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

Friday, 12 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!

Thursday, 11 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.

Saturday, 30 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?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Eight Days to Yorkeys Knob 19th - 26th July

Horseshoe Bay to Mourilyan Harbour

Although the weather at Magnetic Island looked misty and dull, with visibility of  only a couple of miles, we thought that the wind was favourable for us to begin our trip north. We made good time across The Paddock to the Palm Islands, with the help of the motor, so we decided to continue on by taking the route up the Hinchinbrook Passage and anchor for the night behind Haycock Island. A quick look at the tide table informed us that the tide was two hours above low.  As we had a rising tide we decided to give the bar a go as the sun was sinking lower in the sky and we didn't want to be arriving in the dark. The shallowest area is not far beyond a line from the end of the sugar loading jetty which is about three nm long. We lined up the leads and carefully followed them realising that there would not be much water under the keel. My hawk eyes were glued to the echo sounder.  Alarmingly it went into the low 2m zone then shortly afterwards had trouble sounding anything as the stirred up muddy water sent it into meltdown. A second or two later we felt the jolt of mother earth contacting the keel. Rene almost came to a halt, but then freed herself and then touched briefly twice more before entering deeper water. We were touching sand and the tide was rising, but it is not a good feeling bumping the bottom in any circumstances. Next time we will wait at least three or four hours after low tide before entering, especially if the tidal range is large.

A 'Misty Moisty Morning' at Haycock Island

It rained most of the night at Haycock Island and once again we were not able to see the majesty of the mountains on Hinchinbrook Island. A still, rain misted morning saw us motoring north up the channel to our destination at Dunk Island. We arrived at Dunk Island just after lunch to find Arkaydes and three other boats anchored south of the sand spit. We dropped anchor there as well because of the reported uncomfortable swell rolling into Brammo Bay. The weather was showery but calm, so we had a reasonably comfortable night. Large earth moving machinery, diggers, trucks etc were digging and carting huge loads of sand from the sand spit back to the jetty area where constant erosion washes away the sand leaving the jetty disconnected from the island. This seems to be a never ending job as every time we visit they have either just dumped more sand there or are about to do so. We caught up with Ric and Val and joined Andrew and Trish for sundowners on their beautiful catamaran, Sengo.

The never ending job at Dunk Island

The next morning Rene and Arkaydes left Dunk early for the short trip of 20nm to Mourilyan Harbour. On approach to Kent Island, which we rounded to the east, we had a radio message from Ric that we had whales between the island and us and to keep a lookout. We did! Suddenly not more than 10m from Rene was the huge black bulk of a whale body almost submerged in the water beside us. I noticed it first when it took a breath. Peter shot out from below as he heard my exclamation. 'It's dead!' he said. 'NO it's NOT!' I said and at that point it took another breath and disappeared below the surface.  I suppose we interfered with it's peaceful afternoon nap.

Fitzroy Island to Yorkeys Knob

Fizroy Island   The view from Rene

Last year, when we sailed past Fitzroy Island, the wind was howling and we decided to sail onto Trinity Inlet, Cairns for shelter. This year the weather was perfect for a stop over and as the weather stayed perfect we remained anchored in the bay for three nights. Years ago when we borrowed Clive's Border Riever, a Cavalier 32, we anchored here for a couple of nights with Greg and Karin and my sister Linda. At certain stages of the tide we found we rolled unremittingly causing all the contents of cupboards to clatter and clang which allowed none of us to sleep. Considering this we thought any sign of rolling and we would make haste for Yorkeys Knob Marina. The calm weather continued and we did not have to escape. Fitzroy is another beautiful Queensland tourist island which appears to have a thriving resort and a lovely day tripper bar where you can get food, coffee and drinks. There are several short walks and  two much longer steep walks to the lighthouse and The Summit. We did both and enjoyed the view from above looking both north and south along the coast. We snorkled over the reef near the shore. (the thought of crocodiles and sharks keep me close to other people - better chance on someone else being picked off!!!) The coral and fish were interesting, although not as lovely as some other places we have seen.

Near The Summit, Fitzroy Island

On the way to The Summit

We anchored in 10m of water as there is little room in less depth and that was already taken by other boats. Although the bottom looked flat on the echo sounder there must have been coral or rock down there as it took some manoeuvring to get the anchor out to leave. At last we were free and then we had a quiet sail to Yorkeys Knob. We have decided to book in here for a week as strong winds are forecast for a few days and we need to reprovision for our trip north to Lizard Island.

