I was quite apprehensive about leaving Lizard Island into the remote wildnerness of far north Queensland. I could have stayed at Lizard indefinitely! Our new friends, Dale and Dave on Freeform kind of spurred us on to leave while the weather is good. The winds were forecast to be South East (SE) 20-25 knots (easing) which is good for this part of the coast.
Thursday 26th May. Lizard Island to Howick Island. 30.34 nautical miles.
Four yachts left Lizard today, we were the third to leave. I was sad to say goodbye to this magical place. The seas were much bigger than we'd expected and the winds were much stronger than we'd anticipated! Freeform radio'd us throughout the day and we learnt that the winds were actually 30 knots true. We had to shut the companionway hatch in the cockpit as waves were splooshing up and over the side deck, wetting everything in salty water. I had internet reception for about 10 minutes and braved feeling seasick to download the GRIB files (weather forecast) and quickly update my facebook. A massive container ship steams past at such speeds that it leaves a trail of sandy water behind it, like a giant snail. It must have gigantic propellers as we are in 20metres of water. We sail to Howick using only the headsail and maintain an average speed of 7 knots (12.5 kilometres per hour) which is pretty fast for us using only one sail! We anchor in 10metres of water behind Howick Island and visit Freeform for the afternoon. Talk revolves around passage plans for the journey ahead, in particular, the top of Northern Territory. I give them our yoghurt culture – hopefully they'll keep it alive. Just as I go to bed, the swell comes in and starts knocking us about from side to side quite violently. Rene fixes it with a rope that he ties to the anchor chain which pulls us at a different, more comfortable angle.
|Freeform sailing alongside, container ships nearby.|
Friday 27th May. Howick Island to Flinders Island. 50 nautical miles.
|Rene preparing his trolling line|
|My little waterproof camera with awesome tripod!|
|Bathurst Bay rock mountains.|
|Our anchorage in Hedge Reef.|
|Ceraebird as lookout!|
We watch a DVD and eat home-made hummus on freshly made bread. I'm in love with this recipe (adapted from an old one) as what I have always found cumbersome about making hummus, is that to use a can of chickpeas creates unecessary waste while boiling them takes so long it feels ridiculous! Sprouting is EASY and it releases more nutrients into the legumes. It makes a slightly more crunchy hummus than usual – which is very delicious!
Sprouted Chick Pea Hummus
- 2 (or so) cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- Juice of 2 lemons/limes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Crush the garlic with a little salt until it forms a puree. Put the sprouted chickpeas, tahini, oil and garlic in a food processor and blend. Add the lemon juice and a dash of water and continue pureeing, until smooth.
Sunday May 29th. Hedge Reef to Morris Island 32 nautical miles.
|Rene with his first Mackerel|
|Chickpeas - much friendlier!|
Note from Rene: This rather unorthodox slaugther method worked very well compared to other methods. Having asked around and read a little, it seems there are a few options for fish slaughter (please add a comment if you know any others):
- Cludgeon it's brains. This seems to be the most popular method of fish slaughter but I found it a bit messy and a little inelegant.
- Slit it's throat – again a bit of a mess unless you have a good place to hang it.
- High alchohol content rum on the gills. Since we haven't hit any tax free alchohol yet, this isn't really economic.
I found that gauging it's eyes out pretty much stopped the thrashing straight away - there was a little death shudder, but no reaction to it's sensitive lateral lines. And it was also an interesting experience – their eyes are suprisingly tough.
(Cerae again) As I said – hunting is gory!
It was so calm today that we ended up doing out laundry while on the move. This is quite an involved process using a hand-cranking pressure wash and hand wringer. I usually loathe washing clothes by hand (didn't we invent machines for this?) but, because we were still sailing and getting ahead, I wasn't so focused on the waste of time. Barely any big ships out today. Listening to trawlers on the radio is kind of funny – they aren't very talkative types and don't follow any of the usual etiquitte!
|Peaceful sailing to Morris Island|
Lovely relaxing afternoon listening to Angus and Julia Stone as we slip peacefully through the sparkling water. Their music is really suited to cruising. The wind picked up just as we were approaching our anchorage for the night, Morris Island. Typical, the wind is playing with us! My new favourite spot is at the first cross-trees on the main mast (see pic above). I watched large silver fish chase each other around Anima and admired the endless beauty of the sunlight on the water. As we sailed alongside the island, I experienced my first time of smelling the land. I've read about it and never quite understood, but after spending 34 hours at sea, Morris Island smelt like heaven. I stood on the foredeck breathing it all in, as my eyes were also drinking up the unique beauty of this isolated spot. A friendly yachtie who was already here offered us a lift to the beach.
