On waking the next morning, neither Choppa nor I felt so lucky. Poor Choppa had had a sleepless night, finding his arms covered in itchy bites which had kept him awake all night. I had a few, but had managed to sleep most of the night, so handed over the stingoes for Choppa to see if he could combat the itching. We all agreed that pretty as it was at Goold Island, we would not be returning ashore and so we decided to up anchor and head for Dunk Island.
We motor sailed the short distance to Dunk, passing the very pretty surrounding Family Islands. This part of the coastline has been a real surprise and we are already feeling as though we need to come back and explore more widely. As we rounded the north eastern tip of Dunk and entered the channel in which we would anchor, Pete suddenly slowed the boat right down, saying there were people in the water. Sure enough, three swimmers looked like they were struggling to swim across he channel from Mound Island, over half a kilometre away. Pete shouted to see if they were ok and whether they needed a lift, and they gratefully accepted. We stopped and put out the boarding ladder to get them aboard, then proceeded to anchor. Once at anchor, Pete and Choppa launched the Goon Bag, then Pete drove the three youngsters back to their gear, way up at the north end of the beach.
Despite the appearance of a “delightful sand spit” we were wary of heading ashore as we did not want to be more eaten alive than we were already. However, we agreed that as long as it wasn’t dusk, it would probably be ok. After lunch, we decided to head in and have a look at yet another derelict resort, but we knew there was a functioning cafe that served drinks! As we walked through the pretty camp ground, there were plenty of people about and apparently regular boat pick ups from the mainland. Beyond the camp ground there was an airstrip, then the resort. This was probably in the worst repair of any of the defunct resorts we had seen so far, but when we got to the resort centre area, it looked as though it was in good repair and in use. There was a swimming pool in front, which whilst old fashioned, looked clean and inviting. In fact as we looked around this intriguing area, a guy came and started doing laps in the pool. Pete walked down to the end of the resort and found there was a whole section of buildings which appeared new and again, in use. Later we heard that the resort owner was slowly bringing it back into use, and that the new section and the centre area had been refurbished to allow his kids to get married there.
We headed back along the beach to the cafe, where we had a swim, then saw David and Kate, from Sea Wafer, one of the Maggie yachts. We sat and chatted with them over a few Coronas, and caught up with their trip up to Cairns. They had had some bad weather, but we got some details of places to anchor north of Cairns, that would be ok in very windy weather. Returning to WDS, we had dinner aboard, finishing the tuna, then an early night. It was my turn to have the hideous itching, and I slept not a wink, feeling as though my arms were on fire. Nothing would stop the itching, we tried Stingoes, cortisone cream, spit and eucalyptus oil, but each arm, wrist, ankle and knee started in turn, driving me insane. I realised what Choppa had gone through the previous night and wondered why my itching started a day later. Stangely, neither Pete nor Fran were afflicted at all, though Pete subsequently developed some sort of gastric thing.
Despite a terrible night, we decided we would do some of the walks in the morning, and headed into the beach after coffee. Fran and Chop walked from the beach around the coast, whilst Pete and I did the summit trail, fully covered up and covered in bushman to be certain! It was one of the better paths we have traveled, well used and steady gradient, with not much lose stone or rock. It was a great view from the top, though we couldnt quite see WDS in the fairway. We rendezvoused with Fran and Chop back at the beach cafe, for brunch and a swim, before heading back to the boat to decide what we would do next. With Pete not feeling great, we wondered about staying another night then doing a long run to Fitzroy Island, but in the end we decided we would make the short hop to Kent Island, to reduce the ensuing leg to Fitzroy. We raised anchor after lunch, and set off, with the heady and the motor, and Pete and I taking it in turns to have a snooze.
When we arrived at Kent, we were delighted with the location, but the wind was in the wrong quadrant for the anchorage, being predominantly easterly. We were open to the east, with both wind and swell lively enough for discomfort, and the anchor chain made a terrible racket all night. Easy Rider was also anchored here, and we had last seen them at Percy, where we had eaten goat curry! However, at first light, Easy Rider departed and we followed shortly after. It was disappointing, as this was a very pretty island group, and in the right conditions, it would have been delightful to explore, but after 2 sleepless nights and a slightly under the weather Pete, we felt it was better to continue our progress north. We also had good breeze for sailing, so we set off under main and heady, and soon decided that it was gentle enough to get the assy up.
We cruised along very comfortably at around 8 knots in the lovely sunshine, and the day was marred only by poor Franny taking a tumble off the bean bag into the cockpit. Of course she hit every lump on the way down, and ended up with a huge bruise on the thigh and an equally large bruise on her arm. We got her an ice pack and sat her down with that, and she soon felt ok, but sported some impressive bruises for the next few days. As we cruised up through the Russel and Frankland Island groups, we admired the lovely scenery and wished we had more time to visit. We had no idea there were so many islands in this area, all set off by the backdrop of impressively high mountains on the mainland. We also wished we had visited Mourilyan Harbour, with its very narrow, steep sided entrance, and thought it would have been a much more comfortable night than Kent!
