Day 36, Year 3: Ingram Island to Flinders Island

Day 36, Year 3: Ingram Island to Flinders Island
Date: Saturday, June 14, 2008
Weather: Sunshine; Winds SE 25 with Gusts to 45
Latitude: 14 degrees 10.608 minutes S
Longitude: 144 degrees 13.797minutes E
Location: Flinders Island, Queensland, Australia
Total Trip: 46.66 nm

Tonight we are anchored on the west coast of Flinders Island. We are not far from the mainland and we have read that crocodiles hang out in the waters here. But today we saw no crocodiles, only turtles. And we like that much, much better. We had a brisk sail here. At first the winds were the typical 20 to 30 knots from behind us, but as we neared Cape Melville we learned why the locals call it “Cape Hellville.” We were sailing close to the coast and all of a sudden we were having gusts to 35 knots, to 40 knots, and then on up to 45 knots. Rendezvous Cay was ahead of us and they had given us the warning in plenty of time for us to change our sail plan. We thought about just reefing the headsail, but then decided to take some of the strain off that hard working sail and roll it in to give it a rest. We went with just the staysail and were still going six plus knots. We were happy with that speed and stayed with the configuration until the winds finally settled back down to 25 knots. We then rolled up the staysail and put up the headsail once again. With such great winds, we arrived at anchor by 2:15 in the afternoon and had plenty of time to do some planning for the next few days and then launch the dinghy and explore ashore.

We’ve sailed into a new landscape. It is looking more like what I envision the Northern Territory to look like instead of tropical Queensland. It is much drier here. There are mangroves, Eucalyptus trees, and tall, yellow grass, but no palm trees. The rock formations are fantastic. It is a stark kind of beauty and it will be interesting to see if this “change” stays with us as we travel from here to Darwin. On shore this afternoon we were looking for the only points of interest on this island-the graves of four Europeans who died here in the 19th century when this island was a trading post with a detachment of English soldiers; and a boulder with the name of the ship that surveyed this area carved into it, the H.M.S. Dart. After a bit of tromping about, we found the graves hidden in the tall yellow grass, but we didn’t find the boulder with the ship’s name carved into it. On the island just across the channel there are caves with aboriginal drawings, but the tide was not right for going there by the time we got settled today and we’ve decided to move on tomorrow. So we will miss seeing the caves.

Tomorrow our goal is Morris Island. Our guide tells us that there is a great beach for landing the dinghy, but on the morning net we have learned that a “resident” crocodile currently travels from Morris to Night Island. If we are very brave, we might travel ashore looking very carefully for this guy, but then again, maybe we won’t be very brave. The only thing ashore is one lone coconut tree and the grave of a diver. We’ll just have to weigh the situation once we get there.

080614 Day 36 Ingram Island to Flinders Island

Day 35, Year 3: Lizard Island to Ingram Island on Friday the 13th

Day 35, Year 3: Lizard Island to Ingram Island on Friday the 13th
Date: Friday, June 13, 2008
Weather: Mix of Squalls and Sunshine; Winds ESE 20-25
Latitude: 14 degrees 24.953 minutes S
Longitude: 144 degrees 52.516 minutes E
Location: Ingram Island, Queensland, Australia

Our day definitely started out as a Friday the 13th would be expected to begin, but at this point in the evening, it is ending on a much quieter note. Let’s just hope it stays this way. We awoke a number of times last night with roaring winds and rain in the anchorage at Lizard Island. Just before 6 am, a 40 plus knot gust had Windbird heeled over so far that I was sure we must be sailing. At that point, we gave up and got up to greet the morning and talk to Rendezvous Cay and Scot Free II on
the VHF to express doubts about leaving today. We all agreed that we would wait until the weather at 7:30 am and make a decision then. The howling winds and rain continued, and then Joe on Rendezvous Cay called to announce that a boat was entering the anchorage with a completely torn out headsail. Not a good omen on Friday the 13th. Liberty was the boat coming in and it sails out of Japan. We met Aki, the captain, in Airlie Beach, and he is heading to Darwin for the Sail Indonesia Rally with
two crew members. He’ll have a hard time getting that headsail repaired in this part of the world, so we’re not sure what he will do. We wish him luck in getting his repairs done. With this sobering scene, we were getting even more reluctant to leave, but the weather report sounded fine and sun started shining, so off we went.

