Lizard Island Bound: July 19 2008
It looks like we have been in Port Douglas too long...a bird has made a nest in our bow-sprit. That's okay because the winds have continued to moderate. We tossed the lines from the marina slip on June 30. Although the winds have moderated, the trade winds are still the name of the game. We moved nicely today wing-on-wing to Hope Islands with 20-25 knots of wind. We picked up a National Parks mooring for the night; however, a bit less gracefully than when we had Andy and Jane aboard...extra hands wrestling that giant rope was helpful. This time we lost a pin from the shackle used to attach ourselves to the giant rope...aaagggh...another gift to Neptune. The calm lagoon for our evening stop was lovely...complete with a beach fringed island and loads of birds to watch ashore. We decided to stay on Barefeet and simply watched the birds through the binoculars. The next morning (July 1) after a breakfast of dropped eggs on toast we let loose the mooring ball and followed a larger boat out of the lagoon and through the coral...nice to have a mule. A smooth day of sailing...accompanied periodically by dolphins and a turtle...and we were anchored at Cape Flattery by 4pm. This is a lovely spot and, amazingly, we have the anchorage all to ourselves. Who knew that we would find so much isolated, natural beauty in Australia?! Since leaving Port Douglas we have only rarely glimpsed ANY sign of habitation...not a building or even an antenae. The coastline is spectacularly pristine. Unfortunately, Captain Cook was not able to appreciate the beauty quite as much as we did...Endeavour struck a reef (now bearing its name), was forced inland for 48 days to make repairs (current day Cooktown) and failed several times, further North, at sighting a safe passage out through the great barrier reef. We, however, enjoyed our good fortune at "standing on the shoulders of giants" who paved the way so soundly...leaving charts behind for us to follow.
Another zippy sail and we arrived (July 2) at Lizard Island. This is a beautiful anchorage; turquoise blue waters, sandy beaches, scrubby hillsides scattered with boulders, coral reef snorkeling right off the boat...and NO mosquitoes or sand flies. The entire island is National Parks with one small corner for the Lizard Island Resort (www.lizardisland.com.au). The resort had humble beginnings in the 1970s as a marlin fishing shack but today is a bit exclusive and not welcoming to yachties. However, they do have a bin for trash and we can hang out at the Marlin Bar (aka Staff Bar)...sounds good to us. And perfect for tonight...the third State of Origin Aussie Rugby game. We dinghied over with Paddy and Kevin and settled into seats with a good view of the giant screen for our viewing pleasure...dressed in blue to support Kevin and Paddy's New South Whales' team. We have learned more about this grudge match and better understand why emotions run so high. For starters, the game is played smack in the middle of the Aussie Rugby season (injuries thus affecting the remainder of the season). The Queensland Maroons play the New South Wales Blues three times. The teams are comprised of players from across all Aussie Rugby teams based on where each player was born...get it...state of origin. Voila...grudge match extraordinaire with bragging rights for the rest of the year. The bar filled up and had a clever raffle...not simply a cash prize, no sir...but the couch in the center of the bar raised onto a dais for you and a few of your friends. Great idea! Although we did not win the couch, we had a great night. Unfortunately, it was a wet dinghy ride home...a chorus of four chilly squeals could be heard all the way back before rinsing off and eventually warming up.
It was July 4th and we were the only American boat in the anchorage...hhhmmmm. No worries, off we went to invite over some non-American friends for a backyard barbeque aboard Barefeet. Everyone arrived in a festive mood and was bedecked in red, white and blue...very thoughtful. Chris manned the grill and the afternoon was off and running. Erin made a couple of salads and cuppers...two batches needed so that Chris would not feel deprived of this childhood dessert pleasure. Everyone brought meat to grill and a side, too. After some grillin' and drinking we were all able to encourage Pete to sing for us. He was marvelous...what a voice. The sun was setting and the moment was magic. Everyone stayed until well after dark. It was a good Fourth. Cuppers; mix the following together with fork until blended (batter will be thick) 1/2 cup salted butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon cloves, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract, 1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yoghurt), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spoon thick batter into cupcake papers and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.
Cook's Lookout is one of the highlights of Lizard Island. Bad-Luck-Captain-Cook arrived at the summit "with a mixture of hope and fear proportioned to the importance of our business and the uncertainty of the event." Fortunately, this is where Cook's luck changed and he was finally able to see the outer barrier reef passages. These sightings combined with a survey of the channels by a scouting boat eventually led to Endeavor passing successfully through the reef and beyond...bringing all of the accumulated knowledge of the Pacific back to England. Today, a cleared, fairly vertical track leads to this highest point on the island (358 meters). At the top, the vista amazes with panoramic views to distant reefs. We were filled with awe. The wind was strong (note Erin's horizontal ponytail) but cooling in the heat of the sun. We signed the visitor's book kept inside a plastic box, inside a wooden box (July 5). Wow! We looked for friend's signatures but the visitor's book only goes back one year...not far enough...wonder where the older books are kept?!
July 6 we walked across the island to the Blue Lagoon...sunscreen and a hat were required equipment. The water is crystal clear and innumerable shades of blue. Chris took a stroll almost to his waist along the mangroves at low tide seeing many brightly colored fish. Sundowners were on our Norwegian friend's boat s/v Xanadu (Finn and Tove) where we had a Scandinavian evening. Everyone was very good to us and kept the conversations in English...our only means of participation. July 7 it was off to the Lizard Island Research Station (www.lizardisland.net.au). We learned so much about the coral reefs and their extraordinary diversity of plants and animals...rivaled only by second place rainforests. As a matter of fact, very little is actually known about the coral reefs...for example, the mass coral spawning on the great barrier reef was only discovered (aka observed) in the early 1980s. The Research Station began in 1973 as just a few tents near the beach. Today the Station is a well-equipped facility with three laboratory buildings, a flow-through seawater aquarium system and boating & diving facilities for up to 28 visiting scientists at any one time...mostly focused on the ecology of larval reef fish. We asked loads of questions and had a great morning and afternoon. Sundowners later were aboard Barefeet with Kevin and Paddy (and Simba, of course)...homemade margaritas and pizza.
