Tweet Manookatoo Adventures

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Island hopping #2 - snorkeling our way back to Cairns

Low Island
With the generator in action again, and conditions perfect on the water, we cast off from Port Douglas on Wednesday morning, bound for the Low Isles. We chose to anchor closer to shore than the public mooring available, enabling easy access to Low Island and the reef. We enjoyed our Mocka's pies for lunch - the seafood was particularly delicious but the kangaroo pie was a close second! As the tour boats departed for the day we went snorkeling - the coral was amazing and there were so many beautiful fish it was like swimming in an aquarium. As day turned into night, the island's caretakers took their kayak and paddle board to the water - it must be lovely to live in such an idyllic location, but I'll bet you get sick of tourists! 
Michaelmas Cay
On Thursday morning we woke before 5:30, pulled up the anchor and headed off around Wood Island and south. The swell rolled as we ate our breakfast, but soon after 10:30 we arrived at Michaelmas Cay, a small strip of sand almost surrounded by reef, where another public mooring was free for us to pull up - a challenge in the wind and swell. This is another popular spot for tour boats and, as it is also a bird sanctuary, there were a lot of people on a very small piece of sand, surrounded by thousands of birds! The noise was amazing (the smell a little less inviting). We took the dinghy ashore for a short swim and to see the birds up close. Most are  varieties of terns, of all sizes and colours. After lunch and a lazy afternoon, we headed ashore again - after the last tourist left - and enjoyed a short snorkel, however it was quite a long swim out to the coral and the swell was an impediment. The first mate was also put off by small jellyfish in the water - even though they weren't irikandji and we had our stinger suits on anyway. We returned to Manookatoo and contemplated swimming off the back, but a multitude of large fish and   some reasonable sized black sharks were hanging around! At least the breeze stopped us being too hot, and the breathtaking scenery was worth the visit.
Vlasoff Cay
On Friday morning we attempted our exercises on a rolling deck before breakfast, then we dropped the mooring and headed off, just 4 nautical miles today, to Vlasoff Cay, an even smaller sand island surrounded by reef. Both Cays are part of the larger Arlington Reef area, with beautiful white sand and many coral outcrops making the surrounding seas the most exquisite colours. A helicopter was on the Cay as we arrived and many others flew over as the day progressed - it must look amazing from the air. We took the dinghy ashore and went snorkeling - we swam west first but the reef looked quite dead in this area so we swam east where there was a lot more coral. The swell made snorkeling a challenge so we didn't last long, returning to Manookatoo for a well earned rest! No tourist boats come here, feeding the fish, so we were not hassled by big fish or sharks, and enjoyed an afternoon swim off the back of the boat. Another boat picked up a mooring in the late afternoon but apart from them we were all alone on the Coral Sea. 
Fitzroy Island
While conditions were a little "lumpy" overnight, it didn't stop us sleeping soundly and waking early on Saturday for a 5:30am departure, bound for Fitzroy Island. We made our way carefully out of Arlington Reef, turning south and passing Green Island before breakfast, then reaching Fitzroy Island at 9am, just as the first tourist ferry cruised in. We pulled up a mooring close to the reef markers, put on our snorkeling gear, and dived in! The water was so clear and the coral so lovely, to say nothing of the beautiful fish everywhere - it was magic! Later we took the dinghy ashore for a walk along the foreshore and out to Nudey Beach before returning to Manookatoo and enjoying a swim. After lunch we were snorkeling again, this time from the beach, but found it was nicer from the boat, with sections of dead coral nearer the shore. A couple of turtles swam beneath us - what a great treat! We returned to the boat to freshen up, then we cruised back to shore and Fitzy's bar in time for a Happy Hour drink before returning to Manookatoo, where we enjoyed our "usual" Saturday night three course dinner enjoying the balmy evening, then it was time for bed. 

