FNQ’ing it

FNQ – Far North Queensland….

The sail down to cairns was 136nm of nice sailing, interspersed with glassy seas as the wind dropped to zero, past some of the best coastal scenery in Australia.

We got to cairns at 8am, fueled up and settled into marlin marina. G jetty is new and set up for cats and at $58 a day was not as expensive as I was lead to believe.

Pam and Darren headed for a bit of 5 star shore based luxury, whilst Dragan caught up with friends. I launched into a long list of boat jobs, determined to get them done before Cas flew in on Monday.

But first I had a very quick catchup with Smiley, who came in to drop daughter and partner off before heading south. We will catch up with them later in our journey. It was great to catchup and swap sea stories about the places we both visited since we saw each other last.

Monday morning came around and it was time to finally lift Camelot out of the water at Norship Marine and smarten her up. Her bottom was still looking pretty good so we passed on the anti-foul and had a full wax and polish instead. Mcclouds Engineering were next on the job, replacing the leaky seals on the sail drive, a result no doubt of loosing our prop blade way back in the Abrolhos.

Finally, I got in Henk and his daughter to try and sort out my poorly performing solar panels and windgen. In a few hours I learnt more about solar/wind setup than ever before. Must to my dismay, I found out that both the new solar panel and the windgen had been installed incorrectly – the windgen was on the output connectors of the regulator and this is probably the reason why it’s buggered – they don’t like current being fed back into them. The two sets of solar panels on two separate regulars were interfering with one another and stopping each other from charging the batteries properly. So all in all, a complete balls up by two different installers – one of who runs a marine electronics business in Perth. Good news is that I’m full bottle on how to set up my next boat.

With the boat reasonably sorted, an excited little Steve headed off to the airport to pick up Cas. It was great to see her and we headed back to the casino hotel, the choice of hotel dictated by which one had the best Melbourne Cup function.

Think we did really well there as the lunch was great. I was the only guy on a table of women so that was a good start. Everyone was dressed up as we’re we – Cas looked exceptionally gorgeous and she had to bring some non-boat clothes up for me so I could try and match her. Had a great time from the moment they handed us a glass of Mumm champagne. Won a bit of money on number 14 as well.

We ended up kicking on with a few of the girls at our table – watching the sun set at mondos and dancing at salt.

Next morning it was time to do a bit of sightseeing – albeit land based – as we drove up to kalundra . We visited the bird park and the koala park – Cas got to cuddle one – then had a look round the markets, which were like a hippy amusement park. Then we drove up to the dantree and did a boat tour on its upper reaches (we thought this would be better than revisiting more mangroves). It was a beautiful trip, past cows and crocodiles – a biggie at 4m who had just eaten a calf the week before.

Then it was back to Port Douglas for the night, where we enjoyed a nice walk along the beach and a stroll up and down the Main Street.

Driving back to cairns, we got a series of calls about the parts needed to complete the work on the sail drive not arriving on time to get Camelot back in the water. So another night in a hotel room in cairns. At this rate we will get a job with TripAdvisor writing hotel reviews.

Next morning we were up and out to Norship. Camelot was back in the water and we were off to Fitzroy Island. Yippee!!!

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Lounging Around Lizard

With one motor running at 3000rpm, we tacked our way out to Lizard Island, making sure we got there well before sunset. As we got closer we could see mast after mast of boats – haven’t seen this many boats in the one bay since a busy day at Rottnest.

Amongst the sea of boats, we managed to find a nice spot to anchor in 4m of water and then it was into the beach for sundowners, eager to find out things like “can we swim – finally”? – And where the good walks were.

Next day, we tried out one of these walks, over to the Blue Lagoon – a lagoon is a very unusual feature for a continental island like lizard. Lagoons are usually found round volcanic islands and coral cays. This one is formed in the middle of several surrounding smaller islands, forming a lovely blue lagoon. We swam there and then had a look at a musical array of bamboo flutes that some yachtie had put there to play beautiful melodies as the SE trade winds blew through them.

This was the start of 4 days of swimming, drinking, snorkeling, drinking, paddle boarding (sit down and stand up), drinking and walking. My legs and arms were feeling the effects of the physical activities and my liver was feeling the effects of the social activities. What an absolutely stunning place – the beach simply blew away Whitehaven and I never thought I’d write that. And the people I met were simply brilliant to hang out with. Wow!!!

