We had a sea change, selling up all our land bound processions Rudy and I set sail in ‘Tiata’ our new home, a sailing catamaran. We left Brisbane in May 2006 and headed north, the highlight and destination of our first season was north to Princess Charlotte Bay, with a long hiatus at beautiful Lizard Island. This is an account of our last leg after being out of contact with family and friends for two months.
Well after being out of contact for well over 2 months Rudy and I are back in Civilisation. Where have we been you may ask???
We left Cooktown the last bastion before heading into the never-never and to our goal of our journey, Princess Charlotte Bay.
With ‘Tiata’ stocked full of goodies we set off. Our first stop was a short leg of about 13nm (approx 25km) to Cape Bedford and the coloured sands hills. After dropping anchor, we went ashore to explore this colourful landscape. The sand ravines are spectacular, magnificent colours of bright orange, red, yellow, and brilliant white, we walked deep into them until we were completely enclosed by these lofty coloured walls. It was very dramatic, especially with the clear blue sky overhead.
Making our way back down, we strolled along the gleaming white sands with water was so clear and full of life. As we walked the water’s edge, mud crabs barely out of reach accompanied us on our walk. Rudy tried to catch our dinner but with just his hunting skills mud crab wasn’t on the menu.
We jumped into the ‘tender’ for a closer look both of us standing and leaning over to get a better look when next minute a 1 ½ meter shark shot from under the boat, needless to say we both sat down very quickly. We left the next morning and headed north to Lizard Island for a couple of nights, a wonderful Island with water as clear as a glass of water.
We left Lizard with the winds we blowing from behind about 20-25knots so it was a brisk sail back to the coast and north to the windy wild Cape Melville. A great day’s sail in which we covered about 70nm (approx. 139km) – great going for us.
Cape Melville it’s very dramatic scene with huge ‘house sized’ boulders piled several hundred meters into the sky, it is an old glacial deposit and has an ancient prehistoric look about it. We arrived late in the afternoon and we were treated to a near full moon rising over the mountain of boulders, it was breathtaking. Cape Melville is a very windy isolated place but we soon realised we were not alone, scattered along the far northern coast are numerous fishing camps full of crazy guys sleeping on crocodile visited beaches and going out in rough windy seas in small fishing boats.
After a blustery night, we pulled up anchor and set off on to Princess Charlotte Bay and our destination for our first northward journey. The size of the bay is a massive, some 60km wide so all you can see is the distant cloud masses hugging the far-off land. We arrived and decided to spend our first night in the Normanby River down deep in the southeastern part of the bay. The river entrance is quite shallow so we had to wait for the tide to allow us over the banks and sailed into the river late afternoon. It was a beautiful night with the full moon shining brightly down on us, it was so still, so quiet, we felt like the only two people in the world.
The following day after exploring the river, we headed back up into the bay off Bathurst Head. It was shallow where we anchored and the water very murky, so murky we kept having turtles smash into our boat as they came up for air, the noise was terrible and woke us up a few times through the night, luckily both the turtles and Tiata came out of it unscathed.
The crabbing was awesome, we got 9 crabs (mostly females, old and cranky which after much effort and a couple of lost claws we returned to the bay – you should of seen our mangled tongs..) in one pot but the sound of the ‘crash dummy turtles’ was too much so the next day we had a lovely sail across to the Flinders Island group.
Over the next few days the winds picked up and were blowing 30knts+ (with 50knt gusts). The ‘trade winds’ were in full force and thus, we were holed up for the next 2½ weeks.
We spent most our time anchored in the Owen channel in the Flinders Group National Park protected by Stanley and Flinders Islands. There is a campsite with shelter and two huge water tanks set up and maintained beautifully by National Parks. So water was not a concern but as for everything else we’d left Cooktown 3 weeks earlier and provisions were getting low. We weren’t going to starve, the oyster’s where big and bountiful and we had plenty of rice, tuna and water so by the time we got back to civilisation we were both looking very fit and healthy.
We were not alone Dudley, Jenny and there guest David (who was supposed to have been back at work in Cairns) on ‘Tropical Cat’ kept us entertained us with there huge library of DVD’s as well as their company.
After a week it was decided, with ‘Tropical Cat’ that a change of scenery was necessary, so we headed back down to Bathurst Head for some crabbing and more close encounter’s with ‘crash dummy turtle’s’. By this time, David was already a few days late back from work and the weather was starting to abate. Therefore, after a great day morning we decided to join them in their quest to head across Bathurst Bay to the treacherous Cape Melville – to windward.
We started out early and things were looking tolerable but then the wind and waves got too much for us. Dudley, Jenny and David powered on with Dudley reporting winds hitting 54knots across the deck our boat going nowhere fast so we decided to head back to Flinders Island and wait out a couple more days.
A few days later, the winds were supposed to ease in the afternoon to about 20knots we would be going into it but decided to make a dash across Bathurst Bay. A trip of only 10nm. We thought it would take a couple of hours. We started out beautifully, but that Cape Melville is one windy wild place and we eventually dropped anchor at 7pm that night. I spent the night awake on the lounge, the wind ‘bullets’ were fierce up over 30+knts and the ‘chunking’ on the anchor chain and the wild water keep me on lookout, Rudy though was out like a light. Finally dawn came it was still wild but we decided we had to get away from this intolerable place.
We head off around the corner and almost immediately, the winds settled down. Must be the way the wind sweeps through the boulders. We were on our first windward leg thus the day was full of ‘tacking’ to miss the many Islands, reefs and the huge tankers that used the shipping channel. We reached Howick Island before nightfall with a bit of a hold-up when the strap holding the ‘main’ broke and Rudy had climb on the roof to do some on-going repairs.
