Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Katter country - Innisfail

Innisfail by night from our anchorage in the Johnson River (bit wobbly cos the boat won't stay still!)

Monday, 28 May 2012

Hinchinbrook Channel and beyond

It's been a very long time since I've spent a day in my pyjamas but our day on the mooring at Little Pioneer Day provided the opportunity - simply because it was so uncomfortably swelly that the only place to regain your equilibrium was in bed. I think Royden and I basically took turns.
However conditions did abate over the Friday night so (after showering and getting dressed!) we set out first up Saturday morning for the town of Lucinda at the entry to the Hinchinbrook Channel. It was a fast journey surfing the waves and with the wind pushing us from behind as well.
Lucinda jetty
Lucinda jetty has to be one of the longest around - about 5 kms I believe. We couldn't spot the channel marker buoy well out to sea from the tip of the jetty so reckon it was either lost in the swell or blown away in Yasi.
It was a fabulous feeling  to hit the smooth waters of the channel and to take in the stunning scenery here. It is one of my very favourite places. We stopped and had coffee beneath the Bluff nearest the entry point and just savoured an hour or so before meandering down (or up) the channel to choose an overnight anchorage. Waterfalls were running full on the many rock faces of Hinchinbrook Island's peaks and the Cardwell Range on the opposite side. Any wonder after 300 mm of rain overnight Thursday.
What a view! Hinchinbrook Island is one of the most beautiful places we have visited - by land or sea.
We decided to anchor in Gayundah Creek, out of the main waterway and flanked with mangroves. It was delightfully calm but a soft breeze kept the midges away. Perfect. 
On Sunday morning we moved along to just outside Cardwell. While it was good to see regrowth happening, Yasi's destruction is still very evident.
Our sail across to Dunk Island started well with a nice breeze of around 11 knots but about halfway across it dropped to 4, then 2, then just about nothing and we were forced to bring down the sails and motor. Fickle weather!
What a beauty! and delicious.
We anchored off Dunk Island for the evening right outside a resort shredded by Yasi. Roofs and walls were missing from buildings and the beachfront bar and kiosk gone completely.  The jetty has whole chunks missing from it. Imagine it will take many years and many millions to create another resort here.
Royden's fishing efforts were rewarded here with a beaut sized red snapper which replaced lasagne on our dinner menu last night. It was delicious - and there's two more dinners left from it yet.
Today we have sailed through to the Johnson River and are anchored in the river across from Innisfail. Conditions at sea became very rough after a couple of hours this morning, and the weather is predicted to deteriorate further over the next few days so we decided to negotiate the bar at the river entry (an interesting and bracing experience!) and prop in here for a few days until it's calm enough for us to get out there again and continue our trip to Cairns, which is only a half day (or so) sail away now.
In the meantime we will explore Innisfail and get some parts for that bane of all sailors - the toilet.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Wild weather, wind and waves. What the ...?

What is it with these early morning wake up calls at sea?
At 2am peaceful Little Pioneer Bay turned into a churning mass as 30+ knot winds and torrential rain roared in from the south-west whipping up waves and swell directly into the bay.
This was the change due this afternoon - you know, when Sea Piper would be tucked up in the shelter of the Hinchinbrook Channel. Now we can only look longingly across the water at where we reckon the channel is hiding beneath its rain blanket.
Last time we stayed at Orpheus Island, in the same bay, we were hit with exactly the same scenario. Though it's a bit freakish happening in late May. At least last time it was late in the year when you might expect the odd storm.
Needless to say we were up a lot last night, checking the mooring line and our position. A couple of tug boats had anchored during the evening so it was comforting to see their lights as they provided a point of reference in the blackness.
The swell and roll was hugely uncomfortable but our thoughts went out to friends who had headed south late on Wednesday and would be copping it around Bowen. A phone call today confirmed that they had indeed - 40+ knots gale force against them in the middle of the night as they headed towards Airlie Beach.
As the day has progressed the wind has died down to around 20-25 knots but the sea is still too wild to venture across to the Lucinda jetty and the entrance to the Hinchinbrook Channel.
Hopefully tomorrow will provide that opportunity.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

First stop - Little Pioneer Bay

We have left the marina and are back at sea at last.
Following a longer-than-anticipated stay down south (a wedding, catching up with family and friends, meetings, house repairs and, most importantly, grandchildren cuddles) we flew back to Townsville last Sunday night and have spent the past few days getting ready to set sail for the season - and of course catching up with Townsville family, friends and fellow sailors.
This time we decided to head north (with the wind and general swell direction) and worry about coming back south against the elements later in the year.
Good plan? We'll let you know in December.
After a couple of minor glitches this morning, we got underway around 10am and headed towards the Palm Islands.
A 10 to 15 knot breeze pushed us along helped by a run-out tide and a friendly swell. At times the breeze almost disappeared but freshend again as we got up into the Palms. We made excellent time arriving at Little Pioneer Bay (Orpheus Island) just before a patchy rainstorm that we could see coming from the direction of Hinchinbrook Island, which was obliterated by rain cloud.
There is no other boat here and we saw only one other and the Palm Island ferry, all day.
Pioneer Bay boasts some magnificent (and unusual) coral and is home to a research station  . It is also a no-fishing zone so the fish are inclined to jump up all around the boat in a teasing fashion, just as they did when we last visited here in late 2010.
The weather is supposed to kick up tomorrow afternoon but we are planning an early morning start over to the Hinchinbrook Channel where we will tuck up for a day or two (fishing) before resuming our journey to Cairns to meet our first visitors for the season.