Day 42, Year 3: Cape York!!!
Date: Friday, June 20, 2008
Weather: Beautiful Day; Winds SE 20
Air and Water Temperature: 74 degrees F
Latitude: 10 degrees 41.400 minutes S
Longitude: 142 degrees 31.370 minutes E
Location: Cape York, Queensland, Australia
Total Miles Today: 26.65 nautical miles
We’re here! We made it to the northern most point on this continent by 11 o’clock this morning and spent the rest of the day onshore walking to that northern most point of land and just enjoying the views. Our trip through the Albany Passage was fantastic. We did have the tides right and we flew through at 8 to 9 knots with only 10-12 knots of wind. That is faster than Windbird can normally move. The Albany Passage was beautiful and we truly enjoyed our walk out to the point. Cape York is a peninsula that literally just slopes into the ocean. You might expect that this huge country/continent of Australia would end with something more dramatic, but not so. Cape York is not dramatic and you can almost throw a stone across from one side to the other, but we just soaked in the moment and the subtle beauty. At the very, very tip there is a sign stating, “You are standing at the northern most point of the Australian continent.” It took us 42 days to get here from Bundaberg, but we actually sailed only 216 hours for a total of 1,220 nautical miles. Windbird’s average speed was 5.66 nautical miles per hour. Not bad for this slow (but sure) boat.
Obviously we safely escaped the Escape River this morning and did it with a flotilla behind us when we started out just after sunrise. Windbird was leading Aqua Magic and Scot Free out, and then four other boats fell in behind us. It might have been an interesting sight if I could have looked back, but I was at the helm with my eyes glued to the monitor. In order to lead us out safely, I was following our track in yesterday exactly. I don’t take my eyes off that monitor when the navigation is tricky, but I think Mark did get a photo. Once we were out of the river, things relaxed a bit and we enjoyed our sail to the Albany Passage and really enjoyed the sleigh ride through it. As I said above, the walk to the top of the top was just delightful. It is not high, but everything for miles and miles is even lower, so you feel like you can see forever. Actually you are just seeing the islands of the Arafura Sea, but today that was “forever.” We enjoyed seeing the huge “ant hills” on the Cape. Actually they are termite mounds and they are certainly taller than I am. When we got back to the beach, the tide was out and we were thankful we had come in with Scot Free II who happens to have dinghy wheels. It would have been a long, long, long haul carrying our dinghy out into the water. We stopped by the catamaran, Reflection, to visit on our way back out to the boat. Doug and Jeanette were coming back from their walk to the end of the peninsula just when we were starting ours and they invited us for cake and coffee when we returned. Now what self-respecting sailor can refuse that kind of Australian hospitality? Jeanette was one of the “grandmothers” I met at Lizard Island and she and Doug are the most gracious hosts I think we have met out here. And speaking of grandmothers, I am really missing seeing Sam. I’m not sure what triggered it, but I am really homesick for him tonight. We got a message from him a couple of days ago telling us that he really misses us as well.
Here’s what he had to say: “er
/h l fv tnm,mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmt0099 b
n jh nh eqeeeeee bQnb 1qa nq bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb”
Day 41, Year 3: Tomorrow is THE DAY – Over the Top
Date: Thursday, June 19, 2008
Weather: Overcast; Winds SE 20
Latitude: 10 degrees 57.980 minutes S
Longitude: 142 degrees 40.800 minutes E
Location: Escape River, Queensland, Australia
Total Miles Today: 71.59 nautical miles
Tomorrow is the day we go over the top. This will be a milestone in our circumnavigation. We are not halfway around the world in miles, but once we are over the top of Australia, I think we will feel like we are headed home. Last night was a full moon and tomorrow is summer solstice. I can’t think of a grander place to spend summer solstice than at the tip of Australia at Cape York. So we are definitely psyched for tomorrow’s passage. Today was our longest day yet as we head up the east coast of Queensland and tomorrow will be the shortest. It is about sixteen miles from here to the Albany Passage and then less than ten miles up around York Island and back down to anchor on the WEST SIDE of Cape York. Today’s sail, being our longest day sail, went well. We had twenty knot winds, but that is an average. We actually had everything from ten to twenty-five and we changed our sail plan three times before 8 am. But we got it right at that point and sailed wing and wing with our main out to port and our headsail out to starboard for most of the next six hours. At one point, we had both sails out to port, but basically we had a great run for most of the day with boat speeds often over seven knots. Entering the Escape River was a bit of a challenge with pearl farms everywhere and shallows and rocks here and there, but we negotiated that successfully and will follow our own tracks out carefully tomorrow morning. We are hoping we have the timing right for going through the passage tomorrow, and if not, we could have five knot currents against us. But we will think positively and be assured that we will fly through the Albany Pass with a five knot current going our way. Cape York, here we come!
