Friday, August 28, 2015

so far into the blue we reach 'out of the blue'

After a couple of days relaxing in Lloyd Bay - fishing, crabbing and reading we decided it was time to head further into the blue.

Marg goes fishing !

Glassy calm at Lloyd Bay
On the 11th August we woke to a beautiful day so pulled the anchor and headed the 20nm to Portland Roads. The wind was softly blowing below 10kts 30 degrees off the bow so we motored. Beautiful scenery on the way.

Lloyd Island

Restoration Rock

During May 1789, William Bligh in the Bounty's longboat after the famous mutiny stopped at this island and wrote.... 

“This being the Day of the Restoration of King Charles the 2nd, and the name being not inapplicable to my present situation (for it has restored us to fresh life and strength), I named it Restoration Island, for I think it probable Cap.n Cook may not have taken notice of it.” 


The island is now home to Dave and if you look closely to the photo the yacht on the sand is visible. Dave has recovered this wrecked yacht and cut a hole in its hull for direct access from the beach. Unfortunately his companion dog was killed by a taipan around this time so we decided not to visit. He is a local identity. More can be read on

The water was very rough around the island so we were thankful to anchor at Portland Roads at 1600- 3 hrs after anchor up. We took Ruby ashore for a quick walk and found a very pretty spot.

water view of town

main street looking east

main street looking west

We were becoming concerned about our diminishing supply of unleaded fuel (for the outboard and generator) and as the barge from Cairns wasn't due for another week we decided to hitch into the nearest settlement of Lockhart River with our fuel containers. We were lucky enough to get a lift to the servo and return with G who had lived in the area for over 30 years and was not only a warm hearted fella but a wealth of information also. He had been involved in fishing (mackerel), been employed in the gold exploration of the Cape in the 80's (extensive deposits but too difficult to mine) and he and his wife had also been involved in the Lockhart River Aboriginal Community. On our return to Portland he invited us for a cuppa at his beautiful house on the hill and showed us the many objects he had found beachcombing over the years - floats, bottles, Melanesian canoes- so many fabulous things!

The road to the community was amazing- scrub led to the thickest rainforest imaginable. The area is very popular with bird watchers, the red breasted noisy pitta being a favourite. A great day but Ruby was very pleased to see us on our return.

Portland Roads has a military history - a matter of weeks after the battle of the Coral Sea took place, American Army engineers and Australian military personnel arrived here to survey and construct the Iron Range Air Force Base. Navy vessels berthed and unloaded the stores and equipment needed on the existing jetty which had been built for coastal steamships to service the pre-war mining communities. Roads played a key role in keeping supplies up to the bomber groups that operated out of Iron Range delivering strikes on Japanese installations at Rabaul.

During the Vietnamese War, Australian and American military dropped experimental bombs near the Iron Range strip as the foliage is very similar to that encountered in the Vietnamese jungle. Apparently there is a clip on the web!

We all loved the town, Ruby had a great time. So, out of the blue is a café open for breakfast and lunch and dinner if you are lucky. Food is great although the racist mutterings of the waitress was a disappointing aspect. Grey nomads camping at Chili Beach are regulars at the café and some loudly discuss, with encouragement from the waitress, the "crazy angry abos" that "accost" them at their camps "yelling this is my land". Well, yes it is. I'd be mighty pissed too if my beautiful country was being overrun by people with an attitude that "mine is bigger and better". We have encountered a fair bit of racism amongst cruisers also who trample sacred sites and believe they have "a right" to access to any land they choose. Very disappointing.
 The café is also the local information centre and P.O, the owner being very helpful.

