Loping Lazily to Lizard Island

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Tue 21 Jun 2011 07:41
Position Report - 14:39.637S  145:27.099E

There were two compelling reasons to sail toward Lizard Island which lies inside the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.

The first was the opportunity to pass by Nymph Island on Peregrina.First mate Margie had left Peregrina to return to the United States to see our children while my friend Tom and I sailed the boat about 1400 miles to Darwin.  Just ask yourself, what boat, with two males aboard, would NOT want to sail to Nymph Island.   When  we arrived it was amazing….[Further text has been deleted by the Nautical Board of Censors]

The second reason to visit Lizard Island was that royal marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton had just occurred.  The Australian press was abuzz that Lizard Island was, potentially, the honeymoon destination.  Naturally we wanted to be there and “party on” with the Royals.

We anchored Peregrina in a beautiful bay seen in the picture below. Peregrina is the tiny speck on the right side of the picture.

Actually, the most compelling reason we wanted to visit Lizard Island has to do with Captain Cook.  The island is famous because of ‘Captain Cooks Lookout.’

The year was 1770 and Captain Cook, who is sometimes called the World’s Greatest Explorer, was essentially lost. He had sailed inside the Great Barrier Reef and was trying to get out again. He wrote in his log that he was “altogether at a loss which way to steer.”  [Please note that Peter never got “lost” and always knew where to steer inside the Great Barrier Reef!]

But permit me, gentle reader, a brief interlude to throw some facts your way regarding the Great Barrier Reef:
-The Great Barrier Reef is larger than the Great Wall of China.
-It is the only living thing visible from space
-It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
-There are 2,900 separate reefs
-It forms a 2,300 km outer ribbon parallel to Australia’s east coast.
-The Great Barrier Reef is listed as one of the “50 Places to See Before you Die.” 
Well, when Captain Cook was sailing inside the Great Barrier Reef in 1770 instead of rapture, he felt trapped and threatened. He had been sailing inside the reef and could not find a way out. He wrote in his journal that the Great Barrier Reef was “a reef of rocks…extending farther than I could see, upon which the sea broke in a dreadful surf.” 
So, Captain Cook decided to stop at Lizard Island and climb the 358 meter hill which would give him a bird’s eye view of the Great Barrier Reef.  After reaching the top of the hill he “was overjoyed to see a break in the reef which offered an escape to the open sea.”  Now the rapture reached him and, in great modesty, he named the break between the reef “Cooks Passage.”

So, many years later it was on a cloudless day that the valiant crew of Peregrina followed in Captain Cook’s footsteps and climbed the hill.  It became very clear, as we ascended, why the entry in his journal reads: “The only land animals we saw here were lizards…which occasioned my naming the island Lizard Island.”

It would appear that the lizards on the island in 1770 were so very pleased with this honor that they decided to stay and multiply … which they did.  As we hiked upwards we were surrounded by lizards….and I mean really, really big lizards. These are lizards that could knock you over and use your body as a doormat.

Reaching the top of the mountain we had to agree with Captain Cook that the views are quite spectacular. Because we were so high up, it was easy to see the details of specific reefs. The details of each reef were what Captain Cook needed to identify a safe passage.

Sitting like a royal throne atop the hill is a cairn commemorating the site.  At its foot lies a wooden box containing a journal of all the people who have made the strenuous hike. While the book does not contain the original signature of Captain Cook  therein resides the recordings of many a wandering traveler. Peregrina, which means “wanderer”,  is now an official entry.

Amongst the pages we saw, with joy, that in September, 2010 the three children from the yacht ‘Miss Tippy’ had signed their names. Miss Tippy sailed with Peregrina on the Blue Water Rally crossing the Pacific.

The interesting ending to this tale is that, after Captain Cook sailed through “Captain Cooks” passage out the open sea, his vessel was severely battered and tossed by high waves.  Sailing northwards,  he once again re-entered the Great Barrier Reef and wrote in his journal that he was “happy once more to encounter those shoals which were but two days ago our outmost wished were crowned by getting clear of…”

And thus ends the story of Peregrina’s journey to Lizard Island.

So what did we learn from our travels:
#1 There were no nymphs on Nymph Island (sorry guys!)
#2  Don’t sail to an island just because you think it will be a royal party
#3  Even Captain Cook discovered that it is really much more pleasant sailing in the sheltered waters of the Great Barrier Reef than in the open sea.

And so, as the sun rose on a fine new day Peregrina hoisted anchor and continued sailing towards Darwin…inside the Great Barrier Reef.