a sailing adventure.  We have calm seas due to the islands and reef system breaking the waves, beautiful scenery, plenty of safe inlets  to moor overnight, and Australian icons such as Whitehaven Beach to visit. So the question should not be "should I go sailing in the Whitsundays" as the answer is a profound yes. The question should be "should I sail myself (bareboat) or go on a crewed sailing adventure".  The answer to that depends on many things.

Bareboat Sailing - there are many options in the Whitsundays to choose from if you want to go sailing on your own with just your friends and family. There are privately owned yachts and small and large companies that have many yachts to choose from. Whitsunday Rent a Yacht and Cumberland Yacht Charters are two very popular mainland bareboat companies and we also have Sunsail based on Hamilton Island.
You do not need to be an experienced sailor to hire a bareboat but I believe to enjoy yourself you should have the basic skills. The Whitsunday region is a relatively safe place to sail as it is quite protected but I believe it's much better and more relaxing for everyone if someone on board has sailed before and has experience. The positives of bareboat sailing is the freedom it allows you to choose what you want to do, what you want to eat, where you want to go, and who you want to hang out with. Most of the boats are kept in excellent condition and have maintenance that can help you if you have any problems during your journey. The negatives would be for some that it is a hands on holiday. It's like camping but on the water in a luxurious environment. You prepare all your own meals, you need to be able to sail the vessel to the correct locations, you clean up after yourself, and your responsible for the yacht at all times. You have to provide your own provisions and if you forget something it's not convenient to restock. Cost wise it is much more expensive than shared crewed sailing but then you don't have the freedoms with the shared crew sailing that you get with bareboat sailing. Most charters are a minimum of 5 days so there is few options for short getaways.

Crewed sailing
- when I refer to crewed sailing I mean shared cabin crewed sailing. You can hire a skipper on a bareboat charter and that is not what we are referring to here. Crewed sailing offers an amazing abundance of styles of tours and types of yachts to choose from. You can have trips from 2 day/1 night all the way to 6 day/ 6 night journeys. There are boats that cater to the adventure sailor, backpacker, luxury with private cabins and bathrooms, divers, and a mix of others. There is a few good crewed sailing companies that depart from the mainland. Prosail - Maxi Yachts caters to the backpacker and adventure market, Explore Whitsundays - has a mix of and yachts with private cabins and Maxi's, or companies that have boats like Whitsunday Magic or Pacific Sunrise which specialize in couples and offer more luxurious surroundings. The positives about crewed sailing is that you can sit back relax and enjoy the scenery or get involved in the sailing if you wish. All your meals are prepared for you and there are crew that can take care of your needs and do most of the cleaning up. It is much less expensive than bareboat because you are only renting a cabin and not the entire boat and you do not have to purchase provisions.The negatives to some may be the lack of privacy, structured itineraries, and food options. (however I have been on a few of the shared charter boats and the food was fabulous on all of them) The biggest negative I believe is that you can't choose who else books the tour. So it's luck of the draw regarding what type of people you may end up spending the next few days  with.

There are a few things you need to consider before going on an overnight sailing adventure around the Whitsunday Islands. Both options are great but some will suit you better than others. The most important piece of advice I can offer you is to stay away from the dodgy operators. If something looks really cheap there is a reason for it. Stick with the bigger operators for the bareboats and make sure your crewed charter boat has the WCBIA logo and tick of approval.

Enjoy your sailing adventure!
Boathaven Spa Resort

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Learning to Dive - Whitsunday Style

Boathaven Resort - Monday, June 28, 2010

I have a few friends in the Whitsundays that own or operate their own Padi Scuba Dive companies. They teach people to dive and become certified, the offer resort dives on tours (this is for beginners or those not certified), and they also offer PADI advanced dive courses.

I have always been an avid snorkeller. I like ability to relax, float on the surface, and see the beautiful corals and marine life that is quite abundant on and near the Great Barrier Reef. My friends have teased me for years about being afraid to go diving and because I always stand up to a challenge I agreed to give it a go.

I decided to go out on Cruise Whitsunday Great Barrier Reef adventures and dive with Reef Safari. They are a popular option in our region and I had heard lot's of great feedback from our guest about the service. So off to the Great Barrier Reef I go.  I would like to mention that I was assigned a dive instructor that I lovingly referred to as Mum's hot eye candy. It helps, when you think you may die, that at least their going to find you in the arms of an amazingly hot young man. Now I know scuba diving is relatively safe but I also now that man was not supposed to breath under water and this is the conflict in my head that will not go away.

