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Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 28 – 31, 2012 Cairns

The sun came out for nearly an entire day for the first time in ages today, and we walked around looking at the beautiful man-made lagoon along the waterfront, the shops along the Esplanade, the lovely old architecture combined with the new, giving it a strange feel for us. Cairns is very commercialized, with Asian-owned souvenir shops EVERYWHERE. On the flip side of this is the benefit of having great eateries, salons and every kind of shopping at our fingertips. Sadly on this beautiful day neither of us thought to bring our cameras. But Cairns lagoon and Esplanade are easily "googled", for probably a better picture than could be taken by us anyway. Today our main mission was a trip to Whitworth's Marine store that happened not to be at our fingertips. There is a very small but well equipped chandlery right at the marina and yet what we needed could not be found there.

Although we plan to have entirely new and updated electronics (chart plotter, radar, etc.) installed in either Singapore or Thailand, new requirements implemented January 2012 necessitate our installing an AIS component in order to cruise Singapore waters. We have been researching AIS devices with the assistance of our favorite Aussie electronics professional and have found one that will perfectly amalgamate with our current device.  We would like to install and utilize it on the way over "the top" to Darwin in case there are any glitches or bugs to work out before leaving Oz. Whitworth's is approximately a 4-mile walk from the marina. We could take a bus or a cab, but why not stretch our legs? Walking also gives us a better feel for what is where and the opportunity to stop wherever we like along the way at our own pace. We made a morning of it, paying visits to several stops on the way.  We ended our excursion at what we call the town square, although I didn't pay attention to what it is really called. It is sort of a people mall where we noted three things of import: there are more Aboriginal people in Cairns than anywhere we have yet been, there is a café named The Gingerbread House that serves the BEST French pastries, sandwiches, pies and the like, and I found a hair salon that felt right. We stopped for a very late lunch and while waiting for our meal to be served, I made my hair appointment and Frank watched people. After lunch we strolled about watching volunteers ready the town for the Iron Man competition that would be taking place over the weekend. This is a big one – full Iron Man, half Iron Man, Iron Man Kids and some other events including concerts and the whole she-bang. It is touted as a festival. We've been forewarned that beginning Friday the town will begin shutting down to accommodate the thousands of athletes and their support people; families, friends, trainers, and so on. Vendors are already pouring in.

All in all it was a lovely day, and as we wandered back toward the marina big dark clouds began building like giant black cotton balls being crammed on top of one another. It just might get ugly. It did get ugly and cold! Our plans to grill turned into Frank running out for a pizza (I would have cooked but he was Jones-ing for pizza), and then we snuggled up to watch Revenge on TV. Yes, we are hooked and enslaved to this show now every Monday night.

Tuesday we awoke to rain. Not much surprise there since the weather forecast calls for it the rest of the week, increasing toward the weekend. After some morning chores we grabbed raincoats and umbrellas and set off for separate venues – me to my hair appt., Frank in search of boat stuff. We met for lunch at the Gingerbread House, finished some business in town and returned to the boat to get warm and dry. We had looked into getting a rental car for a drive out of town to the Tablelands, and the surrounding countryside but the big event coming to town created too much difficulty for us to make it a manageable option.

Wednesday we set out – in the rain – just to get off the boat since we are on a dock and able to get out and walk around. Volunteers continued the seeming never-ending task of setting up the Iron Man courses that were becoming more muddied as passersby trod upon the parts that veered from road and sidewalk. What a mess. The sky is black/gray/sinister. It is freezing out.

Thursday – more of the same. Tonight my friend Pauline Broadhead is flying in to visit her life-long friend named Meimei Battaglini who lives here. We look forward to hooking up with them for dinner. Pauline arrived on a delayed flight, but no matter to us we met the two ladies at a restaurant down on the waterfront for dinner. Meimei is a delightful lady! She appreciated our problems around doing the rental car gig and offered to take us for a drive on Friday. So we parted with the promise of an early departure tomorrow for an adventure with Meimei and Pauline.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 26, 27, 2012 Fitzroy Island and then Cairns

We survived the second night at Dunk Island a little more comfortably than the first; were up and away at first light. Light I suppose is a relative term because we mostly had rain and clouds overhead, but enjoyed a good push from the wind nearly making it all the way to Cairns.  Realizing that would be a stretch, we aimed just east of Cairns for Fitzroy Island – another of the islands that hosts a resort, yet welcomes day-trippers.  We dropped the hook east of the public wharf where ferries and other large craft deposit visitors from the mainland.  By the time we showered and dressed, darkness had dropped its black curtain over the sun.  The water was very choppy and the air quite cool, so we conned our foul-weather jackets for the splashy ride in. As we dinghied into shore, not having much light, we could not see that shore as it were was actually coral. We "ouched" our way barefooted, dragging the dinghy up onto a sandy patch, grabbed our shoes, and sought a place to clean off our feet and roll down our pants legs (well, mine anyway…Frank always wears shorts). My jeans had gotten soaked at the fold near my knees where I'd rolled them, so when I pulled them back down I had a completely soaking wet 6-inch ring around my knees. It looked pretty funny, but I acted as though I didn't notice the strange glances coming my way. We dined at an outdoor restaurant/bar area that closely resembled so many beach bars at resorts in the islands of Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu.  The food was a BBQ buffet that offered an amazing variety of MEAT. Good thing we aren't vegetarian because there was no other option for dinner. Casual guests are apparently not permitted to dine in the resort restaurant. Anyone who knows us would understand this didn't bother us one bit. There was a salad bar as well – but veggies??? Forget about it!  We enjoyed our dinner and although there was also music, we had sailed a long day to get here, so after we absolutely gorged ourselves at the buffet we headed back home to Destiny under (finally) clear blue, star-studded skies. Returning to the boat I brewed us some tea and we sipped as we watched the stars sparkle wildly above.