With a lack of walking this week, we decided Sunday was Exercise Day, followed by a well earned swim! Later, we took the dinghy to shore and walked to the "Secret garden", a beautiful tropical grotto in the middle of the rainforest. After lunch and a laze, we donned the snorkeling gear again to further explore the beautiful reef so close to our boat, then dried off and dressed to go ashore for another "Happy hour" drink - what a great tradition! - followed by pizzas for dinner.
Our intention was to cruise into Cairns on Monday morning but the reef was just too inviting and we knew this was our last visit for this year, so we stayed put! After breakfast we decided to go for a "spin" around the island in the dinghy - the trip was a lot lumpier than we had anticipated and the first mate had quite a sore rear after bouncing up and down in the waves! We'd taken our snorkeling gear, hoping to find a quiet place, but were happy to return to Manookatoo and set out from there. Another lovely lazy day, with another snorkel and a final "Happy hour" at Fitzy's and we feel like we have really done Fitzroy Island justice! 
Nudey Beach
The captain was up and ready to go early on Tuesday morning and we cast off the mooring before 5:30am. We had breakfast as we rounded Cape Grafton and turned into Trinity Bay, entering the shipping channel just as most tour boats were heading out, and tying up at Port of Cairns Marina before 9am. The first mate had booked herself a massage, facial and pedicure, so she enjoyed a morning of pampering! The captain prepared a prawn lunch on her return, then the lagoon beckoned for a reviving afternoon dip. That evening we enjoyed dinner at Ala Turka restaurant on the Esplanade - a place we'd been to before - and it was just as delicious as we remembered. 
A busy place!
Cairns Lagoon
Wednesday was our last day exploring Cairns, so we started with a walk around the port and down to the Lagoon, planning a swim and not realizing that this was cleaning day and it didn't open til 12! Returning to Manookatoo for breakfast, we ventured out again and did our final shopping, then the first mate went to the Art Gallery and wandered the local shops before meeting the captain at the lagoon just after 12 for that much anticipated swim! We returned again after lunch, making then,oat of the opportunity before casting off our lines and cruising around into Trinity Inlet for a last night on anchor. We found a quiet spot near the entrance to Smiths Creek and spent the afternoon watching the multitude of working boats - tugs, naval ships, border patrol, bulk carriers, fishing boats - a very busy part of Cairns most tourists would be unaware of. Later we took the dinghy over to the Cairns Cruising Yacht Club for an afternoon drink, returning to the peace of Manookatoo for dinner and bed. 
The Navy meets Border Patrol
Thursday marks the end of November and the end of our cruising for this year. We are heading for Half Moon Bay, where Manookatoo will spend the summer/wet/cyclone season in Blue Water Marina, and we have a lot of work to do to get her ready before we head off: taking all the covers, carpet and cushions down from upstairs, hoisting the brig and fastening it on the upper deck, cleaning and wiping all surfaces to try and prevent mould growing, double tying all ropes in case of cyclonic winds. We hope to come back to a clean, dry and safe boat in March next year, and continue our cruising adventures!
Farewell Cairns!

The Captain's log: Port Douglas to Cairns "island hopping"
Distance: 78.2 nautical miles
Fuel: 86.9 litres

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Port Douglas - and Paradise

After 6 days "shore bound" at the marina at Yorkeys Knob by windy weather, we were happy to see a favourable forecast from Meteye, and on Wednesday morning, at 5:30am, we made our way back into Half Moon Bay. We followed the shoreline past Trinity Beach and Palm Cove, then took the channel between Double Island and Buchan Point (having watched the much larger Coral Expeditions cruise ship doing this two days earlier, we knew it was deep enough).
On our way to Port Douglas!
We cruised past Ellis Beach and Four Mile Beach, rounding Island Point and entering Dickson Inlet, or Port Douglas, just before 10am. Most tour boats had left for the day so we had no trouble entering Reef Marina, where we had arranged a berth. Port Douglas has always been a favourite place, as we had one of our first holidays, as well as our honeymoon, here. We were keen to explore, and walked along the waterfront and along Macrossan Street to Four Mile Beach, where we enjoyed a swim - inside the stinger net, of course - our first ocean swim in almost a week! We returned to Manookatoo for lunch, then ventured out again, taking the path to the lookout and returning along the foreshore. We enjoyed a late afternoon drink at the Port Douglas Yacht Club before dinner. We are fortunate to get a breeze off the water, as it is quite warm here!

