Posts Tagged ‘Lloyd Bay

Anchorages North of Lizard Island

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Howick Island 17th August

14° 29’.772 S

144° 57’ .014 E

A nightmare anchorage, just to teach us a lesson for relaxing. Such a heavy swell (“a well-developed southeast trade wind sends a beam swell along the north of Howick which can make conditions uncomfortable”) that the boat was rocking 30° to either side from the perpendicular during most of the night. One wishes the writers of cruising guidebooks wouldn’t use understatement. We got out of there with curses as early as we could the next morning.

Bathurst Bay (Cape Melville) 18th August

14° 12’ .223 S

144° 28’ .216 E

Another miserable anchorage. A heavy swell made the boat rock uncomfortably and howling winds blew at over 20 knots all night, the sound given a vicious edge by the whine of the boat’s wind generator. The anchor dragged slightly at the usual ‘interrogation hour’ of 3am, though letting out more chain took care of the problem immediately. Even the surroundings exuded a forbidding, albeit fascinating atmosphere. Giant, smooth granite boulders piled into mountainous hills rising as high as 500 metres came to the water’s edge. Almost barren of vegetation and infested with snakes, these seemed like a landscape I remembered from one of Sindbad’s voyages:

“The valley in which I found myself was deep and narrow, and surrounded by mountains which towered into the clouds, and were so steep and rocky that there was no way of climbing up their sides. As I wandered about, seeking anxiously for some means of escaping from this trap, I observed that the ground was strewed with diamonds, some of them of an astonishing size. This sight gave me great pleasure, but my delight was speedily damped when I saw also numbers of horrible snakes so long and so large that the smallest of them could have swallowed an elephant with ease. Fortunately for me they seemed to hide in caverns of the rocks by day, and only came out by night, probably because of their enemy the roc.”

No diamonds – at least the Queensland’s Department of Parks doesn’t mention them – but it looked just the place for gigantic serpents of mythic proportions.  It’s warned that attempting to climb these hills is much more difficult than it looks, the boulders being so large that far from being stepping stones, they become insurmountable barriers, forcing climbers away from their chosen path…

Morris Island 19th August

13° 29’ .440 S

143° 43’ .317 E

It was a long day’s sailing and motoring to Morris Island – 11 hours. This was a lovely little anchorage though, and I’d have liked to go ashore. The island itself is a tiny coral cay about ¼ nautical mile long and 1/10th mile wide, at the edge of a vast reef which is a full 5 nautical miles long and 1 ½ miles wide!  The cay tapers at both ends to narrow spits of pale sand crisped by waves. A lone palm tree waves bravely from one end and a crest of punk-y spikes marches along the entire length of the island. Both are remnants of British Admiralty policy of the 1800’s – food was to be made available on Great Barrier Reef islands, for the use of shipwrecked sailors. The spikes are the inflorescences of sisal plants, intended to be used to knock down coconuts from the palms. The sisal plants thrived, but of the coconuts palms there is only the lone survivor.

It was also nice to anchor in sand for a change. The usual blue mud we’ve been getting is of an extraordinarily glutinous and adhesive quality and mixed with coarse grit. It clings in great immovable lumps to the anchor when it comes up, which is a nuisance. Once the anchor has been raised we have to move off immediately, but a clogged up anchor doesn’t set well the next time, so the stuff has to come off. Dragging the anchor in the water doesn’t work, I’ve tried leaning over the safety lines while en route and jabbing at the problem with the boat hook, but that isn’t very effective either, so I’ve been reduced to scooping it off with my favourite heavy plastic kitchen spatula while hanging/squatting on the bowsprit like a cross between a monkey and a badly carved ship’s figurehead.

Night Island 20th August

13° 10’ .869 S

143° 34’ .366 E

Night Island was a pleasant enough place, made very interesting indeed by our neighbour at the anchorage: a large motor cruiser attended by not one, but 3 runabouts and a couple of bright yellow helicopters. These buzzed back and forth delivering people onto the island, who were then ferried to the cruiser by large dinghies. We were, of course, very curious. Curiosity was satisfied when one of the dinghies came alongside and the skipper, on behalf of the charterer, invited us for drinks at 6 that evening and then dinner to follow. Goodness! Luckily I’d brought along one reasonably elegant long black cotton T-shirt dress, so was able to dress properly for dinner.

The dinghy arrived at exactly 6pm and on boarding the luxurious cruiser we were greeted by about a dozen young male and female crew in uniform, one of whom was bearing a tray of strawberry daiquiris. Heaven! We were then given a tour of the boat which ended in the lounge, where we chatted with a group of rather jolly men, almost all American executives with a moneyed aura about them and regrettably well-developed pot-bellies, before meeting our host, who was a bowed, elderly, impish man, obviously struggling with poor health but determined to enjoy himself nevertheless.

His name was Fred Turner, and for anyone who doesn’t agree with McDonalds’ corporate policies, we might as well have supped with Satan. We dined on roasted quail, reef fish with lobster sauce, excellent wine and the chef’s apple and pineapple crumble, which had all the men very quiet and very busy for a while. Frankly, I’d have been happy with sausages and beer as long as someone else cooked them and cleaned up, so this counted as a lavishly hedonistic evening!

It seems that Mr Turner has been coming to the Great Barrier Reef – in much the same sort of style – for some 35 years. While here, he invites his family and friends to enjoy the experience with him. Some of the men there had been his friends for almost that long, in fact. We happened to be there during the second wave of a guys-only holiday, and they were obviously having a wonderful time.

