We left Cairns on another wet day, but the sun came out shortly after we were out in the ocean. It seems that the mountains around Cairns attract clouds and moisture! Our next mission – to round Cape York, the northernmost part of Australia. There are a number of routes to get there, all of which involve dodging many reefs and islands, which get closer and closer to land the further north one goes. The charted passages are well marked, and although there are a lot of hazards, we never felt uneasy.
The charted passages are also shipping channels, and we saw a lot of tankers, warships and container ships. The guys said it made the night watches quite interesting and the time passed quickly, as they had to always be on the lookout and in contact with approaching ships. It was quite a highlight to see them from such close distances.
The wind was generally south-east at 15-20 knots, and swells small/average. It was a comfortable sail, and we generally had the genoa out in front, sometimes switching to the jib at night when the winds got up. The bumpier passages were when we headed directly north and got a bit of a side-swell, but nothing too terrible.
This seemed to be the area in which to catch Spanish Mackerel! I woke up one morning to a very chuffed Marco who had caught one on his morning watch. Until now we’d only caught tuna, and we were looking forward to the change. Spanish Mackerel is also supposed to be one of the best eating fish, so was a real treat! Unfortunately they seem to be really clever too, as the next 3 we caught managed to get themselves free before we could pull them on board! Chuffed-Marco turned into Angry-Marco. I reckon we were only meant to catch our “daily fish”.
Paul also continued as our “daily bread”-maker, which was really appreciated. He’s now started experimenting with adding onions, cheese etc to the dough. Hot bread with copious amounts of butter is a big favourite on board!
We were keen to round Cape York in daylight, so anchored in Escape River opposite Turtle Head Island the night before. It’s a wide river, with fairly strong currents and the odd pearl-fishing raft to keep clear of, but a nice protected anchorage. The landscape up north is very different to the south – much flatter islands and stark white windswept beaches, alternating with bright ochre-coloured cliffs and rocks. Turtle Head Island was rocky and red – the colours of an Aboriginal painting.
The next morning we left for the 2-hour passage to Cape York. We decided to go around Albany Island rather than the shorter passage between that and the mainland, as we’d read that the currents can get really strong in the passage. It was a really beautiful sail, getting even more pleasant as we rounded the Cape and were out of the south-easterly swells. We sailed close to many islands in bright turquoise waters, reaching 10 knots at times due to favourable currents and tides. There was good internet reception the whole way around the Cape, so we were able to share this milestone with family and friends. It’s hard to spot the actual “point” from the boat, but it was a definite landmark to have reached the top of Australia and start heading west.