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Solway Lass, A Complete Guide to your Sailing holiday in the Whitsundays

a large historic ship in the water

So, you’ve decided to go sailing around the Whitsunday Islands and you think Solway Lass would be a great choice. If you want to be inspired and excited, the answer is wholeheartedly yes. She provides absolutely incredible trips around the Whitsundays, packed full of culture, international history and unique charisma. She is bursting at the seams with exciting activities, including must-do Whitsundays favourites, and one-off Solway specials, delighting everyone on board. The technical name for this stunning boat is ‘a square-rigged tall ship schooner’. Built in 1902, she has a fascinating history, which by joining this cruise, you can become part of. That old-world feel that gives her that extra charm and romance making for a completely unparalleled experience.

Leave your everyday on the dock, and feel a million miles from civilisation. Discover the countless activities packed into the trip and sail leisurely around the picturesque islands. No matter whether you are travelling solo, planning an adventure with friends, or having a get-together with your family, Solway Lass delivers the perfect Whitsundays sailing experience.

Top 5 reasons to choose a sailing trip on Solway Lass:

    1. See the amazing Whitsunday Islands within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
    2. Witness the beautiful 100-year-old, rare vessel’s majesty with all 11 sails up.
    3. Enjoy a whole range of exciting activities and experiences, for all ages.
    4. Find the perfect cabin configuration for you, no matter who you travel with.
    5. Don’t worry about a thing, on this all-inclusive sailing holiday.

 

the sea and beach with fringing coral from a tropical island

 

The Whitsunday Islands – the home of Solway Lass 

Why visit the Whitsundays?

The Whitsunday Islands are a natural wonder, found on the central coast of Queensland, just north of Mackay. The islands were formed after the last ice-age, when sea levels rose, separating a coastal mountain range to form 74 islands. This makes them the largest offshore island chain in Australia. Before the last ice age, the area was an extremely volcanic region, this is how the coastal mountain range was initially formed. Evidence of this past life can still be seen in the bedrock around the islands. The Whitsunday Islands have a rich indigenous history, being the home of the Ngaro Sea tribe for around 9000 years before European settlement.

The Whitsunday Islands Today

Today, the Whitsunday Islands are a world-renowned idyllic holiday destination. Extremely popular with tourists from Australia and around the world, The Whitsundays attracts around 600,000 visitors a year. The most famous attraction is Whitehaven Beach. This iconic beach is a massive 7 kms of 98% pure silica sand – the purest silica found naturally on Earth. The islands also feature; secluded and calm bays, fringing Great Barrier Reef coral systems straight off the islands, and an extremely biodiverse underwater world.

Queensland National Parks manage around 96% of the 300,000 ha of wooded hills, rocky headlands and shingle beaches, protecting the plants, animals and environment. There is a vast array of well-maintained, scenic walking trails on numerous islands, with ample places for wildlife and bird watching. The waters of the Whitsunday Islands are included under the protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which has had World Heritage Status since 1981. This protects the 4000 species of fish found in the region including many endangered species.

a body of water next to the ocean

 

A Typical Itinerary on Solway Lass

Day 1

During a typical trip around the Whitsunday Islands on Solway Lass, you can be sure you’ll see the all the icons of the Whitsundays, while life on board slows down to island time. The first afternoon, set out towards the Whitsunday Passage and find a safe anchorage in the islands. Head to the main deck for dinner, eat around the communal dinner tables and break bread with the other passengers. After a drink and a bit of stargazing on the roof, its time for bed in your comfortable cabin.

Day 2

Wake up the next morning to the stunning island landscape surrounding you and no civilisation in sight! Drink your morning coffee as you head to tongue bay. Here you’ll have a few hours to explore the northern end of Whitehaven Beach, after being transported to the island. Take a guided bush walk up to Hill Inlet Lookout and take in the stunning view in front of you. After you’ve taken far too many photos to choose from, head down to explore the beach itself. Go beach combing, climb the Whitehaven Tree, or look for sting rays in the shallows.

