Wednesday July 16

Up early to chase Annacol up to Hope Island. Light start to the day with a 10knot SW so Spinnakers were soon flying so naturally the wind increased.

As we passed Annacol the wind increased to 20 knots and swung in behind us as it backed to the SE. Col had his hands full with the Main blanketing the Spinnaker so he pulled his down. A rain squall behind us was looking a bit threatening behind us so it wasn't long before we pulled our Spinnaker down. Didn't want to get it wet.

Arrived at the Hope Islands in good time and elected to take the pass then work east through the coral into the Anchorage at little East Hope Island.

Bit scary but the sun came out at the right time so we could see quite well. Both moorings were taken so we dropped anchor between them. As we pulled back we felt the anchor snag on coral. Hope we are not jammed in.

Annacol came in around the East side of the Island. They had been here before and new the easiest way in. We headed ashore for a walk but were waylaid by Crispin and Louise on Biringari. They invited us aboard for a drink and told us their story of a disastrous couple of nights. First night the rope attaching them to a mooring chaffed through setting them adrift over the coral reefs NW of us. They woke up 2 NM downwind of the Island. The second night their anchor dragged and again they were lucky not to end up on a reef.

We departed Biringari to have a quick walk then I wanted to snorkel over the anchor to make sure it was not stuck for tomorrow's early getaway. Found the anchor and chain nicely laid out over a large coral bommie. Bugger! Decided to try lifting it now in case I have to dive to free it. As it turned out the anchor came up easily after motoring over and in front of it. Only problem was that we couldn't get it to reset. We spent the next 3/4 of an hour ploughing furrows in the sea bed. Gave up after 5 attempts and put it back on the coral. No further problems that night or retrieving it next morning.

Had agreed to follow Biringari out next morning as they new the back way out through the coral.

Thursday July 17

Annacol jumped the gun and took off before first light for the 65 Nm run up to Lizard Island. We waited for sunrise and then followed Biringari out of the Island reef system to the North.

One thing we have have found very disappointing this trip is the poor quality of the electronic charts for this area. There is very little detail. Our anchorage at East Hope was on drying reef according to the chart. Such a contrast to the charts we used last year for New Cal especially but even Vanuatu Charts were better than what we've got here.

Overcast weather with plenty of wind so no Spinnakers today. We just used the Screecher and added a goose winged Genoa when the wind was right behind us but had the Main ready as we expected more of a broad reach after passing Double Islands. Passed Annacol at lunchtime in the passage between 3 Islands. We'd had one big strike on the lure that morning but lost the fish.

Hooked another fish somewhere around Double Island but hadn't turned the rachet back on so it was some time before we noticed a fish on. By that time a lot of line had quietly gone out and the fish was exhausted. Just had to reel in all that line. Our first Spanish Mackeral.

We arrived at Lizard Island about 1500 to find Watson's Bay full of smoke from a burn off.

 

Went ashore for happy hour with many of the other boat crews. Area for the get together is called the “Table of Knowledge”, 3 picnic tables lined up together. Met some real characters who have been cruising and fishing this area all their lives. They have lots of stories to tell and a wealth of local knowledge. We were dismayed to find out that all walking tracks were closed untill at least the 22nd July. Smoke was thick and horrible together with lots of ash falling on the boats.

Had fresh Spanish Mackeral for dinner. Excellent!

Friday July 18

The ridge between us and the resort seemed clear of smoke so we decided to walk across anyway. We passed some ruins related to the old sea cucumber processing plant or Watson' Cottage.

Then up and over the ridge.

The resort was badly damaged by cyclone Ita back in April and is still under repair.

We walked along the beach in front of the resort checking out the damage. Then on around several rocky headlands and beautifull beaches.

We finished up at the Lizard Island Research Station. This is a very well equipped facility for the study of reef systems. We met one of the visiting professors from a Swiss university who gave us a brief guided tour. The Station is funded and staffed by overseas interests mainly from Switzerland. Would have loved to come back and spent a day here.

We returned via the airfield road, watched 2 planes land then headed back over the ridge. Met by a Park Officer who was not real impressed to find us there as he was just about to ignite the whole ridge. He also informed us that they would be firebombing Mt Cook on the other side of Watson's Bay tomorrow, with a helicopter. So much for our idea of sneaking up the mountain at first light tomorrow.

