Sure enough though, the weather had turned a bit nasty by the following morning, so we made our way around Cape Grafton, with the odd 30-knot "bullet" to make things interesting. Up the well-marked channel and into the Marlin Marina at Cairns, a short walk to shops and restaurants, past the man-made "beach" which is stinger-and-crocodile free.
We also had a visit from many of the "ARC" cruisers on their round-the-world yacht rally, so there was a very cosmopolitan atmosphere in the harbour with lots of foreign-flagged vessels, Customs and Quarantine people and multiple accents.
We picked up a rental car, did lots of maintenance jobs, trips to Bunnings, a drive through the hinterland, a visit to a crocodile farm, and lots of socialising, eating and drinking. We had some shocking weather, and were quite happy to wait it out in the comfort of this bustling tourist town.
Our friends John & Jo from the catamaran "Kirra Kirra" joined us one evening for a live performance by the musician Harry Manx, which was a bonus.
Nearly three weeks had slipped by before we were finally ready to make the short trip north to Port Douglas, an easy daysail away.
Port Douglas is a contrast to Cairns, in that it doesn't have a Bunnings, for starters. And not much else except for what a holidaymaker might need. So, while there were still a few maintenance tasks to be done, socialising was a priority in P.D. and fair enough, too.
A quick trip up Dickson Inlet in our rubber dinghy to check out the fuel dock became even quicker when we watched a 4 metre crocodile slide from the bank into the water as we approached. Very quick U-turn, and then we ran out of fuel! Fortunately we had our fuel can on board, and after fumbling with oars, fuel caps and pouring spouts, we were outta there.
We also looked up our friends Kathy and John, from Torquay, who manage a resort in Port Douglas. It was great catching up with them, and taking a look at Port Douglas through different eyes. And running into their Geelong guest, Bernie Leen, was another bonus.
I swam on the beach there, too, under the watchful eye of the Lifesavers, who are no doubt trained in croc-spotting.
It was while we were sitting around in Port Douglas that we thought it best to have a serious discussion about what we were doing next. Port Douglas is the most Northerly marina in Queensland, so, after here, we were having to be completely self sufficient. We had vaguely decided that we'd like to sail as far north as Lizard Island and spend a week or two on the anchor there.
A friend in Geelong, a very good sailor, had volunteered to help us sail to Darwin at one point, and we considered that for a couple of days, and decided, yep, we could do the Darwin trip with a capable helper. So, I gave him a call, but he was already booked out for the period.
"Arr, buggar it, let's do it anyway...by ourselves." Mary had actually volunteered!
It was obviously a weak moment, and I don't remember whether there was alcohol involved, but from that moment, we were committed.
Supermarket shopping and provisioning took on a whole new meaning from then on, knowing that the next time we saw a marina would be in Darwin, and after a couple of days I was wondering just what I had let myself in for......