Day 30, Year 3: Cooktown to Cape Bedford

Day 30, Year 3: Cooktown to Cape Bedford
Date: Sunday, June 8, 2008
Weather: Partly Sunny Day; SE 25-30 Knots
Latitude: 15 degrees 13.958 minutes S
Longitude: 145 degrees 19.347 minutes E
Location: Cape Bedford, Queensland, Australia

The most important news of the day is that we made it safely out of the Endeavor River. A sailboat with a deeper keel than ours left around noon and we watched them as they successfully made it out of the shallow harbor, so we followed right behind. We did have less water under the keel than we did coming in, but we always maintained two feet of clearance. It is enough to make you hold your breath, and then celebrate once you are out. Of course, in addition to having to worry about the shallow
depths, we also had 30 knots of wind on the beam to contend with as we exited the harbor. But we made it and we had a fast trip north to our next anchorage at Cape Bedford. From here to Darwin, it is more usual than not to have 25 to 30 knot winds, so we might as well get used to it. Windbird seems to do some of her best sailing in these conditions, so once again we are so happy to be on this boat.

The re-enactment of Captain Cook’s arrival in 1770 in what is now Cooktown was fun to watch. The period costumes were great and the historical commentary was good. There is certainly lots of history in Cooktown’s past and we felt very fortunate to be there this weekend. Immediately after the re-enactment, we returned to Windbird and prepared to leave. Aqua Magic and Blue Marlin are staying in Cooktown for a few more days, but we are anxious to get to Lizard Island, so we took the mid-day high
tide opportunity to “get out of Dodge.” And actually Cooktown of today is a little like Dodge of yesteryear. I said in yesterday’s log that I would add some of the history we learned in our tours to today’s log. I’m going to put that off one more day and try to work it into tomorrow’s log.

We got a couple of delightful emails from our daughter Heather today. Her husband, Jed, is in France for a conference for nine days so she is trying her hand a being a single mom. Her first couple of days have gone great. That grand baby Sam seems to be keeping her (and us via email) fully entertained. We just hope the next seven days go as smoothly as the first two.

When we arrived in Cooktown we went to the internet caf to get a copy of the latest weather report. The young woman there said we didn’t need to download the weather. She already had the report. “Thirty knots of wind for the next six months followed by four months of rain.” We’ll keep taking advantage of the 30 knots of wind to push us further and further north. Tomorrow’s destination is the long awaited Lizard Island.

080608 Day 30 Cooktown to Cape Bedford

Day 29, Year 3: To Our Daughter-in-Law, Jo–Happy Gallery Opening

Day 29, Year 3: To Our Daughter-in-Law, Jo–Happy Gallery Opening
Date: Saturday, June 7, 2008
Weather: Windy Day at Anchor, SE 20-30 Knots
Location: Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

The last time we talked to our son and his wife, Jo, they said that Jo was having the grand opening of her art gallery on June 7th. We haven’t heard differently, so we are assuming this is happening. So to Jo, congratulations! We’ll be anxious to see gallery opening photos when we reach Darwin.

We had a day jam-packed with activities, all interesting. In a nutshell, we visited the James Cook Museum, did our grocery shopping and brought those things back to the boat, watched the Discovery 2008 parade, enjoyed lunch in town and then watched the truck pulling contest, walked quite a distance to the cemetery for an hour-long guided tour and history of some interesting characters, and then walked all the way back to town and further in another direction to the Botanical Gardens for another
hour-long guided tour, came back to Windbird to write and send this log, and then headed back to town for dinner with live jazz music on the waterfront. Whew! We even wear ourselves out when we write down what we have done. I have a nice little blister on one toe to prove I walked long distances today but we had great fun and learned a lot about Cooktown’s history. The cemetery walk sounds morbid, but actually it was very interesting. During the 1873 to 1890 period of time there was a gold rush
here and the population of Cooktown grew to 30,000 people. Almost 20,000 of those people were Chinese. Seeing how people were segregated for burial and how they were buried was fascinating. I’ll write some of the detail and put it in tomorrow’s log. The Botanical Garden tour was a little disappointing as there were just too many people and the guide had a very soft voice so it was hard to hear. So we made up for this by buying a “Plants of Tropical Queensland” book and “The Endeavor Journal
of Joseph Banks.” Hopefully between the two, I will be able to identify many of the plants and trees we are seeing in northern Queensland.

