Monday 9th July 2007 Time: 2200 [10pm] – written by Jean
Latitude: 10 35.6S Longitude: 142 14.6E
We finally managed to tear ourselves away from the comfort of Marlin Marina in Cairns on Thursday 5thJuly. It could be quite easy to succumb to being tied up to an arm of floating concrete securely connected to the shore.
A short stroll to the amenities block is no hardship. The ability to use a toilet without the left foot on the floor, the right one firmly planted half way up the wall in front of you, left hand gripping the side of the basin, the right one with palm flattened out on the side wall (any combination that works is advised) as you brace yourself for the next inevitable rock’n’roll surf through the waves and wind.
And wow! – a real shower that’s not moving. Must confess that I did linger there for a wee while on the morning of our departure, savouring every drop of hot water, ensuring that my hair really was squeaky clean – who knows when next I may have this luxury.
Met some grand people at the Cairns Yacht Club who made us most welcome, it felt as though I was one of the locals! There is a small eclectic community of people who live on board their vessels, some with pets – one couple had two large Samyoeds (sp), another with a goose. Yep, a tame yachtie goose….with it’s own large plastic tub on deck, complete with canopy, where it would spend most of the day quietly wallowing, or on some occasions not that quietly. Other folk growing their own veggies.
And of course, the constant movement of assorted craft taking tourists out to the Barrier Reef for diving and snorkeling, fishing, swimming, lazing on beaches, parasailing – the choice is endless. Oh, and if you want something really romantic, there is always the little replica gondola to glide around in.
Enough of the land lubbing girl, got to head out on the high seas.
Life is now measured by waypoints! The journey is always thoroughly planned, pouring over the charts, carefully considering our route to ensure that it takes us safely through the many obstacles ahead, many of which lie underwater. The countless points en route are plotted on the chart as ‘waypoints’. There is a sense of achievement when you pass one and can tick it off the list. Forty seven down [needed loads to thread our way through the Barrier Reef] only thirty from here to Darwin.
Our first day out saw very little wind, the sea was absolutely glassy, deep teal in colour turning to liquid mercury in the magnificent sunset. Venus in the early evening is brilliant but my favourite company is the full moon, especially when on watch by myself at midnight. A little excitement that night was a report over the VHF Radio listening Channel 16 of a fishing boat on fire near Cape Tribulation. As we had passed by that waypoint earlier we turned back in case our assistance was needed as the two crew had abandoned ship and no further reports had been heard from them. Finally we heard that another fishing boat was able to reach there quicker, the crew had made it to shore in their dinghy, water police on their way, we were still a good half hour away, so as the situation was obviously under control, we did another U-turn and headed back on our course.
The very next day the wind was stronger, accompanied with the expected change from glassy to ‘lumpy’ sea, but wonderful to have the sails powering us along. Highlight of this day was being on the same longitude as Melbourne just after passing our Waypoint COQ at 1348 [8 minutes to 2pm].
Saturday was a number day for me 07/07/07 and naturally I had to do a chart plot and log entry at 0707! Mmmm, the little things that amuse one. A little light relief from the moments when, having not seen any other vessels for most of the day, they all seem to appear at night, coming in both directions and naturally in the part of the route where there are reefs all around, narrow two-way shipping channels and yes, you guessed, it’s dark. And MY watch!
First encounter was a large merchant ship that overtook us pretty damn close, the next was Pacific Discoverer that we called up on Radio to confirm they had seen us and would also pass on our port [left] side.
At 4am the next morning had the next encounter – two merchant ships coming down towards us, each in separate shipping lanes that then converge just ahead of where we are. The larger of the two, Endeavour River, actually radioed us [their call was to ‘The sailing vessel north of Moody Reef’] and we advised that we would ensure that we kept out of his way. No sooner had she thundered past, the next one coming down, Emerald Halo, a little ‘smaller’ vessel, crept by. Now not in the channel of our choice we had to make a quick decision on what to do because, yes, yet another ship, this time coming up behind us. Knew her name, as the other ships had been on the Radio to her, all confirming their courses and actions, and given that we needed to make a dash, as much as a yacht can dash that is, across to the other channel, called them up [one of Oz Navy warships] to advise what our intentions were. Phew….when is that wretched sun going to rise.
Made a decision on Sunday morning to break our journey as would be prudent to set off across the Gulf of Carpentaria with both fuel tanks full. Would not make Thursday Island in the daylight and given that it is a tricky place to get into, made for Mount Adolphous Island about 4 hours before Thursday Island. Rounded the black rock face of the southern tip of the island, carefully avoiding sand bars and coral to enter the thankfully calmer water of Blackwood Bay. Only one other boat anchored in the bay.
Well, now it’s time for us to anchor. Wind still quite strong and not a vast amount of deep water but, round and round we went while I had a few somewhat abortive attempts at trying to control Hinewai when approaching an anchoring spot. In sheer frustration I challenged Peter – “This is my first ever time. You bloody well show me how it’s done!!” I probably shouldn’t elaborate on this, but a little later we were finally at anchor and I must confess to having a quiet smile to myself.
The guy from the fishing boat came over in his dinghy to check that we were ok and to ask if we had any ciggies with us – we gladly exchanged a packet for 6 fresh crayfish and one whole trout.
A most welcomed overnight stop and on hearing the weather forecast for the Gulf decided that another overnight stop would be advisable. We made the short trip across from Mount Adolphous Island earlier today, passing directly north of the Cape of York Peninsula.
It suddenly dawned on us how far we have already come since leaving Melbourne. Approaching the very narrow gateway in the Ellis Channel into Thursday Island and of course, two other much larger vessels all heading to the same point. We were first through and this time anchored without much ado, choosing to do this off Horn Island that is a stones throw from Thursday Is. The fuel dock here is supposed to be easier to access.
I really must get some sleep now ahead of the next thirty waypoint journey.
Communications will be virtually impossible for the next week so, until Darwin…..
Ciao for now. Take care,
PS Thank you sooo much for the email replies. It really is very special for me to hear from you.