Sad day today as it's time to say goodbye to Holly. The weather was against us so Pete had to stay with the boat as the forecast said it was going to blow 40 knots, I had worried all night about having to dinghy into the marina from the anchorage in those kind of winds.
I was secretly hoping that her flight would be cancelled and she would have to stay a bit longer!
Holly was sad but excited as she was on her way to Hong Kong for a 2 night shopping trip. She really is lucky as a friend of friend and a local Hong Kong girl is meeting her at her hotel to show her the sights. She'll have a wonderful time!
Pete & I will have to stay in Cairns for a little longer as out boat registration certificate is out of date & Indonesia will not issue a cruising permit without it.
24th July 2008
We had applied for a cruising permit for Indonesia and this entails sending e-mail copies of passports and the ships registration details. Unknown to us, the ship registration document was out of date and we now needed to apply for renewal. This entailed sending an application form by post (Fax not allowed) and then waiting for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to send a Carving and Marking document to our UK Address. Our “home” address is actually my parents address and my dad will scan the form and mail me a copy so that I can fill it in and post it back to the UK after which a new Certificate will be issued. A long winded process that requires us to remain in Cairns where the communications are good.
25th July 2008 to 28th July 2008
So, whilst we are waiting for the Carving and Marking form to arrive, I got on with stripping and varnishing the Companionway and applying a few more coats of varnish to the cap rails. Fliss busied herself with adding to the ships stores that will have to last us until Darwin since there is little in the way of civilisation from here onwards.
We met a nice chap moored in the marina who gave me a lift to the Chart Shop since he was having difficulties describing where it was. A couple of days later, I sent Fliss off to catch a taxi and get three gas bottles refilled. She met the same guy on the dinghy landing pontoon and he told her that she was going to get horrendously lost and it was best if he drove her. The outcome was that the usual re-fill station was closed and they spent almost an hour driving around until finding a place that would do re-fills. Without his help, we would have been eating cold beans for the next three weeks or more.
The Carving and Marking form arrived with my parents and was scanned and e-mailed immediately but arrived with us on a Sunday. We got up early on the Monday and posted the signed form back and did last minute provisioning of food, additional varnish, spare rope, petrol for the outboard, and cheap booze.
29th July 2008
We dropped into the marina at 10:00 to fill one of our fuel tanks and set off at about 10:30 to Green Island ghosting along nicely under headsail alone until we came out of the shelter of Cairns whereby we stuck 2 reefs in the main and were pounding along close hauled at 7.5 knots. The weather forecast told us that it was windy and the automatic wind-speed indicator on Green Island was recording 25 knots gusting 30. With the anchorage at Green Island being some distance from land (behind reefs), we decided that we would give it a miss and headed instead for Low Isles 30 miles distant. We had not planned for such a long passage in breezy conditions and I worried about the dinghy doing a somersault as it had done in the Whitsundays. However after a really good downwind passage and no mishaps, we arrived at 17:00 nicely in time to set the anchor before dark.
30th July 2008 - 31st July 2008
All's well here & were chilling, anchored off lovely Low Isles.... it's so small that you can walk around it in 5 minutes! but it does have a pretty lighthouse.
The snorkelling it good and Pete I snorkelled with three huge turtles.... Not that much fish life but we reckon when the tour boats turn up the fish bugger off till they leave. Water visibility is murky but it's due to all the boats whizzing around stirs it up. At 3pm they all leave so we have it to ourselves.... lovely!
About 3:30pm we took the dinghy to a bommie to see if we could see the Turtles again, none in sight we must have been incredibly lucky! Pete got back in the dinghy & I swam back.... just as I reached the boat I felt that I had been stung, damn! I thought I'm in real trouble now as the jelly fish have a deadly sting and you only have a short while to get to hospital....I had a red mark with an obvious sting mark but I must have been stung by an innocent one as I was fine!!!! it just burnt for a while.
