L O G B O O K - by John Philp


We’ve just spent five days in Townsville at the Breakwater Marina visiting with a childhood friend of Tony’s and using the time to send the hydraulic boom vang down to Sydney by courier to have a part replaced; as well as a few other minor adjustments; and to take water and fuel onboard. Our Iridium satellite phone has worked very well on the trip and comes in extra handy at this time. The boom vang packs up a day out of Townsville and while we were still at sea we were in touch with the manufacturer immediately. He needed the entire unit sent down to him in Sydney. A courier is arranged to meet the yacht as soon as it enters the marina.

The yacht is in almost mint condition after the refit and we have visitors each day admiring the boat. The Townsville Bulletin ran a story on our trip while we were there. On the front page of the same paper was a story about an Australian man being attacked by a 4m crocodile. He and three friends were paddling up the coast towards Thursday Island. They had stopped at a sand island surrounded by coral reef - this being the best place to avoid crocodiles. The man was just about to get into his kayak when he was attacked. He managed to poke it in one eye with his thumb and one of his friends jumped on it’s back and began punching it about the head until it let go. This was cause for much discussion aboard the boat. Partly in fun but with a hint of seriousness. My comment was that this was a one in a million occurrence. But then we thought hmnn... aren’t croc’s supposed to hang around mangroves and estuaries only? The men took the correct precaution by stopping at a coral island seven miles off the mainland. In winter crocodiles shut down and don’t normally feed, they also rarely leave the water as it’s warmer than being out. We began to think that the chances of an attack happening were greater than we thought.

It was a standing joke with myself and the staff of the marina. Each day I’d go windsurfing off the main beach and on the way past I’d sing out, “Howyagoin mate? See any croc’s today?”. They’d laugh of course... stupid Fijians...

Whilst in Townsville we visited with a travel agent friend who’d lived in Fiji some years back. She told the story of a nice man whom she’d sold a Fiji airplane ticket to. He’d recently adopted a young Fiji Islander kid. She thought he had a big heart this gentleman. Said he lived across the road from her. A chap by the name of Mark Mutch. Yes... the same Mark Mutch.

Townsville to Fitzroy Island. Saturday 21 August. The last of the crew staggered aboard at 4.30am from the local Irish Pub. At 5.30am we were under way in the dark. Before long the tradewinds were blowing hard again and we sailed all day.

That evening we watched a couple of enormous Hump Back whales on the horizon through binoculars - they were identifiable by the gigantic masses of water they threw each time they jumped part way out of the water and landed. Our guide book says they come up for the winter from Antarctica to calf. It was amazing to watch - though they were a couple of miles away they seemed to dominate us. What fascinating prehistoric creatures!

We arrive 11.30pm that evening. The timing was good. We planned to be at anchor before midnite as the GPS (Global Positioning System) was initiating a Y2K software upgrade at this time and parts of it were being shut down and reloaded. There was a chance there could be glitches in the system.

Sunday morning 22/8 we wake up to the sound of waves lapping the hull at Fitzroy Island. Fitzroy is very pleasant. There is deep water right up to a clean sandy beach. We notice a dozen yachts anchored closer to shore. We go ashore and climb up the track to the old lighthouse. I swim ashore, in spite of our jokes about blood thirsty crocodiles. The water is very cold!

That night at 10.30pm we resume our journey, sailing through the night in order to make it to Lizard Island by nightfall the next day.

The next afternoon Monday 23/8 - the tradewinds are blowing harder now and we are doing a good rate of knots. At one point we manage to reach 11.6 knots with only three sails up (we can hold five). It’s a beautiful day. A little lunch, a little Bob Marley... we’re all happy campers.

It is impossible to sail the East coast of Australia and not notice the influence of Captain James Cook. Most major islands and landmarks on the mainland it seems were named by him. Yesterday morning we pass Endeavour Reef which was where Cook almost lost his ship of the same name. Historians generally agree that had the ship gone down here with all hands we might all be speaking French now! Happily for Cook the boat made it off the reef and he sailed up to what is now Cooktown to make repairs.

That afternoon we sail into the bay at Lizard Island (named by Capt Cook - who else?). Lizard is a stunning island of high peaks and white sandy beaches. Cook climbed it’s highest point (1,200 feet) 229 years ago looking North for a way out of the maize of reefs and islands that confronted him. Lizard is part of the Barrier Reef National Park and allows campers on permit, but also boasts a small resort on one of it’s beaches. We make the long climb to the peak and are rewarded by a breathtaking 360 degree view. There are over twenty yachts at anchor in the turquoise coloured water below.

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