Four Mile Beach
On Thursday we walked along the bike path and past Marina Mirage Resort to Four Mile Beach, where the captain enjoyed another swim but the first mate was put off by the amount of leaf litter and plant debris in the water - stirred up by the previous week's strong winds. We returned to Manookatoo for breakfast, then headed to Macrossan Street, to do some shopping together and for the first mate to have some "retail therapy". The shops at Port Douglas are either cheap touristy places or high end fashion/gift shops, so it was lovely to look but easy to resist buying anything. We enjoyed lunch at "The Tin Shed" Combined Club on the verandah over the water, then returned to Manookatoo and turned on the air-con; we don't use it very often but it was quite muggy! Later, as the breeze came in, we enjoyed sundowners on the Flybridge before dinner.
Approaching Low Island
Stinger season has begun
On Friday morning we enjoyed another walk to the beach and a swim - for both of us this time - then back to the boat for breakfast before we cast off from the Marina and headed out, bound for the Low Isles, 9.4 nautical miles away. There was a slight swell, with enough rolling waves to make the cruise interesting! We pulled up a public mooring not far off the beach, and were just contemplating a swim off the back of the boat when the sharks arrived - half a dozen reef sharks, lots of smaller sharks and quite a few large fish - enough to make us change our minds about a dip! The Low Isles is a popular tourist boat destination, and they feed the fish off the back of their boats as part of the tour - hence the attraction of marine life to our boat. We cruised ashore, anchoring away from the tourists, and enjoyed our first swim in Stinger Suits, then walked around the island checking out the lighthouse, keepers' houses and reef research shed, dating back to the 1920s, the first reef research undertaken anywhere in the world. It is bird nesting season, with many species from pigeon to tern to osprey choosing this as their baby raising location. It was lovely walking along the paths hearing all the bird sounds, and quite amazing how many birds there are on such a little island. After lunch we went ashore again, choosing a spot near where others had been snorkeling, and marveling at the beautiful coral and fish. Our best snorkel so far! As the afternoon wore on the tourist boats departed and we enjoyed a night on our own watching the Low Island light flash over the Coral Sea.
All alone at Snapper Island
On Saturday the first tour boat arrived just on 8am! We did our exercises, challenged by the swell, then had breakfast and motored ashore in the dinghy for another snorkel. The first spot we chose was too swelly, with little to see, so we moved and found a spot on our own to enjoy the coral and fish. Returning to Manookatoo we dropped the mooring, heading north just 7 nautical miles to Snapper Island, a much larger and higher island near Cape Kimberley, where we pulled up another public mooring. We motored ashore for a swim and reconnaissance - there are picnic and camping facilities here but it is much quieter than Low Island. We tried snorkeling on the southern side, near the camping spots; the coral was not very "clean" but there were some lovely fish. Cruising around to the northern side the snorkeling was much more rewarding, however as a consequence the beach was littered with coral and much harder to walk on, so we didn't venture far. As the sun set over the Daintree we marveled at the remote beauty that surrounded us.
Daintree River Ferry

