Friday, November 28, 2014

from Low to Hope

The weather forecast looked good, so on the 3rd of October we pulled up Manatee's anchor and headed out to the Low Isles. The seas were supposed to be 1m but of course they were 2m+ and on our beam. Luckily the trip was only 90 minutes, we were all very relieved to pick up a mooring and relax.
 Low Isles is a 4 acre coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef. The corals are very close to the island, so the snorkeling is great.  The two small islands are separate with one common reef. The larger of the two, Woody Island, is uninhabited except for a large bird population and is closed to the public from October for breeding season. The island has a caretaker who monitors everything closely and the island is off limits between sunset and sunrise so sun-downers started very early! There is also a historic, heritage listed lighthouse on Low which was built in 1878.

Dusk at Low

lighthouse on Low (thanks Quicksilver for photo)

Aerial view of Low Isles (thanks again Quicksilver)

The snorkeling was as good as I'd seen to date - lots of colourful fishes (which apparently like to be hand fed), and amazing corals .... little purple cauliflower trees, orange tufts of wool swaying in the current, huge splotchy toadstools and massive brains- all scientific names of course! Manatee became a temporary home to some decent size reef sharks.

Our stay here was limited to a few days as Ruby was boat bound, so on the 5th we headed out to Snapper Island (part of the Hope Island group) which is 4km east of the Daintree River mouth. This is also a National Park, very popular with sea kayakers who camp on the island. Ruby had a very restrained exploration of the island and we had a relaxing night at anchor.

The next morning we were off early for the other Hope Islands. We passed Cape Tribulation in 2.5 hours so we were making good time and passing the Cape felt like a special event for us.

passing Cape Tribulation

It was exciting but scary to be passing this coast - there is no coverage of any sort so we really did feel that we were in the wilderness. Again, there was little marine life although a huge turtle made an appearance. We arrived in East Hope Island anchorage at 1500hrs. East Hope Island is a sand cay with a forest of coastal trees in the middle. West Hope Island is a shingle cay formed from piles of coral debris on which only the most hardy plants such as mangroves survive. These islands are among the most important bird-nesting sites in the northern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Thousands of pied imperial-pigeons visit the islands to breed each summer and they make a racket! The reef is extensive around these islands with only the brave sailing between the two for the anchorage. We took the slower, safer route and went west of the islands to enter the anchorage from the north. There are lots of coral bommies in the anchorage so it was a relief to make the anchor secure.

reef around East Hope

and the other side of east Hope-more reef

anchorage at East Hope

West Hope in the distance

sunset over East Hope

The snorkeling here surpassed Low! Just amazing. East Hope quickly became our favourite place.

feeling at home in Port Douglas

Log entry 28th September. "Up anchor 0700. 10m chain remaining in water wrapped around old metal pipe. Took 1hr to dislodge the pipe working from the dinghy. 0800 finally free of obstacle. Dinghy back on davits 500m down channel. Very rough in channel with exiting tourist boats. Jib up in Trinity Bay. Seas 2m, wind SE 10-15kts. Dropped anchor at Double Island at 1100 for a lunch break.

Beautiful Double Island
Up anchor at 1230. Abeam Wentworth Reef 1530 after very heavy seas for an hour. Considered turning back to Cairns! No marine life seen. Wind dropped to 2-3kts abeam Korea Reef. Entered Port Douglas channel amidst returning tourist boats. Anchored Packers Creek 1645. Hooray!" 
Dusk Packers Creek
It was fantastic to be anchored in a secure spot, the bird life in the mangroves was amazing. One bird call sounded like "careful, careful", perhaps reminding everyone that this is lizard land. The Lady Douglas plied up and down the creek from the marina, with very helpful commentary advising of current croc locations. Apparently they are very territorial and the biggest/strongest keeps others out. "Pat" the 3m croc that lived in the stretch that we anchored in could occasionally be seen at low tide sunning himself. One of our neighbours snapped photos of Pat circling our yachts, checking everything out. Needless to say we were very careful, changing our routine and discouraging Ruby from standing on the bow sprit.

Lady Douglas

We all had a great time exploring the village, visiting the huge weekend markets and relaxing at the very friendly yacht club. We could certainly feel the tropical atmosphere, with daily showers of rain and very fast growing mould.

Yacht Club lawn

Friends from Townsville on Quantum Leap (Ted and Tacey) were also in Port Douglas, giving their friend Alice an opportunity to experience life aboard a yacht......

Tacey, Alice & Ted come visiting was April the seadog and Notorious.

