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Sailing around Australian East Coast  Sydney ó Cairns ó Sydney , July-December 2007

Tropical North Queensland


Dunk Island


The wind is 25 knots, but at least it is SE and will get us a good ride to our next stop- Dunk Island.

Dunk is about 3/4 national park with dense rainforest and some good walking tracks, there is a large resort here as well. We took a dinghy to briefly explore the island, but didnít have the time to do walks.

Snorkelling around the island wasnít good as the water was murky.  We visited nearby Thorpe Island quickly Ė its beach made of shells and dead coral pieces. Snorkelling there wasnít good either.


Fitzroy Island


We left Mourilynnís Bay where we spent the night on anchor and headed to Fitzroy Island. The wind has picked up to nearly 30 knots, however anchorage in Fitzroy was protected. We were amazed how nice and colourful the reef was there compared to the other islands north of Whitsundays, even though the visibility wasnít fantastic due to the weather.

The Island, similar to Whitsundays, is a drowned monntain; it was once connected to the mainland by a grassy plain. Then some 6000 years ago it was submerged and Fitzroy became an island.


In early days aboriginal people used the island for hunting fishing and gathering. In 1770 Captain Cook named the island Fitzroy after the family name of Duke of Grafton, Prime Minister of England at the time. In late 1800s the island became a centre of a beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) industry. Sea cucumbers were collected and prepared for Asian food market (now collecting sea cucumbers is banned of course). Later in 1877 it became a quarantine station for Chinese immigrants bound for the Queensland goldfields.

In recent time it has been a tourist resort.

Currently The island is undergoing a major re-development. There are no tourists currently staying (only day visitors) and most of the facilities are closed. Soon a luxury resort, holiday apartments and even a cinema will be built here.


Cairn highlands and waterfalls


In the morning wind got stronger, but Cairns is not too far. We hoisted No 2 Jib and were making 6 knots heading towards Yorkeyís Knob yacht club (north of Cairns).


As the weather will be bad for visiting the reefs for the next couple of days we rented out a car and drove around the mainland exploring the wet tropics world of waterfalls and rainforest.


This area receives more rainfall than any other part of Australia. High mountains intercept moisture-bearing winds from the ocean causing them to drop the moisture in the form of rain. In addition, tropical monsoons bring additional downpours in summer. 



We drove south and visited Babinda Boulders, then Josephine Falls (they are nice and you can swim in them), Milla-Milla fals and some other falls in Wooroonooran national park.


It feels strange to be in a car: it is too small, too fast and seems too dangerous compared to the boat. You canít just put it on autopilot and make a cup of tea or read a book.


Babinda Boulders is a few kilometres south of Cairns, it is a fast creek running among the large granite boulders. It is quite deep in certain places and local school kids swim jump it the creek from the boulders, but we didnít feel like getting wet yet.


Josephine Creek starts as a trickle on Queensland highest peak, Mt. Bartle Frere (1657 m). By the time it reaches Josephine Falls it becomes a substantial creek that falls into a pool of clear water surrounded by trees and boulders. The water coming straight from the mountains is quite cool. This is a popular swimming area as you canít swim in the ocean around the coast ó there are crocs and box jelly fishes. There are also natural slopes created by the falling water and you can climb them and slide into the natural freshwater pool.


Later on we visited Milla-Milla and other amazing falls.

Initially we were thinking of camping overnight, but it started to rain heavily in the afternoon and we returned to sleep on the boat.


Daintree and Cape Tribulation


Initially we were planning to reach Cape Tribulation by boat but then realised that we donít have time to go there with my exam scheduled in certain places and also we were tired of just going north and wanted to rather spend more time on the reefs around Cairns.


So we drove a car to Cape Tribulation. In the morning visited a nice village Kuranda and Baron Falls, then crossed croc-infested Daintree River and took a scenic drive to Cape Tribulation.

The Cape wasnít as exciting as it is described: just some average beach where rainforest happen to meet the reef. Maybe itís prettier in fine weather, and I think, it would have been more interesting to visit this place by boat.

We spent around 10 minutes walking along the beach, when a pouring rain started and we ran back to the car soaking in the rain water.


Unlike NSW coast where the property prices are sky-rocketing, it seems like North Queenslanders donít like to live near the beaches, they rather prefer rainforest. It kind of makes sense: the water is of murky brown-green colour near the coast, there are crocs and deadly jelly fishes and the beaches are deserted, on the plus side the reefs are just stunning. If you lived near the coast it would help to have a very fast power boat, the closest (nice) reef is about 16 miles from Cairns.