After studying the tides and doing his research, the captain dropped the mooring at 7am on Sunday, and we cruised across the sea to the mouth of the Daintree River. With a dynamic (shifting) sandbar, we were keen to cross on a rising tide, and we watched the depth gauge drop steadily with some trepidation, following the entrance markers then keeping an eye on Google Earth and the "blue dot" as  we made our way upstream. We passed a couple of shoaling bends with very little under the keel, and the captain kept a "tracker" on the chart to make it easier to come out again! 9.5 kms upstream, the ferry to Cape Tribulation road crosses the river, and we anchored just after that for breakfast, before taking the dinghy to shore. Apart from tourist information signs and two croc tours, there is little here - Daintree township is further upstream. We decided we had seen enough and, with the day already warming, crocs in the river and the tide at its highest, we pulled up the anchor, returning downstream more easily with the aid of the captain's track and entering the Coral Sea again at 10:30. We made the 2.5 nautical miles trip back across to Snapper Island, and were amazed to see many small boats anchored near the sand on the south west side. This is obviously a popular destination for a "Sunday drive" for locals looking for a place to swim, fish, snorkel and relax on their own desert island! We were even able to help out one boat which had come from Daintree and was missing its bungs (they keep the water out) - champagne corks made an adequate replacement for the trip back - but I wouldn't fancy being in a boat taking in water as it cruised up that croc infested river! As the afternoon wore on, all the locals left, and we were alone in our tropical paradise again, enjoying a late afternoon snorkel before sundowners on the Flybridge, admiring the colours in the sky over the Daintree as the sun went down. The inky skies later that night also had us sitting on the front of the boat admiring the Milky Way before bed.
Sunset, Snapper Island
We have done very little walking these past few days so, conscious of maintaining fitness, we completed our exercises on a rocking boat on Monday morning, before a refreshing swim and breakfast. Later that morning we took the dinghy to the shore again for some more snorkeling - the coral is so beautiful here that, even though it was high tide and therefore not quite as close to see, it is hard not to enjoy looking at it. Returning to Manookatoo we dropped the mooring and headed back across the sea to the Low Isles. On the way across, the Captain mixed the dough for his delicious focaccia and left it to rise, to be cooked for lunch. We picked up a mooring at Low Island, then began to cook the bread before a swim and snorkel, but the generator refused to start! Suspecting another impeller had gone, we dropped the mooring and headed into Port Douglas, preferring to be able to get help if we needed it (this also enabled us to connect to electricity and cook the focaccia, which was delicious!) - but the captain was able to replace the impeller himself, problem averted. We walked up to the Combined Club in the afternoon, enjoying a drink on the balcony as we watched the antics on the boat ramp - always entertaining - then returned to Manookatoo for salmon dinner on the back deck.
View from the Combined club
A massive thunderstorm woke us in the early hours of Tuesday - it dumped 40mm of rain on the city! Drizzle persisted during the morning, but, undaunted, we took a bike ride along the tourist train track to St Crispin station, then rode a different bike track back to the boat. We then walked up to the shops to restock, returning to Manookatoo for a freshen up before going out for lunch at the Central Hotel. A lazy afternoon followed, with a sunset drink at Hemingways Brewery to finish off our time in Port Douglas.
Return to Low Island
On Wednesday we took an early walk around the streets, stopping to buy some Mocka's Pies - famous in this part of the world - to have for lunch. After breakfast we cast off from the Marina and headed down Dickson Inlet, back towards the Low Isles again! This will be our "final fun" week of cruising before we return to Cairns to prepare the boat for its summer hiatus, so we are off to explore some more of what the Great Barrier Reef has to offer....

