Cairns, to Cooktown, Lizard Island and towards Thursday Island
Had a busy week in Cairns. Sam arrived at midnight on Saturday night and spent 4 days with us and the poor guy spent most of his time sorting out our computers. We have promised him that next time he comes we will make sure he gets a real holiday. He has a great job with IBM on the Coal Seam Gas Line, he works for 12 days and then has 9 days off. He’s a “FIFO”, fly in, and fly out! This gives him the opportunity to travel a bit on his days off and he has joined us on the boat a couple of times now which is great for us. He also visited while we were in the Viaduct in Auckland not long after we first brought the boat. He downloaded more charts for the Mac computer and then copied everything to a backup computer for us, and set up the new laptop and copied all our files across and the list goes on. I worry that we will ever get him back on board!
Kristie arrived on Monday, her and her friends Trashleigh and Caer had been to the Laura races. They had driven from Weipa so the Nav man was covered in red dust. (Kristie is a teacher in Weipa) This was great for us having a vehicle to use for our provisioning of the boat, and all the jobs Robbie had to do. We also used it to pick up Jessie from the airport when she flew in on Monday night. Jess works at Helensvale High School so gets all the school holidays off. This is also the 2nd time the girls have joined us on the boat. We had a great “girl’s day” on Thursday having pedicures and manicures, shopping and then met Michele Black for lunch. Michele has a fantastic new job with the CYAA, Cape York Aboriginal Academy and she’s now also a “FIFO” working in Cairns for two weeks and then fly’s home to the Gold Coast for one week and works from home.
Brad, Kristie’s boyfriend arrived on Friday night. Poor guy had to meet us all in one hit that must have been very daunting for him! He is an Engineer for Rio Tinto in Weipa and a fishing nut so he and Robbie got on really well. Paul and Tracey Grace flew in on Saturday and Paul will be coming with us for a while up the Qld Coast. Tracey is not keen on any sea going journeys, especially after their time with us in Vanuatu where we had a rough crossing from Tanna to Port Vila.
Saturday 5th: Today we got the terribly sad news that my good friend and work colleague, Donna Lothe had passed away. She had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour only a few weeks ago and it was such an aggressive tumour, she never had a chance. Although it was a blessing that Donna did not have to suffer a prolonged illness, it was so sudden and almost unbelievable. She has been in my thoughts so often the past few weeks. My heart is just so sad, it is so true that only the good die young. She was such a lovely lady, always thinking of other people and putting everyone else’s needs before her own. I was very pleased that I had flown back from Vanuatu for one day to spend a few hours with her a couple of weeks ago, we had precious time sitting in the sun and holding hands, reminiscing and having a few laughs, and a few tears too. There is now another very bright star shining up there.
In the morning we ticked up the river with Kristie, Brad, Trashleigh and her sister on board to check the Stabilisers were working properly after Robbie had serviced them. We went as far as the ship yard where Stormvogel is on the hard stand getting her repairs done. We attended a briefing for the Sail2indonesia rally on Saturday afternoon and then attended the engagement party for Sam and Adam, Kristie’s good friends. We had a great night, Sam looked like a princess, absolutely beautiful. They are a lovely young couple from Weipa. I also spent quite a bit of time cuddling Isobel, a gorgeous one week old baby who belongs to Cicely and Jim, another Weipa couple who are good friends with Kristie. While we were there Paul, Tracey & Jess went out to dinner with Peter & Heidi and Per & Elizabeth. Our plan was to join them but we had such a good time at the engagement that they were in bed by the time we got home.
Sunday 6th: We had a relaxed day, Robbie, Paul, Brad and Jessie went for a tour in the duck crocodile spotting but didn’t see any. Unfortunately Brad had to fly back to Weipa for work. We were sorry to see him go, he’s a great lad and fitted in really well. We had a lot of visitors in the afternoon Jim and Cicely and kids, (Tracey hogged the baby, Isobel, she is such a cutie) Nicole, Peter & Heidi, Per & Elizabeth. We ended up getting pizza for tea and having a few drinks. Monday was Paul’s birthday, and we celebrated with lunch at the Salt house with Tracey before she had to fly home. Kristie and Trashleigh left to drive back to Weipa around lunch time. They are looking at a 12 hour drive so are going to stop at a roadhouse part way for the night. Very sad for me to say goodbye. We went out for dinner with Peter & Heidi and Per & Elizabeth, which of course was another hilarious event. Instigated by Per, Paul signed a declaration that he would not work after the age of 60 and this was witnessed by us all and promptly sent to Tracey and Facebook! Will keep you all posted on that one!