Anyway, we get to the pontoon that is permanently moored out at the reef. After 15 minutes of shoving my body into a wetsuit that I swear was given to me as a joke because it was two sizes to small, I was ready to go and swim with the fishes.
I just want to quickly mention the wetsuit. Ladies, this thing does wonders for your figure, it pushes up all the bits and smooths out all the lumps. Unfortunatly it pushed all my bits up to the top and all of a sudden I was sporting a double D rack. I have a photo of myself in this outfit before we got in the water and I proudly display it on my desk, as I looked like I did when I was 18, and that alone was worth the dive experience even without diving.

So I head down the platform to where Reef Safari does the beginner dive training and Mum's hot eye candy is taking away all the nerves and i'm starting to get really excited. Then the instructor hands me a weight belt and advises me that this will help me sink. Now I am excited because never have I been told extra weight was required to complete a task, normally it is the opposite. I mention this to the instructor and he tells me the most offensive thing that has ever been said to me and they lived to tell about it. He says "the weights are for people that have more body fat as you tend to float, we will start you with one large belt and see how you go". Now I know the precious young man meant no offence but he almost lost an appendage with that statement.  Well, three weight belts later and I finally start to level out under water without floating to the top and have boats trying to tie up to me. It does not help that he wetsuit has created two size double D floating devices that are slowing moving up around my ears.

Well it is off to the adventures under water and I am holding on to my instructors hand (while I imaginge what our kids may look like) while he guides me under the pontoon and out to the expansive Great Barrier Reef which is only meters away.  Everything is going fine and I assume we are relatively close to the surface because I feel so comfortable. Then I tilted my head back to release a bit of pressure from my ears and I realise that we are about 10 meters under the surface and my mind starts racing. My instructor must have noticed as he gave me the OK sign of which I promptly gave him the OK sign back. I was not going to let this get to me. Obviously we were still going lower into the deapths of the Great Barrier Reef and I lifted my had again to adjust the ear pressure and somehow a small amount of sea water got into my mouth. It made it's way to the back of my throat and for some reason I seriously needed to cough. 

Uuummmm.. How do you cough under water with a regulator in your mouth? Did we go over that in the training class? Damn the cute instructor, it's his fault I was not paying attention, and now I am in absolute panic mode.

I look at the instructor, he must see the panic in my face because he looks a bit panicked, I shake my head and start kicking as hard as I can to the surface. (by the way this is the 1st lesson that they teach you of what not do) I feel the instuctor trying to grab my leg and all Ii can think is "you can shove that OK sign where the sun don't shine" I am out of here. About 2 meters from the surface I decide the most logical thing to do is rip my mask off because hey! it was in the way and the only thing it was doing was providing me with life giving oxygen. I break through the surface and I am trying to stay up with the three dang weight belts on. I am floating on my back when the instructor pop's up next to me with a big grin on his face. I said he could leave me and that I would just float over to the pontoon and I was not going to finish my dive. He shook his head and told me that he was not going to let me quit. I thought that was very noble of him considering I was contemplating knocking his block off.  He advised me to relax, just hold his hand and let him guide me, all I need to do is enjoy my surroundings. I nervously agreed to try it again.

This time I did exactly what I was told. I relaxed, held on to my georgous instructor, and took in the spetacular views of the corals and marine animals. IT WAS AMAZING. I saw sea turtles, close enough to touch, the entire cast of Finding Nemo, spectacular corals of all shapes and sizes, huge clams, and even off in the distance a Mantaray glided by.

We spent a good half hour under the sea and he had to squeeze my hand a few times to get me to agree to go back up to the surface. Once it was over and we swam back to the pontoon I had a smile as big as the Great Barrier Reef itself. That is until I got over excited and forgot I had three weight belts on and jumped up on the platform only to collapse under all the weight. Much to the amusement of the other instructors and experienced divers getting ready to start their dives. 

I have to say I still love a snorkel but I do go diving when the chance comes around and my goal this next year is to become a certified diver. Most first time dive experiences are not as traumatic as mine but that is my life. Diving the Great Barrier Reef should be on everyones Bucket List!!



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