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Around the World with Captain Mercer: Cairns

Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012:

We arrived in Cairns at 8 a.m. at the cruise terminal. The long entrance channel is tide restricted, vessels such as ours can only enter at certain states of tide and we were fortunate that an 0600 pilot, a reasonably civilised hour, was suitable for us. Even so, we have to transit the channel slowly, as the depth under the keel is only just over 2 metres, that ‘squat’ that I have previously talked about having its effect once again.

The city itself is surrounded by mountains, which slope down to a valley in which Cairns lies. As with most places where human habitation has developed, Cairns lies on a river and it is the estuary (and river) that we transit.

The mountains are cloaked in a mist of rain, with darker clouds looming above and a drizzle, with occasional heavier showers continue throughout our stay.

I took some time off and joined one of our tours, the Great Barrier reef experience, which involved boarding a high-speed catamaran and then sailing to Sudbury reef, about 40 miles to the south-east of Cairns.

Here, I was surprised to find, (as I hadn’t read the shore-excursion blurb), a massive floating pontoon, fully equipped with benches, changing rooms and food hall; not to mention snorkel and scuba gear, glass-bottom and semi-submersible boats and even an additional pontoon on which a helicopter can (and did), land.

What followed was the most unbelievable experience and one which will remain with me always. In crystal-clear water, varying in depth from a few feet to 30, I swam with fish of every shape and size, multitudes of them; coral of varying descriptions and colours were in abundance and I spent some 10 minutes swimming over and alongside a beautiful turtle. The boats provided equally wondrous sights, apart from the thousands of fish, we spotted ‘whaler’ and ‘white-tipped’ sharks, slowly cruising the deeper depths (and well away from us, thank you very much :-)).

Despite the rain in Cairns, here, on the reef, the weather was gloriously sunny, the water a sapphire blue, an experience of a lifetime and all the guests on board were one of the same mind.

Back to the Amsterdam and catch up on the emails before grabbing a sleep; due to those tide restrictions, we have to sail at 3:30 a.m., an uncivilised hour this time.

1 Comment
  • Bill Hobart

    Thank you Captain,

    I enjoy your blog.

    Your comment today of your sailing time cleared up the reason for the early sailing that I had noted on some of the blogs of your trip.

    Best regards,

    Bill Hobart

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