Tides have never been something that we have had to worry too much about in our voyage to this point, but all of a sudden, it is all about tides. Tides here do not follow what we think of as the normal six hours to high, then six hours to low, and then the repeat of that. Here you can have a low tide at 6 am in the morning and a high tide at 9 am. And the tides can be huge. We have had to learn about neap tides and spring tides and tidal streams. And this is going to be more and more important
as we head further north and over to Darwin. But for the moment, the importance of this is that we are going to have to leave here tomorrow by 1:00 in the afternoon. Otherwise, we are pretty much stuck here until Wednesday and we are too anxious to get to Lizard Island to enjoy the snorkeling and walks there to stay here. So we will go in for the landing of the Endeavor re-enactment in the morning and then hurriedly get back to Windbird and head out of here right at high tide. We will travel
about 20 nautical miles to Cape Bedford for tomorrow night and will be at Lizard Island by Monday evening. We are going to have PLENTY of wind, but it will be behind us so that is okay with us. So on we go.

080607 Day 29 Cooktown Parade Day

Day 28, Year 3: East Hope Island to Cooktown

Day 28, Year 3: East Hope Island to Cooktown
Date: Friday, June 6, 2008
Weather: Another Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Winds SE 20
Latitude: 15 degrees 27.853 minutes S
Longitude: 145 degrees 14.585 minutes E
Location: Cooktown, Queensland, Australia

We arrived safely in Cooktown, but it was a little nerve wracking getting in here. The directions we had for entering from an up-to-date guide book we have were very helpful and the newest version of C-Maps was right on. We did go over the sandbar and the lowest depth we recorded was 9 feet. This gave us about 3 feet under the keel, but we came in on high tide and it was an exceptional high tide. Getting back out is another matter, but we’ll worry about that on Sunday or Monday. We will be fine
as long as we leave just before or right at high tide. They really mean it when they tell you not to enter or leave here unless you are on a rising tide, so we will obey.

Cooktown is a cute little outpost town. This is the weekend of their Discovery Festival. Just after we arrived, we went into town to check it out. We walked from one end to the other and gathered information. Unfortunately, the only internet caf� was closing this afternoon and won’t reopen until Tuesday, but we might find internet at one of the hotels. Because this is the “June Long Weekend” some things will be closed, but then there are many things that we will get to experience that only happen
on this weekend once a year. The official opening of the festival was tonight. We listened to the usual political speeches and stayed for a light-hearted play, “Farewell James, My Darling.” This was at the James Cook Museum. The number of people in period dress was most impressive and the play had a great ending with James Cook returning to his wife Elizabeth in England very much an Aussie. He had simply spent too much time exploring the “southern continent.” Most everything this weekend has
to do with Captain James Cook, but there is a replica of Dutch Tall ship at the wharf, the Duyfken. This ship is about 70 feet long and sailed in these waters in the 1500’s, long before James Cook. We plan to enjoy the festivities this weekend and will probably leave here on Monday. On Sunday morning there is a re-enactment performance of Captain James Cook and the crew of the Endeavor landing here in 1770. This is the 49th year of the re-enactment and we think it will be great fun.

080606 Day 28 East Hope Island to Cooktown

Day 27, Year 3: A Day at East Hope Island

Day 27, Year 3: A Day at East Hope Island Date: Thursday, June 5, 2008 Weather: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Location: Hope Isles, Queensland, Australia We have had an absolutely wonderful time playing on this little island. It is so tiny that you can walk around it in ten minutes, but you can wander about on the reef at low tide for hours looking at all the little creatures or sit for hours just watching the bird and butterfly show. We divided our day between work and play. I did laundry this morning and Mark defrosted the freezer-just in time. He defrosted it since he had to rearrange everything anyway to make room for the fish we caught yesterday. This evening, he and Gerry struck a deal with the “resident” prawn (shrimp) boat here and traded eight beers and a Cadbury chocolate bar for five kilos of the most beautiful and the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. The shrimp or prawns were already frozen, so we divided them between Scot Free and Windbird and will keep them frozen until we get to Lizard Island. We hope to enjoy them there with some of the other cruisers that we are meeting as we make our way. On the beach late today we met two Australian couples that are headed to Darwin for the Sail Indonesia Rally. And another boat that overheard our conversations with Scot Free on the VHF radio called to say hello and to tell us that they are also headed to Darwin for the Rally. However, all of these boats are stopping at Lizard Island for about a week before traveling on, as are we, so we will have a chance to get to know them there. But first we have to get safely into Cooktown and enjoy that bit of Australia. As the Australians we met today said, Cooktown is one place in Australia that has a bit of history. They say that most of Australia does not. I might disagree with that, but it is true that when Captain Cook brought his damaged Endeavor into the Endeavor River at wat is now Cooktown, he was the first European to arrive there. Other Europeans followed some fifty years later, but it wasn’t until gold was discovered in the 1870’s that the aboriginal Gangaarr was renamed Cooktown. Unfortunately the aboriginals were virtually exterminated from the area during the gold rush years. Cooktown became the wealthiest town in Australia and it became Australia’s second busiest port. We received an email this evening from Runae and Idunne on Blue Marlin saying that they safely arrived in Cooktown today and telling us that it seems safe enough to enter and that there is room to anchor. So that is our goal for tomorrow.

