Monday, 2 January 2012

Episode 4 Port Douglas to The Whitsundays


After Dropping George and Keith at Cairns Airport on the 12th Dec we spent a hectic 24 hours re-provisioning and sourcing required items, etc  in Cairns while we still had the hire car. We left Port Douglas Marina Friday morning full of food, water, fuel and a spotless boat, happy but stuffed…
The conditions were delightful with dead flat seas and no wind so we motored down to Upolu Cay off Cairns and managed to anchor on a normally exposed side on the reef which offered great viz and snorkeling. The only downside of the no wind was that it was hot – damn hot!!! We switched on the TV and even the 7 local news weatherman said it was very hot and Cairns was experiencing a mini heat wave. At least we could plop in for a swim every hour.

After 3 days the wind turned NW which effectively rules out most anchorages. We also discovered a leaking engine raw water pump so we decided to go in Trinity inlet in Cairns. We had the pump serviced, caught up with friends and did some yummy chrissy food shopping. For those that have never heard of Rusty’s – it’s the bomb. It’s an open air fresh fruit and veg markets in the centre on Cairns that the local growers come into 3 days a week and sell direct. Cartons of mangos $10. 2kg bags of lychees $7, rambutans, mangosteins, etc, etc… We went bezerk!!
If we thought the reef was hot, the inlet was stifling! Inside Lorelei we had 32 degrees overnight and up to 37 degrees during the day. The fans ran non stop and sleeping was pretty uncomfortable. The fridge and freezer were coping but they were working hard and chewing a lot of power. Lucky the solar panels were generating a lot of power. The inlet has crocs and stingers so swimming is definitely a no-go.

On Sunday 18th Dec we left the Inlet and decided to head the 20nm south to Fitzroy Island.  There was a southerly wind and swell but we had to escape the heat and were dying for a swim. The last 6 miles across the Grafton passage was rough with short steep waves that had us plodding along at a very slow 3 knots.

When we arrived at the Island we found the anchorage to be beautiful and calm. The only other yacht in the bay just happened to be Rolfe and Kathy’s new boat Patriot. They built Lorelei and sold it to us in 2006 so it was fantastic to catch up with them and show them all the recent changes we have done to Lorelei. Their new boat is beautiful, very modern and at 42ft, a much more manageable size compared to Lorelei for their age.

Patriot at anchor, Fitzroy Island

We hung out with them for a few days, having dinner, sunset drinks, fishing and snorkeling. Rolfe is a keen spearo from way back so it was great to get in the water with him.

We also went for a half day kayak one day and a large bushwalk the next.
We walked thru the new resort, up to the summit and over the other side to the lighthouse.

Climbing to the summit

Views from the summit

Lisa on the summit looking back to the lighthouse

The Large Goanna we saw on the way

The Lighthouse

Both boats wanted to continue south so on Wednesday we got up at 4am to push off to Dunk Island. We only got around the bottom of the Island to find the wind already up from the SE with short sharp seas making the going really slow and uncomfortable so we turned around and headed back to Fitzroy. Rolfe and Kathy were just starting to pull the anchor up when we returned so we all aborted and went back to bed.
We put the large RIB in the next day and spent 2 days with Rolfe exploring the islands snorkeling spots and trolling for mackerel.

Paul, Rolfe and Little Fitzroy Island

On the 23rd the winds finally started to drop so we went over to Patriot for the afternoon and had Chrissy drinks and said our good byes.
As a joke we snuck back over and stuck a “Tender to Lorelei” sticker onto the transom (back) of Patriot. We wondered when he will see it…

We pushed off at 4am on Chrissy Eve and motor sailed south. Rolfe and Kathy stopped at Dunk Island but we decided to push on into the night to Pioneer Bay in the Palm Islands. We went a long way east and were sitting just inside the reef line to take advantage of the south setting current, the reef protection from the swell and the easterly winds in the arvo.
Just before sunset we sailed over a shoal just inside the reef called Kennedy Shoal. We know this place well and we always seem to get good fish here. In 2002 on Purranha we had a friend Andy onboard and each time we trolled over it we got great fish. Once with 4 rods trolling we got a quadruple hook up on Spanish with only 3 people onboard! Fun times indeed…  Andy renamed it “The Flemish Cap” and the name has stuck with us ever since.
As we passed over it we could see acres of birds working and tuna and mackerel busting up all over the place. It was awesome! We stood on the bow sailing along with blue skys, flat seas and the sun setting over Hinchinbrook Island in the background. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Our crazy Chrissy Eve self portrait at The Flemish Cap with Hinchinbrook Island in the background.

