Welcome to Zenitude’s blog where you can follow us while we travel slow in our Lagoon catamaran. We update this blog frequently when we are cruising to let family and friends know where we are. Check the complete story of our adventures that started in 2006 when Zenitude became our home and cruising our way of life. Graciela and Oscar

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Arriving in Cairns – Bluewater Marina

After spending the night in Russell Island the next morning we were pondering if we should stay for another day. A quick look at the forecast and we decided against it. The day promised to be good but the wind was going to pick up in the evening and make the place very uncomfortable for spending the night.

We made arrangements for a marina in Cairns, left the mooring and motor sailed all the way to Yorkeys Point, where the entrance to Bluewater Marina is located. We were lucky to get a spot in this marina as it seems places for a catamaran at this time of the year in Cairns are at a premium.

We plan to stay at the marina for about a month touring the area while we wait for a family reunion here in early September.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Russell Island – Superb snorkelling while passing by

We left Eddy Reef at 7.00 AM to be able to arrive early at Russell Island with enough time to explore. Instead we should have waited until 10 AM to get good visibility of the various bommies on our way out. We knew the way and the closer bommies to avoid but still it wasn’t the right thing to do. We got away with it but made a mental note not to try that again.

We were hoping to find available the only mooring to suit Zenitude as the place does not look too great for anchoring. We got lucky, nobody there when we arrived. The alternative would have been to keep going a bit farther up and anchor at High Island, which seems like a good place to spend the night with the forecast prediction of a calm night.   

As soon as we hooked the mooring the dinghy went down and off we went for a fantastic snorkel tour. There was almost not current with the low tide slack and we were able to snorkel the south tip of the island as the seas were calm and wind had died. Visibility was outstanding and so was the reef even with the sun hiding behind some clouds. At the moment the sun came out the reef looked even prettier. This was another time when I really missed my underwater camera. Definitely we’ll have to get a new camera when we are in Cairns.   

On the way back from snorkelling we made land on the beach and had a bit of a walk. There is a camping site in the island and the beach is also very beautiful, the sand is covered in many coral pieces that make it hard to walk over.

We could only see two people in the island for the whole time we were there but apparently there is a catamaran that visits frequently bringing lots of tourists to spend a day in the island. I guess we were lucky to have this place to ourselves.  

Russell Island

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Eddy Reef – Zenitude goes exploring

With settled weather on Monday morning we leave Dunk Island in a north easterly direction towards Eddy Reef with the idea to explore the area and choose a suitable place to spend a day or two at anchor. A dive operator on Dunk Island recommended Eddy, saying it was easy, great snorkelling and quite safe to stay. Oscar quickly checked the Marine Parks zoning map to confirm spearfishing is allowed.

There are many reefs in the area so we know we have more than one option to explore, but I have to admit that unlike Oscar, I don’t have the explorer’s mind. Actually I like to have at least one or two waypoints to show the way into a suitable anchorage, one that hopefully many people have tried before. It’s not the case this time, no waypoints, no anchor symbol in any cruising guide, it is an adventure in the reef. 

The next best thing is Google Earth pictures overlayed on the chart. We had looked and overlayed Google Earth on our OpenCPN charts but this isn't as helpful as we like because we couldn’t get good quality pictures. But Oscar has studied the chart and he knows where he wants to go.

We are motoring with no wind and some clouds shadow the waters but three and a half hours and 20 miles later we arrive at our approach waypoint and all clouds have dissipated. At 10.30 in the sunny morning visibility is perfect, we keep going towards shallower waters, the reef ahead is easy to make out and soon the depth goes down to 10 meters and the bottom is clearly visible as well. 

We know timing is the worst possible for the tide, the high tide just went by at 10 AM which means we have to make sure we don’t run aground, a scary scenario when you know there is not going to be more water to float you back until next high tide about 12 hours ahead. The chart shows some sand banks but we never see less than 6 meters under the keel. We are seeing some coral heads, they all seem quite deep.

We are in the area where Oscar would like to anchor and Zenitude slides slowly alongside the reef in calm waters. Ahead we see clear turquoise water indicating there is sand in that bottom which also seems clear of coral bommies. Depth is around 8 meters and Oscar is not quite happy. He keeps going further ahead ever so slowly, while I'm carefully watching the bottom to make sure we don’t run over a coral patch. I get anxious and wish we soon find the right spot, Oscar says patience is the key to find the right place, and a bit further down he finds a very nice sandy area at 6 meters depth. We drop the anchor, patience paid and we have found a nice spot. Now I relax. 

