David and Carolyn Colfelt are among The Whitsundays’ original bareboat charterers. Their first self-skippered sailing holiday around the 74-island paradise was in 1978.
Fast-forward to 2019 and they are still returning to the area they came to love – not just as avid bareboaters, but also authors of The Whitsundays’ boating bible. ‘100 Magic Miles of the Great Barrier Reef’ is the quintessential guide to boating, camping, fishing and snorkelling the sailing Mecca off the Whitsunday coast.
It’s also a must-read for anyone thinking of a bareboat trip, and a wonderful souvenir at the end of a charter holiday.
With the 13th edition now hot off the press, #GoBareboating spoke to David Colfelt about the history of ‘100 Magic Miles’, as well as what’s new and improved.
David and Carolyn’s first charter all those years ago made such an impression on the couple they decided to go home and write about it. The story was published in Australian Sailing Magazine and caught the eye of the company they’d chartered with, Whitsunday Yachting World. Before they knew it, the Colfelt’s were back in The Whitsundays writing that company’s charter manuals. Soon, they discovered gaps in the information available through Admiralty Charts and struck a deal with Whitsunday Yachting World to produce ‘The Complete Yachtsman’s Handbook to the Whitsunday Passage’.
That arrangement lasted until 1983 when the Colfelt’s partners sold the business and the new owners didn’t agree on the vision for the book.
“We wanted to kick it into the 20th century,” David explained. “The area was growing rapidly so we completely re-did the book, updating it and basing the charts on aerial photography instead of old Admiralty Charts.”
In 1985, ‘100 Magic Miles’ as we know and love it today was finally born.
For David, the book was many things, but most of all the beginning of a love affair with the Great Barrier Reef.
“It was also the start of a relationship with a great bunch of people who were just getting off the ground and that was the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority,” he said. “They were always very supportive of us because we were helping them to advance the story they were trying to get across.
“We worked very closely with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service from the beginning as well.
“Once again they feel we help them – we’ve probably become one of their primary ways of getting information to people on the water.”
Over the years, David and Carolyn have returned to The Whitsundays regularly to complete necessary updates and produce new editions.
“Every time we go through the whole thing,” David said. “In recent years we’ve done an update just about every year as a result of the many changes, but before that it was once every two to two-and-a-half years. This book is known as the ‘bible’ and it needs to reflect the current situation as faithfully as possible.”
In April 2019, the Colfelt’s travelled north once more, leaving their home on the New South Wales south coast, to research the latest rendition of their beloved book. With so many upgrades to infrastructure and island resorts post Cyclone Debbie, the 13th edition is a significant revision.
“Firstly, QPWS and GBRMPA have installed a multitude of new moorings and reef protection markers, which is very important for a lot of charterers,” David explained. “National Parks have done so much work on new viewing platforms and ways of getting to them.
“In the previous edition Hayman Island and Daydream Island resorts were still closed but now they’ve re-opened and they’re bigger and better than before. There was no such thing as Elysian Retreat, but that’s now opened on the bottom of Long Island. In fact, quite a lot of change has come to the fore in the last year-and-a-half since we did the previous issue.”
The 13th edition of ‘100 Magic Miles’ contains updates on walking and camping in the Whitsundays, as well as reflecting changes on the mainland.
“We’ve done a general update on Airlie Beach with the new Coral Sea Marina Resort, plus the plans for Shute Harbour,” David said. “Things are really picking up in The Whitsundays and we were very encouraged to see the developments on the waterfront and at Airlie Beach, which is looking great.”
Why read ‘100 Magic Miles’ before you even arrive at your bareboat?
“Because you’ll be much better prepared,” David says. “The Whitsundays can be a very challenging place for people who’ve spent their life sailing on Sydney Harbour or other waters, anchoring in sand or mud. You’ve got coral to contend with, which is hard to see sometimes, and good anchoring technique is absolutely paramount in the tradewinds.
“Anyone who reads the section on boating in the Whitsundays will be told everything they need to know to have a pleasant, safe trip around the islands. It’ll save you hours off your briefing time and you’ll be able to get out on the water quicker.”
So where does the man who arguably knows more about the Whitsunday islands than anyone else recommend as a not-to-be-missed ‘hot spot’?
“We love Border Island,” David said. “It’s an outlying island that’s not as frequented as the others; it’s got some lovely coral and an excellent walk to the saddle with beautiful views – you really get a sense of adventure when you sail out there and back.”
All five of our #GoBareboating member companies have copies of ‘100 Magic Miles’ on board every charter vessel whether power or sail. You can also buy the book while checking in or out. If you want to order ahead, copies are available via www.100magicmiles.com
“There’s been no price increase from the last edition, and when people buy direct from us they get them for the retail price of $99.95 including GST, and we ship at no extra cost,” David said.
The first 2,000 copies have just arrived in Sydney and David expects to deliver them to the Whitsundays by the end of the first week in September as well as making copies available on the website.
Ever modest about authoring a guide so many people have come to rely on, he admits “it’s a great responsibility on our shoulders, but yes, we’re proud of the book,” he said.