Day 40, Year 3: Lloyd Bay to Margaret Bay
Date: Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Weather: Overcast; Winds SE 20-25
Air and Water Temperature: 74 degrees F
Latitude: 11 degrees 57.534 minutes S
Longitude: 143 degrees 12.244 minutes E
Location: Margaret Bay, Queensland, Australia
Total Miles Today: 59.65 nautical miles
Margaret Bay is a beautiful little semi-circular bay with a white sand beach all around. The fishing in this area is obviously good because there are thousands of sea birds and there is a whole fleet of fishing boats who anchor here during the day. Evening is coming and their lights are coming on. Soon they will be out and about for the night. We were told that you can buy huge lobsters here if a lobster boat is in the anchorage, but we think we see only prawn boats. Too bad. They say the tails on these lobster are big enough for three meals. Now that’s my kind of lobster.
We had a long day today and an even longer one tomorrow. We leave here at 4:30 am and travel 70 miles to Escape River. That is the last stop before rounding the top of Cape York. Do you suppose that is why it is called ‘Escape?’ But let me get back to Margaret Bay and today’s trip. Since Bundaberg, we have been traveling northwest up the coast with southeast winds and seas right behind us. Starting yesterday, we are now traveling closer to due north so we are sailing between downwind and a broad reach. The wind is on the aft quarter and the seas sometimes hit us broadsided. The winds vary from 15 to 30 all day long, never staying at any one speed for very long, so it makes for interesting days. Today we started with a double-reefed mainsail and the headsail. We added the staysail and then got hit with 30 knot winds and found we had out a little too much sail. We brought in the staysail and reefed the headsail a little. Then the winds died down and we let out the headsail again. Finally we had to take down the main and go with only the headsail. Mark is tired tonight and he wonders why. I don’t. We spent the entire day changing sails around. And in addition to that, we are traveling in waters with reefs everywhere. As you near the top of Australia, the reefs that were out on the barrier are now close in to shore. We have a flat screen monitor that our son Justin gave us and we keep it in the cockpit on days like today. Instead of having to run down to the navigation table to see the electronic chart on the computer, we have a ‘relay’ station in the cockpit. It is so nice to have that and it makes it so much safer. As we were negotiating a passage just before Margaret Bay we were always between a rock and hard place (an island). We had to keep right on course and by having the screen in the cockpit; I can stay right on course. I really don’t know how people did this without electronics. Well, I do know, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad I’m doing it this way. I feel much safer because I know right where I am every second. This is because we know from others that our electronic charts are right on here. It is not always this way, but it is here, and for that we are thankful.
Day 39, Year 3: Stuck in Lloyd Bay
Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Weather: Overcast and Rainy; Winds SE 15-20
Location: Lloyd Bay near Lockhart River, Queensland, Australia
Rainy weather and logistics kept us here in Lloyd Bay today. We will move on very early tomorrow morning and hope the weather is a little nicer by then. The “Flying Doctor” was an hour late flying in from Cairns, so it was 12:45 before we started the hour trip back to the anchorage having picked up Patrick and Margaret. We had four hours to sail to get to our next anchorage and it was totally overcast and rainy, so we just decided to stay here and leave in the morning. The good news is that Patrick doesn’t have to fly to Cairns to see an orthopedic surgeon. At first the doctor who flew in to examine him said he did need to go to Cairns, but after reviewing the difficulty of getting him there, the doctor called the orthopedic surgeon and he said it wasn’t necessary. Patrick broke his middle finger and the base knuckle on his index finger on his right hand. His fingers are all cut badly, but they have him on strong antibiotics. He will have to get to a clinic when we get to Seisia, a little outpost on the western side of Cape York, and then again when we get to Darwin. It will be difficult for him to raise and lower sails and do the anchoring with only one hand, but he and Margaret think they can do it. Sunday was a very bad, no good, horrible day for Aqua Magic, but today things are looking brighter.