We had a lovely couple of days at Low Isles doing a bit of snorkelling and then some walking between the adjacent isles at low tide. The water clarity was not very good for snorkelling but we managed to swim with a group of Turtles and see stingrays and reef sharks as well. We started feeding the Batfish by the boat but they were completely outclassed by the dexterity and speed of Remora (I think that's what they are called). They are grey, sleek and look a bit like metre-long sharks but have a mouth pointing upwards rather than down and have gills along the top of their heads. We eventually had a shoal of them under Naz. We also saw these fish escorting the turtles and I think that they act as cleaners - certainly, the bottom of Naz has now lost its thin patina of Cairns river muck. We are hoping they are catching a ride with us as and that we will find them still with us at the next anchorage.
We had a Sea Osprey sitting on top of the mast the last couple of days, we think its nest is on the top of the lighthouse ashore - very big with a white belly. Also, a large seabird tried to land on our spreaders and misjudged. It fell and tangled in the shrouds before hitting the deck. Having regained its wits, it sat on the guardrail about 5ft from us and seemed completely unfazed by our presence and movements.
The Low Isles are inhabited by a caretaker and some research people and are invaded daily by tour boats that disgorge their loads between about 10:30 and 15:00. The arrival and departure and tourist ferrying are all done to the same schedule each day and so there must be strict regulations about numbers allowed on the island.
1st August 2008
We left Low Isles bound for Hope Island at 07:30 today hoping for a 6 knot passage to get us there with plenty of light to dodge the bommies that clutter the entrance to the anchorage. The wind started off fairly light but and we put into Cape Tribulation thinking that we would not make our destination. However, the Cape offers poor protection and we re-hoisted sail and continued on. Luckily, the wind filled-in in the afternoon and we had another perfect sail to Hope Island arriving at Spring low tides that allowed us fantastic visibility of the numerous exposed reefs enabling easy pilotage into the anchorage.
However, we dropped the anchor in coral infested water and it took a while to hold. Thinking that it would be wise to put a buoy on the anchor, we pulled it back up and caught ourselves a massive lump of coral which took a little while to shake off the anchor. We finally settled down and went to the beach where a sign told us of the local crocodile inhabitants - "Do not go near the water - no swimming". Fliss high-tailed it back to the dinghy leaping the gap between it and the shore with one athletic bound. I might be a pussy when it comes to sharks but.......
2nd August 2008
We had another perfect sail to Cooktown and anchored in 5m one hour before low water. Jim, from a catamaran that had also been at Hope Island came over and began chatting. His boat was 30m away from us and he told us that he was firmly aground. At the change of the tide, we swung away from the wharf and touched bottom and managed to get ourselves pinned to the sand bar with the tide surging in at us broadside. After about an hour and a half, we eventually swung off into the deeper water again.
3rd August 2008
I got up at 05:30 this morning for the change to incoming tide to use the motor to nudge us off the sandbank before we got pinned against it again. Today, we noted that a local fishing boat had anchored in the yellow-buoyed boat turning area so we followed his example and are now blatantly in a no-anchor zone that gives a depth sufficient to let us swing.
There is not a lot here in Cooktown, the phone that we added credit to to get internet and e-mails has no signal here and the other SIM card that uses a Virgin account does not offer Internet service. There is nothing else apart from a reasonable supermarket.
Our new boat Registration Certificate has arrived with my parents and dad has scanned it and e-mailed a copy to us. With such a large e-mail, we needed our mobile phone to connect to the internet.
We spent a while trying to find internet services here but Fliss "private-eye" Anderson tracked down a backpackers hostel that had computer terminals. A little bit of messing around using the internet to access our Iridium mail and we have received and posted-on the documents.
We met an older chap (65-70+) who writes for Nudist magazines... he advertises for young ladies to crew for him in return they pose naked for articles that he writes..
4th August 2008
We awoke early to the sound of anchor chain grinding against the topsides as the wind opposed the tide. It only did it once but that was enough to incentivise us to get out of bed and get going from Cooktown. We left at 08:00 on a broad reach to Cape Bedford at about 7.5 knots in 15 knots of wind with the sun shining. Rounding Cape Bedford, we aimed for Cape Flattery and poled the headsail out wing-on-wing and slowed down a little for a while before the breeze filled in a little more and we were back to 7+ knots on a relatively stable sea. With the going looking good, we decided to press on to Lizard Island and arrived there at Watsons Bay at 15:30 having easily topped 50 miles. If the sailing keeps like this, it will be most enjoyable.