We explored the island from a safe distance of 4 metres above the water line (well away from any crocodile attacks). I took loads of photos (beautiful birds and flora).
Rene hunted coconuts. Then he collected a bundle of drift wood – we are having our first BBQ on the boat! Drinks at sunset are courtesy of the amazing Margaret from Townsville (thanks for the delicious wine!). The fish is sensational with a smoky flavour.
|Ren hunting coconuts wearing a towel as sun-protection|
|Morris Island cactus (?) plants|
|Reminds me of a video I made in 3rd year art college|
|Sunset BBQ anchored on Morris Island|
Rene's barbaque recipe for hunter gathering, yachty style:
- 1 Mackerel, fresh
- 1 king (orange) coconut flesh
- drift wood
Make a fire with driftwood. Get it hot. Put the coconut flesh in the fire. When it starts spitting and popping, put slabs of fish over it on the grill. Cook each side well. Then put the lid on the bbq to smoke it in the coconut smoke.
Note: it is recommended that the pleasure of this meal is counter-balanced by 8 minutes of internal push up suffering!
Monday 30th May. Morris Island to Portland Roads. 60 nautical miles.
This is a long trip so we get up before dawn. Pulling up anchor in the dark is weird as I'm used to being able to see the chain and adjust my movements accordignly. Gradually the other two boats (who are also heading for Portland Roads today) overtake us. We're doing good speeds of 5-6 knots but are no match for a new Dufour or a Catamaran! The day is HUGE. 12 hours of sailing. We're both so tired by sunset that we start bickering about our plans for tomorrow (we normally get along really well!). I cook up a fish curry and we are forced to get out the big stinky generator to charge the batteries. Today our sails shaded the solar panels when the sun was out and when they didn't, the clouds shaded the sun! The windgenerator barely put in any amps with the light winds. Our engine alternator is also having issues! It didn't seem to be putting in any more than 1.5 amps to the batteries. This is bad news and we'll have to try and remedy it before leaving Australia. I spend hours trying to make a short video of Anima sailing. For some reason – I haven't figured out yet – the frame rate keeps getting distorted after exporting. Very frustrating! I obsessively try connecting to the internet. Staring at a page that just won't load, I think of the many hours we waste doing this. I should be outside staring at the waves! When we finally do get sufficient telstra signal to connect, I quickly upload my Lizard Island entry. Afterwards – back on deck – a feeling of utter relief washes over me. Is this what junkies experience after getting a hit? 10 days without more than 10 minutes of access is a long dry period for a self-professed internet addict!
|How big must this bird be? Yikes!!|
Tuesday 31st May. Portland Roads to Margaret Bay. 50 nautical miles.
We were undecided as to whether or not to continue sailing north today. The decision we settled upon was to let the wind decide: if light winds, we'd anchor behind a small island along the way. If decent winds, we'd sail up to Cape Grenville and anchor in Margaret Bay. The latter was true – we flew along at up to 8 knots. The last few days we've barely seen any big ships. Ironically, just as we approached the narrowest section of the entire coastal shipping channel, we encountered three huge ships heading south and one heading north!
We held off and stayed right at the edge of the lane but had to radio one ship as we were on a collision course! The captain of Panamous was very polite and told us his plan to pass us starboard. Phew! Everyone seems to have AIS except for us. It's now definitely on our wish list of must haves. Rene plans on trying his hand at making one (we have an article in a cruising mag which details how to do this). AIS seems like such useful technology in today's seas which are quite busy with ships buzzing about everywhere. It allows each ship to see the name, draught, length, speed, course, destination and origin of the other ships nearby. I had a stint on deck while Rene slept inside – practice for when we cross the gulf soon. I've decided that I'm very happy to sail by myself in light winds, when the navigational dangers (such as reefs) are far away from our course and with a maximum of two sails up. When the winds pick up, things become a lot more intense and harder to control. We came around the outside of Cape Grenville and caught another Mackerel! There were hundreds of terns flying about and feeding in the area.
