Lizard Island

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November 18th 2013
Published: November 18th 2013
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I am writing this in our journey back from Lizard Island on 15th November. Its about 10pm and after a beautiful day sailing across small waves on a tight reach in about 10 knots, the wind has dropped to just a few knots and we are barely moving. The wind was never quite the easterly predicted and that we wanted, that is until we decided to turn into Cook Town, when it became a fraction north-easterly just when we didn't need it up the rear. This prompted us to change our minds again and continue south through the night as winds were favourable for that direction. We later regretted this, not just because the wind had just dropped out.

Just after 8pm when the breeze had already become lighter and the sea flat we had a tanker pass us about 3/4 mile away going the opposite direction - apparently on its way to Klang, Malaysia according to the AIS. We have passed plenty of tankers in the past and never noticed much in the way of wake from them. So it was to great surprise that some time after this one passed I started to hear breaking water, and even greater surprise when I looked across the dimly moonlit water to see a menacing dark line of water coming our way out of the gloom. It was the clean walled wave of its wake and hard to judge how big it was in the dark. I steered us into the set of two waves and told Naomi to check for valuables downstairs in the cabin that could fall over. Like me, she was not quick enough to remember that the front hatch was still open. The wave broke over our nose, and then another, rocking us about and sending a deluge of sea water onto our front bunk twice! Covering the bedding, matress, and all the other stuff we store in there, and spilling onto the floor. Shortly after the power went out for the front of the boat, including some navigational equipment it happens to supply, but it came back on and I'm not sure if it was related.

We wiped down the floors and left the rest of the salty sodden stuff to deal with the next day. Very annoyed as we know that once things like bedding get salt in them it can be very difficult to get it out again. What a nightmare!

Back to leaving Cook Town...

10/11/13 We had a casual start to the day as we waited for the tide to rise after 9 am, which gave us time to get the boat passage ready. Up anchor at about 10:30 and Naomi drove us over the bar, which only got down to 2.3m. Then main sail half out, keel down and we pushed out into the white caps grinding around the headland. We had a beam reach across the bay in about 15-20 knots, eventually brought all the main out and most of the gib and we were quite comfortable, rolling about occasionally.

Coming around Cape Bedford an hour or so later we turned more north and so now were on a easier going broad reach but still rolling at times. Passed Low Wooded Isle on our right and saw three sailboats anchored there. Also passed a couple of tankers but as we only skirted the shipping lane they were no concern.

A constant concern for us was that we were going to Lizard too late in the season to catch any remaining northerly winds to get back. We saw three yachts heading south along the way.... we saw no boats were going north.

By around 5pm we were rounding Cape Flattery, and the large pier for the japanese silica mine, and could see Lizard Island clearly on the horizon. Came over the bar north of the tip of the cape but as it was just past high tide the depth was never below 6.5 m and you wouldn't know it was there except for the depth sounder. Passed several yachts anchored in the first bay but shot on over to the second bay as we had read it should have less swell, and dropped anchor near a jetty for barge boats.

11/11/13 Woke to a dreary windy cloudy day and set off fairly early.

We saw the yachts in the other bay leave too... they all headed south.

We had planned to go to the lee of some reefs to reduce the waves but the wind was too much from the rear so took the less sheltered direct route, heading almost straight for Lizard. As we approached crossing the shipping channel there was a tanker coming down it that looked like it would collide with us but using the AIS it was clear we would not cross its path until it had passed 15 minutes earlier so no time was wasted adjusting course.

After a few hours of rolling along in the 15-20 knots breeze we were passing the islands just south of Lizard Island surrounding the aptly named Blue Lagoon, and then coming around to the beautiful Watson Bay where about 12 other boats were anchored. White markers outlined the edge of the reef though weren't really needed as it was easy to pick out its dark shape through the clear blue water, even with wavelets breaking the surface from the constant fresh breeze that comes across the island and bay. We dropped anchor down to the visible sand bed 6 metres below us and had a celebratory drink... we had reached our final destination for this cruise!

Like most days we stayed indoors over the early afternoon while the sun did it worst scalding, which usually times well with Alex's nap. After this we headed to the pristine long beach and had a splash about in the cool water.

Tuesday 12/11/13 I got into an irritated bad mood this morning so to escape the frustrating family headed up Cook's Look on my own. Its a steep climb to begin with up rock, but little steps have been cut out to help. The trail then moves through trees, stopping to look at the amazing Kalab pods, that were bursting out their fluffy innards, and the awesome views back down to our boat in the bay.

Near the top the vegetation becomes more bushy and I then arrived at the plaque and cairn marking the summit. It had taken me about an hour. Normally this spot offers spectacular views of the surrounding seas, reefs and mainland hills but today, like every day in our visit, cloud was sitting atop and I could really only see around the island. However these views alone were great, especially to the south and the magnificent aqua marine of the Blue Lagoon. Waited for a while to see if the clouds would clear but they didn't. Returned to Luna Ray uplifted and in better spirits. I did plan to climb this again if the sky was clear... in fact I did think I might make this
View of Watson BayView of Watson BayView of Watson Bay

from half way up Cook's Look
a daily exercise whilst here... I never did climb it again.