The beach here has a couple of bench-tables and a tree with a sign hanging on it saying Lizard Yacht Club. We went over for a couple of beers with the rest of the boats in the anchorage to watch the sun set - lovely. I now have the task of carving Nadezhda on something and hanging it with the rest of the memorabilia that adorns the spot. It might be good practice for Carving and Marking boat registration details onto Naz
5th August 2008
Lizard Island is where Captain Cook came in a small pinnace (a small boat) so that he could climb the 358m high hill to scan for a way out of the infernal reef. He was worried that going further North would have him embayed by the closing-in coral.
After carving "Nadezhda - 2008" on a piece of teak, we headed up Cooks hill. We were a bit late for it as the path ascended the leeward side of the hill and we had no breeze to cool us down from the midday sun. The views were great from the top and we could see Cooks Passage clearly from the top. He was really desperate to get out from the reefs here but then had no wind and the swell was threatening to push him back on the outer reefs. Two days later, he was relieved to find Providence channel and scurried through it back into sheltered water again. Be careful what you wish for – the grass is not always greener!
Lizard Island - Cook's Lookout Sign
Pete looking out over Lizard Island
We cooled down in the afternoon with a bit of snorkelling but the water here is still very cold and any more than half an hour of it at a time and the hypothermia sets in. At sunset, we went across to the “Yacht Club” and hung our carved memorabilia in the tree.
Yacht Nadezhda plaque at Lizard Island
Lizard Island Commitee members
6th August 2008
We started the day planning our itinerary to Cape York and thereon to Darwin. Then we walked across Lizard Island to the "Blue Lagoon" which is a very blue lagoon that joins the two off-lying islands to the main island. We spent some time scrambling around the shoreline rocks and beaches trying to find an alternative route back via a research centre but eventually gave up when the going got too tough and re-traced our steps back to the dinghy.
Lizard Island lizard
Fliss en-route to the Lagoon
“Nice n Easy” the nudists turned up this afternoon.
7th August 2008
We set off at 07:00 for the 55 mile run to Ninian Bay on the mainland. As soon as we had got the mainsail up, “Nice n Easy” the nudist catamaran had their anchor up and were following us. After a short while, the wind increased and we tucked in the first mainsail reef having achieved 8.8 knots. About an hour later and the headsail had a few turns in it and three hours into our passage the second slab of mainsail reefing was applied. “Nice n Easy” kept full sail all day and was slewing all over the place in the short steep waves. I called them up on the radio and asked where they were going ... “Oh! Not really sure” was the response. I told them we were headed to Ninian Bay and suddenly, that was where they were going as well!!?!
Jim & Annie - Nice & Easy
We arrived at Ninian Bay with Nice N Easy at the same time - it was very shallow and we could not get close enough to the shore to prevent some chop. Nice n Easy were able to go in much further and got protection from the wind and seas whilst I slept in the lounge listening for the anchor alarm.
8th August 2008
We set of with just the headsail for the short 30 mile hop to Flinders Island. The wind picked up as we ran up the coast to Cape Melville but it was pretty much behind us and a few turns of roller-reefing kept us at a stable 7.5 knots. Nice n Easy took the inside route between Cape Rock and Boulder Rock but we decided to go outside of dangers since the wind had increased and we had less than half the jib out by that point and the seas were beginning to kick-up.
As we rounded the outer dangers (Channel Rocks) the wind was really howling and we reefed to about one-fifth of the jib but were still doing 7.5 knots on a beam reach. Then, the wind really started picking up. With only 4 miles of fetch from the headland, the seas were short, steep and knocking us about such that it was difficult for Charlie (the autohelm) to keep a straight course. The waves were tumbling and bursting across Naz with explosive force and instantly turning into windblown spindrift - we were soaked immediately. The sound of the wind in the rigging changed from a reassuring howl to an nerve jangling scream.
