Australia: Sailing north – Great Keppel Island to Pipon Islets
Great Keppel Island – Island Head Creek – South Island (Percy Isles) – Scawfell Island – Shaw Island, South Molle Island, Airlie Beach, Hook Island (the Whitsundays) – Cape Upstart – Cleveland Bay (Townsville) – Orpheous Island (Palm Isles) – Zoe Bay (Hinchinbrook Island) – Dunk Island – Trinity Inlet (Cairns) – Green Island – Low Islets – Dickson Inlet (Port Douglas) – Daintree River – Endeavour River (Cooktown) – Watsons Bay (Lizard Island) – Ribbon Reef No.10 – Crescent Reef – Ninian Bay – Pipon Islets
The tender squishing jetty
Six things we have learned
1. If it appears that your tender is underwater, jammed under a jetty, then it is. The scene is not a fascinating optical illusion created by the full moon. As the tide rushes in, the sides of the tender will start to push up through the gaps between the wooden planks of the jetty (sort of like butter and vegemite being squeezed through the holes of a vitawheat biscuit). To dislodge the tender, jump in it, let out some of the air and then bounce up and down. Do this in your undies so you do not ruin your fancy dinner clothes. The engine will not start because it is flooded. Paddle the partially deflated tender 1km back to your boat. While you are paddling (with one oar each) bicker about who is to blame for getting the tide times wrong. Bicker loudly so as to amuse people on other boats in the anchorage.
2. The skipper is an “advanced DIYer“. The skipper successfully executed Procedure 2-77 (clearing a submerged motor) on two separate occasions (refer to lesson #1 and worst bit #2). The outboard engine “bible” rates this procedure as “difficult – a procedure aimed at the advanced DIYer that deals with diagnostics, rebuilds, and internal engine components and will frequently require special tools”. The first mate is very proud of the skipper. However, the first mate thinks the skipper sometimes does not look after things as well as he could because he is keen to learn how to fix the things when they break.
3. We will never, ever, charter Zinc out to random holiday-makers (for example, through a bare-boat charter operation in the Whitsundays). We made this rule based on our observations of holiday-makers in the Whitsundays damaging the environment and the charter boats they were skippering (e.g., by running onto dry reef, getting the anchor stuck in a coral head and ripping the anchor out by motoring off in a plume of burnt engine oil and coral dust).
4. The resort on South Molle Island is in a state of disrepair. It is not to be recommended for a birthday dinner (or any other meal), unless back-street-snack-bar cuisine is what you have in mind.
5. The planes that buzz Zinc every few days are not enemy fighter planes; they are government coastwatch planes signalling they want to “chat” on VHF channel 16. In other words, do not worry mum and dad we are being “watched“; the Australian government is monitoring our whereabouts.
6. Fishing is easy. Throw a lure out the back. Sail along. Half an hour later pull in a 10kg tuna or spanish mackerel. Share it with your friends.
The waterfall on Hinchinbrook Island
Six of the best bits
1. Everyday, a different place, the same bed: the perfect way to travel.
2. Young sailors! Meeting three other couples in their 30’s (about 30 years younger than the other cruising sailors we have met). People with similar energy levels and interests and who are travelling in the same general direction as us.
3. Guests on board – Townsville to Cairns with Pam and John
*Watching the sunset over Hinchinbrook Island.
*Anchoring at pretty Zoe Bay and hiking to, and swimming at, the waterfall. We surprised a group of nude 60 year olds swimming. We tried not to giggle as they scampered out of the water and beneath towels when they saw us appear from the hiking track.
*Day tripping to Green Island (near Cairns). Very pretty but tourist central (resort, shopping precinct, lifeguards, swimming flags, helicopter landing pad). Great snorkelling off-shore where the glass bottom boat traverses.
4. Sam’s laundry, shower house, barber shop and chauffer service in Cairns. Open only a few days a year. We scored. Tip for other cruising sailors: time your journey so you arrive in a port when one of your friends is in that town on business (especially if your friend is staying in a fancy serviced apartment within sight of where you can anchor your boat).