There’s not much to Howick Island in the way of sight seeing, so we pulled up anchor and headed back to Lizard Island. We were due to meet up with friends, on the 26th in Cooktown and being that it was the 24th we were running short on time so we had one day in Lizard Island to recoup ourselves before heading back to restock the boat and prepare ourselves for their arrival.
Cooktown is as Rudy puts it “a phoenix waiting to rise from the ashes” it’s were Captain Cook landed in June 1770 and stayed 7 weeks to make repairs on the Endeavour thus the name “Cooktown” it was also his first encounter with Aborigines and then in its gold rush heyday it boasted 90-odd pubs, 120 or so brothels, today it’s back to a sleepy seaside town that has only in recent years got a sealed road from the south.
Chris and Pat arrived on the 27th and after another day stocking to boat we were ready to head back up to Lizard Island and chill out. We had a lovely sail up from Cooktown and found ourselves a lovely spot on the corner of Watson Bay.
We spent our time snorkelling, walking and climbing the many tracks, swimming, generally relaxing, the water at Lizard is awesome the water is so clear you can clearly see the sandy white bottom and when Rudy bought dried cat food for the fish, being a national park it is a ‘green zone’ thus no fishing and plenty of fish I thought Rudy was crazy but after a couple of days we had a quiet a horde of fish that came and visited us every morning and afternoon, they included bat fish, a school of dart, a huge groper, trevally, sweet lip, long tom just to name a few.
Full of reefs and it was just a jump off the back of the boat and a paddle to the left or right and we were in the most beautiful coral reef, the fish were abundant and so many colours, every morning I would have a swim with the fish including a family of beautiful big parrot fish that I would meet up with every day they were so beautiful I just fell in love with the place you couldn’t get me out of my bikini or out of the water. On the full moon with very high and low tides ‘Tiata’ sat in less then a meter of water so we were able to wade out to the beach, go for a walk or a swim and wade back to the boat it was all too lovely.
The resort on Lizard very exclusive we were unable to access the resort but they had a great staff bar which we are able to enjoy. Situated overlooking the beach it’s a beautiful spot to watch the sun set and the wonderful sunsets fill the sky.
During the fishing competition in October they put on food a couple of nights a week and we were treated to the best pizzas. The Lizard Island game fishing comp, is a world-class competition with about 60 game fishing boats entered and most of them had huge mother-ships one being ‘My Way’ that used to belong the Mick Dohan so the bay was crowded with all types of boats from the very big to small and Watson’s Bay turns into a hive of activity.
Chris and Pat left us after a glorious 2 weeks flying out from Lizard Island to Cairns. This is a great option considering the winds were still blowing 20-25 knots from the southeast so we weren’t going anywhere fast. Before we’d left Cooktown found out about ‘Ice works’ (*see note below) which organises groceries and even luckier still our friends Scott and Sarah were arriving in the next couple of days and so we were reprovisioned and ready to linger longer at lovely Lizard.
We first met Scott, Sarah and their 2 boys Seth, and Finn, when our boat was still a dream, not even a year had passed and here we all were. They have a lovely 50ft Cat ‘Anui’ that Scott built himself, a magnificent vessel. The days rolled by Rudy and I loved to walk over to the ‘blue lagoon’ on the other side of the island each morning, we collected water from the water pump, we hand washed our clothes and showered off the back of the boat we’d swim over to ‘Anui’ they would swim over to us, we baked bread together life was simple and a real pleasure.
Rudy celebrated his 50th and we were surprised to come back from our walk and there was a lovely chocolate cake compliment’s of the ‘Anui’ crew. It was Rudy’s ambition to have a boat and to celebrate his 50th birthday on a lovely island somewhere and he did. The ‘Anui’ gang joined us for cake and that night we went to the bar and had a brilliant night with a wonderful mix people also enjoying this tropical paradise.
Shortly after some more friends Bruce, Toni and there daughter Remi and there 2 dogs arrived with a bottle of ‘Moet’ organised for Rudy. They too have a lovely 52 ft cat called ‘Wilson’. The weather had calmed down by this time and so we organised a day out on the outer reef. We decided to take ‘Wilson’ with 6 adults, 3 children and 2 dogs.
The day we planned couldn’t have been better we awoke to the stillest day not a breath of wind and the water so clear it was like looking in a fish tank. We headed out to a spot called the ‘Cod Hole’ aptly named as the Cod are huge. The visibility as astounding we could see the bottom of the ocean at 27 meters. The snorkelling was awesome and we all had a fantastic day, so much so we went out again 2 days later this time we went north to Hick’s Reef, it was a much windier day and the water choppy the guys went in looking for lobster, with no luck so instead we had a great day sailing back – no lobster unfortunately, though Rudy with help from Scott managed to land a big Mackerel trawling off the back of the boat which was enough to give each boat a nice feed.
After 5 luscious weeks Rudy and I decided to make our way back to Cooktown and back to civilisation. We have had a wonderful journey and we now looked forward to the unknown. From Cooktown we headed south spending a couple of days up the beautiful Bloomfield River the rainforests reach down to water’s edge, we stopped in Port Douglas for a couple of nights and as the winds had abated and coming more from the east we had a wonderful spinnaker sail across to Viasoff reef a small sand cay where we stayed the night in beautiful isolation before returning back Cairns
We have had a wonderful journey north we have learnt a lot about sailing, the boat and each other and we look forward our continued adventure.
*nb. The last time we were there we had mobile service and we ordered our reprovisioning from Coles in Cairns paid by credit card. They then deliver to one of the regular barge service and they charge $5 a box. The also have water, fuel and some basic groceries a great service in paradise.
Sailing the ocean is a wonderful way to travel. The journey is just as much even more then the destination. We are lead by nature, the winds and oceans dictate our speed and direction. We are very much a part of our surroundings.
Thus my story is the journey.