Friday, 23 September 2016

2016 Sailing Season Comes to an End 23rd September

On Tuesday 13th September we celebrated the end of our 1016 sailing season with a wonderful meal at Summeries Restaurant (Thai) on Flinders Street East in the centre of Townsville with Andrew, Ric, Val, Peter, Geoff (a friend of Ric and Val's) and myself. What a lovely meal. The food was beautiful and we enjoyed the company of friends who all have a passion for sailing. We very much enjoyed the company of Ric and Val for the second half of this season on our trip to Lizard Island and we ended up at some places we would probably never have gone by ourselves, i.e., Vlasoff Reef. Hopefully we can catch up with them next year on our way back down the coast.

Stunning Kapok flowers light up the bush on Magnetic Island

On the 14th Karin, Paul, Isabelle and Emmalyn arrived for their two week stay in Townsville. We have been staying with them in an apartment in the town centre for a week. It took the girls a day to settle in and then they had a wonderful time playing in the park and swimming at the Rock Pool or the amazing swimming complex at Riverview. We have had a lovely week with our two little granddaughters and their parents. Isabelle just loves to drag her Poppy around to swing her on the swings or take her for a swim on his back. They have now gone over to Magnetic Island for four days to stay in a friends beach house at Horseshoe Bay. Peter and I went over on the ferry for a day to join in the fun and we found ourselves looking out at the boats anchored in the bay instead of watching the antics of the people on the beach, for a change.

Paul, Isabelle, Emmalyn and Karin at the Riverview Swimming Pool
(where else would you get a wonderful swimming complex like this free of charge?)

Tomorrow they will be back in Townsville and Paul has to go home to work. Commiserations Paul!!! Peter, Karin, the girls and myself will then spend four nights with Peter's brother Clive and his wife Virginia out at their farmlet 30km south of Townsville. It is near the Billabong Zoo so we will probably pay that a visit amongst other farm activities.

Poppy takes Isabelle for a walk

Then he gives Emmalyn a swimming lesson

There is only four more days before Karin, the girls and myself catch the plane back to Perth and that will be the end of my sailing for six months. Peter will be staying on for a month or so to spend time with his family and also spend time with the new girl in his life!!!


Olivia comes in the form of a 13m Cavalier sailing yacht. We have sold Rene and are at the moment clearing her out and cleaning her for her new owners. Only a week ago a new boat was a twinkle in the eye, and then Ric pointed out the for sale notices in the window of the boat brokers in the Breakwater Marina and said to me, 'This is one for you Liz'. We thought we'd take a look and the broker came up with the idea of swapping Rene and a large amount of money for Olivia. He advised the owner of Olivia that he could sell Rene more easily than the bigger boat and as Olivia had been on the market for over a year this might be the way to go. After a bit of tooing and froing a deal was struck. Rene will probably be swapped again by Olivia's owner for a motor launch he has been eyeing off for some time - again along with a substantial amount of money. So Rene, our trusty little yacht, may have three owners in one week. She looks neat and tidy, if a little worn and hopefully will make someone very happy. She has sailed us safely over 7 500 nm since we left Albany in April 2013. Now I feel a bit teary! However, looking forward, we are now the proud owners of a beautiful new boat.

SV Olivia

Here are some of Olivia's statistics, taken from Peter's email to friends and family.

"I’ve just traded Rene in on a Cavalier 43, built in 1996 in Brisbane.  The previous owner (2nd owner ever) decided it was too difficult getting anyone interested in buying his boat, so he took Rene as part payment, cash to make up the difference and handover happens tomorrow.  The whole process of making the decision to upgrade to signing the papers took 3 days!!!  Rene’s new owner believes he will have no problems selling Rene as she is a much lower value and should attract more interest. 

Olivia comes with HF, VHF, Radar, auxiliary diesel generator, 2 x chart plotters, 240v/12v system, smart battery charger system, 600ah house batteries + starting battery, 1,350 l water capacity in 4 SS tanks, 370 l diesel tank, refrigerator, 50hp Yanmar diesel motor, auto helm for rack and pinion wheel steering, feathering prop, near new rigging, Rocna anchor and 80 m chain (2 years old), spare CQR anchor and chain,  hot water system and shower/toilet facilities, gas stove and safety system, plus more – I can’t believe my luck!!!!  She’s a GRP cutter/sloop cruising yacht and I get to keep my dinghy, outboard and life raft, plus tools, nav gear etc. 

 Over the next few years we plan to head off into the Pacific, with New Caledonia the first port of call and Tasmania over the summer months before we head back home, one day."
Inspecting the saloon
So......we go out of the 2016 sailing season with a bang! Can't wait for next year and sailing in luxury.
Our blog will continue but we will have to change the title to 'The sailing Adventures on Olivia, 2017 And Beyond.'


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Dunk Island to Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island 29th August - 6th September

Garden Island

Garden Island. The sand spit goes under. Rock 'n roll here we come.

