Once inside the pass, the waters were calm and smooth but ripping along at 5 knots.
A view of the overfalls after we passed by them. They don't look quite as daunting from this angle since they are breaking away from us now. Whew!
As we approached Albany Pass, we spied a long line of overfalls blocking 3/4 of the entrance. I HATE overfalls!
07/03/2012, Seisia, Cape York, AU
This morning we had a wonderful sail approaching Cape York with winds of about 20 to 25 knots from the SE. Before we reached Cape York we had a choice to make: either sail through a very narrow pass between the mainland and York Island called Albany Pass or sail around York Island and stay in the shipping channel. I could hear the Sirens of the Pass singing their lovely songs, beckoning us toward them as we approached. I had originally plotted our course around York Island but as I zoomed in on the chart, I now saw that there were a number of areas noted for overfalls in our path. I HATE overfalls. These are basically breaking waves. We have had the pleasure of going through some overfalls before and it is a bit nerve wracking as the surf breaks on your boat and pushes you in a manner where it is very hard to control the direction your boat is going in.
I pulled up the Albany Pass tide chart and saw that the pass was flooding now, which meant the current in the pass would be strong but going in our direction. I looked at the chartplotter and saw that was showing the current around York Island was also going in my direction. Thus, I believe that the overfalls would not be present now since one of the mechanisms that create overfalls is where a strong current is opposing the direction of strong winds and the shallow bottom forms a channel that forces the waves to rise up and break. Given that the tidal flow and the wind were both moving in the same direction, the overfalls should not be present now.
However, the thought of "shooting" the pass was just too enticing. I have sailed through Deception Pass a couple of times in the Pacific Northwest before and it was a hoot. Plus, the sirens' songs at Albany Pass were just too sweet to pass up!
As we approached the pass we could see a long line of overfalls that ran ¾ the way across the entrance. What, overfalls? There was no indication on the chart or no mention of overfalls in the cruising guide for Albany Pass. Furthermore, the sirens' song only told about the good stuff in the pass, not OVERFALLS! I veered to the far side of the entrance, to skirt around the overfalls. As we passed, I took a photo and I will post it so you can see what we faced.
Once in the pass, the waters were calm but the current was trucking along at between 4 and 5 knots. Here we were sailing at 5 knots through the water but going 10 knots over ground. Wow! I took lots of pictures as we shot through the pass and will post some of them.
Once out of the pass, Cape York was in sight. The winds came back and now blew a bit harder. We rounded the cape and started heading SW, a direction that we had not sailed in since arriving in Australia last year.
When you round Cape York, it is called "going over the top" since this the northernmost part of the Australian mainland. As I was taking pictures of Cape York, I felt like we had achieved another landmark in our sailing adventures.
The winds continued to build as we sailed past Possession Island and entered Endeavor Strait. Endeavour Strait is a strait running between the Australian mainland and Prince of Wales Island, in the extreme south of the Torres Strait. It was named in 1770 by James Cook, after his own vessel, The Endeavour, when he used the strait as passage out to the Indian Ocean on his first voyage to the Pacific.
By now the winds were 25 to 30 knots and we were sailing with the winds at close reach. This would make for an interesting sail into the Gulf of Carpentaria. I called for Mary Margaret and when she joined me at the helm, I suggested that we change our plans and go anchor at the last anchorage that we had before entering the Gulf. Once there, we could sit out this blow and wait for a better weather window before entering the Gulf. She thought that was a fine idea so we dropped the sails and motored into an anchorage just west of Red Island and near the small aboriginal village of Seisia. We spied S/V Salamander sitting alone in the anchorage. Apparently, they had arrived a bit earlier than us and had the same idea regarding the weather.
We anchored in 11 feet of water about 750 feet offshore of the western end of the village. We can look east into the small harbor that services the village and we see about 6 or 7 other sailboats at anchor there.
Soon we were hailed by Chris of Salamander. He said that they arrived a couple of hours before us and were thinking about leaving tomorrow. I have since checked four different weather services and they all indicate to me that we should just hunker down and sit here until either Friday or Saturday. The high pressure system that is causing these winds started out at 1029 millibars and is now predicted to grow to 1037 millibars! That is a huge, powerful system and will be generating very strong winds up here as it passes along the southern coast of Australia. By Friday, its effects should start to diminish and for a number of days thereafter the winds should be mellow, making the Gulf crossing a piece of cake. Well, that is my story and I am sticking with it!
As you can see by the posting of pictures to the blog, we have Internet here so I am in 7th heaven!
To those of you in the USA - Happy Birthday! And to our niece Sarah Leu Happy Birthday to you as well!
07/02/2012, 313 nm North of Lizarde Island, Approaching Cape York
What a difference a day makes! This morning, after yesterday's great sail, the winds came up and started blowing in the 25 to 32 knot range. We put in a reef in the mainsail and actually two reefs in the headsail. Since the winds were directly behind us, we found that with a smaller headsail we could keep it full so it would not luff when the winds were 170 to 180 degrees behind us. The seas built up with the wind and it was a bit lumpy at times, especially when going 10+ knots. Fortunately, most of the time the winds were only 22 to 25 knots so we were able to keep our speed down to a comfortable level.
Once again, as evening approached we dropped the sails and motored through the night to avoid lots of sail changes. Through the night we were passed by over 10 large cargo boats. Sometimes the shipping channel was less than a ½ mile across and once, a ship passed us when we were both between two islands with just ½ mile between the islands. Getting passed by a 900 foot long ship in the dead of night is always exciting but when it is only 1500 feet away, now that is really exciting.
We will be passing around Cape York in about 5 hours. Once that is done, we head west to the Gulf of Carpentaria. We should be in the gulf, heading south around 1500.
At 0630 we are at 11 03.5'S / 142 49.4'E. We made 165 nm and averaged 6.9 knots, mostly due to motoring slowly at night. The winds are now 18 knots from the SE and the seas are from the SE at between 1.5 and 2 meters.