Notorious and Manatee at anchor

We finally found the solution to mozzies (and there were plenty here)- a mozzi net for a bed slung over the wheelhouse. It worked and looked great. Prior to getting the net on I (AK) got very ill with an allergic reaction to mozzi bites. I was swollen, bright red, feverish, fatigued and very itchy - crap. It took about a fortnight for my body to return to normal. Meanwhile yachts were reporting crap weather conditions with heavy seas outside our blissful oasis.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

visiting April

On one of our many walks in Cairns we came across April the sea dog. Ruby and April were very happy to meet their doppelganger and did their little dog dance while working out seniority !

April smiling for the camera
doing a little dance

and coming to an agreement- don't smell my butt!

April lives on a beautiful handcrafted boat named Notorious. Her humans Felicity and Graeme built the 15th century replica caravel in Victoria over 10 years out of reclaimed wood. They have sailed it north opening it up to visitors in most towns. I was very disappointed to hear of her arrival in Townsville just after we departed-and very excited to come across her in Cairns.

aft deck


Ruby checking out the deck

Notorious is an amazing work of art and April is a special sea dog!

our love/hate relationship with Cairns!

The forecast was for 10-15kts SE. We left Innisfail on the 20th September at 0700. Luckily we were catching the ebb tide north as the wind was actually 1-4kts! We managed to average 6kts in the smokey atmosphere. National Sparks and Wildfires at it again. Despite the smoke the coastline was glorious (again).

the fabulous coast north of Innisfail

We tried our luck trolling, we're still not proving to be great at fishing! We sailed past Fitzroy island at 1315 and counted 19 boats in Welcome Bay so decided to give visiting the island a miss.
Fitzroy Island
We entered Mission Bay (9nm from Cairns) around 1400 with the thought of anchoring to avoid the bustle of Cairns for as long as possible. The bay was very swelly and we had some trouble anchoring, but finally we held. We then realised that we hadn't pulled in our troll line- yep wound nicely around the prop. After a calming cup of tea we dealt with the line and then decided we could cope with Cairns.

Mission Bay
So up came the anchor at 1515- off to Cairns we go. The channel into Trinity Inlet was very busy and we slowed down for a ship, giving the monolith right of way which meant we didn't anchor until 1730.

channel into Cairns
The anchorage opposite Marlin Marina was very crowded and we noticed lots of crab floats which we thought was very strange. On advise from cruisers we met on our way (local boaties can give visitors grief...."you can't anchor there because...."), we anchored in a big vacant space.

Ruby checking out Cairns nightlife from the safety of Manatee

The next day we set off for the Cairns Cruising Yacht Club in Portsmith and managed to get questioned by Police, and were required to provide them with ID, after we walked through a "secure area" for the economic summit being held in Cairns. Ruby advised them that she would no longer consider a role as a Police dog after they kept us all standing in the sun for a considerable time- which meant we missed lunch at the yacht club!
The yacht club was fabulous and the staff were very friendly, welcoming us, giving Ruby lots of cuddles and making us toasted sandwiches. We are considering spending cyclone season further up Trinity Inlet and making the club our base.
the view from the verandah
The same evening we had to move Manatee as one of the nearby crab floats turned out to be a (self set) mooring and the catamaran that "owned" it demanded that we move. We moved. Ahh Cairns!
Trinity Inlet anchorage

We all walked around town the next day and had a pleasant time although we were disappointed to find "our" pho restaurant had changed hands and was found wanting. Instead of clear and crisp flavoured pho we were served murky soup-damn! We arrived back on Manatee to another catamaran telling us to move! This time we said no so woke up to a pre-dawn concert of country music. Noice!

We had made a fuel booking for 0830 so were pleased to get away from the charmers.
Cairns does not have a fuel wharf as such, booking are required and a tanker arrives to re-fuel. The fuel was cheap and the fuel fellas very friendly.
Manatee receiving tanker fuel

heading back to the anchorage
Tacy and Ted from Quantam Leap were at the marina (thanks for the photos) so we managed to catch up with them while we were in town. 

We found a new spot in the anchorage (it is very crowded) which was very peaceful until another crab float became a mooring- damn again! The skipper told us we would have to move as "the Port Authority will tow you because you hang in the channel". This comment was hilarious as officially moored boats hung in the channel. We thanked the skipper and said we would take our chances. Later, a neighbour told us they were told by the same skipper 1) they were anchored on a concrete block used by "a cruise ship";2) they hung too far in the channel and 3) they had swung and hit another boat because they had anchored too close to it. Goodness the lengths people go to! They also thanked the skipper with a smile and we had a laugh about it, as we compared notes most days!
The annual sculpture exhibition was on so we all had a great time checking out the art. Rusty's market allowed us to provision with amazing fruit and veg before we headed out.

art in the park
Marg and I remember the laid back Cairns of the 70's and 80's, you couldn't call it easy going these days but it has retained some of its beauty.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Innisfail an unexpected delight

We left Dunk Island on the 16th of September- we were the very last yacht out of the anchorage- nevertheless the anchor and sails were up by 1000. The winds were flukey until the South Barnard islands with the swell 1m+. It was difficult to keep the wind in the sails, giving us a very bumpy ride which of course made Ruby very displeased with us.

