2014 September – Margaret Bay to Weipa

Posted by on October 2, 2014


Total Days Sailed : 13
Total Sailing time : 67h48m (4068 minutes)
Travelled distance : 574.424 km (310.164 nm)
Average Speed : 8.47 km/h (4.57 knots)
Peak Speed : 16.43 km/h (8.87 knots) on 2014/09/09

We started the month spending some quiet time in Margaret Bay. It was a lovely protected bay, with gently sloping beaches and very active fish life. We met up with quite a few boats there, and a couple of real characters. (You know who you are!) Unfortunately swimming was out of the question as there were crocs around, but we did have a few great sundowners aboard Stargate including a delightful BBQ of seafood expertly prepared by Paul from Thirsty Dog.

There is a well-known boatie walk from Margaret Bay through to Indian Bay, and Terry from SAN-E-T took David and Molly across. It is called “The Blue Trail” because the way is marked by pieces of blue plastic. Strung up in trees, laying on the ground, sitting on ant-hills… there is a piece of blue plastic every couple of steps! Where did it all come from? David was about to find out.

The line of dunes in Indian Bay was piled metres-deep with flotsam! For kilometres in the distance, you could see floats, bottles, containers, thongs (of course!), netting, ropes, and every bit of junk you could think of. Until you see it, you have no idea of the scale involved. It has probably been piling up over decades as the trade winds would push it on-shore where it would stay. David returned with a bucket to replace one we lost, a glass ball float (cool!) and a couple of spare fishing floats, but could have brought home much more if he had the energy.

2014-09-05 - FROM Margaret Bay TO Round Point, Shelburne Bay

Trip start : 2014/09/05 11:32:43 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-05T01:32:43Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/05 13:43:20
Trip Duration : 2h10m (130 minutes)
Start Point : 143.207107,-11.960380
End Point : 143.094635,-11.893920
Straight-line Distance : 14.294 km (7.718 nm)
Travelled distance : 18.877 km (10.193 nm)
Average Speed : 8.71 km/h (4.70 knots)
Peak Speed : 11.53 km/h (6.22 knots)

We then continued north, but HAD to stop in at Shelburne Bay for a feed of oysters. Unfortunately we arrived just after low tide, and had a moment as we were furling the screecher where we scraped a reef with the bottom of our mini-keels. Quite scary with the sails up, but no harm done. The charts indicated that we should have had sufficient clearance, but it was just another reminder that no matter how up-to-date your charts are, there will always be the unexpected.

We waited until the following day for our feast. Fresh oysters are SO nice. We then thought it best to wait until high tide the following morning to depart just in case.

2014-09-07 - FROM Round Point TO Boydong Island

Trip start : 2014/09/07 07:03:51 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-06T21:03:51Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/07 12:15:34
Trip Duration : 5h11m (311 minutes)
Start Point : 143.094436,-11.893731
End Point : 143.016876,-11.485990
Straight-line Distance : 46.118 km (24.902 nm)
Travelled distance : 50.223 km (27.118 nm)
Average Speed : 9.68 km/h (5.23 knots)
Peak Speed : 13.32 km/h (7.19 knots)

The cruising books all said that this stretch of the coast did not offer much protection overnight, with the accepted stops being Bushy Islet or Cairncross Islet, but that they would be very uncomfortable. Following a tip from Michael on Stargate, we instead pulled up at Boydong Island. Anchoring was a bit tricky and we had to pick a place to drop the anchor in between reefs, but once down it was holding fine.

David and Molly went ashore for a walk and a bit of beachcombing, but found themselves stranded behind too much reef to get the tender out so had to wait for the waters to rise. A small reef shark patrolled the area just in front of where they were sitting, possibly hoping for a bit of dog for dinner.

2014-09-08 - FROM Boydong Island TO Escape River

Trip start : 2014/09/08 06:48:34 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-07T20:48:34Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/08 15:12:34
Trip Duration : 8h24m (504 minutes)
Start Point : 143.017105,-11.486001
End Point : 142.703582,-10.966891
Straight-line Distance : 67.090 km (36.226 nm)
Travelled distance : 72.816 km (39.317 nm)
Average Speed : 8.66 km/h (4.68 knots)
Peak Speed : 13.73 km/h (7.41 knots)

Another long day on the water saw us round into Escape River for the night. Returning the autopilot to standby in order to position the boat to drop the anchor, David noticed that the steering was very heavy and he suspected that there was an issue. Anchor down and tools up!

