We left Cairns at six in the morning, the sky eerie and still blanketed by smoke. Light and shifty winds assisted us past Cape Grafton and we rounded the corner for our southbound passage into an unexpected headwind of eight to ten knots. Not the predicted northeasterly wind we had planned for our passage to Mouriliyan Harbour.
The south-south easterly kept steady for a while and whilst our friends on Kalani attempted to encourage us to stop at Fitzroy Island to watch the AFL Grand Final we were intent on sailing south. The winds built slowly but consistently until we were abeam of High Island when they accelerated to twenty five knots with larger gusts. We abandoned Mouriliyan Harbour for High Island, a delightful little continental island with a coral and sand beach. Anchoring is deep as it is steep to and we duly anchored in 8 m of water and put all available chain out. A single Parks moorings exists but it was occupied by a trawler whose gantry’s we had keep a constant watch on given the tiny space we both had to share. When he left we gladly took the mooring, but found that the solenoid switch on the anchor winch had failed so Andrew hauled in all our chain, heavy 10mm, many metres, by hand whilst I wondered if I would shortly be a widow!
Once on the mooring we felt more secure, still getting blasts of 20-25 knots but surer of holding than we would have been in coral rubble at anchor.
Sleeping was something we were looking forward to, but not to achieve as our mooring was placed in one of those unique spots where the wind and tide create a back eddy so all night the mooring buoy sailed and danced around Fling knocking violently on her sides. Try sleeping with an apartment neighbour testing out his new battering ram and you might get an idea of how noisy our night in paradise was! We vowed to leave at dawn and duly set the alarm. The wretched iphone still thought it was in Melbourne and so woke us at 0430 hours instread of 0530 hours. No great problem really as we had been awake all night and as it turned out would be all the next night also! The wind blew as strongly as it was unpredicted by the BOM and continued all the next day. So we stayed.
Another dawn later and we slipped our mooring, careful that it hadn’t wrapped itself around our keel in it’s midnight meaderings. We were ready to continue on to Moriliyan Harbour but found that after a few hours of stronger winds the seas abated so we continued along another twenty nm to Dunk Island, arriving at 1600hrs and picking up a sadly now disued resort mooring.
We passed Instant Karma on our way into the anchorage and they came by later. We motored along the beach to view the resort that they had visited as cruising sailors for the last few years. It was frightening to see the level of destruction that cyclone Yasi had caused up close.We certainly didn’t realise the complete extent of the damage from our anchorage on our last visit when we stayed aboard Fling. Paul and Kathleen were able to point out to us where they used to walk through dense rainforest, just a few tree trunks now, sky showing clearly between them. We realised that the piles of sand near the beach had been dumped there from the reforestation project, as masses of sand had blown inshore during the cyclone.
Instant Karma headed north and we south. We settled on the Hinchinbrook Passage after some consideration of the weather and our limited anchoring prospects. Rockingham Bay proved to be her usual self with a lovely fast and bouncy ride across to the passage in rapid time. Enormous clouds threatened but happily didn’t deliver. With the wind in the East we received many catabatic bullets coming along the passage. Discussion was held as to reducing sail. When we did, a problem occured with out main halyard. Two hours and many trips up and down the companionway to check the plotter and safely navigate the tricky channels whilst trying to lower the halyard we finally achieved both dropping the main and arriving at out anchorage, exhausted.
It is spring here and the insects are out enmasse! We almost feel like we are under house arrest as we hunker down in our insect screened safety zone.We passed a fisherman today as we entered the anchorage. He was completely covered, including a face mask. Five bites by Marchflies just whilst anchoring and I can easily see his point! Total confinement tonight as we wait for tomorrows tide to get us to Orpheus Island, a pity about the new crab pot…
The exit tide for Lucinda Bar was not until very late afternoon, so we caught up on sleep and relaxed until just after lunch. At the first available chance we crossed Lucinda Bar and headed for Little Pioneer Bay at Orpheus Island. We arrived at sundown and to our dismay found all the moorings full. Anchorage is deep here and without a functioning anchor winch we moved on. At Hazard Bay we checked the depths again and after conferring with some other cruising sailors decided again to move on. The sun was almost down so we bypassed Juno Bay at Fantome Island as we couldn’t see well enough to spot the bommies. A night sail took us a further thirty plus nm to Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. We arrived just before two am and were happy to enter the wide shallow bay. Nothing could have kept us from sleeping once the anchor was set! A short sail around the Island had us in Townsville the following day.