Wet and Wild for a Week!

Island hopping has its ups and downs, but it is always useful. When we first do a reconnaissance trip through new territory, we tend to slowly explore different anchorages and take note of those we’d like to come back to. Here is a chart of our hops since Orpheus Island up to Russell Island, south of Cairns.

North Island

Sometimes you stop at very so-so spots, but other times you find a small gem like North Island. This great little islet with tons of beautiful shells on the beach, a whale breaching nearby, a large reef to snorkel at and lots of birds, was one of those finds. The holding there is apparently poor but there is a public mooring which we used! Not many photos to show as my battery ran out for the one and only trip ashore. But we would easily go back to this island in calm conditions for a snorkel and beach combing. It was however very rock and rolly the night we were there, ahead of a strong wind warning, and we did not hang around for fear of making ourselves seasick in the chaotic swell!

Moored at North Island in reasonably calm conditions
Escaping North Island after a rolly night!

Dunk Island

We escaped early the next day from North Island and had a brisk sail under jib alone to Dunk Island, part of the Family group of islands. We had great hopes for bush walks, Ulysses butterfly sightings and a comfortable anchorage to hide from the blow… did not work out that way!

Sailing to Dunk Island with the Family isles in the distance
Approaching Dunk Island

We anchored in the company of nine other yachts at Brammo Bay, got ashore in the late afternoon for a quick look at the beach and the dilapidated resort. It is sad to see that nothing much has been done to repair the ravage the island suffered during cyclone Yasi in 2011.  Like many of the old resorts, they are frightfully expensive to maintain and repair and the tourist appeal is not what it used to be 20 years ago, so they languish half destroyed.

Anchorage at Brammo Bay
The beach at Brammo Bay
The Spit

We spotted the start of the walking tracks and planned to do the walks over the next few days. But it was not to be. Strong winds, very uncomfortable beam swell and bucketing down with rain, we were boat bound for two days.

Mourilyan Harbour

In the end we decided to move on and get somewhere calmer to hide: at Mourilyan Harbour on August 4.

It was a boisterous sail downwind in 25 knots with gusts up to 40! Here is a slide show to give you an idea of the conditions. Swipe left to move between images.

  • Purdaboi Island
  • The entrance to Mourilyan Harbour

Although it shoals rapidly as we found out, Mourilyan Harbour was totally calm and snug, a much better place to shelter until the bad weather passed. However there is not a lot to do there: you can’t swim unless you like sharing the water with crocodiles, and all there is ashore is a sugar and molasses storage facility. You could fish, but we hid from the rain!

Russell Island

With fairer weather coming, we left Mourilyan Harbour on August 7 bound for Russell Island, which is part of the Frankland group, 50 miles south of Cairns and only 16 miles from the Outer Reef. We would easily come back to this group of islands to spend a little more time. As you can see from this aerial photo, there is plenty to explore on a sunny day. Although it was still drizzling most of the day, we enjoyed the downwind sail and getting ashore to stretch our legs. Anchoring conditions there are described as fair only, however there are three public moorings. We were here mid week and all three were available. It might be a different matter on weekends, being close to the mainland.

Very scenic on a good day!

We were there on a very grey day though, so all we did was a very welcome walk ashore, some beach combing and most importantly we plotted our next move to the Outer Reef!

Arrival at Russell Island
Another lucky find: three public moorings to choose from!
The other side of the island!

Off to the Outer Reef!

Having been boat bound for nearly a week, we are all itching to get back offshore and enjoy a few snorkels before Sue flies back to Sydney from Cairns. Today as we post this, we are off to the Outer Reef. Stay tuned!

18 thoughts on “Wet and Wild for a Week!

  1. Great stuff. The walks at Dunk are very pleasant when you finally manage them. You are continuing to make me jealous – but at least we are expecting 28 degrees here today! Sail safe. xx

    • Nothing much to be jealous about over the last week, given the horrible weather, but the next few days will hopefully be different! We made the most of the conditions at least.

  2. While the wild wet weather was not ideal it would have been a good test of all your leak proofing work. Job done.

    • Hi Ann – no unexpected leaks … there is one more stubborn one in the guests’ hull which we’ll attend to once Sue has left. Everything else is good.

    • Hi Barbara, yes when it is rough it is not a good idea to go down steps … an accident waiting to happen. And given the number of bruises on Sue’s legs, we would not want to be up for ‘elder abuse’ ! 🤪

  3. Hi guys. I’m interested in your strategy when sailing in strong squally conditions. In our S&S 34 we would set for the lulls, and feather in the squalls. I’m not so sure in a cat. Do you reef for the squalls, given that (presumably) even under-rigged, Anui would still be making acceptable speed in the lulls?

    • Hi Pete, yes we reef for the gusts, which means you slow down in the lulls but are not over canvassed when it really blows. Most of the time with TIE once we had 18-20 apparent the first reef was on, two at 22-25. With downwind conditions we did not have the main up and had a few rolls in the jib as the wind freshened. It is not dissimilar with Anui, although she is not as jib driven as Take It Easy was and probably Selah will be, so we use the reefed main and jib more often depending on wind angle. The big difference with your S&S is that you could spill the wind by leaning over in the gusts. The last thing you want to do with a cat is lift a hull. So the rule is reef early, reef deep to be safe on a cat. We don’t lose a lot of speed by doing this, but it is not as hard on the rig and on the crew! Hope this helps.

      • Yes thanks for taking the time to reply. It confirms what I was thinking, for when we start voyaging. We were shaken by the recent tragedy off Newcastle in a boat similar to Selah. We dont know the details, so can only assume they got caught with too much up and burried the bows.

      • Yes, we did not get many details either, but to be out in a gale warning and having too much up is a very bad combination on a cat. Reefing down heavily (down to the 3rd reef, or just with a storm jib) or hiding when it is rough has to be the way to go to avoid disasters.

  4. Really beautiful pictures and story, very inspirational.
    I can imagine how nice it felt to navigate those areas, this is just real enjoyment, I have to buy sailing boat soon 😀 Great post !

  5. How did my favourite Cat Anui go in the rougher stuff? Are you happy with her heavy weather performance? Much bridge-deck slap? Thanks for all the blogs. I’m really enjoying them!!

    • Hiya Craig, she handles it much better than we do and Take It Easy used to. Not much slapping at all, but then we were not in really heavy weather. We are really impressed with her performance in strong as well as very light conditions. Thanks for commenting. It is always great to hear from our followers. 😊

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