We arrived at Lizard Island yesterday (Saturday) morning after a great 23 hour sail from Cairns. The wind was very light for the first hours but then came up and stayed 12-15 knots throughout the night. The Great Barrier Reef, which is really a set of discrete coral reefs, is quite close to the mainland this far north in Australia. As a consequence, the seas are quite calm inside the reef. So calm, that Laura slept in the forward berth while off watch during the night — the first time we had done that since we left the US. The forward berth is the most bouncy and loud place on the boat while underway. The drawback to the proximity of the Great Barrier Reef to the mainland is that we have to sail a zigzag course avoiding numerous reefs. As a matter of safety, we had never sailed among reefs at night, until for the trip to Lizard Island. The Australian nautical charts are spot-on and as long as we kept aware of our position, we knew we would be OK. We sailed right by Endeavor Reef where Captain Cook and his vessel “Endeavor” was almost lost in 1770 soon after he “discovered” Australia for England. It was only by heroic effort that “Endeavor” was freed from the reef and repaired to continue it’s voyage home. If it had not, Australia would likely have become French.
After repairing his vessel at Cape Tribulation, Captain Cook looked for a way out of the Great Barrier Reef and so he sailed to Lizard Island where he could see a high hill/mountain in the distance. By climbing this hill, which provides a sweeping view up and down the reef, Cook found a way out to the open ocean. So today, accompanied by Mike and Lynn of “Wombat of Sydney” we climbed to Cook’s Lookout. It was an arduous 90 minutes climb to the top but the views were spectacular.
Lizard Island is mostly a national park but there is a very expensive (AUD$1100 per night) resort on the island, and a marine research station. It is the most secure anchorage around and is (almost always) crocodile free, so it is a must stop for sail boats heading to Darwin. There are seven boats in the anchorage at Watson’s Bay on the west side of the island. One advantage of having a resort on the island is that there is 3G cellular service. That allows us to connect to the internet using our USB dongle modem. Once we leave Lizard Island there will be no internet access until we arrive at Darwin around July 1.
The trip here from Cairns was easy enough that we still had the energy to set up the dinghy and go to shore and have a hike to the “Blue Lagoon” right after we arrived yesterday. The Blue Lagoon is a reef coral atoll abutting the southwest corner of the island. Not a good place to anchor in most weather, but worth a hike across the island to see.
The resort opens their beach bar to yachties on Friday and Sunday night, so almost everyone at anchor came ashore this evening for drinks and fish and chips at reasonable prices. Tomorrow we will snorkel the nearby reef which contains many giant clams that are each a few feet across and very colorful. We plan to spend a few days more here before moving on. We have about 1200 nautical miles left to sail until we reach Darwin, so we cannot linger for too long.