Actually we had a very nice sailing day. We had sunshine and good winds until around noon, but then the squalls started coming through. No big winds, just mostly rain, so we survived that nicely and arrived at Ingram Island around 2:30 pm. The island we are anchored behind is not very big and it doesn’t give a lot of protection from the wind, but we are getting used to that. Lizard was a much bigger and higher island, but the winds roared through the anchorage day and night. Ingram is a low
island but the anchorage is surprisingly calm with such high winds. Scot Free II put their dinghy in the water just after we arrived and they invited us to go ashore with them for a walk. Walks on the beach will be less frequent as we go further north because of the threat of crocodiles. So even here, we watched carefully for tracks on the beach as we circled the little island. We saw birds, curlews and pelicans of some sort, and lots of seagulls who were obviously nesting here. Donna and I
were very far behind Mark and Gerry as we stopped to smell the roses while the guys rushed on. When we were almost back to the starting point, we noticed some very strange tracks leading from the beach up to the low mangrove area in the center of the island. The tracks looked a bit like the tracks that would be left by the swishing tail of a crocodile coming ashore. Whatever it was, it got us moving. We rejoined Mark and Gerry who were sitting on the dinghy waiting for us and we asked if they
had seen the tracks. Actually they had been much more observant than us and had not only seen those tracks, but had found a fire that was still smoldering and some barrels of fuel and water with a note from the Queensland Turtle Research group. Obviously the researchers had been here earlier today and we are hopeful that the tracks we saw were made by something they drug ashore. Mark and Gerry also found a grave that was wildly decorated with fisherman’s gear and shells. So they are faster than
Donna and I, but they did make some interesting discoveries.

The wind is roaring through the anchorage as I write this and the water is a bit bouncy, but if it doesn’t get any worse than this, we will have a good night. Tomorrow morning we leave for the Flinders group of islands. We’ve heard there is an island with an interesting aboriginal cave and we hope to track that down tomorrow afternoon when we arrive there.

080613 Day 35 Lizard Island to Ingram Island

Day 34, Year 3: Love ’em and Leave ’em

Day 34, Year 3: Love ’em and Leave ’em
Date: Thursday, June 12, 2008
Weather: Spectacular Weather; Winds ESE 25-30
Location: Watson’s Bay, Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia

I am absolutely in love with Lizard Island, but we have to move on tomorrow morning. I am often very sad when we have to leave such beautiful places, but this one is especially hard. But we do have to get to Darwin, so we move on. I’m already plotting ways to come back here someday, so maybe Lizard Island hasn’t seen the last of me.

Mark and I are both totally exhausted tonight. Mark worked on bottom cleaning this morning while I did more laundry (the clothes we wore last night) and made granola. It seems like I just did that, but we were out and Windbird doesn’t sail very well without a cupboard stocked with granola. We then went snorkeling over the clam beds and when we were finished, Mark took me back to the north side of the bay to let me snorkel there one last time. I saw beautiful green cabbage coral and some huge
angelfish in addition to more giant clams, so I was a happy camper. Then it was back to Windbird where Mark continued to work on the bottom cleaning. We had lunch, did the last bit of bottom cleaning, and Mark went back to the clam beds one more time to try and get some good pictures of the clams. We are continuing to have problems with our underwater camera and it is very frustrating.