At one stage I could even see large fish in the crests of the waves. Rene gutted the big fish while I sailed Ani almost in to the anchorage. He hung it alongside while we dropped anchor. There's so much meat on these big pelagic fish! I set about bottling as much as possible (four jars) and had to freeze 6 large fillets too. The boats we've been cruising with are continuing on up to Escape River tomorrow. We've decided to stay here a day – we have been sailing for 6 days straight without a break and the next leg is the biggest.
|Massive container ships zooming past in the shipping lane|
We must have been so tired because we spent a long time today just lying about, listening to music and staring at the clouds. I tried to clean up but am annoyed that I didn't get very far. Rene managed to stir up more energy than me. He put up new courtesy flag ropes (the old ones had ripped to shreds during the cyclone) and then set about making a rough version of lazyjacks for our mainsail. These seem to work quite well! Early to bed tonight as we have set the alarm for midnight.
|Rene with new lazy jacks|
Thursday 2nd June. Margaret Bay to Escape River. 70 miles.
This leg of our journey is too long to day sail. We figure out that in order for us to arrive at Escape River by 4pm, travelling at 4 knots, we'll need to leave at midnight. The stars were surprisingly bright at midnight as there was no moon. We were all alone in the large anchorage of Margaret Bay (apart from the fish swooshing about in the water!) so we left under sail – not using the motor. As we neared Sunday Island, a trawler came straight for us. I recognised his lights from a flash card I'd found while cleaning up yesterday. We altered course to pass him safely and then another trawler came in too! Being at sea, during the night is quite a different experience. Seeing lights in the distance and trying to ascertain what they belong to and what they're doing is tricky (and sometimes nerve-wracking). This trip allowed us plenty of practice doing just this. In the few hours before dawn, we encountered three big container ships and a yacht who crossed our bows very close, spotlighting as after they'd passed (weird). I made pikelets and cups of tea to keep us going and we took turns having naps. We were both very surprised at how, when dawn arrived, our energy levels almost doubled! The power of the sun!
This same sun stayed strong and bright all day – making our trip beautiful. We took a route close to the mainland (away from that busy shipping lane) and wowed at the shorline of far northern Queensland. Vast bright white sandhills interspersed with rich, ochre red cliffs dotted with magnetic ant hills. Much of our trip fell into a green zone and (as usual) we got to see some sea life because of this. Ren watched massive Trevally ripping up the water, surfing down waves and I saw huge turtles swimming by. We didn't see another human all day. Roger had told me that we'd be amazed at how unpopulated much of the QLD coast is. I didn't really appreciate just how vast this area is!
|Uplifting sunrise over the water |
|Red cliffs of north QLD|
|Gorgeous sparkly seas|
3rd June. Escape River to Cape York – The Top! 25 nautical miles.
An overcast day greets us, making it difficult to get up. I am greeted with a headache (which may have been caused by the celebratory drinks yesterday) which makes practicing yoga impossible. Rene manages to massage some of the pain away and we motor-sail out of Escape River, taking some waves over our bows as we plow over the bar. This place would be terrible in stronger winds. Excitement builds as we near the Cape – the top of Australia!!! Despite being warned against it, we decide to go through Albany Passage – a narrow channel (shortcut) between the mainland and Albany Island.
The tide is with us as we sail through at 8.5 knots! Rene mans the helm, while I take photos of this amazing place. It feels pretty special to be here. Soon enough, we're approaching Eborac and York Islands which sit just above Cape York Peninsula. Anchoring is easy as we're the only boat here and have our pick of the area. Keen to stretch our legs, we go ashore to explore.
We find a rocky headland covered in cairns that the thousands (probably millions) of visitors before us have created by each adding a rock to the mound. I add my rock to the biggest cairn and we meet some 4WD travellers (from Townsville!!) down by the sign on the tip. Amazing views. It feels as though we've achieved something – we've sailed the entire length of the Queensland east coast. WOW! What a ride. We've seen some pretty incredible places and had some amazing times. I can only guess at what treasures lie before us. This achievement means that we've now visited the most northerly, eastern, southern and western points of our nation.
|Sailing towards Albany Passage|
|Rene with termite mound on Cape York|
|We're on top of Australia!!!|
|Tourist snap - the most northerly point in Oz!|
|Rene poling us away from the "crocodile"|
|Anima anchored at Cape York|