May 27, finally we faced a perfect morning, which by my designation means sleep in until 8 and enjoy a leisurely 12-mile sail into the mainland port of Cairns.  We arrived in the marina around mid-day, allowing for a slack tide approach into the berth. It was a cakewalk for Captain Frank. In fact he maneuvered us so expertly that the large motor yacht in the adjacent berth told us we are the very first boat to come in there without hitting him! Scallywag was already there. We paid a quick visit with Paul and Glor and then set off to explore the marina and to get checked in. This marina is NICE. The boardwalk along the water’s edge is chock-a-block with good restaurants, shops and tour operators. This is one of the main terminals for travelers to get hooked up with a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef (The Reef).  That night we walked into town for dinner at a wonderful Indian Restaurant on the Esplanade with Paul, Glor, Keith and Christine (from S/v Achates).

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 23 – 25, 2012 – Orpheus & Dunk Islands Dunk & Rough Weather

We left Townsville at 6:30 AM (in the cold rain) and immediately picked up a perfect sailing wind, onward to Orpheus Island, averaging between 6 – 9 knots of boat speed. Orpheus is said to be one of the prettiest islands, housing a top-end resort that does not allow children or casual visitors. That's all right, the next bay over from the research station is also very beautiful and a popular stop for private yachts. We arrived shortly before dusk and although it was rainy and dreary, we could see that this is truly a beautiful place. The rain could not completely obscure the blue of the water in Little Pioneer Bay. Just as we were relaxing before I started to prepare dinner, a very large tugboat came along depositing a great big barge behind us. Huh? What on earth? The tug then moved over about 100 yards and set anchor. We guessed they had a long haul and also needed a place to rest for the night. Then out of nowhere a fast moving Zodiac sped over, stopped by the tug for a few minutes, then raced past us and stopped by two other yachts in the bay before zipping over to Destiny. I was never going to get dinner made with all this activity going on and besides I didn't want to miss anything potentially interesting. The Zodiac was a Department of Fisheries tender, manned by two officials from Fisheries and Conservation or some such agencies. They stopped for a welcome visit, asked us a few questions about ourselves, our vessel and our trip, then quizzed us about the rules of fishing, anchoring, respecting the coral and the reef habitats. Satisfied that we were OK sort of folks, they wished us well, bade us a goodnight and fair winds on our journey before racing away to the station on shore. Nice couple of guys.

Because the weather was so rotten we spent only one night then eagerly left early Thursday morning, heading for pretty little Dunk Island. Several of our friends had spent time here in 2010, and praised it as one of the best stops they had made along their way to Darwin. From pictures we've seen and the description from our cruising guide, the Lonely Planet and from many others who have passed here before us we could not wait to get there and spend a few days.

The weather was unrelenting, however, and we just could not shake the rain, in fact it seemed to be chasing us. We were sailing OK, but were wet and cold, and ready for that nice break at Dunk Island.

After a long day of sailing, we arrived in the anchorage at Dunk Island. Something wasn't right. Even with the crummy weather there was no activity whatsoever. No sign of life on shore. Frank spoke my thoughts; "It looks like a ghost town". We pulled out the binocs, and while Frank was trying for a better view I booted up my Mac Book. The internet signal was good. I did a search for "resort at Dunk Island". The website came up but with a notice that the lovely resort was closed last year due to extensive damage from Cyclone Yasi. After all of the "research" I'd done on the place, never had I thought to check to see if it is still "alive". It was basically wiped off the map - decimated and of course it was now absolutely pouring down rain so we were being held hostage here by the elements. We danced a jig on the hook that night and slept very little when the full brunt of the storm hit. The wind howled like a banshee and tossed us like a cork, but we held fast and awoke to find that we had not moved an inch.

Friday, May 25th we continued to be pelted with heavy rain and rocked by disturbed seas. We did not dare move from here. News reports indicated that Mackay had been ravaged by tornadoes last night. We knew this had been a big system, and now it is sitting above us. Our anchor is well dug in and we won't be leaving until tomorrow. We spent the day playing cards, reading and trying to capture glimpses of the resort through our binoculars. It looks war torn. How very sad.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 20 – 22, 2012 Townsville, Australia

Ah, Townsville with its lovely marina setting, beautiful waterfront, easy access to shops, restaurants, museums, parks, and GELATO all along The Strand. "Gelatissimo" was just across the street from us. Dangerous.

Weather remains dismal but not our spirits. We set off for a stroll along The Strand and finding a trendy café with live jazz/blues music we planted ourselves for a delicious dinner and excellent entertainment by a local trio.

