Thursday, 21 November 2013

Party time - then pack up

Beautiful sunset for our last night in Horseshoe Bay.
It might be a bit hot and stuffy in Breakwater marina's protected waters but it is never dull.
We came across from Maggie late last week and for the next three nights it was party, party, party.

First night kicked off with a surprise visit from David and Vikki who were out walking their dog Echo along the Esplanade, then it was off to the ``Table of Knowledge'', a weekly gathering of marina tenants sharing knowledge (some of it questionable but generally hilarious).
Night two beckoned us to the local Herbert Hotel with Ted and Carolynne to listen to the Hillbilly Goats who really got the crowd rocking with some Old Timey music (aka Oh Brother Where Art Thou) and kept us there till stumps.
And Night three was the marina barber's 50th birthday which included a massive feed of barbecued mackerel fillets and steak with a variety of savouries, salads and sweets to share. As the theme was mismatch, there were some very weird and colourful outfits from this salty crew. I reckon mismatch is a general state of dress out on the water at any time.
It was very quiet around the place on the fourth night after our arrival!
On Tuesday we caught the train up to Cairns to retrieve our recently purchased car that we will drive back to Rochester this year.
The train trip was fantastic - so relaxing, plenty of leg room and with a personal screen for movies, music or whatever. Even the food was OK.
On the way back to Townsville (by car) yesterday we called into to Lucinda and Dungeness to see what tie up and/or land facilities were there. Dungeness was a real surprise with three resorts on the inlet across from the Hinchinbrook Channel. It was very neat and tidy with a number of new looking pylons and walkways with berthing facilities advertised for rent.
It's a very narrow but well marked channel into this inlet but might be worth exploring next year.

Looking towards The Strand from our marina berth in Townsville. It's been typical build-up weather - hot and increasingly humid with the odd storm to douse us and bring the temperature down.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Hello Maggie

Fair winds have blown us back across Halifax Bay to that yachtie favourite Horseshoe Bay off Magnetic Island.
Of course anchoring here, just off Townsville, also means that our sailing season is almost at an end. It's been our best year on the water with weather conditions favourable far more of the time than other years. We suspect we may also be getting smarter and better at sailing too but generous weather breaks certainly help.
Horseshoe Bay is mildly swelly with the north-easterlies blowing but it's tolerable and we were keen to repeat some of our favourite island walks before we go across to Breakwater marina and start preparing the boat for the cyclone season.
We've just returned from a good leg-stretch around the northern bays - Radical, Florence and Arthur Bays - but couldn't access the Forts walk as it is closed off for asbestos removal. As we have seen in recent days, asbestos is a big problem on the islands as World War 2 era buildings deteriorate (or get wrecked by cyclones).
Radical Bay

Radical Bay

Arthur Bay
Bet the postie has no trouble locating this letterbox.
Another mackerel made it into the freezer on the sail across and will probably be donated to the 50th birthday party barbecue at the marina on Saturday night.
Ironically I had mackerel fillets defrosting for tea when the fish hooked up. If I'd had nothing defrosting we probably wouldn't have caught anything.
Royden also managed to retain his Steptoe title (for finding treasures in dumped stuff) when he found a working speargun on a beach amongst a tangle of debris. Thankfully there wasn't a spearfisherman attached and we can only assume he/she speared something that was too big for them to hold and the fish has taken off with the spear and gun attached. Can't imagine it ended well for the speared fish as the line was sheared.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I don't know if this will work but I've attached a couple of short movies of Sea Piper sailing.
We had about 12 knots of breeze and were travelling at around 5 to 6 knots.
And, for those sailors out there, we know the head sail could do with some adjustment to stop that flapping at the top but I grabbed the opportunity to do a movie while I remembered. 



