The calm weather we’d been enjoying for the past few days on the outer reef was forecast to end, so it was a good time to go and visit Cairns. The city has a beautiful waterfront, with many restaurants, bars and coffee shops, and several nearby attractions. It also is a good place to provision with several stores close to the marina. We came expecting to stay for four nights but had so much fun we weren’t able to tear ourselves away until ten.

Trip highlights from May 6th through May 15th follows. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

Port of Cairns

Entering the Marlin Marina in the Port of Cairns.

We’d only consumed 200 gallons (750 liters) since fueling in Townsville and would have plenty to travel the roughly 1,200 miles to Darwin. But the fuel dock in Cairns was convenient, so we topped off our diesel tanks to allow us to run faster if we needed to.
Water leak

Our bilge pump counter showed that we’d picked up a substantial water leak on the way into Cairns–the pump was cycling every 50 seconds. We have lots of bilge pump capacity, so this doesn’t represent a concern. When we investigated we found the packless shaft seal collar had backed off, relieving belows tension. This allowed water ingress underway, but it didn’t leak at rest. The small stainless shaft collar to the left of the packless shaft seal is a design feature addition we added for exactly this sort of possibility. If for any reason the packless shaft seal backs off, this extra collar prevents large uncontrolled water leaks. Once we’d investigated further, we found the shaft seal collar set screws had backed off. It turned out to be an installation issue where only a single set screw was used. Each hole should have two set screws, where the second is a locking set screw. We replaced the old set screws with new ones, and tightened up and installed the old set screws as locking sets screws.
Marlin Marina

Berthed at the Marlin Marina in the Port of Cairns. Dirona is just beyond the yellow volunteer Coast Guard vessel. Like Townsville, Cairns does not suffer from lack of clear, sunny days.

Cairns has a beautiful walkway the length of its waterfront, with many restaurants, bars and coffee shops along the way.
La Pizza Tratoria

We had an excellent pizza overlooking the mouth of Trinity Inlet with False Cape visible in the distance on the right.

Along the Cairns Esplanade is the 4800sq meter salt water lagoon. The popular pool provides a safe swimming environment free from marine stingers (jellyfish) and crocodiles.

After lunch we walked up to the Cairns Central Shopping Center to do a little shopping.

We noticed a large battery retailer opposite the mall, AAA FNQ Battery Wholesalers, and picked up three type U1 batteries rated at 385 CCA (cold cranking amps). Two would replace our dinghy start and backup battery that were near end of life with 200 and 170 CCA respectively, and the third would be a spare.
Passions of Paradise

The marina seemed a little empty when we arrived, and we assumed it was just the off-season. But around 5pm, all the day-tour boats began returning, and substantially filled the marina. Pictured heading to its slip is Passions of Paradise, that we’d seen at Michaelmas Cay yesterday.

Cairns is a beautiful city, especially at night when the city lights reflect on Trinity Inlet and the trees along the waterfront are lit up from below.

We took a shuttle bus from the marina to ride Skyrail, a 4.7-mile (7.5 km) cableway over the rainforest in World Heritage Listed Barron Gorge National Park. Read more …

Grocery shopping with our folding cart at Woolworths. Provisioning in Cairns is very convenient–we’re all stocked up now for our Kimberley trip and likely will only buy some produce in Darwin as we pass through to refuel.
Prawn Star

We bought some delicious oysters and cooked shrimp for lunch on Dirona from Prawn Star moored at the head of our dock. In the evenings we often see patrons eating dinner on or beside the boat with a Prawn Star-supplied cold beer in hand.

We rented a car to drive up the Daintree National Park early tomorrow morning.

Since we already had the rental car for the planned Daintree National Park trip, we took advantage of our increased mobility to drive up to the Copperlode Dam site. This is the view back to Cairns from partway up.
Lake Morris

Copperlode Dam forms Lake Morris and supplies freshwater for Cairns. We later walked out to the end of this pier for good views of the lake.

Lake Morris Road was narrow and twisty with many blind corners, but that was balanced by beautiful scenery en route and at the top.

