Cairns to Cape York

Friday 13th May and t’was the day we left Yorkeys Knob for an appointment in Cairns with the fuel dock, it was also my birthday.

 
 
3720 litres @$1.43 cpl it took to fill our tanks for the trip over the top! The young guy at the fuel dock allowed us to stay there for a few hours before we went out into Trinity Inlet to anchor. The rest of the day we spent at Rusty’s fresh food market doing our last minute green grocer trip. Stocked up I spent the afternoon putting it away in ‘green produce bags’. Dressed up and ready to party we had a dinner reservation at Waterbar and Grill

. Don from Half Moon Bay Chandlery

met us there to deliver a spare anchor windlass foot switch that we had ordered and it had turned up the morning we left. Don has been fantastic helping us source all the bits we needed before leaving. We have replaced all the globes with LEDs, now it takes 2 amps to run the whole boat where previously it took 30+ amps. His help was much appreciated. He also took us for a sail the night before we left Yorkeys on his yacht. We still love sailing but for what we are doing Nordhavn is best by far!!

We laid in bed this morning until we felt the current in Trinity Inlet running out, this would give us another 2knts of speed. Then it was all hands on deck and underway. Whilst heading out between the channel markers we had several charter boats overtake us and a few boats were returning to port. One of them was the Australian Warship – Childers

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We spent the morning whilst underway, packing away stores and tidying the boat, the seas were calm and the sun shining. The 37nm trip to Low Isles passed quickly and we rounded the visible reef and entered the bay that was full of charter boats with day tourists aboard. As it is only 8nm from Port Douglas, it makes a popular day trip destination. Also in the bay was Lady Kay of Falmouth (cat) and a few charter yachts.

 
 
 
 
 
 
There we picked up one of the 3 National Park moorings and started preparing Toasted Cheese and Tomato sandwiches for lunch. It wasn’t long before Alan saw some big fish swimming around under the swim platform. It took a lot of effort to identify them, they were Pacific Spadefish/Batfish. Thanks to the internet!

We began feeding them a piece of bread and they were very friendly, coming right up and taking it from our fingers. After checking out the teeth I wasn’t that frightened of them and they were sucking on my fingers, not quite the manicure I wanted! Also circling under them were several large Black Tipped Reef Sharks, another good reason not to go swimming here.

As the tide began to flood we headed off in the tinny to explore the island. It has a lighthouse that was built in 1878, a, Lighthouse Keepers’ cottage, the Assistant Lighthouse Keepers cottage(now a Research Station operated by the University of QLD) and another unmarked cottage. As we walked along the paths to the Lighthouse we saw a disused large winch with a eroded rock carriageway leading to the water that was used to pull up the boats laden with fuel for the Lighthouse.

 
 
The high tide was only a few hours away and the swell began to come around the corner and make us roll, so our 2 trusty flopper stoppers were deployed. This dampened the roll somewhat and I imagine it made others in the bay jealous!

Throughout the night the low tide gave some relief but again as the tide came in, the rolling conditions worsened again. The other boats in the bay rocked and rolled all night. By 2am one had given up and left and the next left at 5am. We were underway by 6am. As we pulled the flopper stoppers clear of the water our friendly Batfish came to visit.

The high unpopulated mountains lined the coastline and at 9am we were off Cape Tribulation. In this part of the Great Barrier Reef the numerous reefs are close to the mainland and at low tide we can see the waves breaking over them. It has blown 25-30 knts all day, the waves and swell have increased although we only notice their size when we walk down into the saloon and galley.

The low tide was at 1.37pm and as it was only 3pm when we approached Cooktown we slowed down a little more to allow more time for the Endeavour River to flood. We turned and headed west, passed the headland and followed the markers to the channel. Although the entrance was very wide, there is very little navigable water. The cruising bible, Cruising the Coral Coast by Alan Lucas doesn’t paint a pretty picture The fishing trawlers were tied to the wharf on the port side and to starboard was a line of anchored vessels, and that was it!!! So all we could do was anchor right in the middle of the entrance, metres away from the wharfs and dock restaurant and wait for the tide to get higher so we were able to get further away from the town and some space to anchor.

At the top of the tide we moved 1/2 nm further upstream and anchored near the southernmost lead marker. The bullets were still blowing over the mountain causing us to screw around on the anchor and heel over. Max gust we saw was 38 knts.

Next morning on the high tide, Alan took the tinny for a run another mile upstream and found the depths to be acceptable for us to navigate further upstream and away from the bullets that we buffeting us here near the town.

We moored in the deep hole around the first corner, just near the mangroves and were very protected from the wind. A little further up the river Aqua Safari (Catamaran) Paul and Barbara Banks were anchored they had arrived the previous day.

 
 
I made Rock Cakes and we went for a visit the next day. We planned a dinghy trip with Barbara and Paul to the upper reaches of the Escape River for the following day. With both dinghies loaded with cameras, lunch, rain coats, umbrellas and fishing gear with started up the river keeping a watchful eye on the banks and in the water for Crocodiles. Only 3 nm upstream Paul’s outboard stopped working and after trying every conceivable tip given to him by the 3 of us ‘home mechanics’, we abandoned their tinny and tied it to a tree and continued on in our tinny. We saw some beautiful flora and Cottonwood trees in full bloom and the kingfishers playing in the branches near the waters edge.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We tied to a rock on the edge of a high bank to enjoy lunch while Alan flicked a lure around. It was an all day adventure very beautiful and on the return picked up Aqua Safari’s tinny and towed it back. The no name motor was only 3 months old and after lots of phone calls to and fro plus a delivery of all possible spares it still never gave another flicker, so it was sent back to Brisbane for a full refund and they have purchased another Brand name one in Cooktown.

