Cairns to Lizard Island (via the Ribbon Reefs)

After sailing up and down the Queensland Coast 4 times in Logic, I realized that spending the cyclone season (start of November to end of April) out of the cyclone zone, way too the south, was not the way to enjoy the amazing cruising to be had in far North Queensland.

In (the southern hemisphere’s) winter, the wind up here blows from the southeast 95% of the time. The further north one gets the more often it blows from the Southeast and the stronger it blows. We’re talking 15-25kts. It is not until October that there is enough east in the wind to sail south.

In winter it is very easy to sail north from Brisbane, with a strong wind from the south, but one has to use anchorages with good protect from the wind. Plus, its crowded with heaps of boats going north for the cruising season.

While up here in summer the southeasterly trade winds have been replaced by winds from all angles of the compass, and they are a lot less in wind strength. Except when a cyclone comes through (more on my experience with the cyclone that came through in December 2023, later).With the negative of it being hot, humid and still, and the positive that there are very few, to no other boats, cruising up here then. 

The above was a significant contributor to my decision to relocate to Cairns.

With my nesting in my new house completed. it was time to get back into cruising mode. Barry flew up from Melbourne for 5 weeks, to crew on Logic for a sail to the north. After a couple of days to provision and a weather forecast of 10kt southeasterlies for a week of Idyllic sailing, north to Lizard Island, via the Ribbon reefs.   it was time to leave the Cairns Marina. First stop was Michaelmas Cay    As you know from previous blog posts, this one of my favorites spots. I was excited to see which birds were nesting at a time of the year, I have never been here.

there was a single frigate bird, on the fenced off rope, There were no sooty or crested terns nesting.

The noddies had a few chicks   what was very different this time was the Brown Boobies, nesting        from ones on eggs, recently hatched, ones covered in down, making them looked bigger than their parents,

with adults flying in to feed their chicks.

the weather forecast was for a southerly blow in a week’s time, so we needed to keep on going, to be in the shelter of Lizard Island for the blow.

Next stop was Saint Crispin Reef      (the tracker is generated by the satellite phone, every hour sending our GPS coordinated to PredictWind, who put it on a map as the quickest distance between the points.

there is both our trip north and south on the tracker)

We went past the outer reef, out to where the game fishing boats work. Hooking up a 15kg yellow fin tuna  I filleted the big boy         and Barry cut it down to half kilo pieces for bagginga freezer filler of sashimi of course we had to cook up some for lunch, while the sashimi got chilling in the fridgethe next day on our way to Irene Reef, Barry had some fun on the rod and reel  sports fishing a Giant Trevally

at that size, they are very poor eating, so back it went

Irene was a challenging reef to get intowe had to weave our way between the bommies to get to the anchorage.

I’d downloaded the satellite maps of everything I thought we could be going to,

as the navigational chart had the anchorage in lime green, signifying it was above water at low tide. None of the reef and bommies were above water at low tide. I had to go into these anchorages with the sun high and Barry up the front, spotting the coral    the next day we went up to Ribbon reef #7another weave our way through the bommies to the anchorage the next day we went on the outside of the Ribbons to see if Barry could get a Yellow Fin as we came around the bottom of #7, Barry caught a Shark Mackerel which he filleted we stayed just off the reef, hoping to catch another tuna  hooking another biggy and it was a biggy . Logic is far from an ideal boat to fine tune sports fishing techniques, and Barry was broken off

I got rather cocky after a couple of reef anchorages, when we went looking for an anchorage inside the bottom Ribbon #10.

I definitely would not recement this spotthe breeze was from the east. That bommie at 11oclock was a boat length behind us. the one at 8oclock was a couple of boat lengths and the ones on the right would have been a boat length astern, if there had of been a westerly wind change.

But it was a perfect spot for a SUP and snorkel.

Its stinger season, so Barry had got on the internet to purchase a stinger suit. It was very practical, but he still looked like a smerf      it was great to be in the water, even though the coral was not great

The next morning we left at 7.30. The sun was not high enough for good visibility of the surrounding bommies, so rather than turn around where I had anchored, I reversed out, the way I had come in.

We went around the outside of Ribbon #10 hoping for another big tuna.

We did hook up one, which most have been even bigger than the one that got away the day before. I was more prepared this time and reversed back as it ran, until the line was directly vertical, at which point it broke. Lossing the last of my favorite lures. 

It’s time to replace the aged line on the rod and reels and order some more favorite lures. 

at the top of Ribbon #10 is the world-renowned Cod Hole, one most scuba divers wish list (I’d dived it over 20 years ago).

we picked up one of the government installed mooring buoys that day’s sundowner G&Ts had Lizard Island in the picture The water was crystal clear. There was no need to get in the water to see the coral 6 meters below      Snorkeling does not get any better

some reef sharks cruising through

a plethora of fish a pair of saddleback butterfly fish  a golden trevally  a parrot fish our mooring buoy was right over the best of the coral, so a boat from the Lizard Island Research Station asked if they could tie up to our stern. Then 2 more ties up to it There was a noticeable current between the low and high tides, preventing comfortable snorkeling. We had eaten some of the shark mackerel, coming to the conclusion that it made good fish cakes. So, rather than throw it away, we filled in the time between the tides, turning it all into fish cakes, which we shared with the people on the research boats,

   We were joined by a small flock of rare Black Knapped Terns, who had flown out from lizard to feed on small bait fish

While we would have like to have stayed out there for another day or two, the forecast blow was coming that afternoon, so we headed over to Lizard  for a Lizard sundowners sunset there is always jobs on a boat job list, so we spent our first day at Lizard reducing the size of the list the next day we did the climb to Cook’s Lookout, where Cook went up, looking for a way out of the Great Barrier Reef the sweat on my shirt, gives you an indication of how hot it was, and we had set off at 7.30.

the view to the south was The Blue Lagoon (this is the anchorage in a northerly) it is easy to see why Lizard is the iconic cruising destination it is this tree is testimony to how strong the cyclonic winds are herethere was a bit of rain with the southerly blow twice a week the cruising sailors are welcome at the Marlin Bar at the resort the next day we did the walk across the island to The Blue Lagoon

going past the airstripthere were tracks in the sand from where a turtle had come ashore overnight, to lay her eggs.

time for a swim Lizard is such an idyllic place on the way back we saw one of the lace monitors (goanna), that gave Cook the idea for a name for the Island    looking up the rock between the cruiser’s anchorage and the resort the cruiser’s anchorage the resort this blog is long enough so I’ll stop here and put the return to Cairns in another blog postFrancis out