Winter in Oz

19 June 2009 By Di Thompson

Where do all the superyachts go this time of year, when the cooler weather comes to the southern states of Australia? They usually head north to for several months of cruising around the beautiful sub-tropical waters of Latitude 20. If you are visiting Australia for the first time on a 12-month Superyacht visa, you will want to make the most of it and go along.

The usual program for a yacht after a hectic Australian summer season of chartering in and around Sydney Harbour or along the Gold Coast is to stop at a shipyard for a refit period. Gold Coast City Marina has all the essential trade services on hand to assist with repairs and maintenance work to your vessel.

When the captain and owner are satisfied that everything is shipshape, it's time to get the charts out and plot the course for the warm Whitsunday Islands. Most yachts do a non-stop coastal run of approximately 640 nautical miles.

If time permits, it is worthwhile doing some overnight anchoring on the delivery, as the picturesque ports and anchorages along the Queensland coast are well worth a visit. Some yachts with shallow draft may opt to do the inland waterways through Moreton Bay, Pummistone Passage and Bribie Island along the Sunshine Coast to Double Island Point. From here, you will keep heading north through the Great Sandy Straits and Fraser Island.

Fraser is the largest sand island in the world, boasting the world-class eco-friendly Kingfisher Bay Resort. Crew can call ahead to the resort to make a restaurant table reservation or a luxurious day spa experience if time permits.

Tracking northeast, 51 nautical miles from Bundaberg at the southernmost end of the Great Barrier Reef is Lady Musgrave Island. With a navigable lagoon and 60 feet of visibility on a good day, this is a must do and see experience for the serious divers and photographic enthusiasts on board.

Steaming away, the Keppel and Percy Islands are within several degrees of the Tropic of Capricorn. Great Keppel Island offers good protection from the southeasterly trade winds should you wish to drop anchor for an evening or more.

The next port of call is Mackay Marina and the gateway to the Whitsundays. Here you can obtain dockage, fuel and water, provisions, and just about anything you may need to get you through to your next destination. This is handy knowledge should your owner or guests decide they will be flying into Mackay to join the vessel.

Most likely, they will opt to fly into world-class Hamilton Island. During the winter months, “Hammo”, as the locals call it, plays host to the Outrigger Cup (coming up on June 25-28) and several yacht racing events, such as Audi Hamilton Island Race Week (August 21-29) that rival Antigua Race Week for the sheer number of participants.

The Whitsunday Islands are Australia’s main winter playground. Some yachts will carry on after the main events to check out Townsville and Magnetic Island before the end of the season. Further north are Cairns and Lizard Island, which are popular for their annual marlin sportfishing tournaments in September and October. Other superyachts become mother boats to the fleet of gamefishing vessels that make the trek north every year to chase the “granders” or thousand-pound marlins that swim in the depths offshore.

From here, it’s time to return southwards to dodge the looming cyclone season. Usually, the yachts call in for another stint in a shipyard to do it all over again and be ready for the next season.

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