The Seawind 1160 has two wheels, and a method to disconnect the rudders from each other. David separated the rudders and found the port one was fine but the starboard one was binding a little. He also discovered torlon bearings in the joint between the two rudders were badly worn and would need replacing. He left the starboard rudder disconnected and we would pull it out to inspect it at a later date. XTsea would steer with only the one rudder, but we might need to compensate.

Here is where we personally saw our first crocs. Two of them slid into the water as we approached, and Molly went spazzo barking with full hackles.

2014-09-09 - FROM Escape River TO Cape York

Trip start : 2014/09/09 06:10:00 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-08T20:10:00Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/09 09:50:00
Trip Duration : 3h40m (220 minutes)
Start Point : 142.707260,-10.963730
End Point : 142.527954,-10.691511
Straight-line Distance : 36.051 km (19.466 nm)
Travelled distance : 41.312 km (22.307 nm)
Average Speed : 11.26 km/h (6.08 knots)
Peak Speed : 16.43 km/h (8.87 knots)

Heading out carefully at first light, we made our way north. XTsea was steering fine, and we were even confident enough to get the screecher up. We approached Albany Passage with the tide in our favour as our cruising guides all suggested a strong tidal flow there. They were right!

Just before the start of the passage, two tidal streams were converging and it was creating substantial 1-1.5m turbulence. We turned to avoid this as it looked a bit scary.

Tidal streams converging making the sea into a washing machine.

Tidal streams converging making the sea into a washing machine.

Once we were in the passage, the water calmed and we were moving quite quickly with the current. Here’s a photo of our chartplotter showing 8.7 knots of speed, with only 4.7 knots of wind.

Our chartplotter showing us speeding along with very little wind. All thanks to tidal flow.

Our chartplotter showing us speeding along with very little wind. All thanks to tidal flow.

Through the passage, we made our way to the cape and then squeezed through the very tight gap between York Island and the mainland. The tide would not have allowed us to change our minds, so it was good that we managed it without incident.

Going back to standby, David realised the steering was still heavy. Suspecting an issue with the electronics, he switched off the autopilot entirely and found the steering freed-up. So as well as a binding rudder, we have a dodgy autopilot. Great. Some quick examination of the circuit and he fired off an order for hopefully the part needed. Time will tell. Until it arrives, he has inserted a switch in the circuit to disconnect the autopilot when we want to go into standby.

After anchoring, we waited until later in the day to walk ashore and go visit the sign on the caps for the photo everyone has to have. Molly was excited to get off the boat and was quite frisky, getting mud all over herself.

The mandatory photo at the top of Australia.

The mandatory photo at the top of Australia.

2014-09-10 - FROM Cape York TO Thursday Island

Trip start : 2014/09/10 07:25:44 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-09T21:25:44Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/10 11:46:55
Trip Duration : 4h21m (261 minutes)
Start Point : 142.526596,-10.691451
End Point : 142.223663,-10.586501
Straight-line Distance : 35.102 km (18.953 nm)
Travelled distance : 40.384 km (21.806 nm)
Average Speed : 9.28 km/h (5.01 knots)
Peak Speed : 13.72 km/h (7.41 knots)

Thursday Island (or “T.I.” to the locals) is the administrative heart of the Torres Strait islands, and where we had some mail waiting for us. A quick run under screecher saw us arrive before lunch, and we dropped the pick close to some other boats and headed ashore to pick up the mail, some groceries, and medication from the chemist. When we got ashore, we found that we had arrived just in time for the big cultural festival to be held that weekend, so we decided to hang around and join the fun.

First night there we thought we might actually go out for dinner, and so we found our way to the pub. A couple of cold beers went down well before the arrival of our enormous steaks!

Colleen said she wanted a nice steak. She did not count on it being THAT big.

Colleen said she wanted a nice steak. She did not count on it being THAT big.

Exploring the island, we walked up to the top of Green Hill, a well-preserved fort built in the 1890’s and still retaining it’s cannons. The museum was not open unfortunately, but we read all the external information signs and checked out the guns.