We took them into Cooktown the following day for a shopping, laundry, mail and lunch trip in our tinny.

22/5- 2.45am left Cooktown, Alan stayed awake watching the footy and cleaning up, preparing the boat for sea whilst I got some sleep. At 2am I woke and we decided to go, once at sea Alan was able to go to bed. The whole day was amazingly calm once we cleared Cape Bedford.

23/5 – Overnight Cape Melville

24/5 – Anchored at Blackwood Island finally we are in clear waters to make water and today I did several loads of washing to catch up.

We went in search of a wreck to fish first thing in the morning, but to no avail, even thou we had GPS coordinates we were unable to find it! So back to the boat and underway. The trolling lines were out and we meandered through the Owen Channel. The 15knt Easterly had just about died and I thought we could go to Atkinson Reef another the 2.5nm further north. It was picture perfect and flat calm seas! We anchored in 10m water, although we had a roll up, we decided against flopper stoppers as we were getting straight in the tinny to go and fish the reef. 20m off the bow and before I had finished putting my line out, a monster fish came and stole my rig, leader and lure! I re rigged and it wasn’t long before both of us continued to hook more spanish mackerel.

By 3pm we were stuffed and enjoyed lunch and cuppa before heading back in the channel to anchor for the night. The wind was coming from the west, which made our original plan of Stanley anchorage a no go!

We spent the night in the Owen Channel between Stanley and Flinders Island.

25/5

At 4am we woke as the wind and current were playing with us, then decided to leave Owen Channel and the Flinders Group. Heading SW around the southern tip of Stanley Island then NW to Eden Reef. It was a magic day, light winds and sunshine. We planned to stop at Magpie Reef for a fish. On approach to Magpie Reef I was getting some fruit and yogurt ready for a feed before fishing when I heard Alan outside winding in the rods, when he yelled to cut the motor back as he had a fish. he passed the rod to me and it took me 15mins to wind him the 1.6m Barracuda weighing in at 20kg. After a few happy snaps we returned him to the sea!

 
 
We anchored in 10m of water at the western end of Magpie Reef in the shelter of the sand cay. As we were setting the anchor fish were breaking the surface all around us, we were both excited and took to the tinny with rods and lures. Before we were 100m from the boat we both hooked up.

 
 
 
 
28/5 6.30am and the anchor came up with the 75m chain that we had put down, wing and main engines running we headed out into the channel and headed north. It had been months since we had given the wing engine a run, it started and ran for 1/2hr before turning it off.The currents running through the islands were a bit strong for it to keep us underway comfortably.

After 76 nautical miles and 11.5 hours before we dropped anchor a few miles up the Escape River. The seas were bigger today and the majority of the trip was through a Green Zone so we were unable to fish!

The day was very warm and overcast, and at 8.40 the log had ticked over 10,000nm since we launched her! AMAZING! So many wonderful people, places and things we have done since Jan 2009!

29/5

Escape River – It was a beautiful calm night, full of stars. Our body clocks had us awake early and we had jobs to do. First one was to put out the new crab pots, and they were terrific. We ordered 5 new PUP (Pop Up Pots) from www.CrabNGear.com.au . These pots would be legal in NT as they have only 2 openings, and would you believe the bureaucracy, we also had to order another model Lift Dilly to allow us to catch crabs in WA!!!! As I love crabs I am always eager to get them out, but the old conventional pots were always a pain in the arse to assemble. Yesterday it was so easy, they have put a smile on Alan’s face. We still put 3 of the old pots out, just to see the difference but I fear they won’t have very more swims! At the end of the day it was the new pot that caught 2 large Mud Crabs, 1.7kg & 1.3kg! In between checking the pots we fished and caught and released a mixed bag. Couple of Queenfish, Cod, Mackerel, GT and a few other species of Trevelly, as well as several queer cod with huge bulging eyes (will wait until we get internet to identify).

Next job on our list was to rid the boat of several layers of salt, built up over the last few weeks. This ended up taking all day with crab and fish stops, lunch and breadmaking.

By 4pm with a cold drink in our hands we headed off in the direction of the boats that had just arrived in the river. Liso, Decoy and Starfire all travelling indendently but all heading to Darwin and then Asia. After saying Hi to them we went and collected all our pots as the sun was setting, and we arrived home just on dark!

30/5

Waking at 7am, before we had our morning cuppa we decided to head off and catch the high tide going through Albany Pass. Flood tide heads north through the pass.

By 11am we were anchored at Cape York Peninsular and we took the tinny in with a cold drink and celebrated once more our arrival at the most northern tip of Australia.

2 thoughts on “Cairns to Cape York”

  1. Barbara and Paul Banks

    Hi guys, just came in ph cover area at LLoyd island so checked your site, noticed our fame in your blog, how kind of you. our new ob is going well can not say the same for the weather sww after sww for the last 30 days. i will up date you next time i have cover and send out a general e mail. hope all is well with you both.

  2. davoa@telstra.com

    Hi to the both of you. Hope this finds you both fit and well. Not long now before the man in a red suit turns up. I am already for him. Not alot happening down this way. Beth and Billy was down on Monday Beth had to buy new washing machine. I have 9 days off for xmas looking forward to that break, I think I have earnt it, people should’nt be made to work that hard during the year. Alan hope you are staying out of the war zone no more fish hooks mishaps. Well better go and find something to do, nearly knock of time. Played on the computer enough this morning. Love Gaye xxxxxxx

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