Robbie spent a lot of the time in Cairns servicing the stabilisers, replacing the seals in the rams, and replaced one of the fin positioning sensors, and also the seals in the steering ram. He spent a lot of time trying to sort out the SSB radio which has never worked successfully. Turns out that the copper strip for the earthing of the SSB was never fitted all the way up to the tuning box. We had the Furuno guy out and he fitted a new battery internal to the satellite compass that was giving us a lot of problems with losing its heading all the time. He had a sparky out to check out the battery charging systems, to try and track down the intermittent fault on the generator, (which of course didn’t do it while he was there!), and also to finally fix the lightening protection which was also sitting in a coil in the stack and had never been fitted. He organised for the electronic charts for the Nav Net – all of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and also purchased the paper charts for North Qld up to Torres Straights. Robbie also spent a bit of time with Stormvogel and monitoring the repairs to the dagger board which had been the faulty part causing the leaking. Robbie negotiated a fantastic cash deal with fuel, we took 2700 litres.
Tuesday 8th: We departed Cairns in the morning with Paul and Jessie on board. We headed out to the reef and anchored at Low Islets for the night. A gorgeous spot with a sand island with the classic old light house on it. We had a walk around the island and headed back to the boat. It was a stunning sunset.
Wednesday 9th: We moved North up through the reefs, anchoring between Tongue and Batt reefs. Robbie, Paul and Jessie went fishing and came back with some beautiful Red Throated Emperor for dinner. We cooked this in Panko Breadcrumbs and it was the best.
Thursday 10th: We steamed up to Hope Islands Reefs and had a call on the radio from Stefan and Mieka on “Mediterraneo” – another participant in the sail2indonesia rally. They were just ahead of us and anchoring also in Hope Islands Reef. It is quite stressful anchoring near the reef, Robbie drove from the fly bridge once we got near the Bay, and Paul, Jessie and I were on the bow of the boat looking for “Bombies” (Coral outcrops that stick up randomly) We went for a walk around the East Island and then back to the boat for sundowners with Stefan and Mieka. Lovely people, Stefan is from Croatia and his wife is currently working and will join him again in a few months. Mieka is from Australia and is crewing for Stefan until they finish the Indonesian rally in November.
Friday 11th: We departed for Cooktown. Stefan & Mieka followed us. We arrived in at 4.30pm after a near disaster! The leading red and green buoys had been washed out of position in the last cyclone, but had been washed away, together and still looked like entrance buoys, although Paul commented they did seem close together. As we were about to enter them we got a call on the radio saying don’t enter they are in the wrong place. We quickly changed course and headed for the rock wall to the next buoys. We ended up hitting bottom, thank goodness it was sand and Robbie was able to manoeuvre backwards into deeper water. It would be the worst place we have ever come into. We ended up anchoring just off the wharves. This was not ideal but it was too dangerous to go looking for deeper water, which didn’t exist anyway. It was a bit stressful as there was a fishing trawler tied up to a fuel wharf that seemed only metres from us, and the fishing wharf had a big trawler come in at 5am which we were also quite close to at times, depending on where we were swinging with the tide coming into or out of the river. Robbie spoke to Dan, the owner of the Trawler “Irene”, and he gave us some marks for good anchorages on the reefs on our way up to the tip. We went and had dinner at the Top Pub with Stefan and Mieka, I had local Barramundi and it was beautiful. As we were getting back on the duck to get back to Southern Star, Dan called out from the restaurant to come and have a drink with him. A drink turned into quite a few and we all woke up a little worse for the wear the next morning.
