18 September 2008

postcard from cape flattery

At last... back where the sun shines! We are anchored at Cape Flattery, at the southern end of the Cape York Peninsula.

We sailed from Cairns a week ago, arriving that evening in Cooktown for a community sail the following day. We took a group of school students and marine scientists out to the reef to undertake water quality monitoring. After last dash provisioning in Cooktown (including an all-important last icecream for a month), we sailed to Cape Bedford, where we anchored for a couple of days, doing sail training. We've had five Hope Vale fellas aboard for the first week, undertaking training with us towards their coxswains certificates. Great bunch of guys (that's them above in celebration mode as we arrive at Flattery).

Bit of a perk for me to sit in on most of the training and beef up my boatiness.

On Tuesday we sailed north to Cape Flattery, where the Hope Vale community will set up camp on the beach over the school holidays. This will be the base for a whole bunch of activities, including digital storytelling (there is a whole media tent with computer editing facilities), a kayaking trip following a traditional dugout canoe route to Lizard Island, music and dance workshops, basket-weaving, spear-making, turtle and dugong research... and of course sailing!

ailing north from Cape Bedford, we had a bumper catch off Low Wooded Isle, a favoured fishing spot of skip's which always provides. Northern bluefin tuna, spotted mackerel and coral trout: five in all. We have since feasted amply on sashimi and barbecued fish, rice and salad.

The only food issues so far have been frostbitten greens and fermenting fruit. Since we are quite remote and catering numbers are a bit 'fluid', I've been swallowing my tongue every time I see space appearing in the fridges! Have
also been helping with meal planning for the community camp – up to 120 people for three weeks with only eskies, a simple woodfire grill and gurramah (underground camp oven) to play with. Luckily there is a cook in charge of the camp kitchen (I had been wondering!) and he used to be a chef in the navy.

Today was our first community sail at Flattery, with the marine scientist involving Hope Vale kids in seagrass monitoring activities. Privileged to have a traditional owner aboard. We are learning lots. Many dugongs sighted, one curling up through the water close by the boat.

Will write more soon - my battery's dying!

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