It was at this time that the wooden catch that holds the autopilot gantry to the pushpit decided to fail. The wind and motion blew the gantry aside and promptly dumped the autopilot into the sea. Luckily, the gantry got itself caught-up and the autopilot was tied onto the boat by a lanyard. Fliss was downstairs checking that the hatches were fully screwed down and so I had a couple of minutes of panic trying to keep Naz on course whilst retrieving the parts and lashing them securely back in place.
All in all, we had about 45 minutes of ferocious weather of intensity that we have never seen before. I think that maybe it was something to do with the strong trade winds accelerated by Cape Melville and the associated mountains but the Cruising Guide does not mention the phenomena. We are hoping that this is the first and last of anything of that order of magnitude.
The rest of the passage was quite pleasant but a bit slow as we were cautious about turning out a few reefs in the headsail.
We were invited on-board Nice & Easy for dinner with Jim and Annie.
Jim is married but his wife does not like sailing so he advertises for crew to do long term (6 months or more) cruising up and down the Queensland coast. He is a naturist and writes for a naturist magazine. Naturally, his crew must be half his age and female. Annie does not quite fit the bill since she is 50 years old - only 15-20 years his junior. She is here to spend 1 year cruising with Jim and has come all the way from San Francisco where she has her own boat. However, I think that not all is well in the Nice n Easy camp with the rumours of Annie going AWOL once they reach Thursday Island. We think that we are being followed by Jim since they left straight after us from Lizard Island having spent only half an afternoon there. We are not quite sure what our attraction is but we are keeping our clothes firmly on!!
9th August 2008
after our fright of 230 knots of wind the other day (it's already getting slightly exagerated), we had a quiet day at anchorage at Flinders Island. It was quite gusty there and we simply chilled out and Fliss went for a walk on the beach with Nice n Easy whilst I got some of the Blog text up to date. I think that my staying on the boat put Jims' nose out of joint since, when they returned, he upped anchor and moved about half a mile away!
10th August 2008
Today, we did the 60 mile hop from Flinders Island to Morris Island. The breeze started off quite nice but soon died until about 5 miles from the anchorage - so we ended up motoring about 52 miles which we did not really want to do since we did not want to re-fill with diesel in Darwin.
11th August 2008
The night was quite wild and windy with no shelter from the small sandy cay but it dropped off in the morning and we departed with full sail.
Our original intention was to hop to Night Island (only 21 miles) but the wind increased until we had 2 reefs in the mainsail and were bombing along at over 7 knots so we headed straight for Portland Roads - a distance of 65 miles total. We left at 06:45 and arrived at 15:30 - another great run although the day has been overcast with a few spots of rain. Being in Portland Roads means that we have caught-up the day we spent in Flinders.
There are houses here! This is the only European settlement between Cooktown and Thursday Island (Cape York) and is served by an airfield some distance inland. I am not sure why the settlement is here since there is no big jetty for export of raw materials or produce. We will never find out since we will be off towards Cape Grenville tomorrow morning - weather permitting.
Charlie the autopilot got himself seized today as we were approaching Portland. He got himself on full extension and got stuck. I have encouraged him to work again but think that he requires recuperation and renovation before too much additional work is required of him. We are glad we had the little ST1000 to replace him and also that we have a Charlie II (that requires the plug changed with Charlie I).
12th August 2008
We had another fast sail. I put two reefs in the main before leaving and wished that we had simply used the headsail. After navigating through narrow reefs to keep away from the big ships in the main channel, we hid behind a reef and got the main down and unfurled a small bit of headsail that still gave us 7 knots boatspeed. Turning around the shallows into Margaret Bay (Cape Grenville) we gunned the engine to make progress against the wind for the mile into calmer waters.
We called up a fishing boat that is here in the anchorage after lone fisherman gave us a hearty wave. He has a forecast that says the wind will not abate and told us that it is usually like this at this time of year. He also said that the Mother Ship (Supply Vessel) was coming in today. The Mother Ship "Pacific Endeavour" supplies fishing boats and anyone else up and down the coast from Cairns to Cape York and takes back the fish that have been caught.
I went over to see Don on his small fishing boat that he rents from the owner. He is trying to get back South but refuses to go out in the seas the way that they are at the moment. He lost a stabiliser the other day and almost turned turtle and also has problems with leaking self-steering fluid. Unfortunately, that means that he has no fish but is going crabbing today and promised us some if he is successful.
