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November 2017: Shamal is on the hard in Guatemala.Mum and Dad are home in New Zealand till Jan. 2018. *ATTENTION PLEASE* if you are still interested in receiving the posts, could you please subscribe to the Blog following the two step process in the right hand column, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox. As of next year the reminder emails that are being sent out will cease. Thanks to all of you for following our Adventures.

25 September 2009

Cairns to Thursday Island

Hello To You All

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.
OK our last news letter came from Cairns. Our three nights and two days there were great. Cairns was great. The first morning I set off to find a dentist who was quite impressed with my temporary filling I had done myself. Alex headed off in the direction of Whitworths – one of Aussies great chandleries, for the next chart plotter card to get us up into Indonesia and across to the Gulf of Oman. It is like a camera card and holds all the charts in digital form for designated areas and is inserted into the chart plotter. Great invention. We still carry the paper charts for back up and cross reference, and the local Cruising Guide for each area. That evening we did the supermarket so as to leave the whole of the next day free to see something of the local area.

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
lovely day.

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 morning it was up anchor for a 54nm run up to Lizard Island. The day started a little cooler with lots of cloud about and the odd squall which we managed to miss. I pulled in three fish over the course of the day. Craig, Warren and JG they were too big for Alec to clean on his bait table so we had to roll the floor matting up and he cleaned them on a board on the floor. Thank goodness for the salt water wash at the back – how about that!!

Lizard Island is one of the furthest north of the Great Barrier Reef resort islands. It is a beautiful spot. We anchored in Mrs Watsons Bay where the water was so clean and clear and again beautiful white sandy beaches. We joined lots of other boats here, but we could not believe who we should anchor next to - ‘Keri Lee’ and her wee fleet!! We took our tender ashore to walk the beach and explore the tracks, one of which has a board walk through a mangrove wetlands, and signs giving you the history of the place. Sad but most interesting. While her husband was away on a fishing trip Mrs Watson left the Island in a tub with her baby and Chinese servant only to perish on a cay with no water trying to escape from some aborigines in 1881.

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.

Thursday sees the MPS up again but by 3.00pm the wind has increased so a quick sail change takes us the 71nm to Morris Islet. One of these coral cays. There are another three yachts here. Think they are going in the opposite direction from us as we did not see them during the day. We go ashore but are horrified by all the rubbish on this tiny islet right out in the middle of The Great Barrier Reef area.. Also rats!!! We are miles out from the mainland and the islet is so small. How on earth did they get there? But the place had plenty of bird life. We even saw pelicans.

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!!

Saturdays run of 54nm has us at Shelburne Bay just north of Cape Grenville. We had half a dozen dolphins swim along with us for a good half hour in the morning. At the cape we passed an Island with a resort on it. Now we are in ‘no man’s land’ , miles from people, so who would even know a resort was up here? This part of the coast line is not very remarkable. The hills are mostly featureless with scrub on white sand dunes or rocky hills. The mangroves seem to grow any and everywhere. We are now only about 80nm from Cape York.

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!!

Monday morning we are able to have a later start as it is only a 20nm run up to Cape York and Alec is working the tides and currents in this area. We go through the Albany Pass on a rising tide to give us a push. At exactly 4.00pm as we enter the passage our log turns over to 10,000nm. How about that. SHAMAL has done 10.000nm in just under two years. It is quite beautiful passing through the pass, the mainland side with white sandy coves and beaches with coconut palms to the beach edge looking more like something you would expect to see in the tropics – ah yes well that is just where we are!! Then Albany Island with a rich history, once hoping to be the ‘Singapore’ of Australia on the other side. Once through there we are only a couple of miles to Cape York – The very Northern tip of the great land mass of Australia. The cape is low and barren with termite mounds and what look like some sort of ancient burial rock mounds on the skyline. We round the top two islands Eborac and York and come into the bay and drop anchor. With a glass of wine we celebrate as a huge orange sun sets in the west.

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.

It was back to SHAMAL and now we are doing the short run to Thursday Island out in the Torres Strait. We are at 10 degrees south. The sun is shining, it is a barmy 30 degrees c, the sea is the most beautiful turquoise colour and the water temperature 31 degrees. We have a breeze of 15kts and are sailing along at 5kts. Down wind. What else could we wish for.

A little later – We have arrived at Thursday Island but won’t go ashore till tomorrow.

Cathy, Dave and Murray W, we still have ‘Wilson’ on board. I am rather loath to give him away now. I have even given him a face!!

OK will sign out for this letter. Not sure if I can send it from here or will have to wait till we arrive in Darwin.

Love to you all

The Admiral and The Captain

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