19 September 2021 | Mackay Marina, Mackay, QLD, Australia
11 September 2021 | Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, QLD, Australia
29 August 2021 | Little Pioneer Bay, Orpheus Island, QLD, Australia
27 August 2021 | Haycock Island, Hinchinbrook Channel, QLD, Australia
26 August 2021 | Brammo Bay, Dunk Island, QLD, Australia
23 August 2021 | Welcome Bay, Fitzroy Island, Australia
22 August 2021 | Marlin Marina, Cairns, QLD, Australia
20 August 2021 | Malanda Manor Guesthouse, Malanda, QLD, Australia
17 August 2021 | Malanda Manor Guesthouse, Malanda, QLD, Australia
13 August 2021 | Trinity Inlet, Cairns, QLD, Australia
04 August 2021 | Trinity Inlet, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
04 August 2021 | Welcome Bay, Fitzroy Island, QLD, Australia
03 August 2021 | Sudbury Cay, Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia
02 August 2021 | Flora Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia
01 August 2021 | Howie Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia
31 July 2021 | Eddy Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia
30 July 2021 | Taylor Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia
29 July 2021 | Beaver Reef, Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia
27 July 2021 | Brammo Bay, Dunk Island, QLD, Australia
26 July 2021 | Gayundah Creek on west side Hinchinbrook Island, QLD, Australia

Mackay Update

19 September 2021 | Mackay Marina, Mackay, QLD, Australia
Alison Stocker | Photo: Alison’s 60th birthday dinner at Broken River Mountain Resort
It is Sunday afternoon (19th September) and we are rushing around in Mackay Marina getting the usual assortment of tasks done before we leave tomorrow morning on the next stage of our southern migration. We hope to get to Island Head Creek or Port Clinton to shelter from some strong southerly winds, then maybe continue out to the Capricorn Group of the southern Great Barrier Reef for our last snorkeling for a while. If this occurs, we may be out of cellphone range for a week or two. Although we are feeling much more confident about getting to Moreton Bay by 25th October, we want to get a bit closer before we can really relax.

It has been a busy week since we left Magnetic Island. Our passage started rather slowly, pushing into the wind and waves, but conditions calmed down late on Sunday evening. The following morning, it was almost glassy as we motored through the Whitsunday Islands and we were so far ahead of schedule that we could stop for a short night at Goldsmith Island.

We arrived in Mackay (pronounced Mack-eye) Marina on Tuesday morning, rented a marina car for the afternoon, visited the town’s Botanic Gardens, then packed our bags. As a treat for my 60th birthday, since the weather was not conducive to snorkeling on the GBR and none of our friends were around, we rented a car for three days and went due west inland.

We stayed for three nights at the Broken River Mountain Resort near the community of Eungella (pronounced young-guh-la) and right next to the Eungella National Park. We had perfect weather, saw spectacular scenery, watched amazing wildlife, enjoyed lovely hikes, and had a delicious birthday dinner at the resort, including the complete surprise of a bottle of bubbly kindly ordered for us (presumably over the phone) by Anita and Mike! I had a marvelously memorable day and greatly appreciated the many birthday greetings from around the world. Thank you!

You know the drill...more details and photos to follow...

Waiting while it blows

11 September 2021 | Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, QLD, Australia
Alison Stocker | Photo: Eye-to-eye with a koala in a tree off The Forts Walk
After 14 days in Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island, we are getting a little antsy to get going again. We have our fingers crossed that we should be able to leave on Sunday morning (12th September) and make our way to Mackay Harbour. So far, we spent two weeks in Cairns after learning from Australian Border Force (ABF) about our 25th October deadline to be in Brisbane, and it looks likely to be two weeks at Magnetic Island. In theory, even if we can only make leaps of about 150 -200 nm every two weeks, we should be able to get to Moreton Bay by our deadline. Hopefully, wind conditions should improve both as we get further south and as spring, with its October northerly winds, arrives. Cairns and Magnetic Island have been excellent places to wait-out the strong southeasterly trade-winds, so I hope that we can find somewhere equally safe and interesting after our next one-to-two day jump.

Waiting for a gap in the southeasterly trade-winds, we saw an unusual cloud formation with a round gap in the clouds at dawn

What has been so great about being stuck in Horseshoe Bay at Magnetic Island?
Let me count the ways...

1. Safe and reasonably comfortable anchorage
With southeasterly winds gusting up to 32 knots and steadily above 15 knots for days, it has been good to be anchored fairly close to shore so the waves are not uncomfortable. Our anchor has held firmly in the sandy sediments and no one has dragged towards us.

