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Cruising the Coral Coast

Cruising the Coral Coast


In 1960, I built a 32ft plywood ketch that started my permanent life afloat for the next 55 years. Later over the years, my wife and I built two yachts and restored one in which we circumnavigated the world during the 1980s.

Our main cruising ground was east-coast Australia to update our two guide books, Cruising the NSW Coast and Cruising the Coral Coast. We also periodically visited offshore islands such as Timor, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and New Britain.

My first book was Cruising the Coral Coast written in 1963, but not published until 1968 for reasons unexplained. The book was small, poorly bound and fell apart within a few months. I thus upgraded to A4 size and used printers who understood deadlines.

In 1966, I gained an all-Queensland skipper’s ticket that I used occasionally. As Townsville’s workboat skipper, my crew and I led Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip into port aboard Britannia for the Captain Cook 1970 Bicentennial celebrations. Britannia exceeded the speed limit of 7 knots in the approach channel, the pilot boat lagging astern. Britannia’s captain radioed, saying “Very well pilot boat, you may put your man aboard now,” the pilot boat skipper responding in perfect Australian, “Put him aboard? Bloody hell I can’t even catch youse!” Britannia slowed and the pilot boarded her before entering port.

When work-boat handling was privatised and sold to the Sydney company Stannard Brothers, I skippered the Palm Island passenger-cargo vessel with an all-Aboriginal crew whose sense of fun was always amusing. Our most upsetting job was moving the entire Aboriginal population of Fantome Island Leper Colony to Palm Island Hospital as part of a world-wide understanding that leprosy was not as contagious as first thought. I was particularly proud of the gentle way my crew hoisted all the patients aboard including an old woman who was blind, toeless, fingerless and could hardly speak.

At the end of that year, I went back to full-time cruising after a private contractor took over the Palm Island run. It was an era when governments were madly privatising everything and replacing locals with outsiders.

Had governments not handed everything over to private companies, I suspect I would have remained in the marine industry for the love of its wonderful challenges. As things turned out, I continued live-aboard cruising and writing guides. There’s not much money in it but when a boat is a tax deductible tool of trade, it somehow   compensates for the high percentages demanded by book retailers.



Alan Lucas is the author of Cruising the Coral Coast which has long been considered the bible for cruising the Queensland coast. This new ninth edition comprehensively covers the Queensland coast in eight Coastal Notes sections from Point Danger to Cape York, with new sections on the Gulf, NT Coast and Coral Sea reefs in detail with text, maps, photos, interesting facts, and historical information. Significant detail is provided of anchorages along the coast with detailed maps, approach recommendations, tides, anchorage recommendations, moorings and marinas berths, facilities as well as points of interest. Currents, tides and weather are all discussed in detail. Consideration is given to alternative anchorages, such as when the predominant SE trades change to a northerly aspect. The ninth edition has an additional 50 pages with updated marina and anchorage information, new charts, an overview of the Gulf, the Top End, the Coral Sea and new photographs.




Published in print July-September 2021


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