Tweet Manookatoo Adventures: Cruising on to Cairns

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

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