We did watch a mid-sized cabin-motorboat drag out to sea during one of the windiest spells, but a couple of local guys went out in a trailer-powerboat to stop it, presumably by letting out more anchor chain. It was rough enough that they had to jump into the water then climb into the runaway vessel rather than try to step from one boat to the other. They returned later with a third person, who was able to start it and return it to the anchorage where it has remained since. Randall was one of several people who called the Townsville Coastguard but, like many others around us, in the rough conditions outside the Bay we were hesitant to try to do anything from our little inflatable dinghy. Chances were high that, without the ability to start the motor of the dragging boat, we would need rescuing next. Considering there have been about 80 or so boats in the Bay most days, having only one problem boat is not bad.

Our chance for redemption came 10 days later, when we noticed a kayak drifting out to sea. This we could handle! So we launched our dinghy and chased after the kayak. It was before 7 am so there were not many people around to notice that they had lost it. We put out a message on the VHF radio with no response, so we took it to shore and left it next to another, apparently abandoned, kayak well above the high-tide mark. We had noticed a large motor-vessel with an identical kayak on the back but no one appeared to be awake. When we returned to Tregoning, we were going to stop at the motor-vessel but it had gone. Luckily, it not only had a memorable name, but its own website as a charter boat. We called the number and the grateful captain told us that he had lost a kayak and he would arrange for someone local to keep it for him until he returned a few days later.

On the topic of charter boats, the three-masted luxury schooner Southern Cloud followed us to Magnetic Island and anchored nearby. For a few nights, somewhat less well-appointed accommodation appeared to be available on three boats that also anchored near us. These were army landing-craft that had perhaps been involved in some sort of exercises at the nearby Halifax Bay Bombing Range.

The first of three army landing-craft that anchored near us

Horseshoe Bay can be prone to swells wrapping around from anywhere north of due east or west, which can lead to boats rolling. This is not a so obvious when the wind is strong from the southeast but did set us rolling a bit during the rare and short-term lulls. Still, it was quite tolerable and we have been in much worse conditions.

2. Excellent company
We entered Horseshoe Bay about 1 hour after Laura and Dick on SV Maia arrived from Cape Bowling Green (to the south). We had not seen them since April, so it was fun to trade news. We were able to anchor fairly close to Maia and near a boat called Tobyrruf (the name has a long story related to being read backwards...). Kara and Levi had just started cruising this year and Laura and Dick had become mentors for them. The four of us enjoyed various social gathering together, including a game of the famous Maia Chicken-feet dominoes.

Laura, Randall, and Dick on one of our hikes on Magnetic Island

Kara and Levi left after a week for an overnight sail to Cairns, where they are to attend Levi's sister's wedding. Laura and Dick are planning to head that way around the same time that we go south. Also heading north, Rachel and Adam arrived a few days ago on SV Lady Annabelle and we enjoyed getting together for sundowners to hear what they have been up to since we last saw them at Great Keppel Island.

Then at the last minute, as we were resting at a picnic table after our hour-long walk or run this morning, who should come walking towards us but Cheryl and Mark from SV French Curve. They had arrived the previous afternoon and this morning had seen Tregoning without her dinghy, so they knew that we were ashore. We had assumed that they were still in the Whitsunday Islands so it was great fun to see them even if it was just a brief get-together. They have not been this far north before in their boat so we tried to give them a quick rundown of joys of Magnetic Island and the reefs and islands on the way to Cairns. They had been planning to fly back to the US in September but after that flight was cancelled, they rebooked for October. Now that flight has already been cancelled and they were told to try again after 30th November. This is despite paying $5,000 for two one-way tickets!

3. Convenient dining and buses to stores
The lunchtime dining opportunities in Horseshoe Bay are quite pleasant, from fish and chip and bar food to a couple of gourmet cafés. There is a convenience store, for the things you really cannot do without, and the buses run about hourly to Nelly Bay which has an IGA supermarket, hardware store, etc. I had managed to resist patronizing the local gelato café for about 12 days, then I planned to have that treat yesterday, on our return from Nelly Bay. And after waiting two weeks, did I indulge in a triple cone? NO, their freezer had broken down...agggh! We should have offered to eat all of their melting ice-cream but they seemed sure that the electrician would be arriving sometime that afternoon. When we returned hopefully this morning...they were still trying to re-freeze the gelato. Apparently, it was just not to be, so I had to settle for a packaged ice-cream from the convenience store...

