BARE ES­SEN­TIALS

THE REAL WORLD CAN WAIT: JUMP ON­BOARD A LUX­URY YACHT AND EM­BARK ON THE UL­TI­MATE FAM­ILY AD­VEN­TURE IN THE WHITSUNDAYS

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - ESCAPE - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: JULES INGALL

We are all get­ting busier. We’re time poor and, with the in­va­sion of so­cial me­dia, fam­ily time is in­creas­ingly rare and all the more price­less.

The best way to re­ally con­nect with each other is to dis­con­nect from rou­tine.

Un­for­tu­nately, as the par­ent of teenagers, go­ing away on hol­i­day does not al­ways mean dis­con­nect­ing your chil­dren from their friends. So­cial me­dia has them glued to their phones 24/7. So, when plan­ning our most re­cent fam­ily hol­i­day, I had to find an ex­pe­ri­ence that would en­gage ev­ery­one.

A sail­ing ad­ven­ture around the pris­tine waters of the Whitsundays dis­cov­er­ing the idyl­lic trop­i­cal beaches, is­lands and reefs fit the bill. It al­lows the free­dom to ex­plore with the added bonus of lim­ited phone ser­vice.

Don’t own your own pri­vate yacht? No prob­lem, the team at Queens­land Yacht Char­ters (QYC) are spe­cial­ists in the Whitsundays re­gion and have a fleet of lux­ury crafts. The beauty of char­ter­ing a boat is you are tap­ping into years of ex­pert lo­cal knowl­edge to en­sure ev­ery rea­son­able safety mea­sure is fol­lowed. You’ll get tips on top spots for fish­ing, snorkelling, beaches and is­lands away from the crowds.

QYC is one of the big­gest and most pop­u­lar bare­boat char­ter com­pa­nies in the re­gion. It’s part of Dream Yacht Char­ters, the world’s largest char­ter boat or­gan­i­sa­tion op­er­at­ing in pinch-me lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing the Caribbean, Ba­hamas and Mediter­ranean.

QYC’s base is Abel Point Ma­rina at Air­lie Beach. It’s a 30-minute drive from the Whitsundays air­port in Proser­pine and they can ar­range to col­lect you from your flight.

It’s best to plan to be in Air­lie Beach the day prior to set­ting sail. This gives you time to fa­mil­iarise your­self with the boat, do any shop­ping nec­es­sary and, if pos­si­ble, start your sail­ing in­duc­tion.

Pack­ing for a boat­ing hol­i­day is fairly ba­sic. You’re away from peo­ple, restau­rants, towns and the need to dress up.

A small bag with swim­mers, a few sum­mer clothes and a cam­era are about all you need to take on board.

There’s the op­tion to have the food catered or, if you want to go all out, have a host­ess and chef on board to take care of your meals.

How­ever, part of the lux­ury of a self-char­tered hol­i­day is go­ing com­pletely off grid, away from tech­nol­ogy, tele­vi­sion and any sort of civil­i­sa­tion, so I pre­fer go­ing back to ba­sics on the menu too. There are su­per­mar­kets near the ma­rina as well as an amaz­ing butcher (MBW on the Bar­bie Butch­ers), seafood sup­plier (Fishi’s) and bot­tle shops.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that not ev­ery­thing you want out on the wa­ter will be read­ily avail­able. The near­est lo­ca­tion for sup­plies or ac­cess to med­i­cal as­sis­tance could be hours away, so plan well and you shouldn’t have any dra­mas. It’s a wise idea to take a small med­i­cal kit with ex­tra plas­ters, dis­in­fec­tant and anti-nau­sea tablets.

Once you’re stocked up, the next or­der of busi­ness is to fa­mil­iarise your­self with how the boat works. The Whitsundays is the only place in the world where you can hire a char­ter boat with no boat li­cence at all.

De­spite the yachts be­ing 30, 40 or 50ft long, they are sur­pris­ingly easy to ma­noeu­vre.

QYC spends about half a day giv­ing you a com­plete over­view. When you fi­nally set sail, a mem­ber of its friendly crew will come with you for the first hour or so to en­sure you are com­fort­able out on the wa­ter. It may sound unimag­in­able to be handed the keys to one of these ma­jes­tic boats with­out a li­cence, but there is no way they’ll let you leave un­til you are fully in con­trol and ca­pa­ble.

Part of the brief­ing is map­ping out a course, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion their ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of lo­cal con­di­tions, winds and pro­tected coves for moor­ing. You can take your pick from char­ters stretch­ing from three to 10 days, de­pend­ing on how much ground you want to cover.

There are 74 is­lands that make up the Whitsundays, the ma­jor­ity of which are com­pletely un­in­hab­ited. The choice is end­less. We set sail, found a de­serted is­land and moored feel­ing like we’d been trans­ported into life­styles of the rich and fa­mous. It is truly liv­ing.

Many of the is­lands have great walk­ing trails with mag­nif­i­cent views, but there’s some­thing re­ally bond­ing about be­ing on a boat with only the com­pany of your fam­ily or friends. Teenagers who are usu­ally glued to the tele­vi­sion or in their rooms are sud­denly free from the pres­sures that con­sume them and have time to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.

We spent time play­ing board games, swim­ming, ex­plor­ing the reefs and corals and stand-up pad­dle board­ing.

Five nights on a char­ter feel­ing like Christo­pher Colum­bus dis­cov­er­ing the un­known hon­estly equates to five weeks on a reg­u­lar hol­i­day. Dis­con­nect­ing from the world makes time stand still.

EYE ES­CAPE

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