Lloyd Bay 21st August

12° 52’ .501 S

143° 21’ .535 E

A reasonably quiet anchorage, though no protection from the wind – just no waves or swell. It was very shallow where we anchored in a blind inlet near the river estuary, about 11’ deep at low tide, leaving us only about 4’ under the keel. The water was muddy and one shore was lined with what looked like the Forest Primeval. The other was inviting white sand with a healthy crocodile population, according to one of the crew with whom we’d spoken during the previous evening. Mmmm!

Cape Grenville – Margaret Bay 22nd & 23rd August

11° 57’ .449 S

143° 12’ .301 E

The trip from Lloyd Bay to Margaret Bay was fairly miserable because once again the winds were above 25 knots all the way. The Captain got soaked by waves en route and we were a bit nervous about the anchor dragging. It didn’t drag, but during the night the lashing holding our shiny new snubber broke. We made up another with a plain stainless steel hook we had been using for something else and that works fine.

A snubber, btw, for those people sensible enough not to have to know about them, is basically nothing more than a thick rope with a gadget at one end – there are various patent kinds – that hooks into or grabs the anchor chain. The rope leads back to the boat, where it is fastened to the Samson post. Then the anchor chain is let out a bit more so the snubber is underwater, the rope taut, and the chain a tiny bit slack. That way, when wind or swell make the boat heave up and down at anchor the shock is taken up by the elasticity of the rope rather than the chain and windlass. This is easier on the windlass and also on the people in the boat. It also gets rid of the horrible, dungeonesque clanking noise the chain makes when it’s jerked about under load.

We had pulled in at Margaret Bay to rendezvous with one of Sea Swift’s mother ships, which supply the fishing fleet with fuel, water and stores and unload their catch which is returned to Cairns for export. I’d heard about the service from some pleasant people at the marina in Brisbane, who had been kind enough to give me lots of excellent advice about anchorages for the trip north, and we’d picked up the schedule from Sea Swift’s headquarters in Cairns. The ship was scheduled to show up at 3:00pm but we’d been warned timings were only approximate, so weren’t surprised when it moved majestically into the bay at dusk. It was dark by the time the shrimp trawlers which had been waiting around at anchor during the last 24 hours were able to be offloaded and refuelled, accompanied by much VHF chattering and grumbling about ‘crook’ backs and painkillers.

We were last in the queue and motored slowly up to the side of the great mother ship, which was well padded with giant, round orange and yellow bollards, bright in the glaring deck lights. Our gearbox stuck at the worst possible moment, so Captain and cockpit got drenched in a gush of warm salty water being pumped from the side of the ship’s hull – water which was on its way back into the bay after having been used to cool the giant freezers. The refuelling went smoothly after that though and then we went back to re-anchor. This time I was the one who got soaked, by a beautifully timed cloudburst.

We were only scheduled to leave at 3pm the next day, on an overnight sail to catch the rising tide in the Albany Passage. I spent that morning doing laundry and cobbling together a new piece for the outboard-motor harness because a gale-force gust of wind had whipped the missing piece out of The Captain’s hands at Lizard Island. He did necessary things with the chart plotter and engine filters in the meantime.

About an hour before we were to leave, 3 young, smiling, bare-chested fishermen with starry tattoos, clutching beers and only slightly inebriated, roared up to the boat in an aluminium dinghy littered with sticks and leaves, and asked if we’d like to join them on the beach for beer and a prawn barbecue. The Captain’s answer was, ‘No, we can’t, because we have to leave’. The rejoinder: ‘Why not just leave a day later?’ was the only rational response to such insanity, but unfortunately our schedule took precedence. So after chatting for a while they motored off again, wishing us a safe trip and telling us to visit their boat next time we were in the area.

Anyone would be justified in wondering why we’re doing this trip if after all the expense, hassle, physical and intellectual discomfort and work, we don’t have a spare afternoon to spend enjoying the company of people we’d otherwise not meet. The negative decision was wrong at so many levels:  intellectual, philosophical – even in terms of simple good manners, because those guys are on their shrimp trawlers for weeks on end with no other company and their invitation was gracious. For me it was pretty much the tipping point as regards travelling anywhere else in this boat. When the method by which one chooses to travel is allowed to become more of a barrier than a gateway to other people, places and cultures then it’s time to find another way of moving around.

Seisia- Bamaga – 25th August

10° 51’ .038 S

142° 21’ .060 E

We left Margaret Bay at 3pm, exactly as planned, and reached Cape York at about 8am on the morning of the 25th August, so we’re now officially Over-the-Top.

The winds had been mild during the night and The Captain was glad we’d taken the decision to bypass the Escape River and just go for it. I’d been rather looking forward to catching mud crabs in the river with our new crab net, because it’s supposed to be swarming with them, but we did save another day’s sailing.

We took the Albany Passage between Albany Island and the Cape York Peninsula to avoid the major shipping lanes and to make the trip shorter. It was very early when we passed through on a rising tide, as planned, but the flow was not as strong as we’d anticipated, so we glided rather sedately through the ½ mile wide, 3 mile long passage flanked by low hills and the occasional shallow bay and yellow sand beach. The rocks were black and the vegetation of the wild jungle-y sort, so in spite of the low light it was rather beautiful. The solitary small homestead in the passage, set back from a beach fringed with coconut palms, was reminiscent of Polynesia.

Once through, we soon came to a scattering of rocky islands sparsely covered with dry vegetation, and began seeing the ‘magnetic ant hills’ (termite nests, in fact) I’d read about. Some of these become huge – much taller than a man – but we were so far from shore that it was difficult to judge their dimensions.

Now we’re anchored far out in the bay south of Seisia, the coastal port of the aboriginal settlement of Bamaga. We shan’t be going ashore, though during the Friday night beach-side barbecues, the music by local bands is supposed to be brilliant. Tomorrow we set sail for Gove. That will be a 3 day/2 night non-stop slog, so we’re keeping fingers crossed that the winds will remain benevolent.