Dinghies and kayaks on the shore near the bus stop in Horseshoe Bay

4. Excellent trails for hiking and running
Randall and I have been glad to get back into a bit of a routine of heart-healthy walking and running, respectively, around Horseshoe Bay. There are enough local roads and trails to give us some variety away from the main road.

We have also enjoyed further hiking on the National Park Trails particularly in the company of Laura and Dick, and sometimes Kara. We enjoyed the hike up to The Forts early in our stay. The weather for this was not as pleasant as it was in July, with grey skies eventually showering us with a light drizzle. This rather reduced the views from the top, but it did not prevent us from finding four adult koalas, one of which had a good-sized joey (all marsupial babies are joeys, not just kangaroos).

A sleepy koala seen from below at The Forts

Another morning, Laura, Dick, Randall, and I took the bus to The Forts, but this time we started walking in the opposite direction. With a light mist to keep us cool for part of the climb, we took the 6 km (4 mile) National Park trail to Nelly Bay. This was the opposite direction from when we had done this walk with Anita and Mike in 2020. Eliminating part of the climb by starting at The Forts, Randall decided that this was definitely the better way to go!

Part of the anchorage in Horseshoe Bay seen from the Nelly Bay trail; red arrow shows Southern Cloud with Tregoning nearby

Arriving in Nelly Bay we went out to the breakwater on the north side of the harbor entrance. From here, we could watch the start of the first race of Magnetic Island Race Week. It was a grand sight to see so many yachts of various sizes tacking back and forth in the strong breeze. We were not really sure of the location of the start line or course, but it was fairly obvious when each class of boats changed from milling around to heading off in the same direction.

Race yachts accelerated across the start line (wherever it was) in the first race of Magnetic Island Race Week

There was a wide variety of sizes of boats including both monohulls and catamarans. Some were clearly highly competitive race boats, others were enthusiastic cruising boats with solar panels and other items not strictly needed for racing. In the stiff wind, we would have had reefs in the mainsail and jib, but the conditions did not put these racers off using their full sails. In most cases, this was used to good effect but one small boat apparently was over-powered and before the race had been started, was limping back to the marina with a broken mast. Closer inspection as we walked past the marina suggested that the mast had broken in half on a section that had been previously repaired. The crew were apparently undaunted because we watched them carrying the mast to a workshop to get it repaired within a couple of hours!

The dismasted vessel (center) surrounded by other race-boats as a tanker passes in the ship-channel from Townsville

While standing at the designated viewing area on the breakwater watching the race-boats, Randall noticed that we too were being watched. Our observers were a couple of allied rock wallabies (a.k.a. weasel rock-wallabies).

An allied rock-wallaby (to 70 cm or 28 inches) on the breakwater rocks

These were the elusive creatures that we had failed to see when we walked from Arcadia to Nelly Bay in July. As we looked closely, we realized that there were several more scattered across the breakwater.

Where's wally? There are nine rock wallabies in this view of the breakwater with the closest being in the bottom left corner...

These diminutive jumparoos, have thick fluffy fur, long eyelashes, and much thinner tails than kangaroos. This species is endemic to the central latitudes of Queensland and tends to live in small colonies.

The long eye-lashes and whiskers of an allied rock-wallaby

Although most of the rock wallabies stayed in rock crevices, in the shade and shelter from the wind, we were able to watch a couple hopping across the rocks. Sadly, I did not manage to capture it on video but there was no hesitation as they bounded from rock to rock. Although they are naturally nocturnal feeders, we concluded that someone must have been feeding them for them to be so fearless. One came right up to the railing around the viewpoint but it did not receive any hand-outs from us.

An allied rock-wallaby poised to start hopping apparently effortlessly across the boulders of the breakwater

Another morning, Laura and Dick joined us as we took the National Park trail from Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay. I had made the detour there on my own back in July but Randall had not been to this particular beach before.

The creek on approaching Balding Bay

Like many other bays on Magnetic Island, Balding Bay has an attractively curved sand beach bordered by headlands of granite boulders topped with Norfolk Island pines and casuarina. Unlike most other beaches, it appears that many people regard this as a clothing-optional beach. We were unaware of this until several men emerged from the water without the clothing option.

