Monday, September 29, 2014

the opposite of bliss at Hinchinbrook

After our happy times at The Palms we headed for Hinchinbrook Channel on the 6th of September. The forecast was for easterly winds 15-20k. We pulled up the anchor at 1015 and on leaving Juno Bay the wind was 3.9k on our nose. Typical!

Lucas in Cruising the Coral Coast states "Hinchinbrook Channel is the most scenic, calm waterway on the east coast of Australia thanks to Hinchinbrook Island's magnificent peaks and is Queensland's largest island National Park".

Hinchinbrook Channel via google maps

From Orpheus Island we could see the sugar sheds of Lucinda at the southern entrance to the channel, but close inspection revealed a tricky entrance with a fairway buoy and numerous buoys missing. We scraped the bottom crossing the bar but were thrilled to see dolphins fishing near the sandbar. Motoring past the old molasses wharf near Dungeness we joined the assorted fishing boats stuck on the poorly marked sandbar. After a heated discussion on whose fault our grounding was, the wash from a newly stuck arrival allowed us to reverse off and continue on our way. Once in the channel proper we could enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Wow- a marker buoy

The picturesque channel

We decided to anchor off Haycock Island and noticed dinghies with their bows in the mangroves as we approached- fishing we decided. They quickly disappeared as we anchored. We then noticed a 2m croc just under the surface near Manatee. Very brazen we decided. Later the "fishermen" returned and from their activities we realised they were "relocating" crocs.

We spent a very relaxing night and set off at 1045 the next morning for Cardwell. Our fish finder was showing lots of fish in the channel but alas our trolling brought us no dinner.

We anchored off Cardwell in 3m at 1330 and set off in the dinghy to check out the public jetty. The seas were short and choppy and the jetty was untenable for Manatee as we could see (it was low tide) an old pile sticking up from the mud on the jetty's approach. We needed to buy dinghy fuel,dispose of some rubbish and Ruby was demanding a walk on terra firma so we decided on a beach landing. Bad mistake! On exiting the dinghy we walked a few metres (rubbish and Ruby in arms) and sank up to our knees in silty mud. Pretty freaky as crocs have been known to visit the beach. Marg continued with Ruby and AK returned to the dinghy as the tide was beginning to turn. We realised later we were the locals afternoon entertainment with many photos taken of us crawling across the mud. The afternoon continued to suck as Marg and Ruby were off getting stuff done as AK attempted to rescue the dinghy which was quickly overcome (and sunk) by the waves that arrived with the change of tide. Hmm no locals to help pull the dinghy up the beach. It quickly filled with water and luckily two backpackers came to the rescue and helped bail and recover the dinghy.

Cardwell's waterfront park- at least Ruby enjoyed it!

 Our afternoon continued to be miserable as our dinghy ride back to Manatee was frightening-the seas had got bigger and rougher and we all got drenched. At 1745 we pulled up the anchor on Manatee's bucking deck and headed across to Scraggy Point on Hinchinbrook Island. We managed to get the anchor down just prior to sunset-all fraught and hurting.
We slept until 1100 the next morning and awoke to National Parks burning off. Ahh gotta love the roller coaster of cruising.

Next stop the Isle of Dreams.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bliss in the Palms (with a sad history)

"There are thirteen islands that make up the Great Palm Island group (Palm group) most of which are micro-islands. Major islands within the Palm group are (Great) Palm Island, Fantome Island, and Orpheus Island."

After our second night at Rattlesnake we left for Fantome Island with SE winds 5-10kts at 1000. When we were 4nm SW of Havanah Island we saw our first whale of the season-hooray! We arrived at Fantome's Juno Bay at 1630 but after assessing the anchorage headed over to the shelter of Orpheus Island where it was not likely to be as choppy. We anchored in Hazard Bay (site of the resort) at 1500 and settled in for a quiet night.

Orpheus Island is National Park and the resort at Hazard Bay caters to 20 odd "indulged guests". For two days we had frequent helicopters fly guests in from Townsville. Needless to say day trippers are not welcomed! The island is fringed by coral reefs and has about 340 of the 350 known types of coral. It really is beautiful. Hazard Bay has huge coral bommies that we spent two days drifting over in the dinghy-fabulous.