Another day, another bay


North East beach on Palm Island - home to unexpected animals.
The last thing I expected to be confronted with on a beautiful tropical island is a pig.
But that's what happened when I wandered off to explore a small freshwater creek while Royden went looking for crayfish at North East Beach on Palm Island yesterday.
We'd seen signs of wallabies on the foreshore and when I heard a rustling in the bush I moved forward to investigate, hoping to see some wallabies.
A large black and pink pig trotted out in front of me. We faced off for a few seconds then I disregarded every rule and turned tail heading for the beach. Royden's first question was:``Did you get a photo?'' Answer: ''No.''

Further along North East beach.
Apart from the pig, North East Beach was (and remains) a beautiful stretch of beach, with crystal clear water and a sandy bottom to anchor.  
We walked the length of the beach between the rocky headlands and swam to cool off.
Prior to that we'd anchored overnight in Juno Bay off Fantome Island and explored the remnants of the old leprosarium which closed in the early 1970s and the buildings subsequently burnt. Unfortunately asbestos doesn’t burn very well and the island is littered with fragments of it. It’s a haunting place and such recent history. People with leprosy – mainly aboriginal people – were removed from their communities and brought out to this remote island to be cared for by Catholic nuns. There are hundreds of people buried there but only one memorial headstone. We also discovered what looked to be an altar and rock cairn deep in the rainforest where it was cool and breezy and figured this may have been where services were held.
All in all it left us feeling very sad.

Acknowledging the people who lived and died on Fantome Island. A plaque was added to this concrete pedestal in 2010.
We wondered if the residents of Fantome bathed here. There was a rock lined path leading to this side of the bay. Further along there were a couple of iron beds on concrete basis on the higher rocks. Talk about taking the sea air. 
It was such a contrast to our earlier visit to Yanks jetty which was the site of a World War 2 degaussing (demagnetising ships so they were less detectable) station. The jetty, which gives access to a beaut little beach and interesting reef, was rebuilt after Cyclone Yasi and it’s a popular spot for day trippers from the mainland. With the glassy weather conditions on the weekend there was no shortage of small boats and families enjoying the facilities. Of the degaussing station, little remains (except a circular stone tank and bits of asbestos) and it’s a rough walk to the top of the headland to find any remnants.

One of the few remnants of the degaussing station.

A swim at Yanks reminded us to always wear our stinger suits at this time of the year. There weren’t stingers, but the sea lice were there in numbers and made swimming very uncomfortable.

Hazard Bay and Yanks jetty - and Sea Piper
Who was it said that the more beautiful a place is, the more things it has to bite or eat you? Or give you a fright, ie Mr Piggly Wiggly.
The other side of Yanks jetty.
Hazards to shipping! (This photo's a bit pink cos I had the camera on an underwater setting.)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

No pressure from Peers

Peer Pressure pulled out ahead of us as we headed along the Lucinda wharf.
Will we ever have the patience to sail like Peer Pressure did yesterday?
We were leaving the Hinchinbrook Channel via the Lucinda end with its seemingly never-ending jetty when a Seawind catamaran Peer Pressure pulled out ahead of us (we think from the inlet near Dungeness).
With the light breeze blowing directly on the nose and no other choice than to head straight into it along this very wide bay but very narrow boating channel, we didn't bother to hoist the main, opting to make a decision on sails once we were past the loading bay at the end of the jetty. Peer Pressure however had their main up from the start even though it flapped uselessly for the next hour.
But their plan became clear as we neared the jetty end and they turned due south and put out their head sail. They're headed straight to Townsville or maybe Rattlesnake Island, we thought, as we continued slightly south-easterly to Orpheus Island and Little Pioneer Bay.
An hour and a half later we had picked up a mooring and were enjoying lunch on deck in beautiful conditions.
We could see Peer Pressure making slow but steady progress down the coast but ever so slowly gaining some easterly miles.
A meditation pyramid - or just a bit of fun with driftwood at Little Pioneer Bay?
Meanwhile we took a trip to shore, had a walk and, with crystal clear water and not a stinger or jelly fish in sight, we went swimming. It was gorgeous.
Returning to Sea Piper we noticed a sail coming up from the south and as it neared we could see it was Peer Pressure, still tacking and sailing to reach the same destination as us.
They picked up a mooring in Little Pioneer Bay around 5pm and probably had just as lovely a day as we had.
The odd Wobbegong shark didn't deter us from a swim. Maybe they eat jellyfish?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Farewell Cardwell

