There are many great reasons for buying a yacht but escaping the cold winters and heading north has to be near the top of the list. Queensland’s season of sailing is well and truly in full swing and we are gearing up for another fantastic Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Many of our owners have made the annual pilgramage north to compete and get amongst the action.
Others avoid Race Week altogether in preference of exploring remote islands and cays of the great Barrier Reef and beyond.
One thing they all have in common is a love of their yachts, a sense of adventure and a desire to share their experiences with other like – minded yachties. Not to mention an occasional sundowner!
Club Windcraft on Social Media
Recently, our private owners Facebook group, Club Windcraft, launched. It has been a huge success! Our community is growing and it’s great to see members sharing stories and photos, and connecting via the group.
We like to think of it as a digital extension of the Windcraft family. You’ll find tips on moorings, unique fishing spots and the perfect location for a sunset cocktail and beach barbeque.
We met with four of our Club Windcraft owners to find out what they’ve been up to so far…
The First Time Cruisers
Brian and Amanda Liddel are no strangers to sailing . They bought their yacht, Dalwhinnie, over six years ago. Since then, their biggest trip on the Moody 45 was to Port Stephens with the Team Windcraft Port Stephens Sail Away.
Recently retired, Brian felt the need to test his skills with something more challenging – an extended cruise. “Amanda and l talked about getting the boat prepped and ready to go north for the future.” says Brian
Equipping the Boat
The pair had intended to wait until the next season, but yacht preparations progressed smoothly for them. They were keen to join up with some of the Windcraft family. “It helped knowing that there were other people from Club Windcraft heading north too,” says Brian.
Six months of work included a new anchor, bow thruster and dodger. They had new davits fitted and solar panels to give us the additional power needed for cruising, along with the necessary safety gear. “The guys in the Windcraft Service Team did an amazing job and have continued to do so even since we left. The support we’ve had, both mentally and technically, has been a huge part of me being able to make this trip.”
Into the Deep End
Being prepared is essential to the couple. Brian has completed the skipper mentoring program with Above & Beyond Boating and attended some seminars at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.
“Before we left, I was petrified about the actual voyage itself simply because of all the unknowns,” Brian explains. “There are things that we are not used to in NSW, like the extreme tidal flow and night sailing… l’d done very little of that.”
Crossing bars was his biggest fear, with reason. But, the team had fortune on their side.
“The only serious drama we had was in the middle of the night, our keel picked up the line of a 600 kilo fish trap and we towed that for some distance before we realised what was going on and it finally snapped.”
Sun, Sea and Sand
The couple have enjoyed the change of pace that cruising for an extended period of time offers. Amanda started the journey at the Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island, before being picked up by the rest of the Dalwhinnie crew.
They particularly enjoyed Rosslyn Bay, Pearl Bay and Brampton Island. Meeting up with fellow yachting enthusiasts from Club Windcraft in Pancake Creek was another highlight that eased them into their new lifestyle.
“Continuing north, I feel very confident now ,” says Brian. “The boat performed extremely well on the way up here and we have just been rewarded with the awe-inspiring sight of whales in Butterfly Bay.”
The Liddells intend to return home in October and hope to meet up with the Windcraft group again, in Port Stephens.
Chris and Lauren Thorpe are set to compete in their fourth Hamilton Island Race Week with their Hanse 505. They won their division last year and are back to defend the title.”Most people know Miss Minx and we take it seriously up there, as we only race once a year,” said Chris.
The dynamic duo say the key success is in your team.”We are careful about our crew and choose them on merit and personality. We are a very calm boat with no shouting,” he says
If their cruise up is any indicator they won’t have a problem winning another trophy. The crew took just nine days to get to the Whitsundays. “We left Sydney on the 11th of July in a 25 knot southerly and got to Port Stephens in about nine-and-a-half-hours.”
Chris adds, “we flew up in two to three metre swell and even hit 18.3 knots on the B&G surfing down the back end of a wave!”
Chris had a crew of three non-sailors for the first leg. At one point, they narrowly missed a whale on a collision course for Miss Minx. Against the odds, and the current, the team made it to Southport in 52 hours. Chris laughs, ” l hardly slept to Southport!”
The highlight of the trip up, according to Chris, was a visit to Lady Musgrave Island. With its stunning lagoon and gentle breeze, it offers idyllic sailing conditions.
Haute Cuisine on the High Seas
Chris’s wife, Lauren, joined the crew in Southport. Her job onboard is as chef and her creativity is well-employed in the kitchen- much to the crew’s delight.
“The guys were getting gourmet food three times a day! They said they were eating better on the boat than they do at home!”
Lauren adds, “I like cooking when I have no time limits so being at sea is perfect and there is no pressure.”
With a moment spare for a spot of fishing, Chris managed to reel in a sizable yellowfin. Within an hour it was on the plate. “I get everything prepped and in no time we’re having sashimi at sea with white wine!” Lauren says, proving the couple truly make a remarkable team.
During the hub of Race Week, Lauren participates in just one race. The rest of the time she prefers to partake in the offshore activities. “I’m the social director!”she says. ” I make sure we have the right team and they are well catered for.”