We dropped anchor at Fitzroy Island just before 1500, and were once again astonished at how pretty it was. It is a steep, wooded island, with a deep coral bay at Welcome Bay, where the resort is located. The resort is largely hidden behind the trees and the only evidence of high traffic is the jetty and the number of visitors moorings. All the visitors moorings were taken, so we ended up anchoring in about 15 m of water, to ensure clearance of other vessels. It was a bit busy with other boats and lots of people coming and going on the ferries, but it had a nice feel to it. We decided to wait to go ashore until the morning, when hopefully Pete would feel better. As it was my mums birthday, we had a facetime call with her to wish her a happy birthday, and have a catch up chat.
Pete had woken early and was hard at work by the time we all surfaced, and he decided to spend the morning catching up on work. Fran, Choppa and I headed ashore to explore, check out the restaurant we had booked for the evening to treat ourselves to dinner ahsore, and see what walks there were. We landed near the jetty and were surprised at how steeply the beach shelved. Also what looked like sand from our boat, was actually crushed coral, and shoes were much needed to walk though it! Up close, the resort looked a little tired in places. The main centre was nice, wood, open plan, with a lovely pool, but the bar area and surroundings were somewhat run down. We found the general store and tried to get some milk, as were were on powdered milk by now, but no sign of any fresh milk in the store. We then did the secret garden walk, which took us up a short trail into the rain forest, where the resort noises gradually receded and the bird sounds took over. It was shady, peaceful and beautiful and enough to make you wonder why resorts need to create a standardised, almost sterile, environment of bars, restaurants, accommodation and water sports areas that do not blend in with the natural surroundings. I guess thats just demand.
In the afternoon, I tooled about on the paddle board and in the dinghy, looking at the different beaches while everyone else relaxed or slept on board. We had a quick snorkel over the reef area just fronting the resort, where there were quite a lot of fish, but the coral was quite sad, then we all got ready for our evening out! We showered and put on glad rags, then Goon Bagged into the beach. The tide was high so landing was awkward, but we eventually managed despite getting a little damp. We then walked through to Foxy’s, the bar, and had a couple of drinks while we watched the sun set. Pete stuck to mocktails, as he was still feeling rubbish, but the Grand Prix practice was on the TV screen, so he was very happy to watch that!
Dinner was a buffet, with some good oysters and ok prawns (nowhere near as good as Clares!), so we filled up on those, while Pete avoided seafood and kept to bland stuff. It was enjoyable, just because we didnt have to prepare it or wash up, and we would just head home at the end of the evening, and have a cup of tea! Everyone had a better nights sleep, with almost no itching for Choppa and I, and Pete didnt get feverish for the first time in a few days. We decided that we would head out to the reef the next day, as we knew it was going to be another benign forecast period, and this would be our last chance to see the reef for about 2 weeks.
Saturday – I know it was Saturday because Choppa has been diligently keeping the days of the week as well as the dates in the log! We headed out early, aiming to go through Lugger Passage between Arlington Reef and Upolu Reef. However, as we started our passage through the channel, the depths were very shallow, and with the sun partly obscured by all over high cloud cover, it was not easy to see ahead. We decided to abandon the channel and head back to see if we could find a spot at Green Island. Once again we were thwarted in locating a suitable anchorage, as there were too many bommies and it was too shallow. In desperation, we decided to head back towards Upolu, and see if we could find somewhere near the cay. Despite the poor visibility, we managed to find a path in to a relatively flat area of 5-6 m depth, and found a good sand patch in which to drop the anchor. It was clear enough to see the anchor on the bottom.
Pete and I took the Goon Bag and the new portable depth sounder/fish finder, and went off to see if we could find the cay, which appeared to be submerged, and see what the snorkeling may be like. We found the cay under about a meter of water, and got out and stood on it! It was a weird feeling! We then did a survey around the cay, checking out the various moorings, and seeing where there may be some snorkeling for tomorrow. When we got back to WDS, Fran and Choppa were excited to report having been visited by the Queensland Fisheries, checking that we were not fishing where we shouldnt be! It was a lovely quiet evening, after 2 nights of “civilisation” at Fitzroy, and lovely to have dinner with just the gentle lapping of the waves as music, and diffused moonlight for lighting. We all relaxed enough to have a good sleep, and Pete was almost back to normal in the morning.
With brilliant sunshine back, we all went off to the cay in Goon Bag, and with the tide lower, were able to walk on it a little. We saw a turtle close by, but with mainly sand and sea grass, there was not much other sea life near the cay. A little distance off we found a great series of bommies where we snorkeled, and saw lots of fish and some giant clams. The coral was not as good as Britomart Reef, and the visibility wasnt quite as clear, but we saw some bigger fish, as well as the vast number of pretty small fish. We have all agreed that this is one of the best ways to start the day – heading into crystal clear, turquoise water to cavort with the fish! As we motored slowly back to WDS, the day trip boats had multiplied and there was a veritable crowd of people on the tiny sand cay as well as tons of snorkelers. We were glad to have had an early start, so that we only needed to share the experience with each other.
As I write, we are on our way into Cairns Marlin Marina, where we will be located for the next 2 weeks. Pete, Fran and Chop will make a trip back to Sydney, we will get some repairs done and decide on plans for cyclone season. There should also be time for some land adventures as well as some diving for Pete, this time out on the reef. Stay posted.