Stephens Island-part of the South Barnard group

The coastline was beautiful although it was disconcerting to see a yacht on the rocks just south of Mourilyan Harbour. We couldn't see anybody desperately waving from shore so presumed it had been there a while, unbelievable considering masts and winches were still on deck. Investigations later revealed that this poor yacht had been on the rocks for some time.
Passing the entrance to Mourilyan Harbour I wondered if they had been looking for this very tricky entrance! We were making good progress so we continued on to the Johnstone River.
We had made a coffee stop in Innisfail on one of our road trips and one noticeable feature which has dissuaded us from spending any time here was the huge office of the local MP Bob Katter! We were going to ignore our political inclinations this time as Alan Lucas in his cruising guide raves about the town.

The Innisfail historical society says "The original inhabitants of this Innisfail region were the five societies of the Mamu people, following migratory lifestyles in the rainforest, and moving along the rivers in string-bark canoes. Among these, The " Cassowary Tribe", distinguished by head- dresses of scarlet and yellow feathers, were centred on the Tchuken Bora Ground on Jordan Creek, off the Johnstone River...together all these Aboriginal people resisted the occupation of their lands vigorously.

The first incursion came in 1872. Survivors of the shipwreck "Maria" arrived on the coast near the Johnstone River. Some of the indigenous people helped; others they opposed. Sub-Inspector Robert Johnstone's search party came to rescue survivors and punish Aboriginal people who had abused them, and ventured up river from what are now Flying Fish and Coquette Points. Johnstone wrote glowing reports of the area, and with vigilante Native Troopers attacked the Mamu people with rifle fire as he escorted the explorer Dalrymple, charting the watercourse and having it named after himself.

When European cedar cutters and Chinese gold seekers arrived later in the 1870s and early in the 1880s, the Mamu fought them and inflicted serious casualties. Again the Europeans sent in the Native Police. Superior firepower broke up the indigenous communities and dispersed or integrated the remaining original landowners. European settlement, with its Asian and Pacific components, began late in the region, partly because of Aboriginal resistance. The Edmund Kennedy exploration of 1848 revealed impenetrable rainforests, confining European economic enterprises to Pacific coastal waters, mostly to pearling and trepang collection.

Innisfail (called Geraldton until 1911) was founded in 1880 by Thomas H.Fitzgerald who took up a 10000 hectare land grant funded by the Catholic Bishop of Brisbane and All Hallows' Sisters of Mercy. With 10 Irish and 35 South Sea Islanders as workers, he began planting sugar cane in the cleared rainforest lands, but not with personal success.
Those who followed him did better and the community began to grow rapidly on the proceeds of sugar production. Thus sugar drove the growth of predominantly European Innisfail and still exerts a major influence.

The settlers who moved into this region from 1889 were exceptionally diverse. The first influential group were Anglo-Celtic, but they were outnumbered by "Kanaka " South Sea Islanders. Aboriginal and Torres Strait workers, Chinese miners (from the Palmer goldfields) who developed the banana industry and retail businesses. French merchants, and German timber and sugar producers. A large Italian migration began before WW1 and continued into the 1930s and post WW2; much of Innisfail's present culture is of Italian derivation."

We made the river entrance at 1445-the fairway buoy was missing as well as the second charted starboard marker. It was a difficult passage across the choppy Gladys Inlet with AK on the bow calling out sandbanks.(keep reading down-glitches exist!)

Just passed Gladys Inlet with one of the slipways to starboard

view travelling up river to Innisfail

Once we arrived in the calm river waters Ruby became very excited and called out to all that she was on her way for a visit! The town is roughly 3nm upstream and we anchored opposite the water tank at 1600. It was very much croc country!

close to town

We spent two days anchored near town, it was very hot and we had a bit of rain which made it very muggy. We visited the Chinese Temple and had lunch at the Italian deli-yum! One of the other cafes had multiple signed photos of the cast of Sea Patrol, so guess it was filmed near here. We all loved walking the town and the council does provide for travellers- the public facilities include showers and laundry tubs- a nice touch. We had intended tying up to the public jetty to fill our water tanks but the "big bill fishing" contest folks arrived so we made do with carting water in jugs. A woman on a large cruiser at the "marina" kept an eye on our dinghy and allowed us to tie up near her berth. When I asked about crocs in the anchorage she replied "oh the one in the anchorage is only about 2.5m, the one just up river is 4m+. Gulp! 