They have garnered quite the reputation around Hamilton Island, and for good reason. Lauren laughs, ” We’re the larrikins who go out and party and have a great time. ”
They surprised everyone by taking home the win last year. Lauren adds,” We came first overall… l guess, we work hard and play hard!”
Time for Family
The couple will depart the Whitsundays after race week, leaving Miss Minx behind at the marina. Chris plans on a couple of long weekends with the boys in Queensland ,and after that the family will be back up to wile away the school holidays in paradise.
The pair have four children between them. The kids love the lifestyle too, getting up early for a paddle in the morning and spotting wildlife.” The youngest girl is the most adventurous,” Lauren says. “She’ll paddle out and go and find turtles.”
With a family of six it can be tight quaters, but the Thorpes have modified Miss Minx to suit their needs. Spending ample time in the great outdoors gives them more room to move. “We just cruise aroung the outer reef and do paddle boarding and snorkelling.” says Lauren.” l never considered myself a nature person, but you end up really becoming at one with nature.”
Miss Minx will stay up in the Whitsundays until mid-October, before the family make the journey home together.
The Extended Timers
John and Debra Caulfield left Brisbane in July on board their Hanse 575, Jo De 7. It’s their third time heading north but this time is different…” We retired on the 30th June after being in business for 40 years,” says Debra.
The couple are looking forward to having more time to explore on the way to Townsville and Cairns. We do enough racing at home and just want to cruise at own pace.”
Expanding their Horizons
Previously, the Caulfields weren’t acquainted with many of the Windcraft Southern people. “The Club Windcraft page has been really good for us to find out where people are and get to know other yachties,” says Debra.
Taking advantage of their new social life they enjoy sundowners with sailing companions from the group, and share their travels and future plans with each other.
A particular place of importance and nostalgia for the couple is Middle Percy Island. “People leave memorabilia in a little A frame beach shack there, called the “Percy Hilton,” Debra says. “We hang a piece every time we go.”
John seems to have inherited his sea legs from his parents. They did many trips up to the island in the past, and Debra and John joined them for a couple of cruises.
“They’ve now passed away, but we’ve developed a family plaque in their memory,”says Debra. The plaque commemorates John’s parents and
brother’s trips, and their own personal voyages. “For us, it’s significant to honour the plaque every year.”
Middle Percy Island is a gem with it’s unspoilt sandy beaches lined with tropical palm trees, virgin rainforest, safe swimming – and a distinct lack of tourists! Idyllic it may be, but it is weather dependant and can have horrible anchorage in certain breezes.
Debra tells us that when there are visitors to the island the lone caretaker often cooks up a big goat stew to share.” He looks forward to everyone coming in and to hearing all their stories,”Debra reveals.
An Eco Experience
Both husband and wife are fishing mad and love crabbing. Being self-sufficient is important to them.” It’s a priority for us to put the fishing line in and live off the land. The cost of the wind is free and just being out on the water makes us so happy!”
Cycling is another passion for the duo.”This year we’ve also got the addition of foldaway bikes.” says Debra.
Rather than hire a car they will use their bikes for trips to the grocery store or to the chandlery shop. “That’s our mode of transport and it gives us a different way of seeing things.” Clearly the couple have a respect and adoration for all things outdoors.
John and Debra splurged on a Code Zero this year.” It’s brand new and the first time we are using it. It’s fantastic and we use it from 5-18 knots.Debra adds.” we’ve only had the jib out once since we left home. It’s very user friendly and we are finding it fantastic, especially as we’ve had such light winds.
Picturesque Dunk Island is known for its splendid reefs , exquisite rainforest and famous sand cay. Brian and Petra Hughes are being drawn back once again by its tropical allure. They are on their third trip up north on Bella, a Hanse 370.
“You have it all to yourself,” says Petra. The couple love the Whitsundays , but they prefer low -key spots away from the hustle and bustle, and hoards of charter boats. They also say the fishing is better. They will happily cast a line out for every meal if they have the right speeed.
Like the Caulfields, they too have recently acquired a Code Zero, and use it regularly.”We’ve found it’s a really great sail.There’s a lot of value in it for cruising,” says Petra.
We love spending time on our yacht and are really happy with it. We travel with a lot of Catamarans and there is nothing better than beating them at their own game under sail,” laughs Petra.
Shooting the Breeze
Meeting other yachties and sharing their experiences is important to the couple.” Club Windcraft is really good. We hadn’t met Debra and John before. I knew of them through other people but getting to know them on Facebook you felt you knew them already ” says Petra
They often use the Facebook group to arrange meetup locations and are set to gather in Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island. A popular spot,Cid Harbour can hold about 100 boats. It offers calm anchorage, and great fishing, swimming and hiking. You can climb to the top of Whitsunday Peak and be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the entire archipelago.
The real beauty fo the sea adventure for Brian and Petra is visiting remote islands off the well-worn path, and exploring the outer reef. They both like to pass time snorkelling and Brian dives on occasion.
“Generally the water in Whitsundays is a bit murky,but as soon as we get out to the outer reef, the clarity is much better.” says Petra. ” It’s calm and beautiful. Everyday there is something new.”
Whatever the reason for an extended cruise, the adventures and experiences will leave lasting memories. We wish all our Windcraft families fair winds and happy sailing on their journey north, and look forward to many more wonderful stories.