Turn Left at the Top
05 June 2009 | Gove
We left Magnetic Island and bypassed the Palm group heading north, day sailing to Hinchinbrook via Orpheus Island. At the time winds were slight and we motored most of the way up the channel between the Queensland coast and the spectacular Hinchinbrook Island. We anchored in the creeks amongst the crocodiles and mossies. It is the time of year we haul the boat out of the water to clean the bottom and repaint with antifouling, always a stressful time; boats are meant to be in the water not on land. It is also hard work trying to get all the jobs done in the shortest time possible to keep the daily fees down to a minimum. We decided to haul out at the Hinchinbrook marina about halfway between Townsville and Cairns, it is one of those purpose built Gold Coast type lifestyle communities where houses back onto a lagoon and have their own jetty at the bottom of the garden and a marina with boats that never go anywhere. Who would ever buy one of these properties is beyond me there may be style (although I am not too sure about that) but there is certainly no life. The community is isolated miles away from a town of any size. Any way I digress. We hauled out on the Wednesday and expected to be back in the water by Friday afternoon but jobs on a boat always take longer than planned. We would have returned to the water on the Monday but there was a public holiday that no other state in Australia has. That's FNQ for you, slow and laid back. (FNQ stands for far north Queensland not f---ing Queensland). We managed to catch up for a drink with some people we met in Townsville who were staying in Hinchinbrook for a while. One of the things about cruising, it is a small community and we regularly meet people again and again down the track usually a good thing but not always.
When we eventually returned to the water the trades winds had started to pick up with 30 knots not uncommon. This enabled us cover 60 nm in a 10 hr period. We soon reached Cairns and anchored in the estuary opposite the casino. There we stayed for a week or so to top up with spares and provisions as this was the last major town before Darwin. Whilst in Cairns we met other boats from around the world who were also going on the Indonesian rally. Many who had sailed across the Pacific into Cairns which is a major port or arrival for international yachties.
Over the past few months our trusty computer has shown signs of failing, we tried to have it fixed in Townsville but the repair wasn't successful. We had to bite the bullet and purchase another one as the computer is our back up navigation tool. One was ordered from ebay for delivery to Port Douglas in a weeks time. We therefore took our time sailing to Port Douglas and spend some time waiting - this really is a hard life-. Our delay meant we could catch up with our oldest land lubber friends from Adelaide who coincidentally were coming to PD for a well earned rest. It was good to see them as we expected to be well past this point when they arrived.
Since leaving PD we have put the pedal to the metal and made good progress north, sailing during the day, anchoring at night and setting off again in the morning. We like to have stayed longer in Cooktown with all the seafaring history pertaining to the place but we had to keep moving on. Lizard Island is another place we would have liked to linger; here we met up with more Indonesia bound yachties. As is the cruising tradition we all met up on the beach for sundowners which normally go well past sundown. In the group were English, Australians, Canadians, Kiwis, Swiss, South Africans and others. The reason for our rushing away is that we wish to be in Darwin a month before the rally leaves. This environment is cruel on things mechanical and electrical and as always repairs are required. In this case an electronic display has to be sent back to Sydney for repair, a three week turnaround.
When we left Cooktown we were heading into the most remote area we have sailed to date i.e. the Cape York Peninsula. The west coast of Tasmania felt more remote because of the bigger colder seas and unpredictable weather but there we were never more than a day from civilisation. That's not the case on Cape York.
As the Great Barrier Reef gets closer to the mainland the farther north we get, threading through the maze of coral reefs takes some planning, one of the sailors we met in Townsville ran onto a reef and according to reports was very lucky to save his yacht with the aid a 2 other yachts and a fisheries vessel. We have been sailing in company with 2 other boats and it is interesting to see how we all take different routes through the coral to get to the same anchorage at the end of the day.
The fishing in this part of the world is legendary so whilst in Cairns I bought some expensive trolling lures to tow behind the boat as we are sailing along, they have been very successful, not because we have an endless supply of fresh fish but because they very quickly entice a bite from a monster of the deep, most of the fish we have caught in this stretch of coast have been huge, so big that they just break the line taking with them my expensive lures. I will have to look for a cheaper option at the next port of call.
Since moving north of Cairns we have been "buzzed" by the low flying coastguard aircraft on a regular basis. They call us on the radio asking for our next port of call. If it keeps the borders safe I cannot complain but there is a feeling of big brother about it. Only hope they don't pass my whereabouts to the taxman!!!
I started writing this as we approached the northern most tip of Australia, Cape York; we were able to turn left for the first time in 12 months when we went around the top on or about 1st June. Since then and after a days rest we headed for the hardest slog of the trip so far. The 3 days 2 nights traversing the Gulf of Carpentaria to Gove. The wind was relentless and the waves were steep and coming in from the side constantly trying to bash us off course. It was a very tiring but trips like that are character building and give even more confidence in the boat which performed faultlessly.
Today is Friday the 5th June and it is the first time I have had access to the internet or phone for a couple of weeks. The frustration of not knowing how Burnley my soccer team went on in the final playoff for a place in the English Premier league was intense, so you can imagine the joy I felt that after 33 yrs my team are back in the big time just like "when I were a lad". It's been the best sporting year in ages with The Hawks winning the Australian league final as well. All that is needed to top off the year is for England to win back the ashes!!!
It may take a while to post the photos as I have not yet put the photo handling software on this new laptop. I will endeavour to do that as soon as possible. Included in the photos will be pictures of stowaways from a bygone era who will be accompanying us on the rest of the journey.
That's all for now Take care Dave and Jean WdtW
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