After two days we took Manatee back to Fantome Island for a picnic. We anchored in 9m surrounded by huge coral bommies just off the fringing reef. As we took the dinghy ashore we were greeted by a bloke with a dead goat slung around his shoulders and his hunting dog. Ruby and AK walked in the opposite direction while Marg had a chat. Russell was from Great Palm and the residents made use of the goats living on the island.
 Fantome Island was the site of a lock hospital for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Island and South Sea Island people suffering from sexually-transmitted infections from 1928-1945, and was also the site of a "hospital" for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Island and South Sea Island people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) from 1939 to 1973. Cared for by nuns from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary their isolation on Fantome Island was the consequence of  policies developed by the Queensland Government. Remains of the orchard can be seen and some building fragments litter the area. 
Marg & Ruby walk the orchard remains

church remains

historical photos

and yes there is beauty remaining

We then returned to Orpheus Island to catch up with Tacey and Ted from Qantam Leap, friends from Townsville, in Little Pioneer Bay. We managed to snag a mooring which saved us from trying to anchor (and possibly damage) coral.  James Cook University's Orpheus Island Research Station is located within Pioneer Bay and is on the site of a former fishing lease. Pioneer Bay has National Park facilities and a short walk uphill takes you to a crumbling rock hut.

"Orpheus was a supremely gifted minstrel who had been taught to play the lyre by Apollo, and such was his skill on the instrument, together with the sweetness of his singing voice, that he could charm wild animals and even cause trees to uproot themselves and follow in his steps. Jason and the Argonauts took him along when they quested after the Golden Fleece, and Orpheus saved them from shipwreck by drowning out the treacherously alluring voices of the Sirens with his own musical stylings."

We did hear music while here and I had presumed it was Tacey playing her cello, later I realised it is our newly tuned rigging! A whale and her calf visited the anchorage calmly frolicking metres from yachts and she gave a farewell wave from the research station. The coral and fish just outside the bay was stunning. Giant clams were once "grown" here after fishing had diminished them and they grew prolificly. We could spy only smallish ones. There were heaps of turtles and stingrays as well.

A couple on kayaks hailed us one morning- it was Derek from Laurieton fish co-op! He and Belinda were returning from Lizard Island in his new yacht Silver Lady. We had a cuppa while drooling over Silver Lady's gorgeous fit-out.

On the 4th we dropped our mooring and headed over to Great Palm Island and anchored off the jetty in Casement Bay. After Manatee's anchor had set (and we sought permission to land, as required) we headed over to the jetty by dinghy where we were hailed by numerous kids. "Hey miss put er ere" screamed a young girl frantically waving us over to her spot on the jetty. "No miss over ere" yelled a boy pointing to the boat ramp. With numerous directions being screamed at us we went back to our original choice where girl one, Liandra extended her hand and said "ere miss I'll pull you up and promising to keep an eye on the dinghy. We strolled off to the supermarket, turning back to see the dinghy filled with kids. Oh well!

Marg went shopping for some fresh food while AK waited outside with Ruby. Ruby soon had a gathering of randy young bucks surrounding us, one scar faced dog with tail wagging furiously, I'm sure winked and smiled. The other female dogs, obviously on heat, were ignored in favour of the cute new bitch! Unfortunately as AK had her hands full protecting Ruby's morals a practice by the chooky dancers for the Palm Island Spring Festival was missed.

chooky dancers at the festival (Melissa Sweet image)

Shopping completed we headed back to the jetty, Ruby impressed by all the attention, reprimanded for giving come hither looks to the mob of dogs following us.

We were met by sheepish grins from the kids on our return and Liandra reminded us of a promise to take her for a dinghy ride with her friends Leeandra and Lesandra. Quick as a flash they were back in the dinghy, encouraging AK to consider taking them all on a sail in "the big boat". "Garn miss let er fly" was Lesandra's command so we were off with screams of delight. Three very proud girls strutted up the jetty past the boy's on our return!  We then returned to Fantome Island for the afternoon, anchoring in Juno Bay.

farewell Casement Bay

We spent a calm night anchored in Juno and had a fantastic Friday walking the Island. Ruby saw a herd of goats and took off after them, impressing us with her speed. She then ran twice as far in the opposite direction- wonder what they said to her?

The beach opposite the old settlement was amazing, so it was good to leave a sad place with memories of beauty.

Manatee at anchor-Juno Bay

AK and Ruby in the coral spoils- Fantome Island

 Fantome Island beach

Fantome Island beach


Sunday, September 7, 2014

and on to Rattlesnake

On the 27th August, the forecast was for variable winds 5-10kts turning (of course) NNE.