Monday, 13 November 2017

"Chilling" in Cairns

Babinda Boulders
Cairns was always a milestone destination for us, being somewhere we have always enjoyed visiting, somewhere the First Mate lived for six months, and where we intend leaving Manookatoo for the cyclone season. We were pleased to land here last Sunday morning, knowing we had "arrived" four weeks before we needed to and looking forward to checking out all that Cairns had to offer us. This past week:
Palm Cove on a windy day
We've checked out the beaches, at Trinity Bay, Palm Cove and Yorkeys Knob, and enjoyed meals out at each of them.
We've checked out the marinas at Blue Water (where we will leave Manookatoo for the cyclone season), Half Moon Bay (overlooking the sea - lovely to visit but not suitable for the summer!), at Cairns Cruising Yacht Club and North Queensland Ports (the closest one to the city).
We took the bus into Cairns city, which has really grown since the first mate lived here 30 years ago - we enjoyed walking around the streets and visiting the shopping centre but the best place is the fabulous Lagoon. This is a favourite destination for many people, particularly in the warm and steamy weather, and we enjoyed floating around in the water before and after a picnic lunch on the lawn.
Busy Green Island
On a calm day, we headed out into Half Moon Bay, bound for Green Island, 15 nautical miles away. With the hot and humid weather, we were ready for another chance to swim in the sea and, even though the travel was going to take us longer than we would spend there, we felt it was a worthwhile cruise. Green Island is a very popular destination for tourist cruises, being so close to the city, and offers those who visit Cairns a chance to see the reef up close. There were lots of tour boats on the jetty or just leaving or on their way across from Trinity Bay, as well as many "glass bottom" boats, snorkelling groups and an underwater observatory boat cruising around near us. We pulled up a mooring in 42 feet of water, glad we didn't have to try and anchor, then headed across to the island, taking a walk around, noting the crowds of overseas tourists, and enjoying a swim at the beach before returning to Manookatoo and some peace and quiet! We had a leisurely lunch on the back deck, and the captain had another swim but the first mate was concerned about the fast current. We returned to "the mainland" in the late afternoon, enjoying the luxury of returning to the same mooring, where ropes were already tied and mooring was easy.
Mena Creek falls before the rain
We didn't see one!
Thursday was a windy day, the start of a pattern lasting the rest of the week. As we had been expecting this, we had booked a car for a couple of days, and soon after breakfast we took our small bag of clothes and headed south! On previous trips to Cairns we had travelled west to visit the Atherton Tablelands and Mareeba, or north to Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge, so we were keen to see what we could find south of Cairns. We stopped for morning tea at Babinda, enjoying a sausage roll from the bakery, then continued south, leaving the Bruce Highway at Innisfail and taking the more picturesque Cane Cutters Way through South Johnstoneville. We stopped at Mena Creek and admired the beautiful waterfall, then continued back down the hills and onto the highway again, stopping for lunch at Tully, "the wettest town in Australia". We retraced our steps over the river then headed east, along the Cassowary Way, but we didn't spot a cassowary, before we reached our final destination, Mission Beach. We had booked a night at the Rainforest Resort Motel, a quirky, old style motel amongst the trees, one street back from the beach. After settling in we took a walk around the town then enjoyed a swim in the pool. With quite a few restaurants to choose from, we finally settled on "The Pepper Vine", where we enjoyed a delicious Moreton Bay bugs and seafood pasta, accompanied by a couple of very large glasses of red wine. Quite a lovely meal!! We arrived home just before the rain started, and enjoyed a drink outside as the water cascaded down the roof.
Paronella Park
Kauri trees
On Friday morning we took a walk along the Ulysses track to Clump Point, once a farming area now returned to rainforest vegetation. Returning to the motel we enjoyed breakfast, packed the car and headed out, following the coastline and then returning to the highway at El Arish, then back onto the Cane Cutters Way and into the hills. This morning's destination was Paronella Park, a castle and gardens built in the 1930s by a Spaniard, Jose Paronella, who bought the land next to the Mena Creek Falls and proceeded to turn it into a fantasy ground, complete with forests of towering Kauris and waving Bamboos, with moss covered stairways, turrets and tunnels, a ballroom and tennis pavilion, all powered by his very own Hydro Electricity plant! It is an amazing place.
Mena creek falls after the rain!
Arriving early, we were lucky to get our own private tour of both the grounds and the hydro plant, as the place gets very busy as the day goes on. The rain overnight had swollen the waterfall and the creek and it was quite a spectacular sight. Leaving Paronella Park just after morning tea, we followed the Canecutters Way back to Innisfail, then continued north, stopping at the Babinda Bakery for pies for lunch, which we enjoyed beside "The Boulders", a popular swimming place with spectacular views over the boulders and rapids beneath the swimming hole. We walked along the creek and admired the view, then returned to our car for the trip to Cairns, stopping at the shopping centre to take advantage of having our own transport for stocking up the boat with food and drink. Once we had unpacked all our supplies we drove the car to the local shops, leaving it at the car rental depot and enjoying a delicious Thai dinner before walking back to the marina.
And on Sunday afternoon, we caught up with an "old friend" of the first mate's - Deszi had befriended her in Cairns 31 years ago and it was great to catch up again - swapping stories of our babies, now all grown up, and marvelling at how our lives had changed since then. Deszi showed us some of the beautiful sights from the hills around Cairns, including the fantastic view from her own house, before returning us to Manookatoo and enjoying a couple of drinks and a gossip with the first mate at the boat club. A lovely catch up!
So that was our first week in Cairns. The wind is forecast to abate tomorrow so we are planning to drop the ropes and head out again to explore more of North Queensland before we head south for the summer!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Cruising on to Cairns

Hinchinbrook Island
The Hinchinbrook channel is amazing. Soaring, craggy peaks, lush mangrove lined creeks, beautiful, wide waterways, it has it all.....but this also includes crocodiles, mosquitoes and sand flies!! 
We enjoyed Saturday night at Reis Point, tucked behind Haycock Island. With a fresh breeze blowing we were untroubled by too many bities. On Sunday morning the sun rose and so did the humidity, but with nowhere to get ashore to walk, and no swimming in the croc infested water, we did our exercises, raised a sweat, then cooled off under the Captain's ingenious sprinkler system, connected to the deck wash so it uses salt water and preserves our fresh water supplies. It was wonderfully refreshing!
Playing under the sprinkler

