We have been in the Cairns river for a week now and what a week it’s been!
A birthday party, a lovely visit from son Ben, partner Sarah and their friend Bec, a visit to Kuranda bird sanctuary (spectacular birds), the purchase of a wind generator and a new iPhone for me (hurray!), a huge laundry and cleaning catch up, a massive fireworks display, drinks and dinner with new friends and fellow participants in the Indonesia rally and walking, lots of walking.
We all take for granted the ability to jump in the car to get from A to B, to pop out for milk and bread, to pick up family from the airport, to collect weighty shopping e.g. Heavy duty boat batteries etc etc. but when your car is a dinghy it makes life much more difficult as it only takes you places on the water. Which is why last week we walked our feet off!
The walk to Cairns from where we park our dinghy at the Cruising Yacht Squadron is fine – probably takes between three quarters of an hour to an hour – that is unless you stop to wander round and round Bunnings (a hardware superstore) for what seems like an endless time.
He who claims to hate shopping seems to love Bunnings. By the end of a happy hour or two racking up the kilometres I was beginning to feel like a toddler experiencing the terrible twos. I wanted to lie on my back in one of the aisles and bang my feet on the ground while wailing loudly.
Fortunately he who claims to hate shopping managed to distract me with promises of a new mop and rolls of non slip matting (I’m easily diverted) which I got to search for on my own.
We had another walk the following day, our first non cloudy day since we arrived in Cairns. We were looking for a hand held shower and parts thereof.
Each store we went to suggested another store “just two blocks” up the road. Maybe in a car it seems like two blocks but walking the distance took around half an hour each time, mostly through muddy grass. It was hot, I was tired, I was hungry, I was bored, (this is probably sounding familiar to my Mum as this was my catch cry as a three or four year old coming home from nursery in Egypt).
Gentle hints that it might be nice to stop for a cup of tea as it was now 3.30 and we had not had anything to eat or drink since the bowl of muesli that morning, went down like a lead balloon.
He who claims to hate shopping (and eating?) said he felt fresh as a daisy and anyway, we would miss the plumbers shop if we didn’t keep going. Fortunately we found the plumbers shop and oh joy! they had a chair to rest my poor bones in.
At least it is keeping my fitness levels up and I realise that you see so much more when walking!
What of the sailing? I hear you ask. Well we did take Ben, Sarah and Bec out for what the weather forecast promised to be a gentle sail to Fitzroy Island last Saturday.
Once we had headed out of the leads at the mouth of the Cairns River we realised that the wind was stronger than we were expecting and to avoid a nasty bash into the wind we decided to head instead for Green Island on a nice reach.
The weather had other ideas and as we drew nearer to Green Island the winds predicted for the next day (with a strong wind warning) kicked in – 20 – 25 knots gusting to 30 knots and a messy, choppy sea across the beam.
It was too rough to go ashore so after a hasty lunch we turned round and headed back for the calm of the Cairns River.
It wasn’t pleasant on the way back but all our visiting crew were very stoic and Ben was a great help helping Jonathan strap up the dinghy which had developed a drunken lean while hanging from its davits, due to the choppy sea.
As a reward for his good work Ben received not one but two, curly white full frontal waves in quick succession. Hey ho a sailors life for him, not.
Despite the not very pleasant sail, we had a wonderful time at the bird sanctuary and Ben’s birthday dinner.
We were joined at the dinner by Oliver, Jonathan’s nephew and family friend Tilly who is teaching in Innisfail, about an hour’s drive away.
The restaurant at the Cruising Yacht Squadron kindly allowed us to bring our own cake and even put the candles on the cake for us and proudly brought it to the table.
Unfortunately they forgot to light the candles so it lost a little of its impact but once remedied we had the ritual singing and blowing out of candles and enjoyed the chocolate cake!
The trip from Brisbane to Cairns now seems a bit of a dream but there are stand out moments that will always stay in our memories:
Visits from dolphins, amazing sunsets, seeing turtles and flying fish, a beautiful five kilometre walk to the homestead on Middle Percy Island, using our spinnaker for the first time, turning on our water maker to magically make sea water into beautiful clear drinking water, enjoying hot soup from a new thermos flask during night watch – only to find a carry strap and instructions in it the next day, the anchor chain getting stuck because the new chain had tangled (soon sorted out), phoning our family on our new satellite phone for the first time, an exhilarating early morning sail from Middle Percy Island to Brampton Island achieving 9.2 knots in 15 knots of wind, arriving at Brampton Island in the dark and having to reanchor as we ended up too close to other boats, R and R on Hamilton Island, a terrible bumpy night in Nara Inlet, watching the full moon rise as the sun set, wild gusts of wind, sailing through severe rain squalls, approaching Palm Island surrounded by cloud, discovering that with stiff winds behind us it’s more comfortable (and less work) to just have the foresail up, meeting our friends the Hannigans in Mourilyan Harbour, and the list goes on.
All this after just under three weeks of sailing! Can’t wait to see what the next four plus months hold!