Cairns to Cape York

My plan for this year’s cruising season was to spend a month (July/August) cruising from Cairns up to the Torres Straight, to then spend a few months cruising around the Torres Straight Islands before starting the journey south in October.

There is a Mumby Owners FaceBook page, where I put up a post looking for crew for the trip. A 40yo kiwi sheet metal tradies, just about to start building his own Mumby, jumped at the opportunity. Kev flew in from Christchurch, with it’s 2C minimum temperatures, too Cairns’ 17C minimums.

But before we could leave, the anchor winch needed replacingthen a trip to Rusty’s market, for fruit and veg shop I explored up Trinity Inlet in Albert, to check it out, in case I ever needed to go up there, to hide from a cyclone. Coming across a 45yo Quest 23. My family owned one of there, which I took cruising in my 20s. Cairns looked amazing, skirted in clouds as we leftfor a very quick reach too Michalmas Cay, in 20-25kts of SE wind you may remember Michalmas Cay from my previous blog posts.

This is a highly prized, roosting site for a lot of seabirds. When I was last here, it was full of nesting noddies and brown boobies. This time it was full of nesting sooty terns  

with the noddies, crested tern and brown boobies roosting on the foreshore beach, waiting for their breeding cycle, before coming in, too claim their patch of sand there were plenty of hatched chicks

we woke in the morning to discover a noddie roosting on the tool bench next anchorage was Lowe Islesgoing ashore for a walk around the lighthouse I had not seen a crocodile in the wild yet, so taking Logic up the Daintree River, looked like the place, to put a tick in that box (the internet is full of photos of crocs in the Daintree) 

As we got close, the braking waves in front of the rounding buoy, made it obvious that the sand bar coming down from the north had continued it’s journey south. Necessitating dropping the anchor and checking it out in Albert. last year, Thomas and Gaylyn had told me  about a very useful hand held depth sounder. No lead line required after 15mins in Albert  the route in, was easy now to go croc searching

there was plenty of water on the outside of the curves

but minimal, on the crossovers from one curve to the nextafter the third time of the bottom came within 300mm of the rudders, I gave up and we went back to the anchorage, in the deep water in the last bend in the river, to anchor for the night.

If I was ever going to catch my first barramundi, this should have been the spot. But like croc spotting it was not to be (probably due to the plethora of recreational fishermen working the river) 

The next morning, we went out the way we came in and headed over to Tongue reef.

Passing a couple of whales, mothers with young calfs

Tongue reef had been written up as a great spear fishing spot. But the wind was 20kts, in an exposed anchorage. Underwater visibility was awfully stirred up and what fish were there were very skittish.

We headed off the next day for another reef anchorage. Again the wind was 20kts plus, from the SE and the forecast for the next 10 days was identical. The wrong weather for anchoring behind an exposed reef. So part way there, I had a reality check and changed course for Cooktown    as we came into Cooktown, there was a sign on a pontoon, with a phone number saying that space on it was for hire. I got on the phone and arranged for us to tie up there for a few days

spectacular geography to spend 2 days in.

The afternoon we arrived, there was a feeding of the resident Queensland Gropers, using Red Emperor frames, between Logic and the shore.  Kev jumped at the chance of having a 7ft, 200kg fish pull a fish frame out of his hand the restaurant ashore did a coral trout, fish and chips. Probably the best crumbed fish I have ever eaten.

There was a gold rush here in the late 1800’s, remembered by this sculpture ashoreand this one remembering the 18,000 Chinese that came her for the gold rush and of course a sculpture of James CookI appear to be “stalking” Cook. 4 years ago I was in Runswick, England, where a very young James Cook first went to sea. 25 years later he was here, repairing the Endeavor  

there is some interesting history on display as I wondered around Cooktown

This canon was a gift from Queen Victoria to Australia 1862 Cooktown has it’s own character lovely fox tail palms mangos in flowerBut…… this is what the weather forecast looked like for the next 10 days(light brown is low 20s, brown is 25kts and reddy brown is 30kts).

A bit of time googling, confirmed that this was the norm, 95% of the time, until the change to the monsoonal wind pattern in October.

I had not done enough research and it was time to look for a plan B, So I send off a few emails to the marinas in Darwin, enquiring about a marina berths.

The next day we did the 50miles to Lizard Island

we did not sight the crocodile referred to in the sign, but others at the sundowners drinks ashore, had seen it in the estuary, behind the beach It is 350 miles across the Gulf of Carpentaria, a 2 night passage. Kev had never done an overnighter, so I decided we needed to do  single nighter, before we got the the Torres Straight.

We left Lizard at first light    weaving our way through the reef

this is cyclone county, they did not use the foundations of the cyclone destroyed navigational light, starting from scratch every hour or so, we would pass a bulk carries coming to and from Australia  (moving, thermal and coking coal, silica sand, bauxite, gas, wood chips etc)or a container boat, carrying all the stuff, that is necessary for our western lifestyle, in addition they are bringing back the same atoms we exported, as solar panels, windmills, paper, glass etc, after a lot of carbon has been generated, making them, using the fossil fuel Australia exports. there is a big back-loading in the empty shipping containers, of base metal concentrated from our base metal miners. It uneconomical to do the final refining in Australia, plus it uses a lot of energy. Australia then imports the refined product (copper electrical cables, etc).

The result is the Australian politicians can virtue signal how good they are, reducing Australia’s carbon footprint, while pointing out how China is doing nothing about reducing theirs

(I’m going sailing).

———-enough of the rave———

 needless to say it was a quick sail up to Margaret Bay, with 20-25kts from dead we came around Cape Grenville into Margret Bay, I have never seen so much pelagic fish action, feeding on bait fish we did not hook up anything, so Kev had a need to head off in Albert to catch somethingreturning with a couple of school mackerelwhich he turned into a delectable dinner it blew 20-25kts the whole time we were in Margaret Bay. Plenty of protection from the swell, but not the wind and very overcast we took Albert ashore and went up an estuary hoping to catch a barramundi (unsuccessful). Still have not seen a crocall the birds that where feasting on the bait fish the pelagics where schooling to the surface, were resting on the sand bank ashore(when not disturbed by us)

The tidal current through the Torres Straight is extreme (5kts plus). So we needed to hit it on an incoming tide.

The low tide was 7am the next morning.

So we left at 9pm for the last 80 miles to the Albany  Passage. 

There was no reception, so I had not checked the weather. When we had reception the forecast was, as we discovered, a 25-30kt Strong Wind Warning for dead astern, with rain squalls. Challenging in pitch blackness, with reefs everywhere. But that feeling of conquest as the sun rose.

We furled the genoa to half ,to slow down for the last few hours to hit the Albany passage just as the tide was changing

then around the corner, going past Cape York,

the top of Australia not the photo opportunity, the 4WD have, doing it by land.

I’m working on the blog post for Thursday Island and Gove