The beach at Balding Bay

5. Wildlife and birding
As will have already been made apparent, one of the reasons that we love Magnetic Island is because of the opportunities to see wildlife such as koalas, agile wallabies and, now, allied rock-wallabies. There did not seem to be quite as many butterflies as last year but perhaps that is because it is a bit earlier in the year.

Blue tiger butterflies on the flowering spike of a grasstree

On the walk to Balding Bay, we spotted at least two thin snakes winding between the rocks alongside the trail. One of them was certainly a collared whip snake and the other was likely to be the same or a similar whip snake. This species is venomous but is not considered dangerous to humans. A bite could be very painful with much local swelling but is unlikely to be deadly.

Collared whip snake seen on the Balding Bay trail (to 70 cm or 28 inches long)

We have only seen one other wild snake before in Australia (larger but unidentified in Victoria) but given that there are some deadly species around, we are quite happy to keep the number of these interactions low. We are much more likely, and happy, to see various lizards, of which Australia has a very diverse fauna. There are five families: skinks, dragons (like the water dragons), monitors (a.k.a. goannas), geckos, and flap-footed lizards (a.k.a. legless lizards or snake-lizards). We have seen examples of each family expect the last one.

An unidentified skink (about 10 cm or 3 inches long) seen on the Balding Bay trail

Of course, we have also been looking for birds. For example, on our Balding Bay walk we identified 16 bird species, and walking around the outer neighborhoods of Horseshoe Bay we recorded 27 species. These included wedge-tailed eagles, osprey, Pacific baza, bush stone curlews (bush thick-knees)...

...female red-tailed black-cockatoo (to 61 cm or 24 inches)...

...male figbird (to 29 cm or 11 inches) with particularly bright red skin around the eye...

...and male blue-winged kookaburra (to 46 cm or 18 inches).

On our provisioning trip to the grocery store in Nelly Bay with Laura, Dick, and Rachel, we got off the bus in Arcadia and met Maryanne from SV Begonia, who led us along part of the trail back towards The Forts. The reason for this detour from the otherwise direct trail to Nelly Bay was because at a particular spot she had twice previously seen two southern boobook owls (named for their boo-book call). While we were all peering around in the trees, she redirected our gazes to a little cavern under an overhang of soil and roots.

A pair of southern boobook owls (to 35 cm or 14 inches) roosting in a shady cleft in the hillside

It was amazing that she ever noticed these owls because, from most angles, they were hidden by tree branches and leaves closer to the trail. We could get a good view from one particular position and we all had a good look with the binoculars and our cameras. Despite being common, we had not seen any owls since we arrived in Australia, so Randall was particularly excited about this sighting. We were very appreciative of Maryanne's keen eyesight.

With seemingly a bit of a frown, one of the boobook owls decided to stare back at us

Of course, we have also had plenty of boat projects to keep us busy during the last two weeks, such as me writing the blog and Randall varnishing the cockpit table. We thought that we might be able to leave last weekend but with a pressure trough passing through, the forecast looked a little dodgy after we passed Cape Bowling Green. With little to do ashore there, we did not want to risk stranding ourselves for a week or more. We were not quite that desperate yet.

We also had a day of roller-coaster emotions when we received an email from the ABF saying that as our Control Permit was expiring in October, they were letting us know that our three options related to the boat were to: import, export, leave the country. Agggh!

What happened to the "Restricted to Port" option in recognition of the extenuating circumstances" of the pandemic?

We first heard about this email when the phone rang one evening as we were watching a movie. It was Phil (SV Silhouette) and Al (SV Irie II) on a three-way call, having just received the same email. They had also previously been advised about the option to be "Restricted to Port", so we were all shocked and frustrated that the policy seemed to have changed for a second time. Initially, we had been advised by the ABF that there might be three-month extensions to the Control Permits. In fact, this was why we had felt that it was reasonable to go all the way to Cairns. Once there, we had asked again and learned that the extensions could not be permitted within the existing legislation. Instead, we would be "Restricted to Port" but would not be required to immediately import the boat, as would occur in normal circumstances. That was why we had left Cairns in a hurry and were trying to get to Brisbane, as a safe place south of the cyclone belt to be "Restricted".

The cyclone warning sign at Nelly Bay...we want to be sure to get somewhere without such signs for the summer

Now it appeared that we would have no choice but to import the boat after all, as we could not leave just before cyclone season with nowhere safe from Covid that would accept us, and too late and expensive to arrange to export Tregoning. Needless to say, the next morning we spend an hour or so composing a polite but frustrated reply to ABF explaining what we had already done to try to comply with their earlier policies and asking whether the option to be "Restricted to Port" had really been rescinded.

