Monday, August 29, 2011

Townsville to Dunk Island (23rd - 30th August)

We ended up spending an extra day in Townsville as the forecast was not so promising which meant we were able to catch up with John & Bev Waugh from SBSC and joined them for dinner at the recently redeveloped Townsville Yacht Club.  It was great to hear of their adventures and compare notes.

Strange Whale Behaviour
We ended up leaving Townsville on Tuesday morning and decided to head directly to Orpheus Island and had a lovely days sail in light trade winds.  The day was quite eventful as we had many close up whale sightings as we approached Pioneer Bay at Orpheus.  The first encounter was a whale breaching at the back of the boat (only around 10 meters away). The second was watching a whale that appeared to be doing headstands in the bay for the rest of the afternoon -must look up google to check out the reason for this strange behaviour although we are pretty sure it must have something to do with the young calf that was sticking close by.  The next morning and the encounters continues - we were down stairs having our normal quiet breakfast only to be disturbed by some strange noises outside - when we looked out the companion way we had a whale again at the back of the boat and slowly made his way down the side of the hull.  We have attached the photo we managed to take not that it is very good but it does give you and idea of how close it was. 

Our Close Encounter

Hinchinbrook Island
After all the excitement and interactions with the wildlife we left Pioneer Bay on our way over to Lucinda which is the southern entrance to Hinchinbrook Channel and has to be crossed with tide as it is quite shallow.  We dropped the anchor at a little spot next to Haycock Island in the pristine wilderness that is Hinchinbrook.  We haven't mentioned it yet but they have a military base at Townsville and we have been watching the F18's doing their stuff on a regular basis and today we got to see them up real close and personal as they did a drive by down the Hinchinbrook Channel at what seemed not much higher than mast height - the noise was quite deafening and the serenity was no more!!.  We thought we would try out a bit more wilderness and spent Thursday night in Paluma Creek.  There is not a lot in Paluma Creek except lots on mangroves and a fair share of sand flies - luckily we have very good fly screens on Sally but sun downers were had down stairs!
Our First Loaf
Friday morning and we are off to Cape Richards but decide to stop into Cardwell on the way.  The beach off Cardwell is quite shallow which means we end up parking around 2NM off shore - this is quite a hike when you are in a little inflatable with a 3.3HP motor but we did make it and managed to find some flour so we could have a go at some bread making.  We got to Cape Richards and decide to drop anchor at Macushla Bay for the night.  Next morning we head ashore hoping to find the walk we did in 2003 over to the other side of the island and also up to the Cape Richards Resort but with no luck and we figure that the effects of Yasi have covered the old trail.  We wander up to the anchor off the old Cape Richards Resort which has now shut down (another victim of the GFC) but this time we were waved off the beach by some of the local folk but not really quite sure what they were doing there anyway - all very suspicious.

By this stage we were a bit over Cape Richards as we were really hoping to go ashore for some walking so Sunday morning we head off to another old favorite - Dunk Island.  We have heard that the resort was smashed by Yasi and it now looks like they may not reopen as they can no longer get insurance which is a bit sad as it was such a wonderful place to visit.  On arrival we can confirm that the resort and island has really taking a pounding from Yasi although the vegetation is already showing good signs of recovery.  Luckily Parks are doing quite a bit of work here and are clearing the walking trails and fixing up the camping ground which is fantastic.  Monday morning we pack our stuff and head off and see how we far can go on the island circuit walk.  We figure we got half way around the island before we came to the end of the clearing works so we wandered back along our tracks and up to the lookout at Mt Kootaloo for a spot of lunch.  On the way back we run into the workmen that are clearing the trails and they confirm that in time the rest of the walk will be opened which is excellent news as it really is a lovely walk..  Apparently they are running a triathlon here on the 11th September hence the rush to get the track open and safe.

