Cruising to Cairns in company

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September 22nd 2013
Published: September 25th 2013
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Sunday, we left Horseshoe Bay around 7 am, and pointed straight towards to west side of Great Palm Island. We motor-sailed most of the way. There were a couple of periods where we switched the engine off but these only last 30-60 minutes before the wind dropped out. But with flat water and sunny skies it was a pleasant and relaxing passage.... maybe too relaxing as shortly after I had been on deck changing around the washing to dry, another boat passed us going the other way missing only by about 10 metres! The other helmsman was looking relaxed too as he was laid back on a hammock strung between his mast and front stay.

As we came close to Great Palm the wind picked up but it was right on the nose from the northwest. Followed the land closely so we could take a peek at the main town on the island from about a mile away. Naomi had read that this place was once on record as being the most dangerous place on the planet, so we weren't too keen to visit. We veered west and came around the bottom of Fantome Island, and anchored off the reef at Juno Bay. We had already got a text from Pippa to say they were on there way to Hitchenbrook so it was no surprise to find the bay empty.

We took the new dinghy cautiously over the reef, landing on the beach and stepping into the warm water. Strolled around and quickly found the remains of the leper colony that the guide book had mentioned. This had been burnt down in 1973 but the concrete foundations still remained, as well one hut that was still standing, some bath tubs and a newly erected plaque from 2010 to honour the patients and sisters of the mission.

A couple of other boats joined us in the bay. Naomi did some hooning around in the new dinghy and we settled in for one of the calmest nights at anchor ever.

The calm remained and the next day we motored all the way to Zoe Bay, Hitchenbrook Island. As we passed the 5km long pier at Lucinda, the water turned to glass and the staggering beauty of the island came into focus, seeming to float on the featureless sea.

We rounded the headland to come into the bay and could see our friends' boats near the beach and behind them the stupendous steep mountain scenery shooting up to the sky. This was paradise. I have often seen pictures of far off exotic locations such as Tahiti and its amazing coastal scenery.... well this seemed to match it.

We dropped anchor just to the north of them and Alex demanded to go to the beach. On the way I dropped by Tam who told me the others were doing the walk through the rainforest to the waterfall, which drops down into a beautiful clear pool, great for swimming. You could see the waterfall running down the large rock face sticking out from the treetops from the bay. This was paradise indeed!

We had nachos for lunch whilst Alex slept and Dale came over for a visit.

Later that afternoon we all met up for a drink on the John & Pippa's Peterson, which led to more drinks while the 4 kids played together either singing in the saloon or jumping onto the aft bed through the hatch. Ended up staying for some BBQ sausages for dinner along with more drinks, and not getting back to our boat until midnight.... in boating with kid terms that equivalent to being until dawn.

By the time we dragged ourselves out of bed the next morning the others had left for Dunk Island... impressive!

As much as we wanted to stick with the others we had decided to stay to see the waterfall - especially knowing that the weather didn't often allow staying in Zoe Bay... plus I was worried Dunk would be horrible in the northerly winds predicted.

Beached the dinghy an hour and half before low tide, shuffled through the shallow water to avoid standing on a sting-ray, and found the track at the far south end of the beach. At the start are a few campsites and toilets for the hikers doing the Thorsborne Trail. Apart from the occasional horse fly, it was a pleasant 25 minute stroll along the narrow path through the forest, beside the creek for some of the way, and stone hopping when crossing it near the end. Then we came out to another near perfect scene. The water sparkled in the sun as it cascaded down the bare rock face into the large pool which had
Naomi & Alex restNaomi & Alex restNaomi & Alex rest

while we wait for the tide to rise
been landscaped with a perimeter of boulders and trees. In the cool clear water you could see the smooth rocky floor and a school of mountain perch idling near its edge.

The water temperature was perfect and when Alex was safely sat on a rock, Naomi & I swam over to the waterfall which gushed warm water as it came over the hot rock face. Had lunch - wraps with salmon and salad - and one by one we all eventually had a nasty fall in the water on the slippery rocks. I crunched a toe and got some of the towel wet. Alex dropped my glasses in the water but I was able to retrieve them, and later Naomi fell front first in her summer dress, soaking the towel completely, and straining her achilles.

We walked back down to the beach and found the camping spots were filling up with hikers. The water was still a fair way from the dinghy so rather than drag it back to the water, we laid down in the shade at the top of the beach and Alex fell asleep. When the small waves started lapping at the dinghy we headed
Zoe BayZoe BayZoe Bay

Hitchenbrook Island
back to Luna Ray.

Later we headed out explore the creek at the north end of the beach but we were badly prepared. One, I had forgotten to fill the petrol tank up and it was near empty, and two, once out of the breeze the sand-flies were rife and we hadn't brought proper clothing or repellent. The creek really opened up and was a backwater to half the beach. Once the flies started biting and I realised I would struggle to paddle against the current should we use all the fuel, we aborted the mission and returned to the mother-ship.

There has been a decent northerly wind all day, sending swell into the bay which made early evening rolly. I wondered how the others were fairing at Dunk. For us things improved a lot when the wind changed to westerly pushing our bum into the waves.

