End of Great Barrier Reef: Cairns to Lizard Island

Silver Fern, a 72 ft expedition yacht

Time to post some more updates! I hope to write more about last year's Sydney to Hobart, and some more interesting things. But now, to the latest sailing I've done.

As it is clear from the earlier posts, I have a circumnavigation I've almost completed, but not quite. I still have to sail from Australia to Asia and across Indian Ocean. In fact, I want to continue to another circumnavigation - around Cape of Good Hope, to South America, Cape Horn, and then again onto the faraway Pacific islands. My full sailing log can be found here.

For a long time, I've been looking for the opportunity to sail towards Darwin. And as Silver Fern was doing the Australian Circumnavigation, I finally got the chance! I've written about the boat earlier - this was an amazing investment and I am happy I had jumped at the opportunity. Now, there are a total of three beautiful sailing boats in that fleet!

Happy to be on board Silver Fern again! On this boat, I've sailed Southport to Sydney, and Sydney to Hobart 2022.

The owner and skipper is David with whom I've sailed 3 Sydney to Hobarts, 1 Tasman crossing, 1 Brisbane-Hamilton Island race and then some. This time, another skipper was on board parallel to him. The new skipper was Sharon Ferris-Choat, a world ranked sailor who has competed in Olympics, non-stop world circumnavigations and world's most renowned races, breaking and setting several World Sailing Speed Records, and doing some incredible sailing overall - see here. She coaches and teaches sailing, and is an amazing role model. The fact that she will work as skipper on the Ocean Sailing Adventures is an unparallelled opportunity for guests to get professional sailing advice and feedback, while practicing hands on.

David focused on handover of the operations of Silver Fern to start with. About half way through the journey, Sharon took over the role of skipper, and my role was the Chief Mate. Sailing with her was highly developing for me, and I'm really greatful for that privilege.

Sharing a watch with Sharon and snapping photos of her while she's snapping photos of the sunset!

The other boat, Salt Lines, was skippered by Phil who's worked in the Navy, and also done instructing and examining for different sailing certificates. The Chief Mate was Jess, who was in there straight from the Navy. A bit sad that I never got to sail with her - I loved her competence and humor. What I did do was follow her clever and funny blog updates, check out sailing.blog/salt-lines - and of course you can follow David's posts about Silver Fern here.

The two sister boats, photographed from Cook's Lookout at Lizard Island. Silver Fern on the foreground and Salt Lines anchored a bit further away.

The sailing just in itself was great. The conditions were stable all the way through, with tail winds ranging between 15-25 knots, with some gusts over 30 on a squally night and some calmer nights towards the end. The days were hot here in the North of Australia, close to the Equator - anything from 25 to 35 during daytime from the feel of it. Night time, the temperatures would drop to about 23, but the 20 knot breeze had me put on a light jacket towards the end of the night. Otherwise, it's been a shorts and t-shirt kind of sailing. And a lot of sun screen!

Sun going down after a beautiful hot day of sailing

I got a lovely run along the seaside in Cairns begore leaving. We had a nice dinner together with Salt Lines, our sister boat that was sailing the same route.

Snapped some morning photos of the marina in Cairns after the morning run

The next stop would be Lizard Island. Some of the guests had already completed the first leg of the circumnavigation on either Silver Fern or Salt Lines, and knew the ropes a bit. Others were new and had to learn quickly.

Joint military excercises had us encounter all different types of boats along the way

We split into 3 watches, having 3 hours on, 6 hours off during daytime - and 2 hours on, 4 hours off during night time. Sharon, I and a crew named Ken were the watch captains. Ken was doing the whole circumnavigation and was a great asset.

Onwards towards the north!

The coastal sailing along the Great Barrier Reef had us confined into narrow shipping lanes which we shared with cargo ships, fishing boats and a few more sailing yachts. There are a lot of reefs, rocks and shoals to watch out for, so we had to take great care, especially since the route required quite a few gybes around the clock. On the way, we saw dolphins and whales!

Day turning into night again, the misty coastline further and further away.

Lizard Island was an amazing place with beautiful, warm waters. Arriving there, we anchored in a bay where there were a few more boats, and headed for the white beach in Salt Line's RIB. The water was just crystalline, showing off both the sand, the reef, and the blueness of the skies and the sea.

The anchorage off Lizard Island

The beach. Beautiful and absolutely deserted.

We wandered off to Cook's Look, the top of the island where Cpt Cook once went off to in order to look around a see a good route through the reefs. It was an appreciated hike, always great to strech your legs a bit after sailing.

The view from high above

Beautiful turquoise waters inside of the reef. Captain Cook was looking for the deep blue sea, deep enough for Endeavour to sail through.

The water out here is insanely turquoise, and very clear. As we came down from the mountain, back to the stunning white beach, I could not resist going for a nice swim and a snorkel. And I was in for a surprise beyond the surface!

Some of the other crew were snorkelling and encountered sea turtles, under the surface, grazing peacefully on the tiny grass that grows on the white sandy bottom. The turtles were not shy at all, and let you swim with them.

Another photo of the anchorage from the top of the island

A swim away, there was a beatiful coral reef with blue coral, giant clams, and fish of all colors and sizes. I am not too spoiled with such sights, living in Sweden, so I swam around wide-eyed and just enjoyed being in the middle of it.

This was the last bit of the Great Barrier Reef that we would enjoy. Everything north of that was crocodile country. Yes, the waters are infested with salt water crocs, who sometimes even get out offshore. So no more swimming and snorkelling.

Soon, we were to sail off, but Lizard Island will undoubtedly be one on the highlights of the whole trip. I will try to publish Ken's GoPro videos of the turtles on my Instagram account, stay tuned!

Next trip is bringing us from Coral Sea to Torres Strait, and that will be a blog post of its own.

Another amazing sailor - Freya - checking out the beach