Dunk Island Resort - Post Yasi

We have run into a few old friends here at Dunk as it is a popular anchorage so their has been plenty of socialising both on the beach and also on the aft deck.

Today (Wednesday) we are going to try the other end of the walk which takes us up past the airport and up past the artist colony but somehow don't think we will get too far but will have a go.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Townsville and the Outback (14th - 20th August)

One view from Castle Hill Look-out
We picked up the hire car (a special rental "4WD" Hyundai Getz) on Sunday morning and we are ready to hit the streets.  This isn't as easy as one would seem as we haven't driven a car for over 4 months!  The first stop is the Castle Hill look out which has some excellent views over Townsville and makes you realise just how big and sprawling this county town really is. 

Imperial Hotel
We finally get out of Townsville and travel through Ayr and the Burdekin farming area on our way to Ravenswood which is pretty much a ghost town from the gold mining era.   We stopped at the Imperial Hotel for a quick drink and it is off again to Charters Towers - our destination for the evening. We stayed at a 'ye olde' heritage pub for our first night off the boat since we left Melbourne in April. It was a lovely spot w
ith a big balcony over the main drag and even Juddy managed to make himself comfortable in the king size, 4 poster bed.  Before departing from Charters Towers on Monday morning we head down the the Venus Battery for an excellent tour and insight into this gold crushing mill that continued to operate up until the 1970's

Assay Room, Venus Battery - Charters Towers
We hit the road again along the Gregory Development road which is really in the donga and well frequented by road trains carrying ore and plenty of road kill as well. After quite a few hours on the road and without mobile reception for at least 4 hours we arrive at the Bedrock Caravan Park, Mount Surprise which is around 1hour from the Undara Lava Tubes. We stopped in one of their on-site cabins which was clean and comfy. The caravan park puts on a home cooked meal of an evening and as there are not too many other options in Mount Surprise we figure this could be a good option for our diner. How far do you have to go - the people we sat with for dinner just happen to live at Mt Martha - how bizarre
Undala Lava Tubes
Tuesday morning and we have booked in to do the tour of the Undara Lava Tubes which seems to be on the tourist run for the grey nomads (there are plenty of them still running around out-back Queensland). Prior to the tour neither of us knew much about the Lava Tubes or how they are formed which made it all the more interesting. As well as the amazing colours in the caves they are also inhabited by bats - luckily not too many were around during our visit. After the tour we are back on the road and heading towards Innisfail. The area we have been travelling in is called 'The Savannah' which apparently stands for not many trees and plenty of grass. As we pass through the little town of Ravenshoe (approx 80kms East of Innisfail) the land quickly changes to the lush paddocks and tropical rain forests of the Atherton Table Lands - amazing the difference a bit of water makes!!. As we arrive in Innisfail pretty late in the day we head out to the caravan park at Flying Fish Point for the night. Flying Fish Point is at the entrance to the Johnson River which passes through the township of Innisfail.
Cassowary - Etty Bay
After a good nights sleep we are off to the Australian Sugar Museum to catch up with my old buddy - Margy, who now runs the cafe. Margy and I became friends about 47 years ago when we both used to holiday at the Miami Caravan Park, Safety Beach so it is always good to catch up whenever the opportunity arises. We then travel down to check out Mourilyan Harbour and then out to Etty Bay for a spot of lunch where we happen to come across a couple of local Cassowary's that seem to enjoy checking out every one's lunch and the bins to see if they can find a tasty morsel or two. We have kept the afternoon aside so that we can hit all the op shops and $2 shops we can find in search of trade and donation items for our trip out to the Louisiades - which is now only28 sleeps away- OMG!!!

The 4WD Rental Car
Etty Bay
Thursday morning and we are back on the road to Townsville and just happen to somehow end up in 'The Convoy' that is heading from FNQ to Canberra to protest about the Carbon Tax!!  As well as lots of cars, trucks and utes sporting pick ribbons we are also joined by a pink Winnebago and a pink Helicopter! Luckily we find a way out and stop for a quick coffee and look at the Golden Gum Boot in Tully before we head off again. The Golden Gum Boot award is given to the wettest place in Australia and it is 7.9mts tall which is the height of the largest rainfall ever recorded at Tully. Quite impressive when Melbourne gets on average 300mm per year.