view from out of the blue

out of the blue

We left on the 14th for Margaret Bay.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

further into the blue

We spent a relaxing night at Stokes Bay, Stanley Island after motoring for 1hr from Frederick Point, Flinders Island. When we pulled up Manatee's anchor a very old, barnacle encrusted piece of wire rigging was wrapped around the anchor. After pulling most of it onto the deck we opted to keep it simple and motor around!
Stokes Bay was gorgeous, 9 fishing boats (tiger prawns) were spending the day there so crew could get some sleep. I suspect the bay was home to lots of sharks.
The next morning we walked the beach- just beautiful.
At 1000 we departed the magical Flinders Group of islands and set sail for Hedge Reef, 25nm NW. We are now on "the peninsula" so sailing west means we keep inside the reef!
We arrived at 1700-the worst possible time to be picking our way amongst reef due to the low angle of the sun. We got as close to Hedge as possible (which has a sand cay) narrowly missing a few coral bommies. We decided we'd pushed it far enough and anchored in 5m. What an awful night...we pitched all night (like a rocking horse), the anchor dragged, we again took turns at anchor watch so were tired the next morning. We couldn't move as isolated coral bommies are not charted so it was fingers crossed.
We made it through the night and got the anchor up at 0830, the earliest we could see below the surface of the water. The winds were 10-15kts so we were forced to motor sail 35nm to our next anchorage. We arrived at Morris Island at 1500hrs and did a slow walking lap of the island. Beautiful spot but very distressing to see the amount of plastic washed ashore- bottles, thongs etc.  
Morris Island has one coconut palm, a grave of a pearl diver, a resident croc and is covered in sisal plants which makes it impossible to get to the islands interior. Allegedly the sisal was planted so shipwrecked sailors could use the staff to knock down coconuts! The reef surrounding the island is substantial, the water very clear and the sand cay stretches for miles at low tide. A very pretty spot. We stayed the next day to rest and ensure Ruby was walked out.
Marg and Ruby enjoying the view
too many sisal plants

leaving Morris Island
We left Morris at 0645 to catch a weather window of reasonable winds. The wind up here is so strong it nearly blows your eyebrows off! Manatee enjoys the sailing although we are heavily reefed most of the time. As usual we trolled hoping a catch dinner. We haven't caught anything since leaving Lizard Island, where we managed to land a tasty Spanish mackerel. We have managed to lose 4 lures since Lizard. We think sharks as other boats are pulling in fish as sharks grab them, often hauling in all that remains- the head.

The weather was very squally, with gusts of 35kts, causing Manatee to actually heel-her first time. We were abeam Night Reef at 1015 but it looked pretty miserable so we decided to keep going to Lloyd Bay (Lockhart River) We managed to complete the 60nm by 1445 and we anchored in shallow protected water at Almond Point. It was Christian's (SY Brunhilda) birthday so we ended the day with a impromptu party aboard Manatee.

As I write this, Marg is fishing the river with Khylie and Christian in our dinghy and I'm making the most of the isolated internet reception here. Although we are anchored off a patch of sand Ruby is boat bound due to all the crocs! We've had our crab pot out and Marg found 2 sand crabs which we released due to their size. Pity. It is also Aboriginal land and we haven't sought permission to be ashore.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Into the blue

We set out for Howick Island, 30nm from Lizard, in SE winds 20-25kts. Furler trouble, so we sailed with 3 reefs in the main and the storm jib. The seas were horrendous and we experienced gusts to 30kts. Happy to anchor at Howick Island after 6 hours where we then took turns at anchor watch overnight.

Passing Watsons Island named after Mary Watson

Exhausted the next morning, we pulled up the anchor at 0930 for the 25nm journey to Ninian Bay. All tired and grumpy we motored with the storm jib up as a steadying sail. Arriving in the bay we saw our first dugong since Great Keppel-very exciting. We motored around trying to find the perfect sheltered spot and finally dropped our anchor in very shallow water at 1430. We chilled for the next day!

We were all more relaxed the next morning so made the decision to head for the Flinders Island Group 30nm away. Perfect choice! The seas were kind and we experienced great sailing at 7kts, even managing to kick start the furler. The seas picked up outside Owen Passage which runs between the two main islands- Stanley and Flinders.