Quite promptly we received a reply saying that, of course under the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, the option to be "Restricted to Port" was available as we had previously discussed. We could think of a few choice things to say in reply, having spent the last 20 hours trying to work out where we could best get the boat valued and submit the paperwork for importation. But, we responded that we were very grateful for this provision and would continue making our way to be in Moreton Bay by 25th October.

We assumed that the confusing email that precipitated this latest exchange was an automatic message that was always sent as Control Permits approach their expiration dates. All seems to have ended well but it was a reminder that even though we have been far less impacted than most people in the world by the pandemic, like many others, we do have a cloud of uncertainty hanging over us. We have no idea when or how quickly the gracious provisions of visas and restraint from imposing the importation taxes will be lifted and our pandemic tenure in Australia will have to end.

An unusually straight border of clouds that continued from horizon to horizon at sunset

So, now that we are sure that we are continuing our southward migration, the forecasts look good for departing from Magnetic Island tomorrow. This will be two weeks after we made a 4 am departure from Little Pioneer Bay, Orpheus Island. After that departure, we motor-sailed for 45 nm to Townsville Breakwater Marina where we filled Tregoning up with diesel and got petrol for the dinghy. As we squeezed onto the fuel dock, we almost touched the bow of another boat. When they came to leave, we moved Tregoning as far forward as possible and I helped to push their bow off the dock, but in a strong gust of on-dock wind, they scraped gently alongside Tregoning's aft port side. Randall and their crew member were able to stop the boats from damaging each other but we made sure that no one else tried to join us on the dock before we were ready to leave.

Now we are loaded with food and fuel and can "make water" once we get out to sea, we hope to get to Mackay before the southeasterly winds strengthen again. We have not been to this harbor before, so we plan to stay in the marina for a few days, rent a car, and go inland to Eungella National Park. If we are delayed for some reason, there are plenty of places to hide in the southern Whitsunday Islands. We were sad to say goodbye to Laura, Dick, Rachel, and Adam, who are using this reduction in winds to continue north and visit the reef. We are also sorry not to be spending more time with Cheryl and Mark. But chances are that we will see them all again in Moreton Bay during the summer, and we have thoroughly enjoyed sharing with them our magical time at Maggie Island.

Crowded clams and scenic splendor

29 August 2021 | Little Pioneer Bay, Orpheus Island, QLD, Australia
Alison Stocker | Photo: The northeast coast of Orpheus Island and Pelorus Island seen from our hike
Having missed seeing SV Kalliope at Dunk Island, it was starting to seem that most of our cruising friends in Australia were now either north of us or far south in Moreton Bay or Tasmania. During our evening at Haycock Island, however, we were very glad to hear that Laura and Dick on SV Maia were heading north from the Whitsundays. If all went well, we would likely meet them at Magnetic Island, which was very encouraging. There were days when I felt frustrated about having to move south during the exact calm conditions that would otherwise have allowed us to go out to the Great Barrier Reef to snorkel. So, the idea of having fun hiking companions at Magnetic Island, while we waited for the next lull in the trade-winds, was appealing.

Before we got there, however, we had a couple of days in which we could explore a new location that many people had recommended to us, Orpheus Island. So, we left Haycock Island around 9 am on Friday (27th August) which would allow us to leave the shallow southern entrance of the Hinchinbrook Channel on the flood tide just before high tide. After that, we had to motor straight into the east-southeasterly wind but it was only for about 8 nm. The wind was about 12 knots but Pelorus and Orpheus Islands protected us from the swell and the worst of the wind-waves, so it was not too bad. We arrived at Little Pioneer Bay at 2 pm to find all four public moorings occupied, so we anchored where the bottom looked flat in about 9.5 m (31 feet) of water.

We immediately launched the dinghy and donned our snorkel gear with the intention of finding the giant clams that had been cultured near the James Cook University Research Station. I was keen to get in the water while it was sunny, so we postponed going ashore to visit the Station until the next day. Identifying a place that Lynne on SV Mischief had recommended just south of the entrance to the channel for the Research Station, we tied up to a dinghy mooring. Leaning over the side of the dinghy before reaching the mooring, I had seen some very pretty coral gardens in fairly shallow water which looked like a good place to snorkel. However, once I was in the water I realized that the visibility was very poor (no more than 5 m or 16 feet), so I advised Randall that he would not enjoy it and started a fish survey. After 10 minutes, he let me know that he had seen a shark from the dinghy. Although the shark was not particularly big or threatening, I did not like knowing that I might be startled by it in the poor visibility. I had seen only a few clams and it was difficult to take photographs of fish in the murky water, so, reluctantly, I abandoned the snorkel. Despite its short duration, I manage to record 35 fish species during my survey, including several good-sized coral groupers.