Soon after breakfast we raised the anchor and continued north. There are numerous creeks and estuaries coming off the channel, but we stuck to the main passage and enjoyed the deep, wide waterway. We arrived at "The Haven", also known as Scraggy Point, just after 10:30 and dropped anchor in reasonably shallow water, knowing this was low tide. As this is the only place on the west of Hinchinbrook with access to the beach, we took the dinghy to shore, mindful of getting out as close to the beach as possible! There are good camping facilities here, although the barbecue has been decommissioned - hopefully not forever. Returning to Manookatoo, we had another cooling "play" under the sprinkler, then enjoyed hamburgers for lunch. At high tide, in the late afternoon, we returned to shore, taking the track through the rainforest to a freshwater creek, where we enjoyed a dip in the cool, clear water. So nice - but the mozzies were fierce, so we were glad to return to our boat!
The Haven, Hinchinbrook
We ensured both doors were screened against insect attack, as there is no breeze here. The humidity was high as grey clouds gathered but we had no rain. 

The captain raised the anchor at 5:30am on Monday and we continued north, past the Port Hinchinbrook marina, destroyed in 2011 by Cyclone Yasi, it's entrance silted up, then we headed out of the Hinchinbrook channel and back into the Coral Sea. The water was silky smooth and just before 10am we reached our destination for the day, Dunk Island. We dropped anchor just off Pallon beach and motored ashore, where there is a jetty for tour boats, a small cafe, opened on weekends, and a campground. Further east there is a resort facing Brammo Bay, but this has been destroyed twice - first by Cyclone Larry in 2006, when it was rebuilt, then by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and since then it has not reopened, although there are signs it is being refurbished, including a clean, blue pool (but no swimming allowed!). We returned to Manookatoo for a swim and lunch, then later in the afternoon as the tide rose we took the dinghy around to Brammo Bay and walked through the rainforest to Muggy Muggy Beach. While this is the recommended snorkeling site, there are no reef markers and with a stiff breeze blowing onshore it was not appealing! Returning to Manookatoo we made a "Rockingham Bay Ragu" with the leftover meat from last Saturday night's roast,then sat outside enjoying the breeze before bed. 
Conquering the peak, Dunk Island

On Tuesday morning we had breakfast then motored ashore for the "challenging" walk to Mt Koolamatoo - 2.5km uphill! The view at the top was spectacular, and a sign explained how this site had been used as a radar station in World War 2. Soldiers had to hike up the hill and camp overnight as the track was too dangerous to return after dark! Making the downhill trek, we returned to Manookatoo for a very refreshing swim, then the captain lifted the anchor. Our next destination is Innisfail, on the Johnstone River,  and the entrance is only navigable on a rising tide as it is so shallow. It was a choppy trip across the sea, with small, sharp waves making it interesting! We entered the bar just after 4pm, with 5ft minimum depth below the keel, and followed the channel markers up to Innisfail, tying up just before 5pm. 
A quick walk around town then a quiet evening aboard - we put the screens down to avoid any insects during dinner, but could hear some "interesting" splashing in the water - crocodiles, perhaps? 

We spent three nights in Innisfail, enjoying this small town which is much more "local" than "tourist". Most of the town was destroyed in a cyclone in 1911 and as a result of the rebuilding it has the best examples of Art Deco buildings in Australia, including the magnificent Court House and Council Chambers, as well as the Catholic Church, which was severely damaged in Cyclone Larry but restored again by local artisans and Italian marblers. The sugar industry flourished here with Italian labour and the town reflects this in its history and culture. There is also a Chinese Joss House - many Chinese came out for the gold rush at Palmer River and made their way to richer agricultural areas like Innisfail when it ended. While there, we restocked with supplies from the local fishmonger and butcher as well as the supermarket and bottle shop, and enjoyed a delicious lunch at the local RSL club. 