13th August 2008
We decided to have a rest day today and see what the supply boat could offer us. Also, I wanted to grease and check the Aries and give everything else a once-over since I have not done so in a while.
I called-up Pacific Endeavour this morning - Fliss was running out of Cigarettes as Nice n Easy smoked all of hers. They told us to come over and we went up to the bridge to be foiled by a submarine-like door. We stood outside trying to fathom out how to open it as the people inside ignored us. Eventually, Don opened it for us and they all had a good laugh at our expense - they wanted to know how many times we would walk around the bridge trying to gain access.
We asked if they had some fresh veg and bread and they ummed and ahherd saying that they were on their way home. Fliss went off with the cook and hit the jackpot. The ship is due back home in 2 days and she had more than enough provisions remaining.
We bought 200 fags and they gave us for free:
Bacon, Chicken wings, Pork Mince, 5 loves of bread, 2 packets of muffins, 2 pints of milk, corgettes, huge bag of apples, mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, carrots, oranges, tomatoes & limes... so it pays to talk! just a quick conversation with a local fisherman who tipped us of. Kind eh! they laughed when they passed us the goodies to the dinghy & said hope we don't sink you.
Don the fisherman has just roared off in his tinny (aluminium dinghy) to go crabbing so the spark plug that we gave him must have done the trick. I think that everything on his boat has seen better days!
It is grey and windy here today but not too cold. Not really a day for exploring too far so we will do our checks and jobs.
We invited Don from the small fishing boat over for sundowners along with a solo catamaran sailor. A couple of twenty-something lads also came along from a Cray-fishing boat that is also anchored and working from Margaret Bay. The Crayfish are vegetarian here and must be caught by hand so the main fishing boat is simply storage and accomodation. It tows 3 Dorys to the fishing ground and the fishermen use these as a base for diving. Each Dory is equipped with a compressor to provide air for the divers and a saltwater storage tank to keep the Crayfish alive. Some of the fish are frozen and some kept alive and delivered to a small plane that lands on the beach at low tide whereupon they go to Cairns and then on to China.
The 2 lads were very pleasant and had not been on a yacht before. They ran back to their ship and brought 3 tails of Crayfish for us and a bag of what they called "cockroaches". These were a bit like small crayfish and had been cooked - not bad eating but we don't really like fish and noshed a few just to be polite.
14th August 2008
I went aboard the Crayfishing boat this morning for a look around. Some of the live ones were about 2.5 feet long, are strong and they can really move quickly when disturbed. The lads seemed to really like their work but it must be a very hard life spending up to 5 hours a day underwater wrestling in hand-to-hand combat with these creatures.
Don cooked and gave us a mud crab ..... please - no more fish!
We stayed another half day at Margaret Bay due to the windy conditions and then ran just 8 miles North to Shelbourne Bay today. As we rounded Rodney Island at a fair distance, we headed towards the anchorage and having just furled the headsail and started the engine, we watched the depth go from 5 metres to 2.2 in no time at all. I grabbed the helm and turned away from shore just as we grumbled heavily across something hard and unyielding. Hopefully no damage but whatever it was is uncharted and not shown in our cruising guide or C-Map. However, if you zoom out on C-Map sufficiently, there is a rock shown. The waters are murky here and the light was bad and so we had no chance of seeing the shoals.
We are now anchored in 3m depth unfortunately too far from shore. This means that the small fetch is uncomfortable and the tide is holding us broadside to the 30+ knots of wind.
15th August 2008
We departed again at 04:00 in order to run the 80 miles to Mt Adolphus. Luckily, the winds were blowing only 25 knots rather that the 35 knots that we have become accustomed to and ew stormed along with 2 reefs in the main goosewinged with the jib. Fantastic progress bought us to our new anchorage in grey conditions by 16:30
16th and 17th August 2008
We had a couple of days of rest whilst mission control (dad) researched the internet for tidal flows through the Torres Straits. We judged that leaving one and a half hours after low tide anywhere along that coastline would allow you to catch the first of the Westbound flow.