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Old 08-08-2018, 17:34   #16
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

Cyclone season ends with the end of April--used to be end of May, but the rains can continue until June or later. Winter is the best time up here. July-August is usually good, and the good fishing starts about June--but fish can be caught all year round. They come in closer to shore during the calmer winter weather, and some species spawn at that time of year and come into the inlets with mangroves and onshore reefs to do so,..

Check Port Douglas, that used to be a fishing port but has evolved. Now it has other facilities to offer.

Summer is stinger season--so wear the stocking suits and face coverings. Irokanji are serious trouble, and box jellyfish have become more common.. They now occur pretty much all down the Queensland coast, and were virtually unknown in the nineteen fifties.

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Old 08-08-2018, 19:32   #17
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

One of the good things about northern Queensland is that even when it rains, it's warm rain.

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Old 08-08-2018, 20:17   #18
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

Thanks so much guys. I really appreciate it.

On a train now reading these responses. I was looking to find the catch.... I knew there was one. February is a good deal cheaper with the bareboats out of Airlie and I thought maybe it was because it was just after Christmas/New Years school break - which would be the high season in the Caribbean... but I’ve yet to look up what the school schedules are there.

Sounds like irokanji/cyclone/monsoon/lots-of-rain season. That, or you all are conspiring brilliantly to keep another bunch of pasty yanks off your beaches.

I’m wondering if we should save the trip to Oz for October-ish as some have said.

Thanks again
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Old 08-08-2018, 23:04   #19
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

Feb isn't too bad. Cyclones to be more likely March and April.
Use some historical data to make the decision...

If you can pick a time, August and September are the sweet spot. More whales in August, best weather of the year in September.
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Old 08-08-2018, 23:49   #20
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

If you want to come to Oz in February, come to Tasmania. Not a chance of a cyclone, some chance of gales, possible rain, no stingers... and no crowds in the anchorages.
and it is one of the best cruising grounds in the world. The Whitsundays are ok, but kinda average IMO, but warmer for sure, even comparing Whitsunday winter with Tasmanian summer. Oh, in early Feb, there is the Australian Wooden Boat festival in Hobart, a world leader in boat exhibitions. There will be some 450 in the water boats and a few hundred more ashore, along with seminars, displays from equipment mfgs, demonstrations of wooden boat building expertise, and lots of friendly folks who love boats, sailing and tradition. Lasts several days, and (get this!) it is totally FREE of charge. Just walk in and drool...

Diving is apparently good, but chilly water so I haven't been interested. Others can advise on that subject.

May not fit your definition of a cruising holiday, and I understand the lure of the tropics (suffer from that myself), but if the calendar rules, well, go South, young man!

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II in the Pittwater for a few weeks
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Old 09-08-2018, 01:05   #21
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

I would highly recommend a stay at Heron Island where you can manage 3 scuba dives a day. Heron Is is accessed by ferry boat from Gladstone and prices are reasonable for an offshore in the middle of the reef coral cay. Fish life is great there.

Other options are day dive trips from places like Port Douglas, cairns or Mission Beach where the reef is close offshore. Approx 20nm.

Its always hard to beat the dedicated live aboard 5/7 day trips out of places like Cairns/Townsville/Port Douglas.
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Old 09-08-2018, 04:03   #22
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

We have spent about 9 weeks around the Whitsundays over two trips in 2015 and 2017. Spots that were fantastic dives in 2015 were terrible in 2017 due to the cyclone that hit the area in late March 2017. Even out on the reef the damage was severe. We had our own tanks and compressor but did less dives last year than in 2015 despite more opportunties.

I would not consider having a diving based holiday there. Also, the main dive boat that operated around the islands in 2015 was not operating at all in 2017, probably due to the damage to the reefs they used to dive.

For diving, consider a couple of days diving the SS Yongala out of Alva Beach (not Townsville), Heron Island as suggested, a day trip out to Lady Musgrave Island (dives there last year were fantastic), or time down in NSW at Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour or South West Rocks (Google them).