Colleen doing a 'Cher' on one of the cannons at Green Hill

Colleen doing a ‘Cher’ on one of the cannons at Green Hill

The festival itself highlighted the culture of the Islanders. Each community had sent a team of dancers and musicians and singers, all dressed in traditional gear or glorious modern patterns. It was great to see how involved everybody was, and the community spirit was something to behold. Colleen loved the dancing and we stayed until the final demonstration.

Cultural dancers at the Winds of Zandeth festival on T.I.

Cultural dancers at the Winds of Zandeth festival on T.I.

Next morning there was a procession of all the dancers and performers, and then a model boat race was held. The wind was quite strong, but with long and quite heavy outriggers the boats were up to the task. Over a course of about 300m they literally flew through the water.

Contestants lining up for the start of the boat race. Those things were ROCKETS!

Contestants lining up for the start of the boat race. Those things were ROCKETS!

2014-09-15 - FROM Thursday Island TO Seisia

Trip start : 2014/09/15 05:52:13 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-14T20:52:13Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/15 10:08:52
Trip Duration : 4h16m (256 minutes)
Start Point : 142.223312,-10.586171
End Point : 142.364822,-10.848670
Straight-line Distance : 33.030 km (17.834 nm)
Travelled distance : 37.487 km (20.241 nm)
Average Speed : 8.78 km/h (4.74 knots)
Peak Speed : 13.05 km/h (7.05 knots)

Saying goodbye to T.I, we worked our way back to the mainland. Having to take care to avoid Bogan Bank through Boat Channel we kept a close watch out, and reduced sail as the wind turned. David threw out a line after we made the turn and soon scored a nice tuna.

65cm Tuna caught between Thursday Island and Sesia

65cm Tuna caught between Thursday Island and Seisia

Seisia had a nice little supermarket, a service-station, and the Fishing Club, and Bamaga was the bigger community 5 kilometres inland. We did a couple of small shopping runs at Seisia, and hitched a lift into Bamaga for a go at the bigger market there as well as a couple of pies from the bakery. Colleen picked up the skill of hitch-hiking easily, with the first vehicle past us each time stopping to give us a ride.

We watched the first half of the Cowboys/Roosters game at the Fishing Club, but with the Cowboys being flogged 0-30 at half time, we went back to the boat and missed a great comeback to see them eventually lose it 31-30.

2014-09-21 - FROM Seisia TO Jardine River

Trip start : 2014/09/21 08:55:56 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-20T23:55:56Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/21 10:40:38
Trip Duration : 1h44m (104 minutes)
Start Point : 142.364974,-10.848871
End Point : 142.236282,-10.915740
Straight-line Distance : 15.898 km (8.584 nm)
Travelled distance : 17.014 km (9.186 nm)
Average Speed : 9.81 km/h (5.30 knots)
Peak Speed : 12.35 km/h (6.67 knots)

A quick run down to the mouth of the Jardine River meant we could tackle the tricky shallows around Crab Island at high tide and in good light the following day.

2014-09-22 - FROM Jardine River TO Crystal Creek #2

Trip start : 2014/09/22 07:55:43 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-21T22:55:43Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/22 13:23:18
Trip Duration : 5h27m (327 minutes)
Start Point : 142.236206,-10.915341
End Point : 142.156906,-11.133661
Straight-line Distance : 25.772 km (13.916 nm)
Travelled distance : 49.294 km (26.616 nm)
Average Speed : 9.04 km/h (4.88 knots)
Peak Speed : 12.06 km/h (6.51 knots)

Keeping a close eye on the water, we turned the corner around Crab Island and started back towards the mainland when David spotted a MONSTER mackerel on the line. It was putting up a good effort and we eventually used the gaff hook to land it. It was 128cm and in great condition. That’s a lot of meals!

128cm Spanish Mackerel caught off Crab Island, QLD

128cm Spanish Mackerel caught off Crab Island, QLD

We ran into Minx just outside the mouth of Crystal Creek #2 and offered them some fish on the VHF. We followed them into the river proper as they had scoped out the path earlier. We had seen Minx earlier at T.I. but had not spoken, so went across to visit Baz and Pam and gave them something for their fridge.

David put the remains of the fish into a crab pot to try his luck, but a croc or some other large critter wrecked the pot overmight to get it out.