Ric, Val and Liz enjoying a pre-dinner drink, Fitzroy Island

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Bouncing About in Horseshoe Bay, Mgnetic Island 16th - 18th July

Departing Breakwater Marina, Townsville in the drizzly rain
Whatever happened to 'Amazing North Queensland - beautiful one day perfect the next'? There has been a lot of unseasonal rain this year. The up side is that this delightful island is clothed in lush, green foliage and the dry, parched look has been banished for a while. Since I arrived back here from a three week sojourn back home, Peter and I have been watching the weather forecast closely with the realisation that our departure north will be delayed. We would rather stay here in 15 - 25mm of rain than endure the 50-100mm forecast for just a short distance further north. The wind has not been strong, but is contrary, coming from most directions during our two day stay here. At the moment it is a steady 10 - 15kns from the NE. The problem with that is that a sloppy swell is now running into the bay causing us to roll about like a pig wallowing in the mud puddle.

A nasty little surf is breaking on the shore and Peter has been regaling me with bits of information about the rescue of a large dinghy that has been sunk and then smashed on the shore by the waves. A second dinghy is submerged further along the beach, but as it hasn't a motor on it, no-one is taking pity on it just yet. Looks like coffee will be on board this morning. Oops! That was a particularly violent roll and the sink is now full of all the dirty washing up that was on the bench top and now the books are flapping about on the floor. Maybe it's best they stop there for the time being. Typing is a tad difficult as my fingers 'fly' across the keyboard hitting the wrong keys.

Sunset, Horseshoe Bay, before the rain sets in

We have spent the last two days walking some of the lovely bush tracks across the island to Nelly and Picnic Bays. At least here we can walk for miles and get coffee and cake for our efforts. Another reason for us to wait here until this weather sorts itself out. Yesterday we walked to Picnic Bay to take a photo of the place where my Peter Lawson painting was commissioned. It is a beautiful view looking back towards Townsville. Afterwards we decided to have lunch at Noodies on the Beach at Horseshoe Bay. I was so looking forward to our Mexican lunch, but it was a disappointment - took forever and the portion was small and not that tasty. What happened to the chilli? Next time I'll take Peter's advice and do fish and chips.

My painting was executed right here

It looks like we'll be here for a day or two more until this weather sorts itself out, then we will be making a break for Yorkeys Knob, just north of Cairns, in a quick succession of day sails as we've already been as far a Dunk Island with Audrey in June.

Peter inspects the wreck in Picnic Bay

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Lazy Week On Magnetic Island 8th June

Old oyster lease, Horseshoe Bay
It is only ten Days until I head back to WA to meet the Geraldton girls for our annual get together, this time at Cervantes. Looking forward to that. I will also be able to catch up with Greg, Leisha, Karin and Paul and the grandies, and Mum and Dad in Albany. After flying back we will be spending the next two and a half months sailing north to Lizard Island again. Meanwhile a lazy ten days at Magnetic Island in Horseshoe Bay has to be one of the best ways of using up some spare time. The weather has been perfect. With the east coast low down south the winds here have been variable anywhere from north to south west at no more that 0-5kns. The days have been crystal clear and we have been able to see Hinchinbrook Island clearly from the bay. I read in Lucas's cruising guide that when there is an east coast low down south it is usually a good chance to put many miles behind you on a trip south as the SE trades disappear for a while. It appears that this is correct and we will keep this in mind for future reference.

We have spent mornings walking and boosting our fitness levels on our way to coffee over the range at Arcadia. Now that we have spotted koalas it seems that they are everywhere. Today we saw three dozing up in the forks of gum trees. Two of them were quite close this time. Also came across a legless lizard on the track - Peter informs me that it has a different shaped head to that of a snake. Anyway it wriggled off into the bush without much ado when we stopped to take a closer look. 

Finding them everywhere now

Today I purchased a painting of Picnic Bay by Peter Lawson. The view is looking across the jetty towards Townsville, with a couple of people examining the beach at low tide. I loved it. We had been to his gallery a couple of weeks ago and spoke to him about what we wanted. He informed us that he would do the painting and let us know when it was done, with no obligation to buy. I could tell he was pleased with it when he phoned to tell me it was finished and it is beautiful. He is very clever and I love the way he paints the puddles on the sand when the tide goes out. Unfortunately we forgot to take a photo of it so I can't show it here. It is being posted to WA. Peter is a descendant of Henry Lawson, the poet, and he has painted some wonderful illustrations of poems such as 'The Loaded Dog' and others. He told us how he had set up the scenes to paint and we thoroughly enjoyed the visit to his gallery on the beach front at Arcadia.

The best way to get down rocks. Like a crab!!

Yesterday, while we had glassy conditions in Horseshoe Bay, we decided to take Lily to a beach that had previously been out of bounds due to it being an oyster lease and the oyster farm taking up the majority of the bay. The man who owned the lease used to keep the public at a distance by shouting and yelling wildly at anyone who ventured near. He has gone now as has his house and shed. Apparently the James Cook Uni has taken over the lease and has cleaned the place up. There is still many ugly, iron stakes in the northern part of the bay, left over from the structures that held the oyster racks in place. The best landing area for the dinghy is to be found in the southern end of the bay near the rocks. Access here is clear of obstacles. There are some interesting rock formations there and the view across Horseshoe Bay to the island, taking in the boats anchored in the bay, is delightful.