Hope this helps.
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Old 09-08-2018, 11:01   #23
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

I might be able to clear up a bit here, as a resident of the Whitsundays and also having just closed a diving operation in Airlie Beach.
Mainly, the Whitsundays are the only real bare boating area in Australia. There is the odd boat dotted around the country and some that operate in Sydney but diving would not be part of that holiday. You have chosen the correct place for your diving and bare boating needs.

Airlie Beach is a fabulous place to spend some time in. It is small but extremely friendly and has a fantastic "just like it used to be" atmosphere. I don't think anyone would leave there disappointed. It has a huge array of accomodation from apartments to whole houses. Many of them (I own one) are magnificent and to my mind, way too cheap, so represent very good value. We also have Hamilton island for anyone wanting the flashy Island life.
Unfortunately, we suffered a direct hit with a cyclone April 2017 and suffered a lot of damage which has caused good and bad points. Good in that a huge amount of infrastructure was damaged and has now been rebuilt bigger and better than ever. The place is looking pretty good. Hamilton Island got worst hit, but the owners have worked unbelievably to rebuild it asap and it is a testament to their tenancity as to how it has recovered. Most of their buildings are showing "as new". Hayman and Daydream Islands are still closed while being rebuilt.

Diving - we lost quite a bit of our diving in the cyclone. There has never really been any off the beach diving here and it has always been on the Northern faces of the outer Whitsunday Islands. Our top dive site of Mantaray Bay was particularly hard hit and will be a long time recovering. There is a number of great sites still available to the bare boaters, but you will need careful advice to find them. I can help here if you want to contact me.

There is a company that works out of Abell Point Marina called Aquadive who will load all required diving gear onto your boat before you get there. You will need to carry enough tanks for your holiday. I am not aware of any other way of getting tanks to you nowadays. Call "Sharpie" at Aquadive and he will sort out any need you have for gear. He is the only one that provides this service.

The best diving is certainly at the outer reef and Cruise Whitsundays can take you out there but as you point out, it is a fair hike out there. However, for bare boat diving (you will have plenty else to do) there is still more than enough good diving around the Islands if you get current local advice.

As far as charter companies go there are about 7 and as far as I know, all are pretty good. They have all been around for a long time.

Last thing is land based entertainment - Airlie is famous for turning into a "party town" at night time. It has a huge population of backpackers and they party hard every night. Not sure if this is your style but it is an attraction to a lot. This tends to start up when the older generation head for home so the two worlds work really well together.

Last thing is the weather - true it is in our "worst" time but cyclones tend to come March, April but you would cop rain. The rain is warm and refreshing in the higher temperatures of Feb and it mostly rains (hard) at night. I don't find it offensive as it is near body temp so not cold and you dry quickly due to the temp. Head for the Northern faces of the Northern Islands Day one and you should have a fantastic holiday. Rain may be with you, but sounds like you want to get wet anyway! Have fun.
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Old 09-08-2018, 22:40   #24
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

I lived in the Barrier Reef area for 20 years, & ran boats both bareboats & island boats in the Whitsundays for 10 years. I chose the Whitsundays 45 years ago as the best bit to play around in.

I have experienced cyclones in the Whitsundays from the 26Th of December to the 5Th of April.

One thing with the area is that you are not using harbours, but anchoring every night. All but a very few of the anchorages are open to the north, & become dangerous in more than reasonable conditions.

I always liked November. It's warm & dry but not too hot, & it is very much off season. We used to do much of our maintenance then, as tourist numbers are down. It should offer cheap prices. The only disadvantage is the trades of steady southeasters are not reliable, so anchoring can be less secure.

October is the month of many northerly winds. It is the month many southern yachties chose to head back home after a cruise to the reef. I have been flushed out of an anchorage in the middle of the night by a stiff wind change more times in October than all other months combined. Avoid it.

February is hot & steamy, but can be otherwise great. It was the other month we did our maintenance as tourists are very few. It could be annoying, when short rain squalls would pop up out of no where for a few minutes. Nothing like a short squall to destroy the paint that is still wet. I've had more cyclones in February than any other month. That is still only 4 in 20 years.

