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, 25 October 2015

Lizard Island – Magic blowing in the wind

We planned for a long stay in Lizard with the intention of exploring the area around, especially the outer reef which is so close that can be reached in a few hours. We were prepared to spend the windy days in Lizard and the calm days around the reef. The problem was, there were no calm days, it blew and blew constantly, 20 to 25 knots, with the exception of one week when it blew constantly 25 to 30 knots. At the end of our stay the wind started to calm down a bit but then it was time to take that window and head south as we were not prepared for possibly another long wait for the next window.

Nevertheless the island is fantastic, there are lots of places with good snorkeling, great beaches with clear turquoise water, enough tracks for good walks with amazing views and a good social life among the many cruising boats, some of them spending 6 months a year, for years, in this magic island. 

Life in Lizard 

The gatherings at 5.00 PM in Watson Bay

The sunsets at Watson Bay
The giant clams
The outstanding beaches
The walking tracks
The lizards of Lizard

Unfortunately there has been extensive damage in the island and in the reef around by 2 cyclones that hit during the last season within 9 months of each other. We met people that had been diving in the area for years and they all tell the same sad story, a large area of the reef is gone, same as a lot of the fish, the damage to the surrounding reef will take years to recover.

Among these is the famous Cod Hole, the huge friendly potato cods are still there and they still come to check you out, but the numbers have diminished, there is no other fish and a big part of the reef in this diving site is all dead.  In the island, communications have suffered as well and it is now very limited, little internet and no phone coverage except by the facilities kindly provided by the Research Station which is located in the western side of the island.

Lizard Island Research Station

We frequently visited the Research Station and found the people there lovely and very helpful. They have a fantastic library were you can borrow books or read on site about their research. It is the only place on the island were cruisers can get phone and internet coverage. If the wind allows is a 10 minutes’ dinghy ride from Watson Bay, if the wind is blowing more than 20 knots, it is a 45 minutes’ walk each way, along a not so very friendly track.  
Established by the Australian Museum in 1973, the Lizard Island Research Station is dedicated to supporting research into all aspects of the Great Barrier Reef. Very interesting tours of the research station are available, usually on Mondays when there are enough people interested in attending.

The Research Station with a curious lizard visiting

Watson Bay 

The anchorage in Watson Bay is beautiful and very secure even in the strong trade winds. The dinghy access to the beach is quite easy but a lot of care must be taken to anchor well the dinghy at the beach as many have been lost carried away by tides and wind.  The beach is also exceptional for beaching catamarans; we’ve never seen so many catamarans beached in any one place.


Even if we didn’t feel like leaving our secure anchorage in Watson Bay, there was plenty to do and we had a great time with all our visiting friends.

Walking around, in search for the blue lagoon
The Blue Lagoon - Spectacular 

Our first guest was Joan, already a veteran crew after spending some time with us 2 years ago in Noumea. This time was no different as we enjoyed her company immensely. She had the roughest time of all as the wind was blowing 30 kn during her stay. Nevertheless we did the Research Station tour, the Blue Lagoon track and, she was brave enough to snorkel twice at the Clam Garden.

Around with Joan, the clam garden, the wind and the Blue Lagoon

The same flight that loaded Joan to take her back to civilization unloaded our next guests, Cindy and Adrian.  They arrived with a lot of fresh supplies from the market in Cairns, which was very nice as we were already running quite low. They were a very enthusiastic company to the many snorkelling and walking tours. With them Oscar was able to climb Cook’s Look , an arduous climb that I didn’t dare to try. You can see the amazing pictures from this adventure. From this lookout Captain Cook was able to chart a course through the maze of reefs that surrounds this area.

Here is a good description of the trail:

Cooks Look—2.25 km return (2.5 hrs) Grade: very difficult

From Watsons Bay beach, near the camping area a very steep, unformed track leads to the summit (359 m) at Cooks Look. This lookout offers wide-ranging views over the surrounding reefs and island group. The track surface varies from decomposed granite to sloping granite slabs, with rough-hewn steps in some places. This walk is suitable for very fit and experienced walkers only, due to the rough terrain, loose track surface, hot climate, steep slope and difficult access at the start of the track. Extreme care must be taken.

The pictures from the Cooks Look:

Amazing Watson Bay - The clam garden is the reef behind the green catamaran. Zenitude in the middle of the picture. 
The very exclusive resort in Lizard 
Beyond Watson Bay
Adrian, enjoying the view 
Just like Captain Cook, from this top you can spot the reef and the way out to open seas
Back down to sea level, Cindy and Adrian snorkel the Clam Garden reef

Last Week in Lizard

Lastly our dear Irish friends Caroline and Benny arrived to spend three days with us and then have a pampering time at the resort for another couple of days. As always, Oscar managed very well provisioning in Cairns before we left, and feeding the crew was not a problem and everybody was fantastic at rationing water.

Benny and Caroline just arrived
Benny and Caroline - Relaxing times

Benny and Oscar

Attempting the Cod Hole

The time for us to leave Lizard was approaching and we couldn’t believe we were going to go without visiting the Cod Hole. We had also Benny and Caroline on board and wanted to take them snorkelling to the outer reef, so when the wind dropped to 15 knots we decided to give it a try. 

It was unusually calm in Watson Bay and we lifted anchor wondering how it would be out there. Quite soon we found out. Head winds to 20 knots, exactly from the east, the direction we wanted to go. We were crawling and bumping, it was obvious it would take many painful hours to get there and so, in less than an hour we gave up and turned around. Now downwind, it was a smooth and fast sail. On the way back we stopped at beautiful Mermaid Cove, where there are a couple of moorings and spent a lovely and calm day snorkelling and relaxing before heading back to Watson Bay for the night.


Managing Fresh Water 

It’s worth to mention our strategy for managing fresh water. We decided to leave the smaller tank (250 litres) untouched saving water for our trip back to the continent and use only the larger tank (400 litres) while in Lizard. We replenished the tank several times with jerry cans loaded from the fresh water pump in the island. An arduous task with the 280 meters walk over sand to reach the pump, which was great on the way to the pump,  with empty jerry cans, but quite hard on the way back with the heavy load. 

We needed to manage the load with several trips back and forth the dinghy. I should say we had plenty of help, first with Adrian that did a lot of the hard pumping/walking work and other times with the people walking by and taking pity on us by carrying one of the many jerry cans. 

We did not use this water for cooking, as we had in store lots of 20 litres containers for cooking and drinking, but nevertheless we added a bit of chlorine to the water from the pump before pouring it into the tank. They say you can use the water from the pump for drinking if you boil it first. 

Obviously, the strategy, the effort and the help worked as we were never short of fresh water.

Time to Leave

Finally the forecast showed a couple of days of northerlies, as you would expect for that time of the year and we decided to take it to start heading back south. We knew it was going to be an exodus as most of the yachts at anchor were waiting for this window. Everybody that afternoon showed up at the usual 5 PM drinks on the beach with the normal excitement of those getting ready to leave and the melancholic farewells to the many friends we had made during our long stay. Among them were Mark and Shannon from Axis Mundis, friends since last year when we met at Magnetic Island keeping in touch and bumping onto each other all along the way. It was good to spend time with them again.   

Axis Mundi

Quite early the next morning we raised anchor and left Lizard Island behind, it was our most northerly destination so far in Australia. No doubt it was worth the effort to come here, but we also have no doubts this is not a place we'd like to visit again, just too much wind for comfort. On the other hand, as with most sailing plans, you never really know.