2014-09-24 - FROM Crystal Creek #2 TO Macdonald River

Trip start : 2014/09/24 07:17:49 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-23T22:17:49Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/24 15:38:39
Trip Duration : 8h20m (500 minutes)
Start Point : 142.156723,-11.133940
End Point : 142.068237,-11.506831
Straight-line Distance : 42.571 km (22.986 nm)
Travelled distance : 52.309 km (28.244 nm)
Average Speed : 6.27 km/h (3.38 knots)
Peak Speed : 13.19 km/h (7.12 knots)

A slowish run south in light winds saw us just turn towards land and find 5m of depth when the time came to stop sailing. Being in the lee of the mainland makes sailing this coast easy.

2014-09-25 - FROM Macdonald River TO Cullen Point

Trip start 014/09/25 08:47:33 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-24T23:47:33Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/25 17:22:33
Trip Duration : 8h35m (515 minutes)
Start Point : 142.068481,-11.506840
End Point : 141.861694,-11.963541
Straight-line Distance : 55.549 km (29.994 nm)
Travelled distance : 58.506 km (31.591 nm)
Average Speed : 6.81 km/h (3.68 knots)
Peak Speed : 13.47 km/h (7.27 knots)

Better winds today, but unfortunately with our screecher up we encountered a gust which blew the rope securing the stay wires to the bowsprit. Bam! We managed to pull the screecher down without damage, but the bowsprit is going to need some love from an aluminium welder. With only the jib up front, we had to reduce the main to balance the boat and our speed suffered.

2014-09-26 - FROM Cullen Point TO Pennyfather River

Trip start : 2014/09/26 06:55:33 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-25T21:55:33Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/26 13:14:43
Travelling Time : 3h51m (231 minutes)
Trip Duration : 6h19m (379 minutes)
Start Point : 141.861343,-11.963351
End Point : 141.731704,-12.229520
Straight-line Distance : 32.781 km (17.700 nm)
Travelled distance : 37.358 km (20.172 nm)
Average Speed : 9.70 km/h (5.23 knots)
Peak Speed : 12.74 km/h (6.88 knots)

A nice little run down to Pennyfather River, which is quite a large area behind a sandbar-locked entry. We waited out front for the tide to rise enough to get in safely. Unfortunately once in the river we lost mobile service so could not call our son Andrew on his birthday.

2014-09-29 - FROM Pennyfather River TO Albatross Bay

Trip start : 2014/09/29 07:32:46 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-28T22:32:46Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/29 17:17:52
Trip Duration : 9h45m (585 minutes)
Start Point : 141.731582,-12.229821
End Point : 141.761093,-12.751971
Straight-line Distance : 58.148 km (31.397 nm)
Travelled distance : 82.675 km (44.641 nm)
Average Speed : 8.47 km/h (4.57 knots)
Peak Speed : 13.57 km/h (7.33 knots)

Food was running low. We still had freezers full of fishy goodness, but other staples were on their last legs so it was time to make a break for the Woolworths at Weipa. Still without a screecher, we plodded south along the coast on a beam run, but then entering Albatross Bay and turning towards Weipa had the wind on the nose and we were not going anywhere. We pointed a little south in the hope the wind would turn later in the day but it wasn’t to be.

As twilight approached we fired up the engines to make for the coast to drop overnight.

2014-09-30 - FROM Albatross Bay TO Weipa

Trip start : 2014/09/30 07:15:47 (Adjusted Local) (2014-09-29T22:15:47Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/09/30 09:20:00
Trip Duration : 2h04m (124 minutes)
Start Point : 141.761291,-12.751851
End Point : 141.852813,-12.664951
Straight-line Distance : 13.853 km (7.480 nm)
Travelled distance : 16.162 km (8.726 nm)
Average Speed : 7.82 km/h (4.22 knots)
Peak Speed : 10.12 km/h (5.46 knots)

An early start and we were at Evans Landing nice and early. Bit of a rolling anchorage, but secure on our anchor. Still time to hitch-hike into town and pick up some food!

Mail into Weipa arrives by barge from Cairns, so we may be waiting for a couple of things to catch up with us. Then it’ll be our first passage run, heading across the Gulf to Gove which should take around 50 hours if the conditions hold.

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