We headed over to Rattlesnake Island which is one of the islands south of the Palm Island group, northwest of Magnetic Island. RAAF Townsville conducts live firing with military aircraft on regular occasions and allegedly there is unexploded ordinance lying around- good on em! In September 1943 a B-25 Mitchell aircraft crashed in 50' of water three miles off Rattlesnake.

We left Maggie at 1330 and after seeking unsuccessfully to sight whales, we anchored off Rattlesnake at 1700 in NE winds with an easterly swell. Travelling between it's neighbour, Herald Island, Rattlesnake harboured a majestic manta ray which was lingering on the waters surface about 1m from Manatee. With a quick flap of its wings it accelerated away-fantastic!

Rattlesnake Island is a favourite with local fisherpeople who camp on the Islands beaches. Fishing trawlers also regularly use the anchorage. We were lucky to have it to ourselves on our visit. The NE winds gave us a lee shore so AK made first use of our new berth in the wheelhouse for anchor watch. The holding was excellent and the winds fortunately turned SE overnight.

Ruby's own rockpool

A rockpool for humans!

A stunning location

Maggie may entice you to stay!

'Magnetic Island was known as Yunberun by Aboriginal traditional owners the Walgurukaba -Wulguru=canoe/kaba=people. Then much later in 1770 British explorer Captain James Cook found that his compass went awry as he sailed past-hence Magnetical Island it became'

After departing the marina at Townsville we spent 10 days at beautiful Magnetic Island. We originally did not plan to spend this amount of time there, but what can I say, it IS beautiful!
(the following three images are not mine-my camera has died a very untimely death, so my iphone is generally put to use)

Map of the island. Manatee took us past Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay and Florence Bay to Horseshoe Bay.

Our time was spent at anchor in Horseshoe Bay as it is not included in the National Park (most of the Island is) so Ruby could also enjoy the Island. This Bay, yep shaped like a horseshoe, had a glorious beach with a small strip of cafes, shops and two taverns. It was a fine combination of Island life and civilisation.

The café strip at Horseshoe Bay

View of Horseshoe Bay-a very popular anchorage. Recently a cruising yachty told us there were 44 boats in the anchorage!
Mini mokes and scooters were the usual form of transport but we caught the bus around the island, mostly with our hearts in our mouths! It is a mountainous island with narrow, winding roads and bus drivers usually ignored the 'buses and trucks use low gear' notices. We both learnt to not look sideways lest we see the buses sides overhanging the roads!

The 'tropic jazz festival' took place during our stay and we stayed for a few sessions as well as attending a couple of markets.

We enjoyed the company of lots of fish who took up residence under Manatee, so of course fishing was off the agenda, but feeding our companions was on. We saw lots of turtles in the bay and for a couple of evenings dolphins did the rounds of the anchorage. Lorikeets were abundant in the park as café staff fed them every day, some being so bold as to fly into the café demanding their munchies!

There were also lots of bushwalks to be enjoyed (without Ruby)- our favourite was to Radical Bay.

Gorgeous Radical Bay
Once we has all regained our sea legs and Ruby started with 'not that beach AGAIN' and a man and his dog told us there were whales frolicking off the island we knew it was time to go.

more scenes from Townsville

Drumming circle at The Strand held every month close to or on the full moon. Ruby loved coming here (as did her humans) as the energy level was fantastic. The circle was conducted by a group called 'connecting communities' who believed that drumming provided the opportunity for people to connect.  
The Strand also had some magnificent sculptures including this one of a dugong. Yes, Townsville did have some rainy days!
We walked everywhere we went. These images are from our walk along the newly revamped waterfront at Cairns.
The old with the new at Cairns. High rise apartments towering over the Barrier Reef Hotel.

And the old remains along the waterfront - fishing trawlers alongside at Trinity Inlet.

View from Castle Hill Townsville looking north east (ish). Castle Hill was one of the prominent mountains/hills in Townsville which locals regularly ran up. Unfortunately it wasn't uncommon for their accompanying dogs to die from heat exhaustion.

View from Castle Hill looking north west (ish). Appeared to be reclaimed swamp/mangroves.
Aboriginal people in Townsville believed (1) that Castle Hill protected Townsville from major cyclones and (2) that Castle Hill was formed when a dingo chased a kangaroo through the scrub, the kangaroo being a pretty smart critter, stood in the water as it knew the dingo would not want to get wet. The dingo waited and waited, resting on it's haunches until it fell asleep and the kangaroo escaped.
The shape of the hill does resemble a dingo from the sea!