The crews of Arkaydes, Chances, Bosonova and Rene decided that the morning trip to tiny Garden Island, just north of Hinchinbrook Island, was a really good place for lunch. We left early because we are generally slower than the cats and did not want to be left behind. On this occasion, sailing close to the wind meant that we were very competitive with speed and direction and we arrived first. We anchored close to the fringing reef on the north side of the island next to a small trimaran that was already there. The wind only blew at about 10 kts for most of the time and this anchorage behind the extensive sand spit was calm and protected. When everyone arrived we all went ashore and decided that a BBQ there for dinner was a good idea. Pete and his partner from the trimaran told us about the wonderful oysters on the south side of the island, reputably the biggest, best ones around. Peter was interested. I was not.

Pete also had a humorous story about Cooktown.
After arriving and negotiating the bar they motored into the lagoon and dropped their anchor near an old guy on a motorboat. Pete yelled out to him and asked if he was in a good spot. The old guy said, "I dunno. I'm not a local. I'm just waiting for the wind to drop so I can get out." Pete asked, "How long have you been here then?" The answer was, 'Seven F#^**+g years!!" We all laughed. Cooktown is very windy.

Val and I walked around the sand spit and wondered if, when the tide covered the spit, whether our anchorage would become uncomfortable as the wind blew the chop towards us. In fact at one stage during the night I briefly woke up as Rene began to roll around. The wind was still light so it didn't bother us too much. Garden Island would only be a reasonable anchorage in the calm weather we had whilst there.


An optical elusion. The sand on Shepherds Bay was dead flat. The mineral sands colours caused it.

Next morning Peter and I made the move around the sand spit south towards Macushla. We had to tack across the bay into a choppy uncomfortable sea. Not long afterwards the other three cats joined us and we spent a comfortable night anchored off the beach there. Peter and I walked to Shepherds Bay, on the eastern side of Hinchinbrook Island, along an overgrown track. The walking track at the end of the beach, which leads to the ruins of the Cape Richards Resort, is very overgrown and difficult to see so at this point we walked back along the beach. This is a lovely anchorage with good protection from the SE winds. There was some discussion between us all as to whether we would motor down the Hinchinbrook channel in the calm water or if we should sail down the eastern side of the island. As the weather forecast said E 10-15kts all day we opted for a sail down the eastern side of Hinchinbrook to Orpheous Island in the Palm Group.

Juno Bay, Fantome Island

It took Peter and I all day to tack down the eastern side of Hinchinbrook Is. The wind never really went east and continued from the SE so we had a long trip. Luckily the wind was light and so it was not uncomfortable, just long. We anchored in Hazard Bay as the sun went down along with Chances and Bosonova. Arkaydes managed to pick up one of the courtesy moorings in Little Pioneer Bay for the night.

Peter and I wanted to take another look at the old leper colony ruins on Fantome Island so the next morning we pulled the anchor after an early breakfast and made our way around the corner into Juno Bay. Just outside Hazard Bay we noticed whales lounging in the warm tropical water. There was a mother and a calf loafing in the water and as we motored by they took no notice of us at all.

Cow and calf outside Hazard Bay

Four boats were already anchored in Juno Bay when we arrived and our mates turned up soon afterwards making a total of seven boats in the bay. Arriving early was essential for those wanting to explore ashore. Last time we had been caught out at low tide when the sea disappeared over the shallow sand and reef leaving us to wade through the ankle deep water towing the dinghy. All I could think of was how many stonefish were lurking in the shallows. This time we timed it well and landed Lily on the beach and spent several hours poking around in the ruins and just made it back to the beach before the water became too shallow to motor out.

Juno Bay from the hilltop behind the leper colony ruins

Gary and Annie from Chances invited the crews from the three boats in our group over to a Pizza night. They cooked yummy pizzas on their BBQ and the rest of us contributed to the toppings. Neville from Bosonova cooked an apple crumble which was delicious. It was accompanied by rich double cream. Yum! Yum! Thanks for a lovely night everyone.

Magnetic Island

Light easterly and north easterly winds were forecast for the next day so we left Juno Bay early to begin our journey across the open water to Horseshoe Bay. We motor sailed the whole way in the light winds and dropped the anchor in time for a late lunch. Our favourite spot was available and we are enjoying settling in to our favourite island for the last three weeks of my sailing year. Several of the boats that were at Lizard Island and Cooktown are here with us along with crews from Dunk Island. I think someone is organising a group dinner at the Man Friday Mexican Restaurant in Nelly Bay. I hope it happens before we take the ferry to Townsville on Friday for dinner with Peter's family. Between walking, socialising and boat jobs our days are full. We take the ferry to the mainland every few days to see family and do some shopping. Yesterday we hitched a lift with Arkaydes back to Horseshoe Bay. Ric had to drop Val off in Townsville as she was flying to Sydney for a week to see her family. While she is away Ric is going to beach Arkaydes so he can clean the hulls and remove the green slime that grows there before they head south again. Peter and I will give him a hand. Apparently the tides on Monday are suitable for the job.

