From the Whitsundays we headed north to Cairns. It’s not a long sail – took us 2-3 days, with pretty consistent weather: 10-25 knots of SE or ESE wind, smallish swell. It was a little more roll-y when the swells came from the east, but nothing too terrible and we all felt good most of the time. We passed quite a few tankers, which was always a spectacle. If we were ever concerned about our courses crossing we’d call them on the radio to confirm they were aware of us. They usually answered immediately and confirmed a port-to-port crossing.
We caught 2 more tuna, which was awesome! I still can’t work out exactly what type of tuna they were – but either skipjack or tuna mackerel. Not the deluxe tuna, but still really good fresh – especially in a Thai curry or fried rice. The boys have been learning all about fish in their “Sea Creatures” schooling topic, so it’s been great to actually see the gills, lateral line, swim bladder, fins etc up close. Rob is more than happy to act as fish-disecter.
We wanted to anchor in Cairns during daylight hours, so stopped over at nearby Fitzroy Island the night before. It’s a really pretty lush island, with a little resort on it, which meant we could go ashore for a cold beer and chips! We wanted to go for a walk too, but it was high tide and much of the beach was under water, or covered in rough coral.
Cairns was an hour or two away from Fitzroy, and we had an easy sail into the river. We decided to anchor further down the river, as it was closer to the industrial area of Cairns (and hence easier to get boat parts). We needed to get the UV-protector on our genoa resewn, as well as have the zip replaced on the mainsail cover. We passed a huge American warship moored along the river – complete with 11 helicopters on board and a 24-hour Australian police guard boat.
We dinghied in to the Cairns Sailing Yacht Squadron – which is a really cute little marina on an offshoot of the main river. It has a big lawn area, and the boys were thrilled to find some other kids there. They ended up having a 3-a-side soccer match, while Marco and I had a drink on the lawns, lovely!
The sailmaker was actually based in the town of Cairns, so the next day we moved and anchored opposite the Marlin Marina. There’s a real buzz there – so many boats taking people out to the reef every day, come rain or shine. We found a cool Prawn Star restaurant-boat that served fresh prawns and cold beer, and had a really enjoyable meal there, followed by a wander through the town, which was bustling, even on a Thursday night! The boys (big and small) amused themselves by trying to climb up lamp-posts and palm-trees. Paul was undoubtedly the expert – his Maldives experience obviously paying off.
Unfortunately it rained every day we spent in Cairns. It wasn’t cold, just wet – but that didn’t stop the boys and I exploring the town. I really like Cairns – I was here in 1995 and loved it, and really enjoyed it again this time. It’s got a relaxed tropical vibe to it, is buzzing with people but without feeling crowded. It’s also pretty multicultural – lots of foreigners, and also local Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The town itself is cleverly set out, and has lots of trees and artistic meeting places – like mosaic benches, Aboriginal artworks and buskers. There is also a big swimming pool/tidal pool just off the river, and pedestrian walkways branch off from here.
I took the boys to the ZoomDome, which is a rather bizarre animal shelter cum rope access playground in a glass dome on top of a casino! I wasn’t really interested in the rope access part (although the boys were – but really expensive), but was interested in showing them the local animals. We saw koalas, lots of birds, pademelons, snakes, lizards, and the highlight … a 4m long saltwater crocodile! We watched them feeding “Goliath” – and it just reminded us why we have to be really careful in the northern Queensland waters!
My favourite part of Cairns was undoubtedly the sensational Rusty’s Market. It’s a sprawling maze of colours, all the fresh fruit and vegetables you can think of, a real feast for the senses! I felt like a kid in a sweet factory, and was really taken with the huge array of Asian greens. We were limited only by carrying capacity – and I must confess I made the boys lug heavy backpacks and packets all the way back to the boat (2kms or so).
Marco, Rob and Paul were busy with boat-chores. We had issues with our watermaker – it seems they supplied us with an undersized pump, so it battles to force the water through the membranes. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a consistent answer regarding the right pump for our set-up, so we’ll probably change our filters and try various pumps that we have on board. The sails were repaired quickly, which was great. We also cleaned the bilges (always fun), wiped down the boat surfaces – they were getting rather sticky and salty, and took a massive load of washing to the laundry.
Marco did take some time out to watch Despicable Me 3 with the boys. He, Josh and Paul also went to church on Sunday night, and ended up meeting some interesting people and enjoying some delicious soup and bread.
Overall – a great 5 days in a great town!