Meet back up with the group at the time set by your host and head back to the boat together for a delicious fresh lunch on board. Enjoy a leisurely sail north towards a sheltered bay for some swimming and snorkelling. Once you’re suited in your stinger suits and snorkelling equipment, it’s time to jump into the refreshing water. Gaze below at the friendly, tropical fish around you and the complex coral underneath.

After swimming the length of the bay, hop back on board and sail to another beautiful bay. This time get active and make use of the awesome activities on board. Practice your Tarzan moves or try stand up paddle boarding, all with the help and guidance of the crew nearby. After making way to the next overnight anchorage, enjoy dinner again and talk about all the amazing things you did that day with your new friends. Maybe hit the bar for a few delicious drinks with your dinner as you watch the sunset over the island.

Day 3

The next morning wake up slowly and take in the amazing landscape once more. Notice how different it looks at sunset compared to how it looks at sunrise. Fill the rest of the day doing your favourite activities again, maybe head over to another island for a short walk to a scenic lookout, or choose to snorkel again. Then, set the sails for the sail home. If you haven’t already, get involved in the sailing – pull the mainsail sheet, or ask the captain to have a turn on the helm. Otherwise take in the last hours of your leisurely sail around the islands and watch as you get closer to Airlie Beach.

 

Best time of year to visit

Summer, which is between the months of November – April in the Whitsundays, is the most popular time to travel, mainly for international guests. This is mainly as it tends to coincide with the end of the school year leading into the colder winter months. Enough to make any one want to head for warmer and sunnier destinations! During these months, this tropical landscape turns it on, the days are hot and the chance of rainfall is higher. The water ways flow and the greenery becomes luscious.

During the winter season, between the months of May – October, the climate in the Whitsundays region stabilises. This results in minimal rainfall, steady winds, and comfortable temperatures. While the temperature drops compared to summer, it’s still a warm 25°C average and the humidity drops. This makes it a more comfortable sleeping temperature, and everyone can be more active during the day. With less rain, comes more frequent beautiful, blue skies, and more predictable weather. During these winter months the region is quieter and less crowded. This means often you’ll feel like it’s just you that’s experiencing the beautiful islands at that time. You’ll often have scenic lookouts to yourselves, and a whole stretch of beach for your group!

Marine and Wildlife

There is abundant marine life year-round, including some absolute favourites – turtles, dolphins and nemo fish. During the months of July – Sep, the sheltered waters of the Whitsunday Islands become the temporary home of migratory Humpback Whales. As they raise their calves with needed protection from predators, they can often be seen from the boats, breaching and diving. A truly spectacular sight.

There’s something for everyone on board Solway Lass

As well as the thrill of sailing a historic tall ship and learning about her past, there is a whole plethora of other activities that can be enjoyed when on board Solway Lass. Whether you are 3 or 93, there is something for everyone to join in with. Even if some activities are a bit out of your range, you will still have fun urging the daring ones on from the sidelines!

Awesome activities on your Solway Lass holiday:
    1. Snorkelling
    2. Tarzan Rope Swing
    3. Beach Exploring
    4. Stand Up Paddle boarding
    5. Glass bottom boat
    6. Relaxing in the bow net
    7. Stargazing
    8. Discover the old vessel’s history
    9. Enjoy a communal meal with new friends
    10. Take a guided bush walk
Snorkelling

One of the absolute must-do’s when in the Whitsundays is snorkelling, any which way you choose to get in the water! Jump from the bow, dive from a paddle board, slip in from the tender or make a splash from the Tarzan rope swing. I bet you never realised there were so many different ways to get into the water from a boat. Once in, enjoy beautiful underwater landscapes brimming with marine life. Take in the stunningly intricate coral systems and meet the real Whitsundays locals. If you’re lucky, you may get to meet George the hump-headed Maori Wrasse or even find Nemo!

Rope Swing

The Tarzan rope swing in itself provides endless fun for the kids -and the big-kids alike! Discover all the very different ways you can launch yourself into the water from the vessel. Let the crew, with their experience, show you the best or fastest or funniest techniques, and see who amongst you can make the biggest splash!