A giant clam (about 50 cm or 20 inches wide) seen during my brief snorkel

On our way back to Tregoning, we tried to find the patches of giant clams that Lynne had described, but with no luck. A large red catamaran, SV Archer, had anchored behind us and as they made their way to the nearest beach in their dinghy, they stopped by to say hello to fellow Americans. Elizabeth and Seth and their three children (ages 8 to 11) were, like Randall, from California. They had been caught in Fiji by the pandemic and, after surviving category 5 severe Cyclone Yasa in December 2020, had been only too happy to undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine when allowed to enter Australia early in 2021. They seemed to be glad to see us as we were one of very few American boats they had seen in Australia.

The following morning, despite being a fairly low tide that caused us to have to wade ashore pulling the dinghy, we went to visit the James Cook University Research Station. Several cruisers had told us that the staff enjoy having visitors, so even though it was a Saturday, we thought that we would see if anyone was available. We arrived to find a group of seven adults and assorted children from Southern Cloud (the luxury schooner that was also anchored in the Bay) at the end of a tour. Not wanting to interrupt, we stood to one side and, with apologies, eavesdropped on the last part of the speech by Bec, the Station Manager. The crew member from Southern Cloud who had brought the guests ashore, had known Bec from another research station, so it seemed that she was particularly keen to talk to them about Orpheus Island.

Approaching the James Cook University Research Station

After the Southern Cloud crowd had left, I suspected that Bec would not have the time or energy to talk to us as well, but I was wrong. She was waiting for the tide to come in further before they could take one of their research vessels out, and she was a women with apparently boundless enthusiasm. We had Bec’s full attention for about 30 minutes while she showed us the outdoor facilities, and answered our many questions about the Great Barrier Reef, corals, giant clams, research programs, and Orpheus Island. She was fascinating and very welcoming, a fabulous and relaxed ambassador for the Station and University.

Bec and Alison

She gave us directions to find the giant clam beds (much closer to shore than we had looked previously). When we asked about recommended hikes on the Island, she warned us that the trail from the Station was quite arduous, but recommended the trail from the beach on the north side of our anchorage. She was so wonderful that I was very glad that I had brought with me a package of raspberry oatmeal bars which I had baked the night before. It was just a small gift of appreciation for her time but she seemed genuinely pleased by this gesture.

As we returned to Tregoning, we found the patches of densely packed giant clams that remained from a former research project. It would have been fun to have snorkeled on them if the water clarity and depth had been better, but they were still impressive from dinghy. When smaller, the clams had been cultured at much higher densities than would naturally occur. As a result, many of them had died but the empty shells still crowded the living clams. Bec mentioned that they were hoping to get a grant to remove the dead shells to provide the surviving clams with more room. In the breezy conditions, my photograph of the clams from the dinghy was not very good, but a better idea can be gained from the “Classroom on the Reef” video at:

The densely packed giant clams seen from the side of our dinghy, only the few with white rims to the shells are alive

The water visibility as still not very good, so we decided to go for hike after lunch, rather than trying to snorkel again. Leaving the dinghy on the beach at the north end of Little Pioneer Bay, we followed a narrow trail that started beside the National Park Campground’s picnic table. Winding through the woods and then up to the top of the ocean-side ridge, the path was well-marked by many pieces of pink flagging tape and a few stone cairns. We did not see or hear many birds in woods, other than getting a good sighting of what I was sure was a satin flycatcher. It was a male with dark blue and white plumage but I did not have time to catch a photograph of it before it flew. This was a pity because when Randall entered it on his e-bird survey, it was questioned whether we were sure that this sighting was not a leaden flycatcher which is much more common in this area. Despite the leaden flycatcher typically being greyer than the satin, apparently these species are easily and frequently confused. Without a photo to submit in support of our claim, or to allow us to evaluate other distinguishing characteristics, Randall, sadly, had to remove this observation from our meagre list.

