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.