We get back to Townsville latish on Thursday arvo and find that all is as we left it on Sally.  Friday and we are back to the op shops and like in search of more trade goods - we are now very much over op shops and $2 shops although it is amazing the things you can get. On Sunday evening we are hoping to catch up with John and Bev Waugh from SBSC who are up this part of the world in their caravan and then we are on our way northward bound once more on our way to Cairns

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bowen to Townsville (5th - 12th August)

Bowen Tugs
We know that we have arrived back in the real Queensland in Bowen as the locals all end their sentences with "AY" e.g. 'nice day ay'.   As planned we took the bus over to Horseshoe Bay on Friday which is the holiday end of town and is really lovely with some nice beaches and an excellent walk to the look-out.  We don't seem to be able to keep Rick out of the water as he was off for a bit of a splash in the waves before we stopped for a bit of lunch at the beach-side cafe which was rather nice.

Lookout at Horseshoe Bay (Bowen)
Saturday morning and we start the journey towards Townsville.  We have a few miles to cover so have around 40miles to travel each day but luckily we have some good winds for the first couple of days.  Saturday night we spent at Cape Upstart which is quite spectacular with rugged hills around.  Sunday night we are at Cape Bowling Green (or affectionately known as Rolling Green) and to be honest this is not one of my favorite anchorages.  It is quite bland, with flat sandy beaches, mangroves all round, muddy looking water and the slowly shoaling beach meant we had to anchor approx. 2miles off the shore. .  We did however have a comfortable nights sleep and luckily it did not live up to its rolling reputation. 

Drinks on the aft deck with
Grant & Leanne from Marsala

Monday, and as forecast, the wind has dropped off so it is a motor to Horseshoe Bay (the one on Magnetic Island). Horseshoe Bay seems to be a cruisers paradise as there are plenty of them at anchor in the little bay.  It is a lovely little spot and we can quickly see why it is a favourite with both cruisers and holiday makers.  After checking out the local scene we head back to the boat for a freshen up and ran across some fellow cruisers, Grant & Leanne from the yacht Marsala,who came aboard for a bit of a natter and a catch up since we last saw them at Brampton Island.  One of the hot topics was the impending Census which we didn't even know was happening and figured that we were going to avoid being counted this time around but low and behold the next thing we know a pretty rough tinny is pulling up alongside with a couple of pretty rough characters aboard handing out Census Papers - how far do you have to go!!   

Rick at Work!
Horseshoe Bay (Magnetic Island)

Dinghy Preparation
The Little Red Dolphin @ Horseshoe Bay

Balding Bay (aka Nudie Beach)
Tuesday and we are off on a walk to Balding Bay (now known as Nudie Beach - for obvious reasons) and Radical Bay.  The walk is pretty much all up or all down but through some really pretty scenery and the beaches are lovely.  Yes you guessed it - Rick is back in the water yet again.  Late in the day we wander off to the marina in Nelly Bay which reminded us all a bit of Martha Cove - great potential but not a lot going on YET.  

We took the bus down to Picnic Point on Wednesday for a bit of an outing and also discovered that the bus drivers at Magnetic only have 2 speeds - flat out or stopped.  Despite the rugged ride it was a good way to have a look at the island from a different prospective.  After our venture to Picnic Point we are off to the Breakwater Marina at Townsville however, as the entrance is quite shallow we have to wait for the tide so cannot get in until about 5pm.