Fitzroy Island
Leaving the Johnstone River at dawn
On Friday morning, as the tide rose, the captain untied the ropes and we headed back down the Johnstone River, following the track he had marked on our way in, into the Coral Sea. The coastline is beautiful - rainforest covered hills sweeping down to the sea, narrow bands of sand, the landscape almost entirely uninhabited. With smooth seas and the current in our favour, we rounded Fitzroy Island and picked up a mooring in Welcome Bay just after midday, as the tourist ferry departed the wharf.
"Nudey" beach
Fitzroy Island is a popular destination for day cruises and holidays from Cairns, as it is only an hour's cruise there. It has a more modest resort and welcomes casual visitors with a cafe and bar, several walks, equipment hire and lovely beaches and fringing coral reefs. After a swim and lunch we took the dinghy ashore and walked through the rainforest to "Nudey beach", where we enjoyed another  swim before the walk back. Welcome Bay is quite deep, and it's foreshore is all broken coral, which makes landing ashore or walking quite difficult - footwear is an imperative! Returning to Manookatoo and freshening up, we went ashore again to enjoy "Happy hour" drinks at Fitzy's Bar, then back to the boat for spaghetti for dinner and a reasonably early night. 

Conquering the peak, Fitzroy Island

The changing tide increased the swell's effect and woke us early on Saturday morning, so we had breakfast before going ashore. Another challenging summit walk awaited us - at a height of 289 meters it was the highest in a while, but the track was well formed, with a mix of rock and steps on the way up and a steep "road" down again. It was great to return to Manookatoo and hit the water! Lunch, another swim and a relaxing afternoon followed, with a walk through the rainforest to the "Secret garden" and sundowners at Fitzy's bar before our three course "Saturday night special" dinner aboard Manookatoo as the full moon rose over the island. 
Sunset, Fitzroy Island
The night was less rolly but the captain was still up early on Sunday, woken by the engines of the surrounding boats heading out for the weekends' spear fishing competition. We dropped the mooring just before 6am, heading north past Cape Grafton, Trinity Bay and Cairns city, rounding Yorkeys Knob just before 9am and following the Moon River up to Blue Water Marina. This is the only cyclone-rated marina in Cairns and we intend making this Manookatoo's home from December to March, so our plan was to visit and check it out in plenty of time. It ticks all the boxes! Now we have four weeks to explore the North Queensland coastline before we leave. 

Entering Moon River, Cairns
Captain's log: Lucinda to Cairns
Distance - 133.5 nautical miles
Fuel consumption - 153.4 litres
Travel time - 22 hours 40 minutes

Saturday, 28 October 2017

"Lazing" to Lucinda

We spent nine days in Townsville, with visits from Kirsty for two nights and the First Mate's parents for a week. It is always lovely catching up with family and exploring a new place makes it lots of fun! We toured the Jezzine barracks and the fascinating (and very detailed) war museum, drove up Castle Hill and along the northern beaches, visited Cotters Markets, filled up with fuel and food (and grog!) and dined out at a few nice venues. We also collect our mail, including a brand new inflatable rowboat! And we bought ourselves some Stinger Suits through Gumtree. All up, it was a great time, and the Townsville Cruising Yacht Club and its Marina is certainly very nice, right in the heart of town. 
Made it! Horseshoe Bay
On Monday, after we bade farewell to the parents, we dropped the lines and headed out of the marina and cruised back to Magnetic Island, returning to the beautiful Horseshoe Bay, where we dropped anchor. We put the new boat in the water and the captain rowed ashore, where we enjoyed a walk right around to the end of the bay, where we felt we had really earned a swim! Returning to the township, we relaxed with a refreshing drink at the Marlin Bar before rowing back to Manookatoo, where we enjoyed pizza on the back deck watching the lights of town twinkling in the distance. 
A rocky climb
Tuesday morning started with exercises and a swim before breakfast, then another row to shore, this time to walk across the ridge to the secluded Radical Bay. We were very hot by the time we arrived, so we really enjoyed the cooling swim before the walk back. Another well-earned swim, then the captain rowed us back to Manookatoo where we lazed the afternoon away! We watched the installation of a stinger net on the beach - November is the official start of the stinger season so they are getting well prepared, and with our new stinger suits we are ready too. 

