Before leaving Cairns, we filled up with diesel for the boat and petrol for the outboard. By running the engine at 1,800 rpm instead of 2,000 rpm since the previous top-up, the fuel use has reduced to 1.75l/h. We sailed out of Cairns in a brisk S-E wind to arrive at Low island off Port Douglas after 5.5 hours. We were well sheltered from the wind in the lee of the island.
The following day we sailed a similar distance to Hope Island in a 20-25 knot S-E, averaging 8.7 knot/h over the distance. Hope is circled by a huge fringing reef and despite being a much smaller island offering not much in the way of a wind break, the water was flat and calm.
The hop to Cooktown was relatively short and we anchored off the quaint fishing harbour at 12:30 on the Saturday. We rushed to the chandlery and hardware shop to buy suitable fixings, to reinforce the fixings of the two new solar panels, which were coming adrift. The afternoon was spent securing the panels, which will now take a hurricane to be dislodged. We stepped out to the Cooktown RSL for dinner.
The gold rush of 1873 swelled the population of Cooktown from virtually nothing to a tent city of 30,000, half of which were Chinese. There were 141 licensed pubs and 163 brothels to keep the largely male population entertained. The gold fields yielded over 28 tons of gold before waning returns, the depression of the 1890’s and a cyclone in 1907, slowly but surely turned Cooktown into a ghost town.
The strong wind carried us to Cape Flattery the next day, where we had reasonable shelter during the night. We arrived at Lizard Island on Monday the 21st November, planning to stay here for two nights before sailing North to Cape York and crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria to Darwin. There were quite a number of boats anchored in Mrs. Watsons Bay and soon a dinghy arrived to invite us to sundowners on the beach at 5pm.
We met an interesting group of boaties, who enquired where we were from and where we were heading. On learning of our plans to sail North, there was disbelief and shaking of heads. The collective opinion was that this would not be a wise move due to the tropical lows and cyclones off the top end starting soon. The best time evidently, would be after the wet season at the end of May next year, when the trades will carry us across to Indonesia, Bali and Banda Aceh to arrive in Phuket, Thailand at the end of October – the start of their dry season.
The following day we met with Steve who has done this trip a number of times and Hans who has been doing the run to the Louisiades for the last 20 years. They gave freely of their time and extensive knowledge and we were convinced that waiting until May would be the best. The plan now is to spend some more time on this delightful island, before sailing back to Cairns or Port Douglas, to find a suitable mooring before we fly back to Sydney for Christmas.
In the new year we will sail down to the Whitsundays for some R&R, hoping to dodge any cyclones that may form over the Pacific. In the meantime, we are enjoying lovely walks, playing boules on the beach in the mornings and snorkelling the reefs on Lizard Island. We have done the hike up to Cook’s Lookout on top of the 358-metre mountain, and various other walks around the island. There are lots of drinks and partying with the fellow boaties and the Marlin Bar at the resort on the next beach, offers great meals, music and drinks.
After a week of relaxing on this northernmost inhabited island off tropical North Queensland, we hoisted the sails again for the sail back to Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns.