It was so nice to be back in a marina after such a long time at sea. Port Douglas has been one of our favourite places to visit over the years and caters well for tourists. Four Mile Beach in the photo above, is at the front of the town and has a permanently anchored stinger net for swimming all year round.
After a few days rest we thought we would hire a car to pop up to the Daintree for the day, but were blown away by how much it would cost. Peter joked with the attendant about not wanting to buy the car (no sense of humour there), and I think that set off the idea.
Two days later we were on a bus to Cairns to pick up a little second-hand car that he had bought online. Our little, red car is roadworthy and has air-conditioning; what more do you need? So now we will see the Queensland coast from the sea and the land as we leap frog the boat and car down the coast (we need to eventually be down at the Gold Coast to get some work done on the Big Girl).
We took the new-to-us car for a run up to the Daintree Discovery Centre. Both Peter and I had a giggle as we were crossing the Daintree River on the car ferry. Thirty years ago, when we worked at a mine in North Queensland, my parents came to visit and we did a road trip to the Daintree. We went fishing one day, with Peter and I in our flat bottom punt and my parents in a hire tinny. Unfortunately, my Dad was not very boat savvy (that whole living in a desert thing) and when he started the outboard he had the prop turned the wrong way around. We both have a vivid memory of the little tinnie spinning in circles, with the ferry closing in, all in front of a crowd of Japanese tourists taking photos of these crazy Australians. Nothing quite as exciting on this ferry crossing.
The Daintree Rainforest refers to an area of 1200square kilometers (460 sq miles) in northern Queensland and is the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforest in the world. It is made up of National Park, State Forest and privately owned land. This 0.12% of Australia’s landmass is home to 30% of Australia’s frogs, reptiles and marsupials, 90% of the bats and butterflies and 7% of the bird species. If you are visiting this truly magnificent area, definitely pack the insect repellant, as there are also over 12 000 species of insects that call the Daintree home.
The Daintree Discovery Centre was being built when we were here last in 1989, so we never got to see it. I absolutely recommend it, especially if you are not up to traipsing through the rainforest yourself. They have developed a number of walks at various levels of the forest and all are very informative and well maintained. I especially loved the Megafauna area (not all paleontology is about Dinosaurs).
It is a model of a Diprotodon that lived during the Pleistocene epoch (I’m 44 000 years too late to see one in real life and they had been around since 1.6M years ago). Adults could be rhino sized, weighing in at 3 tonnes. Even if they were vegetarians, that is a lot of beastie.
Fans aren’t just for attempting to keep cool up here, but work well as backgrounds for photos. This rather intimidating beastie is the whiplike flagellum (up to 3 m long) of what is commonly known as ‘Wait A While’ or ‘Lawyer Cane’. Calamus Australus is a climbing palm very common up here and not very friendly [It took me a while to work out that the extremely similar Calamus Muelleri is not the same plant, but one that grows in southern Queensland and northern NSW – I love a good research rabbit hole]. Peter was very familiar with it from his army days. If you do go traipsing through the Daintree, this is a really good reason to stick to the cleared paths. This stuff will hook onto clothes, skin, backpacks etc. when you bump into it in passing and then give you a really big, and often times painful pull when it reaches full stretch. Apparently, it is related to the rattan palms – now that would make for an interesting piece of furniture!
We had some lunch and then went for the high walk to see if there was any air up there.
There was a slight breeze, but there was also the hot sun beating down – you can’t win.
Nigel Goes Overboard
Later that week we received a phone call from our marina friends in Darwin to let us know that another friend had gone overboard while taking his little sail boat around the Wessel Islands in the Territory. This is not a good thing to hear especially as he is a solo sailor. It ended up being a good news story though. So much so that his story has been published by a number of magazines as an example of how doing the right thing when boating really makes a difference to how a story can end. We phoned Nige in hospital in Gove to ask facetiously if Stinky (his ship cat) had a pass for Groote Island; we were all watching his boat tracking south into the Gulf of Carpentaria with Stinky on board. Nige had been thrown overboard in rough weather, but was clipped onto a jackline. He had to cut himself off though, as he couldn’t pull himself back on board and the boat was pulling him along and trying to drown him. He had a PLB (personal locator beacon – little EPIRB) on his life jacket but as he said, floating in the wide ocean, hoping that the little yellow beacon had worked and trying to not think about the crocs, sharks and Irukandji (little jellyfish that can kill you) was quite a feat of mind-over-circumstance. Eight hours later the coast guard did arrive and were very proud of themselves managing to drop a life raft within 2m of Nige. His boat was towed back to Gove a few days later; a bit the worse for wear with a very, very annoyed cat on board. The moral of this story is that Nige did everything right; he was wearing a life jacket, was connected to his jackline, had a knife to cut the line, had a functioning EPIRB on his lifejacket, the boat had a functioning AIS beacon and he kept himself calm. [Tradeaboat magazine, issue 537, pg15 for the full story].
Peter and I did a bit of a review of our man-overboard preparedness the week after hearing this story. We aren’t solo travellers and so have chosen to have our life jackets fitted with a MOB1 beacon, which talks to the boat via VHF rather than satellites; the reasoning is that our best bet for being rescued is by the other person on the boat. But I’m still working out how I would physically get Peter back on board if he were injured, in anything other than flat seas. Even when we are just diving off the back of the boat, it is amazing how much movement there is to negotiate when trying to haul yourself back onto the swim platform. Best if we just don’t fall overboard.
Here comes the rain. Our River snorkeling excursion was cancelled as there was 200mm of rain predicted for the hills around Port Douglas; we’ll just have to re-book when we come back up North. For now though, we need to get the boat to Cairns and tied up in the relative safety of a cyclone rated marina while we go back to WA to visit family.
I don’t have an EPIRB/MOB1/Please-help-me-thingy attached to my life jacket! Or my collar! I don’t even wear a collar when we are out and about! Before we left Perth, Mum put me in the swimming pool to see how well I could swim. Not terribly well it turns out (you try getting to my age and swimming with arthritic hips). Mum worked out that if I fell overboard, I would have sunk by the time they had turned the boat around to come and get me. Stinky’s story brought back a rather unpleasant conversation I had with Mum about what this would mean for me; I am feeling a little fragile at the moment.
Peter is gradually replacing the press-studs around the pilot house windows as they corrode off (a case of using the wrong metal for the studs in a salty environment and not seating them in a silastic type compound). The studs are for attaching the sun shades over the windows when we aren’t moving.
The BBQ has been working intermittently for a wee while. Peter found that the fitting for the plug on the electric bbq has become loose and fixed the problem with a pair of pliers.
One of the depth sounders isn’t talking to the screens. Speaking with Greg in Darwin, it seems it might be a software issue, so we’ll add that to the list of jobs for when we get the Gold Coast for a bit of a refit.
Port Douglas Marina; This is a busy marina, so don’t expect to be able to sleep-in without ear plugs. There are cafés and restaurants, bar and tourist shops in the marina complex and the marina ablution facilities are clean, easy to access and secure. The main street of town is only a short walk away and there is everything there that you would expect a tourist town to have. [Cruising the Coral Coast, A Lucas, 2014, pg254] [Queensland BoM Coastal Forecast Area = Cooktown to Cardwell] [Chart AUS 831]