The walking around Lizard was great. I walked up to Cook’s lookout where the good lieutenant worked out how to get through a hole in the Great Barrier Reef and out to the open sea. It’s 2km basically up and I realized how out of condition I was. Not only were the views spectacular but there was good phone and Internet access up there – on the boat it was rather sporadic.

Another day I walked 2km out to the marine research centre, run by the Australian Museum, which is quite substantial. Unfortunately, I missed the tour, it’s on Monday, but I still managed to have a good look around.

Back to the drinking part of the story. We were keen to sample the delights of the marlin bar, which unlike the rest of the resort is open to yachties – but in the end we only made it there once, and on that occasion we had a great night with a whole heap of sailors from Port Douglas.

Each of the other nights were spent being entertained on various yachts from here and there. On the 31st, we were all set to go to the somewhat famous Halloween Party at the Marlin Bar. I’d rifled through the boat and decided I’d go as a mummy. My crew wanted to hit the bar early so I dropped them off about 5pm and headed over to Sharman, a 58 foot Perry catamaran. There was a crowd of about 20 on the back deck – music blaring out and much dancing and frivolity happening. I managed to significantly raise the level of frivolity, whilst at the same time significantly reduce the standard of dancing. Needless to say, I didn’t quite make the Halloween party – but by all reports the party on Sharman was infinitely better.

Next day we were supposed to go for a BBQ and a sail on Sharman but it got cancelled through a combination of windiness and white wine poisoning. Instead we had drinks on Jim and Di’s (from Albany) Fusion 40 cat before all making our way to shore for sundowners.

Then Friday came and we were off to Cairns. I heard my liver say “Thank God for that” !

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Dream Run To Lizard Island

I remember reading Smiley’s blog and getting all jealous about their good run to Lizard. Well we are 40nm out, it’s 7am on Sunday morning and I’m no longer the least bit jealous. The SE trades return this afternoon according to the grib’s and buoyweather; by which time we will either be at lizard or close enough to declare victory.

48 hours ago, We left the Cape (on Friday morning at 8.30am) thinking we would get to Albany Passage right on high tide so we could catch the ebbing tide through the passage. Nice thought: but even at 11am as we tacked our way down the channel, we still had 1.5kts of current against us. The skipper was getting a little exasperated, but there was nothing he could do, so we pushed through and eventually broke out into the Coral Sea.

Much of the day we were tight hauled, having to throw in little tacks every time we got too close to the mainland. As the day progressed the winds gradually turned east and we were able to maintain the one tack. And the tide that deserted us was suddenly there giving us a free knot or two of speed.

That night, we weaved our way through numerous reefs and small sandy cays, keeping out of the way of what seemed to be a continuous procession of large, fast moving ships going both north and south. The wind died and the swell dropped to a reading of dead flat or less. We all enjoyed our night watches, with the moon out in its glorious full moon-ness (almost) and a sky full of stars.

Saturday morning came with a lovely sunrise over the water (no more sunsets over the water for us as Michael pointed out) and the wind swung gently SW for a while. Then back to SE, then to E then to NE. Jackpot!!!!

As we passed Portland Roads, mobile and internet came back and we were able to communicate with the outside world for a while. It was good to be able to chat with Cas.

Then we started to stack on the miles. We were averaging 7 knots, pushed on by the 12-15kt NE’ers (with a little help from “our boilers” as Dragan calls them). Would have been nice to turn the boilers off, but we worked out we could get to Lizard by Sunday afternoon (instead of monday morning) if we kept up the pace – so on they stayed. At one stage during the early evening Dragan said he was doing 9.3kts. Then the wind died and we dropped back to 5’s and 6’s, helped on by a bit of tide.

Just passed Cape Melville with its spectacular granite mountain scenery dropping down to the sea.

So here we are heading along nicely towards one of the iconic cruising destinations in Australia.

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On Top of Australia

After successfully negotiating the Gulf of Crapenteria (as Magda so cleverly put it), we had a lovely sail (sans motors) through Zuna Strait and Boat Harbour Channel (where the tidal current reverses) and then past Thursday Island to our anchorage in the lee of Horn Island – much better in the strong SE winds than anchoring at TI. The other problem with anchoring at TI is that you cannot take any fruit and veggies back to the mainland because of quarantine restrictions.

