Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Oh no we're going south!

By the time October was nearing its end and the trade winds rarely dropped below 25kts we realised pushing north to Lizard was not one of our best plans. So, on the 29th October we had SE winds at 10-15kts which were not too bad to head in to. We upped anchor at 0950 hrs for Hope Islands. We sailed near visible schools of mackerel but surprise, surprise no fish for dinner. We anchored at East Hope at 1400 hrs. The next day was perfect so we snorkeled and fished and Marg practiced using her cast net and caught 3 herring-hooray..
Our log reads "doing lots of reading and walking...no telephone or internet-could stay here forever." It was not a good thought to return to Cairns for cyclone season and work.

We were joined in the anchorage by a few yachts from Port Douglas. All members of the local yacht club and very fine fellows they were! Robert and Roxy from T-Break supplied us with fish which they easily caught and they all convinced us to see out cyclone season in Port Douglas. We headed south for Port on the 6th November nursing hangovers after farewell drinks with the boys!

Displaying IMG_2771_5.JPG
Roxy from T-Break at Hope Island

Remembering Cooktown

On Thursday 9th October we dragged up our anchor at 1000 hrs to head to Cooktown. We trolled and caught no fish, what a surprise! The winds were variable so we had an uneventful trip. The channel entering Cooktown was horrendous - we needed to continue north and then tack south to make the channel markers. The channel was very rolly with dredging taking place as well. We entered the very crowded harbour (the Endeavour River) managing to miss all the sandbars and anchored at 1400 hrs.

Sunset over Endeavour River

We spent a few days walking around the town, exploring and getting ready to head further north to Lizard Island when.....the infamous weather of Cooktown set in: miserable stuff. At times it was difficult to hop into the tender the harbour was sooo rough. So we made the most of our forced stay and ended up loving the place.

The banks of the Endeavour River are parkland and the main street almost follows the river. Of course there are lots of monuments to Cook. A short stroll along from where the Endeavour careened for repairs is a spot named reconciliation rocks. "It was on these rocks that a group of eleven Guugu Yimithirr men and James Cook and several of his companions reconciled their differences and restored the peace and friendship that was the defining nature of the Europeans' stay in Endeavour River." 

Reconciliation Rocks

Cooks memorial near careening spot of Endeavour

The parks had copious numbers of mango trees bursting with fruit. Lucky us! It wasn't tourist season as it was too hot and cyclone season was almost upon us, so we probably saw Cooktown at its best and most relaxed. 

Lynda and Charlie from yacht New Horizons were also in town from Townsville (as were 2 other yachts) so we tried out barefoot bowling with them and had many laughs, mainly at my expense because I'm a crappy bowler!

the bowling team
We spent many a happy afternoon at an informal gathering of yachties and locals on a verandah overlooking the river. Cooktown is an unusual town filled with eccentrics and others. The last big cyclone which just missed the town saw the locals locked in the evacuation centre while police did warrant checks on everyone, not one of their best public relations exercises. 

The Musuem, which was once a convent boarding school was fantastic, we spent hours there checking out the Endeavour memorabilia, reading stories of the Guugu Yimithirr people as well as contemplating the Catholic relics.

Cooktown museum...sure looks like my old convent school

recovered Endeavour anchor, with canon in background

One early story......" Prior to the 10th June 1770, we the Koko Yalanji and Guugu Yimithirr were open to the concept of others. We would observe strange sailing vessels going by and we were usually aware of their purpose. They would be looking for fish, dugong, beche de mer, trochus or shells. But they were transients. They did not intend to stay. And they always left.On the morning of 11th June, 1770 a strange large canoe which the coastal people had kept under observation was seen just east of Kurangee now known as Cape Tribulation. It appeared that something was not right. Our Guugu Yimithirr ancestors considered that these boat people like others who came and went would not cause problems."  Wonderful stuff.

The Europeans did leave more than memories- their pigs escaped while work was underway and the "Captain Cooker", a descendant of the European wild boar, made its entry into the area. The ship's botanists recorded 180 plants new to science, including the cabbage tree palm and the Cooktown orchid.

In 1873 Cooktown became the sea port for the rapidly growing Palmer Goldfields. At one time Chinese made up the bulk of the population and merchants did business via trading ships with China and Singapore. Cooktown's Chinatown was enormous and included a temple. Unfortunately nothing of it now remains, although the cemetery does carry reminders.

Photo of Cooktown's tent city during the Palmer gold rush

One morning we set out walking up the hill (Grassy Hill) which we were told had amazing views in addition to a lighthouse. We were doing well until a local woman insisted we get into her car "you girls ARE NOT walking up that hill in this heat". Oh well we tried, and yes the views were spectacular.

"Before long the bright rays of our light will be glowing over the waste waters, carrying comfort and an assurance of safety to mariners who have to thread the intrictate navigation of our coast-no better monument could be erected to the memory of Capt James Cook." Cooktown Courier, 1885.

Marg doing the tourist bit

views over the river
We were sad when it was time to leave.