Once we were showered and had cleaned up from our underwater adventures, we headed to shore to walk across the island to the Blue Lagoon. When our daughter Heather was in college here in Australia, she spent some time here on Lizard Island. Evidently she celebrated her 20th birthday on the beach in the Blue Lagoon, so we wanted to go there to take some photos for her. Our walk took us through the mangroves and then through the pandanus plains, to the airstrip, and finally to the beach. As we
walked to the beach, I stopped to take pictures of the beautiful shrub-like plants bordering the path. I suddenly realized that the “shrubs” were huge heather plants. So I renamed the beach in honor of the plants and our daughter, Heather Beach. The Blue Lagoon was just beautiful and the various colors of blue in the water certainly live up to the name. There are huge rocks on the beach which, along with the occasional driftwood, make it very dramatic. We wanted to walk around to some of the
other beaches, but time was running out, so it was back to the “Lizard Island Yacht Club” on the beach. We had sundowners with other cruisers and I decorated our cuddlefish bone to hang in the Casuarina tree that serves as the “yacht club.” The beach in Watson’s Bay is lined with graceful Casuarina trees. I would call them the weeping willow of pine trees. The branches bend toward the ground and the needles are very long and wispy.

We will move on tomorrow with Rendezvous Cay and Scot Free II. Aqua Magic will following on Saturday, and Nabob, Blue Marlin, and Street Legal will follow on Sunday. We are all headed in the same direction but each boat has a different arrival time for Darwin depending on what needs to be done there. We certainly have plenty of wind, so we should fly to our next destination tomorrow-Ingram Island. Who knows who might be there going our way?

080612 Day 34 Walk to the Blue Lagoon
080612 Day 34 Underwater at Lizard Island

Day 33, Year 3: Captain Cook and Football

Day 33, Year 3: Captain Cook and Football
Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Weather: Beautiful, Clear Day; Winds ESE 25-30
Location: Watson’s Bay, Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia

The earlier part of today was all about following in the footsteps of Captain Cook and the end of the day was all about “footie.” I’ll start with the latter and work my way back. Scot Free II, Rendezvous Cay, and Windbird had decided to visit the Marlin Bar at the resort on this island for Happy Hour this evening. What we didn’t know was that tonight was Game 2 of 3 of the State of Origin. I still don’t get the title, but the best of the best of New South Wales rugby players were playing the best of the best of Queensland players on television tonight and the bar at the resort was projecting this on a big screen. What we also didn’t know was that the son of Maureen on Munyana here in the anchorage is player #10 on the New South Wales team. So we were in the bar and we decided that we needed to stay for the game in order to experience one of Australia’s major cultural events. Because of Maureen, I felt bad that I wasn’t supporting the “blue team”-New South Wales, but here I am in Queensland and I had to support the “maroon team”-Queensland. New South Wales won game one in the series, but tonight Queensland won 30-0. So on July 2, the third and final game will be played and the champion will be decided. I think this is sort of the Australian version of the Super Bowl, but whatever, we got into the spirit and enjoyed it tonight. There were a number of college-aged kids at the bar from the Research Station here. These kids were all visiting from the University of Texas, but it made
me think back to the time when our daughter Heather was attending James Cook University in Townsville and came to Lizard Island to do some diving for pay. She would do shallow dives six times a day to count fish and get paid for it. Not a bad way to spend your college days!

Now back to the earlier part of the day. When we got up for the 7:30 am weather and 8:00 am radio net, we discovered that the anchorage had been basically abandoned. Seven boats left early this morning and that left just a few of us. Mark and I had decided to walk to the top of Mount Cook today, so after putting a laundry in to soak, we headed to shore and started the 2.25 kilometer hike to the top. After the Endeavor had been repaired in Cooktown, Captain Cook sailed her north to Cape Flattery and then took a small boat the “five leagues” out here to Lizard Island to see if he could view an exit passage through the Great Barrier Reef. It took us almost two hours to reach the summit and another hour and a half to descend. It was a tough climb, but it was definitely worth it. The views on the way up were spectacular and it was a good feeling to leave a rock we had carried from the beach below to the top to add to the stones left by so many others that have made the climb. We didn’t get to see the golden orchids that bloom here in the spring, but we did see a couple of spectacularly colored bird. One was bright yellow and the other had an iridescent green back and tail.

