Poor Nik, who suffered through a nasty toothache and three days of Strong Wind Warnings, only managed to get out for one quick daysail and a Lunch Anchor off Daydream Island.
C'est La Vie! (Of course, the wind started backing off again as soon as she left!)
Our next visitor was Peter Hodgart, also from Torquay, but with more of a mind for fishing than sailing. So of course he had a couple of classic sailing days that Nikki would've loved! After we'd been shopping for fishing gear in Airlie Beach, we were off on the run to Townsville, stopping for overnight anchorages at Gloucester Passage, Bowen, Cape Upstart, Cape Bowling Green and Magnetic Island.
Our first strike from the new trolled line was coming into Gloucester Passage, under full sail and ripping along at nearly 8 knots. Sorry Hodg, stopping the boat wasn't an option and that big Tuna lived to swim another day.
The Crab Pot did the job for us at Bowen, proving that 79cent tins of cat food make excellent bait for Muddies.
But Hodg's fishing skills paid off too, and it didn't take long for a fine Spanish Mackerel to flop aboard, and tasty he was, too.
As we headed further North, the wind started to decline and it was a gentle plod along under motor after Cape Upstart.
Even the sound of the whale crashing back into the water was spectacular.
We couldnt help but be nervous. If the whale breached near the boat and flopped in the wrong direction, we'd all be squashed.
There were lots of other dorsal fins hanging around the whale pod, which could've been dolphins, but seemed too black and too large. Possibly female Orcas or even Pilot Whales. Any zoologists out there with a hint for us?
There's still a lot of shipping traffic inside the Reef, and the coal export ports are huge, but we've been assured that this is "natural" gunk that recurs every few years, and not a result of commercial activity. That's what we've been told, anyway!
Sorry Hodg, no fishin'!
(But we did sneak the crab pot out the back of the boat, and stressed all night about being raided by Fisheries officials. I hope they're not reading this......)
So we were surprised to be surrounded by a dozen recreational fishing boats in the morning happily flaunting the rules (I found out later that it's a famous barramundi hole) but the crab pot was empty. Sorry Hodg!
And finally, with a nice stiff breeze helping us across the broad Cleveland Bay, we pulled into the luxurious Nelly Bay Marina on Magnetic Island, which adjoins the plush Peppers Resort.
We rented a scruffy little car for a day and explored the island, and swam on a pristine little beach with water just a bit chillier than expected.
Some really beautiful little bays, but unfortunately that grungy slime that we'd been sailing through for a few days had found its way to most of the developed tourist beaches. Even the foreign backpackers were grizzling!
A lively city that's host to both a substantial military base as well as servicing the mining industry, Townsville is also the centre of the "Dry Tropics". And Townsville's Yacht Club, tucked up into the Ross Creek, is supposedly "the most secure cyclone bolt-hole on the entire Queensland coast".
So, after another day in a rental car with Hodg, checking out this interesting tropical city, we farewelled our fisherman friend and set about the job of preparing the boat for a Wet Season layover.
We've had consistent Northerlies since arriving here, and while it's probably a bit early to pack it in for the season, we just don't feel like punching northwards when we're tucked in somewhere as allegedly secure as Townsville Yacht Club. Which, by the way, is smack in the centre of the pub and restaurant zone, and has a pretty fair bar and restaurant, too.
The inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard's remaining uninflated though I'm afraid. We've been in and out of the Creek three times so far, and on two of those occasions I've seen a big Bull Shark at the entrance. At first I thought it was a friendly dolphin......and oh, did I mention the crocodiles? And the Irikundjis?
And we've been missing the Kids and Grandkids immensely, as well as my beloved Torquay waves, so we'll see what happens after a few weeks of being back home again. A house! And a car! And even a dog!
It's been nine months living on the boat so far, and God knows how many sea miles under the keel.
And after the Wet Season?
We're poised for the North.
Any volunteers for a long-haul crew bunk in April?