Two old codgers driving Arkaydes to Horseshoe Bay.

On the way back to Horseshoe Bay Peter had a go at driving Arkaydes and we set off around the south side of Magnetic Island. The wind was about 15kns from the SE and Ric put up the sails and off we went. Suddenly he yells out, "What was that?" One of the fenders had untied itself from the deck and had blown over the side. The sails were quickly lowered and back we went to try to locate it. No luck, even after two passes. The wind must have blown it further than we thought. Eventually we gave up, but by now the wind was stronger and Peter and Ric decided to take the route north around the island past Cape Pallarenda. Off we went. I decided to keep a lookout for the fender, just in case. Then there it was bobbing across the waves on it's merry way towards Pallarenda Beach. We rescued the 'errant beastie' not long afterwards, much to Ric's relief.

Peter (the turncoat!) driving a cat (Arkaydes) back to Horseshoe Bay and he appears to be enjoying it!!

It is only one week now until Paul, Karin and the girls arrive in Townsville for a short holiday. They want great grandpa to meet Isasbelle and Emmalyn and also to catch up with their friends and the rest of the family. Paul is here for a week and Karin and the girls two weeks, so I am going to help Karin with the girls when we fly back to Perth on the 28th September.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Vlasoff Reef to Dunk Island 23rd - 28th August

From the anchorage at Vlasoff Reef

The weather forecast indicated that a calm period of a few days was upon us and Ric and Val suggested we spend a night out at the reef. Vlasoff Reef was our chosen destination and we set off from the Low Isles at 6.30am heading around the eastern side on a SE course in early morning sunshine. We motor sailed the whole way skirting Batt Reef, Michaelmas Reef and various other patches of shallow water. In between Michaelmas Reef and Vlasoff Reef we spotted a mother and baby whale happily relaxing seemingly oblivious to all the boating going on around them. We picked our way towards Vlasoff Reef and anchored in a clear patch near Arkaydes and Sengo. The water was so clear that we could see the ripples and holes in the sand at 6m. Rene looked as though she was floating in the air.

Rene at Vlasoff Reef Anchorage

After lunch we went over to the cay with Ric and Val to do a bit of snorkelling. Close to the cay the coral was mainly broken and rather uninteresting, but further out the coral bombies were much better and sported multitudes of different types of fish. Later in the day we took drinks and nibbles ashore and watched the sun set with Andrew, Trish (Sengo) and Ric and Val. This really was the most perfect day. In fact it was probably the most beautiful weather we have experienced this year.

Ric, Val and Liz Vlasoff Cay 

Sunrise at Vlasoff Reef. Arkaydes and Sengo

A Perfect Day in Paradise

Next morning we all decided to go for a swim before leaving for Fitzroy Island. Again we picked our way through the coral bombies and SW towards a marked channel between Arlington and Upolu Reefs. The channel is clearly marked, but as the water is so clear it looks quite shallow in places. At one stage the depth sounder showed 2.8m over a coral lump - quite shallow enough thanks! This route took us close to Green Island so we had a good look at it through the binoculars.

On arrival at Fitzroy Island we found that the anchorage was full of stink boats that were taking part in a fishing competition. Even worse than that a NW wind was blowing into the bay and that put us on a lee shore with lumpy water. After an hour with no change Ric rang and suggested we go on to Mourilyan. At 4.30pm we pulled the anchor and set off under sail for Mourilyan Harbour. Luckily the entry is clearly marked so going in at midnight didn't cause any concern. We had a lovely, quiet sail with light northerly winds and a current helping us along the way. In fact for most of the journey we sat on 6 - 6.5kns. A straight line sail with a following light breeze saw us dropping the anchor in Mourilyan at 11pm. We spent another day there as the wind piped up from the SE the next day. We went for a wander up the road and around the port and filled in the rest of the day reading and watching a small ship like vessel grading the bottom of the harbour. Apparently it had a blade that was scraping away at the sand lumps on the bottom of the swing basin.

Toasting Arkaydes on the way to Mourilyan

Dunk Island

The Sandspit at Dunk Island

Getting out of bed early seems to be becoming a habit of ours lately. The forecast had the SE winds light for the early part of the day and building to 15-20kns later. The early start worked and we anchored in Brammo Bay before lunch. The kiosk was open so we went ashore and bought fish and chips and a burger for lunch.

The following day Peter and I decided to walk the island circuit which is 10km and takes in a slog up Mt Kootaloo. The view was magic on a clear, sunny day. We met Pat and Mark from Katmandu and they joined us on the circuit walk. We chatted the whole way and they asked us to sundowners that evening on their boat. During the walk we saw three snakes, same variety that bit Peter on Magnetic Island last year, an echidna and a large tortoise sunning itself on a log in a fresh water creek.