From the viewpoint along Lake Morris Road, we could see a cruise ship at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal and stopped by on the way back to check it out. In port was the newly-renovated 592-ft Insignia. One of their more interesting cruises is a 180-day circumnavigation. Our trip is pretty much the other end of the spectrum for time taken.

The day-tour boats arrive back in the late afternoon and some of them disgorge an incredible number of people.

We had sunset drinks on the deck at the excellent Salt House restaurant adjacent to the marina and walked out along the pier to take this photo at dusk.
Ellis Beach

We left Cairns before sunrise this morning on a 95-mile (154 km) drive to Cape Tribulation in Daintree National Park. This is the early morning view at Ellis Beach, about an hour north of Cairns. Read more …

We have a custom Steelhead ES1500 davit with a 16′ reach. We can launch the dinghy single-handed to the stern or either side of the boat, and even beside the boat to the other side of dock.
Challenge Prospect

The oil tanker Challenge Prospect leaving port. We were surprised it only had a single tug escort given the narrowness of the entry channel.
HMAS Childers

On a dinghy tour up Trinity Inlet, we passed the HMAS Childers at the Cairns Navy base. The 186.35 ft (56.8 m) patrol boat can reach speeds of 25 knots and is one of 14 such ships used for fisheries protection, immigration, customs and drug law enforcement operations. An impressive boat–we bet it motivates compliance.

Several boat yards, of varying appearance in quality, are along the waterway here. This one looked fairly well-equipped given the size and quality of the boat they are lifting.
Black Fellow Creek

We worked up to the head of Black Fellow Creek before shallows turned us back. We were hoping we might see a crocodile, but as the water narrowed and we could almost step to shore from the dinghy, the prospect of finding a crocodile went from appealing to worth avoiding.
Smiths Creek

Commercial boat yards and mooring facilities can be found all along Smiths Creek.
Roebuck Bay

The Australia Customs and Border Protection Vessel (ACV) Roebuck Bay was one of three ACV Bay class vessels in the area. These 125 ft (38 m) ships have a range of 1000 miles at 20 knots and carry a 7.62mm general-purpose machine gun. The vessels are used to investigate possible or confirmed incursions into Australian maritime territory and to visit remote or otherwise inaccessible areas within Australia’s offshore territories.

Pleasure craft were moored throughout Smiths Creek and Trinity Inlet. Many appeared to have live-aboards.
Last Mango

Nordhavn 55 Last Mango at Marlin Marina. We last saw this boat in the Pacific Northwest.

Cairns is a popular superyacht destination. Paul Allen’s Octopus was here recently. We seem to be on a very similar course. We saw them in San Francisco, Honolulu and Sydney, and just missed them here.

Spitfire, doing what he does best (and most).
Low tide

The Cairns waterfront is shallow and almost completely drains at low tide.
Photo shoot

A photography crew working on a real-estate advertisement featuring Cairns lifestyle doing some work on Dirona‘s bow with the Cairns skyline behind.

After only two months, the hydraulics heat-exchanger zincs definitely needed changing. These are the only zincs on Dirona that don’t last for beyond 6 months to a year . We’ve never figured out why these are consumed more quickly. We’ve tried both grounding and isolating the heat-exchanger to no effect. It’s not a big hassle–they can be changed in under ten minutes–but its surprising how fast we go through them.
Rudder position

We spent much of the day unsuccessfully trying to get the rudder position from our secondary autopilot to feed into the NMEA 2000 bus. Spitfire spent much of that time crawling over James and into the locker he was working in, and eventually just lay down on his chest. We only need rudder position on the NMEA 2000 bus for display at the aft station–all other stations already show rudder position. One pilot works, one pilot doesn’t. We chased the problem back to the faulty pilot and it appears that it’s not sending the data.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

If your comment doesn't show up right away, send us email and we'll dredge it out of the spam filter.

2 comments on “Cairns
  1. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    I can only envy your pretty tourism photos, but enjoy (and am-educated-by) your troubleshooting stories!

    • Boating will certainly get you lots of both Frank. Boating gives you a chance to see some of the more special places on the planet from a different perspective and take pictures. And, other times, you get to learn humility while chasing complex issues jammed into a place where humans really don’t fit. There is a bit of something for everyone :-).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.