We arrived at Pioneer Bay at 11pm Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day we had a lazy morning all alone at the beautiful Pioneer Bay. At 10am we had an intense but small rain squall hit us. It only lasted 10 minutes but gave the boat a good wash and we were running around in the nick like giggling little kids getting drenched.

Chrissy Lunch at Pioneer Bay

Just as we were finishing our Chrissy lunch, Patriot sailed round the corner and down through the passage en-route to Magnetic Island off Townsville. Well that was it – two boats is always a race so we packed up and gave chase. By the time we washed up and had our sails up, Patriot was over 2 miles ahead so we race sailed through the palm island group trying to catch them. The scenery through the Palm’s was beautiful and hard to believe we were the only 2 boats there.

Orpheus Island

Patriot at Sunset

Patriot and Lorelei

Halfway there we caught them and Rolfe was stoked to see the boat he built sailing along nicely. We took stacks of photos of Patriot sailing at sunset for them to have. Both boats arrived at Magnetic Island at 7pm after a fantastic sail.

Boxing day we woke to a rough and bumpy Horseshoe Bay. We were glad because that meant the forecast was right and winds were from the North.
The passage south from Magnetic Island to the Whitsundays is probably the most dreaded passage for cruising yachts heading south. You pretty much have to head due east for 40nm to clear the rough, shallow and notorious Cape Bowling Green then head ESE for 100nm to get to Hayman Island. There are few stops on the way that over any sort of decent protection. The issue is the majority of the time is the wind is either S, SE, E or NE which is punching into the wind and swell. You can imagine our delight when we left with a forecast of N-NW at 10-15 knots. About 1 hour after leaving we sailed through a parking lot of Bulk Carriers waiting to get into port. Guess no one works the wharfs over Christmas up here… We counted 14 boats.

We had a terrific sail down leaving Horseshoe Bay at 9am and sailing into Chance Bay just north of Hamilton Island at just before lunch the next day. It’s the best trip through that stretch of water we have ever had – north or south! By daybreak we were 5nm north of Hayman Island. The sunrise was red and beautiful. Its not very often you can get a photo sailing into a sunrise here on the East Coast.

At 3:30 that arvo we started to hear thunder and looked south to find a hell of a storm brewing.  It looked a ripper so we battened down, double checked the ground tackle (anchor, etc..) and had the motor ready to go just in case. Well the sky went black!! The pictures just don’t do it justice. Then we could see waterspouts starting to form and some very strong wind and rain coming. It hit like a bullet but we were OK. The lightning cracks overhead were deafening and quite scary. As the wind backed off but the rain was still pelting down we ran around with sponges and cleaned the entire boat. It was perfect timing after all the salt spray from the last 3 days sailing. The rain, thunder and lightning lasted on and off all evening. At 5pm we got a text from Rod and Mel who were on their cat in Hamilton Island Marina. They had winds over 70 knots and there was a lot of carnage there. We were only a few miles away but it wasn’t that intense in Chance Bay – fortunately!! We jumped onto the BOM radar and saw that Mackay and Sarina down south where coping a flogging with some very heavy rainfalls so we couldn’t complain.

We woke the next morning to find there was a tragic ending to the storm from the night before. At daybreak we had many planes and helicopters flying thru the passage and over us in the bay at only a few hundred feet high. Police and VMR vessels were patrolling the coastline too. We found out that a charter boat that was moored next to us during the day had attempted to head back to Hamilton Island during the storm and had flipped on the way. 11 people were thrown into the water and a 21 year old woman was missing. Hamilton Island also copped a belting as many boats broke from moorings at the marina and smashed into other vessels. On the Island trees were uprooted and restaurants and buildings unroofed and damaged.
We left the bay at 10am in near perfect weather and headed around to Whitehaven Beach all the while keeping and eye out for the missing girl as all vessels were asked to do. We anchored mid way along the beach and swam ashore and spent a few hours swimming and playing in-water frisbee. Mel and Rod with their 2 kids Claudia and Hunter turned up just before lunch on their 48ft cat Heartbeat 2. Mel’s mum Roz was also onboard for a few days holiday. Finally we have caught up with them!!! They were meant to leave from Brisbane with us 3 months ago and left Sydney on time but had boat issues at the Gold Coast the week before we left Brisbane. So near but yet so far… They elected to have a slower trip north while we flew up the coast so we vowed to meet up somewhere in between on our way back down. We had lunch with them on the cat and had a look at all the new changes they have done to the boat. It is looking very schmick indeed!
That arvo we moved north to Tongue bay in preparation for the SE blow forecast that night. We took Claudia and Hunter along for the ride.

