Mandolin Wind under Spinnaker  

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Martin & Sue


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Searching for Paradise: Cairns to Lizard Island


If Paradise is defined by clear, turquoise seas, white sand, tropical islands and solitude then we found it after leaving Cairns. The first day after leaving Marlin marina saw us humming along under spinnaker towards Low Isles. The buoy we were able to moor from skirted the reef and it was a short dinghy ride ashore to explore the light house and keepers cottages. It took us all of  5 minutes to circumnavigate the tiny island and then it was back to the cockpit for sundowners as the sun set. This is more like it – especially after the hustle and bustle of Cairns.



The lighthouse on Low Isles


Above: Mandolin Wind at Low Isles

Below: Sue and Sandy sporting short haircuts

Next day, a Friday, we were tied up at the Marina Mirage by late morning to check out what Port Douglas had to offer. This stopover, although signalling a return to civilization, was a must as we have friends here we wanted to catch up with. High on my priority list was finding a cheap Barbers – and I was soon sporting a ‘butch’, easy care for, super short haircut.




Later, when checking in with the marina office, we learnt that on the previous day they had turned away the quarantined liner'Pacific Dawn' – not allowing it to make its regular stopover due to the Swine Flu scare. During a visit to the bank in the afternoon where we were ushered into an office, the teller looked concerned when we told her we arrived by boat, only relaxing after learning that is was our own boat and not the ‘pig ship’.      



A visit to the Port Douglas Sailing Club was a must as we had heard it was open air and very laid back. We weren’t disappointed and had a great meal there whilst catching up with Greg Burn - a sailing friend I had competed in a Melbourne to Hobart with aboard 'Ingenue'. Unfortunately, the sand flies were out in force and took a liking to the girls – despite the fact that Sandy and I were the ones who applied the insect repellant before heading out – go figure!


The next day, despite the 1 kilo of prawns we shared for lunch (purchased straight from the trawler) my mood was getting blacker as I fought the urge to scratch my bites. By evening I was ready to jump overboard with the anchor tied to my feet. I am sure Martin was thinking ‘what a hypo’ when I begged for anti-histamines. However, on inspecting the backs of my legs his loud exclamation of ‘Oh, my god’ did not fill me with confidence. The bites had grown to the size of a 5 cent piece and were ugly, raised blisters.  None of us had seen anything like it before – but a quick check on the internet reassured me that this reaction is unusual but not uncommon. Nothing for it but a few glasses of red wine to deaden the pain.


It was Carnivale time in town and there were lots of activities happening – including a seafood extravaganza at the Marina on the Sunday – and after we heard the forecast of 30knots we decided to extend our stay for one more night. An early morning visit to the market to stock up on fresh produce was followed by a feast of crab, calamari, coral trout and prawns. Despite an overwhelming desire to sleep off the excess food during the afternoon we decided instead to visit Rosie’s parents who made us most welcome. Doctor Dick was a font of knowledge with respect to local anchorages so we came away armed with a mud map for our next stop at Hope Island.



Monday morning and my blisters are still yuk so I took another antihistamine and coated myself with betadine.  A walk to the marina toilets elicited some surprised glances from passers by who seemed to want to give me a wide berth. Perhaps they thought I had a strange form of swine flu or maybe the locals were used to susceptible tourists who serve as sandfly bait!



We headed off early into annoying swells and about 20 knots. One of these nasty swells caught Rod unawares as he put lunch supplies back in the fridge – and suddenly we were changing our dinner plans from steak to frittata, courtesy of the dozen eggs that became airborne and landed at his feet!


  Where are the Eggs?
  We had to be very careful where we trolled our fishing lines as the fishing exclusion zones are strictly enforced and according to the locals one can get a criminal record if convicted of having a line out in a prohibited area.
The wind was still 20knots as we approached Hope Island and we all doubted that such a small mound could offer any protection – however once we had picked up the mooring buoy it was surprisingly comfortable. The sweet potato and bacon frittata proved a real treat and made excellent use of all those smashed eggs.


We had 30knots overnight so we were up several times to check our mooring. The next day we had a fast trip under headsail only, arriving at Cooktown around 1pm. The harbour is very crowded and shallow in places and it proved difficult to find a suitable place to anchor. Eventually we motored past a catamaran called ‘Too Easy’ – and decided to hail them as we had heard a rumour that Trish, a sailing friend from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club, was aboard. Sure enough, out she popped with a very surprised look on her face. A bit of local knowledge helped us locate the channel that led to the best anchor spots so we were soon setup and dinghying over to ‘Too Easy’ for a catchup.

After another very blowy night we headed off in 20knots on a beam reach and a reefed mainsail. At 8am we tuned into ‘Sheila Net’ and gave our location. This is a regular sked on the HF radio for boats cruising the remoter coastlines. We flew along averaging 8.5 knots and were soon dropping our pick at Lizard island amid over 20 other boats. There is a resort here but it is definitely not yachtie friendly as we found out when we tried to land our dinghy on their patch of white sand. Instead we enjoyed a catchup with crew from the other yachts as we all congregated on our own private area of sand at 5pm for drinks.

Mandolin Wind at anchor   The Anchorage at Lizard


Next day was rest day – well for some anyway! What a shame that my dodgy knee prevented me from accompanying the other members of the crew up the steep ascent to Cooks Look. The mountain climbers returned several hours later with jelly legs, sunburnt faces but some stunning photos. Once revovered from their exertions we all went snorkeling on the nearby reef where the fish were a highlight and the giant clams an amazing sight.

Another beach get-together with the other yachts made for a relaxing end to a great day. Who needs the resort anyway – true paradise does not require expensive villas and serving staff - just a patch of sand, good company and NO SANDFLIES!    

    The climbers at the top of Cook's Lookout