06/13/2013, Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef
How nice. (Understatement!) Dived off the boat into warm turquoise sea, snorkelled over coral full of giant clams 4-5 feet long, thousands of fish and crustaceans- (plus reef sharks, but they're only little!)
Climbed the 'mountain' just like James Cook, and looked out over the islands to the waves crashing on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.
Spotted big monitor lizards (and lots of little ones as well)- it isn't called Lizard Island for nothing. We hit the beach at 1630 every day for drinks with all the other cruising boats- some of whom we have met before crossing the Pacific, like Peter on 'Troutbridge', and some of whom are going 'our way' across the Indian Ocean to South Africa, like 'Boomerang'.
Oh dear, the weather forecast means we have to stay here for a few days.... it's a hard life!
Wanda arrived in Cairns on Sunday. We had a fine run 36 hours from Magnetic Island; 20 knots of wind up the chuff, calm and organised seas... lovely.
We anchored for the night but in the morning were told the holding was not good and several boats had dragged so, expecting stronger winds to arrive we upped the hook, parted with our 150 bucks and booked 3 nights in the marina. Showers, launderette and meeting up with some old cruising friends, all good.
Now to save a few of the ol spondoolies we have moved onto the ol farmers, we can stay a week for the price of a day in the marina. We use the dingy dock in the marina and there are showers at the adjacent infinity pool....result.
05/26/2013, Horseshoe Bay
Whoo! 2 deep reefs in the main, a scrap- a pocket handkerchief- of genoa- and we whizzed here at 6, 7, even 8 knots- which is going some for a heavy, little, steel boat like Wanda. A bit scary for us to be out in 25knots plus of wind- but the sea was quite flat and Wanda took it all in her stride.
Magnetic Island is just east of Townsville, and Horseshoe Bay allows us to tuck ourselves away from the forecast 25-30 knots of SE wind. Lots of other boats in the anchorage, very pretty; a pub, some cafes, fresh water and a free (cold) shower, and a foodshop on shore, plus a short but spectacular walk up the nearby hills- its quite delightful here. Little finches come and perch on our guardrails. We are trying to get up the nerve to use the promise of strong winds from behind and flat-ish seas to whizz up to Cairns- but it's so tempting to just stay here and have another cold beer or 3.
05/19/2013, Whitsunday Islands
We are at anchor off Airlie beach. This is a backpackers town. There are hundreds of young people walking around with huge rucksacks on their backs.
Kevin visited this town some years ago when driving down this coast with his daughter Pip. The backpackers rooms they stayed in are still doing brisk business.
Today Philippa went ashore to the launderette whilst Kevin stripped the Aries windvane... it didn't seem to perform very well at times on our last passage... but nothing wrong.. it seems to be in working order.. but the only real test is to sail a proper passage. Its the most important bit of kit on the boat. Our insurance company would normally only insure an ocean going yacht with 3 or more aboard; but if you have an Aries windvane they count it as another person... actually its worth more than a person as it can steer without any breaks 24/7!
We are planning to stay in this area for a few days as the weather is not favourable for sailing north and these cruising grounds are stunning.
We had sailed from Platypus Bay- well I say sailed, there was notalotawind so we motored, listening to the sound of heavy artillery over Shoalwater Bay military training ground. Maybe the guns had frightened and stunned the local wildlife because the boat was inundated with a plague of dying flies over the next 12 hours- they lay quite thickly all over the cockpit. Yuk.
24 hours of motoring later, as the sun rose, we turned west over the top of Middle Percy Island and got a fantastic bit of breeze so flew along closehauled on starboard tack- it's absolute bliss for sailors (and their wallets) to be able to turn their engine off and hear nothing but the gurgle and swish off water past the hull.
As we approached the anchorage in West Bay, we were yet again inundated with flying insects- but this time it was a hoard of large blue and black butterflies- an enormous cloud of them- quite magical.
Ashore is a large A frame shelter, with a fire pit and basic kitchen facilities. Visiting yachties leave a record of their visit on various bits of jetsam- there are hundreds of signs going back decades. We left ours- we used a toy tambourine.
There were a few other boats in the anchorage, including a tiny little red motor boat commanded by Craig 'Crackers' Hand (see Craig Hand Crackers on Facebook). Crackers is travelling from Darwin to Brisbane via Papua New Guinea in his 17 foot boat, recording his exploits and raising money/awareness for a remote tribe in PNG. He had caught 2 enormous crayfish/lobster type creatures, so that night a group of us including 'Seasprint' and the island caretakers had a fire/bbq party. I took my violin along, people seemed to like it- they said it was the first violin heard on the island! We all toasted my Charlie as it was his birthday.
I drunkenly agreed to go goat hunting the next day, but the wind picked up bigtime and by morning we were rolling so much that I felt seasick (or was I just hungover...) anyway, it was too risky to take the dinghy ashore so we spent the day on the boat, rolling so much we had to put the leecloths up on our sea berths in order to stay in them, watching other boats leaving and wondering if we were doing the right thing by staying put, or whether we were being wimps yet again.
We left in the wee small hours of Friday morning, and had a cracking sail to Airlie Beach- where we met up with Seasprint who had been hammered when they left, tearing the clew out of their genoa- so it was just as well we had wimped out!
As we came into the anchorage , we were welcomed by some dolphins- maximum 'aaww' factor as not only are dolphins intrinsically cute, (aaww )but these were a miniature variety (aaaawwww) with attendant tiny weeny baby dolphins no bigger than a foot long, valiantly keeping up with the boat and frolicking away! (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!')
We have good mobile phone type wifi signal- we are currently off the coast heading towards the Percy Isles or on to the Whitsundays. We have had quite a frustrating/challenging couple of days, the wind has been shifty and intermittent, fairly light but interspersed with the most torrential downpours of rain I have ever experienced in my life- which funnily enough only seem to happen when I'M on watch, not Kevin! Still, the sun's out now, dolphins are playing off the bow, there's a bit of wind so we are just about to put the whisker pole out and pole out our lovely brand new genoa to catch a bit of wind that's arrived. Better hurry, cos in ten minutes we'll be taking it all down again, knowing our luck! Kevin's fresh baked crusty white loaf for lunch.