Upwards to the Forts!
Wednesday saw us rowing to shore soon after breakfast for a bus trip to The Forts walk - 2.2km up the hill and back - complementing our visit to the barracks and museum in Townsville. It is fascinating to learn more about our recent history and experience it right where it happened. The walk was challenging enough for us, without carrying heavy equipment like army packs and such over rocky slopes! Returning to the bus stop, the captain suggested we walk to Arcadia instead of waiting - another challenging 2km expedition!! We trudged up and down the rocky hills, but the swim in the pool at the hotel (almost) made it worthwhile!! Returning to Horseshoe Bay and Manookatoo (by bus!) we had a very restful afternoon, after our very energetic morning. 
The view was worth the climb
Yanks Jetty
On Thursday morning, before the sun peeked over the hills, we raised the anchor to continue north, farewelling one of our favourite spots. Conditions were perfect, with no wind or swell, and we made good time, passing Palm Island and Fantome Island on our way to Orpheus Island. We spotted the empty Yanks Jetty, in the middle of a fringing reef, and squeezed between the poles to tie up, originally planning just to stay for lunch. We enjoyed an antipasto platter on the back deck, supplemented by salmon wraps given to us by friendly Americans staying at the local exclusive resort, who had kayaked around for lunch. Very nice! With beautiful beaches and reefs to explore, and no restrictions to staying on the the jetty, we decided to make this our overnight destination and properly secured the boat before taking a walk and snorkel on the beach. There is a lovely, new campground facing the water, with gas barbecue and hot plates, picnic table and composting toilet, it would be a perfect spot for "getting away from it all". As nobody was there, we were privileged to enjoy a peaceful afternoon. A beautiful sunset overlooking the water and the hills of the Queensland tropical coast followed. 
JCU research station
Friday morning it was time for exercises. Always a challenge on a rocking boat, we tried it on the jetty - a little more stable! A swim and breakfast followed, then we were off, bound north but not too far, passing the exclusive Orpheus Resort on our way. We anchored in Pioneer Bay, close to the James Cook University research facility and went ashore where Ashton, the acting station manager, took time out of her busy day to explain the work of the facility. They are preparing for an onslaught of researchers, coming to observe the coral spawning which is due to occur in the next couple of weeks. It is fascinating to see such a facility, and the large "coral bed" tank with its multitude of colorful corals and fish. We continued cruising along the coast of Orpheus Island, heading for Iris Point, where Ashton had told us the snorkeling was best. Unfortunately the mooring was missing, so we returned to Little Pioneer Bay,  picking up a mooring there and taking the brig ashore. The water is quite shallow for a long way out, but as the tide was rising we had no problems. This site also has camping facilities including a toilet, but no barbecue. We swam and snorkelled for a while, but the coral was pretty silted and grey, even though the fish and stingrays were very interesting. Later we cruised in the brig to explore coral in the centre of the bay - the captain ingeniously tied the brig to his leg while we snorkelled - it was just beautiful, lots of colour and different varieties, just what we've been looking for! High tide meant it was a fair way down, but we loved looking at it. Another lovely, lazy evening on the back deck followed before retiring early to bed worn out by the day's exertions. 

We have recently purchased and installed an opening insect screen on our back door - essential to keeping the inside cool and the insects outside! It's a godsend, however, on Saturday morning, as the boat pointed west and the sun rose, it was like a spotlight in our faces! Hence, we were up early, ready for our morning walk. There are no designated tracks at Little Pioneer Bay, but the first mate had done her research and found out about a walk to the "old shepherd's hut" and the hilltop, following plastic ribbons tied to trees, so we gave it a go. I think the "Shepherd" was probably a "Goatherd" as it is very steep and rocky and I doubt a sheep would survive! But sure enough, we found the old hut, and the view from the top of the hill, back to the bay or across to Palm and Fantome islands was worth the hike. Returning to the beach, we enjoyed a swim before returning to Manookatoo for breakfast. As the tide receded, we donned our snorkels and took our noodles, swimming across to the reef we had explored at high tide yesterday for a better look - and it was sure worth it, with the coral so much closer and the colours more pronounced, plus an abundance of beautiful fish and extraordinary clams. Oh for an underwater camera! By the time we returned to Manookatoo we were worn out from so much exercise, but after a reviving cuppa and another cooling swim, we enjoyed fish cakes for lunch before casting off the mooring to head across the bay. With a stiff northerly breeze it was a bouncy trip! We entered the channel past the 5km long conveyor belt that transports sugar to the waiting ships, eventually passing the terminal at Lucinda and entering the Hinchinbrook Passage, between the mainland and Hinchinbrook Island. With crocodiles in the region, there'll be no more swimming for the next few days, as we continue north.....
Lucinda sugar jetty - 5km long
The Captain's log: Townsville to Lucinda
Distance: 68.6 nautical miles
Fuel consumption: 77.3 litres
Duration: 12 hours 20 minutes