Today there are big celebrations in Cardwell to mark the official opening of the town's $40 million facelift after Yasi all but destroyed it in February 2011.
We were tempted to stay longer but, having deferred for a couple of extra days already, and with another weather window presenting itself for our trip to Townsville, we decided to head out on yesterday morning's high tide.
Who could resist conditions like this? Not us.
It's getting trickier and trickier to get in and out of the old marina precinct as the waterway silts up but we did notice a dredge sitting at the slipway so hopefully it's around to do some work.
The marina complex is/was privately owned (currently in receivership) so none of the $40 million was spent on this part of town.
The town of Cardwell however looks fabulous and its shops are run by some of the friendliest people around. It now also boasts a shared bike/walking path running for several kilometres around the bay. The path has recently been etched with the marks of creatures and plants inhabiting this part of the coastline.
Concrete paths are etched with all sorts of plants and creatures like these Torres Strait Island pigeons.
Landscaping has included sculptures, interpretive signs, lots of seating and an amphitheatre, along with the preservation of Yasi survivors, the ancient and beautiful Calophyllum trees.
Hinchinbrook Island with a foreground of a Calophyllum tree.
If you're headed north by car, it's worth a stop and a walk around the foreshore, shops, visitor information centre, museum and arts centre.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Dolphins and mating turtles

Dolphins in Gayundah Creek.
A pod of feeding dolphins in Gayundah Creek this morning got the cameras clicking, though we had to wait for their return journey to take pictures.
Having moved around here yesterday via a longish exploration route through several creeks, we were sitting on the back deck chatting when the first of the four dolphins emerged almost beside the boat, and heading up into the head of the creek.
They were a beautiful silvery-pink colour and we could see them even as they swam beneath the brown water. Knowing they had to come back the same way, one of us was always `lookout' for their return which happened about half an hour later.
Though the photos aren't that great, the experience was. It helped that conditions were superb with a clear blue sky and little wind, leaving the water almost glassy.
* I forgot to mention in an earlier blog that the day we left Cairns, we passed a pair of mating turtles off Cape Cleveland. At first it appeared to be a dead turtle but as we drew closer, we noticed `it' was very much alive with two heads and bodies firmly linked. 
No photos of this phenomena however as we were riding a few waves at the time - it didn't seem to worry the turtles though.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Dunk to Garden to Hinchinbrook Islands

Millpond conditions on the south side of the sand spit. It was a fair bit lumpier on the north side!
Contrary to how it looks from the sea, Dunk Island resort seems to be a long, long way off re-opening.
However the public facilities - the jetty, campground, walking tracks, picnic tables and toilet facilities have all been rebuilt/restored and look fantastic.
Dunk resort looks so much worse from the shore.
It is yet another beautiful place to visit and, with millpond conditions in our anchorage on the south side of the island, we were able to enjoy a lovely walk along the beach and a close-up view of the devastation Yasi wreaked upon the resort, even though a lot of the debris has been cleared away and the swimming pool emptied of sand and re-filled with water (though I suspect the water is more for emergency supply than swimming).
Returning to Sea Piper we hoisted the main sail and lifted the anchor, turning into a beaut 10 knot north-easterly breeze towards Garden Island.
Out went the Code Zero as well and we maintained a steady six to seven knots all the way across the bay before dropping anchor in the lee of the island for lunch.
Someone must have dropped a match north of Cardwell because the smoke pall on the mainland directly in our view gradually became bigger and bigger until it mushroomed across an area kilometres wide.
The smoke pall over the mainland.
A check on the Queensland fire website revealed it as a `vegetation fire' of `no particular concern at that moment'. It looked terrible and huge from where we were.
Again we were able to sail across to the entry to the Hinchinbrook Channel, this time with just the Code Zero then the headsail as the wind picked up to 15 knots plus.
It was a great sailing day and we only required the motors to reach our final anchorage in one of the channel side creeks.
The past couple of days have been stormy though the storms have passed to the left and right of us with a final heavy shower of rain reaching us last night.
The bream have also been biting and we kept a couple for lunch yesterday - they were delicious.

