Monday, October 17, 2016

So Many Islands; So Little Time

Thigh burn!
As we left Cairns, we knew we only had two more rest stops before the infamous Strait of Torres. Timing our arrival at the Albany Passage to connect with the westward current in the strait was essential for a good passage. A couple of WARC boats had gone ahead of us by a week or so and had high winds and a rough passage. I was not looking forward to testing my new mal de mare preventative here!

Our British friends on Brizo left Cairns just as we were entering the harbor. They were headed to Cooktown which was not on our list. Our plan was to sail straight to Lizard Island. As a result, we caught up to Brizo there.

Mother Nature's stairway!
Lizard Island has one resort and a research center. The beach is beautiful and was free of crocodiles so there was the opportunity to snorkel. Sometimes I think Australia would be the best place to live for a number of reasons, but then I remember they are home to the ten most deadly creatures on the planet. So much beautiful water and so dangerous for swimming!

Sheila, Stuart and Rory climbed to the top of the hill where Captain Cook stood searching for a way out of the Great Barrier Reef. It was quite a challenging climb and Dennis, Pat and I declined the invitation to join them. While the view was beautiful from the top, they agreed it was not something for my hip to endure. Sheila took some spectacular photos that I am sharing here.

I am in awe of the sailing done by Captain Cook and others in this region of the world. And they didn't have the cartography we have. Actually, they we drawing charts as they explored! And those charts are amazingly accurate.

But I also cannot imagine standing in a crow's next on the mast of a tall ship trying to guide the helmsman through the few openings in the reefs. It is no wonder there were so many shipwrecks!

After a quick lunch on board, they all went snorkeling on the reef next to our boat. The reef was very healthy and they saw some giant clams.

We were invited for Sundowners on Brizo! Dennis and I took a dinghy ride over, but Sheila passed. Sheila is full of energy, but the climb took her down early! The good ole thigh burn got her! It is fun to sail with another boat. And Rory and Sheila could explore places we didn't care to go.

From Lizard Island on was mostly sailing with some motor sailing when the wind dropped too low to keep our minimum speed required to get to the Escape River before sundown. The Escape River on the south side of Turtle Head Island was a good resting point, except for trying to find a place to anchor that wasn't reef or pearl farm platforms. Even though the anchorage is in the wide open mouth of a river, it was quite comfortable.

Giant clams are hard to find. There were several here.
Apparently, a couple of earlier years' WARC boats had challenges going aground there. I could see why. In one moment we were in 9 meters of water and suddenly it was 2.2 meters of water and we had only moved a few feet. One must watch the swing of the boat when the tides turn to make sure you don't end up sitting (or laying on your side) on a reef at low tide. Not good for the boat or the reef!

After a good night's sleep, we were up and waiting for the tide to rise so we could cross the sandbar at the mouth of the river. As soon as we could clear the bar, we would continue straight to the Albany Passage to catch the northbound tide and hopefully arrive at the Torres Strait with the tide and wind in our favor. Any place where the water narrows, you will need to make sure you go with the flow. Otherwise, it can be very slow motoring against the tide. And a very bumpy ride!

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