Circuit Walk Dunk Island

A BBQ was organised for the following day at the gas BBQs in the council camping area. We joined about 20 other boaties swapping boat yarns for most of the afternoon. Of particular interest to us was meeting a couple from Victoria who told us about the Gippsland Lakes and gave us some invaluable information about dropping in there on the way back home. The lakes sound very interesting and a great place to explore. There are no sailing guides for Victoria so information from the locals is invaluable. The day was beautiful, the company excellent and this is one of the best parts of the cruising life.

Tomorrow morning we are going to head south again to Garden Island, just north of Hinchinbrook Island, to stop there with some of the others for lunch on the beach. From there we will chose a spot to anchor for the night - maybe Macushla, Cape Richards or even down the Hinchinbrook Channel. It depends on the wind.

Spot the tortoise

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Departing Cooktown - Take Two 19th - 22nd August

Peter on Finches Beach
The alarm on the mobile began it's insane little tune at 5am and we were up and ready to make the 20nm journey to the Hope Isles. After breakfast and a few last minute chores we were on our way by 6.30am. We knew that the wind would be on the nose, but still it was less than 20kts so we thought it was a good opportunity to get a bit further down the coast. The bar presented no problems, but as we entered the narrow channel out, having negotiated the harbour swing basin, the engine alarm went off. It was over heating! Peter raced down, switched off the motor and popped back out ready to deploy the anchor. There was a tiny breeze so I thought we might be able to sail out to the deep water and then Peter could see what was going on. We did this and the wind died. Behind Grassy Hill the fluky wind barely moved us along. Meanwhile a strong tide was making which meant that when there was no breeze we began to be carried by the tide back into the harbour. (Who said this was fun??)

Peter disappeared downstairs and into the motor compartment and I was left to sail Rene out by myself. One second the wind was behind and we would gain a few metres, then the sail was wrapping itself around the mast as it came from in front and we were on the way back in again. Very slowly we made some ground, albeit well outside the marked channel by now, into the deep water. Thankfully the depth was over 4m even as we went to the sandbank side of the channel. Peter could not see anything wrong with the motor, so he started it again and this time it went perfectly. Our diagnosis was that something had sucked onto the raw water intake as no water was coming out of the exhaust. It was now, so we set off again. There were plenty of large leaves in the water of the Endeavour River or it could also have been a plastic bag. Plenty of those floating around!!

The Culprits ??!!

It didn't take long to realise that we had made a mistake. The wind was strong and the seas rough. Also rain was beginning to fall and dark clouds forming to the south. We decided that we didn't want to find our way into the Hope Isles in the rain so we abandoned our plans and sailed beautifully back into the Endeavour River to our comfy anchorage next to the centre sandbank.

We had three more days in Cooktown before we had light enough winds to make a second attempt at sailing south.

The Parade

Meanwhile on Saturday, 20th August, we were able to view a 'Freedom of Entry Parade To the City of Cooktown' by the Royal Australian Airforce 35th Squadron. This privilege is granted to a military organisation that has developed a significant attachment to the City. Apparently 35th Squadron has had a long operational history in North Queensland.
"A military unit accorded this privilege is granted the right of entry to the city with bayonets fixed, colours flying and drums beating." They certainly did the colours flying and the drums beating, but we didn't see any bayonets fixed.

Everyone gathered where, presumably, the parade was to start. Sure enough representatives of 35th Squadron, the police and some war veterans formed up for the ceremony. The parade was ready, a few orders, a tune from the band and then an order to attention. We all watched with interest and then realised that something was going on behind us. Val and I decided to go and have a look. Just then there was a huge KA-BOOM!!!! Most of the people near us, including ourselves, nearly died of fright. No-one mentioned that they were going to fire the huge old cannon right next to us. That was the  most exciting part of the whole parade.


Ric and Val invited us over to Arkaydes to have a pot roast. Ric's pot roast is to die for. The beef was superb and the vegetables yummy. Thanks Ric and Val that was the best roast I've had for a long time.

We visited the Botanic Garden again and walked to Finches Bay. We visited the IGA and topped up the supplies and purchased more ice for the fridge.

Then on 22nd we finally departed Cooktown for the Low Isles, off Port Douglas. It was about 60nm and due to the 10-15kn SE Trades we ended up sailing 83nm. Occasionally the wind piped up to 20kns just to keep us on our toes. We finally arrived at the Low Isles at 9pm, dropped the anchor behind the other anchored boats and fell into bed. Our twelve delightful days in Cooktown were at an end.