Horseshoe Bay from the old oyster lease
That's the range we walk over for coffee - the low part, but still gets the heart rate up!


View from one of our coffee walks over the range, towards Horseshoe Bay anchorage.
Puff Puff! Pant Pant! Sweat! Sweat!
This had better be doing me some good!

We have met up with Tom and Vivien on their Beautiful yacht, an Adams 40, in the Breakwater Marina. Last year they helped us acquire the berth for Rene over the summer. They have been in Horseshoe Bay with us and asked us over for a roast dinner. Yum! Yum! Thanks Tom and Vivien for the lovely meal and good company. Vivien came walking and swimming at Radical Bay on a perfect winters day in paradise.
Liz and Vivien take a cool dip at Radical Bay

Friday, 10 June 2016

Back to Townsville 26th May to 5th June

Finally after the deluge of rain at Dunk, (it seemed like a week - but in reality was only two days and nights) we were able to get ashore and explore a bit. I reneged on the mountain walk as the mozzies honed in on my soft southern skin and drove me out of there. After a pleasant couple of days we decided to begin the trip south back to Townsville. Our fresh fruit and veges were running short and as the day was fine and the wind light we anchored off Cardwell in order to dinghy ashore for some more supplies. Lunch at the café with the big crab turned out to be a partial success. My egg and bacon burger was very tasty, but Audrie and Peter had fish and chips and the fish was terrible. One customer walked out with the comment that it was, 'the worst fish he'd ever eaten.' It looked tough and appeared to have been heated up half a dozen times. We can't recommend that café.

The big crab Cardwell

Motoring down the northern end of the Hinchinbrook Cannel took us past Scraggy Point and it looked so lovely that we anchored there for the night with three other boats. Mozzie coils were essential for a good nights sleep, but as it was absolutely still we had a very quiet night. Next morning we motored south down the channel, admiring the magnificent mountain scenery and out along the seemingly endless sugar jetty at Lucinda. A short trip  across to Orpheous Island in the Palm Island group saw us moored on one of the courtesy moorings in Little Pioneer Bay for the night.

Peter and Audrie at Scraggy Point

Day two in the Palms began with light winds, but before long a NW wind sprang up and became strong enough to cause uncomfortable choppy seas in the anchorages on the western side of the island. A quick peruse of Lucas's 'Cruising the Coral Coast' informed us that in these conditions good anchorage could be found in Juno Bay, between Orpheous Island and Fantome Island. Three other boats were already there so we found a spot and dropped the anchor and ate lunch. Our reading lead us to believe there was some interesting ruins of an old lepers hospital on the island, so we set out to explore. We did not realise just how shallow the water between us and the island was. It also didn't really dawn on us that there would be even less water when we came to dinghy back to Rene. Duhh!! The bottom was littered with mossy stones and muddyish areas and all I could think of was coming across a nasty little stone fish.

A long slow trip back to Rene. Next time we'll check the tide tables.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around the ruins checking out the foundations of the old buildings and guessing what they had been used for. Some like the power shed still had the old generator there and others like the laundry and bathrooms contained cement troughs and old iron baths. Hundreds of clam shells had been collected and used to outline the edges of paths and gardens. Frangipanis, oleanders an old mango tree and other imported trees and shrubs still grew at the site and are a testament to the toughness of these plants. The whole site is littered with asbestos waste from the smashed buildings - no warning signs here.

Peter takes a bath at the old leper hospital on Fantome Island


We have at last found our first koala in it's natural habitat. Audrie's holiday was coming to an end so we sailed back to Magnetic Island and spent a few days in Horseshoe Bay. During this time we walked to Arcadia, Picnic Bay (12kms) and the Forts. All these walks wind their way up and over the rocky hills  and bush of Magnetic Island and as we decended down the hill into Arcadia we found a koala high up in a tree. Hurrah!! Our first one!! The next day while walking around the forts area Audrie found two more. I suppose we will see them everywhere now.

A quick trip took us back to the Breakwater Marina where for $275 you can stay for seven days. They have  a special at the moment as this is usually the price for five days. Audrie had one day left so a decision was made to take a sight seeing trip to Mt Spec with Peter's dad Andrew. The drive is very scenic and Mt Spec is beautiful. We were disappointed to find that both of the cafes up there were only open on the weekend now so we had to drive back down the mountain and find lunch elsewhere. Audrie bought a stack of tropical jams at the Frosty Mango - a great spot for coffee, mango ice-cream, fruity treats, etc. She spent the next morning trying to pack her purchases into a very full bag for her trip back to Perth. We had a great time and it was good to spend time sailing with Audrie again after many years since our trips to the Abrolhos Islands together at Easter.

Crystal Creek Mt Spec