Randall enjoying the view south across Orpheus Island, with the ocean on the left and the boats (including Tregoning and Southern Cloud) in Little Pioneer Bay on the right

Even if the bird-life was rather subdued on our hike, the scenery definitely did not disappoint. As we reached the top of the ridge, we had magnificent views both to the west over the boats in Little Pioneer Bay, and to the east on “The Wild Side” (Bec’s term for the ocean side). The water was much clearer on the ocean side so we could easily see the rocks and reef just off the shoreline. It was a breathtaking vista that made the hike well-worthwhile, and it whetted our appetite for the various hikes at our next destination, Magnetic Island.

Looking south along “The Wild Side" of Orpheus Island

Passing the early morning

27 August 2021 | Haycock Island, Hinchinbrook Channel, QLD, Australia
Alison Stocker | Photo: Randall preparing to drop the anchor northeast of Haycock Island
Leaving Dunk Island at 7 am on Thursday (26th August), we motored south 21 nm to the north end of the Hinchinbrook Channel. As we were leaving Brammo Bay, we received a phone call from Deb and Gregg on SV Kalliope, who were heading north from the same anchorage. They had arrived the previous day, while we were on our long hike, but we did not notice their boat when we returned from the Island. Similarly, they did not notice Tregoning until they saw our AIS icon, which only appeared once we were underway with the chart-plotter turned on.

It was a great shame that we missed seeing them as Deb and I greatly enjoy trading stories and photos of marine life that we have seen. They were hoping to visit Beaver Reef before going north to Cairns, so we wished them well. Although we arrived in Australia about the same time, they had already imported their boat as they were planning to sell her and return to the US. The pandemic had caused them to delay that plan but, unlike us, they were not going to be “Restricted to Port” after the three-year anniversary of their arrival.

Image of Hinchinbrook Island and mid-Channel from our chart-plotter, showing the creeks winding through the mangrove-flats from the Channel to the base of the mountains, with Gayundah Creek (where we spent a night on our way north) third from the right

Once in the Hinchinbrook Channel, we had an uneventful passage for the 15 nm to Haycock Island. Randall keep a good lookout, but was a little disappointed not to see any crocodiles. We were very glad that we had previously been through the Channel under clear, sunny skies because the clouds were now smothering the tops of the mountains on either side.

Clouds lingering on the mountain tops of Hinchinbrook Island

We spent just one night on the northeast side of Haycock Island with two motor vessels and the large catamaran, Nusa. We had learned from Deb that their friends on Nusa were picking up guests at Cardwell that day, so we wondered how far south they were going. All was revealed the following morning, when they turned left to go to Zoe Bay on the outside of Hinchinbrook Island, while we turned right towards Orpheus Island.

Lunch with a view

26 August 2021 | Brammo Bay, Dunk Island, QLD, Australia
Alison Stocker | Photo: A lone mangrove tree at Dunk Island with Hinchinbrook Mountains on the skyline
Just as forecast, conditions were relatively calm at Fitzroy Island early on Tuesday morning (24th August), allowing us to continue our migration southward. While pulling up the chain at 3 am, we had to gently push another boat out of the way as they had swung right over our anchor. Luckily, this was easy to do in the absence of wind, but it was a bit surprising that no one came up to their cockpit to see what all the noise (engine and windlass) was about.

We waved at SV Curried Oats as we left, although we were not expecting anyone to be watching. Anita and Mike had come over, soon after we arrived in Welcome Bay, and I was happy to go to shore with them for a short walk. We followed the trail to Nudey Beach on the northwest side of the Island. This is a popular retreat for visitors looking for a beach that has sand rather than the coarse shingle of dead coral in Welcome Bay, and, despite the name, it is not a nudist beach, Sadly, Foxy’s Bar was closed for a major cleaning effort, so there was no opportunity for refreshment afterwards but it was lovely to spend a little time with Anita and Mike. Since they were continuing north and then may spend the summer based in Urangan again (south end of Hervey Bay), we are not sure when we will next see them.

We motored south from Fitzroy Island with a few showers in conditions of relatively calm seas and low winds. We completed the 61 nm passage by 4 pm, to find 27 boats anchored in Brammo Bay, Dunk Island (Coonanglebah in the Indigenous Warrgamay and Dyirbal languages). One of these was Southern Cloud, a three-masted schooner luxury yacht that is 40 m (130 feet) long. We had seen this boat going in and out of the Marlin Marina in Cairns, and a little searching online showed that she could be chartered with six crew from US$60,000 a week.

