We anchored in Casement Bay, dinghied ashore and had a wander around the township, ate some takeaway food, stocked up a little in the Supermarket, and made our way back to the beach. Where we found our dinghy intact and untouched, and of course the boat untouched when we clambered back onboard.
Whilst ashore, people had pointed out different shops to us and generally we felt welcome and not intimidated at all.
From there, it was on to Fantome Island and an anchorage in the Northern end of Juno Bay, out front of what had once been a leper colony. An interesting place for a walk, and on the eastern side of the spit dividing Orpheus and Fantome Islands, there was an amazing beach with big mounds of bleached coral.
It's interesting that the Queensland Government established the Palm Island Aboriginal Settlement, intended for displaced mainland blackfellas, between a Leper colony and a bombing practice range.
Onwards from there the next day, to a beautiful mooring in Pioneer Bay on Orpheus Island, where we had a relaxed couple of nights and made sure we were more diligent in attaching the dinghy to the stern of the big boat.
The weather started to turn against us a little, and as we were planning an entry into the Hinchinbrook channel, we chose to wait for an extra day or two until the tides were right for a hazard-free passage.
Which we had, with a tail wind and pouring rain as we approached the mighty, brooding heights of Hinchinbrook Island. A fascinating, spooky place that's protected against tourist development, with a spectacular, sheltered channel between the island and the mainland.
We'd been warned about the plagues of mosquitos and sandflies in the creek anchorages, but with the downpour of rain we were experiencing, the bugs stayed away. We nosed up into the mangroves of Gayundah Creek for the night, carefully inspecting the banks for crocodile sign. I made an attempt to catch a fish, imagining that they'd be jumping voluntarily onto the boat to escape the crocs, but no such luck. Even the mud crab net failed to score.
But it was an amazingly calm night's sleep, despite the rain, and we made an early departure in the morning with an awesome sunrise in keeping with the grandeur of Hinchinbrook. Jurassic Park, indeed.
Onwards from the natural grandeur of Hinchinbrook and to the once-was-a-resort on Dunk Island. A great sail in beautiful weather, arriving in the mid afternoon.
Wrecked by the last cyclone, the resort is being slowly rebuilt, but in the meantime, the chef runs a little bar on a sand spit on nice days. Making the quick trip ashore, we were greeted by some happy day-trip customers, and welcomed ashore in fine style. Within minutes we were served up a big platter of freshly caught local prawns and icy cold Coronas. Yum.
Unfortunately the weather deteriorated again the next day, the bar was closed, and we alternated between riding out the chop on the anchor and walking the bush tracks of the island in the rain.
Another day on, and it was off to the shelter of Mourilyn Harbour. We were hit with a nasty squall on the way, but managed to find a wonderfully protected, but shallow anchorage in the river. We slept like zombies in calm, still water.
Now, having sailed the stretch to Dunk Island from Townsville, I would have to say that it compares pretty favourably with the Whitsundays, as a cruising ground, but without the crowds. A big call, but it's a magical stretch of the coast.