Approaching Flinders Island

We anchored off Aapa Spit (above) which for thousands of years was the meeting place of  the Yiithuwarra people. For 70 years in the 1900's the spit sited a shop, sheds and a house for the fishing community which was established here. The advent of barges which can supply fuel and water meant the demise of this regular community. We spent a few days here exploring, walking and eating oysters off the rocks, being croc aware after noticing a slide on our first walk. One night accompanying Ruby on one of her midnight wanders around the deck,  I saw that the bay was filled with a dozen or more dolphins - what an amazing experience.

The days were very windy and at night we started to roll at anchor. Khylie and Christian from SY Brunhilda dropped by for a cuppa and suggested we move to Frederick Point which was a little more protected. So after 5 days at the spit we moved Manatee where we enjoyed sundowners at the National Parks Campsite with the crews from Brunhilda and SY Overdie.

One morning at high tide we took the dinghy across to Stanley Island for a walk to the Aboriginal art caves.


beach on Stanley Island

A very spiritual place. The islands had many sacred spots including burial and initiation sites. What a fantastic history we have.

After a few days (the crocs were getting too close) we bid farewell to Erica and Andy from Overdie who were going no further north and agreeing to meet up again with Khylie and Christian who are also sailing to Darwin, we headed around to Stokes Bay on Stanley Island prior to heading further into the blue. 

Flat out like a lizard drinking

We completed the 18nm to Lizard Island in a little over 4 hrs, finally anchoring in Mrs Watsons Bay around 1630. Winds were fairly kind at 15-20kts. Lots of yachts (at times) in the anchorage, some on their yearly pilgrimage to this yachting mecca, others part of the Island Cruising Associations' rally to Indonesia (around 36 chose to come to Lizard from Cairns from the 51 taking part). Unless yachts are going across to Darwin or taking part in the yearly rally they turn around here and beat back into seas after September. 
For Manatee's crew it was 2 weeks of relaxing.
The Dingaal Aboriginal owners called Lizard Island Jiigurru and it is a sacred place. The island was not only used as an initiation site but it was a place of plenty. Dingaal paddled across from the mainland to harvest turtles, shellfish, dugongs and fish. Lots of middens here!
Gould's sand monitor (goanna)
 Lizard Island was given its name by Captain Cook when he climbed the island's summit to sight a pass through the maze of the Great Barrier Reef in 1770.  He had his crew row him over in a pinnace from the mainland- they must have been fit! He commented, "The only land Animals we saw here were Lizards, and these seem'd to be pretty Plenty, which occasioned my naming the Island Lizard Island". These lizards were Gould's sand monitors and the island still has a colony, although the only lizards we saw were around the research station where they scavenge for food.
the island's summit "Cook's Look"
We spent a day climbing the summit and the views were fantastic!
Half way up the summit there was a grand view of the anchorage. Just near the group of three yachts (Manatee is the red yacht), is a patch of reef called the "clam garden" - magnificent snorkelling!
We climbed to this spot more than once as it also had phone reception.
The bay just past the anchorage is where the Lizard Island Resort sits. Damaged two years running in cyclones, it is being re-built and re-landscaped. Despite this the tariff is still over $1600 per person!
view of the lagoon from Cook's Look
Marg at Cook's cairn
In 1880 the Watson family settled on the island to harvest beche-de-mer and while her husband and his partner were off the island the settlement was "attacked" by Dingaals. A Chinese servant was killed, Mary, her baby and another Chinese servant escaped in a beche-de-mer tub to a nearby island where they perished. Mary and her baby are buried in Cooktown cemetery.
Perhaps the attack occurred because this was a sacred site! 
Beche-de-mer harvesting was abandoned.
The bay bears the name Mrs Watson's in memory of Mary.
Mrs Watson's Bay
We also took daily dinghy rides to nearby beaches where we snorkelled the reef while Ruby regained the use of her land legs! She has become a surfer on board Manatee.
Ruby being sensible on her outing to either....
Mermaid Cove or

Turtle Beach
We also walked the island. The southern aspect was glorious- the lagoon magical.