Saturday 12th: In the morning Paul and I walked up to the farmers markets for fresh produce which was lovely. Then we farewelled Paul and Jessie, they flew back to the Gold Coast and we are on our own again. Stefan came on board and helped Robbie to get Google Earth Goops operating. They were successful and we can now watch the boat move and leave a track on Google Earth, so you can see all the reef and Bombies in relation to where the boat is. Fantastic program. Mieka and I went to the IGA to do our grocery shopping, which wasn’t as uneventful as it might sound. First of all as we were tying up the dock at the pontoon there was an elderly Yachtie who had cut his leg and toe and was bleeding everywhere. He was walking with a walking stick also, and carrying two bags. So we helped him get sorted and he kindly gave us a ride to the IGA. Half way round Robbie rang me and said do I have Stefan’s reading glasses by any chance, he had them on the boat and they couldn’t find them anywhere. GULP! Yes, I had them on my head! OH Oh, black frames just like mine. Oops I felt really bad so I rushed around and finished the shopping and we walked back. Thank goodness Mieka was with me as I had quite a few bags. In the park on the way back there was a wedding, complete with old fashioned soldiers dressed in the red and white uniforms and they actually fired off shots. Scared the crap out of me, and the birds.
My next chore is to start the blog, since I haven’t had a chance to touch it since we arrived in Cairns. Then our quarterly, and annual GST and tax returns. Yuk, just not motivated about that one.
Sunday 13th: We departed Cooktown at 7.30am for Lizard Island. Yay! Sounds like my kind of place, white sandy beaches and crystal clear aqua water. The weather forecast was not very good, 20-25 knot winds with 1-1.5m swells. But it was worse for Monday and we didn’t want to wait any longer in Cooktown. We actually had a really good run, the wind and swell was up our bum for most of the way and we actually saw a whale jumping right up out of the water coming out of the Bay. We arrived in Watsons Bay, Lizard Island at 3:00pm. Coming in we had heard “Straight Shooter” radioing another yacht that was just arriving to stay clear as they were towing a Yacht off the beach. By the time we arrived they had finished. There was indeed a Yacht on the beach, it was the Catamaran “Adelaide” which had been blown up into the camping ground by Cyclone Ida some months previously. We spoke to the owner, Jamie, and the poor guy had got caught in the weather, one of his engines failed and he limped into Watsons Bay for shelter. He was not insured and has had to pay $50,000 to get the yacht towed back to Port Douglas for repairs. “Straight Shooter”, the rescue vessel is a beautiful 25m aluminium cat from Weipa. The Cyclone unfortunately came right through the island, and caused a lot of damage to the reef, and the Lizard Island Resort and some damage to the Research Station across the other side of the Island. Most of the vegetation was stripped off the trees and most of the smaller vegetation was gone. The resort is still closed for restoration and will not be open until next year.
There was about 8 boats anchored in the bay, and they have sundowners on the beach every evening at 5pm. BYO drinks and nibbles. They were a lively bunch and we had a good chat with the Weipa fella’s although they didn’t know Kristie or Brad, but kind of know Gary Blocksidge, Adams Dad (the engagement party we had just attended in Cairns) we got a bit of local knowledge and of course some tips on CROCODILES! Everyone says how smart and cunning they are so we will have to be on our toes! Robbie is dead keen to go investigating some of the tributaries and creeks to catch Barramundi, and that’s exactly where the Croc’s are. Mmmm think we do need to get a gun! I am petrified of Crocodiles (amongst other nasties) and really don’t want him playing in the creeks in the rubber duck, and certainly not on his own.
The weather was very blowy all night and we didn’t get much sleep. The hook on the chain bridle came off in the middle of the night with a big bang. We both jumped out of bed as it sounded like a boat had hit us. After some investigation Robbie figured out what had made the noise. The hook has spread and wouldn’t stay on. Straight Shooter drifted on their chain and were heading right towards us. Thank Goodness Clair from Restless M was watching and flashed the torch in their windows, where they were having a few drinks. Then it was all action and they started their motors and moved. We ended up getting up at 4am as we couldn’t sleep. Robbie rang Stefan who is still in Cooktown and he will pick us up a couple of hooks for the bridle and bring out to us as they are coming to Lizard in the next day or so. We are so impressed with how helpful and friendly all the boaties are, they go above and beyond to help you out, and it’s fantastic. We also do our share, helping anyone where ever we can. Robbie’s skills as a Diesel Fitter certainly come in useful, he has helped a number of people already.
Monday 14th: We had a tour of the research station which was really interesting. They have Scientists and Student study groups from all over the world come to stay and conduct research, mainly on the coral reefs and its inhabitants. We brought some Lizard Island T-shirts and a stubby cooler. We hitched a ride back with the guys from “Straight Shooter” in their tinny, it certainly beat the hour long walk we had to get there, through the sand dunes and across the Lizard Island Airplane run way.