5. The Great Barrier Reef: from Lizard Island north
*Warm. Isolated. Pristine. Beautiful. Blue: the sky and the sea; every shade of blue you can imagine: azure, aqua, navy, turquoise, sapphire, cobalt, aquamarine, indigo.
*Comfortable anchorages with no boats, no humans and no land in sight.
*Snorkelling and freediving. Great visibility. Healthy and varied corals. Big stuff: big potato cod, big trevally, big sweetlip, big coral trout, big clams, big sharks, big stingrays, big turtles, big batfish, big parrotfish, big snapper, big sea slugs, big butterfly fish, big angelfish.
*Chilling. Reading, napping, watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets, meditating, paddling the stand up paddle board, playing mah jong, drinking tea, cooking, sipping wine.
6. North Queensland
*The scenery. The first mate retracts a claim she has made previously that New South Wales has a more beautiful coastline than Queensland. Even the skipper appreciated the raw beauty: “Imagine how many people would live here if there was a grinding reef break around that headland“.
*The people. Friendly and embarrassingly helpful. For example, in Townsville, a traffic control lady arranged for her colleague to cover for her while she drove the first mate to the post office and the supermarket.
*The weather. The warmth, clear skies and sunshine that make the outdoors all the more enjoyable.
Procedure 2-77 (clearing a submerged motor)
Procedure 2-77 complete – it works
Three of the worst bits
1. Losing to Pam and John at 500 four nights in a row.
2. Flooding the tender engine for the second time in a fortnight. This time the flooding was caused by a following wave surging over the engine and into the tender. Again we had to paddle the tender back to Zinc. Again we bickered loudly. Again we (successfully) performed Procedure 2-77.
3. Concern about the possible increase in our mercury levels due to the daily consumption of large (and delicious) pelagic fish.
The skipper and a mermaid (i.e., a 100lb potato cod)
The first mate in her meditation place
The spoodle is sorely missed. However, reports are that the spoodle is not showing any signs of missing us or life at sea. The spoodle is adored by her foster family. The spoodle’s activities include sleeping in bed with and bathing in a tub with her buddies Lincoln and Jaz; attending sporting events (e.g., soccer carnivals) and grade one for special events (e.g., show-and-tell); enjoying mini-holidays at her grandparents’ house and playing with her many canine and human family members and friends.
A whiting or a brim?
Actually… a tuna
*Sharks. 15. Reef sharks: black tip, white tip, grey. Sizes ranging from “no worries” (two foot) to “goodness” (eight foot). Most seen while snorkelling/freediving however we did catch one on our fishing line (we threw it back).
*Geography cone. One. At Lizard Island. In five meters of water. Walking along the sand. We swam down and peered at it closely, only later to read in the fish “bible” that the geography cone is deadly to humans (in what way we are not sure: e.g., do you die if you eat it? does it spit venom in your face? does it eat you?)
*Snakes. Two. One yellow snake sunning on a rock at Island Head Creek. One six foot olive sea snake swimming along the surface 40km from land at the outer Great Barrier Reef (the fish “bible” states this snake has a very venomous bite).
*Crocodiles. None. Although, at the boat ramp at Cooktown we did see a man banging large slabs of frozen fish onto the concrete next to a “recent crocodile sighting here” sign. Smart.
*Prawn. One. At the Daintree River. Lying on Zinc’s back platform. A suspected suicide attempt by the prawn. The first mate placed it back in the water and wished it to swim away and live a long and happy life.
The skipper surfed Zinc down a few waves.
*Langford Island and Bird Island national park (snorkelling)
*Green Island (snorkelling)
*Lizard Island (freediving)
*Ribbon Reef No.10 (freediving)
*Crescent Reef (freediving)
The skipper read:
*Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson (1 star)
*The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (3.5 stars)
*The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (2.5 stars)
*The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (4 stars)
The first mate read:
*The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (4.5 stars)
*Ignorance by Milan Kundera (3 stars)
*Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (2.5 stars)
*The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (5 stars)
*The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene (3 stars)
*The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller (2 stars)