Man, it’s been a busy few weeks getting north and prepping the boat in Cairns, so this is a re-cap of the remainder of our trip up the Queensland coast….
In a word – crappy.
And also wet, windy and cold.
To be fair, there were a few sunny days and we had some very pleasant interludes on land, but overall it was dreary and damp sailing with consistent winds around 20-25kts, day and night. We forgot what the bottom of our mainsail looked like as we were reefed down for the entirety of the trip.
The best bit? Our respite in Airlie Beach – we squeezed into a small space amongst the moorings to the west of the marina, where we had good protection from the wind and swell. We were also lucky enough to connect with friends of friends, Hayden & Denise who live in Airlie and have a boat in the marina. We enjoyed a great lunch with them at Cook’s restaurant which then turned into drinks at Sorrento (as you do), and they very kindly loaned us their marina key so we could access the showers and laundry. It was a godsend and made life so much easier. We also caught up with other cruising friends from “L’Attitudes” and “Hollydaze” who we’d met at Kingfisher resort, and had a fun evening of pizzas and beers at Sorrento’s.
But the piece de resistance was a surprise visit from our eldest son Nick on Mother’s Day. Bruce kept the secret so well that I was completely gobsmacked when Nick jumped into the cockpit with flowers and a dinner reservation! I was half-expecting to see a helicopter parked on the beach, but no – he’d driven 8 hours to get to us. What an amazing, wonderful gift! I feel very blessed to have not one, but two such loving sons. We enjoyed a beautiful Italian meal in town that night and then sadly Nick had to face the long drive home the next day. At least it would only be a week or two before seeing him again in Cairns.
From Airlie it was a another brisk overnight sail to Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island. Again, we had perfect conditions last time we were here, but this time..not so much. We found a lull in the wind to get ashore and enjoyed a couple of beers and some hot chips at the Marlin Bar, but it wasn’t enticing enough to stay so the next day we were off to Orpheus Island.
Approaching Palm Island on the way to Orpheus we saw a helicopter approaching very low and fast, black no markings. They circled us twice and then disappeared. We can only assume it was the same helicopter used by the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (or Fisheries?) that other cruisers talked about – they look for boats that have fishing lines out in ‘green no-zones’ areas. One such boat was fined $2000 for inadvertently travelling through a green zone with their lines out even though they hadn’t caught anything. Ouch! Talk about overkill of resources. It’s put us off fishing in this area, and we’ve made sure our lines are securely stowed away and out of sight.
We picked up a mooring at Orpheus (much better behaved than the last one at Pancake Creek) and kept going the next day to explore Hinchinbrook Island from the inside passage. We’d heard it was beautiful, and I’m sure that’s true on a good day – which of course wasn’t our day. On our day it was hard to see the top of the mountains for all the cloud and rain, but there was still a certain beauty about motoring past the lush mangroves and misty mountains. We dropped the pick at Scraggy Point, near the top of the island. It wasn’t a great anchorage as it was quite exposed to the southerly wind, but the holding was good and we decided it would serve for the one night we’d be there.
The next morning marked the beginning of our final passage to Cairns. It would mean an overnight sail to get us into Cairns in daylight and with the tide. But of course this is the time that Murphy struck …the port motor refused to start. After much testing and investigating Bruce determined that the starter motor had failed (OK, the actual language was a lot more colourful), so another job is added to the growing list of things to be done once we get to Cairns.
At least this time we were thankful for the wind as we didn’t need to use the motors, but it was another unpleasant and cold night of squall after squall topping out at 30 knots in the gusts. We only had a small scrap of genoa out but were still speeding along at 8-10 knots, which meant we were way ahead of schedule. So as we rounded False Cape on the approach to Cairns we furled the jib away completely and just slowly puttered our way to the leads and into the river. We’d organised a berth further down the river at the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron, which would be much more affordable for us than the main Marlin Marina. It was a bit of a challenge to get alongside the dock with only one motor but as usual Bruce did a sterling job and with some helping hands we were finally tied up. Boy it’s good to be here! We’ll be here for a few weeks prepping the boat and catching up with family, but we’re now one giant step closer to heading offshore!