Southern Cloud anchored near Mound (or Purtaboi) Island and lit-up at night

The following day, we launched the dinghy to go ashore around high tide at 10:30 am. This meant that we did not have to drag the dinghy far up the steep beach, and it would be easy to roll it down again at low tide. Our initial goal was to walk up to Kootaloo Hill and enjoy a picnic at the top. During our ascent through the rainforest, we heard various birds such as the raucous orange-footed scrubfowls and the trilling calls of the varied trillers. We were also finally able to match one of the many dove calls with its owner, a rose-crowned fruit-dove (pigeon). This obliging specimen sat and called in full sight, it was just unfortunate that the sun was behind it so its rich green color was hard to see.

There is no mistaking the rose-crown of this fruit dove (to 24 cm or 9 inches) but the sunlight rather washed-out the green color of its back

Arriving at the summit lookout platform, we were pleased to find it unoccupied, so that we could eat our picnic lunch undisturbed on the single bench. The sunny conditions provided us with spectacular views of the seven other members of the group of Family Islands, between Dunk and Hinchinbrook Islands. Apparently zoning anomalies in the early twentieth century, resulted in two other islands and part of Dunk being private freeholds, while the rest are National Parks.

The view from our picnic lunch spot on Kootaloo Hill with Family Islands on the left and Tam O’Shanter Point on the mainland to the right

After lunch, we continued the loop trail around the north half of Dunk Island, crossing over to Coconut Beach before returning along the Island’s west coast and Pallon Beach. It was a very pleasant trail which, including the detour to Kootaloo summit, was about 11 km. We returned to Tregoning with a brief stop at Mound (Purtaboi) Islet. An important seabird nesting sanctuary, the Islet is closed between 1st October and 31st March, with on-the-spot fines imposed.

Although I had run up Kootaloo Hill during our previous visit, it had been cloudy then and I did not have a camera. Thus, I was very glad of the opportunity to do it again and enjoy the views with Randall in gloriously sunny conditions. Although we like Dunk Island, two nights would be the limit of our visit. The next morning we would continue southward...while we could.

Starting South Update

23 August 2021 | Welcome Bay, Fitzroy Island, Australia
Alison Stocker | Photo: Orchids seen at the Cairns Botanic Gardens
It is with regret that we have cast Tregoning’s lines off the dock at Marlin Marina and headed her southward. We were sorry to leave Cairns without having had the chance to explore more of the reefs in this area, and we were sad to say good-bye to our friends on SVs Mischief and Symphony II. However, we managed to cram plenty of activities into our 18-day stay, including several musical evenings and four days of enjoyable inland travel with our friends, getting necessary parts and supplies, revisiting our favorite haunts such as the Botanic Gardens, and even a new Parkrun for me. Photos and more details about our inland expedition will follow when we have better internet.

We have just arrived in Welcome Bay at Fitzroy Island where we will spend a short night before a long day (starting around 3 am) heading south to Dunk Island. The winds are going to be on the nose (reliable northerlies are not expected until October) but we have finally got a window of reduced trade-winds which should allow us to make short jumps under motor. Once we get past Hinchinbrook Island, it will not be far to Townsville. We need to get fuel in there and then we can wait for another weather window to continue southward. The winds should be more cooperative once we are south of Townsville, so we hope that we can slow down again and perhaps snatch a few chances to snorkel off the Whitsundays or back in the Capricorn Group (Lady Musgrave, etc.)

In a few minutes, Anita and Mike are due to come and visit us to say goodbye. They have been here at Fitzroy Island for several days and will probably head north to Port Douglas soon. That is where Mischief and Symphony II are also heading so we wish them all well...with just a twinge of envy. Still, we will see most of them again in Moreton Bay during the summer as none of us are planning to go to New South Wales. That state is now in complete lockdown due to a spiraling wave of the delta variant of Covid-19. So far, so good in Queensland...we will be keeping our fingers crossed and masks handy.
Vessel Name: Tregoning
Vessel Make/Model: Morgan Classic 41
Hailing Port: Gainesville, FL
Crew: Alison and Randall
About: We cast-off from Fernandina Beach in north Florida on 1st June 2008 and we have been cruising on Tregoning ever since. Before buying Tregoning, both of us had been sailing on smaller boats for many years and had worked around boats and water throughout our careers.
Extra: “Tregoning” (rhymes with “belonging”) and is a Cornish word (meaning “homestead of Cohnan” or “farm by the ash trees”) and was Alison's mother’s middle name. Cornwall is in southwest England and is where Alison grew-up.
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