Kiss and release for Denise.

After a couple of days of black clouds, some white and fluffies took their place.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Making a mile southwards

Fitzroy Island
It's lucky Doug and Denise have visited Cairns before as we have whipped them out of there faster than expected.
They arrived Monday evening and, with a three day weather opportunity presenting itself, on Tuesday morning we untied the ropes and headed out of the marina southward bound.
The somewhat choppy conditions outside the leads (into the Moon River) put a question mark on the journey but we decided to head across to Trinity Inlet for lunch and see if the wind abated a bit as it was forecast to do.
And it did!
Under one motor and the with the sails up, we were across to Fitzroy Island by mid-afternoon, in time for a swim and a walk, then kicking back to enjoy millpond conditions and a beautiful sunset.
Looking towards Queensland's highest mountain - Bartle Frere
Yesterday brought more of the same as we headed off just after 5.30am aiming for Mourilyan Harbour, south of Innisfail.
The weather god was looking favourably upon us again with a light northerly freshening in the afternoon. Alternating between the head sail and Code Zero as the wind moved further north, we were opposite Mourilyan by 1pm and decided to make the most of the conditions to push on to Dunk Island.
The sea was seething with bird and fish life and we were lucky enough to score two big mackerel - enough fish to last a month!
As always, hauling them in was exciting as they have a habit of spitting the lure just as you go to bring them on board.

One happy camper!

Two happy campers

We anchored last night on the south side of Dunk Island and the sea this morning is again glassy with another light northerly forecast for the final leg to Hinchinbrook Island. Before we head off we intend to go to shore for a walk then take a leisurely sail across to the channel.
Royden surprised Denise and I with a gin and tonic on the deck as we got close to Dunk Island. It was lovely on the trampolines in the shade of the Code Zero.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Food fest - tick

Something low key and healthy for Mog - not. OK I'll admit that the other two plates belong to Royden and me.
Yesterday's food fest met all expectations - and Kal wasn't the only one with a larger-than-usual tummy by last night.
As Mog was still lamenting missing the waffles last year at the Cairns Botanic Gardens, we decided to start the day with morning tea / lunch at the Gardens cafĂ©.
Yum! I'll let the picture do the talking, although Kal's healthier ham and cheese croissant didn't make the snap.
The flower of the amazing cannonball tree. Like its name suggests, the `fruit' of this tree is the same shape and weight of a cannonball. Wouldn't want one to drop on your head. As well as seeing this in the Botanic Gardens, Royden also spotted one - full of cannonballs - along the foreshore walking path. Unsuspecting people were lying under the shady canopy. Worse than a coconut hitting you I reckon.
Another beautiful tree - others will probably know what sort.
Chilling out in the lagoon.
Afterwards we walked the gardens then swam off the kilos in the Cairns lagoon along with lots of other family groups. It is the most picturesque place and well used by tourists and locals alike.
Looking towards Yorkeys from Trinity Beach rocks
We followed up with a trip to Trinity Beach for a walk and to check out the Thai restaurants which resulted in a delicious feast that evening after we'd gone back to the marina to make ourselves beautiful!
And now looking back towards Palm Cove and Double Island.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sea creatures - good and bad