Double Island


In the morning we left the marina thinking that the weather had improved, only to find that it was still blowing 25 knots outside of the shelter of the breakwater and anchored next to Double Island. One source of information says there is a private house on the island where some family had been living for more than 100 years, the other source says this is the most expensive island resort and the whole island could be rented out for a day. The island definitely didnít look like an expensive resort, but there was a long pier and a buggy (similar to golf cart) arrived from inside the island, someone got out, boarded a small boat and left for the mainland. There was also a single boat moored near the island and it also didnít look like it belonged to an expensive resort.


Oyster Reef and Green Island


My exam is on 25th in Cairns and the weather seems to have settled. We didnít want to loose time and decided to visit the nearby reefs.

We anchored at Oyster Reef where spearfishing was allowed and Gonzie shot a coral trout. The reef wasnít a protected anchorage in this weather and we went to anchor next to Green Island.


As there was internet reception, I checked my e-mail to get the good news: my friend Eleanora in Russia had a baby-girl.


Vlasoff Reef and the picnic on the coral cay


Today we decided to visit Vlasoff Reef. It is a beautiful place with a sandy cay sticking out even in the middle of high tide.

Around the cay is the beautiful turquoise water that you see in holiday commercials. The water was so clear you could see the bottom without a mask!


The cay is a popular helicopter landing spot and one yellow chopper was there, it possibly belongs to some rich person as it didnít look like a tourist one regularly flying from Cairns.


We snorkelled around the bommies trying to shoot a coral trout, but didnít have any luck. There are not many trouts around and a couple that we saw were very quick to hide.


However we still had some fish left from yesterday. We liked an idea of deep-frying fish on coral cay in the middle of the ocean and this was a good opportunity. In fact this idea was a bit stupid as there was no protection from the sand blown by the wind and it was getting in the food. The fish was still delicious though.  



The weather is good for staying on the reef but I have to sit a CPA exam in Cairns and we went to Cairns marina. We underestimated the current and were running late, so I arrived to the exam when the supervisor already started reading the instructions. (Gonzalo adds: Tania was late on her own accord, nothing to do with the current!)


At night we went out for dinner to an Asian cafť as we missed Chinese food. 


Sailing back south


Today is our turnaround point, but not the end of the trip yet. We said goodbye to Cairns and went to Fitzroy Island.


Sudbury Reef, Feather Reef and a quick run to Magnetic Island


We decided to go back to Townsville (where we have to pick up our fridge from warranty repairs) not through the islands when we sailed up north, but through the reefs as the weather was good now. We spent a day on Sudbury Reef (which looked a bit like Vlasoff Reef with a sandy cay in the middle), and the next day on Feather Reef. This one didnít have an island or even a drying at low tide sandy cay. We were anchored in the middle of the ocean! All the spear-fishing attempts were not successful Ė we only got sunburned (when applying the sunscreen you sometimes miss some spots).


Today the wind is NE around 10-15 knots and perfect for us to go south.  We put up Genoa and main and were making 5-6 knots on beam reach, 90 degrees to the wind. The seas were calm and we decided to keep going the whole night Ė didnít want to miss this opportunity.

Having entrusted the steering to an autopilot we went inside, I cooked dinner and we watched a movie like we normally do at the anchorage.  


I actually havenít mentioned yet how we cook on the boat. We have a 3-burner kerosene gimballed stove with an oven. You need to prime the burners with mentholated spirit before lighting and if you donít do enough the stove doesnít light, and the burner burst into flames instead. Also burners need to be cleaned regularly and the pressure maintained, or the flame wonít be strong enough to cook.  A few days ago 2 burners broke (we didnít know that the burners can only be cleaned when cold and the needles got stuck). and now only one is working.  Kerosene stoves arenít popular any more and we couldnít find the replacements in Cairns (but we know one shop in NSW though that services them). In Cairns we bought a small portable gas stove which uses butane cartridges.  Itís great on still anchorages however unsuitable for the sea.


If the wind continues like that we will arrive at Magnetic Island by 4 am.

There is no moon and it is very dark outside. We rolled out a double bed in the saloon and take turns on watches. A commercial work boat contacted a ďsouthbound yachtĒ on channel 16 and we realised it was for us. We called back to tell them our intentions to pass them on port side and altered the course slightly to starboard. This was the only boat we saw all night.

At 4 am Horseshoe Bay lights appeared in the horizon and by 5 am we were already anchored. We had covered 120 miles in 20 hours, our best run yet.


Fitzroy Island

Babinda Boulders

Josephine Falls

Milla-Milla Falls

Croc warning near Daintree River

Cape Tribulation: rainforest meets the reef

Green Island

Gonzie speared a coral trout on Oyster Reef

Helicopter on Vlasoff Cay

Vlasoff Reef

Empede on Green Island

Solar shower on deck


Aboriginal painting in Cairns

Approaching Sudbury Reef

Factory in Mourilynnís Bay

On Sudbury Reef

Iím studying for CPA Exams on the boat

Vlasoff Reef

Sudbury Reef

Vlasoff Cay

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