Then it recommenced bucketing down, different to down south rain – more volume and at times horizontal. Camelot was getting a good wash.

Next morning it wouldn’t let up and by 10 o’clock we decided to don our wet weather gear and brave a dingy ride to Horn Island. After visiting the local supermarket, we paid $5 each way (for the cheap ferry – beware there is an expensive one) and caught the cheap local ferry across to Thursday Island (beware there is an expensive one that charges 3 times as much).

Thursday Island was a lovely little place. Old style variety shops full of everything except what you want. We tried desperately to buy some 10mm double braid to replace our second reef line. They had 8mm and what looked like 12mm but no 10mm. Asked at one shop whether they had any on their computer system and they looked blankly at me.

No luck on getting anything for the Halloween Party on Lizard Island either.

We had lunch at the Torres Strait Pub, drawn in by their sign that said “Australia’s Top Pub”. $15 for a crayfish pie – can’t beat that. After popping our nose in each shop, we headed for the local supermarket and did our provisioning for the leg down to Cairns.

Then it was back to the ferry and into the dingy and back to Camelot.

However Camelot wasn’t exactly where we had left her. She was dragging back dangerously close to a trawler called Fishalot. We had 60m of chain out and we’d been there 24 hours but these tides are vicious, running through at 2-3kts and you swing 180 degrees with each change of tide – the last one of which must have pulled the anchor free.

Robin from Flashdancer, a 46” Lightwave Motor Cruiser. Had come across with some fenders and we got there just in time. On with the motors, up anchor and over to another spot. Firmly in the one spot I hopped in the dingy and headed over to Flashdancer with a bottle of white wine. Robin and Sylvie welcomed me on board and I ended up drinking some of their beer and wine. They are a great couple and I enjoyed talking to them about their diving adventures, their amazing photos and my next adventure to France, as Sylvie is from Brittany where I am picking up La Mischief, having done a lot of yacht delivery work out of Sables D’Olonne.

Next morning, we had a leisurely start as we had a fuel booking at 10.30am at the dock. The dock was a bit challenging – the middle pylon had fallen inwards and there was the usual 2-3 knot current running through it. Never the less, the crew did brilliantly, putting up with my shouting and we filled up at $1.64 a litre – not bad for way up here.

Then it was off to Seisa for the night. With three reefs in we battled our way down Boat Harbour Channel. In retrospect, we should have paid more attention to the wind and less attention to the tides and gone round the back of Horn Island – somehow the skipper had got a little too focused on the tides.

Anyway we made it okay and got to Seisa at about 3pm, dropping anchor in a lovely little harbour between Red Island and the Coast. After reading about the memorial to the guy that was taken by the croc on the beach here, we braved the dingy and headed for shore.

This is the main caravan park on the Cape and there were a few tourists around. After checking out the supermarket and buying some icecreams, we headed to the fishing club – but alas no Karaoke tonight. Instead we chatted to a couple of other yachties and power boaters who were heading to Darwin and some guys who were up there building a child care centre – a lot of which had just arrived on a barge tied up to the dock.

Next morning, it was off to the top of Australia – the Cape – via Possession Island. We had a lovely sail around to Possession Island, where Captain Cook took possession of Australia for Britain. We landed on the main beach and set off to find the memorial to Cook, but soon became apparent that we wouldn’t be doing it from this beach.

We upped anchor and sailed around the corner and there it was, on a cliff face staring at us. Oh well, we got reasonably close.

Then it was a bit of a bash over to the Cape into a brisk SE. After negotiating some shallow water – my fault for trying to cut the corner – we found the best spot to anchor in 3m of water, still well out from the beach.

We left Dragan to do a phone interview and headed in with cameras loaded. The tide was out making a beach landing difficult, but we found a place up near the rocks where we didn’t have to pull the dingy 100m through 6 inches of water and took her in there.

We then climbed up the rocks and found the obligatory sign saying “You are Standing at the Top of Australia” and snapped away. Climbing to the tob of the cliffs we enjoyed a stunning view – my first glimpse of the East Coast of Australia – quite an achievement having sailed round from the West Coast. Felt like one of those Spanish Conquistadors who’d sailed to the East Coast of the Americas and had climbed across the Panama peninsular to lay his eyes on the Pacific for the first time.

Back at the boat, Dragan had finished his interview and went with Darren to do the same.

A busy day exploring the top of Australia.

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