Monday we walked all over Townsville, taking in the sights, browsing shops and then realized a little late that we had not eaten lunch. Many of the cafés and restaurants had either closed or stopped serving.  We spied people eating at a bar called Longboard's and stuck our heads in to be told that they were no longer serving lunch but could offer the bar menu. We ordered crispy/spicy chicken wings and salt and pepper calamari that both turned out to be mouthwateringly delish. Chance delivered us another dining boon. Afterward we continued our stroll back toward the marina in the rain noting the attractive beach with posted warnings about the stingers, and boxes containing vinegar for application to the stings. I couldn't help but wonder how vinegar would and could counteract a deadly Irukanji or Box Jellyfish sting and yet hoped never to find out.

Tuesday was another on and off rainy day, but we had places to go and things to do. We finally located a back-up impeller at a chandlery across the river. The cost was 3 times what we would have paid West Marine but we are not in America anymore and have to keep reminding ourselves to get over it. I had also wanted to step into one or two of the museums in the area but when you are walking a town looking for boat parts and supplies time gets eaten up quickly. We pacified ourselves with a trip to Gelatissimo later in the day.  That night we dined at The Seaview Hotel that boasted the best steaks in Northern Queensland. I decided to try the steak, while Frank opted for wood fired pizza. As we often do we each eat half of our meal and then switch plates. I sadly admit that his pizza, although not the best we've had, was far better than my $40 steak and I had to fight him to take the steak for my half of the pizza. What a disappointment! Not even close to The Norman or Breaky Creek back in Brisbane. Big price ($40 for the steak) and big disappointment there.  

We planned another early departure for Wednesday, since the weather was not giving us much to look at or to do, and we were eager to get further north. Several locals told us the cruising from here north was the prettiest in all of Northern Queensland.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 18 – 20, 2012 Island Hopping toward Townsville…Cape Upstart & Magnetic Island

Another 6:30 AM departure and another 10-hour day ahead, we departed Cape Gloucester under gray skies and with the semblance of decent winds. With recent erratic weather, however, the ocean was chopped up. We managed to pitch about until Destiny found a relatively comfortable point of sail, and at times we flew at up to 9 knots.  All day long the sails went up, the sails came down, we pushed to 9 knots and dropped to 4. We smoothly cruised onward and we pitched and rolled.  The sun came out; the rains poured down under threatening skies. One cannot accuse this day of being a boring one. Our concern and focus was arriving at Cape Upstart before sundown. We are constantly reminded not to cruise these waters at night, and although some cruisers do, we prefer to keep it to day trips.

We finally rounded the point to Cape Upstart and moved along the shoreline seeking a reasonably calm spot to drop the hook for the night. We made it in about an hour before dusk. Perfect timing. I'm bushed and just want to have an early dinner and sleep.  This weather is getting tiresome. Although the anchorage is quite safe and well protected we heard loud whistling and thundering bullets gusting and pulling at Destiny all night long. Frank mostly slept through them, but I was awakened several times, so that 5:45 AM came much too soon.

Up and away we caught great wind and spent a wonderful 12-hour day sailing to Magnetic Island in spite of the rainstorms and dark skies.  This time, arriving after dusk, we dropped the anchor in Horseshoe Bay at 5:30 PM. It appears to be a great spot to go to shore, enjoy some good food, have some fun and explore this popular island, which the locals nicknamed "Maggie", but the weather was absolutely dreadful.  We opted for dinner onboard and another early evening.  I was able to pick up intermittent internet access and got an email from some other cruisers with news that our friends on Scallywag blew out a headsail on their trip to Cairns.  This is not good news, as it rates among the top ten of a cruiser's worst nightmare. Poor Scallys!

Meanwhile aboard the good ship Destiny, our generator had begun acting up and then quit altogether, overheating. Captain Frank flew into troubleshooting mode, checking all of the through hulls and hoses, filters, etc. I asked him several times (in my annoying wife-way); "Could it be the impeller?" He would firmly answer "No". Then after more of his unsuccessful searches, I asked; "Are you sure it couldn't be the impeller?" Response "No, it could not be, it only has 300 hours on it".  After hours of failed attempts locating the source of the generator's failure and having to run the engine to charge the batteries, watching my husband become more and more exasperated I insisted; "Why don't you just check the impeller?" Guess what???? The impeller had blown to bits – literally. Frank was none to happy about only getting about 300 hours out of a 1000-hour product. Fortunately we had a spare, which got installed immediately, and then we began to look for the shredded pieces that had come off which are normally found scattered about the bottom of the housing.  They, however, where nowhere to be seen and seemed to have vanished into thin air. Frank eventually located where they had been sucked into the seawater discharge pipe, and gingerly picked them out with the angled needle-nose pliers amazed that 6 or 7 of the little rubber blades ended up packed in there. What an exciting night, and we thought there would be nothing fun to do.

Moral of the (generator) story: So, ladies – no matter how much your men roll their eyes and treat you like a pest don't give up on your gut instincts. I am often in a position of ineptitude and helplessness in this new life because I am always "still learning". I do not have as much self-confidence as I do insecurity and fear, so if I let that drive me then I lose the baby steps I have gained thus far.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 17 – 18, 2011 - Airlie Beach to Cape Gloucester – Monte’s Resort

Winds in the anchorage at Airlie beach gave us a clear indication that we would enjoy a good sail up to Cape Gloucester. Weighing anchor at around 9:00 AM, then bucking clear of the bay we drank the wind! Destiny cruised a nice 7 – 8.5 knots up to the Cape enjoying 25+ knot winds from the SE. The days are becoming more partly cloudy than sunny as we near the tropical area of North Queensland. Rains are coming in scattered patterns leaving us just enough blue sky to catch patches of the beauty of these waters. The hues run from turquoise green to aqua blue, interchangeably.

