Foam is splattering over the railing, the full moon is passing on the starboard side and the wind is blowing strongly into the sail. The “Iceberg“ is completely in its element late this evening. Since nine o ‘clock the twelve guests and the crew members have been on board of the former racing ship that now sails around the Whitsundays at the Great Barrier Reef for two days twice a week.

The group of islands is part of the Wonders of Nature and is the most beautiful sailing area in Australia. Airlie Beach, a small town in Queensland, is not only the starting point of this sailing trip but an absolute must for everyone who travels Australia, as well.

“Iceberg anyone, Iceberg?” Jessie’s rough voice breaks the silence this early morning at the Airlie Beach harbor. There is the usual hustle and bustle at this assembly point as the town’s harbor is the starting point for almost all sailing trips around the Whitsundays.

A tinge of Jack Sparrow, the famous pirate in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, surrounds Jessie. He is part of the two-man crew of the 16-meter-long sailing ship and he is a true all-rounder. After calling every passenger by name and welcoming them with his remarkable voice, it is time to pack the belongings and finally get on board. When packing for the trip, the passengers really need to focus on their essentials as they can’t bring a lot of luggage on board. There is very little space on the boat which is why some guests need to share a cabin. If you pay a bit more, you get a double bunk – but not necessarily more space.

Just before entering the boat, all shoes are gathered and stored in a bag. “Sand is prohibited on board”, Jessie says. At this point you finally get to know the second crew member. The skipper’s name is Tristan and he is the owner of this ship, too. After having successfully assigned the bunks, we are ready to go: “Cast off!”. We are sailing towards “Hamilton Island”.

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Tristan and Jassie at work. (All pictures by Joerg Pasemann)

Sails are set shortly after the ship has left the harbor

Jessie is now rigging up the boat and asks a guest for help – since the passengers are supposed to help out the crew members if they need a helping hand. Shortly after the ship has left the harbor the sails are set and, eventually, the massive ship is slowly leaning on its side. While the skipper is operating the huge steering wheel, Jessie is wiping sweat from his forehead – the hardest part is done.

Tristan calls himself an ambitious sailor: „I like to sail as long as I possibly can and I will only start the engine once there is no wind at all”, he explains to the guests who are relaxing in the sun now. Tristan, however, at this point emphasizes the importance of protecting oneself against the sun and suggests to apply sunscreen regularly: “Never underestimate the sun”, Tristan (who soon will be called Tris by everyone) warns.

The “Iceberg” gradually speeds up now

The “Iceberg” gradually speeds up now. The wind has turned and the boat is slowly tilting into a steep sloping position. While some guests are lying in their bunk beds by now, most of the passengers are enjoying the feeling of sailing on board. We arrive at Hamilton Island, which is the biggest of all islands of the Whitsundays, at around three o’clock. “We are late”, says the skipper, which is why lunch is prepared by Jessie, the ship’s cook and the helmsman at the same time and is served at full speed. “I am doing my best to keep the boat in a horizontal position to make sure the food isn’t slipping of the plate”, the skipper says, but he really struggles in doing so.

At 4 o’clock we find our first anchorage. It is time for snorkeling now as the island group is a part of the Great Barrier Reef and therefore is perfect for snorkeling and diving. About one hour later, we are leaving the bay in order to anchor at a different place. Here, again, the place is perfect for admiring the beautiful reef while snorkeling.

It is getting late and the light is slowly fading. Now we are headed for “Turtle Bay“, this day’s destination and our place to spend the night. At full moon and under half-reefed sail the “Iceberg” makes its way through the water and reaches the bay at half past eight. Protected from the wind, this is going to be a comfortable place for the night. We will continue our trip early next morning…