Sunday, 19 August 2012

Cairns Festival rocks

Cairns turned it on last night with a fabulous street parade to officially open the 2012 Cairns Festival.
One of the things I really miss from Darwin is the August Festival with its diverse fortnight of performance artists, theatre, displays etc mainly in the open air.
By chance we arrived back in the marina yesterday morning just in time to take advantage of the opening of the Cairns event which is run along similar lines but appears even bigger.
Over 50 floats took part in last night's parade. They ranged from marching bands to the colourfully bizarre and the wonderfully ridiculous. It was a joyous hoot.
The esplande was six deep with people of all ages cheering, clapping and laughing. The kids along the route had a ball and were the recipients of many show bags, stickers and wacky clacker things.
We decided to give the later fireworks display (on three barges out on the mudflats) a miss and headed off for dinner at the Courthouse Hotel with our departing guests of the last seven days Rose and Steve.
Lucky we did. The noise of the fireworks was huge even from two blocks away, and once they had ended the influx into the hotel was enormous, with the dinner delay stretching out to an hour and a half.
We left Rose and Steve to overnight at Hides Hotel as they were booked on the tilt train to Brisbane this morning.
Royden and I caught the bus home and hit the pillows. We'd had a 4.30am start to the day from Fitzroy Island in order to catch the tide back into the Moon River and the marina.
It's quite surreal to sail in the dark - well, in this case, motor as there was not a breath of wind and the sea had only a slight following swell. With no moon, the stars and planets were brilliant. Quite a number of little fishing boats zipped out from Cairns towards the reef and rocky headlands in the pre-dawn. Their navigation lights disappeared every now and again in the swell. A big tanker looming up behind, but well to the east of us, was far more obvious.

In the dawn light we spotted a couple of whales blowing about a kilometer away. Our guests were up by then so we moved a little closer and just drifted around while we watched their humped backs appear out of the water. There was at least three in the group including a calf.
Whale and tanker.
In the distance, further out in one of the reef passages, we could see some mighty blows: obviously much bigger whales. We spent quite a while watching our group before turning back towards the coast and the Moon River. By 9.30am we'd tied up in the marina (without one swear word - that's twice in a row now) and had brekky cooking.
I'm working my way backwards here as it's around 10 days since I last wrote in the blog, so at this point I'm going to rearrange the order and go back to where the last entry ended - the Daintree River.
It was so peaceful (except for our wind generator) and protected but amazingly, we weren't besieged by midges or sandflies. This is probably because the river is quite shallow with many sandbars and we were able to anchor well away from the mangroves. Apart from the odd fishing tinnie, ours was the only boat.
Daintree sunset
The crocodiles must have eaten all the fish cos they were scarce. Royden and Rob almost landed one huge flathead into the dinghy but lost it at the last minute. Not having a net or gaffe with them probably played a part in this - but we all saw the fish so know it's a true story.
After the surfing crossing of the previous day, we decided to time our exit of the Daintree River on the Thursday to coincide with an extra half a metre of water under the boat. This meant waiting till the early afternoon's rising tide to haul the anchor up.
Believe me, the deep water and marker buoys of the exit route is far more apparent from the land side than from the sea side. Hence our exit was a lot less ``exciting'' than our entry had been.
The sea had quite a swell up and the wind was on our nose for the short trip down the coast to Port Douglas. We again saw whales and figure they must like it around here. Migaloo, the white whale, has been in this area for several weeks now - not that we have sighted him but others have captured him on film heaving his great body out of the water. That would be exciting!
We decided to book a berth in the marina overnight so we could tie up and see the sights of the town in the few hours of daylight left. Port Douglas is bustling with tourists at this time of year - more grey heads than dreadlocks though.
It's a pretty town with a beautiful white-painted church, complete with stained glass windows, nestled in a park right on the waterfront. Very popular for weddings. There are heaps of restaurants and shops.
The reef boats are loaded every day - they must take thousands of people a week out to various parts of the Barrier Reef which is so close to the mainland here.
There is a quaint lighthouse - only about 20 feet tall - hemmed in by houses on the hillside. It no longer operates and has been superseded by a flashing light on top of an ugly radio tower on top of the headland. The rock sculptures, that we had noticed in the park on our previous visit, had gone much to Leigh's disappointment as we had talked about how interesting they were. Apparently it was a temporary art installation. Pity.
A rare phenomena - a flat sea. Definitely more like the brochure.
Our trip back to Cairns was on the smoothest, flattest sea we have yet encountered. We had dolphins alongside the boat, caught mackerel and were able to muse on patterns made on the water by the few gentle skiffs of breeze that came along.

Another mackerel. Yum.
Haycock Island off Double Island.
We stopped off Double Island for lunch then just drifted around fishing without even putting the anchor down.
It was so delightful we hung off going into the marina until the last possible moment in the afternoon.
Last Sunday was `changeover visitors day' with Leigh and Rob hiring a car and heading towards Townsville via the Tablelands, and Steve and Rose arriving from their Kimberley cruise and Darwin.
The weather window for this past week did not open until Wednesday so we spent our first few days with S&R visiting Cairns sights including the spectacular Botanic Gardens.
One of the many splendiferous plants in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.
With a promising forecast we set sail with them on Wednesday and had a beaut sail towards Green Island but ... the weather monkeys were at it again. The sky blackened, the sea grew dark, it started to blow and then to rain - and we changed course to Trinity Inlet and some shelter. Bugger!
Eewwww! Dry season?
However after blowing itself out and an ensuing quiet night in the inlet, we set out for Fitzroy Island on the Thursday and were able to spend a delightful couple of days there fishing, walking, swimming and snorkelling (the latter two relate to only some of us).

Rose wetting a line.
En route to the Fitzroy Island lighthouse.


  1. We definately had the weather pixies on our side! Thank you once again guys. xxxleigh&rob

  2. Royden seems to have made a habit of losing "BIG" fish at the last moment. Once upon a time there was a know the rest.

  3. A great week. Loved sailing as long as someone else knows what to do!!! The Galley Chef was magnificient!! Back in Rochy BUT NOT feeling the cold too much yet! A big thanks to you both.xxoo Steve and Rose