Approaching Cape Gloucester we hit a fairly strong headwind that was whipping around the island and through the channel. The chop made for a bumpy ride around the point and into the very shallow bay. We carefully picked our way around cardinal buoys marking the shallows. We could not get closer to shore than about 100 yards before registering 4 feet under the keel. It is mid-rising tide now, which clearly indicated we needed to back away. The deepest spot we found to drop the hook was in 8 feet (under the keel).  Although there was a fair bit of wind in this anchorage, the chop was erratic but slight given the shallow depths. We donned resort attire, put on our reef-walkers (carrying our dress flip-flops), and went to shore for lunch at Monte's Resort, which is a lovely bungalow-style getaway situated on a pretty sand beach. We spent the afternoon there. The food was outstanding. The resort personnel welcomed us as though we belonged. Later on, we walked the beach and then when it looked like we would soon lose our sun, and the incoming tide might float the dinghy we returned to Destiny for the night. We considered sticking around this little paradise for another day, but the urge to get a move on and catch up with Scallywag was more compelling. We would need another early start tomorrow to make the next stop before sundown. The days are getting shorter much faster as winter approaches, making dayhops strategic. Most anchorages in these parts are very swelly/rolly and exposed, so to find one that is bearable we have to often stretch ourselves, pushing the daylight hours, and testing these unpredictable winds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 15 – 16, 2012 - Airlie Beach, QLD, Australia

We enjoyed a fantastic sail from Hamilton Island to Airlie Beach.  The sailing wind right now is great and alternatively the anchorages are a bit rough yet not unbearable.  We phoned the marina to secure a berth but when we were told that we would need a $10,000,000.00 Certificate of Currency bond (like a liability coverage), we gasped and said that we would just anchor in the mooring field off Airlie Beach. Fortunately the yacht club is a short dinghy ride away and was the obvious choice for dinner. Our meal was excellent leaving us to feel good about the choice, but afterward about 200 yards into an after dinner stroll the temperature dropped significantly sending us straight home. We still had not heard from our new friend, Barton.

Wednesday brought a pretty yet windy day, nice enough to explore Airlie Beach. Strolling around this charming town we were reminded of a North Queensland version of Byron Bay. It is a bit artsy and a little more backpacker-ish. Lovely. 

We walked along the beach where some clever artist sculpted the torso of a young dragon in the sand, I dropped a small donation in the proffered bucket. We continued our stroll past the Airlie Lagoon which is a perfect alternative to swimming in the bay, where the worrying factor would be the deadly Irukandji; thumbnail size jellyfish that make an appearance in these waters from October to May.

We meandered onward to the marina and then back into the main thoroughfare for a memorable lunch at a local pub. It drizzled on and off all day, putting a bit of a damper on our sense of adventure. Eventually we decided to take the public bus to Airlie's local shopping center a few miles out of town where we were able to re-stock our depleted food supplies. Once again rainclouds were threatening as we returned across the choppy bay to Destiny. As of 9 PM we still haven't heard from either Barton or Juri so we made the decision to head onward tomorrow. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 14 & 15, 2012 Hiking Whitsunday Peak and Picking up a Package

Monday morning we packed up the scrawny bits of snack food and fruit we have left in our stores, filled water bottles, grabbed the cameras and set off for the hike up to Whitsunday Peak. The trail was rigorous and at times so steep I would lose my balance.  Frank fashioned me a walking stick from a fallen branch, which helped tremendously. He had his that he has used for years. The flora was amazing to me, in fact so amazing that I snapped one photo after another. Frank jokingly told me I was likely to run out of film before we summited.
Not likely with a digital but I may run out of battery. There was an interesting variety of plant life and trees along the hike, although not much in the way of wildlife. The terrain changed rapidly from streamside to dense forest to rocky boulders lining our path. 
There was an abundance of vines and intricate root systems that led me to thinking of Tarzan. In fact, impishly I told Frank if I had a way to do it without defacing the forest, I'd carve, "Tarzan wuz here!" It was a thrilling walk in more ways than one, and at one point just before I stepped down onto a decaying leaf covered rock, a small brown snake slithered by just under my foot. Since a childhood incident at Camp Fire Girl camp involving a Copperhead, I have been mortally terrified of snakes. Somehow I managed to casually mention to Frank that a baby snake had just shot across the path under my foot. He asked me what color? I told him. He said, "Hmmm", and that was the end of it. Somehow I had no fear, but I did get a little more cautious with my footing after that and decided that pounding the ground ahead of me with my stick might be a good idea. Frank just looked back at me, gave me one of those Frank looks, and shrugged.
We hit so many switchbacks that I thought we would never reach the top. The forest became so dense we kept getting false impressions that we were nearly "there" whenever we would see a clear patch of sky overhead. I was becoming fatigued, as the last ¾ of the hike was nearly straight up big steps of rock. Frank seemed unperturbed as he forged ahead never wavering. Arriving at the summit was so well worth the effort. We could see a near 360° panorama of the islands.

