Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Challenging Sail to Cairns

Entering Cairns Harbour after a wild day and night of
rain, high winds, and big swells.
Our final push will have no more sightseeing stops. We will sail overnight several nights and try to find an overnight anchorage in between overnight sails. Once we get up to the top of Australia's east coast near Cape York Peninsula, we will get a good night's sleep in the Escape River and time our passage through the Albany Passage based on the tides and currents. From there on, there is no stopping for 700 miles.

Cairns has a lovely waterfront full of parks, shops and
restaurants. It is the focal point of the city.
Leaving Magnetic Island at 5 AM in the dark, we followed our tracks out of Horseshoe Bay and began an overnight sail to Cairns. Originally, we had planned to bypass Cairns as we were told that it was just another seaside city. Then our friends on Brizo said they were having a great time in Cairns and a number of WARC boats were there, so off to Cairns it was.

Cairns was an interesting city. Even more interesting is its pronunciation. Americans would say: care-enz. In Australia, there are two pronunciations depending on the region from which one hails. One group says: cans; and the others say: canes. No one pronounces the R. I still don't know how to say it correctly.

We were seeing many large areas of a slimy orange-brown
scum floating on the ocean. We have seen it before in
smaller streaks. At first we thought it was discharge from
ships, but there is too much of it here. What is this stuff?
We are traveling with mostly Brits and Aussies right now. Although their accents and intonations vary, they can really understand each other when speaking fast. Our American ears have to listen carefully to get past the accents and if they are talking fast - forget it! It is especially challenging when on the VHF radio or SSB (single side band radio). I am sure they think I am deaf and dumb because I keep asking them to repeat.

Sorry, Charlie! Tuna surgeons at work!

Our visit to Cairns was great. The town rebuilt the waterfront and is the main area for entertainment. A couple of blocks inland you can find all the things you need and more restaurants. We rented a car and ran a number of errands and provisioned. I can't believe how much food we are consuming on this passage. Even I am eating as I seem to have the mal de mare pretty much under control.

I always appreciate a few meals out after cooking three meals a day in the galley. I get tired of seeing the food. We found a terrific little Thai seafood restaurant on the boardwalk and had a lunch and a dinner there. The huge prawns were out of this world. The whole gang met at the Irish pub for beers and dinner one night.  

We spent several hours in the dark with heavy winds, rain
and swells on the beam trying to get to a calm place in
the lea of Fitzroy Island just outside Darwin Harbour.
After two nights of fun, it was time to hit the track again. Getting into Cairns had been challenging as we had 30+ knots of wind and rain all day and night and finally rounded Fitzroy Island after midnight without a hint of moonlight. Again we followed the chart, we pick an anchor point but nearly snagged a buoy, which we realized at dawn marked the channel in. It was unlit! Moving off the buoy, we dropped anchor and got it set in the wind.

Had I gone another 100 yards, I would have kissed this
rock! So lucky we dropped anchor when we did! This is
why we don't like to anchor in the dark.
Then we realized we were a boat length away from a huge uncharted rock. I don't know why it isn't on the chart as it is as huge! We were lucky that we dropped when we did or it could have been a disaster in the making. In the morning, the dampness hung low and visibility was still stinky. We bounced our way to the Cairns shipping channel and into the marina. Leaving  Cairns was easier as it was a sunny day.

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