CHAPTER 4 July 31 – September 19 (extract)
On our return to Magnetic Island we decided to stay in the marina to recuperate before going over to Townsville for the lift out to inspect the saildrives on September 1. We met a friendly couple on a 47 Beneteau Osiris II at the marina, Grenville and Pamela, and made arrangements to meet up with them again once we were back on the water.
We motored across to Rosshaven Marine on the Ross River, a very shallow tidal entrance with shifting sandbars and arrived in time for our 9am haulout on Tuesday 1 September, which turned out to be 12.30 –still can’t get used to things being done in “Queensland time”. The travelift was a close run thing – only 150mm on each side of the boat. This was the first time using a travel lift, as usually we have been trailered out, and the process caused us a few anxious moments. Because of our late lift, the mechanics didn’t come till the following day and so began our hot, dusty and dirty week. The boatyard caters primarily for the fishing fleet and we were sandwiched between two trawlers being sandblasted and ground. In addition to the flying particles was the dirt from the yard itself – we were not in the cemented area. Trawler workers wondered why we wanted some protection when they started spraypainting – a screen was hurriedly erected between us (didn’t really want a grey-speckled Allikat!)
After a flurry of emails between us, the mechanics and Volvo, it was agreed to replace the two saildrives that had been damaged by the machining error on the original propeller – they were airfreighted up from Brisbane and finally fitted by late Friday afternoon. We met Tony from Last Resort, a cat that has a berth at Nelly Bay. He takes his boat out each year during race week, to give race boats berth space on the island, and he kindly lent us his car to search for Hyperlon glue for dinghy repairs. It is a long dusty walk from the boatyard to central Townsville, and the industrial complexes are stretched out along the Bruce highway out of town, so this was a boon. On the good side, the trawler base has the fishermans co-op right next door to the boatyard –fresh and tasty prawns and fish.
On Thursday afternoon we were surprised to hear island voices singing – there at the lift area were immaculately dressed island sailors, and dignitaries seated under awnings. It turns out the boatyard has a contract to completely refit 20 boats for the Tongan navy, and this ceremony is held each time one is relaunched. The next day you should have seen the provisions etc being taken aboard by the sailors.
Saturday we were booked to go back in the water at 9am, but the travelift arrived at the boat at 11.30 (Queensland time again). As the lifting belts were being replaced, the steel carrier beam came down on the top port safety rail –snap! Fortunately there was a fitter at the yard, so the wire was replaced and new fittings put in. We were finally back in the water by 1.30pm –again at low tide, but very pleased to be floating. Despite a last minute boat wash, everything inside and out felt gritty as we negotiated our way through the race fleet and round to Horseshoe Bay on the northern side of Magnetic Island.
Osiris II came in to reanchor and over morning tea, we arranged to sail further north together for a few days. Fathers Day lunch was had at the Horseshoe Bay pub and on Monday we set sail for John Brewer Reef, north east of Townsville. We anchored on the southern side in dying NE winds, quite a steep drop off on this side, but crystal clear waters up to the reef. Overnight the boat became a rookery – the noise of over 30 birds perched on the bow rails woke us, and in the morning we found a very messy boat. I guess they thought it was heaven as the reef doesn’t dry at low tide and there is no land for miles.
A sail across the shipping channel took us to Orpheus Island. En route, we were disturbed by a strange noise – to find a Rescue plane coming up alongside the boat 100 feet above the water! It then headed out to the reef, no radio contact made –very strange! At Little Pioneer Bay we picked up a broken mooring, but when we returned at high tide after dinner on Osiris II, we found Allikat at a strange angle nose down – the mooring rope was too short for the depth, so we moved off and set anchor instead. We managed to pick up another mooring the next day, before a morning of snorkeling and swimming in the clear warm waters. A relaxing evening was spent with Pam and Grenville before they headed back to Magnetic Island the next day and we continued our journey north.
A spinnaker run up the outside of Hinchinbrook Island took us to the Brook Islands. Hinchinbrook Island never ceases to amaze us – these huge mountains with circles of cloud at the peaks and series of beautiful bays along the shore. As we moved to the anchorage on the north side of the islands, a mother humpback broached in front of us, and for the next twenty minutes she proceeded to teach her calf how to jump out of the water. Just amazing to watch! At anchor we were circled by turtles and batfish – they were still there when we returned from a sunset walk along the coral beach.
We had arranged to meet Chris and Lyn from Out of the Blue II at the Brooks and to continue north in company. It was a good chance to compare the 45 and 38 Lightwaves. Under spinnaker they are evenly matched –some great photo opportunities under sail. Before we left the anchorage we were surprised to see a pod of pilot whales fishing near the boats – circling and blowing bubbles to herd the fish together. Their behaviour was very coordinated. A couple of days at anchor at Dunk Island were spent swimming and dinghy scrubbing ashore – some large boats at anchor, but we heard that the filming with the navy boats for “Sea Patrol” was to take place later in the month.
Another “match” sail, this time under screecher, saw us at anchor at Fitzroy Island . This time Allikat arrived an hour or so ahead – our favourite sail under great conditions. We had hoped that the new resort would be finished, but that was not the case, although it looks very close. Instead, we walked up the hill to the “Secret Garden”, through the cool rainforest, before swimming around the boats to cool off.
Both boats had booked into Half Moon Bay Marina at Yorkeys Knob, just north of Cairns central. Trinity Bay is very shallow and the approaches to the marina even more so, especially at low tide. The marina facilities are very good – an excellent bar and bistro and a courtesy bus will take you to Smithfield shopping centre three times a week (the boys found Bunnings and Dan Murphys Cellar), but to reprovision, you really need a car – hard to carry five weeks’ supplies onto a bus. We hired a car from Cairns, so traveled in on the bus before spending a hectic 24 hours shopping for food and boat bits. An early start the next morning took us into Rustys Markets, which are held on Fridays – an enormous selection of local produce. Once we were packed away, we left the marina at midday, farewelling Chris and Lyn who were heading south later in the week.
Once the sails were set, Pam fell asleep (not used to running around shopping and stowing things away, obviously) – only to be woken 2 miles from our next anchorage at the Low Isles, off Port Douglas. The islands are very picturesque, the blues and greens of the water contrasting with the gold and greens of the shores. Day boats flock here from Port Douglas for swimming and snorkeling. The stern of the boat is surrounded by batfish and remoras hungry for scraps – it is obvious they are used to being fed by boaties. The overnight showers are starting to clear up and if the winds persist, we will be at Lizard Island in the next couple of days