09.04.2011 - 12.04.2011 30 °C
We booked a three day / two night trip on a maxi racing yacht called Eureka II. However, when we called to confirm a couple of days before we were told it was cancelled but they offered us a couple of alternatives instead. One was a free upgrade to the tallship, the Solway Lass, the other option was to do a shorter trip on another racing yacht. As the weather had been wet and windy over the last few days we decided to go for the Solway Lass for a more comfortable trip. This way we would also get our full three days and nights sailing.
The name Solway Lass rang a bell with me and I could remember someone talking about her. When we got to Airlie Beach I remembered it was Gemma Stephenson who we go on holiday to Newton Farm with in the summer. We asked in the office and it turned out this was the boat Gemma worked on. The girls in the office and the crew all say hi if your reading this Gemma! It's a small world.
The Solway Lass is a beautiful old tallship made in 1902. It has an interesting history from being a cargo ship, a q-boat in the war, captured by the Germans in WWII, all before being rescued by a Scotsman and taken to the Solway Firth where she was given her name. There were thirty-two of us on board plus six crew and we met some new friends there. It was a really good crowd and we enjoyed having some extra company for a change. The whole trip was fantastic and we ended up getting three days of sun. We didn't do too much actual sailing as the boat has no keel so can only really sail when the wind is behind her. When the sails were all up (around ten in total) it was an impressive sight.
The scenery through the whole trip was beautiful and the highlights were Whitehaven beach and all the sealife we saw when snorkelling and diving. I had to give the diving a miss because of my collapsed lung a few years ago but Del tried it for the first time and loved it. We saw small reef sharks, stingrays, huge green turtles (some about a metre long) and loads of wierd and wonderful coloured tropical fish. Del also managed to spot a giant male Maori Wrasse fish, called Elvis by the locals, who was the only male in the bay and was a monster! The best part for me was finding Nemo! Well, some Clown fish, and we even found a baby one that looked like Nemo. Del got too close though and it came and nibbled his toe! The Clown fish seemed very territorial and were not swimming about like the other fish. They stayed very close to the plant that must have been their home. As well as the sealife the coral was really impressive to see. It was all amazing different colours and was a mix of soft and hard corals.
We managed to do three snorkels at three different bays and got great underwater visibility. We were so lucky as the last few weeks had made the water really murky right up to a few days before our trip. Some people had underwater cameras and took some great photos and videos so we were a bit jealous. We have booked another diving / snorkelling trip to the great barrier reef when we get up to Cairns so plan to rent one for our next trip.
The trip started and ended at Airlie Beach which was one of our favourite places in OZ. Even though it didn't have a good beach and it wasn't safe to swim in the sea because of the stingers, it was a really nice town with a lovely marina and great swimming lagoon on the shore front where everyone seemed to hang out. We had a fantastic couple of days here and the sailing trip was definately the hightlight of OZ for us both so far.