Cruising The Whitsundays
What's making the news? Plenty, says John Champion, who details here the latest on-water and on-land developments.
On the water
Muddy Bay Marina, officially known as The Port of Airlie, continues to be built. Numerous trucks and excavators have been digging and rearranging countless tonnes of soil for the past 12 months and the scale of the project is now apparent.
The developers, Meridien, acquired Abel Point Marina some time ago and seem well positioned to dominate in the local marine industry. A second new fuel berth has been opened at Abel Point and the old berth retired. Diesel, unleaded and pump out facilities are available but you will need to mix your own outboard fuel.
The proposed Shute Harbour Marina continues in the planning stages despite some vehement local resistance. Two organisations, the Shute Harbour Residents Association and the Save Our Foreshore group (who were largely responsible for blocking a high rise development on the Airlie foreshore recently), are leading the opposition. It is widely argued that a third major marina is not required and that such a development is an inappropriate use of national park shoreline. This would seem to be self-evident, yet it looks like proceeding. Most people are aware these days that new marina development is about waterfront real estate and not boats.
Hamilton Island Marina is planning a new finger to help meet the enormous demand of Hamilton Island Race Week. One of the most popular regattas in Australia, the marina at this time is full to bursting with boats rafted many deep. It is hoped the finger will be completed in time for the 2008 event. Given the owner's (Bob Oatley of Wild Oats XI) commitment to yacht racing I would be surprised if it wasn't ready.
Construction of the new Hamilton Island yacht club at the marina is also well under way.
Funnel Bay, that isolated yet windy spot just east of Airlie Beach, used to be a nearly deserted anchorage with not a building in sight only a few minutes from town. Note the past tense because a major project has begun here involving hundreds of units, roads and all the required infrastructure to support a new suburb. However, this suburb is in the flight path of the Whitsunday Airport (light aircraft), which is also undergoing a major development. Catering for the rich flyboys you may now (if you are quick, 70 blocks reportedly sold before Christmas) buy a house/hangar combo. Bring your own plane for that fly-in fly-out Whitsunday experience. The public golf course at Cannonvale was closed a few years ago with council citing a lack of demand for the facility making it unviable. Well the times are a changin' because another golf course is being built in Cannonvale. This time with a resort, conference centre and housing estate. A second course and housing estate is being constructed on the coast between Airlie and Bowen so those of you with room on board for the clubs will never need to leave the Whitsundays. While on the subject of golf, Dent Island, just west of Hamilton Island is also having a championship golf course constructed.
Don't forget the Laguna Quays, Proserpine, South Molle and Bowen courses and it begins to look like golf is viable again and boating will become secondary to golfing in the Whitsundays any minute.
A new public boat ramp and floating pontoon have been installed at the Volunteer Marine Rescue site in Cannonvale. This is located near the Police Station off Shute Harbour Road, just west of Meridien Abel Point Marina. The pontoon makes a nice place to tie the dinghy for a shopping trip to the nearby Coles Supermarket. Beware of northerlies ð more than one dinghy has capsized or gone under here in onshore conditions.
Hook Island Resort, home of the underwater observatory, is also scheduled for action to the tune of 100-odd units. The redevelopment has been declared a “State Significant Project,” which effectively excludes the local council from involvement. This should come as a surprise to no one as the developers are the same people who engaged in the prolonged legal challenge with council over the sale of the Proserpine Airport. They lost the legal battle to enforce their right to purchase, but it seems the airport war is not over with the state government and other parties making noises about an international terminal and the suitability of the Laguna site for it. Should the Whitsunday Coast Airport (Proserpine) be closed or moved to Laguna Quays, Hamilton Island Airport would likely Jellyfish in the Whitsundays have been a fact of life forever but following the publicity afforded to Irukandji stings over more recent years many people believe these creatures to be supremely malevolent beings travelling in packs, directed by a remorseless collective consciousness to hunt and destroy humans on holidays. This, of course is possible, though unlikely, and there has recently been something of a breakthrough in treating these stings based on magnesium. All reports indicate great results and one unlucky (or lucky depending on how you see it) charterer returned to his boat a few days after a sting and the magnesium treatment.
One of the really painful parts of the experience was the thousand dollar fee Hayman Island Resort charged him for emergency treatment. This consisted of the island nurse administering a morphine shot and coordination of the rescue helicopter for a trip to Mackay Hospital. Prevention is always better than a cure so wear a stinger suit while swimming or diving and forget the bloody things. Meridien Marinas Race Week out of Airlie Beach was bigger and better this year and as always the Whitsunday Fun Race in September brought the boats out of the woodwork; seems if you only sail one day in the year, this has got to be it.