080605 Day 27 East Hope Island

Day 26, Year 3: Low Isles to Hope Isles

Day 26, Year 3: Low Isles to Hope Isles
Date: Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Weather: Overcast Morning, Partly Sunny Afternoon; Winds SSE 18-20 in Afternoon
Latitude: 15 degrees 43.833 minutes S
Longitude: 145 degrees 27.276 degrees E
Location: Hope Isles, Queensland, Australia

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. We arrived in the Hope Isles in mid-afternoon at low tide and although it was a little scary maneuvering around the reefs to get in here, it was worth it. There are two islands here, both uninhabited. West Hope is the larger of the two and the closest to the mainland. East Hope is a tiny little sand cay with lush jungle-like greenery in its middle and a little sandy beach encircling it. But at low tide, you can see the reef stretching north, east, and south almost
as far as you can see. We entered between the two islands and then went a little north of East Hope and then headed south to anchor on her west side where the reef does not extend out from the island. We knew there were two National Park mooring balls here, and as we entered good friends that we haven’t seen since last season called us and pointed out that the one of the mooring balls was available. The friend that called was Runae of Blue Marlin (Norway). He was on the beach with one of the
twins, Hetta. Idunne and the other twin, Maretta, were on Blue Marin as Maretta has a bad cold. Runae had his handheld VHF and it was so funny to see him emerge onto the beach from the jungle in the middle while talking to us on the radio. Blue Marlin has often traveled with Cam and Arnie and their two girls on Jade (Hong Kong). But Cam and Arnie are headed to New Caledonia this year and Blue Marlin is traveling north with Marianne and Kay on Nabob (Sweden). The other boat we know from Sweden,
Christina, is getting ready to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria and will spend six weeks sailing Australia’s north Kimberly Coast before heading across the Indian Ocean and around South Africa. We had hoped to see Christina and Jan in Darwin, but they will be long gone by the time we get there. We wish them well in their journey home.

I’ll regress a bit to the beginning of the day before I get back to singing the praises of the Hope Isles. The sailing today was the same as many other days recently. There was very little wind in the morning, so we motor sailed. Then around noon, the wind piped up to 15 to 20 knots out of the SSE. We already had our headsail poled out to starboard, so we pulled the staysail out to port and sailed downwind wing and wing for the next three hours. We put a fishing line out early this morning and
had one nibble but lost that fish. Just before we started our run between the two islands, however, I heard the fishing line whirring away. We landed a 28-inch spotted mackerel (according to Runae). We have all sorts of fish identification guides onboard, but none are for game fish. This fish looked incredibly like the 54-inch wahoo we caught in Fiji last year. So is a wahoo really a mackerel? If anyone knows, please let us know. The one thing I do know is that we just finished eating some
of the fish for dinner, and it sure tastes good. The other thing that happened that was a little different today is that we were sailing in the shipping lanes for the first time. We had a bit of traffic in the morning, but the afternoon was quiet. The only activity happened when we caught the fish and then almost immediately entered the deep channel between the two Hope Islands. Once we reached our destination and attached Windbird to the National Park mooring ball, Mark hurriedly filleted the
fish and put it in the freezer. We then launched our dinghy and headed to shore. We could see from the anchorage that island is home to hundreds of birds, so I was anxious to get to shore to say hello to Runae and Hetta and to get some photos of those birds. We got ashore and talked with Runae and Marianne and Kay of Nabob. Hetta showed us her “pet” sea stars before she put them back in the water and then Mark went out to get Donna and Gerry of Scot Free II. It was our turn to do the dinghy
transport on this island.

