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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.

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