When we finally got back to Windbird, I completed the laundry I had started earlier and we went for an afternoon snorkel over the clam beds in the middle of the anchorage. This is our last chance to get in the water until we reach Indonesia, so we want to take every opportunity to dive in. After snorkeling I worked on doing a little cleaning on the bottom of the boat (Shhh! Bottom cleaning is not allowed in Australian waters.). And then it was time for Happy Hour. It was a great day and we look forward to more adventure tomorrow.

Note: Aqua Magic, Blue Marlin, and Nabob arrived today, along with three small cruise ships. There’s plenty of room for all of us, but we are selfishly hoping the cruise ships will be gone by tomorrow morning.

080611 Day 33 Climb to Summit of Mount Cook

Day 32, Year 3: Beautiful Lizard Island

Day 32, Year 3: Beautiful Lizard Island
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Weather: Partly Cloudy Day with AM Sprinkles; Winds ESE 20-25
Location: Watson’s Bay, Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia

Lizard Island is truly one of Australia’s gems. The Whitsunday Islands were nice, and we have visited some wonderful towns along the coast, but this island is a little slice of paradise. The snorkeling here is fantastic. The coral is not the best we have seen in the South Pacific but the GIANT clams are phenomenal, and there are just loads of fish. We only thought we had seen giant clams in the Vanuatu. The clams here are a good four feet in length, maybe more, and when you find an empty shell
where a clam once lived, I’m sure either Mark or I could crawl down inside the shell. In fact, I might try that tomorrow. And aside from being big, they are beautiful. We went snorkeling twice today, once in the middle of the bay and again on the north side of the anchorage. Both places were fantastic and we will snorkel in both places at least a couple of more times before leaving here. When we went snorkeling in the morning, the sun was not shining brightly, so the underwater photos didn’t
capture the real beauty of the clams. And when we were snorkeling in the afternoon, the sun was shining but our underwater camera gave us a problem once again. It keeps telling us that that the battery door is open which would allow sea water into the camera. When that happens, we immediately stop using it, but then we never find water in the camera. We are going to have to play with this during the next couple of days, but if the problem isn’t solved, we will have to get another camera before
heading to Indonesia.

This afternoon there was a birthday party on the beach for Jay on Makani Kai. He was twenty-eight today. It is scary when your fellow cruisers are younger than your own children! We have met some wonderful people here that we will be traveling with this season. This afternoon, a few of us formed a “grandmother’s club.” Jeanette on Reflection and Pattie on This Way Up, both Australian catamarans, love cruising but find it very difficult to be away from the grandchildren. Jeanette is flying home
from Darwin to visit before heading to Indonesia even though the grandchildren visited while she was in Cairns last week. But then home for her is not far away. Pattie has eight grandchildren, two of which live in Vancouver, Canada, so she has more experience in dealing with the long periods of time between visits. I just can’t wait to get to Darwin so I can see Sam via Skype once more. Pattie and Jeanette both think we will have internet in Indonesia more often than I have been expecting, so
I hope they are right about that. Mark has also been meeting lots of other captains and learning lots about sailing from here to Darwin. Dave and Pattie on This Way Up have been over the top of Cape York five times, so they are a wealth of information. Many of the boats we have met here are leaving tomorrow, but we will be staying for a few more days and will meet new cruisers that we expect will arrive tomorrow. So we will learn as much as we can from others while enjoying one of the most fantastic places we have been on the Voyage of Windbird.

080610 Day 32 Lizard Island Birthday Party

Day 31, Year 3: Cape Bedford to Lizard Island

Day 31, Year 3: Cape Bedford to Lizard Island
Date: Monday, June 9, 2008
Weather: Beautiful Day; Winds ESE 25-30 Knots
Air and Water Temperature: 74 degrees F
Latitude: 14 degrees 39.693 minutes S
Longitude: 145 degrees 27.122 minutes E
Location: Watson Bay, Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia

