Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cooktown to Cape York

Thursday 2nd June 2011
As I motor through the beacons marking the exit to the Endeavour River my thoughts are on the information in Alan Lucas’ Cruising The Coral Coast and especially aware that from here my journey becomes much more self-reliant due to the absence of settlements and any ready assistance should Murphy have a win over my standard of preparation. As it turned out I avoided any confrontation with Murphy and his infamous catch you out scenarios. Cape Flattery is the Headland I set course for and then a slight deviation east to put Truansea on track for Lizard Island. Lizard Island is a Mecca for most southern sailors as it is a recognized achievement to arrive there and invariably it is the northern most point for those east coasters who return south from there when the northerlies begin. Not for the intrepid Truansea this U turn business it’s onwards and upwards to Cape Melville or so I planned. After a secure and comfortable night anchored in Mrs Watsons Bay in 2m of very clear water over sand some 200m from Shirazz I set off on a fine clear morning at 0600 under full sail. Truansea passed through a narrow stretch between the GBR and Howick Island at 1200 keeping right to the edge of the channel to allow Mighty Ocean a 190m cargo vessel room to overtake. At 1530 Truansea passed between Cape Melville with all its millions of smooth granite boulders and Pipon Islet and being so early opted to cross Bathurst Bay and anchor at the western end of Flinders Island. The anchor was set at 1815 after the longest daylight passage so far of 97 miles. Happy with that effort I celebrated both that and the fact the Island was named after the original Australian circumnavigator with a glass of wine and a T-bone steak I’d been eager to tackle.
Saturday morning and 0645 had us underway for Morris Island. By 1430 I had a nice spotty mackerel on board filleted steaked and in the fridge. This tasty fish provided me with 3 large fish dinners and very nice it was each time. A busy day in light winds passing many small islands and coral cays then safely anchored off the beach at Morris Island at 1730. Shirazz had anchored ahead of me by almost 2 hours and the crew had been ashore and advised me that there were croc the tracks on the beach. I take no more convincing that it’s not wise to take a swim.
Sunday 5th June 2011.
A very special day as it marks 40 years since rear admiral Lyn and I were married. Special in a number of  ways not the least being that I am a very lucky fellow to have had such a dedicated and wonderful wife all these years who tolerates and supports my endeavors no matter how unusual or non-mainstream they may be. Without her love and support I would not have achieved the many challenging goals I have set myself over the years. She has endured some nonsensical whims of mine but remains my lifelong partner and I find it difficult to know how to thank her enough as she never has any expectation of gratitude. And so the love is there both ways an unerringly strong bond and I am a very fortunate fellow.As luck would have it I had enough phone signal passing Cape Direction to call Lyn at 1430.
Truansea anchored at Portland Roads this night and got underway for Margaret Bay inside Cape Grenville at 0630 on the Monday. The stretch from Flinders Island to Cape Grenville is known as the horror stretch referring to the lack of good anchorages along the way however my experience was all good. There is not much in the way of scenery to describe that might colour the report but sailing wise it was as good as could be expected given the reef and navigational challenges.

Cape Melville and her millions of granite boulders

Mighty Ocean overtaking near Howick Is

Section of the Great Barrier Reef, must be daunting in the dark. There are hundreds of miles of this so pays to keep a good lookout and keep tabs on where you are on the chart. In some parts there is much less than a mile gap. Fortunately there are many lights and beacons marking the main shipping channels. But then you have the ships to avoid. 

Discussing the next passage to Cape York with Shirazz I made plans to follow their suggestion and head through Albany Pass if I could arrive in time to get the tide right which is critical as it races up to 5 knots. That would not be pleasant if I arrived with the tide against me. If my days run was to be slow then I could divert into the only acceptable anchorage in these parts the Escape River and take on the narrow pass the following day. As luck would have it I arrived at the southern entrance to Albany Passage at 1700 with the tide well and truly in my favour as Truansea passed through in calm water at 8.2 knots under first reefed mainsail only. At the northern end of the passage is Cape York on the port beam a nondescript low rocky headland tapering down to the water’s edge. At 1800 after rounding Eborac and York Islands I anchored adjacent to Shirazz about 300m from the cape and joined them for a celebratory drink. Another long day with 98 miles logged but a wonderful sense of achievement reaching this milestone.

A bulk bauxite carrier near Albany Island punching into the swell that was helping me  get to  Albany Passage on time.
CapeYork sloping down to the water from Albany Passage

Chart Plotter snap of the anchorage at Cape York 

On Wednesday the 8th June Truansea and Shirazz motor sailed across to Seisia and anchored in the basin there for 2 days to victual, fuel up, rest and take a trip on the ferry across to Thursday Island.
The passage across the Gulf of Carpentaria to Gove was planned in detail at Seisia and I was accompanied for this passage by Stretch a friend of Bastions aboard Shirazz with the suggestion that I would get more sleep if Stretch was able to stand watch. You will read in the next installment how that was not to be as Murphy who had let me alone on the East Coast while he terrorized some other unfortunate soul paid a visit in the dark hours and wreaked havoc.
Fair winds

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