Townsville is a great spot with the township quite close to the marina which means we can walk pretty much anywhere which is a big advantage.  They have down a really good job of  making the town a nice place to be and have done as excellent job on the foreshore area which is a real magnet for both the locals and tourists alike.  We hit the aquarium on Thursday which is really worth a visit and gives you a chance to view life on the reef without having to go under the water (not sure that Rick was too happy about this!).  We found plenty of Nemo's and Dory's as well many other reef fish.  They also have a tank for the predatory fish and were lucky enough to be there for feeding time.  Very pleased that they keep the predators in a separate tank as don't think it would bode to well for Nemo otherwise.

Friday morning and we have to say our farewells to Rick as he is flying back to Melbourne today.  We thought we would honour his departure but hitting the water ourselves and did a few laps at the local Tobruk Pool which was the training ground for many Olympic Champions including Dawn Fraser and Laurie Lawrence.

We have arranged to pick up a car on Sunday and will be taking a leave of absence from the boat for a few days as we do a bit of a tour of the area and are planning to venture out to Charters Towers then up to Mourilyan to catch up with some old friends before wandering back down the coast again to complete the loop before heading off northwards again to Cairns

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Airlie Beach to Bowen (30th July to 5th August)

The Skipper
First Mate & Navi-guesser
After spending a few nights in Airlie, which included a lovely sail with Michael Arcaro + friends on his big cat "Verve" on the Saturday arvo, we were up early on Sunday to get ourselves sorted to get over to Hamilton Island to pick up Rick Potter.  Our timing wasn't all that great as it took us a bit longer to get over to Hammo (would you believe it - we actually had to sail to weather!!) and to make it worse Rick's flight was running ahead of schedule.  Eventually we did catch up and had a pleasant afternoon at Hammo which included a ride on the free bus around the island and a stop over at the resort for a holiday beverage. 

The Crew!!!
View from the Solway Circuit Walk
Monday morning and we were on our way to Whitehaven Beach to give Rick a little glimpse of the chaos that is Whitehaven Beach and it did not disappoint with the usual array of charter boats, ocean rafters, sea-planes etc arriving at various times during the day.  We took the very scenic Solway Circuit walk which has some excellent views over the Whitsunday Islands

Tuesday and we are on our way to the top of Hook Island to re-visit the snorkeling spots in the Whitsunday's with the first stop at Manta Ray Bay - Rick was champing at the bit to get in the water and before we knew it he was all suited up and off to check out the underwater activities.  After a couple of hours at Manta Ray we then headed off to Butterfly Bay night for a peaceful night on a mooring. 

aka Jacques Cousteau
Wednesday morning was a stunner and we are off to the pick of the snorkeling stops at Blue Pearl Bay.  On the way we were lucky enough to see a newly born humpback whale calf and mum, which as you can imagine, was pretty special.   As it has been a bit breezy the last few days we pretty much have the bay to ourselves which was excellent.  The fishies were as friendly as usual and the coral amazing.  Rick (aka Jacques) had the pleasure of hand feeding the Bat Fish that collected at the back of the boat. 

Feeding the Bat Fish @ Blue Pearl Bay

Drinks at the
Gloucester Passage Eco Resort
It is now time to leave the fantasy land of the Whitsunday's so after our time at Blue Pearl we are off through the Gloucester Passage to Monte's Resort.  As Mark keeps telling us - you haven't lived until you have been to Montes!.  We had a rollicking sail across as there is a good 20-25knts blowing.  After negotiating the passage we picked up a mooring in the bay but only got to see Monte's from a distance as we actually ended up going to the nearby Eco Resort for drinks and dinner which was rather pleasant

Cocktail Hour!
Thursday and it is a quick jaunt over to Bowen which is quite a tight little harbour but there is a pen at the yacht club that we can fit into so all is good.  We went for a wander into the township of Bowen and are planning to catch the bus over to Horseshoe bay this afternoon which is apparently a nice little beach resort area.

All going well the plan is to leave Bowen on Saturday as we start to make our way north towards Townsville with our first stop at Cape Upstart