CHAPTER 5 July 19 –September 4
During our week in Townsville, we hired a car for a day and toured the area – it was handy also to have transport to get to chandleries and specialty stores. John developed a block system to allow us to position the spinnaker across to the bows more easily and I manufactured a water catcher to use on the boom – a huge amount of water comes off the sail when it is up and raining. Murphy’s law came into play of course, as we have had very little consistent heavy rain since when we have been sailing!
Our first night after leaving Townsville was spent at Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island –the water was mirror calm. Our trip the next day followed the winds, so our course looked like the drunken navigator. We anchored at Orpheus Island for a couple of days – spectacular sunsets over Hinchinbrook Island. We met Ross and Yvonne Stuart –talk about a small world – they are close friends of Carol Carpenter(Ezzy) and knew many mutual acquaintances. We dinghied around the fringing corals on the north point of the bay – huge plate corals in very clear water. That evening we were visited by a six foot manta ray feeding beside the boat for over half an hour. They are such graceful creatures.
The winds continued to be flukey as we headed north to Dunk Island –we used every sail combination. The seas were so calm that we saw a thick mustard-coloured sea snake moving across the surface –as thick as your arm and about seven foot long. At anchor we met Bev and Murray, the crew of Catillac, a 66 foot cat from Perth, a very interesting vessel, together with Marcela and Rex (Spirit of Ozz) and Annie and Harold –a very convivial evening with electric piano, washboard and button accordion – the novices played the maraccas and tambourine!
Our next anchorage was off Kent Island, part of the North Barnard Group), a tiny island with fringing coral and steep coral rock beaches. Saw a dolphin and the resident turtle in the anchorage in the afternoon –the only boat in the anchorage. Fitzroy Island was then our last stop before Cairns, and we finally berthed at Marlin Marina on August 1. The next two days were spent getting everything locked down and tied securely prior to our leaving for New Zealand, as the boat would be left at the marina till the end of the month.
We had a wonderful time in Queenstown: the wedding was a great success and it was terrific to see everyone there; John used his Cardrona season ski pass as much as possible; we managed some sight seeing; we had blizzards down to the lake and some interesting driving stories; and best of all, I had lots of time with Amalie who is growing so fast and developing a very definite personality. Unfortunately there were some virulent flu bugs going around and quite a few people caught them, including John, who graciously shared it with me on our return to Cairns.
Both John and Frank arrived in Cairns on the 24th September –I had hired a car for a couple of days to refuel, reprovision and to do the tourist thing. We spent Monday visiting Kuranda and Barron Gorge, then on to Mareeba and a coffee-tasting tour (what a terrific idea -21 coffees, teas and 12 chocolates to try!), then through to Mt Malloy and down to Mossman Gorge before following the coast road back to Cairns.
Unfortunately the flu bug hit me with a vengeance that night and the next few days were a blur of doctors and sleeping – the boys did an excellent job of cooking and washing! By Friday we were ready to leave and had an excellent sail to Port Douglas, passing a whale en route. We motored gingerly up the channel at low tide and anchored right up in the mangrove inlet – Frank photoed his first croc on the bank of the mangroves next to the boat. We dinghied back to the marina area and explored Marina Mirage and the tourist area before dining al fresco at the Tinshed on the waterfront – and were entertained by one of the Quicksilver maxi cats under charter motoring to the channel entrance and then slipping back sideways along the channel (several times). Gave the guests a different perspective of the shore!
We left Port Douglas with the tourist flotilla and sailed out to St Crispin Reef. John decided to use the AIS to his best advantage with a freighter coming toward us at 18 knots – he calculated that we could go across the shipping channel in front of out – which he did, with the freighter less than a mile from us! Frank and I did not really like the game of playing chicken with freighters!
St Crispin Reef proved to be crowded with coral bommies and not really a good anchorage with 25 knot winds, so we moved north to Agincourt Reef and finally picked up a mooring for the night. Once the tide rose and covered the reef, the anchorage became quite rocky and rolly, as the strong winds persisted throughout the night. Another excellent sail the next day took us to Cooktown, where we were lucky to be allowed to anchor in the swing basin opposite the public wharf. Cooktown, like Port Douglas, has a very shallow entrance and the Endeavour River has many sandy shoaling banks. There is Cook memorabilia and signage everywhere, and Frank visited the Cook museum, where a cannon and anchor from Endeavour Reef, where Cook went aground, are kept. He was a little skeptical when they also claimed to have the tree Cook tied up to for repairs! John and I visited the Medical Centre, as whatever bug we had turned out to be resistant to penicillin – yet more drugs! We filled every possible container with water before leaving – this is supposed to be the last reliable water before Lizard, where we think we can get bore water.
There were several yachts in the Round The World Rally at Cooktown. One, a Dutch yacht “Prew” was waiting for autopilot repairs before heading north- they all had to be in Darwin by 23/9 before the rally heads to Indonesia. Three of them left about an hour before us and we passed them all by Cape Flattery, and we had the first reef in the main and only a jib out – once we put the screecher up we left them for dead, arriving at Mrs Watsons Bay at Lizard Island over an hour before them. As we passed them a huge whale broached several times over about 15 minutes as it headed south.
About sixteen yachts were in Mrs Watsons Bay, and we anchored just off the beach with two other Lightwaves, “Flashdancer” and “Out of the Blue II”. This of course provided the best photo opportunity, so the next morning the three crews climbed Mt Cook to have the three boats lined up. Such strenuous exercise meant the afternoon siesta was essential. The big customs boat anchored in the bay at lunchtime, and their dinghy visited every boat anchored except the Lightwaves and a powerboat (we think they were the only ones with Oz registration). A navy landing craft was also anchored there for a day, and we were surprised to see the large cruiseship “Coral Princess” edge its way to anchor in the middle of all the yachts at dusk.
The excitement of the evening was a call for the Royal Flying Doctor plane to extract a diving accident – the motor cruiser “Spirit of Freedom” came around the point to anchor and the patient was lifted off to the resort and the plane.
The wind abated a little on Thursday, bringing ideal conditions for swimming and snorkeling. A dinghy ride around the point took us to Mermaids Cove, a pretty snorkeling site, with a variety of fish and coral and numbers of giant clams. Met the crew of “Aphrodite” from Eden, and from “Kalita” who have been here for four months. At lunch we fed batfish at the stern of the boat –discovered they like fruit and crusts! As Frank says, you can really get accustomed to this lifestyle!