The view was probably the prettiest we have ever seen from an island peak. Destiny was a mere dot but we could make her out far below floating in the turquoise waters. We took pictures and then settled down on a rocky area for a snack of tangerines and cashews. I was happy with my new walking stick on the steep descents. We enjoyed the return just as much as the trip up. Returning to the beach we realized our poor old bodies are likely to be sore tomorrow.
May 15th we considered returning for another hike to the top – not! Actually, although we are enjoying the beauty of these islands, we are itching to start moving more northward. We still have a mighty long way to go before the end of June and there is so much yet to see on this coast. After breakfast, we weighed anchor and drove around trying to catch a phone and broadband (internet) signal. I told Frank I felt in my bones that our package would arrive today. By now two of the yachts we have been in touch with while moving up the coast have gotten several hundred miles ahead of us. We are enjoying our Whitsunday visit with one eye on the calendar.

We drove around and around, Frank at the helm and me sitting below, my eyes glued to the laptop willing a signal to appear. Neither of our phones picked up anything and before we knew it we were nearly to Hamilton Island so we shot over to the mooring field between Hamo and Dent Islands. I picked up a phone signal and phoned my Mom to wish her an official Happy Mother's Day. Fortunately I caught her in bed but before she had nodded off to sleep. She cried, and told me how much she appreciated our efforts. Made me cry as well. 
We secured to a mooring, Frank gave a shout to the Marina on VHF and received confirmation that our part has arrived – halleluiah! It was only a week late. Chris from the marina office even personally delivered it to us in the marina's runabout. As soon as we had it in our hands we detached the mooring, raised the headsail and shot right out of there in a 28 knot gust on a close reach. What a great day for a sail to Airlie Beach. Frank phoned Barton's mobile to let him know (via voicemail) we were on our way and looked forward to seeing him, Juri and Denise again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 10 – 13 2012, Whitsunday Island, Hook Island and Back to Whitsunday

May 10th – 7:00 AM departure from Hamilton to catch an outgoing tide over to Whitsunday Island's Whitehaven beach, which didn't matter really, because swirling around these islands are all these crazy currents and eddies that you inevitably have to beat into. Fitzalon Pass, between Hamo and Whitsunday Island gave us a fit of a time pushing against a 2.5-knot current with headwinds of about 20 knots. We cleared that and picked up "good" wind and flow around Turtle Bay, only to hit an even fiercer counter-current in Solway Pass between Haselwood Island and Whitsunday Island's Whitehaven Beach. We finally arrived at the anchorage around 9:00 AM, greeted by storm clouds. 
Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island

At first only 3 catamarans were anchored there so we reveled in finding it nearly all to ourselves. Even under cloudy skies, the beauty of this long white beach is extraordinary. When sun finally appeared so did several seaplanes and tour boats as if on cue, pouring people onto the beach. Suddenly there was so much traffic about us the anchorage got uncomfortable. At around 2:30, the clouds returned and this time threatened rain. This is when we realized a venture to shore was not going to happen today. Frank got out the "100 Magical Miles" cruising guide of the Whitsundays, and started perusing alternative anchorages to get us out of the high traffic zone and swell. The book recommended exactly what we sought; around the corner, 3 miles away lay Tongue Bay with just bit of a roll, but offered the best alternative (according to the book), so off we went. BIG MISTAKE. It was crowded with charter, commercial and private yachts bobbing away see-sawing and rocking in a terrible swell. We grabbed an available mooring and because it was really too late to move anywhere else, spent an awful night there. Thinking back, it doesn't even sound good – Tongue Bay!

What a miserable night – up at 7:45 AM on Friday, we left Tongue Bay for Macona Bay, Hook Island. Wow the sailing was great over to Hook Island. We made 7-8 knots over from Tongue Bay. Man, are we happy to be out of there!

Macona Bay
Macona is a pretty bay, nice and calm, but large gusts of winds, which are refered to as "bullets" rattled our bones and the rigging throughout the night. 
We awoke leisurely on Saturday and I booted up my laptop to find that we were picking up a signal on the trusty Telstra broadband stick so I Skyped my folks back home. I wanted to wish my Mom an advance Happy Mother's Day in case we were not able to phone on Sunday. Although very pretty here, the beaches don't look approachable, and we couldn't find info in the guidebook about going ashore here so in the late morning we thought of moving next door to Nara Bay. 

approaching Hook Island
Frank had an alternative idea, however, that since we are killing time through the weekend we might take a sail up to Hayman Island, which is said to be one of the most beautiful of the Whitsundays. We nosed out of Macona Bay and filled the sails immediately. It's yet another great day for a fast ride. As we are going along I pulled out the sailing guide to read about Hayman's anchorage. My reference guide informed us Hayman hosts an exclusive high-end resort, and although has a very nice marina with all the amenities, does not allow boaters to stay aboard overnight. If we use the marina we must book into the resort. We don't particularly want to do that just to find a berth for the night. The alternative bay is a nice stop for day anchoring only but not recommended as a safe overnight anchorage. Oh brother. We were halfway there enjoying such a lovely sail, but realized it was not to be and so we turned back to Hook Island and Nara Bay.