Cape Tribulation

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Cooktown 10th - 18th August

Cooktown Orchid, Botanic Garden (Has to be caged in so no-one steals it!)
Windy, windy Cooktown! This anchorage is safe, but not necessarily comfortable. On arrival we anchored very close to the swing basin near the harbour jetties while we worked out where the channel into the deeper pool in the river was. Last year there was leads in, but this year they no longer exist, which makes things a little difficult. The Endeavour River is a mass of sand and mud banks and as the water is a muddy greeny, blue there is no seeing them until they emerge as the tide goes out. At least it is mud/sand. Luckily another yacht came in and he obviously knew the route in so we watched carefully and then followed his path. We found a good spot closer to the town side than we had last year, so the dinghy ride was shorter. We are here sheltering from strong winds and rain and after the first two days we have had ample of that. The spring tides are in now and the current through here is amazing. Mostly Rene is held side on to the wind and as the bullets rage through the anchorage she heels over in a most uncomfortable way.

The anchorage from Grassy Hill
One morning we finally gave up waiting for a break in the wind and pulled Lily up ready for a wet trip ashore. Peter was standing in the dinghy and I was handing him wet weather gear etc when I noticed a very strong gust heading our way. As it swept over the water it gathered speed and turned into a willy-willy, sucking up spray and flinging it around in the air and I could tell that it had our name written on it. Sure enough it struck us with a force that had Rene on her ear. I could just stare, a bit like the rabbit in the headlights, and Peter clung on. It passed over us and feeling chastened, having had a good slap by Mr Wind, I collected up gear that had been flung around the deck and then we made our subdued way ashore. Later Ric was talking to a local fisherman and he told Ric about this couple who were climbing into their dinghy and a 'Cooktown Bullet' caught them out. He said he just watched and thought, 'OK so what is going to happen here? and 'You should have seen that boat heel over!' I am over the wind!! (I think I have said that before.)

Tomorrow looks like a possibility for sailing south. We are contacting Ric and Val at 7am to discuss the situation. Hopefully we will make the 20nm to the Hope Isles for the night and then continue on to the Low Isles and back to the Cairns area in a couple of days. The next week or so looks good for going south.

Peter checks out the Jackfruit at the Botanic Garden

The Little White Egret

The journey on Lily to the South bank of the river and Cooktown took us past a nice looking steal yacht which was covered with very well made canvas and shade cloth covers. As we motored past I noticed a lovely little white egret perched on the binnacle inside the cockpit covers. I wondered if he was stuck in there. No-one seemed to be using the boat at present. The bird remained there all day and in the evening as we went in to see the fish feeding at Cook's Landing it was still there. We thought we'd tell Tom, who feeds the fish, that the beautiful little bird appeared to be stuck under the covers on this boat. He didn't know the owner but said to Peter to go and let it out anyway. Peter did. Then he came back and told us that the bird was very cross at being flushed out of his safe, cosy perch. As he brought the dinghy alongside and lifted the covers the egret left via an opening swearing loudly. The cockpit was covered with bird poo and we think the owner is in for a very unpleasant surprise when he comes to check his yacht. The next day we motored Lily past again to see if the bird was there. At first we thought not, but then we spotted him standing on the floor and stretching his neck up to investigate this 'bloody nosy' dinghy load of people who were constantly trespassing on his perfect hiding place. The body language was quite plain.

Fish Feeding At Cook's Landing

Tom feeds the grouper at Cook's Landing

The blackboard on the footpath outside the café at Cook's Landing said that fish feeding was on that evening. About 3-4 times a fortnight, when the tide is right, Tom, owner of the Cook's Landing jetty and café, feeds the grouper. They are huge! He uses the rib cages, with heads attached, from large coral trout that have been caught that day. The grouper show up in the late afternoon and mill about waiting for their feed. There were six of them on our day. Tom says there are up to seven and they live under the jetties and pontoons. If you thought that this was not a good place to swim because of crocodiles, sharks and muddy water, the sight of these huge fish convinced me to keep my toes well away. Sometimes a large ray, a Lemon Shark and a Bull Shark will turn up, but they did not show on our day. Peter and I were very impressed with the show as were about twenty other sightseers. A couple of the dominant fish waited close to Tom on the steps and stopped the others getting a feed. They would not take the rib cages, but would not let anyone else have a go. Tom said they wanted the heads not the rib cages. Reminded me of a mob of greedy children.

The Cemetery

Chinese Shrine, Cooktown Cemetery

This year we decided to walk to the outskirts of town to check out the cemetery. Cooktown has a long and chequered history. It was interesting and we spent an hour or two wandering about reading the headstones. We found Mrs Watson and her son Ferrier's grave. They had escaped Lizard Island in 1881 in a tub when the aboriginals attacked them and later died on a neighbouring island due to thirst. There was also a Chinese Shrine tucked away in a clearing in the bush. Thousands of Chinese people made their way here during the gold rush in the early days.

An interesting story at the Cooktown Cemetery

Fun and Friends

Five yachts left Lizard Island either on the day we left or the day after. All have been anchored in the Endeavour River waiting for a weather window to be able to sail south. It has been great to take part in various social activities while were are here, things like a meal at the Top Bub and the RSL Club and sundowners on Arkaydes.

