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Charting your course: David Colfelt has the latest news on the Whitsunday charter scene.

ACCREDITATION SCHEME

The Whitsunday Bareboat Operators Association (WBOA) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), which manages the marine park surrounding the Whitsundays, have devised an accreditation scheme for bareboat operators. The objective of the scheme is to establish standards of operation in a number of areas that will be benefit the environment and the clients of these companies. These include:

* minimum training standards for briefers, sailing guides, radio operators and senior staff,

* adequate insurance cover (public liability, and vessel hull and machinery insurance),

* maintenance of a radio base that charterers can contact between 8am and 5pm, seven days-a-week, plus provision of after-hours emergency phone numbers, and

* providing a high standard of maintenance for vessels, and providing adequate resources to cater for emergencies and back-up facilities.

Subscribing companies are issued with a certificate of accreditation, and they provide customers with a form for registering any complaints, which are dealt with by a watchdog committee of industry representative (self-governance).

If you've ever done a bareboat charter, you'll know how important these standards of service can be to your enjoyment of an uninterrupted holiday Getting a competent briefing, for a start, can open your eyes to things that you might otherwise miss in the environment, and it can keep you out of the trouble that you might get into through ignorance. Anyone contemplating taking a bareboat should make an effort to deal with an accredited operator -- it's just further assurance of a happy holiday When you make a booking, ask if the operator is officially accredited.

LUXURIOUS NEW BOATS

The Whitsundays enjoyed an unprecedented stretch of good weather last spring and summer with an extended period of light winds and sunny days. The result has seen a swag of satisfied customers with their appetite whetted for more of the same. Confidence among bareboat operators has seldom been higher, with a lot of new, luxurious boats being added to fleets, which offer more choice or quality than ever before.

The trend in the bareboat fleets is 'bigger and more luxurious' (including offering such things as dishwashers and air conditioning). Catamarans (motor and sail) continue to increase in numbers. The popularity of cats apparently lies in the tremendous amount of area they provide, including a virtual playpen for children in the cockpit. And, power cats are more stable than their monohull counterparts.

Sunsail has eight new boats arriving, including a new Beneteau 50 (five cabins, five heads) and a new Jenneau 43 deck saloon that features a raised saloon area with a large coach house and stairs leading down to the accommodation (four cabins, two heads).

Rent-a-yacht is to offer a new Granger 'Lighthouse' 38 catamaran. Cumberland is getting a new Perry 44.5 power cat that sleeps 10 people and has three heads, air conditioning and satellite communications.

Queensland Yacht Charters is expecting several new boats, including a new Seawind 1200 sailing cat, a new Bavaria 44 monohull sailing yacht, and a Peter Brady Coral Sea cat (power cat).

Sail Whitsunday is introducing the latest yachts from Beneteau and Bavaria, customised for charter work for those who would appreciate above-average performance, says CEO David Venning. The first is a Beneteau 31.7, followed by a 36.7 and 40.7 later in the year. The flagship of this company will be the Bavaria 44 Super Nova, the only one of its kind in the Whitsundays.

Whitsunday Private Yacht Charters is getting several new boats, including a Tasman 35 sailing cat (three private double cabins and two heads) and a Scimitar 1010 power cat. Whitsunday Escape has phased out the last of the houseboats in the Whitsundays (the current principals don't think that these are well suited to the Whitsundays!) and are awaiting five new boats, including two power cats (a Signature 36 and a Seawind Venture 38) and a Hunter 356 (traditional yacht).

AIRLINE BOOKINGS

The problems with a lack of airline seats going to the Whitsundays has to a degree been offset by the increasing number of Australians holidaying at home, and the reawakening of Mackay as a point of entry to the Whitsundays (it's about 1.5 hours south of Airlie Beach by road).

Proserpine and Hamilton Island have in recent years been the major entry points, but more people are now starting to use Mackay again because more flights are available there and they are often cheaper.

A shuttle-bus service (Whitsunday Transit) from Airlie Beach meets all incoming flights, and while an extra hour-and-a-half on a bus at the end of the flight is not as good as stepping off your plane and onto your boat, it is better than not getting there at all. And think of all the reading you can catch upon - that is, if you're not too busy gawking at the fabulous landscape (cane country with a mountainous backdrop). You may also make substantial savings on air fares going via Mackay.

AIRLIE BEACH

Airlie Beach, the resort town that provides infrastructure and services to the islands, looks out to the north over a dazzling seascape, with sparkling water and conical, volcanic islands on the distant horizon.

Airlie's sand beach has always been a bit of a sore spot for the town, being like many beaches in Queensland that dry out at low tide, exposing a vast expanse of unsightly coral rubble, Lastyear, a gigantic man-made lagoon was constructed just behind the beach, and Airlie now has a fabulous aquatic playground, with bridges and walkways and paddle pools for all to enjoy - a great asset, and built not before time.

SHUTE HARBOUR

The main building at the Lloyd Roberts jetty in Shute Harbour has been completely demolished and reconstructed, giving the Shute waterfront a much-needed face-lift. The building houses offices and an attractive new and larger Jill/s at the Jetty (providing souvenirs, sun needs, gifts, postcards and bookings), a small restaurant and a spruced-up cafe. An expansive deck and large interior courtyard provides lots of outdoor space for lounging.

ABEL POINT EXPANSION

Plans are under way to enlarge Abel Point Marina. It may be finished by the end of this year (but don't hold your breath). In any case, it shouldn't be too long after that.

BILL LIPSON IS BACK

Bill Lipson - who founded Sail Whitsunday in 1990 with Leon Barlow and who left the business in 1997 to return to teaching - has rejoined the fray as CEO of Trinity Marine, the largest bareboat operator in the Whitsundays (with a fleet of 50). Trinity incorporates two entities, Australian Bareboat Charters (ABC) and Whitsunday Rent-a-Yacht.

Bill says that he is going to concentrate on the Whitsunday Rent-a-Yacht name, a brand that has survived since the first bareboat companies got into business in the late 1970s. The ABC label is to be phased out.

'GILLIGAN'S ISLAND'

The delightful little 'Gilligan's Island' at Palm Bay, Long Island, was purchased last year. The new owner is giving the resort a big face-lift while maintaining its low-key feel.

This charming small resort with a tiny 'laggon' in a surrounding coral reef has always been a popular first or last night anchorage for those who need to spend a night near Shute Harbour or Hamilton Island because of the constraints of daylight and check-in/check-out times. The resort is scheduled to re-open in late March and is being managed by some ex-Hayman Island staff, which gives some indication of the new management philosophy.

'HONEYMOON' SPECIAL

Queensland Yacht Charters is offering a 'honeymoon' special - five nights afloat on one of its bareboats and three nights at Palm Bay, where breakfast is served on your verandah and you are pampered just as newlyweds deserve to be. Details may be found on the website at www.yachtcharter.com.au
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Title Annotation:Whitsunday Bareboat Operators Association and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority devise accreditation for bareboat operators
Author:Colfelt, David
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Geographic Code:8AUQU
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:1286
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