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Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 8th - Port Douglas to Hope Island

Frank sprang out of bed at 6:30, got dressed and by 6:45 was walking to Mocka's. He returned shortly after 7 a.m. with our frozen bounty. I quickly repacked the croissants, meat pies and spanos into freezer bags and stowed them away. We hurriedly downed some coffee and prayed our way out of the marina. Thankfully this recent tide was a "high" low tide, yielding enough clearance for our departure, although I noted we stirred up quite a lot of river bottom (translate to brown murk), backing out of the berth and turning to exit the waterway.

Once we got underway we noticed how beautiful and dramatic this coastline is. Approaching the Daintree rainforest area everything is intensely green. Mountains drop steeply toward the sea, yielding to attractive white sand beaches along the waterfront. The colors are captivating, as the brilliant blue sky and the green of the landscape seem to meld into a clear turquoise that becomes the Coral Sea. Heavy thick cloud cover hovers at the mountain peaks, somewhat resembling a giant floating marshmallow. It is true that this is some of the best and prettiest sailing most of us will experience in our lifetimes.

Although 15+ knots of wind were forecasted, we saw a mere 5 knots (true), building to about 7.8 for the better part of our morning. There wasn't much swell, but heavy traffic from motor cats ferrying tourists out to the Reef rocked us endlessly until we managed to put enough miles between us and them. With 48 miles to go to Hope Island we hoped to pick up that forecasted sou'easterly, so with fingers crossed we unfulred the staysail for stability and carried on. After lunch time the wind began to build from a whisper to a promise allowing us to furl the staysail and hoist the genoa. We were enjoying a 6 or so knot sail when from the horizon emerged a large official looking vessel that appeared to be heading our way. Earlier we'd noticed a fairly lo-flying aircraft that might have been Customs. It didn't take long before the big gray/green cruiser with CUSTOMS boldly emblazoned across the vessel caught up and then slowed just off our starboard beam. It didn't approach but as Frank was spying it/them through the binoculars I said to him they are probably watching him right back with some seriously high-powered glasses. He laughed but kept looking. They cruised slowly alongside about 50 yards away for a few beats and, seeming satisfied, sped up and away. Now you see them, now you don't.

Hope Island way in the distance

Tiny little Hope Island
A little while later came the 17 - 20 knot trades and we were able to put out the whisker pole and wing out the genny for a blissfully perfect downwind sail into Hope Island. What a smooth ride! By the end of our journey we were cruising along at 8-9 knots in 25-knot winds. This is what we dream of, and what our sailing friends who have made this passage before us claimed it would be like once we passed north of Cairns. As soon as we had a good visual sighting of the anchorage, we noticed Avant Garde was rested there. Wow, they made some progress! Shortly after settling onto the mooring, we were greeted with a flyover, a really, really low flyover by CUSTOMS aircraft. Shortly afterward they radioed for a chat to each boat in the area. Eventually they got around to calling us. They were very friendly and a bit less intimidating than the officials in other countries have been. They assured us that we would see them and hear from them again along the coast. Before signing off, however they issued a friendly reminder to us NOT to go swimming and advised that the absolutely beautiful and inviting beach may not be safe from Salties. It really is a shame that these crocs are getting out to the offshore islands as well as the riverbeds and mainland shores and lagoons, making some of these beautiful reefs and reef islands unapproachable to us. Perhaps somehow that is nature's way of protecting her environs from the human invader. At least the island provides a beautiful and secure setting for us to stop for the night.
Sunset from Hope Isl over the mainland in the distance

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