Tuesday 15th: I never woke up until 9.30am, but wait that’s only because we never got much sleep all night. The wind was gusting well over 30 knots and the boat was getting pushed and pulled around, the bridle was making loud rubbing noises and we were both up and down all night. I spent a few hours doing the GST and tax paperwork – Yuk! “Mediterraneo” arrived mid-afternoon and it was great to see them. They came over for a drink, and we already had Clair and Errol on board from Restless M. We had a great afternoon with a couple of drinks and lots of laughs and the obligatory tour of Southern Star. When Errol went to leave in the duck there was some confusion about who had the rope, anyway the duck ended up floating away with the rope rapidly sinking. Robbie dived in and swam for it. One of the guys from “Straight Shooter” saw the duck and raced over in their tinny but by then Robbie had retrieved it. Another humorous event. It was then time for the afternoon sundowners on the beach so we raced into shore. It’s really nice to meet and mingle with all the boats in the bay, and we always have a few laughs but also gain some tips on good anchorages or fishing spots from the other boaties experiences. Some of them have been sailing in the area for the last 15 years, and come to Lizard every year!
Wednesday 16th: had a much better sleep the wind is starting to decrease. We have heard that our passports have now arrived in Cairns and the rest of the rally fleet will leave today and most of them will come to Lizard Island. Good news. David & Andrea from Diomedea will bring our passports for us, another lovely couple from Sydney whom we first met in NZ. Finished off the tax returns today then got invited onto “Restless M’, an 80’ motor boat owned by Errol & Clair. Wow makes our boat look like a baby. It’s a beautiful boat with loads of room, and they have 4 dinghy’s, 3 of them are rather large tinny’s. They also have a scooter, 4 bikes, and loads of goodies including a coffee machine. We need a nespresso but it has to be American power so will have to wait. We were very impressed it’s a beautiful boat. We then went for a snorkel in Watsons Bay, the coral was gorgeous but the giant clams were just amazing, they sure are something. The new underwater camera wouldn’t turn on – how frustrating. Once we got back to Southern Star Robbie sorted it but it was frustrating. We will have to go for another snorkel tomorrow it was too good not to have photos. We then were invited to Mediterraneo for dinner and it was beautiful, fillet steak with Greek salad and mashed potatoes, and paw paw for desert. Yum. Stefan & Mieka are lovely, Mieka is crewing for Stefan while his wife is working for a few months.
Thursday 17th: We had a bit of a maintenance morning, cleaning the boat, Robbie serviced the outboard on the duck, and a few odd jobs. Robbie went for another snorkel over the clam beds with the camera working this time. Marine park rangers came calling to inform us that they were about to commence burning off in the bay and the walking track would be closed for a few days. Oda and Stormvogel arrived during the morning. It was good to see them again, especially to see Stormvogel back in the water after her repairs. We cooked them a bar-b-q lunch, Patrick and Amanda from “Egret” also came and had a drink. We went over for sundowners to the picnic tables on the beach where most of the boats in the bay all meet at 5pm each night. We gleaned some local knowledge of anchorages between here and the tip.
