Monday, May 30, 2011

Lizard Island

Fun times sailing in far north QLD!!
We finally left Cooktown – almost a week after we'd planned to. While filling up with water at the fuel jetty, we met fellow cruisers – all who are also heading to Darwin. The sail up to Cape Flattery was lumpy but fine. No dramas! Check out the video of Anima sailing in 20-25 knots (hopefully will be uploaded here soon). I'm loving the bendy tripod that Rene got me for my b'day! We averaged between 5 and 6 knots with only the headsail out (and it wasn't even furled out fully!). The time passed by quickly as we were both so engrossed in our books, we had to set an alarm to remind ourselves to do a lookout every 10 minutes. There were only a few other boats anchored at Cape Flattery – mostly fishing vessels. Rene fixed the anchor chain rollers which had worked themselves loose at Cooktown (a remnant of Cook's curse?). After a relaxing night and a lazy morning, we headed out to the famous Lizard Island.

Delicious eating while sailing to Lizard Island.
This was another great sail. Rene insisted upon sailing out of Cape Flattery without using the engine and it worked well. The water is deep blue / turquoise out here now. (Sara W, if you are reading this, I would love your assistance in some further varieties of blue for future use... it is your super power!). 
I baked tassajara bread and we feasted on a scrumptious healthy lunch of sprouted green lentils (these are delicious!), home-made yoghurt, salad and fresh bread. We encountered one huge container ship which steamed past at great speed before sailing up to Watson's Bay anchorage on Lizard Island. We can see right to the bottom – the water is deliciously clear.
This place is superb! 
Sundowners on Lizard Island
It reminds me of the Whitsundays for the feeling of relaxation, wonder and ecstasy that it provides. We dove off our dinghy and swam it ashore, revelling in the feeling of being able to swim with abandon again! There are reportedly no crocs out here and stinger season is over so the water is safe to swim in for once! (It may well be the only place we will be able to swim until we reach Indonesia). At five in the arvo, most of the yachties from the other boats anchored here met at the picnic table. We meet a man who is also planning upon entering the sail Indo rally. He said 'I'd rather wear out than rust out'. 

Remains of Mrs Watson's house
Rene is totally engrossed in his novel, 'Girl With The Dragon Tatoo' – a big surprise for him as crime fiction is not a genre he's ever enjoyed previously. He managed to drag himself away from the story to swap around a few of our sheets (for non-sailing people, I mean ropes that control our sails, not bed sheets). We picked up Bob from an aluminium monohull and trekked across the island in search of the research station. Along the way we passed the historic ruins of Mrs Watson's house. Her tale is a tragic. In 1881 she married a beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) fisherman, moved to Lizard Island, had a baby and then was left there alone (with two Chinese servants) for two months while her husband was out fishing for the sea cucumbers. Things turned sour when one of her servants was killed by some Aboriginals – his pigtail gruesomely washing up on a mainland beach weeks later. Mary Watson was forced to flee (with baby and servant) in an iron tank used for boiling the beche-de-mer. The set out to sea, but died of thirst nine days later after having washed up on a small, uninhabited island further north in the Howick group.
The research station is very well set up – we were particularly impressed by their solar panel array. We watched a DVD and poked around for a bit. We had to drag Rene away from the bookshelf of published PhDs. He was reading about how CO2 levels are affecting the oceans. It seems that the lower ph (higher acidity) not only can retard coral development, but even at low levels it can stop little reef fish from finding a suitable home away from predators due to their sense of smell being muddled.
Lizard Island is covered in amazing goannas.
Our first Customs experience: we listen to them calling boats from further south on VHF channel 16. Eventually, they get up as far as Lizard Island. They ask for a boat anchored here to reply. No one else does, so Rene steps up. They just want to know a few details and then they're off, buzzing all the boats along the QLD coast from their plane. Apparently we need to become used to this up here. At least they were polite, but we have heard the stories about them exercising their right to search your home on a 'suspicion' (how the hell did that on get passed?).

Dave, Dale, Cerae and Rene on top of Lizard Island!

We had a list of boat jobs to do whilst here at Lizard Island. Rene dove over the side and plugged up the saltwater inlet hole so that he could pull apart the seacock (think plumbing, land lubbers) to fix it. He plugged it up with an old champagne cork (these things are so useful! We've used one as a plug for the washing up for years now) and discovered that the 'O' ring was damaged in the seacock. He replaced it and butylmastic'd the area and it seems to be working fine again now which is a relief! Our new friends on 'Frecinet' gave us a replacement oar for our dinghy! We cleaned off some green slime that had grown along Ani's waterline and I glued the velcro to our cockpit cushions so they won't slide so much while we're sailing now. I also plotted our course up to Seisia, a small town right on the top western coast of QLD.

Anima is the second boat in on the left.
Today was the best! We visited our new friends on Freeform, Dale and Dave. Then together, the four of us climbed to Cook's lookout. The view was breathtaking. I stopped about a dozen times to take photos – how can the world be so beautiful? The walk was pretty strenuous and well worth it. At the top we added our names to the many who have trekked here before us in the guest book. We gazed out to sea – at the same spot that Cook did 241 years ago. WOW. The clouds had cleared away with the strengthening south-easterlies and we could see the outer reefs and inner reefs. A monument outlined the directions and distances of various worldwide ports. We discovered that Brisbane is 1620 km away and Darwin in 1610 km's. We're just over half way.. to Darwin! Singapore is another 4910 km's away! Hard to believe that we'll be there by the end of the year! 

Rene checking out the distance dial at Cook's lookout.
On our dinghy trip back to the boat, we were talking about what to quickly eat for lunch so that we could go snorkeling, Darryl from 'Frecinet' intercepted us and invited us over for lunch. He'd met some lovely French holiday-makers who were staying at the resort (rumour has it that Prince William and his newly wed Kate were going to have their honeymoon here!) and had ordered twice the lunch they required. They had given it away to 'Frecinet' and we all enjoyed a gourmet lunch of salad, prawns, cold meats and antipasto for free! This island is the best! Ren and I then squirmed into our wetsuits and snorkeled for a couple of hours. I had the best snorkel of my life! We saw so many amazing living corals, fish and, most impressive, gigantic clams almost as large as Rene! Meeting for drinks at sunset here on the beach, we chatted to all manner of different folk. It's amazing, the variety of people that cruising allows us to meet. 
Rene with GIANT clam!

Beautiful coral fields
And so, tomorrow we have to set off further north. We still have a long way to go in the next month!


  1. Wow I'm so glad you enjoyed Lizard Island so much. I hope the rest of the reef country is as good. xx

  2. so lovely to read. What a lovely place. makes me want to visit one day.. luv to you both
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxx JAC