Nara Bay is similarly pretty to Macona and boasts a nature hike up to some Aboriginal sites. We easily located a comfortable spot to anchor, and just in time too because the rains came and pounded us for the duration of Saturday. Early Sunday morning we hiked up to the Aboriginal cave. 

It was interesting, had some drawings but was fenced off so that we could not get too close. We returned to the boat and bid farewell to pretty Nara. We had no phone or internet access in here and needed to get somewhere to try to get some sort of connectivity. We were praying that our shipment had arrived at Hamilton Island so we can get on up the coast.
Nara Bay

Nosing out of Nara, we picked up a signal, answered some emails and phoned Hamo Marina. Nothing had yet arrived for us. Next stop would be a return to Whitsunday Island, a strategic move to edge closer to Hamilton. We sailed a quick trip over to the western side into Cid Harbour's Sawmill Bay. On approach we were once again reminded of the Virgin Islands. It is simply beautiful here. Sawmill is a calm, large and very protected anchorage. We read about a strenuous hike up to Whitsunday Peak, which we intended to undertake the next day. We spent the rest of our afternoon watching a huge turtle swimming in the water around Destiny. We enjoyed a very beautiful sunset and settled in for a night of reading as there was no phone, TV nor internet service here.  
Sunset from Cid Harbour

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 3 – 10 Hamilton Island (Hamo), Frank Up The Mast & Waiting For Parts

Hamilton Island literally has something for everyone, if one can afford to stay there. Although the history reflects a bit of this and a bit of that, more recently it is the dream child of an Aussie billionaire who owns Rosemount Estates Vineyards and the racing yacht Wild Oats, among other enterprises. I picked up my information in bits and pieces, so I offer what I know as I understand it.  We didn't need a key for anything and rarely even closed the boat when away for the day. Knowing that we would be here for a week, Frank arranged to have our winch part replacement that had finally arrived at Mooloolaba marina to be forwarded to us here.

We determined to get to know our new digs and soon discovered other than the ambulance, fire engine and the bus there are no motor vehicles here, just golf carts zipping by. 

There is a bakery, a post office, a small grocery store, a trading post, an Italian restaurant, a fish and chips shop, a pub, a steak house a seafood restaurant, a café.  The yacht club is an architectural delight to the senses. The homes are all holiday homes. We are told there is only one "resident" on Hamo. The homes, condos and villas are rumored to cost millions. I don't think there is even a police presence on the island. It is like an upscale "Howdy-Doodyville". We had access to the beautiful pools, the beach, all of the amenities that the island has to offer. We enjoyed lunch that first day at the Fish and Chips Shop, where we were visited by local, beautiful but persistent little beggars...cockatoos and lorikeets. I had to fight one of them for my Pepsi!

Across from Hamilton Island is Dent Island, which is where a golf course has been built for the sole use of Hamilton Island guests. I think it costs $150 per 18 holes/$100 for 9 holes.  We signed up for the free tour, and were treated like absolute royalty. The views from there are nothing short of spectacular, but I didn't even think to take my camera to get pics. Frank really wanted to play but didn't want to go it alone. This is when I wish I was a golfer.

Our third day on Hamilton Island we began to feel a little guilty about just hanging out at the pool, hiking and lazing around when we needed to get some work done.  It was time to fish a broken halyard out of the mast, remount a radar deflector that had fallen off the shroud, re-rig two other halyards and whatnot, so Frank and I set out with a plan to send him up while we both negotiated this somewhat daunting task with just two of us. Across the dock from us were a couple of guys who asked if we needed a hand. Thank goodness, because there was no way I could have managed everything that needed to be done below while Frank was working up top. 
Juri and Barton
I would have had to be in two or three places at one time. I could do it but with a lot of running back and forth whilst leaving him literally hanging there. Their names were Juri and Barton. I warned them that this may take a while, but they seemed eager for something interesting to do other than enjoy another lousy day in paradise. Those poor guys! They were a huge asset but as is always the case with boat chores, our two-hour plan turned into an all day undertaking that resulted in most everything getting done except replacing the fallen halyard that we could not fish out of the mast. 
Frank up the mast
As you do, we rigged an alternative on the outside to fly the genoa. That's all we can do for now. To top it off, Barton and Juri are engineers, and tried every imaginable option to no avail.  By the time we called it quits it was happy hour, so Frank trotted some beers over to them and I joined soon afterward.  We discovered that Juri and his family had immigrated to Australia  from Johannesburg, SA. Lovely people. We enjoyed a wonderful evening with them that turned into a long night when Frank introduced them to a bottle of Vanuatu's finest: Bounty Rum. We had such a great time with them that we planned out our visit to see them when we arrive at Airlie beach the following week.
at The Yacht Club

We spent the next day just taking it easy. Frank was so sore from being hefted up and down in that boson's chair all day his groin was bruised, and his arms ached from working above for hours. Poor guy. This is not the type of exercise one envisions doing to get into shape, rather to get laid up for a day or so. The next two days we enjoyed the pool, taking walks and appreciating the blue-sky weather that this season is bringing to us. Every  day we checked in with the marina office on the status of our delivery to hear; "Nothing yet, Mate".