Blue Marlin and Nabob are headed to Cooktown in the morning and we discussed the difficulties of getting into the Endeavor River there. You are only supposed to enter on a rising tide because of a very shallow sandbar, but there is no rising tide during daylight hours this week. Blue Marlin and Nabob are leaving here very early in the morning and plan to enter the river at high tide in the morning. We are going to stay here for tomorrow and Runae is going to email us and let us know the situation
once he is in Cooktown. If all seems okay, we will head over the next morning. There is a festival this weekend marking the anniversary of the date when Captain James Cook brought his damaged ship, the Endeavor, into the river at Cooktown for repairs in 1770. I don’t have the exact date, but I think he must have arrived in Cooktown between June 10 and June 12 of that year. I’m looking forward to visiting Cooktown, so I hope it works out for us to make this stop.

We walked all around West Hope late this afternoon and watched all the wonderful birds coming in to roost for the night. This island is an important nesting site for pied imperial-pigeons and we did see two different varieties of pigeons roosting. We are going to assume one of them was the pied imperial. Tomorrow we will have more time for bird watching, so I’ll give a more detailed bird report in tomorrow’s log.

080604 Day 26 Low Isles to Hope Isles

Day 25, Year 3: Double Island to Low Isles

Day 25, Year 3: Double Island to Low Isles
Date: Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Weather: Another Windless Day; Sunny Early, Overcast Late Afternoon
Latitude: 16 degrees 22.855 minutes S
Longitude: 145 degrees 33.844 degrees E
Location: Low Isles, Queensland, Australia

We are finally one-third of the way to Darwin. We have traveled 750 miles from Bundaberg to here, but we still have about 500 miles to go to get around the top of Cape York and then another 800 from there to Darwin. So the voyage continues.

Australia is the world’s only country that is also a stand-alone continent and it is a land of extremes. From penguins to crocodiles, from desert to snow-capped mountains, and from marsupials to fantastic reef life, it has it all. But it is impossible for us to see it all in the limited time we have. We are really skirting the edges, but even that is most enjoyable. Today we arrived in the Low Isles. These are two little islands surrounded by reef. West Island has a light house that once required
a lighthouse keeper. But today, the light is run by computer and the University of Queensland Research Station operates out of here. East Island is covered with trees with mangroves all around. At low tide, there is a huge amount of reef that is exposed around both islands, but especially around East Island making it look like the plains of Africa. At high tide, however, you simply see two little green islands-one with a sand beach surrounding it and the other green down to the sea. We are still
very close to Cairns and to Port Douglas and there are lots of tourist boats that come here for the day and another load of reef boats that pass by here in the evening on their way home from a day on the outer rim of the Great Barrier Reef which is only eight miles away. But the real attraction here is the turtles. Many Green and Hawksbill turtles call this home and they are everywhere in the water. Soon after arriving, Scot Free II picked us up once again in their dinghy with the new motor, and
we went to shore. We walked around tiny little West Island, did some bird watching, and then got back in the dinghy and puttered around the coral heads surrounding West Island. This is where the turtles hang out and we so enjoyed watching them fly by us underwater and then surface for air. We could see the bommies just under us, but strangely, we saw no fish. When we got back to Windbird after our dinghy tour, I was considering getting into the water to swim with the turtles, but something kept
telling me to keep out of the water. When evening came and Donna and Gerry arrived for dinner, I saw that “something” that kept me out the water. In addition to beautiful turtles, there are also lots of little sharks here. There are even a few middle-sized ones and none that I would like to encounter face to face.

There was one other attraction here worth mentioning. The young couple from Cairns who are moored next to us prefer not to wear clothes. So we had a great “view” from where we are moored. And we were moored, not anchored. The Great Barrier Reef National Park has three mooring balls here and we were lucky enough to pick one of those when we arrived. Tomorrow we are on to the Hope Islands. These are the very low islands close to where Captain Cook ran his beloved Endeavor on the reef. Once off
the reef, the Endeavor headed for the mainland but she was leaking profusely. The Endeavor had passed some low islands on their way to the reef and Captain Cook writes that he really hoped to see those little islands once again. He did see them on his way to Cooktown and they have been the Hope Islands ever since.

080603 Day 25 Double Island to Low Isles