What a great day! We had a romping six-hour sail from Cape Bedford to Lizard Island with 25 to 30 knot winds and two-meter seas. It should have been a downwind run, but the winds were actually coming a little more from the east so we were on a beam reach most of the day. We sailed with a double-reefed headsail and the full staysail. This is when Windbird performs her best. She is steady in the heavy winds and we made great time. We were actually anchored in Lizard before one o’clock. This
is a small island with one very exclusive resort and a research station run by the Australian Museum. No one lives here other than those running the resort and the research station. But it is famous as a great anchorage. It is always windy here, getting the nickname of Blizzard Island because of the wind gusts that rage through the anchorage, but the water is always calm. Certainly Cape Bedford last night was not a calm anchorage, but Lizard is absolutely flat even with the gusts of wind.

After having lunch, we launched the dinghy and explored the bay. We met the folks on the boat next door, Katane, out of England. They had helped us find a good anchoring spot when we arrived and they were very helpful in telling us about the island. They had a map of the island that they had gotten from the resort here and they gave that to us since they are leaving in the morning. They then outlined the way for us to explore the bay. There is a huge reef area in the middle of the anchorage
with what we are told are VERY LARGE giant clams. We couldn’t see the clams from the dinghy, but we could see lots of coral. We then explored the north side of the anchorage where there is a fringing reef that is supposed to have lots of sea life. We will be in the water early in the morning and have a better report on what is under the water at that point.

After doing our survey of the bay, we went ashore. We were greeted by Natasha and Matthew. These two youngsters, probably ten and eight years old, with Natasha being the oldest, invited us to see their “clubhouse.” Just behind the beach, these guys have made a “secret” path leading to the clubhouse hidden under beach bushes. They have gathered old wood on the beach and put shelves in the clubhouse for their shell collection. Natasha talked her father out of an empty aluminum bag that once held
wine and they use that for a mirror. In the bush next door to the clubhouse, they have used old pieces of wood to fashion a toilet. It was all very cute and we really enjoyed meeting the children. We went on for a walk on the island, but we promised that we would return and meet their parents later in the afternoon.

There are a number of great walks on this island, but we just took the shortest one for starters. This took us by the remains of a stone building that was built to store and dry beche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) in 1860. This industry did not survive, but in 1879 Robert Watson and his wife Mary from Cooktown moved to Lizard Island and remodeled the stone storage building as their home. A year later their son was born, but soon tragedy struck. Robert was away on a hunting trip when a group of Dingaal
aboriginals came to the cottage. This island is sacred ground for the Dingaals, so they were not happy with the Watsons for moving in. Mary saw them kill one of the Chinese servants, so she and her son, and another of the Chinese servants, crawled into an iron boiling tank left from the days of the beche-de-mer industry and floated away. Mary kept a diary which tells us of this story. She and her son died of dehydration when the tank they were in floated up on a nearby island. They were later
found and are buried in the cemetery in Cooktown that we visited this weekend. This is one of the stories that I wanted to share from our cemetery trip in Cooktown. There were other stories, and I will incorporate them in future logs as they apply. But now I will go back to talk about our walk today. After we walked past the stone structure, we came to a boardwalk that has been built over the mangroves here. It winds around the mangroves and then ends, but the walk continues. We walked through
wetlands and ended up in an area that looks like an African savannah with pandanus trees growing throughout. The path leading here had informational markers all along the way, and we found it most informative. We wanted to keep walking, but it was getting late so we made it back to the beach and met Natasha and Matthew’s parents, David and Allison. They have been here two weeks now, and they have “built” the Lizard Island Yacht Club. This is just a patch of sand under the trees, but they have
fashioned a sign and invited yachties to go find a cuttlefish bone and decorate it with the yacht’s name to hang in the tree. This evening the “yacht club” was hosting Happy Hour on the beach and we met most everyone in the anchorage. Most everyone here is traveling to Darwin for the Sail Indonesia Rally, so in addition to having fun here in Lizard with snorkeling and walking, we are getting connected with some great folks that we will be traveling with for the next few months. Can’t think of a better way to spend the next few days.

080609 Day 31 Cape Bedford to Lizard Island