We had booked tickets aboard ‘The Mandrake’ and had to check-in at 8.30 am the following day for a ‘security briefing’. The ‘check-in’ basically consisted of the crew telling us to bring a small bag of clothes, no valuables and no red wine onto the boat… It was a waste of time ‘checking-in’ at 8.30 am because the boat didn’t leave until 2.30pm! We caught up on sleep in the van for a little while before we tested out the public electric BBQs that we’d seen around town for lunch.
Later in the afternoon we made our way towards the marina to find the catamaran and the people we’d be spending the next couple of days with. Our catamaran was pretty small and there were only 13 people on our boat, so a lot smaller than the bigger party boats that hold over 100 people for 3 nights. The majority of the passengers were British apart from two French girls, an Israeli, and an American girl who wouldn’t stop going on about Taylor Swift (!!!!). As soon as we got on the boat, we were shown to our bunks and it came apparent that there’d be very little privacy over the next couple of days… The toilet was so small that you could barely move. Our sleeping quarters were right in the bow of the catamaran and they’d somehow managed to fit 6 bunks in the tiny room. We were putting our belongings onto our bunks when two French girls asked me whether this was all a joke? They were apparently expecting a luxurious catamaran with a beautiful ensuite cabin and an endless supply of champagne… all for $400. They were living in a dream world!
It was so cramped downstairs that we all went to sit on the deck to enjoy the sunset before the anchor went down for the night. It was a really nice evening on the boat and we were served a lovely spaghetti bolognese prepared by Tom, the Mandrake’s deck hand and host (he was also a splitting image of Olympic Swimmer Tom Daley). After dinner we tried for the first time ‘goon’ (what Aussies call box wine) and got to know the other people on the boat.
I actually slept amazingly well on the first night – perhaps it was the slight rocking of the boat or too much goon? As our bunks were right in the bow of the ship, we were woken up at 5.30am by the captain rising the anchor. We managed to fall back asleep for a little while longer before we were woken up again for breakfast by Tom at 6.30am. The two French girls were rather unimpressed with the breakfast options: cereal, toast, tea and coffee. Maybe they thought Tom was going to rustle up some fresh croissants and a round of espressos for breakfast? They were absolutely miserable and made a point of showing it.
After breakfast and filling up on coffee, the catamaran set sail towards the beautiful Whitehaven beach. The sand was almost white and had a flour like consistency, and it was completely untouched – there were no other footprints on the beach! We spent a couple of hours exploring before we returned to The Mandrake for a spot of snorkelling. The water was ice cold and the stinger suits that we’d been forced to wear (to protect ourselves against box jellyfish) weren’t thick enough. I only managed about 20-30 minutes in the water before I had to go back to the Mandrake, the water was just too damn cold!
We spent the rest of the day sailing around the Whitsunday Islands spotting whales and chatting to our new friends on the deck. For dinner we were served hot dogs and mashed potatoes, and it was probably the best mash I’d had for a very long time. The deck hand couldn’t work out whether the sausages were beef, pork or both, so the young Israeli guy had no choice to eat them because there was no vegetarian option available. Dan, the young Israeli, had just completed his compulsory three years of military service in Israeli and had hopped on a plane as soon as he finished for a holiday.
On our last day on The Mandrake we were given the option of hiking to a view point or swimming with turtles… naturally everyone wanted the latter. At 7am we’d already eaten breakfast and were getting ready to jump back into the icy water…. there was no need for a coffee pick me up that morning! We found loads of turtles so everyone was pretty happy! When we returned to the boat, it was time to start heading back towards Airlie Beach but the winds were strong. The winds were so strong that the boat stayed tipped on one side for most of the trip back to Airlie Beach and water poured into the decks below. The sea water soaked the two French girls’ stuff: clothes, shoes, makeup, even an iPad. I kind of felt bad for them because they’d obviously been told it was a luxurious sailing holiday and instead it was a budget and cramped catamaran. I kind of felt that they were pretty stupid for not trying trying to make the most of the situation, but instead they were miserable, complained about everything and refused to socialise with the rest of the group. To top it off… as the French girl was getting off the boat she dropped her designer sunglasses into the sea and lost them forever!