Scot Free II invited us all over for dinner tonight and we did some planning for the next leg of our trip. We have to go though a passage just before the top of the peninsula that requires going through on the flood tide. Supposedly the current runs north on a flood, but others going through this week have had a counter current on the flood. So we’ll plan the best we can and hope for the best. The passage is only three miles long, but that could take quite a while if there is five knot current
against us. Talk about treading water.
Day 38, Year 3: Morris Island to Lloyd Bay
Date: Monday, June 16, 2008
Weather: Mostly Cloudy Day; Winds SSE 15-20
Latitude: 12 degrees 50.825 minutes S
Longitude: 143 degrees 25.626 minutes E
Location: Lloyd Bay near Lockhart River, Queensland, Australia
Total Trip: 52.65 nautical miles
There’s a moon out tonight, coming up on full, as I sit here in a dark cockpit at a temporary anchorage not far off a wharf in the Lloyd Bay. This is the middle of nowhere-about as isolated as it gets in today’s world. I’m sitting here alone on boat watch because Mark took Margaret and Patrick to shore in our dinghy and then he went with them to the clinic. The clinic is in town, wherever that is, and the boat ramp where Mark went ashore is like a boat ramp in a third world country, not like any
others we have seen in Australia. Mark took the handheld radio so we could communicate, but he must be out of range as I can’t reach him any longer. We ended up here because the Coast Guard said this was the only place in this part of Australia where Patrick could get medical attention for his hand. Lockhart River is an aboriginal community and they have a clinic with a nurse. If you need further attention, either you are flown out or a doctor is flown in. We had to sail about 53 miles to get
here and we couldn’t leave Morris Island until the young man who helped Margaret and Patrick last night returned to dive on his bottom this morning. Luckily there was no damage from the episode on the reef yesterday. There was hardly anything but a few scrapes on the bottom, so that was a very good thing. The same young man helped Margaret and Patrick get the anchor up and away we went, Aqua Magic, Windbird, and Scot Free II, to Lloyd Bay to find medical help for Patrick. Paddie and Carolyn Mitchell
on Christiane were so helpful last night and today. They used their satellite phone to call the clinic in Lockhart River and arrange for someone to meet us at the boat ramp around 5 or 6 in the evening. We were in the Lloyd Bay anchorage by 5:00, but we didn’t make it to the boat ramp until 6 pm. Unfortunately it is a full five miles from here to there. We all anchored in the only safe anchorage indicated on the charts and then we launched our dinghy, brought Patrick and Margaret to Windbird,
pulled up anchor, and motored the five miles to the boat ramp. It would have been a murderous trip in a dinghy, so taking the boat here was the only option. I have to stop here as I just got a call from Mark. He is headed back to the boat.
Continued . . . Mark returned to Windbird safely, but without Patrick and Margaret. The people at the clinic didn’t want him getting into a dinghy at night and climbing aboard boats, so they provided a place for Patrick and Margaret to stay in town until the doctor arrives at 10 am in the morning. He will either be able to deal with the problem or they will fly Patrick to Cairns. If the latter is the case, we will all sail to Portland Roads tomorrow afternoon and secure Aqua Magic there. Patrick
and Margaret will have to find a ride back to Lockhart River for the flight to Cairns. So tomorrow around 11:00 AM we will motor Windbird the five miles back to where we were anchored this evening near the boat ramp and wait for a radio call from Margaret.
Now I get to tell you the “exciting” part of the story. An aboriginal brought Mark back to the boat ramp from town tonight. He said he would leave his car lights on because the beach where the dinghy was sitting is “crocodile country.” Mark asked if he thought he might see one tonight and the guy replied, “Probably.” This was most reassuring to Mark. He walked very carefully through beach grass to get to the dinghy trying to avoid hidden crocodiles, and then tried to launch the dinghy. But
the tide was coming in and the waves were crashing on the beach and Mark couldn’t get the dinghy out. So he had to wade in up to his waist, still trying to avoid hidden crocodiles, in order to pull the dinghy out far enough to get off the beach. Then the motor wouldn’t start. So he had quite a scary experience, but finally he successfully headed to Windbird. I was waiting all this time, not hearing a dinghy engine and wondering what in the world had happened. Finally I heard an engine and soon
Mark was aboard safely. At least when we go back to get Patrick and Margaret tomorrow it will be daylight and we will be able to see.
