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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!