My excuse for not making more frequent posts to our blog is that we have had sporadic internet access although this is only partly true. Our first day out from Cairns had us in 25-30 knots of southeast winds and it took us almost no time to make it up to the Low Islets. We were happy to grab a free public mooring for a couple of nights and the reef provided pretty good protection from the whipped-up seas at low tide. Once the tide rose, however, it became more uncomfortable although its hard to get really comfortable when its blowing that hard regardless of the sea conditions. There was some very good snorkeling to be had on the reef right by the boat and charter boats brought loads of tourists in from Port Douglas daily - they were very easy to spot once they were in the water as they often used the brightly-colored Styrofoam 'noodles' to help keep them afloat. We would snigger impolitely at them.
Our next port of call was Hope Island, a small dot inside the Great Barrier Reef that was surrounded by reefs. Some friends had given us the coordinates to maneuver into the anchorage but somehow we missed them and wound up having to pick our way in amongst the huge coral heads with Corie on the bow giving directions to me at the helm. Although we didn't hit anything, our friends on Nicone were anxious because of our proximity to the underwater dangers. They took pictures of us. The signs on shore warned of crocodiles so we didn't go in the water but Corie said the snorkeling wouldn't have been that great after she stuck her head in the water from the dinghy. Still the wind howled all night and at dawn we cast off from the mooring, following our friends on Garamar out through the reef.
After an uneventful and uninteresting overnight stop at Cape Flattery, we made our way to Lizard Island, so named by Lieutenant Cook (who was later promoted to captain) because of all the lizards on shore. There are a lot of lizards on shore still but the spectacular clear water, the wide sandy beach and the calm anchorage will be in our memories forever. The reef just off our beam offered world-class snorkeling with huge schools of tropical fish and a crop of giant clams, with their thick, fleshy and deeply-colored lips - measuring a meter across or more - that was nothing short of breath-taking. A good-sized fleet of cruising sailboats had filled the large anchorage and we knew most of them. At 4:30 every afternoon, people would pile into their dinghies, head for the beach and enjoy 'sundowners' together. True to form, Corie made friends with the people on the largest yacht in the fleet who later took her out diving. Be sure to check out her blog - there's a link to it at the top. Our timing to climb to the top of the island - Cook's Lookout - was perfect as the sky was clear and we probably had 30 kilometers or more of visibility.
It was very hard to tear ourselves away from Lizard Island but we still have quite a distance to go before we can make it around Cape York - the massive finger of land that creates the Torres Straits and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Our sail to Ninian Bay was fast and fun, covering the 60-some-odd miles in 9 hours - under genoa alone. On the way we were buzzed by a twin-engine airplane that later called us on the VHF radio and identified themselves as the Australian Customs Maritime. They wanted to know where we had been and where we were going, our home port, etc. After a polite chat, they signed off with the ubiquitous Australian word that is included in virtually every conversation: "Cheers!" As we closed in on the Queensland coast, Ruthie took a call from an Australian war ship that was steaming southward at a good clip. Apparently, they were concerned that we were going to pass each other starboard-to-starboard instead of the preferred port-to-port, even though we were almost a mile apart. The call made us giggle.
We have just rounded Cape Melville, a promitory that's similar to California's Point Conception in terms of size and the wind it can generate, however, we never saw more than 25 knots of wind and it died completely after our left turn brought us into it's lee. Tonight we'll anchor in the Owen's Channel, in between Flinders Island and Stanley Island. Our friends on Melina have already invited us over for a beer.
At 6/17/2013 7:00 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 14°21.14'S 144°35.77'E
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