October 08, 2011
Apologies for the six weeks since my last update but when you are tied up in a marina there does not appear to be much to report on. Our big setback was three immigration officials told us that Ian would be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship end August. However, when he presented himself there with all his papers, he was told that in fact he will only be eligible on 2 November!!! By that time we had expected the process to be virtually completed and to be heading south to avoid the cyclone season. To complicate matters, because we thought we would have to be in the area for around six weeks, we had ordered new clears for our cockpit area. With the girl mis-measuring for this, the promised three week job ran into six weeks and kept us tied to the dock as the process requires constant ‘fittings’, and however irritating, once you have parted with two-thirds of your money, you do all you can to co-operate!
On Rebel the chores seemed endless. First the fresh water pump packed up, then the deep freeze pump pretended it had (fortunately Ian managed to fix an internal switch), Chris’ car blew a hole in a spark plug cable, the dinghy motor was misfiring and needed new spark plugs, and the frame for the covers had to be constantly assembled and dis-assembled. However, we have had breaks and one of them saw us return by dinghy from lunch at Yorkies Knob to go crocodile spotting amongst the mangroves. Well, we were rewarded within seconds by this brute, sunning himself on the bank, and beat a hasty retreat in the dinghy!
Chris and Gilli’s car has been a life saver – making shopping and chandlery visiting (a cruiser’s favourite kind of shop) so much easier. Our visits inland have included the Barron River hydo-electric scheme at the base of the Barron Gorge and Kuranda at the top of the gorge. Kuranda is a quaint little touristic town capitalising on falls, the skytrain and rainforest. Our next trip took us to Cairns Highlands/Atherton Tablelands, an area which supplies a lot of the produce sold on the markets in Cairns. The scenery varies from dry to rich farm soil with some of the largest banana trees we have ever seen (does a big tree mean a big price???). Enroute we went into Jaques Coffee Plantation where I saw my first coffee tree. The plantation is owned by a family originally from East Africa, and here in Australia have had to endure mindboggling hardships before being able to establish themselves. On the way back we went past Lake Tinaroo (so named by the guy who found tin in the area) and stopped off at two tiny lakes in the Crater Lakes National Park. The name says it all as the lakes are in volcanic craters, which means no shelving beaches and trees right to the water’s edge, which set in a rainforest make for really pretty scenery.
At the end of September the clears were finally finished and we threw off the lines and headed for Lizard Island, some 180nm north. Naturally as we were ready to leave, the wind was not in our favour…. So we motored out the 20nm to Michaelmas Cay and were lucky enough to be able to pick up a mooring, which made the northerly wind tenable. Michaelmas Cay is a tern breeding ground with great snorkeling around the cay. The water and cay become very crowded during the day with day trippers that are disgorged by vessels from Cairns for the customary snorkel and bird watching. We had two good nights there and then onto Low Islets where conditions were ideal – no swell, calm waters, peaceful and quiet. From there we sailed off to East Hope Island in a brisk wind which made the water choppy and, on approach to the island, reef spotting difficult. Although we may have anchored a little close in, luckily we did not have a problem retrieving our anchor. We had our next anchorage at Cape Flattery, a huge bay that is part of the mainland, all to ourselves. From there we covered the 50nm to Lizard at around 7kn/hr with two reefs in the main, plus a reefed genoa. With the wind and swell from the south east, items had to be stowed and cupboard doors secured – something we have not had to do for a while and it was great to feel that we were actually sailing again.
We dropped anchor at a very windy Lizard Island – heavens knows how strong the wind is on the unprotected side of the island. Our first day was spent doing what most liveaboards occupy themselves with – finding out where get water and dispose of rubbish! Luckily there is an old fashioned water pump that pumps out borehole water and was put to immediate use in washing our hair. Apparently the resort also lets you take water from its desalination plant, and, for a gold coin donation, you may throw your rubbish in a tip that a barge collects. Our paddle ashore on the first day was fairly hair raising on the return trip – with the wind and wavelets coming from behind my speed picked up and luckily I caught onto the rope hanging down the side of Rebel – failing which I would still be heading north in the canoe!
One of the things that makes Lizard so great is that the wind does blow a lot of the time and keeps one cool while the bay is still protected enough to go snorkeling, even when the wind is howling. Fortunately the wind died down for a few days, enabling us to motor out to Cod Hole, about 10nm to the east, where both moorings were free. (You are not allowed to anchor there.) The snorkelling was wonderful and the reef here appeared to be much harder than that around Lizard itself. However, the Cod Hole reef experience, with the blessign of a pickup mooring, squashed our ideas of returning south along the Ribbon Reefs, where you just drop anchor on sand inside the reef wherever appropriate. We both find it a little unnerving to be sailing along towards what looks like an endless expanse of water but knowing that just under the surface lurk reef and rocks. In the right light you can see the water discoloration (browny green) from a short distance away tho in some cases that is too late! Heading into early morning or late afternoon light is the worst as you literally cannot see due to the glare. It is always important that you arrive at your anchorage well before the setting sun so you can visually inspect the bottom for coral outcrops. Thank goodness for modern day charts and guide books!
On Monday we expect to be heading south towards Port Douglas where hopefully we will be able to spend a few days with Nic and Bev, who are out on holiday from New Zealand.