Our first overnight stop was amongst the coral heads on Hope Island, a beautiful little coral cay, where we blissfully cruised in and dropped anchor after a particularly nice sail from Port. We were warned off by another yachtie, and advised to re-anchor in a different spot to avoid the coral heads. Wise advice and we pulled in closer to the island.
Settling down to a sundown beer, we were soon visited by a boatload of young recreational fishermen who had drastically exceeded their bag limit for the day, and were giving these beautiful big Red-lipped Nannygai away to every boat in the anchorage. We didn't complain, of course, and were grateful for the gift, but still found it a bit disturbing.
We didn't have the right gear to clean the fish as efficiently as we'd like, so wasted a bit of good flesh while roughly chopping off enough fillets for several good meals.
The next day was another cracker of a sailing day, and we arrived into a nice calm anchorage behind Cape Flattery with a full moonrise and a great night's sleep.
And yet another great sail in the morning across to Watson's Bay on Lizard Island....for most sensible people, the northernmost destination of their cruising season. Some dozen or so boats anchored in the bay, and a beautiful bay it is, too.
Many would call it paradise!
On one Strong Wind Warning day, we spent the entire day on board the boat, it being too windy to drive the dinghy to the beach. Late in the afternoon, we were visited by friends I'd met back in Townsville, Rick and Glad from the boat Rumba.
They'd been suffering from cabin fever, too, so arrived on their dinghy with some wine, ready for a chat. Several hours and a few drinks later, with the wind still howling, they decided to head back to their boat......and their dinghy was gone!
The line to our boat had chafed through. It was dark, and the wind was blowing offshore at some 25-30 knots. I ran them back to Rumba in my dinghy, they pulled anchor and headed out to sea in what was a fruitless search for their almost-new, top quality dinghy and motor. It was quite distressing, and as a very experienced sailor and retired professional commercial skipper, Rick was even more disappointed that the accident had happened. Without a dinghy, Rumba's planned trip further north was no longer an option, and Rick and Glad decided that a trip back to Cairns was just what had to be done.
For many sailors, Lizard Island is their Winter home, and they spend a couple of months there, waiting for the SE Tradewinds to calm down a little to make their trip South more comfortable.
For us, it was the jumping off point for our trip north, into much less-travelled waters, and we headed out after less than a week for the remote little overnight anchorage of Howick Island. In what was to become quite normal for us over the next few weeks, it was a boisterous broad reach run with 28 knot gusts, to the lonely shelter of Howick.
And, to remind us that we were now beyond the normal day cruisers path, and a long way from home, we were buzzed by a Customs aircraft. They called us on the radio and quizzed us about who we were, where we were from, and where we were going.
We were heading for the very remote Flinders Group of islands, and after leaving Howick Island in fairly pleasant conditions, and having a good day's sail, were hit again by the 28-knotters later in the afternoon when we arrived and were trying to anchor. We were impressed by the group of islands, with a very powerful sense of place.
We were pleased to see a few other boats there, and were invited for sundowner drinks with a Canadian family we'd met back at Lizard. In the morning, it was time for some long-distance exploring in the dinghy and a visit to see the aboriginal cave paintings on Stanley Island. Amazing stuff.
Back at the anchorage, we chatted to the crew from the boat "Arjuna" who we had also met back in Lizard, the Harman family with their three wonderful young boys, having the experience of a lifetime. We joined them for Sundowner drinks, which was terrific, and being surrounded by clever, polite kids was great.
The next morning, we gave the Harmans a tour of our little Pirate Ship, took on more water and dinghied across for coffee on "Siri".
And from then, we found ourselves embroiled in a little drama. It seems that Ron had found a most upset young girl, alone on the beach. She was an English backpacker who had accepted a crew position on a yacht travelling north from Cairns. The same yacht, as it turned out, whose skipper had pinched the diesel fuel from Lizard Island. And now was pressuring her for both money and services of a more personal nature.
Anyway, she was in quite a bit of strife.
With a little subterfuge, we sneaked her onto our boat during sundowner drinks with Ron and Annie, and abandoning most of her possessions, Londoner Allie joined the crew of "Endurance".
It was a sneaky dawn departure the next day from Flinders Island, with young Allie hidden below decks until we were safely out at sea, and away from the allegedly scumbag skipper of the Cairns-based yacht ....who we were sincerely hoping wouldn't take off in pursuit.
Load the Cannons!