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Published: October 22nd 2013
on way to Low Isles
Big Bird drying off after Alex threw him in the bilge
Woke to a dreary morning at Double Island and sailed off the anchor at about 8:30 in light winds. In fact as the winds fluctuated and lulled it became quite frustrating as it would leave us with sails flapping, and I cursed the wind gods. Fortunately after about an hour the wind picked up to about 10 knots and the clouds slowly cleared. This had us sailing north at about 3.5 to 4 knots, not very fast but very pleasant and at around 3pm we came around the west side of the Low Isles in bright sunshine. This was good timing as the large day-trip tour boats were just leaving.
The Low Isles are made up a mangrove wooded flat island and also a picture perfect coral quay complete with idyllic red and white lighthouse. The latter is of course the one you see on the post cards, a perfect circular island with a central wooded area fringed by a ring of sandy beach, surrounded by clear azure water and although the lighthouse looks too good not be some kind of Disney prop, its actually the oldest in northern Queensland. We tide up to the middle in a line of
three public moorings and as the wind built up and came more from the east an annoying swell came around at high tide and has us rolling about that evening.
We dinghy'd over to the beach and walked the "Interpretive Trail" under the sounds of the cooing pied imperial pigeons and then circled the whole island which takes about five minutes.
Back at Luna Ray we could see large fish circling the back of the boat including some sharks about a metre long. Later that night when I stepped out for a pee off the side of the boat I could still see the fish in the light of the full moon.
By the next morning the wind was now blowing about 20 knots and watched as the day-tour boats returned. We left the mooring hoping to drop the anchor in a more sheltered spot closer to the beach. After running over the mooring (!) we weren't happy there was enough room for us to anchor so returned to the inner mooring that was now available.
Despite the crowds we joined them on the beach and took turns in snorkeling and playing with Alex
in the water with his new arm-floats. You could reach the soft coral and fish within a few metres of kicking away from the beach. We both saw a turtle and when I followed the trail around the edge of the coral there was a great variety of colourful coral and some bigger fish, but further out the water became more murky as it was more exposed to the waves.
In the afternoon, we went ashore on the lesser visited mangrove covered "Woody Isle". The tide was low which exposed some narrow strips of land covered in broken coral and sand. Left the dinghy floating tied to a mangrove trunk and walked passed a shallow lagoon. I ventured through the mangroves across to the west side of the island, a little wary of what huge reptile might be lurking there. Came through to an open area which was a beach with more dead broken coral and piles of dead mangrove timber. Some large prolonged splashing came the lagoon which had Naomi nervous, and the exposed land was diminishing with the rising tide, so we headed back to the dinghy.
Next morning was windy and dreary, so
we set sail for Port Douglas. It was a boisterous beam reach across the 8 miles of sea, and a good relief to come into the shelter of Island Point as we entered Dickson Inlet and started passing the familiar waterfront landmarks of the town. We continued down the inlet and dropped anchor on the stretch after the trawlers. The wind was blowing down this stretch and the tidal current starting to run the opposite way which made steering in the narrow channel difficult. We finally got to the spot where we wanted to drop anchor and then we were weaving back and forth in the wind. I read in the Lucas's guide that holding can be poor in some areas and indeed not long after, it appeared we had dragged anchor as we were getting a lot closer to another boat.
Engine back on we went further down what was now Packers Creek, which was no longer on the chart plotter, and stopped near the far end of a small plop of land call Long Island.
Feeling more secure, we headed back to town on the dinghy, searching for a place to tie up and had to
resort to dragging the dinghy up at the public boat ramp and chaining it to a tree. Had lunch overlooking the inlet at some sort of surf rescue club next to the ramp -I think it was called The Tin Hut - couldn't really relax and enjoy it as Alex was running all over the place. Across the park we found the Sunday markets and then continued onto the waterfront park. Came back via Coles, lifted the dinghy back into the water and motored back down the inlet to SV Luna Ray and passed her to explore a little further down the creek.
Monday morning did some more exploring down the creeks. Was pretty cool flying around the bends of the narrow mangrove lined waterways. Came out at a golf course and then turned back when a small rail bridge blocked our path. Pulled the dinghy up and headed up the inlet to tie up at the marina.
We had a few chores to do - 2 loads of washing, defrost fridge, cleaning the boat, topping up water tanks and batteries, and exchanging a gas bottle. Port Douglas marina complex (previously Marina Mirage) has a few
waterside restaurants which were all closed by 7pm when I went for a shower that evening, and inside there's a small mall with most of the shops for either booking tours (many to the Low Isles) and tourist summer clothes, many others vacant and an architects office.
Toyed with the idea of the lunch time special at Hog's Breath but with Alex riding his skooter everywhere we knew it would be a bad idea so headed into town to hunt for a fish 'n' chip shop. Eventually found it off the main street but it was closed mondays, so Na ended up getting a pie and me a kebab. Sat in the park on the waterfront while Alex enjoyed the playground there.
Today we had a delivery from Coles - as Port Douglas has the last supermarket going north - as it happens the delivery actually comes from Cairns. Then had a stroll through town to the beach and up to the viewpoint. They were pretty casual about when we checked out of the marina so pushed off the dock about 1pm and went back up the inlet to anchor in exactly the same spot again.
Quite a few rain showers in the afternoon and once Alex was in bed for his afternoon nap, we closed the curtains and watched a movie.
Our plan is to head across to the Low Isles again tomorrow, and leave early the following day for a long leg north to Cook Town, perhaps stopping at Hope Islands along the way if conditions are good enough for us to dare to navigate our way through the reefs to the anchorage.
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