Island-hopping our way north

Orpheus was an ancient greek charmer and poet, Hinchinbrook was the 1st Earl of Sandwich, and Dunk was a Lord of the Admiralty. So we were in pretty good company as we continued to island hop our way north.

We really enjoyed Magnetic Island, but with the Indonesian rally start date getting closer, we had to press on. Leaving Maggie, we had one of the most enjoyable sails so far, making 5.4 knots in 4.6 knots of apparent breeze directly downwind (with a little extra push from the current)! Instead of motoring the whole way due to a lack of wind (which we had half expected), we managed to sail “wing and wing” the whole way to Orpheus Island.

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We arrived a bit quicker than expected, so there was time for an arvo snorkel on the island’s fringing reef with my buddy Anita from Xamala. It turned out to be the best snorkelling of the trip so far. Good viz and a fantastic array of marine life: two types of shark (a little blacktip reefy and an epaulette shark), giant clams, nudis, crayfish, angel fish, a juvenile harlequin sweetlip, turtles, and amazing corals.

(for a more comprehensive catalogue of all the cool marine critters etc that we’ve seen on the trip so far, check out the Biology 101 pages)

The conditions were calm but the land breeze generated a rolly fetch that made the anchorage a bit uncomfortable for sleeping, but we stayed an extra day just to snorkel a bit more it was so good! And we went ashore for a bushwalk past an old stone fishing hut up to the hill summit, but lost the track on the way back down and had to bush-bash a bit.

Our next anchorage was another tick off the bucket list: Hinchinbrook Island. It’s imposing presence had been with us since Townsville. (It’s highest peak, Mt Bowen, is the third highest in QLD). We were very lucky with the weather – a weakening of the SE trade winds gave us a window to anchor in Zoe Bay, a long-stretching sandy beach with awesome beachcombing and a spectacular waterfall. It’s one of the stops along the Thorsborne trail, the multi-day walk across Hinchinbrook Island. We walked along part of it to get to the falls, and both agreed to come back to do the whole walk.

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We then sailed up the east coast of the island and anchored at Cape Richards, the northern-most point of the island, and site of an ill-fated resort. It was just us, the turtles, and a spectacular sunrise (I’m running out of superlatives to describe it all).

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We headed around the top end of the island and into the Hinchinbrook Channel. We anchored just outside Port Hinchinbrook, which has silted up terribly and we had an interesting time trying to find a spot to park the dinghy. But a friendly local let us tie off to his dock and we walked into Cardwell for burgers and crab sandwiches.

After lunch, the breeze picked up so we set sail to Dunk Island, the site of yet another cyclone-trashed resort. We walked the 12 km loop around the island, along beaches and through beautiful jungle, but the highlight was probably the secret spot we were shown by our new yachty buddies, Jenn and John (shout out to you guys!). Marked by a solitary coconut tree, you wouldn’t know the foliage hanging down over the little beach hid a large cave gouged out by lots of waves over time. It was really cool.

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Jenn and John took us mackerel fishing on their boat Nyeki, and although we didn’t catch anything, I learnt a few tips which I put to good use the following day as we sailed to Mourilyan Harbour (but more about that in the next post).

And another first for the trip: we had a suprise visit from a whale (but it was during a sail change, so no photos).

We are now headed to Russell Island, then Fitzroy Island, then into Cairns!

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