Lizard Island to Cairns

There was a 10 to 15 knot South-Easterly blowing as we lifted the anchor at 7am on Lizard Island, Tuesday the 29th November. We were able to sail to Cooktown on one beat, just clearing Cape Bedford, covering the 57 nm in 8 hours. Our anchorage in Cooktown was just outside the turning buoys for the cargo vessels. It was a new moon, so the low tide was very low, so low in fact that at 2am, Annie rolled from her side of the bed, onto mine, as the boat careened 30 degrees (leaned to one side) on thankfully, a sandy harbour floor.

We decided to tie up to the public jetty the following night, to prevent a repeat careening and to allow us to sleep through the night. After filling the water tanks, we departed Cooktown on the 1st December with no wind in sight and had to motor the 22 nm to Hope Island, where we anchored at 11.30am.

Hope Island

Hope Island

Annie on the island with Esprit in the background.

Annie on the island with Esprit in the background.

Putting the shade canvasses to good use.

Putting the shade canvasses to good use.

Three relaxing days were spent at Hope Island in the company of Paul and Marlene, who dropped off a Crayfish and a Mangrove Jack for dinner after their arrival. We snorkeled with them the next day and they managed to land another Crayfish and a Red Emperor. These they cleaned and promptly gave to us, with some Spanish Mackerel, as their freezer was full. A generous gift, considering we haven’t had much luck fishing, after Annie’s full fishing rig was taken by, we presume a shark, sailing into Lizard Island.

Seafood dinner.

Seafood dinner.

Pelicans flying in past Paul & Marlene's boat.

Pelicans flying in past Paul & Marlene’s boat.

Pelican convention.

Pelican convention.

In contrast to motoring to Hope Island, the sail from Hope Island was a boisterous affair. We left under full sail in 10-15 knots. This soon built to 20-25 knots on the nose, so we decided to tuck a reef in the mainsail. No sooner done, when the stitching on the webbing holding the first reef, leech turning block, decided to part ways with a loud bang. A little excitement followed, as we tucked in a second reef. This turned out to be a good combination with the full jib, with Esprit bouncing along at 8-10 knots Speed Over Ground. After 7hours we tied up at the public jetty in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas is as pretty as always and is bustling with tourists, colourful locals and grotty yottys. We did our shopping and then motored up the river to look for a suitable anchorage. A visit to the Port Douglas Yacht Club to have a cider and enquire about a suitable marina or pile berth, resulted in a number of phone calls, which proved either too expensive, or too shallow for our 2.20m draft, axing this idea.

Instead, a one-hour sail to Low Island and a nature conservation mooring, allowed us to have three relaxing days at this beautiful anchorage. We did walks on the island, snorkeled the reefs and had sundowners with other yachties.

Low Island.

Low Island.

Walking trail on the island.

Walking trail on the island.

Lighthouse built in 1878. Survived a cyclone in 1911 which completely denuded the island of foliage.

Lighthouse built in 1878. Survived a cyclone in 1911 which completely denuded the island of foliage.

Some of the fish which adopted our boat.

Some of the fish which adopted our boat.

My favourite - this one was so tame, I could touch it.

My favourite – this one was so tame, I could touch it.

Checking the storm jib hoisting and sheeting system.

Checking the storm jib hoisting and sheeting system.

An Easterly on the 8th allowed us to sail to Yorkeys Knob on one beat, where we tied up in the YKBC marina for the night. We took the opportunity to visit the laundromat, fill the water tanks and clean down the boat.

Annie booked tickets to fly to Sydney on the 20th December to catch up with family and friends. Michelle will be visiting from London late January and Karen will arrive from Lismore at the same time, after completing her two-year internship. The family together again! We plan to stay in Sydney until mid-February, so we have to berth Esprit in a safe spot in case of a cyclone hitting this area during our absence. This turned out to be the Bluewater Marina, inland from Yorkeys Knob which has a category 5 cyclone rating. We confirmed the details with Rick, the marina manager and will tie up Esprit on the 18th December, before leaving.

There were some other maintenance items to attend to in Cairns before we left, so we spent a few days there. Foremost on our mind was the mainsail, which after 7 months of sailing, needed some repairs – a torn top batten sleeve and the reef turning block had to be fixed. We also decided to bite the bullet and convert the sail to a fully battened main with cars. (These are 4 wheeled fittings on the mast side of the extended battens, making it a lot easier to hoist and lower the sail, than with the sticky nylon sliders it came with.) We hope the fully battened sail will allow us a better sail shape and hence, better performance. We therefore had to take the main off the mast and boom and take it to a sailmaker in Cairns, to do this work during our absence.

The mainsail.

The mainsail with sliders.

A batten car.

A batten car.

Our next post will be from Sydney after the festive season. All the best to you all for 2017!