Beach Exploring

Absolutely no tour of the Whitsunday Islands is complete without stopping at Whitehaven Beach and taking in the view from Hill Inlet Lookout. On Whitsunday Island, the largest in the group of islands, take a short, guided walk up to the newly renovated lookout points over looking Hill Inlet. The most incredible and ever-changing view across the tidal inlet in front of you is something you’ll never forget. The marble like blue and whites glittering across the channel is even more breath taking in person than any photo can ever show. And once you’ve taken in the view you will be given time to explore the beach itself. Stretching across 7km, the beautiful white sands will leave you captivated.

Find out more about Whitehaven Beach

Stand-Up-Paddle Boarding

Have you tried the Australian craze that has swept the nation? Stand-up paddle boarding, the sport born from combining surfing and kayaking. Learning how to stand up and on a paddle board and propel yourself through the calm waters of the Whitsundays allows you to take on a very unique perspective of the corals below you. Solway Lass carries some stand up paddle boards on board, and the crew will get them out for you to make use of during activity time!

Paddle boarding on Solway Lass

Glass Bottom Boat

If you fancy staying within the safety of a boat, the glass bottom boat will be the perfect option for you. Ask the crew to prepare the boat as you prepare to be amazed! At low tide, slowly drifting over the top of the amazing corals below you is amazing. For especially nervous or inexperienced snorkellers, viewing the underwater world from the comfort of a small boat, is especially enjoyable.

Relax in the Bow Net

Even the art of relaxation is stepped up a notch on board Solway Lass. Once the energy levels have plummeted after a long day of fun, and the need for some downtime takes over, here’s our tip. Take yourself over to the bow net with your favourite cocktail and book and watch the waves gently lapping below you. Close your eyes and listen to the gentle lapping of the waves below you, just try not to fall asleep! If you’re with a group, you may want to keep this spot as your little secret!

Stargazing

Once the sun goes down during your trip around the Whitsundays, you will be presented with the best chance to do some stargazing. With a clear night sky, and very little light pollution from the islands, you can see the whole milky way above you. With a bit of help from some nifty technology, you can now have an app installed on your phone, which when held up to the sky, will outline exactly which constellation you’re looking at.

Seen enough? Book your trip on Solway Lass now!

a close up of a child on a boat wearing a snorkelling mask

Solway Lass’s Unique Charm, History and Traditions

What is a Tall Ship?

The term ‘tall ship’ simply refers to a vessel built with traditional style of rigging. Before the industrial revolution enabled massive advancements in vessel construction, design and technology, these tall ships would have been a common sight. Harnessing wind power only they were very valuable. They would have been extremely dependant on the direction and strength of the wind in the duration of the voyages undertaken.

These were the vessels on which continents were first discovered, maps were drawn and trade routes begun. To many sailors, these ships meant freedom and adventure. The prospect of escaping the toils of the hard life on land and sailing out to the horizon on a mission of discovery and endless possibility was tempting. Nowadays, a rare sighting of a tall ship reigning the water conjures up a romantic and mysterious impression of this time gone by. A reminder to a time gone by which has now given way to modern day technologies and machines. Here in the Whitsundays, you have the opportunity to experience a cruise on board one of only a few working 100-year-old tall-ships in the world.

Fascinating History, Unique Charm

Solway Lass has a rich and tumultuous history, she exudes a sense of adventure and charm of yesteryear. The moment you step aboard you can see and sense her interesting past. Built in Holland in 1902, she has sailed under five different names and served in both world wars.

The Early Days

She was originally built as a cargo ship, transporting goods around the northern parts of the North Sea and the Baltic. She made headline news on a local Irish newspaper in 1937 when she ran aground carrying coal from Scotland. The vessel sank and it wasn’t until all the coal had been unloaded (with the help of the people of the local village) until she could be re-floated.