Check out that bowling technique

Yesterday Ric, Val and I participated in a friendly bowls afternoon at the Bowls Club. Peter decided that it was a bit tame for him so he walked up Grassy Hill and around to the nearby bays to get a bit of exercise. Ten boaties turned up and we were divided up amongst the local bowlers in teams for an afternoon of bowls. A quick lesson on technique and we were into the competition. Everyone enjoyed themselves and I think the locals enjoyed hosting us at their club. Afternoon tea was provided and then out to the bowling green again for another go. I really enjoyed it and didn't disgrace myself, however I won't be lining up for membership of the Albany Bowling Club yet. Afterwards we all adjourned to the club for celebratory drinks and later decided dinner there seemed like a good idea. What a wonderful, friendly, day. Very enjoyable.

Fun and Frivolity at the Cooktown Bowling Club

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Lizard Island 3rd - 9th August

Val, Ric and Liz on the resort beach at Lizard Island
Following our unplanned anchoring way out the back of the anchorage at Mrs Watsons Bay, in the strong wind, Peter and I settled down and decided to have lunch before we tackled the gear problem. Feeling better Peter pulled out the engine cover, got out the tools etc and began the process of diagnosis. He had me sitting up in the cockpit holding the gear lever - one of my favourite jobs!!! Not! Meanwhile he rattled about down below accompanied by periodic bouts of bad language. Then I spotted an official looking run-a-bout heading our way. 'What do they want?' I thought. 'Probably to check our safety gear was in order'. No. It was much worse!

Here comes the smoke and ash!
The boat belonged to the Parks and Wildlife Department (Sparks and Wildfires again!). They informed me that the following day they were planning to do a controlled burn of the island, particularly the valley directly in front of  the anchorage and to top this off the island walking tracks would be closed for six days. 'You're joking!' I exclaimed. 'No,' I was told, 'and if we had accessed their web site we would have been informed of this two months ago.' Well for goodness sake! Who looks up the Sparks and Wildfires website to see where the next burn is? We had already acquainted ourselves with the weather forecast for the next few days and tomorrow was predicted to blow at up to 30kns SE wind. They were going to light a fire in front of 17 boats in the bay in 30kts of wind! While 30kns was the forecast, in Mrs Watsons Bay, very strong bullets of wind howl down the valley and one of the other yachts instruments measured a gust at 40kns on the day of the fire. They also told me that if we didn't want to sit out the fire amongst the smoke we could anchor in one of the other bays. I wondered which one exactly, as no one voluntarily moves in 30kns of wind and to which bay exactly? Lizard Island is not endowered with multiple anchorages on the north side. I did tell them we wouldn't be going anywhere as we had no gears at the moment. You can imagine when I relayed this information to Peter down below what he said. I won't repeat it here!

Rene at anchor. Here comes the smoke and ash
The next day we moved closer into the beach even though the smoke threat was real. It was very bouncy and rough taking Lily ashore from so far out. Sure enough, just after lunch the first wisps of smoke began to appear from the shore and up the valley. Before long the smoke and ash was billowing from the bush and covering everything in it's path. We closed all the hatches and waited. Luckily most of the smoke went to the western end of the bay, but Rene was still covered with black ash. The wind pushed the fires up the range and during the night we were treated to a firey display.

On the way to Cook's Lookout amongst the scorched foliage

For the duration of our stay on Lizard Island this year the wind blew incessantly from the SE without pause. Sometimes the bullets were very strong and shook Rene and howled in the rigging. Not pleasant! The fires burned all the next day, but only in patches of dense bush. Luckily it rained in the second night and all but put the fires out. After an inspection of the site the Sparks and Wildfires opened the tracks as they deemed it safe to do so. We were very relieved as now we were able to walk the beautiful tracks again. We walked to the Blue Lagoon on the south side of the island and up to Cook's Lookout, the highest point on the range. The walks were still beautiful, but somewhat spoilt by the burnt and blackened bush.

Cook's Lookout looking west

The Marlin Bar

The only access boaties have to the resort is at the Marlin Bar, in the corner of the bay. They open Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings for drinks and meals - sometimes!! We rolled up on Friday, as did at least 23 others from the boats and the bar did not open. No explanation, sign or anything, so we all went back to our boats. We tried again on Sunday night and the bar opened and everyone enjoyed the convivial atmosphere and some very yummy burgers.

At the Marlin Bar. No joy this time!

The Research Station

The Research Station opens on Mondays at 10am for tours. Last year we walked to the facility, but this year Sparks and Wildfires were implementing a second hazard reduction burn around the resort in the afternoon. The tracks were again closed. That meant a trip to the research station in the dinghy. That is fine except that as the wind was howling again it meant a very wet trip for part of the way. I wore my bathers - a very good decision as we splashed and bounced our way around to the south west side of the island. The tour was excellent, as it was last year. The lady told us about the coral bleaching event during the summer and the extent of the damage. Apparently they had some hot days where there was no cloud cover and the sea warmed up dramatically, especially in the shallow water. Usually the summer wet season produces cloud cover that keeps the sea cooler. This is a very worthwhile tour and we both enjoyed it immensely.