The wind has cranked up to 30-35 knots and overcast skies have rolled into the anchorage. Every boat seems to be holding well in Watson's Bay...aka..."drag alley" (named due to the bullet winds that funnel between the hills and through the Bay). Cruisers have been staying on boats and below decks but that can only last so long. Cabin fever was remedied with potlucks on the beach and impromptu afternoon visits between boats. One such impromptu afternoon was aboard s/v Ultimate Dream. Chatting and laughing and more guests led to Paddy bringing out some cheese, crackers and olives...calling them...ah, "just a bit of how's your father." This is Aussie for...just a bit of this and that, only ordinary fair...gosh, these Aussie phrases are a kick! Additionally, s/v Kinchega (Pete and Ferne) and s/v Ultimate Dream (Kevin, Paddy and Simba) have great DVD movie collections and we have all been swapping movies. July 11 Pete and Ferne had a mob (literally, a group of kangaroos...like a school of fish...and Aussie for a group of people) over for afternoon drinks, nibbles and song. Pete brought out his guitar and sang Beatles, Clapton, Eagles...you name it...and even a few of his own songs. Pete and Ferne grew up in Broken Hill (the real Australian outback) and used to own a caravan park 300 km from Darwin...great outback stories and lots of tips for us for Darwin. July 12 was especially grey and drizzly so Kevin took Pete and Erin oyster gathering. It was fun, broke up the day and made for a great appetizer for dinner. Erin cleaned the sand and shell bits away; dunked each oyster in whipped egg and lemon juice; rolled them in breadcrumbs; fried them and served the tender morsels alongside a curry mayonnaise dipping sauce...curry aioli if there is a tablecloth on the table, tee, hee, hee. We ate them on Barefeet's back porch as the sun went down...not too bad. (Curry Mayonnaise: 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon curry powder, salt and pepper...modify to own taste).
The anchorage has thinned out but we are still at Lizard Island with our Aussie friends Pete & Ferne and Paddy, Kevin & Simba (July 15). We have had a sausage sizzle on the beach, dinghied to a deserted cove for snorkeling, had sundowners on the beach at the Yacht Club...this is a wonderfully casual place. However, the days keep passing and our Australian visas run out August 26...our deadline to exit Darwin and make the passage to Indonesia. Therefore, we now have our eyes back on the weather looking for a good weather window to keep heading North. Needing a change of scenery Paddy, Ferne and Erin took a walk over to the Research Station for some retail therapy...Erin purchased the Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide and a lizard t-shirt. And it got better...we sheilas (Aussie for girls) had a nice surprise...free bread! It seems the scientists have all left the island but over provisioned before arriving...their excess means extra for the yachties. This is a great treat because there are no facilities on the island...nothing...not even a vending machine. We all provisioned ahead of time but a fresh loaf of bread is always a welcome treat.
This remote island is a favorite stop for most Aussie cruisers as they move along the Australian coast each year following the trade winds...first heading North then returning South. We are a bit early in "the season" and understand that the real excitement is October-ish when there are often more than 50 boats anchored in Watson's Bay...staying for three months or more. This seems a bit like the Australian version of the Americans in Georgetown in the Bahamas. However, no supermarkets. The only provisioning option is barge Emu Bay...the mother supply ship to the prawn trawlers...that calls every two weeks. Orders are placed in Cairns, loaded onto the barge and delivered at the island. The order must be placed one week before the barge leaves making the order cycle a three week process. We will not be here long enough to take advantage of the barge so we stocked up in Port Douglas and are filled to the gills. It is good practice for us for Indonesia after being so close to busy Aussie towns for almost a year...we have been spoiled. And, well, we have found some holes in our inventory and will do better next time...need more eggs, flour, cumin, potatoes and onions...and more cheese...always more cheese.
July 17 there was a short break in the rain...hey, this is supposed to be the dry season?! We wasted no time and immediately headed out to enjoy the day. Erin and Kevin dinghied to Mermaid Cove for some snorkeling and beach combing...darn, no oysters. Chris and Pete did two long dives and saw loads of cool underwater critters including; dozens of razor fish vertically facing the surface and moving in complete unison, yellow boxfish and a black and white patterned beauty that we could not find in Erin's new book...two out of three isn't bad.
July 18 was our last day on Lizard Island because winds have finally become favorable for us to keep heading North. Boy did we go out with a bang! We did the hike to coconut beach with Pete and Ferne by day and sundowners with Paddy & Kevin and Pete & Ferne by night. It was a great 24 hours. The hike to coconut beach is part trail, part bush-whacking and part abseiling...no joke...there is a giant blue rope to scale the vertical boulder face the final 100 feet to the beach. It was a perfect, sunny day...but that rope...yikes! No worries. We all made it and felt quite accomplished as we had drinks and bits at sunset aboard Barefeet. Chris started the evening with fresh squeezed margaritas and tunes...which led to three couples dancing in the cockpit (we love catamarans). It is really going to be hard to part with these guys but depart we did at 4:30am on July 19. The moon was full and helped illuminate the stray bomie as we exited the anchorage of Watson's Bay. Leaving is hard.