Townsville and the Coral Coast North

Townsville and the Coral Coast North

We entered the historic town of Townsville and checked into the marina. Breakwater Marina was such a change from the unpleasant marina experience at Airlie Beach, where we were refused moorage because I did not carry ten million dollars of liability insurance. Not that I would have spent a hundred bucks a night for moorage anyway. As one would expect the Airlie Beach marina is half empty and the Townsville full.

Tracey has a long time friend in Townsville and left the boat to spend the night having a reunion. I met many great folks at the marina and walked along the beautiful water side park to an area full of restaurants. After a great Greek diner I strolled back and saw a sign announcing a fun run the next morning. Making sure I would be ready I stopped by for a huge gelato before I returned to the boat.

When I got to the starting point I realized this was a bit larger event that I had expected. Hundreds of runners, walkers, teams and organizers were at the scene. The race instructions were all but over when I got there and I figured I would certainly not get lost as there would be plenty of runners ahead of me so off I went, with no idea where or how far we were going.

The course started easy enough and I learned it was a 10k, not out of my reach. Then we took a turn up and up and up. We reached a water station and the runners were turning back down hill there, but I was informed that was the 5k turn around and kept up the hill. The race course winds up a steep mountain that overlooks town with a panoramic view. Finally we reach the top and start down the hill. I was still healing from a nasty coral cut on my right foot but that did not seem to hurt going up as I was running on the balls of my feet. It did wreak havoc on the long downhill leg. The race ended and I was number 274 to cross the line, one hour and thirty eight minutes to do a 10k, no Olympic medal awaited me.

The next night I met the Furthur bus family, (see posting) and we had Tracey’s friend Rebekah and the neighbors over for a Furthur party. Good to be entertaining onboard again.

We bid Townsville goodbye and took the short trip to Magnetic Bay on the late morning high tide. We anchored at Horse Shoe Bay amongst many cruising boats and took the tender ashore.

The next morning we headed north in heavy rain and a bit of wind. The swell and dark eastern sky line indicated bad weather off shore so I abandoned the plan of heading to the outer reef. We anchored at a very pleasant state park island and did some great kayak exploration amongst the mangroves; we were entering the rain forest of Northern Queensland.

Rising to cloudy skies yet calm seas we did the short hop to the entrance of the Hinchinbrook Channel. This would be an easy channel to find in clear conditions but the rain made for less than half a mile visibility. No worries, between Nobletec and my radar I found the channel and easily slipped by the long sugar loading wharf and inside the island.

Another world opened up as we entered the remote rainforest bordered on one side by a large hilly island and the other by miles of mangroves. This area is so reminiscent of the Inside Passage to Alaska, just a bit warmer. We saw white Egrets perched on the trees along the shore. We anchored eight miles up the channel behind Haycock Island next to a Dutch yacht. My yearn to see a “Salty” the large –and I mean large—salt water crocodiles so famed in this area prompted a dingy expedition. This is croc territory, miles of mangrove lined river mouths winding along the flat lands, but we did not see any as we motored about.

We ran into a local crabber, setting pots to catch the massive mud crabs, a delicacy in Australia. He was a true Ausie character like you would expect in this remote terrain. “Ya, they are here. Big fella lives in that creek right there.” Tracey asked if he advised kayaking in these waters, she just had to hear it from a local. He gave one of those grins you give a neophyte when you are in your own home turf as he said, “not me, the crocs are twice the size of your kayak.” Her desire to kayak was gone.

He did give us the advice to go out in the late morning low tide as the crocs pull up on the mud to sun. We are planning the jaunt for the morning. After a while he opened up as folks will do if you give them a chance and was a wealth of knowledge about the crocodiles. Seems this is early winter and they are fat and slow as the water temperature has dropped. We think seeing fat slow crocs is a will be just fine.

So excited about seeing a huge relic of the dinosaur age we launched the dinghy and head up the river system armed with binoculars and cameras. We scoured the muddy shore as the sun started to provide croc enticing warmth. But alas, no crocs to be found, we did see a pair of large white dolphins swim about the shallow waters feeding and an assortment of exotic birds.

Our last stop in the inside of Hinchinbrook Island was the Hinchinbrook Marina. This is the area where Cyclone Yasi hit shore causing horrific damage. The once modern marina laid in ruins, docks gone, boats destroyed by the dozen and buildings wiped from the face of the earth. The cleanup had been done but I suspect financial reasons have delayed the rebuilding. I slowly eased Furthur into the well marked entrance channel to discover that the silting had filled in the waterway and it was not passable. A hasty retreat as Tracey commented, “this place gives me the creeps.”

We left the protection of the Hinchinbrook waterway to the north and headed to Cairns, my last Australian port.