Anchor Point at 17 46.3704 S 146 26.0600 E
We are not alone, there are plenty of little fishing boats all around, some seem no bigger than a dinghy and I realize maybe this is not such a wild adventure after all. Not long after our arrival a sailboat approaches the reef and finds anchorage quite far away from the coral in the sand bank.

We enjoy lunch and then get ready for our snorkeling tours. Visibility is outstanding, the coral is so pretty we call it Octopus Garden, reminding of the Beatles song. Colorful fish all around and we see the biggest clam we had ever seen, it is so big it appears to be a rock at first sight, with coral trees growing out of it, but then you look closer and see the colors and you realize it is indeed a clam, and it is alive. I wonder how old it is. 

I am terrible upset because my underwater camera have just stop working. This is the second Olympus that fail us, this one was just one and a half years old. So there are no pictures of this amazing underwater world this time. 

Oscar checks the anchor, holding is excellent in sand
Zenitude at anchor in Eddy Reef

Another outstanding sunset and our neighbor for the night

Next morning we study the weather. With another settled night ahead we decide to go and check out the Frankland Islands Group.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

In Dunk Island – Sunset Bar, Prawns and a Water Taxi ride

We came to stay for a couple of days and a week later we are still here. It’s a beautiful island and despite the rolliness with the swell that enters the anchorage usually at high tide we decided to stay until a new window opens for a trip to a nearby reef. We got good references on Eddy Reef from the scuba dive operators and would like to stop there on our way to Cairns.  

Dunk Island is part of the Family Group of islands and is located about 2 miles east of Mission Beach in the continent. A water taxi runs frequently and brings people for a day visit or a camping trip, but access is very easy by boat, and some people come on their own little boat or even by canoe. There is a resort that is not operating since damaged by cyclone Yasi (February 2011). Plans to re-open the resort are slowly underway, nobody knows when but nowadays the Sunset Bar is open and operates on weekends offering quite good food to be savoured under the shadows of the palm trees in beautiful Brammo Bay beach.

Having dropped anchor on a Saturday afternoon we soon went ashore and enjoyed a beer while chatting with the bar owner. He was busy preparing what looked like yummy hamburgers and we promised we’ll come back for lunch on Sunday. Next day was weather perfect and the beach bar was crowded. There was live music playing reggae nicely. We ordered the special of the day for lunch, a very well served portion for 2 of prawns with homemade sauce and 2 cold coronas. There might have been about 18 large tiger prawns and we ate them all, what a treat. After that we had a very relaxing time at the beach before heading back on board. 
Next day was a work day for Oscar as he decided to go searching for a fix for our engine oil leak. It was easier than he anticipated. Having taken the water taxi to Mission Beach, rented a car (they came to pick him up at the beach) and went on search of needed spare parts and tools. In Tully he found them together with detailed explanations from very friendly staff. Having finished early he decided to visit Innisfail, a lovely country town where David from Seabreeze had recommended a professional mechanic that gave Oscar excellent advice.
Having finished earlier than expected there was time to visit Woolies for some needed fresh items before taking the water taxi back to Dunk. With the right tool and parts he got right to work that same day and in half an hour the engine was running and no leaks! We couldn’t thank David enough for the invaluable help and hope we’ll see Seabreeze around sometime soon! 
Island Spirit Water Taxi

On the way to Mission Beach

Tuesday came and weather was still perfect. We went around the island with the dinghy and found a nice spot for spearfishing. Oscar went looking for lobsters and I went snorkeling looking for nice and colorful fish, we found neither but the snorkeling was nice anyway in a quiet and amazing surrounding. The bottom was covered by a mix of small coral heads and lots of rocks, just the right bottom for lobsters, so Oscar was happy to stay in the area.
There are a couple of fishermen trawlers that come some days to spend the day at the anchorage setting sail again at 6.00 PM as they fish all night. Thinking of tiger prawns, Oscar took the dinghy and went to have a chat with one of the fishermen, he came back with a bowl full of prawns, extremely fresh and at a very convenient price. 