On our third morning we travelled down river to crocodile rocks as it was becoming very busy in town with plastic fishing boats. It was very peaceful here despite the swifts that kept claiming Manatee by flying through her wheelhouse. Ruby studiously ignored the invaders!
The following photo is of a stunning house near crocodile rocks, certainly a relic from the past, but gorgeous.

house near crocodile rocks
We spent the afternoon walking the settlement nearby. While walking Ruby through the streets a local joined me and said she was a 10 pound Pom who was very chuffed when she wrote to relatives back home that her address was now Palm Street Coconut!

dinghy landing at Coconut

the village of Coconut

We left 0700 next morning with forecast winds for the next few days 10-15SE. - destination Cairns. We were not happy to be joined at the tricky river exit by the plastics who were all doing top speed to arrive at the fishing spots first. A small yacht also trying to exit had difficulty staying upright. Gotta love those fishing folk.

The crew of Manatee don't enjoy anchoring in rivers but Innisfail was an unexpected delight. The water was clear and the birdlife was magnificent.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

the Isle of Dreams

"In September of the year 1896 with a small party of friends we camped on the beach of this Island - the most fascinating, the most desirable on the coast of North Queensland.....having for several years contemplated a life of seclusion in the bush, and having sampled several attractive and more or less suitable scenes, we were not long in concluding that here was the ideal spot...sea, coral reefs, forest, jungle afford never-ending pleasure.." E.J Banfield

The Banfield's

Ted and Bertha along with Barney the dog lived on Dunk Island for about 25 years (not so Barney) establishing a home with fruit trees, goats, jersey cows and vegetable gardens.  This was made possible with the assistance of "Tom", one of four remaining descendants of the island's original owners and Essie their Irish housekeeper. Ted was a journalist working on Townsvilles' Bulletin when the pressure of work and ill health (he was given months to live) took him to Dunk. 

Ted was a naturalist and a prolific writer and his book "Confessions of a Beachcomber" and the compilation of essays in ":Further Confessions of a Beachcomber" have been favourites of mine so I have been eager to visit "the Banfields'" Isle of Dreams.

Dunk Island lies amongst the Family group of Islands about 20nm north east of Cardwell. We arrived on the 10th of September after a calm sail across from Cardwell, anchoring in Brammo Bay, the site of the Banfields' home. Any remnants of the Banfields' era has vaporised, with the cyclone ravaged resort occupying the site. The Banfields are buried on this site but access is denied as the islands freehold is owned by Peter Bond, a coal mining entrepreneur (bet Ted and Bertha are turning in their graves!). Mr Bond discovered after Cyclone Yasi swept through the area that he could "buy" a whole island for 10 million bucks and build a "kick-arse" house rather than purchase a property on Hamilton Island. It does feel like he "owns" the entire island! His "workers" roam the island and his personal chef operates a café weekends out of a shipping container near the jetty, which is very pleasant. Day trippers arrive in droves from Mission Beach. Most of the island is national Park with fantastic camping facilities near the sand spit. Ruby was given permission to walk along the border of the freehold land so she was mighty chuffed!

heading to the Family group

Every day we explored in the dinghy, sometimes having a breakfast picnic on Mungo Mungo beach after shooing off the scrub fowl.

early morning Mungo Mungo beach

solitude at Mungo Mungo

Another of our favourite places was Coconut Beach, with stingray reef just offshore. "Here are elaborately armoured crayfish, upon which the most gaudy colours are lavished,
grotesque crabs, fish brilliant in hue as humming birds"
EJ Banfield on Coconut Beach.

Stingrays and turtles could be seen in the clear waters and the reef (which we passed over between Kumboola Island and Dunk) was home to a mob of manta rays.

Coconut Beach, looking out to Bedarra Island

inviting waters of Coconut Beach

We'd return to Brammo Bay, tired and hot and partake of sundowners with other cruisers and enjoy a warm shower courtesy of National Parks.

The Family Islands were famous for their artists - Noel Wood on Bedarra and Deanna Conti on Timana. Bruce Arthur established a colony on Dunk in 1975 which has not re-opened since cyclone Larry  but we were lucky enough to catch an exhibition in Townsville "to the islands"

potters gallery Bruce Arthur/Henry Holt

Yvonne Cohen "Mango trees"

tapestry by Deanna Conti

Noel Wood "Dunk Island"

view from the lookout

rainforest on Mount Koo-Tal-Oo

secretive frog in leaf litter

amazing fungus

The name Dunk Island was given by Captain Cook as he sailed past, it had been known as Coonanglebah-place of peace and plenty. As I walked the island circuit I could understand why. It is magical.