We had a late morning visit to the beach and took the short walk to the Watsons Cottage ruins (though apparently they are more likely the remains of a work shed), and passed the fresh water pump which we later visited daily for an outdoor shower. The Watsons were a family working on Lizard in the late 1800s, and were attacked by aboriginees. They killed and wounded another of their asian workers, forcing Mrs Watson and baby to take off with the wounded chinaman in a large tub. The drifted to another island about 40 miles away and eventually all died of thirst 9 days later. When their remains were found some months later they were returned to Cook Town and a memorial was put up in the main street, with a plaque inscribed with the last entry from her diary "No water. Nearly dead of thirst". Ironically the memorial has a drinking water fountain attached to either side of it... even more ironically when we tried to take a drink, it wasn't working!

The next 2 days were more relaxing. Took the boardwalk over mangroves, and climbed over Chinaman's Ridge and down to the resort. Walked over to their notice board to get the latest weather fax and could see the weather looked good for returning friday with 10 knot easterlies, earlier than planned but we would kick ourselves if there wasn't another good day for weeks. An american employee asked if he could help and then very tactfully told us the area was really just for guests. On our way out two female employees also asked if they could help and exclaimed how nice it was to see a young child as it is a kid free resort.... oops another rule broken! It was a bit of cloudy day with a light shower and we thought how annoying it would be if that was the day you spent the $1800 to stay at the resort. The girls told us most guests fly in on the charter plane that visits or just in their own private jet!

The next day we tried to get an early start and walked down the runway. Alex loved watching the two planes taking off, and we chatted to a gruff sounding guy in his 60s who told us he would be flying out too in a couple of days after his week's stay on a large and very flash looking motor catamaran that's anchored behind us. He explained it belonged to Bruce Mathieson, in a manner that assumed I had a clue who that was. He was generally obnoxious and abrasive so we didn't talk long. We took the path he had just come from that gently drops down into a bay at the Blue Lagoon.

It was a beautiful deserted bay and the gorgeous azure blue expanse was laid out in front of us. Had a little splash around to cool off and Alex got knocked underwater by the little waves coming in but didn't get upset. The wind dried us off and we headed back. It was now almost noon and the trudge up the trail and along the runway started to feel like a momentous desert trek, and was making Naomi grumpy.

Did some snorkeling on two days. Lots of colourful fish but the coral was pretty bland... perhaps this is the bleaching we hear about. That said there were 3 huge purple giant clams and down through their apertures it appeared like small cookies of luminescent gold were lying inside, while several clown fish mingled around the surrounding wafting anemonies.

Friday we were up early and the bay was still, leaving us floating on glassy clear water that was all-the-more transparent... a little eerie now that we were used to the constant breeze. We made the boat ready and headed around the west side of Lizard. As we came out from behind the shelter of the islands the wind was a pleasant 10 knots and stayed like this all day giving us a beautiful calm sail over small waves. We were on tight reach most of the day as the promised easterly never materialised until much later so the boat stayed fairly flat, it was easy to do things (I cooked bacon & eggs for breakfast, baked a loaf of bread and Naomi made banana muffins), Naomi didn't feel seasick and we were happily making good progress south at about 4-5 knots.

As I explained before we decided not to anchor at Cook Town to take advantage of the good conditions overnight, but that they soon deteriorated. The light winds stayed with me all night
Naomi's officeNaomi's officeNaomi's office

booking a berth at Port Douglas
and when it lifted above 6 knots it was a real treat as I would feel like we were sailing rather than just drifting. A few more tankers passed us and I was now on tenterhooks as to the wake they might send our way but it was hardly noticeable. As a result I didn't sleep and Naomi didn't have to take her shift. In the early hours the wind turned from the south-west and we slowly tacked closer to Port Douglas but motored the last 2 hours in so we could get to work rinsing the front cabin bedding.

We had just one night there, Naomi took 2 trips to the shops for provisions, washed clothes, the cushions are still drying and topped up fuel before we left early sunday afternoon. The trip out started well but as we headed more south the following wind dropped a little and wasn't always strong enough to keep the sails inflated as we rolled in the waves. Tried different angles and poling out the jib but still was much better. The last hour we motored to Double Island hoping to escape the swell by anchoring south of its surrounding
Hobo boat leaving Port DouglasHobo boat leaving Port DouglasHobo boat leaving Port Douglas

everything out to dry
reef, and it was promising to see another boat there however the waves seems be coming around from both sides. We could have stuck it out for one night but decided instead to motorsail further and get down the Trinity Inlet, Cairns. Entering the inlet in the dark was OK as we were pretty familiar with it now. We finally dropped anchor in our usual spot outside Smiths Creek just before 9pm and Naomi passed out straight after our later dinner. She later suggested we have a rest day tomorrow as she dragged herself to bed.

We didn't have a full rest day, just a shorter day. Motored out the inlet just before noon, straight into the wind which was in the low teens, veered right out of the line of shipping channel markers and had a very pleasant sail close hauled passed Mission Bay. As we came around Cape Grafton the wind became too weak so motored the rest of the way to drop anchor in Wide Bay with 4 other yachts. Was occasionally rolly but that improved overnight and we had a fair bit of light rain.


Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Watson's cottage remains ??Watson's cottage remains ??
Watson's cottage remains ??

Alex & Naomi on left, Luna Ray on the right
Sunrise after the night sail Sunrise after the night sail
Sunrise after the night sail

Taken by Naomi while had a nap

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