The next day, with a long day expected to get to Mourilyan Harbour I was up before sunrise, and as conditions were calm I managed to get the anchor up by myself and motor out of the bay whilst Naomi & Alex stayed in bed. The sun rose as we travelled along the east coast, and I sat in the cockpit alone watching the early light bring Hitchenbrook up in a pink glow.

An hour or two later Naomi & Alex made an appearance and the easy motoring continued while we had breakfast and the morning rolled on. As we approached Dunk Island we could see a few boats on its south side which hadn't occurred to me before as an anchorage. Had had no answer from the others on the VHF so decided to come around the south of the island and as we got closer saw it was them. Set anchor and John & Pippa zoomed up on their dinghy as we were lowering ours off the davits.

We had a nice fast run around to the west tip of Dunk, now that the new outboard was getting worn in we were allowed to rev it faster, and stopped by Santoro to say hi to Dale & Tam. Tried to land at the beach but got a clunk on the dinghy from one of the many rocks so tied up to the jetty. Dunk Island has great facilities for visiting boats, including bins and HOT showers and little sectioned off areas next to the beach. Later had a drink on Summer Sky (John & Pippa's boat) when Alex vito'd our plan to visit the beach for playing with Charlotte instead.

The next morning we all met up on the beach, kids played on the beach, swimming, used the showers and as some wisps of wind started to show themselves we all set off north with a plan to look for a cave in the South Barnard Islands as the first stop. We left later than the others and had further to go to come around the island so they fell out view while we coasted along slowly in the light winds. After a couple of hours the winds increased but unfortunately came around more on the nose so we ended up motor sailing to maintain course after some tacking.

As progress was slow we knew we wouldn't be able to stop as planned and the Barnards were not going to offer us a smooth night as there was now 15 knots NE breeze bringing up quite a chop. However as we came around the island we saw Summer Sky was still anchored there and apparently staying whilst Santoro was pushing on. Managed to speak to Dale on the hand-held VHF, as there was no response with the main radio, and as we passed Kent Island in the North Barnards they were just behind us.

Another five miles of motor sailing and we turned left through the narrow gap in the cliffs, saw the sugar loading wharf of Mourilyn Harbour and dropped anchor just outside the swing basin. However once the chain had been paid out we were in less that 2m of water so upped anchor and dropped it again about 10-20 m further forward, at the same time warning Dale & Tam as they were just arriving and heading for the shallow water.

They called over an invite so we were soon on their yacht for the first time, having drinks, dinner and playing a few songs on the guitar, sometimes accompanied by Alex on the ukulele. Despite our efforts Alex wouldn't goto to sleep so he had a late night as we were not back to Luna Ray until 11 pm... he slept in until 9:20 am!

The next morning we were hoping to get bread, milk and Coka Cola from the shop in the harbour but Tam called over that it wasn't there or closed. Dale was planning to hitchhike the 8 miles into town! So we left back into calm seas again, and as we motored along I baked up a loaf of bread. It was out of the oven by 1pm and with tuna & mayo, lettuce, tomato and cheese made one of the best sandwiches ever! We passed the Frankland Islands that looked very exotic and it would have been a perfect day to visit what the guides describe as the best island paradises on the coast, but we have a schedule.

John called us on the phone and I had to ask him to repeat what he said - he had a friend in an airplane heading our way and would take photos of us! No sooner had he said it, for the second time, and the plane appeared just 30 m off the water. It turned around to fly by again so we all stood on the side of the boat for another photo opurtunuity. I got the mainsail up for the next pic but the plane didn't come by again as it had left to take some shots of Santoro that was on the horizon to our south - apparently Dale had given up on the hitchhiking.

The wind picked up just enough to sail but we were only going 2-3 knots and not really on course. After a few hours the direction improved but the strength waned and at times we were down to one knot. The sea was flat so it was pleasant easy sailing so I decided I would be just as comfortable here as in an anchorage so no need to rush. I was enjoying letting nature decide our day but Naomi did not feel the same. I would normally worry about arriving in the dark but we thought Fitzroy was an easy anchorage and another full moon should make it easy to see. So we drifted on until about 5pm when the wind dropped completely and the water glassed out, so the motor went on.

Came around the west of the island around 7pm in the dark as the moon wasn't up yet, but plenty of lights from the anchored boats. Found Summer Sky and took up a nearby mooring used by one of the tourist boats.

We said goodbye to the others when we left about 7am the next morning, and motored all the way to Marlin Marina, Cairns. Had to do some backtracking in the marina as Naomi dropped a fender ! Just as we were heading to check in, we were met by Naomi's parents and brother Gavin and his partner Anthea. We left them at a coffee shop whilst we 'popped' to the office which took ages as it's hidden in the first floor of the terminal building several hundred metres away. By the time we got back their morning tea was over.

Went back to Gavin & Anthea's for lunch and later we met for dinner at Ochre, a restaurant a few blocks from the marina. Said big goodbyes to Gavin & Anthea as they were flying out the next day for a three month trip to Europe. However the next day their trip hit a big problem as a typhoon was heading to HongKong which was their asian stopover. We saw them again as they had a frantic morning reorganising their flights, while Naomi took advantage of the free washing machine.

We are still in Cairns and not sure for how long.... to be continued....

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