Heartbeat at Whitehaven Beach

That evening we coped another wild storm with rain squalls and gusts to 35 knots. During the storm we decided to let more chain out for safety which went OK but is not much fun on the bow in driving rain and wind at night…
The next day we woke to another fine day. The sad news was we found out they found the girls body – inside upturned boat!! They had 9 divers in the water searching and how the hell no one found her in an open 10m vessel is tragic. Terrible to think it was towed all the way back to Hamo with her inside and then righted before they found her. I wonder who will foot the bill for the 20+ boats and 10 aircraft that searched for 36 hours??
For the morning we went spearing over to a rocky shoreline where we have caught crayfish before. We were in luck and rewarded with 2 crays which we put on the BBQ for lunch.

That arvo we got a call from Rolfe and Kathy stating they had found the sticker. Kathy said Rolfe laughed for ages and apparently he’s going to leave it on!
 That night we had no storm but at 2am the wind swell picked up from the East and all the boats in the bay had a rough 4 hours till dawn. The mono’s were fairing the worst so we set sail at 9am to head around to the other side of the Island, anchoring at Stonehaven. We decided to sail around the top of the Islands rather motoring thru the Hook Passage. It was a rough ride around the tip with wind against tide.

On New Years Eve we loaded the snorkeling and kiteboarding gear into the RIB and headed over to Langford Island which has a long thin sand strip which is perfect for kiting. Paul had a great session on his new 12m kite. We spent most of the day there and Rod, Hunter and Claudia had their first kite lesson.

Paul teaching Claudia and Hunter how to launch.

Lisa and Claudia spent a lot of time snorkeling and found some great shells.

For our New Years Eve party we went over to Heartbeat. We had a great spot for the midnight fireworks at Hayman Island and could see the ones at Airlie Beach too.

Trying to take time exposure photos of the fireworks on a moving boat was a challenge…

New Years Day we had a lazy morning after the 1:30am finish the night before.
That arvo we decided to sail into Airlie beach to do a food shop and catch up with some friends. The sail across the passage was fun but very rough. We had whitewater going right over the front of the boat. We worked on trying to balance and trim the reefed sails so the boat handled nicely in the rough conditions. Good practice for the long international passages in a few months time.

On the Monday we headed into Cannonvale to do a major shop. This was our biggest since Brisbane and will be our last shop for long term stores until we reach Brisbane again in 10-12 weeks time. You should have seen the cabbies face when we loaded 2 full trolley loads into the taxi…
Back on the boat everything had to be dated, stock rotated and updated into the spreadsheet. It took hours but that’s the way in is on a cruising boat!

Packing long term stores under the spare bed

We linked up with Rod and Mel and the kids that arvo and went into town for a swim at the lagoon pool and a skateboard on the esplanade which was awesome fun. We had dinner there too and another skate after and didn’t get home until 10:30pm.

The wind is still blowing but is starting to abate today we have decided to hang out in Airlie again today, do some more skating, visit some of Lisa’s work friends and download this blog. Tomorrow we will head back to the Islands and Thursday we should get out to the outer reef. At this stage the weather looks perfect for at least a 1 week stay out at the reef. We all can’t wait to do some scuba diving and spearing – the fish stocks in the freezer are low…

From here on we have no fixed plans and no commitments until we reach Brisbane in late March. We plan to start heading slowly south when the Northerlies blow and stop and play when the southerlies are present.

We have no idea when or where our next blog will posted – probably Gladstone in February some time.

That’s it for now….
Team Lorelei – Paul and Lisa.

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