By Friday, May 10th our week was up at the marina and so it was time to scoot away. We planned to cruise around To Whitsunday Island and stay close by so that when our package did arrive we could swing by to get it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 1 - 3, 2012 Goldsmith, Lindeman, Shaw and finally Hamilton Island

We had been told that Goldsmith was a worthwhile stop, so we opted for here over our originally planned trip to Scawfell Island. Besides, Goldsmith is on the most direct route to Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands.

Following Scallywag, we picked our way around the north side to the most comfortable anchorage, and one that had a sandy rather than a coral shore. We don't even know the name of the bay we chose but noted oddly enough; there was a dwelling on the small island just across the way. Although the dwelling and outbuilding looked nice enough, the shore was unapproachable, banked in coral heads. Perhaps the inhabitants come and go here at high tide? The home supported a massive TV antenna, yet we saw no evidence of activity human or otherwise, nor could we pick up any signal.  We anchored in 35 feet of sand just outside the coral reef that ran between shore and us.  When the sun peeked out between clouds we noticed how beautiful the water is here.  We arrived at low tide, and spying the waterline of the island, let out an extra 30 feet of chain. Tides look to be maybe 10 feet here? 
We settled in to watch sunset and the tide roll in. The small sandy beach literally disappeared at high tide, which took the waterline clear up into the trees on shore. Note to self: wait until low tide to venture ashore. That night after dinner, we sat out under the stars. The air is so clean out here that the brilliant colors among the larger stars revealed hues we'd not before seen.  The stars seemed to  dance and sparkle themselves into a near kaleidoscopic frenzy.  My God this is amazing.

Wednesday, May 2nd, we rode with Paul and Glor to the beach for a walk and to see if there is any hiking to be done. We were surprised to find that it was a long way to shore.  Hmm, didn't seem like it from the boat.  Crossing the coral reef over to the sand bottom something zipped past us at lightening speed. A turtle? A stingray? We beached the dinghy and set off on foot. On closer inspection, the beach isn't pretty, although nice enough for a stroll. We walked until we were met with swamp, then turned and tromped through the ankle deep water lapping to shore. Glor had picked up a large stick that she was using to prod the sand ahead when she exclaimed to Frank, "Stingrays!" Just a few paces ahead of him we could see outlines in the sand of at least a dozen of them. One shimmied out from under its hiding place to reveal a very large barb and then began floating toward Glor's brandished stick. Paul and I hotfooted it back onto the beach. Frank and Glor casually sidestepped the rays more inquisitively than I dared. The closer we looked the more we saw burrowed just beneath the surface of the sand. Time to leave now. Back in the dinghy, as we were slowly moving out Frank spied a turtle. He swam unperturbed just ahead of us. I tried to fire off a picture but the chop was too much to get a clear shot. As we were making our way back we all decided that although it is a pretty place there really isn't anything to do here. Lineman Island is just 2 ½ hours away, and there is a Club Med resort there with moorings available.  We weighed anchor at noon.

The sail over to Lindeman was brisk and exciting, but as we neared the resort Frank commented that it appeared devoid of activity. He tried to raise someone on the VHF but received no reply. Fortunately I was able to pick up internet access, so I did a quick search online for a phone number. What I found was a notice: "Regrettably, January 31, 2012, the resort closed down". Bummer.  Realizing this bay is no longer an option we continued on to the northeast side of Lindeman seeking a comfortable anchorage. Scallywag found a good spot and, being a catamaran, swell does not bother them so much. We on the other hand were unable to cope with it. When drinking glasses tumbled off the shelf, Frank asked me if I thought we should move. It was already 4:30, but if we hurried we could raise anchor and sail back over to Shaw Island to a bay that looked promising.
We could be there before sunset.

We said goodbye to Paul and Glor making our apologies as we sailed away for Neck Bay. Holding here was good in 35 feet of flat bottom, there was a slight roll but nothing close to that of the anchorage on Lindeman. It was very windy here however, making it a rough night for sleeping. I awoke several times to the howling.

May 3rd, we awoke leisurely and made plans for the day. The Scallys are moving on more northward. We on the other hand want to experience Hamilton Island  ("Hammo" in Aussie-speak). Anchors aweigh at 11:00 AM. We have a good breeze and are going with the current at a comfortable 7 knots.

Arriving at the pass between Hamilton and Dent Islands Frank told me to get ready to secure a mooring. It is windy and rife with current. I had great difficulty picking up the lead – the hawser was as big around as my arm. I traded places with Frank, quickly stepping to the helm. He secured us after some struggle. Once situated, we hailed the marina to report our mooring number. This is a great dialogue:
Frank: "Hamilton Island Marina, Hamilton Island Marina this is Destiny, Destiny, over"
Marina: "Destiny, Destiny, Hamilton Island Marina go ahead Destiny"
Frank: "We have picked up mooring #3, what is the cost for the night, over?"
Marina: "$90, over"
Frank; choke, throat clear: "Uh, that's 90, as in nine-zero? Over?"
Marina: "That's right, Mate"
Frank: "Hamilton Island Marina, how much is a berth for the night, over?"
Marina: "For your size yacht…that's $120, over"
Frank: "Stand by, we need to consult, over"
We chat – I say, Frank that is a no-brainer. $90 for a mooring, AND a long, choppy, wet dinghy ride across this channel, or $120 for a berth with water, power and amenities, sans dinghy ride".
Frank: "Hamilton Island Marina, what side tie would a bow-in be? We will be there in 20, over"
It is apparently low season here. As we were checking in at the marina office, we were quoted a weekly rate of just over $500. This just keeps getting better! So here we are at stunning, trendy and relaxing Hamilton Island for a nice weeklong vacation.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April 25 – May 1, 2011 – Another Broken Halyard and the Trip to Mackay

