Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue


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Airlie Beach to Cairns


Despite the fact that we had finally caught our first spotted mackerel for the trip, the planned meal of fish was delayed for 24 hours as the restaurant at Monty’s Resort off Cape Gloucester (where we picked up a mooring that first night out of Airlie) tempted our taste buds with its old fashioned food and good sized servings. On dinghying back to our yacht after dark we made a mental note to ourselves, ‘Put extra lights on boat to make it easier to find when returning at night!’ Luckily the reflective tape on the two life rings caught the beam of the torch and guided us safely back home.


The next morning we made sail for Cape Upstart and before long we had another fish – this time one we could not identify and therefore decided to relegate it to bait.  We had a radio call a few hours later from a yacht we had caught up with at a few anchorages. Roly from ‘Equinox’ (a Buizen 47) couldn’t wait to gloat that his crew had just tucked into a feed of fresh mackerel on the BBQ.  We described our bait fish as ‘a bit like a mackerel but without a top fin and viscious teeth’. Amusingly, Roly replied, ‘Good decision. I also caught one of those for lunch and I am still picking the bones out of my teeth!’  That night saw us all anchored behind Cape Upstart – an isolated place with reasonable protection but with a nasty cross swell that made it rather uncomfortable for sleeping.



Cape Bowling Green was our next destination. This cape is a very long, low sandy spit that stretches for over 10 nautical miles. Trying to pass it is a bit like ‘Ground Hog Day’ – everytime we looked up we seemed to be off the same place! Finally around 1.30pm we rounded the Cape intending to anchor in what was described by Lucas in ‘Cruising the Coral Coast’ as a comfortable anchorage in the SE Trades. However, on this day it was anything but comfortable so we made a quick decision to head for Magnetic Island. Fortunately, although it was touch and go as to whether we would make it by dark, we managed to enter Horseshoe Bay just on dusk and, avoiding the many mooring buoys, dropped our pick safely.



Having made up a day on our very loose schedule we decided to stay put the next day. While Martin did odd jobs I spent a few hours re-arranging stores into different, more suitable locations. This is a habit of mine that drives Martin crazy as he can never find where anything is. ‘If you fall overboard, I’ll be stuffed‘, he reflected half-jokingly, ‘I won’t have a hope of finding anything!’


Our next destination was the Hinchenbrook Channel.  The wind was very light so we tried out the spinnaker for the first time this trip. We flew along nicely for a few hours before the wind angle changed and we had to return to wing on wing. We rounded the Bulk Sugar jetty near Lucinda on a rising tide but still found it very tricky navigating in fairly shallow waters crossing into the channel. Trying to spot the channel markers with the sun in our eyes was no fun and to add to the stress, we had to leave the port markers to starboard. There was also a very strong tide that insisted on trying to push us into the shallow water. Once inside the waterway was just magnificent.  Several miles across with very calm water, although many sandbars made navigation tricky and we made sure that we kept our eyes on the ball. We were therefore glad to find a picturesque anchorage behind Haycock Island to drop our pick. We had the place to ourselves – but no sooner had I commented on the ‘serenity’ when two houseboats came motoring around the point and anchored near us. It was like a scene out of ‘The Castle’ when one of them immediately started their generators!












Hinchenbrook channel is a truly beautiful place – but for some reason the Meatloaf song keeps repeating in my head – except the words are changed from ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Lights’ to ‘Paradise by the Sandfly Bites’! We put the crab pot out – and retrieved it just before the low tide isolated the pot completely whilst nervously watching out for crocodiles. No joy that first night nor the next – not sure why as it is a perfect crab environment amongst the mangroves.



We found an even prettier spot for our second night – in a place called Gayundah Creek. We hopped in the dinghy and explored the tributaries – until the ever narrowing path almost overhung with mangroves made going any further far too nerveracking – especially when we passed by the crocodile mudslides on nearby banks. Just before dusk the same two houseboats poked their bows into the creek – but thinking better of it, backtracked and found another creek.  So this night we truly did enjoy ‘serenity’.





It was an easy sail under Spinnaker to Dunk the next day where we anchored off the resort in superb weather. Next morning we had a walk around – and an almost undrinkable coffee at the resort café – before setting sail for Fitzroy Island. We picked up a mooring belonging to the resort – and were surprised we were not told to move on. We found out why the next day – the resort is in receivership and is closed down. What a shame as it has just had a refit and is truly spectacular.




We booked into the Marina Marlin in Cairns for 4 nights so that we could do more jobs plus provision for the long haul to Darwin. Martin’s sister Marieka lives here so it was great to be able to catch up. Even better, we had a delicious seafood meal sourced from Marieka’s freezer of Moreton Bay bugs, Prawns and Coral Trout.  On Sunday we took a trip out to Green Island which was disappointing – very touristy but I guess that is what one would expect being so close to Cairns.



With Sandy and Rod’s arrival we spent a busy day provisioning. Our visit to Dan Murphy’s was frustrating as we were told that they could not sell us wine casks before 4pm – a rule that we were to encounter many times as we moved  further into remote communities. The day culminated with us maneuvering three packed trolleys through the supermarket checkouts. By the time we had loaded everything onto the boat we had well and truly run out of enthusiasm for packing it all away so apart from the fridge goodies we left that job till the next morning.  We finally had everything sorted by midday when we moved to the fuel dock to take on 450 litres of fuel for the trip to Darwin.


Finally we were ready to leave – but it was already very late in the day so we had to decide whether to anchor in the river or backtrack a few miles to spend the night under the shelter of the Cape. We decided on the latter plan as we were all keen to leave Cairns and begin the next stage of the journey – north to Darwin.