The Lizard Island Research Station , in the next bay along from the lagoon, was welcoming (thanks Lyle!). It was established in 1973 and is owned by the Australian Museum, although funded privately by a foundation. Their library was amazing - always nervous around sharks I found the photos of the species of "nervous shark" intriguing. Lyle gave a group of us a tour of the facility and confirmed that crocs and bull sharks visited the island - obviously not publicised widely due to the resort. A post-grad student explained that his research entailed studying two controlled tanks (one with humbugs and one without) to establish whether fish poop slowed coral bleaching which is due to global warming. Oh I wish I'd studied to be a marine biologist! Students were seen regularly in the facilities tenders visiting parts of the reef.

Walking around the island to the research station


beach in front of research station

We also, with the assistance from the crew of Samantha (thanks Andrena and Shawn), fixed our halyard problem and, we hoped, the furler. The HF antenna was unrepairable, thankfully the radio is still operational. 

We also joined other yachties for evening sundowners most nights on the beach.

We WERE flat out like lizards drinking!


Cruisin' in 15

We bid adieu to Port in late June and sailed across to Low Isles to get our heads and Manatee into cruising mode. Weather forecast was for a strong wind warning so we walked the island and relaxed on the near empty beach. Felt sorry for the tourists who came across to enjoy the reef-visibility was very poor due to the strong winds-ferocious enough to blow our HF radio antenna off the mast! Needless to say we didn't feel like swimming.

Beautiful Low
After 4 days we had a weather window so Ruby vocally encouraged us to get a move on-a walk was overdue. We had very heavy showers in 20kts of wind so sailed under genoa only. Off Cape Tribulation a very large wave entered the wheelhouse which surprised us all - Ruby looked accusingly at us! Of course the genoa wouldn't re-furl when it was time, shoulda had that shakedown cruise. 

After a 8 hour sail we anchored at Hope Island lagoon and noticed the genoa halyard was off- shoulda, shoulda.

We completed many circuits of the island which pleased Ruby. The winds were 30kts+. The only notable moment was a shark feeding in the shallows. Needless to say we didn't fancy swimming. After 4 days the winds abated so we sailed to Cooktown to get bits for the furler.

Ruby was very excited to be back at Cooktown (or Kookytown as some call it). She made a beeline for the Sovereign Hotel where, months previously, she enjoyed a sneaky night watching TV in a air-conditioned room. We caught up with friends and replenished our fresh food supply...and just enjoyed being there.

Cray boat seeking shelter in Cooktown's entrance channel

Sunny but still windy-locals at the jetty

Five days later the winds had dropped to 20-25, gusting 30kts so it was a chance to move further north. We almost turned back on the way to Cape Bedford which is so rough it causes seasoned sailors to spew! After 4 hours sailing we ducked around the corner of the Cape to anchor in shallow protected waters. The site of the old Hopevale Mission was here (it has since moved), and the soil is so sandy it is obvious why the move was necessary-they were expected to grow their own food which would have been virtually impossible given the site. We were so close to shore Manatee sat on the bottom at low tide.

The next morning we managed to sail up to 5kts in variable winds to Cape Flattery. The southern (ish) side of the Cape is a huge wharf for the silica mine and the northern (ish)  aspect is the site of many fishing camps. After 3 hrs Ruby was walked on a gorgeous beach. We all wanted to luxuriously roll in the beautiful sand. Very happy, alas no fish. The locals camping also had no luck.

Cape Flattery beach

The next morning we awoke to a pod of dolphins around Manatee- very auspicious.
At 1300 we pulled up the anchor-destination LIzard Island.

Chris and Ray- Marg has temporarily lost your email address! Could you email!