Wednesday, April 25th, we departed for Pearl Bay at 6:30 AM. There is not much wind and what we have is behind us so we deployed the gennaker. Progress is a slow but steady 4.5 – 5.5 knots. All was going just fine with Frank in the cockpit reading a book, me catching up on blogs and the fishing line set when at around 10:30, the gennaker halyard snapped sending the parachute into the water.  The line appeared to have been sawed-through just like before with the genoa halyard. We heaved it up on board, strapped it down for now and turned on the engine. Something up there is wreaking havoc on our lines. We have got to find out what is going on but need very calm conditions in which to do it.  We've lost valuable time and are now so far behind the Scallys that we can no longer see their mast up ahead.  We arrived at Pearl Bay mid afternoon finding good holding in about 4 meters of sandy bottom.  Early evening we paid a quick visit to Scallywag for sundowners. The swell was rolling in. We looked across at Destiny's swaying mass and commented that we were in for a very rolly night. Referring to the Lucas Guide this rolling will continue throughout the next several dozen anchorages; such is the nature of N. Queensland waters. We chatted about staying on Thursday to explore the beach and spending a lazy day on the hook.

Thursday, April 26
I had a terribly restless night, not sleeping well between Frank's snoring and the surge rolling us from side to side and rocking us fore to aft. The motion was without rhythm.  Upon awakening I asked Frank if there were any other anchorages he would consider moving to for the day because this was really getting on my nerves. He responded that he wasn't so disturbed and although there is a creek bed anchorage about 3 miles north he was fine with staying here. As he is conveying this to me I am watching the five other boats that had shared the bay with us last night make a mad exit. Thankfully, Glor radioed to ask if we minded moving out of here to another anchorage about 3 miles north (Thank you Glor!). We weighed anchor at 9:15.
10:45, we are getting decent wind, at least enough to encourage us to move on to South Percy Island.  After motor-sailing a good part of the day we bobbed on in to the northwest anchorage of South Percy Island. The Lucas guide gives this a swelly/rolly rating but we found it no worse than the last two and in fact maybe a little more comfortable than at Pearl Bay.  Weather forecasts are calling for high wind warnings and impending thunderstorms over the next few days. We think this will serve as just an overnight stop in case the forecasts bear fruit. After a quick consult with Paul and Glor it was decided we would depart for Mackay at 4:00 AM.

Friday, April 27th
Black is black is the morning.  Of course it would be dark at 3:15 AM. Surprisingly the laundry I hung out last night is dry! This is the first morning we have awakened to dry air. Every other night has been so humid, leaving the decks slippery and wet. We enjoyed splendid sou'easterlys all the day long, giving us good speed into Mackay.
a few of the ships anchored off Mackay

The ocean is plastered with anchored commercial vessels as we near the harbour. Dozens upon dozens are sitting out here as we pick our way through and around them toward the marina. We arrived at Mackay's beautiful marina mid-afternoon. Getting into the berth was a struggle. Scallywag had arrived about 30 minutes prior, so Paul and Glor were on hand to assist us. The first attempt was aborted, as I happened to toss Paul an unattached bowline – duh!!! Frank backed out to give it another go. Apparently seeing our struggles, three guys from a big Rescue ship stopped to give us a hand. We were all laughing except the captain (Frank). The current in this marina gives the Gold Coast serious competition. We hit the Sails Pub for drinks and dinner and then because we were all nodding off by 8:00, early to bed.
Mackay Marina jetty

Saturday, April 28, Frank tried literally all day to get Sailmail working and attempted to load some new electronic chart program Paul had told him about. I cleaned. We met the Scallys for dinner at George's Thai restaurant. It was very good! Then on Sunday, because the marina is quite far from town, we shared a rental car for the day, hitting the essential venues: liquor store, hardware, auto parts (couldn't find the marine store), electronics store, and of course the grocery store. We returned in time to get goods stowed and to hit the bar because all this shopping made the boys very thirsty you know.  Monday was chore day AGAIN.  I forced a lunch break on Frank. We went for pizza at the Sails Pub and have declared it the best pizza in all of Queensland, bar none. Afterward we took a long walk down the promenade, out to the beach and watched some kite surfers for a while. On return from our lovely walk, Frank feeling rejuvenated and inspired finally got Sailmail working – hooray!!!! I got the rest of my mundane tasks accomplished and then we headed to Scally to share the good news over a beer.
Mackay Marina promenade

Today is Tuesday, May 1, 2012. We helped each other secure to the fuel dock early and by 9:45 AM we were under way. Leaving the breakwater was a rough ride. Storm clouds are rolling in and the skies have gone to gray.  Things settled down about 5 miles offshore and we are now enjoying a comfortable 7-knot sail to Goldsmith Island.