We had prawns for dinner the next 3 days (chili prawns, Spanish rice with prawns and prawns with cocktail sauce), great dining!
We are now watching the forecast and it seems we can leave Monday morning for a couple of days at the reef. In the meantime we continue enjoying the beautiful surroundings and the amazing sunsets.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

From Orpheus to Dunk Island

We spent two days in Orpheus with nice weather, a bit windy for the long dinghy ride to the James Cook University research centre where the giant clams are located. The tide times didn’t help to motivate us either, the low tide that exposes the giant clams out of the water was quite early in the morning and it wasn’t as low as the Spring tides. We had this amazing experience last year (check this blog entry ) and now we thought we better leave it for next time around, surely on our way back conditions should be better.

As we were happily thinking how good a time and place this was to relax after our hectic last days in Maggie, an alarm going off on the port engine that was running for a little while to charge batteries, ended with our ‘time to enjoy’ mood. It was time to work again. Quick assessment revealed that the new sea water pump installed in Maggie was leaking oil. So, there it was again, we hardly finished fixing the starboard engine for the port engine to get jealous and require Oscar’s full attention. 

Initially the thinking was it would be an easy fix, just a matter of adjusting the bolts and maybe changing the ring. Of course, nothing comes easy when you are in a mooring, in a remote island with no access to shop for parts, obviously one of the bolts was damaged and required replacement, of course we didn’t have a spare of this particular bolt. At that point Oscar was concerned to remove the pump to check the ring, in case another bolt (there are four of them) could get damaged as well. Instead of risking a complete not working pump he designed a temporary ingenuous ‘oil re-cycling’ method to get us to a more suitable place where to have work done. We have several liters of spare oil on board but Oscar thought it would be better to collect the oil and put it back if we needed to use the engine. (He had just changed the oil not so long ago).

Next day, with a forecast of 10-15 SE wind we decided to leave Orpheus and get going north to Dunk Island. Perfect, you would think but it wasn't. What we got was early morning katabatic winds (west), which was good for sailing while lasted but at around 10.00 the wind died with the forecast wind never showing up so we had to resort to motoring the rest of the way.

Oscar’s oil recycling method worked well and we did good time arriving at Dunk Island early afternoon.  Being a Saturday, we found it a bit crowded but with a great atmosphere. As we approached the anchorage we saw another Lagoon, Seabreeze. Later on we went to chat with them, David and Nerida were so nice and helpful. Their home base is Innisfail, not far from here, they assured us we would surely find anything we needed in Innisfail and kindly offer to help. We will definitely contact them on Monday.   In the meantime we are enjoying this beautiful island.


Thursday, 6 August 2015

On the move again, slowly going north

Our target date for leaving came and we were more than ready to leave marina life. Well almost, we planned to leave with the high tide at noon, since we needed to get out from a tight, too close to the rocks berth, so we figured we had the whole morning to do last minute things, like get the mail from the post office, get the list of forgotten items from the supermarket, fill the water tanks, store hose, electric cable, etc. etc. etc. Logically, as we are not early morning starters, it was hectic but right at noon we were ready.

Finally, in a windless day, with the high tide and the help from Kerry (marina manager) and our friend Lynn (Time 2) we released dock lines and Zenitude moved smoothly out of the docks and in no time we were out of Nelly Bay. Sailing happily in a gorgeous day we went around to the northern tip of Magnetic Island and just 8 miles away at 1.30PM we were dropping anchor in Horseshoe Bay. After over two months in a marina it felt wonderful to be free at anchor once again.

With the weather forecast showing SE 15 to 20 winds indefinitely we left very early next morning toward Palm Islands. What we got was SW 10 to 12 knots which were ok for us except the seas were confused and uncomfortable. It was good enough to try our reformed main sail. It did quite well, going at 7 kn in the second reef with the wind at 90. Later on the wind started getting very light and backing to the S so we finished the trip motor sailing in very light winds, not exactly as the forecast prediction, but we arrived at Little Pioneer Bay in Orpheus Island at around 3.00 PM. 

We found the bay empty of boats and all 4 public moorings available for us to choose from. At the moment we are planning to stay here for a couple of days to visit the James Cook University research station and the giant clams’ area again. 

Underway again - Around Maggie

At anchor again - Horseshoe Bay

Enjoying gorgeous sunset again - Little Pioneer Bay