June to September are the best months. You won't need a jumper or a blanket at all, & the trades are the most regular & reliable.

If you can charter someone to take you out there, the Western side of Net reef, about 45 miles out from Airlie was some of the best diving I have seen in my 53000 miles of cruising the Pacific islands. On the western side, & reasonably deep, [15 to 50 Ft], it should have suffered less cyclone damage than most.

Hope this helps.
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Old 10-08-2018, 02:51   #25
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

Originally Posted by Hasbeen View Post

If you can charter someone to take you out there, the Western side of Net reef, about 45 miles out from Airlie was some of the best diving I have seen in my 53000 miles of cruising the Pacific islands. On the western side, & reasonably deep, [15 to 50 Ft], it should have suffered less cyclone damage than most.
I wish I'd know this last year. We spent a week in Hardy reef last August and it was flat calm most of the time. You are now the second person I've heard suggesting Net Reef was worth a look. Outside of Hardy was still pretty good in the 5m to 15m range. Some broken staghorn as we saw most places from the cyclone.

Is there any protection at anchor there (ie for a 25 knot SE), or is it fair weather only?

I still don't think charter sailing and diving work well together in the Whitsundays though.

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Old 10-08-2018, 04:16   #26
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

Hi MLOI. I installed a day trip facility against Hardy Reef, in the passage between it & Hook way back in 1985. There is some very good coral in spots on either side of that passage, but it is 10 miles long, & the tidal flow can get up to about 6 knots at springs, a bit hairy for diving except for a couple of hours at slack water. We used to take a couple of hundred tourists to it 4 times a week.

Out from there about 20 miles are Net, Knuckle & Kennedy reefs, with a few smaller ones mixed in. We used to run overnight & up to 6 days tourist fishing trips out to them. There are some remarkable good anchorages in them, considering they are never less than 5 Ft deep, & up to 20 Ft at big spring tides. They are not as good as inside Hardy lagoon, but still pretty good.

I always anchored an empty 5 gallon Jerry can a few yards to windward [South east] of my boats anchor to give me a reference point to be sure I wasn't dragging. The bottom of the lagoons has a lot of coral rubble, & the noise of your anchor chain dragging across this as you swing can make you think you are dragging anchor.

There are a number of really good small lagoons with in each of these reefs. The only time I was ever worried was during a really big spring tide when the south going flood tide reached about 5 knots, & held the boat stern into the moderate chop generated by about 25 knots of trade wind blowing against it.

As it eventuated it was no problem, but I guess the boat covering itself in spray from waves hitting the stern did give me some concern. It was only a couple of hours, & only because of the big tide.

It does feel a bit strange, anchoring with not a single thing in sight, & you do have to be anchored while the sun has some altitude to be able to see the reef under water to con your way into lagoons, but great fun. Give it a go if you get another chance.

I did a couple of posts re cyclone experiences there in in April last year. One "Sailing through a young cyclone" in this section, & "Island ferry in a cyclone" in the Powered boats section, if you are interested.
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Old 10-08-2018, 10:11   #27
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

Do a Cairns liveaboard for a few nights to dive. Be prepared to dive independently if you are not doing training. We loved it, and you could do four dives a day if you wanted including a night dive. We ate, slept, dived. Some locations better than others but all interesting.
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Old 10-08-2018, 17:48   #28
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Re: Queensland - Bareboat and diving questions

I am with down under in relation to Heron Island. Great, food, accomodation and diving. Plenty to do for landlubbers as well.
Heron is a coral atoll as are a number of islands in the lower reaches of the GBR.
I have cruised the Qld Coast many times and my favourite area is between Bundaberg and Gladstone. Totally agree with Jimís comment about the Whitsundays. It is a flooded river valley similar to many along the coast such as the Hawkesbury River System and Sydney Harbour. Boring with tricky tides at times. Give me Heron, Lady Musgrave, Masthead, Pancake Creek and One Tree to visit coral atolls with fringing reefs and great diving.

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