Lizard to Cairns

This is the continuation from my last blog post.   

My cruising philosophy is to get the best weather forecast possible, then come up with an itinerary that maximizes the exploitation of what can be done with the forecast. Working with the forecast, not leaving it to chance.

The blow that had arrived at Lizard a few hours after we did, was abating to 15-20kts from the East. With the forecast for this wind for 3 days, after that little to no wind for a week.

I had been wanting to spend 2 days in Cooktown.

Cooktown is hot, definitely not somewhere I want to be when it is very still.We headed off at first light with the wind 60-90 degrees off the nose. Two reefs in the mainsail and a full genoa. There were some mean rain squalls, with the relative wind touching 30kts. I love my new mainsail, Logic took off like a racehorse biting down on its bit, in the home straight.  It was looking like we would cover the 55miles to Cooktown in time for a counter lunch, so we pushed the sailing. 

Grabbed a berth at the dockand speed walked to town for a countery at the RSL. Only to be fed a meal, that I would have generously rated a 2 out of 10. 

But less than 50mts from Logic was Mathew’s cafe. Mathew does the best fish and chips in the whole world (coral trout for $25ea)

We did the sights, on the walk back to the boat from the RSL.

Cooktown is names after Captain Cook who came in here after, he had holed his boat after hitting a reef 15 miles away    There was a major gold rush inland from Cooktown in the late1800s, with 30 to 40 thousand miners rushing in (including over 10,000 Chinese) seeking their fortune Mathew’s fish and chips were as spectacular as I remembered. Unfortunately, I forget to take a photo, so I had to have his grilled coral trout and mushrooms for breakfast the next day, just to get a photo. Barry and I were on a mission to see all the sights of Cooktown

I’ve ringed all the places we went tothe museum has the anchor and cannon that Cook threw overboard, after his ship (The Endeavor), was taking water and needed lightening.

  My good friend Ellie was getting married at sunset, so we did the walk up Grassy Hill with a flask of G&T to toast the couple, looking down on the Endeavour River, as the sun set  first up the next morning, it was the walk to the Botanical Garden. In the late 1800s, into the early 1900s, during the gold rush days, Cooktown was a significant port on the Australian coast.  Significant enough to gets its own Botanical Garden. With the end of the gold (and probably a few cyclones), Cooktown drifted off into insignificant, resulting in the Botanical Gardens being abandoned. Now Cooktown is a big destination on the Cape York, 4WD winter migration, which probably had a part in the Botanical Gardens being restored.

It was a lovely place to spend an hour wandering around. observing the birds and listening to their calls Next up was a walk to the old cemetery.

along the way, one of the locals, in his car, pulled over and directed up back 200mts, to then show us a cashew tree in fruit. The seed we know is attached to an eatable fruit we arrived at the cemeterythere were a lot of graves for people who died in their mid 20s. in the days before refrigeration, if anyone died on the steamers traversing northern Australia, they were buried in Cooktown and the tombstone added later (this was obviously a seriously wealthy family) the wealthy having very grandiose, ornate tombstones  and this one for a husband and wife, then 2 sons were added. One of which went off to fight in WW1, returning to Cooktown to die a couple of years later. It is a bit hard to read, between the father and mother is “and 5 infants”, which gives some idea of how high the infant mortality rate was.

How totally different Australia was 100 years agothe Chinese had their own cemeterywe walked back to town beside the sleepers from the railway line that linked Cooktown to the Goldfield    after a morning of walking, it was definitely beer o’clock I gave Mathew a bag of yellow fin for him to cook our lunch.

He sashimied some and fried up some thick steaks

precisely as the weather forecast had been telling us for the last week, the forecast for tomorrow was light winds. Time to leave Cooktown.

(in the bottom right of this aerial map is Endeavour Reef, the one Cook hit)

Cairns Reef had been intriguing me evetime I have sailed past. It is a 8 mile long horseshoe sharped reef. Now it was time to do a run down the middle of it and anchor at the end.We found a nice sandy patch at the end and dropped the anchor.

all around us, there were bait fish perpetually jumping out of the water, to get away from something bigger chasing them. Time to do some trolling behind Albert to see if we could catch the bigger fish,  they were big Queenfish, That were getting 2-3 times their body length out of the water trying to throw the lures that sundowners the conditions were so flat it was surreal. This does not happen often up here Next day we moved over to Hope Island at this time of year it is full of Torres Straight Pigeons, who have migrated south, to roost on the Island at night, flying over to feast on rainforest tree fruits on the mainland during the day a prefect spot to load up a flask of G&T to go ashore for sundowners

Barry cooked up some queenie for our dinner these light condition opened up the opportunity to go to anchorages which are usually weather exposed. One of which is Cedar Bay, on the mainland.

Normally I an reticent to have a lee shore anchorage, but the weather forecast was very benign. Plus the holding was very good, after I dug the anchor in harder than I normally do amazing anchorage, backing onto the tropical rainforest, with a pair of sea eagles soaring around and flocks of Torres Straight Pigeon, coming and going.  we could see an accusable pebbly beach, to take Albert over for a swim the next day as we headed out around Rattlesnake Point, we went past a sunken trawler, with just the top of it’s A frame above the water (this is frontier country) this photo sums up the conditions we had for over a week. Not enough wind to bother putting up the sails. The barrier reef prevented any swell getting in from the Coral Sea. next anchorage was a public mooring on Mackay Cayashore for sundowners on the sand all this to ourselves Pizza night The weathers forecast was another 5 days of light northerly winds, so we decided to do a circuit of the public moorings, out from Cairns

motoring the whole way, due to lack of wind

first Norman Reef, then Millin Reef a pod of dolphins swam over to join us

they were as curios of me. as I was of them in 2016, I’d found a way to weave through the bommies to anchor in Flora reef. I felt a need to do it again 7 years later finding a nice sandy patch to drop the anchor  the water was as clear as ginThe light conditions were forecast to end in 2 days, so we headed up to Sudsbury Cay, for our last sundowners on a a sandy cay the wind returned the next day, to remind us that Logic was a sailing boat, not a motor boat, for the sail across to Fitzroy Island,and a beer ashore we did the walk up to the top, the next daylooking our towards Sudsbury Cay and all the memories from the last 4 weeks yes.. its hot up here at this time of the year

looking down at Logic in the anchoragethe weather is turning to crap, time to head back to Cairns The contrast between the weather we had in November/December and the weather I had in July 2022, where it blew 20-30kts from the south, every day, (on my sail from Cairns to Thursday Island), is typical for winds at their respective times of the year.

So if I want to go cruising sailing up here I have to utilize the weather window up until late April/May.

There are a number of offshore reef due east from Cairns, from 110 to 300 miles, which are only accusable in the light summer conditions. So I am starting to look for crew to go out there in February 2024, If you are interested get back to me.

The reefs north of Lizard and Princess Charlotte Bay, would be a good destination for March/April.

Then I have to decide whether to put Logic on the hard, when the trade winds return in May and fly overseas for a few months. or use the trade winds for a sail across the top of Australia, to the Kimberleys, coming back when they abate in October/November. So if your looking for a travel buddy or house guest in winter, please get back to me.