Friday 18th: We departed Lizard Island, 4 boats in total, Mediterraneo, Oda, Stormvogel and us. Mediterraneo decided to continue onto Bathurst Bay but the other 3 boats decided to spend the afternoon on Howick Island. We had anchor schnapps on Oda, a lovely cheese board and a few drinks. We went into the island, it is mainly mangroves but a sandy point on the Eastern end. It also has an un-named grave with a white wooden cross and covered in shells. We went for a walk over the island, the whole time very conscious of Crocodiles. We never saw any sign of them though.(phew)
Saturday 19th: We departed Howick Island at 6:30am for the Flinders group. Conditions were good 16 knots of wind SE so behind us again. We passed Cape Melville which is unusual scenery – high hills, maybe 600 metres, of large rocks. Very ruggedly handsome landscape! We cruised through the Owen Channel which was stunning, white sandy beaches, complete with Crocodile slide marks! The fleet of 3 decided not to anchor there and continue around Stanley Island and into Stokes Bay. Yee ha, anchored around the point was the Prawn Trawler “Sea King”. After many attempted radio calls and two visits in the duck, Robbie was able to purchase a 10kg box of cooked prawns. We had sundowners and Prawns in the ducks all tied together. By this stage we were joined by “Mediterraneo, Mousekati, Diomedea and Elonnisa”, all participants in the Sail2Indonesia Rally. As it got dark we all headed back to our boats, no one is that thrilled about the Crocodile factor. About half an hour later Tom on “Enpointe” radioed us to say that he was heading into the Bay and was there room for him. Robbie organised that he would help him in with our mammoth spot light, which he did. Once Tom was organised Robbie thought he would drop him over some Prawns. He jumped in the duck AND no keys! But, he had already untied the rope! (Yes, he broke the cardinal rule! We all know Robbie – he jumps in and out of the duck like a monkey! He has no balance problems like me, very unco!) I ran for the keys, he tried to throw me the rope and OHOH he is floating away towards Papua New Guinea rather quickly! I ran to the radio and called for help. Elizabeth from Oda answered, Per is on his way. The Norwegians to the rescue, again! But, their duck was hauled up out of the water. Per jumped in the duck and Elizabeth let it down on the winch, BUT, they had forgotten they had another strap tied up. Per was suddenly nearly vertical heading for the water. He yelled for Elizabeth to get a knife and cut the straps, which she did and it was OK. Phew, then he headed out to sea, it was pitch black and he couldn’t see Robbie, he saw the lights from the fishing trawler way, way out and thought that was Robbie. He headed out, by then Stormvogel got a spot light on Robbie and he finally spotted him, laughing his head off. Robbie wasn’t worried. Per only had about 2 litres of fuel in his duck and he had been thinking, we are going to need a 3rd duck to rescue us. There is never a dull moment!
Sunday 20th: I woke up, Robbie was AWOL, and he had gone fishing. I put a loaf of bread on and then cleaned the boat. Robbie returned no fish but he had caught a big G.T. and let it go again. Had a visit from Onni & Elizabeth from “Elonissa” with some lovely home-made bread for us. Robbie helped Peter on “Stormvogel” with his generator for a while. We got invited over to “Diomedea” for a “real coffee” it was lovely. I really miss my coffee machine! Heidi came to visit then we girls went over to Oda to see Elizabeth. The day went nowhere really. Again we partook in sundowners on the ducks. “Yindee Plus” had arrived by then and they also joined the duck party. They are an English family, Chris and Sue plus their twin boys who have just celebrated their 11th birthday. They are sailing around the world, what an experience for the boys. They spend the mornings on school work every day. Headed back to the boat just on dusk, we are watching the Game of Thrones series again ready for series 4 which Sam had just supplied us with in Cairns. I had forgotten how “gory” and bloodthirsty it is.
Monday 21st: Departed at 5:30am for Night Island, approximately 80 nautical miles away, slowly ticking towards Thursday Island. Beautiful conditions 11 knots of wind, great cruising for Southern Star, not quite enough wind for our sailing buddies – Oda, Stormvogel, Diomedea all within 2 miles of each other, and Enpointe who are some distance behind us. We are cruising at 6.9 knots at 1700rpm. Robbie caught a beautiful Yellow Fin Tuna near the entrance to Night Island. As we anchored up there were two huge SHARKS circling the boat, they could obviously smell the fish. We had a lovely evening and provided everyone with fresh Sashimi with Wasabi, Pickled Ginger and Soy Sauce and rice which Elizabeth provided. We had our record number of guests on board Chris & Sue & their twins from “Yindee Plus”, Andrea and David from “Diomedea”, the normal crew from Oda & Stormvogel, and a ring in John from a small sailboat that was anchored in the bay, AND his little dog “Skipper”. We all had a great night and everyone loved the Tuna, and what was left was shared out.
Tuesday 22nd: Robbie, Per and Peter got up early and went fishing over to the mainland on the hunt for Barramundi, and of course Crocodiles. Per freaked as there were a lot of large Cattle hoof prints everywhere and he thought they were Crocodile tracks. They had no luck and came back to the boats and we up anchored at 9.30am and are headed to Portland Road anchorage. There is probably 2-3 days passage to get to Thursday Island. At this stage it looks like we will depart Thursday Island for Indonesia on Monday.