The reception at the research station was good so everyone took advantage of it.


An ordinary windy day at Lizard Island 

 It was very windy at Lizard this year and there was no let up in the strong gusts blowing down the valley from the SE. I found it difficult to sleep in the forward cabin as the anchor rope stretched and squeaked and crunched against the anti chafe collar that Peter has set up on the bow. Rene shuddered with the onset of the gusts and I moved into the main cabin where I found the noises and movement less and I was at least able to sleep.

On our last night  one of the boats in front of us dragged his anchor. I heard a motor nearby and was alarmed to see another yacht very close to our bow. The man had things under control and gradually motored back towards the beach and re-anchored his boat. Another yacht nearby had their dinghy overturned in the night and the motor was submerged for a while. Luckily he noticed it before he went to bed and was able to right it and run fresh water through the engine. He is now in Cooktown having the dinghy motor looked at by a mechanic. As we were leaving the poor fellow who dragged in front of us in the night had his dinghy blown off the deck and it was quickly being blown out of the bay. One of the other yachties saw and retrieved it as we motored out of the bay for a quick, bumpy day sail back to Cape Bedford.

Cape Bedford was again calm and peaceful and I had the quietest, most restful sleep I had had for a week.

We are now anchored in the basin at Cooktown. It looks as though we will be here for at least a week as after a couple of quieter days the wind is back with a vengeance this weekend and continues on for most of next week - so the forecast says. A week is too far out to predict the weather accurately, especially the wind, so lets hope it changes after the weekend and we can begin to make our way back to Cairns.

Kapok flowers. Survivors

Scorched Earth!

Friday, 12 August 2016

The Trip to Lizard Island 1st - 3rd August


Rene motored out of Yorkey's Knob Marina lower in the water than ever before. We were full of fuel, water, food and gas. In fact we even bought another bottle of gas in case we got stuck at Lizard Island by the SE Trades, which blow incessantly at this time of the year. A mere mile or so out of the channel into the marina and just as we were settling down to a days motor sailing, me reading and Peter just come below to check the chart plotter, there was an almighty thump/bang below the water against Rene's hull. The boat shuddered with the impact. We both shot out of the companionway, (more like pellets out of a shotgun than rats out of a drainpipe!!) eyes on stalks and hearts pounding. Peter checked the depth sounder, nothing wrong there. I thought maybe we'd hit a whale. Then as I looked behind I noticed a black, pointy thing surface slowly. It was a large waterlogged tree trunk, floating just below the surface. It bobbed up a few times and then settled back into it's camouflaged position just below the surface ready to catch the next unsuspecting boatie.  Peter radioed the Yorkeys Yacht  Club to inform them. Hopefully it didn't connect with anyone else before finding a final resting place on a beach somewhere.

Peter donned the snorkel and goggles at Lizard Island later and went to check the damage. There were long scratches down the hull and a scrape down the front and below the keel, but no real damage. It must have come with branches attached!

The Low Isles - Beauty

We arrived at the Low Isles, off Port Douglas, mid afternoon. After the tourist boats and day trippers had left we scored one of the courtesy moorings and spent a quiet, restful night with our friendly little lighthouse flashing in the darkness. The night was clear and being away from the city lights we had a wonderful view of the night sky. Ric and Val anchored Arkaydes nearby and we decided to make an early start in the morning for Cooktown.

Cape Bedford - Calm

Sunset at Cape Bedford

The day began with a light breeze and later died down so we motor sailed for a while. We made good progress and as the weather forecast was for good sailing for a couple of days we decided to go the extra 20nm to Cape Bedford for the night and then make the final jump to Lizard Island to be settled there in Mrs Watsons Bay for the next bout of strong winds. We would call in at Cooktown on the way south. The Cape Bedford anchorage was perfectly calm and Rene sat there comfortably all night. Delightful peace!

An Early Start for Lizard Island - Excitement

As the faint morning light began to appear over the Cape Peter pulled the anchor and we hauled up the sail and set a course for Lizard Island. The course passes between two reefs and islands in the bay and close to the sand mine jetty off Cape Flattery. As we approached Cape Flattery it was clear that a ship was ready to leave the jetty and as it was journeying north we watched with interest from a safe distance off. Another ship was steaming down the shipping channel from the north so we kept an eye on that too. From Cape Flattery to Lizard Island much of the journey is spent traversing the shipping channel and keeping an eye on movements of ships and the chart plotter, to see where they're going, is essential.

The black boat is us, the triangles are other vessels. Not Sydney Harbour I grant you, but an interesting situation

All of a sudden it dawned on us that the ship approaching from the north was making it's way to the sand mining jetty in front of us. The pilot boat and tugs took up their positions to bring in the ship and then we found ourselves directly in the path of a huge, menacing vessel. Peter radioed the pilot and he informed us to maintain our course as the ship had to pause to take on the pilot and we would not be in the way. In the end we had a wonderful view of the berthing procedure of an enormous ship at an open roadstead jetty right in front of us.


