Well we are heading North (in the not so distant future we will change direction and head west). As I start this letter it is the most beautiful day – like most we have been having – with the sun out and the temperature a lovely 30 degrees with a cooling breeze off the sea. The water temperature today is a barmy 29 degrees. My fishing line is out and Alec is navigating our way between coral reefs, cays – small low islets composed of coral and sand sometimes with scrub or mangroves and maybe the odd coconut palm growing on them - and islands - with more vegetation . It is just beautiful, and to date our chart plotter and maps are all accurate. We have just had a little black and white sea bird land for a rest.
The following morning we caught the Kuranda Scenic Railway up through the Barron Gorge National Park to kuranda. Vivienne and Helen B you would really enjoy this one. The railway winds its way up to 328m going through 15 hand dug tunnels. You are given a commentary on all the sites as you pass them. Kuranda is a full on tourist village at the top with every shop either selling curios or food!! The ride up in the train was great. After two or three hours of wandering around the shops and markets and doing a lovely tropical rain forest walk we descended back down to earth on the Skyrail Rainforest Cable car. That was quite spectacular but one needed a good head for heights. There we were skimming just above the rainforest, or in places way above it, for 7.5km. There were a couple of stations were you hop out and a ranger gives you a guided tour which was interesting. Then back on board to watch tree tops skimming by andviews down-nnnn into Barron Gorge and then out over the Coral Sea. All in all an unforgettable experience. Back down in town again Alec and I took our little folding bikes out for a cycle along the Cairns Esplanade which is a 6km return ride. Then it was dinner at the Night Markets. A lovely end to a
Next morning it was farewell to Cairns and on out of our Super Yacht berth where we were next to “Keri Lee”, our 100ft plus neighbour, her 32ft Boston Whaler with 2 x75hp motors “Keri Darling” and then her tender “Keri Baby”. We wonder who Keri Lee is? Alec said he would love to meet her!! By the time we had refuelled and cleared out of the marina it was nearly lunch time and with very little wind we motored sailed out to Double Island for the night only 10nm away. We could see Bush Fires burning along the coast that evening. The fire season is here already. This was our first encounter with the Prawn Boats which work the waters from here North over the winter months. As we come into an anchorage at the end of a day, they are getting ready to leave and fish all night and then the next morning as you are getting ready to leave they come back and anchor and sleep all day. We have seen dozens of them to date and sometimes anchored in the lee of a small cay or just a sand bar way out on the Great Barrier Reef in the middle of nowhere.
Next morning we did the short run up to Port Douglas going up the river for a little way just to have a look. We went back to the public jetty and went ashore for bread and milk. Then we headed out to Snapper Rock. On the way great excitement. Caught my first fish in Aussie waters. A good size spotted mackerel. Once anchored I went ashore to do my usual beach combing, then back on board for a fish BBQ. From there the next morning it was a 59nm run up to Cooktown. This was a superb run with the MPS spinnaker up all the way. We spent a couple of nights and a day here so we could have a quick look around. Yes we are in outback Oz here! The main street is so wide it could be a four lane motorway. There really is only one street! There were more tourists in their 4x4’s doing the great Oz outback adventure than locals. Our book says it sits at the mouth of the croc infested Endeavour River – still have not seen one!! We walked the town, visited the local town and country show which meant the shops (there were more pubs than shops) were all closed as everyone was at the show, and also visited the James Cook Museum which was most interesting.
Next day (we are up to Wednesday the 26th August) we do a 69nm leg up to Bathurst Bay just around the corner from Cape Melville. Again a lovely MPS run and also another fish!! I go ashore to check the beach just before dark.
Friday morning we are buzzed by Coast Watch then came the radio call from them wanting to know where we have come from, where we are going to etc etc. Another good run of 61nm and we are at Portland Roads. Again ashore we found a tiny settlement with a restaurant that was only open by appointment for lunch, a guest house which had a no vacancies sign up and a notice board on the beach giving you the history of the place. We also meet a guy parked up among the mangroves on his home built alloy catamaran with two masts, not painted, and no dagger boards or keels with a draft of one foot sitting out on his deck drinking tea. A real character, who had many a story to tell - gone a bit troppo - but the way he talked he had seen plenty of those elusive crocs!!
Next morning we are up for another early start heading for Escape River. We are going through one of the Barrier Reef ‘No Fishing’ zones – a Marine National Park. Pity. Again a run with the MPS. These South East Trade winds which blow for most of the winter in this area are great for the yachts heading North. In the morning we have a number of porpoise swimming along with us and later in the afternoon we are joined by dolphins. We arrive at Escape River just on dusk and as we motor sail up the river we are met by one of the locals in his boat who runs the pearl farm here. He welcomes us to “his little corner of the world” and then after telling us a good spot to anchor tells us emphatically “do not go swimming or even linger about on your back steps”!!!! I told him I had not seen ONE yet. He said, ”they have seen you”!!!! So with the water temperature a wonderful 31degrees, my swim was definitely out!! And so was Alec’s idea of giving the hull a good scrub from the tender!!
This morning we went ashore to walk out to the cape for the photo to say ‘been there, done that’ and met other s doing the same. A guide taking another couple (who just happened to be called Anna and Alex) took our photo at the Cape making us hold up the Australian flag! We then went back to the beach for a lovely walk through tropical bush to the ‘Wilderness Lodge’ which was Government owned and sold back to the Aboriginal community in 1992. It is now no longer is running. Great pity as it would get many tourists who pass through in their 4x4’s and the cruisers during the season.