At the outbreak of WW1, Germany seized the vessel as a prize of war. Some years later, she was sold and taken to the Solway Firth in Scotland. It was here that she was first given the name Solway Lass and she worked transporting cargo between UK ports. Her shallow draft meant she was ideal for sailing up the tidal rivers. It was around this time the first engine was installed on board.

In 1934 Captain Anderson of Portmadoc bought the ship. Unfortunately, not long after, authorities found the vessel floating in the ocean, unattended. Captain Anderson was discovered deceased in the Engine Room. It’s thought that he went into the engine room and was overcome by fumes. Some crew members believe that his ghost still remains on the ship, taking care of the engine.

World War II Onwards

By the time WW2 had started, she was under German control and started a new job as an icebreaker in the war. Legend has it that when leaving port, one of their own mines blew a hole in the side of the vessel! Whoever’s mine it was that had blown her up, she was seen to be worthy of repairing, as ships that could use wind power were valuable, as coal was expensive.

In 1972 she was sold again and began a new life in the pacific islands. Here she worked hard again, carrying cargo between Fiji and other smaller Pacific Islands. She fell into disrepair and it wasn’t until 1983 that Tim Lloyd discovered her. He decided the vessel was worthy of rescuing and bringing to Australia, once again. After making sure she could make a long ocean crossing, she was brought to Sydney for further repairs. Once ready, Solway Lass had a new lease of life and she began taking passengers on cruises of the Sydney Harbour. In 1988 she was given the honour of being a part of the re-enactment of the first fleet in 1988.

Recent history

Although sustaining substantial damage on more than one occasion, she’s always been worthy enough in each owners’ eyes to keep her going. In 1999 Australian Tall Ship Cruises bought her and brought her to the Whitsundays. Solway Lass has been providing popular overnight cruises of the Whitsundays Islands ever since, casting her spell over all that are lucky enough to walk her decks.

From the timber decking, to the beautiful brass fittings, everything about the vessel exudes a certain old-world charm. The vessel is maintained to a very high standard, ensuring it’s legacy is upheld.

old photo of a large ship in a body of water

Help Sail a Pirate – I mean Tall Ship!

Watch in awe as the crew climb the rafters effortlessly. Swaying in the breeze, climbing higher and higher to untie the huge sails. An impressive task, and not one for the fainthearted! Now it’s your turn, heave-to on the large, heavy ropes to help maintain control over the sails. Harness the power of the wind and watch as you set sail. The crew will direct you and show you their techniques, so you can prove you’re seaworthy.

Once you have set the sails and the vessel is making way, enjoy the well-earned pride you feel once the hard work is over. Solway Lass is one of the most photographed vessels to sail the Whitsunday waters. It is at this moment that you will see why! You’ll be so proud to be the one sailing on board Solway Lass!

 

Turk’s Heads and their Longstanding Tradition in the Sailing World

A ‘Turk’s head’ or ‘sailor’s knot’ is a sequence of knots made from two or three interwoven strands. The stands get fused together, forming a closed loop. Because of this, once on a Turk’s head is on it cannot be taken off.

You can find the Turk’s head’s weaving pattern in many forms, for decoration and for function, throughout history. The creation of one as a bracelet or anklet on a sailor dates back many hundreds of years. Specifically, they were worn to display a level of skill and status. In particular, where a sailor had sailed decides whether he was awarded a Turk’s head and also decides which ankle or wrist it goes on.

Legend has it that sailors would make a Turk’s head around their wife’s ankle before leaving on a long voyage. The sailor would include specific knots and use certain sequences that only he would remember. In this way the sailor would always know that his wife had not fallen pregnant whilst he was away. When women are carrying a child, their ankles will often swell up, therefore a Turk’s head would have to be removed. In other words, if a sailor came home from his long voyage and his wife was no longer wearing a Turk’s head, he would know that she had not been faithful. So, the story goes!

Get your own!

Get your own legendary Turk’s Heads during your trip aboard Solway Lass. You will come away with the most unique souvenir from your trip. Moreover you can customise it – choose the colours  and whether you want it to be made of two or three strands. The experienced crew will happily make one for any guests, just ask! Let them tell you their versions of the legends. They can last for years if you want it to! We’ve heard stories of people travelling to countries all worldwide and meeting people wearing a Turk’s Head from their Whitsundays cruise!

