Bareboating in The Whitsundays

How to go bareboating like a pro in The Whitsundays

Fancy sailing the high seas? Conveniently, there’s a yachting playground located at the top of the Sunshine State; it’s called the Whitsundays. Even more conveniently, the Whitsundays is one of the only places in the world where you can rent a multi-million-dollar sailing yacht without a licence.

But even without a licence you’ll need to arrive armed with enough knowledge to comfortably chart and sail your way around the 74 islands that call the idyllic district home. The following step-by-step guide to bareboating in the Whitsundays is here to help.

1. Collect your crew

This is the most important part of any bareboating holiday, especially if you want it to be stress-free. Choose wisely when it comes to selecting your crew members; remember these are people you need to be able to rely on in times of strife. Also be mindful that you’ll be spending the majority of your time together in a confined space, so be aware of clashing personalities.

While bareboating the Whitsundays solo or with a significant other may sound romantic, it’s hardly the practical option. A larger crew means more help when it comes to sailing the ship without a hitch, with more hands (and eyes) on deck. Friends with some sailing experience are particularly handy to have around, but so too are those familiar with boats and spending ample time on the water.

Stay organised by allocating your crew responsibilities ahead of setting sail. Appointing a skipper, first mate, and deck hands (those responsible for ropes and sails among more), a chef, and the person who will operate the marine radio, making the twice daily calls to your charter company.

2. Choose the right boat


Arriving in the Whitsundays you’ll find yourself surrounded with sailing potential – companies like Whitsunday Escape, Charter Yachts Australia are among a handful of Go Bareboating charter yacht companies that can arm you with a boat for your journey.

There are primarily two different types of craft to choose from; the monohull (the traditional sailing boat) or the multi-hull (the catamaran).

More experienced sailors will often prefer the monohull. With speed and performance in spades, this boat type will see you glide seamlessly through the waters of the surrounding islands. If comfort is your main priority on your trip, the latter will better suit your sailing adventure. Catamarans are slightly slower than their monohull counterparts, and more stable, making them better suited to beginners and even those prone to seasickness. Due to their design, catamarans are often a lot more accommodating when it comes to entertaining.

3. Learn to sail


While a licence isn’t essential, a basic understanding of sailing is helpful to have before you jump into your bareboating Whitsundays adventure. Prep ahead by partaking in one of the short courses available at sailing schools and clubs around Australia, which will train you in the art of basic sailing skills and navigation. Courses range from one day to entire weekends spent getting to know the sport.

What can you expect at these classes? Bareboat basics will help you explore the likes of how and when to hoist the main sail, unfurl the head sail, tack (sail into the wind) and jibe (sail downwind). Then there’s successfully navigating your way into a marina to anchor and tie up the boat. Basic safety (what to do in an emergency) and easy navigation (reading charts and measuring distances), will also be covered. Brushing up on nautical terms can also help – distinguishing the difference between the jib sheet and mainsheet, bow and stern, starboard and portside is key.

Those still nervous about attempting a sail solo can choose to employ a sail guide to accompany you for a couple of hours or days while on your journey until you feel confident on the water. Or get some practice in – most local yacht clubs offer social twilight races which will allow you to brush up on your skills sailing with experienced crew.

4. Arm yourself with ample provisions


Photo by @daxon

Hanger isn’t an option when you’re spending time in such close proximity to others. Keeping your crew well fed should be an utmost priority, which means stocking your boat with ample supplies is essential. Plan all meals, snacks, and drinks ahead of setting sail, also considering the opportunities you’ll have to pull up for a beachside barbecue on the likes of iconic Whitehaven Beach.

It’s best to check your fridge and freezer capacity (and whether you’ll need to rent an additional esky) before you swoop in on the supermarket. There are plenty of easy-to-follow meal plans available online to use as a guide. Or instead there’s the option of taking the easier route; companies like Whitsundays Provisions will deliver personalised food plates and packages (dietary requirements included) straight to your door.

5. Chart your course

chart your course_bareboating Whitsundays

The beauty of captaining your own ship is the freedom to choose your own adventure. Before you begin to chart your course of action it’s best to make a list of what you’d like to see while sailing; the Whitsundays boasts everything from coral-fringed reefs ideal for snorkelling to ancient seaways beckoning to be explored by kayak.

Doing your own research is paramount. If you’re not yet familiar with the Whitsunday islands, purchase a copy of 100 Magic Miles by David and Carolyn Colfelt. Considered a bible when it comes to sailing the collection of islands, you’ll tend to find copies of the tome aboard charter boats. And don’t be afraid to scan the internet for tips too; blogs and vlogs of personal charters of the territory are a great way to collect tips of the route.

Be reassured to note that your bareboat charter company is also on hand to help guide your journey. You’ll be partnered with a briefer who will not only introduce you to your yacht but educate you on tide tables, charts, and predicting weather conditions, and where best to anchor. Make plans ahead of your departure but don’t be afraid to change them; your twice daily scheduled radio calls with your charter boat company can be used to adjust to the conditions at hand.

6. Set forth on your adventure

Bareboating in the Whitsundays

Packed and ready to go?

Aside from your pantry essentials, don’t forget to grab all the relevant extras for an adventurous getaway – think snorkel gear, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and fishing rods. Once your toys are stored onboard, it’s time to lift the anchor and set sail.