Would love to know the scientific research that backs up this burning program. You would think they could do it at the end of the season before the wet instead of spoiling the place in peak season for visiting yachts.

Caught up with Diomedia again that afternoon and went snorkelling with David and Andrea over the reefs in the middle of the bay. Back at GL checked everthing underwater and gave the earth plate a scrub. Will be no more snorkelling from now on as we will be in crocodile country. After a hot shower we retired back aboard Diomedia for drinks and a meal together.

Saturday July 19

Visited Annacol and had a look at non functioning watermaker. Best guess is membrane stuffed as everything else checks out ok. Arranged an early pre drink drink on GL before attending the Table of Knowledge. Quiet time reading while Mt Cook was bombed and burned. Fortunately the wind was strong enough to clear the smoke away.

Discovered Annacol's guest Greg used to work with Lea's dad at the SEC. Small world. On the way ashore we went out to Biringari which had been devoid of signs of life for 2 days now. Invited Louise and Crispin to join us ashore at the Table. Found out they both had been working. Louise is a Barrister and Crispin a Journalist so they can work wherever they have internet. It also explained why they were anchored so far offshore. Interesting couple who live in Port Douglas. Looking forward to returning to Port Douglas and catching up with them, but for now the smoke has got to us and we will leave early tomorrow.

On dark the remaining spot fires on Mt Cook glowed red.

Sunday 20th July

Happy Birthday Annelise!

My little girl is now 25 years old. Very hard to believe.

Off at 0630 into fresh air. Good sail with a stiff SE right behind us all the way to Cape Melville with only one gybe. As we were warned at the Table of Knowledge back at Lizard, Cape Melville is a bitch in the afternoon. As we rounded the Cape we had near 30 knot bullets and the anchorage while free of swell gave no respite from the wind. We are finding the constant strong winds very wearing. Again the chart was crap with much less shoal water than shown so we went down into the Bay much further than we needed to. The geology of the place is weird. It is made up of millions of huge boulders.

They look like pebbles on the beach but the smaller ones are bigger than a man.

The wind did finally ease and we had a very comfortable night.

Monday 21st Juy

Stunning morning and CALM for the first time since we left Port Douglas. Went ashore to find the Monument to those who perished in the severe cyclone of 1899. This area used to support a large pearling industry and a manned LightShip was anchored off Cape Melville. 50 vessels and over 300 lives were lost in that storm.

We walked about 2 km along the beach before finding the walking track to the monument. Back at the dinghy we had a chat to a fisherman who was 4wd camping in the National Park. The Park was only reopened to 4wds a few days ago due to track damage from cyclone Ita back in April.

As the breeze had come in we then crossed over to the Flinders Group of Islands; entering through Owen Channel

Past Castle Peaks and the escarpments which apparently hold a treasure trove of ancient Aboriginal Art.

The more cynical at theTable of Knowledge suggested the artwork has been touched up with Dulux recently.

Beautiful rugged scenery as we quietly motored through Owen Passage to the Southern end where we anchored of the sand spit.

After lunch we took the dinghy and explored the area, finding sites of previous occupation of both Indigenous and European people.
This is the NP camping ground. I don't think it has been used for a while.

This was an Aboriginal well.

Evidence of European settlement in the deciduous trees we found.
Don't know what these are but very pretty.

Our outboard motor had had a fade out twice during this trip. Nothing scarier than losing the motor when your a long way from the mother ship in the middle of nowhere and no one else around except crocodiles. Fortunately it fixed itself so it was probably just air in the fuel line caused when filling up the tank.

A very pleasant day.

Tuesday 22nd July

Motored around Stanley Island to Stokes Bay,, making water and doing washing along the way. Went ashore searching for walking track to Aboriginal Art but without success. It was a beautifull day so we decided to head of to Morris Island. Had a quiet Spinnaker run for the rest of the morning then the breeze freshened and we had to harden up our course. Put the Main up as wel and took off. Averaged over 9 knots for the rest of the trip dropping the kite as we had to harden up again to reach the Island. Great sail.

 

 

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