It's hard to believe another month has flown past since my last blog update.
During this time we've been to Victoria for 10 days firstly catching up with Mog and Kal (and our first glimpse at Kal's bump!) ever so briefly as they flew out to Perth on the same afternoon we flew in, then heading up to Rochy to stay with Di and Don at our house and of course catch up with Rochy friends.
The Mawsons annual `do' at Lake Cooper was a ripper - great food, tours and people.
Leaving Royden in Rochy, I headed to Timboon for a brief visit with Jill to celebrate (early) her 70th birthday, then it was back to Melbourne to meet up with Royden again and visit Stu, Tina and the boys before flying back to Cairns last Sunday. Unfortunately the logistics didn't fit in a trip to Benalla - sorry Cris, Johnno and James.
Kitting up for a snorkel on the reef
On Tuesday, Mog and Kal joined us (direct from Perth) on the boat and we've managed to fit in a trip to Mossman Gorge as well as get a couple of days at sea and some beaut sails.
We headed out to Upolu reef with little wind and a light swell then with the afternoon sea breeze picking up to around 10 to 12 knots, we sailed back across to Trinity Inlet to anchor for the night.
Upolu Reef
Swimming off the boat

While swimming at the sand cay and reef was lovely, Mog got a fair few bites across his arms from either sea lice or a combination of sea lice and maybe a stinger. We doused his arms with vinegar which was immediately effective and later noticed a few jelly fish in the water so that took the edge of swimming!
It must have been the day for sea creatures because on the way out we spotted dolphins, flying fish, a sea snake and a turtle in the space of a couple of hours.
Yesterday we took advantage of another 10 to 15 knot breeze to just go sailing. Mog and Kal took turns at the helm, tweaking things to see who could get the most knots out of Sea Piper. Kal won at 7.0 knots in 12-14 knots of breeze.
We headed back into Bluewater marina in the afternoon then went swimming in the Cairns lagoon while Royden went to his chiropractor appointment to ease his sore back.
Today we're going to have a food fest around Cairns before Mog and Kal return to Melbourne tomorrow morning.
Our last visitors for the season arrive on Monday and the plan, weather willing, is to head off south to Hinchinbrook Island sometime in the next week then dropping Doug and Denise at Cardwell so they can bus it to Townsville to stay with David and Vikki for a few days.
Healthy cravings - heading into Trinity Inlet after a day on the reef.
This huge stick insect was pretty impressive (in the car park back at the marina).

Monday, 30 September 2013

Perfect one day, super perfect the next.

The clear waters of Fitzroy Island offered plenty of swimming and snorkelling opportunities.
What an amazing week we have had with Stuart, Tina and the boys on board.
My last blog took in Day One at Upolu Reef and sand cay where the boys took to exploring the reef coral and fish like ducks to water.
By the end of the week, they had both mastered flippers but preferred their goggles to a mask and snorkel even though they could manage the latter OK.
After a perfect day at Upolu, we decided to have a couple of land days, taking a day trip to Mossman Gorge (a big hit with all of us), with a brief side detour into Port Douglas on the way back to the boat.
Mossman Gorge
Cairns lagoon, Cairns Botanic Gardens and Cairns water park were included in the weekend's day visits before we headed out to sea again on Tuesday morning.
The trampoline on the water at Fitzroy Island was a big hit.
Our skipper for the trip to shore.
Pausing for a chat in the dinghy.
Anchoring off Fitzroy Island enabled us to swim and snorkel off the boat or the beach, walk the bush paths to Nudey Beach and the Secret Garden, give the little boys their first fishing experience, use the water trampoline and go out to dinner at the resort restaurant before making our way back to Sea Piper via dinghy in the dark. Very exciting.
Off to dinner on-shore with Midget and the newly knitted Perchy.
Even more exciting was catching a rosy jobfish (Sonny), a golden snapper (Alexander) and two stingrays!
Rosy jobfish for Sonny.
Patience paid off for Alexander who caught a golden snapper after two stingrays.

Note the tail on this stingray. It was a tricky business getting him unhooked but he finally managed to swim off undamaged.
Add to that the most perfect weather imaginable with beautiful clear days and hardly a breath of wind to ripple the sea. In fact it was so still we weren't able to raise a sail for the entire week.
It was a shame to have to head back to the marina last Friday in preparation for the junior Webbs to fly out at lunchtime Saturday.
To delay the moment, we anchored off Yorkeys Knob and the boys did a bit of fishing resulting in the catch and release of three small sharks, an exciting and memorable end to the holiday.
Shark number two - or maybe three.