So one way or another, by tomorrow night we will be about eighteen miles north of here in Portland Roads. Then on to Margaret River and the Escape River, and then over the top of Cape York. Our trek up the east coast of Australia is nearing an end.
Day 37, Year 3: Flinders Island to Morris Island
Date: Sunday, June 15, 2008
Weather: Mostly Cloudy Day; Winds SE 8-10 am / 20-25 pm
Latitude: 13 degrees 29.506 minutes S
Longitude: 143 degrees 43.259 minutes E
Location: Morris Island, Queensland, Australia
Total Trip: 58.55 nautical miles
For the first time that I can remember, I forgot about a special occasion and was reminded by my son. When we checked email early this morning, there was a Happy Father’s greeting from Justin to his dad. So cheers to Justin for remembering. I spent the rest of my day playing catch-up. For Father’s Day, Mark got freshly baked banana bread and whole meal bread as well. Plus I made scalloped potatoes for dinner, so the oven on Windbird was busy all day. We want to say Happy Father’s Day to our
son-in-law, Jed. Just as on Mother’s Day when a mother reflects on the fact that her baby girl is now a mother, on Father’s day, a father (in-law) thinks of his son (in-law) as a father. It is such an exciting thing to watch your children become parents, so we were thinking of you today, Jed. Jed just returned from a nine-day trip to a science conference in France, so he probably spent his day catching up on rest, but we hope he enjoyed it. Heather and Sam survived his absence, with some trials
and tribulations, but basically they got into a rhythm and enjoyed the time.
Right now I am sitting here writing as the sun goes down and waiting for Aqua Magic to get into the anchorage. This will be the happy ending to a very scary experience. When we arrived here at Morris Island at 4:20 pm, almost immediately after anchoring we heard a distress call from Aqua Magic. They were talking with Charles on Munyana. Aqua Magic had run aground on a tiny little reef about five miles from here. They were a day behind us leaving Lizard Island, but evidently working to catch
up. They sailed a different route through the reefs than we did and ended up in an uncharted area. Once we made contact with them and got their position, we could see on our C-Maps electronic charting at magnification 50,000 to 1 that they were in fact sitting on a little reef marked as ‘0’ in depth. Low tide was around 1:30 pm, so the reef was covered when Patrick and Margaret arrived at that location, but at least the tide was rising. They reported that they were bouncing about on the reef
but did not have water coming into the boat. So at least at that point, there did not appear to be massive damage. We, and the other cruisers in the anchorage, started double checking our charts. For us, when on 100,000 magnification we charted Aqua Magic’s position and saw them southeast of the reef, but when on 50,000 magnification, we could see that their reported position was right on top of the reef. Scary that there was such a difference in the two magnification modes. Other cruisers with
C-Maps didn’t see a reef at all. We are using the most updated version and obviously this little rock of a reef is newly reported. To make a very long story short, Patrick and Margaret did float off the reef as the tide rose and they made it into the anchorage with the last bit of daylight. But as I write, they are still struggling to anchor between us and Rendezvous Cay and just a few minutes ago Margaret called for assistance saying that it appears that Patrick has broken his fingers in the
anchoring process. We don’t have our dinghy in the water, but a couple for another boat arrived at Aqua Magic just after the call. We are waiting to see if their anchor is holding and to hear about Patrick’s accident. Not a good day for Aqua Magic and a most sobering experience for all of us.
Continued later in the evening . . . Patrick has some deep cuts on two fingers and probably a broken knuckle. It is almost 9 pm now and this saga has continued all evening. At this point, a local trawler who came to Aqua Magic to help with anchoring and assisted with the medical help is returning at sun-up to dive on the boat to check the bottom. If all is well enough for travel, Scot Free II and Windbird are going to assist Aqua Magic in getting 50 miles north of here to an outpost with a medical
clinic. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day for Aqua Magic than today. I had hoped to end this log with “All is well that ends well” but that is not yet the case. Stay tuned for updates on this.