 

Modern meets Old-World, and the Utmost comfort on board.

A ship fit for a Pirate!

On deck, notice the beautiful brass fittings around every corner. Try and read the old barometer or compass and smooth over the worn wood of the wheel. Relax in style and comfort too. There is plenty of seating around the vessel, meaning your hardest decision will be which area to take advantage of first! Onlookers from other vessels will be dreaming of being in your position.

The bar and saloon area will feel like your own living room by the end of the trip. With comfortable seating, air-conditioning, and drinks a flowing. Not only alcoholic drinks. In addition to bar drinks, this is where you can make yourself a tea or coffee whenever takes your fancy. The friendly bar tender will be there to shake up a delicious cocktail, pour you a glass of wine or even just spark a conversation.

Bonus: mention this article when you book and we’ll give you a $50 bar tab!

Click here to download a copy of the Solway Lass Bar menu.

The 100-year-old vessel is decorated with timber and rich burgundy colours below decks. The decision to uphold this look helps her pertain to the old world feel. Old meets new downstairs area as cabins feature air-conditioning to keep below decks at a comfortable temperature, day and night. All of the bathrooms and cabins are well appointed and kept clean at all times.

Solway Lass

Food glorious food!

Your talented host will create fresh and filling meals for you straight out of the galley on board. Grab a plate full of the host’s delicious menu, usually served buffet style. Featuring heavily: fresh green salads, hearty and healthy mains, with yummy accompaniments.

The communal tables for dining on Solway Lass ensure the conversations will flow. Break bread with people from continents around the world. Slow down, and enjoy the meal time for what it is. In this modern day, a traditional sit-down meal is commonly overlooked in favour of a TV dinner or a store-bought meal.

Take a seat next to someone you haven’t talked to yet. Next, allow the conversation to flow, talk to the others about how amazing it is you both ended up on the same trip at the same time. Discover their interesting travel stories and indulge them in yours. Exchange tips on other holiday destinations, in Australia and beyond.

bowls of food on a table

Whatever you’re travelling in a group of with others, Solway Lass has a great cabin option to suit.

An easy option for solo travellers

As many people do, you may prefer the adventure and freedom of travelling solo. Solway Lass will leave you wanting for nothing more. With a variety of accommodation options on board, you’ll be able to choose the cabin that suits you. If you’re feeling sociable there is a 4-share and a 6-share dorm cabin. These usually fill with other solo travellers and younger couples. If you’re wanting a bit more privacy, you could go for a twin room. These are ideal if you’ve recently met or been travelling with someone else. With a bar on board, you have the ideal social area to meet other solo travellers and mingle with the families and friends on board. With so many activities to do you’ll never have a dull moment!

Ideal for a few friends or family members to get together

With such a wide range of cabin options and configurations available, Solway lass is perfectly suited to two or three families to come together. Enjoy a bit of you-time after the kids bed time by putting all the kids together in their own cabin. Allow yourself to rest easy, knowing you won’t wake anyone up! Likewise, during the day, the kids can wander freely and you can take comfort knowing they are near and out of trouble! Being on the water exploring beautiful islands and plenty of activities. We can’t think of a better way for you and your family and family friends to spend quality time together.

Perfect for larger groups of 20+!

This wonderful vessel is a bit of a hidden gem for large get-togethers. Imagine your entire clan commandeering the whole vessel, all together for a special event or other common cause. With the range of cabins available, there will be something perfect to suit all your friends and family members. Sociable open deck spaces, a comfortable bar and saloon and activities galore to keep everyone entertained.

To find out how a private charter might suit your circumstances best, click here.

All things considered, you can’t go wrong with a sailing holiday in the Whitsundays on Solway Lass. Leave your everyday on the dock and sail away with us. We’re certain you’ll come home feeling relaxed and fulfilled. Visit the Solway Lass’s page on our website to read about the details.