Arrival At Mrs Watsons Bay - Alarm!!

By now the wind was blowing above 20kns and the sea was boisterous, but we made fast progress on the 16nm towards Lizard, our destination. After rounding Palfrey Island we rolled in the jib and started the motor for the final approach. Peter instructed me to put it in gear and begin motoring. Nothing - it appeared to be jammed! After several tries, and Peter did mutter something like, 'for goodness sake just put it in gear!' it would not respond. Still jammed and Peter now believing, dived below to try and sort out the problem. 'It will be OK,' I thought. 'Peter is very good at fixing mechanical problems.'  Meanwhile we are still sailing at reasonable speed towards our destination and it became clear that we did not have much time to fix this. I am left on deck steering Rene while Peter is in the bowels of the boat having little luck in sorting out the problem. By now we are quite close to the anchorage and my mouth feels like I have swallowed a fluffy cat, it is so dry, and I am trying not to totally panic. I realise that will not help, but it is very hard. (A four wheel drive and a caravan is looking good!!)

Finally realising that the motor was not going to be of any assistance we sailed into Mrs Watsons Bay and dropped the anchor far enough out the back so as not to collide with anyone. The wind was blowing hard and we sat there in silence while we recovered some composure (well I did anyway). Peter was very good throughout the whole episode and he had to give me a quick reprimand to stop me going into a blind panic.

It took several hours of reading and re-reading the manual for the Volvo engine before he found out what the problem was. Apparently the gear selector had locked within the cockpit control unit and became unusable. Because the translation to English in the manual was confusing it took a while to work out what had happened and how to fix it. I sat on deck and held my end of the selector and Peter applied pressure from his end, inside and the lever slipped into place. Hopefully that will be the last we have of that problem. Cleaned and oiled it should be OK from now on.

It was late in the afternoon by now so we decided to spend the night out the back and find ourselves a better anchorage, closer to the shore in the morning.

Anchored safely out the back. Now for the repair job.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Yorkeys Knob 25th - 31st July

Avoiding the Wind, Re-stocking and R & R

When we booked into Half Moon Bay Marina we expected that strong winds would be blowing for several days. In fact there were only two days that were horrible with the SE howling and the sea turning a muddy uninviting brown colour. Ric and Val, who were originally docked in the Bluewater Marina just around the corner and up a narrow, shallow creek, joined us at Half Moon Bay Marina after two days. Peter took a photo of them exiting the creek on their way here. We felt it was too shallow for us to enter safely and we have not changed our minds on this one. The manager of this marina is apparently grumpy and ill tempered so we will continue to avoid it.

On windy Friday we all took the bus to Palm Cove for lunch. Although windy, once off the beach front, the magnificent trees and gardens sheltered us from the worst of the wind as we walked along peering into the restaurants and shops. What we couldn't believe was the 'No Swimming - Crocodiles etc' signs along the beach front and then no more that 100m further along was the yellow and red flags and the "Swim between the flags' sign. This part of the beach looked the same as the rest so maybe the crocs are trained here and don't swim between the flags. I wouldn't have gone near the water in any case as it was a rough, dirty brown whipped up by the wind.
As Ric says, 'The crocs here know they are only allowed at this end of the beach at Palm Cove'

Palm Cove. The lifesavers are halfway down the beach!!

One evening we had Ric and Val over for Thai Red Chicken Curry for dinner. We had drinks and nibbles in the cockpit and I had a brainwave - an idea for a cockpit table where we could all reach our drinks and nibbles with out the constant passing. Ric, the builder, had all the materials, tools etc to make the table and the next day presented us with it. Now we will have to have them over again to christen it. Thank you Ric. I need to borrow you for back in Albany sometime.

The table

Tomorrow we intend to pack the icebox with ice when the yacht club opens at 8am and set sail for the Low Isles off Port Douglas. There are two days before the wind is forecast at up to 28kns again so we will probably leave the Low Isles early for Cooktown and shelter there if it eventuates. From Cooktown, Lizard Island is a day sail away.

An Odd Sign!!!

Secret Garden Fitzroy Island

Does any one else find this is a bit odd! It seems to me that  several issues are raised here:
  • I thought it was rainforest that was endangered. On the radio the next day, in fact, we heard how there was little of it left.
  • Biodiversity? I thought the rainforest had the most biodiversity of all.
  • Are they saying that the eucalypt woodland is endangered?
  • What was here before the Aborigines came? 60,000 years is a blink of the eye in the history of the planet.
  • Why is their method of land management ie 'scorched earth' any better than any other? 
  • Sparks and wildfires don't need an excuse to light a fire. They set fire to uninhabited islands here all the time. Why?