Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Lizard Island to Lloyd Island
I can see your minds ticking over now. Where's Lloyd Island? It is just north of the Lockhart River and south of Portland Roads, and if I had not mentioned this place previously is because we did not plan to stop here.
We were up early as usual, the wind was still howling through the bay here at Lizard but I think that is due to the land structure and shape causing the acceleration of the wind. However, before we sail I want to look at the seas out there through the binoculars and then make the decision whether we sail or not.
Daylight came and the seas did not look too bad so we got underway at 0630 hours, I noticed a few other yachties and boaties watching to see what we were doing some of these are waiting for the change to sail south, one yacht and one motorboat left yesterday to slam the waves going south. After the anchor was up we set course for Howick Island and straight way unfurled the headsail (genoa), the bloke on the yacht that was behind us came out as we passed and asked where we were off to and then wished us all the best for the trip. I must say we have not been the usual social selves here this year which was mainly due to the weather. We did call in on a couple of yachts to have a chat but not many people ventured to the beach for sundowners or to the Marlin Bar because of the weather conditions.
As we sailed out of Watsons Bay a squall was coming over the land form, I had a few turns on the furler so we did not have the full headsail out and we were sailing around 7 knots. I thought I would stick with the headsail until we cleared the land and check out what is really out there when we lose the protection of the island.
(Leaving Lizard Island with a storm following us out)
It was a day of squalls drizzling rain came with them but we are sailing well just under the one sail ranging from 6.5 to 8.2 knots this was comfortable in the seas we had. The seas caused a bit of motion to the boat where at times you had to hang on but that was about all. I was sailing along the right side of the shipping channel so not in the shipping lanes proper although keeping a good look out for any shipping movement. A few miles out a fishing boat appeared off the port bow he slowed to give way to me I waved a thanks as we passed, I think it was a long line fishing trawler by what I could see.
(Long line trawler passing aft having given way to us)
(Over the rainbow)
Once we were settled in Nancy got breakfast ready, Nancy looks after me week days we have cereal and fruit with yogurt, weekends I get baked beans on toast Saturdays and eggs and bacon on Sundays mainly we do have changes now and again. It is Saturday and I love the old baked beans but as I am on the helm it is served a little different baked beans in a bowl and toast on the side.
We were having a good sail and were neared Howick Island at 1030 hours, this was our planned stop as we expected to get here a little later, the next planned alternative was Ingram Island which was not that far away so we started looking at other alternatives. Flinders Island was our next planned stop after Howick Island but even doing good speed we would not make it before dark and not knowing the place I wanted to anchor in daylight. So after calculations we figured we could get to Bathurst Bay around the back of Cape Melville before dark and if not it was a large bay we could drop anchor anywhere.
(Chart showing our course to Howick Group of Islands)
Near the Howick Island group the shipping lane has two routes one for deep keels around the north of Howick Island and the other passing south west of the Howick Island Group. We being a yacht went between the both. However, it never ceases to amaze me that all the action of large shipping we always encounter in these areas of rounding islands or shipping junctions. This happened as we were heading to Lizard Island as I mentioned previous in the scribbles. Well not that it affected us as we bypassed the shipping lanes by going between islands but at these junctions were three large cargo ships and one tug boat.
(Tugboat 'Norman River')
We sailed between Coquet and Houghton Islands on the southern side of Howick Island this bypassed the shipping lanes and was also a good direction to keep the wind at the right place for sailing. As we passed Coquet Island there was a wreck of a yacht a ground on the beach looked as though it had been there a long while. I have heard of vessels running aground around the reefs of Queensland and often it is due to making a mistake when putting in waypoints into a GPS (Global Positioning System), or during heavy storms being pushed off course this is why it is important to keep a constant watch at any time.
It was one of these islands that Mrs Mary Watson died from thirst after fleeing Lizard Island when the Aborigines had conflict with the Chinese servants, the bodies of Mary her baby and the one servant were found on No 5 Howick Island which I believe is now Watson Island, her diary is listed on this website,
It was getting late in the afternoon as we went through the passage at Cape Melville, we rounded Cape Melville turning down the back of it to Bathurst Bay, the wind picked up a little more probably the affects of the land. We looked at the guide books to find the better anchorage. The Alan Lucas book stated that the best anchorage was passed the shoal area opposite a monument that you can't see from the shore, great help, there is a dark storm approaching with nightfall. I figured the best is to go passed the shoal and shallow area and anchor there. As we approached there is an anchor site indicated in 7.9 metres of water but guide books say go in closer to the beach. We headed closer into the beach and the storm was starting to cover the land so we could not see the land form. We reached a depth area of around 4 metres and the sea was flat basically so I said to Nancy lets anchor here before the storm reaches us. We did then as the rain started we raced around closing covers and managed to do it before getting soaked through. We had a good days sail with a distance covered of 78 nautical miles.
(Howick Group to Bathurst Bay around Cape Melville)
The storm hit and the winds hit around the 30 - 38 knots, the waves picked up and we were bouncing around. When the rain left the wind remained and it stayed all through the night, we did get some sleep but I really don't know how.
I got up a few times through the night checking on a few things. I was up before dawn and checked things out, the boat had taken a beating through the night it was worse than when we sailed south a couple of years ago beating into the SE swell. We set sail at first light and as I got the charts out that I had printed off myself I had a close shot of the bay and there clearly marked on the chart was the monument that could not be seen from the shore, it was actually opposite the shallow areas on the chart. I went on deck and had a look, we had actually anchored in the wind path between the mountains which we could not see because of the storm, 100 metres each side of us the wind waves were standing up outside that area it was calm. As we sailed away again under genoa only we got about a mile out and the wind reduced to 5 knots I had to start an engine.
(Chart of Bathurst Bay and Cape Melville, do not anchor between the dotted lines in windy conditions, I have underlined the area of the monument for the anchorage and another further south)
(Leaving Bathurst Bay with a brilliant sky but not a good memory of our night at anchor)
A s we neared Flinders Island the wind picked up slightly so we hoisted the mainsail, we had around 12 knots of wind nothing great as we were sailing around 4.5 knots. Looking at the Flinders Group of islands they looked great, we had planned a stop over here but it was not to be. Why you may ask, well we do not normally sail to deadlines we go when the sailings good but this time we have a bit of a deadline in getting to Darwin before the nasty weather starts. The other factor is that we need to sail and not motor as fuel stations are scarce in these parts and will be until we get to Darwin, so when there is wind we should sail.
(The Flinders Island Group look beautiful and I wish we could have stopped, but there is another year we can do this it is not far from Lizard Island)
As we passed the island group I noticed a yacht and a motorboat anchored off Stanley Island a short time after one of them presumably the yacht and asked what wind speeds we had and after telling him the wind dropped and I had to start an engine, this was only for a short time then the wind came in and we were off again. We had to look at other alternatives to our planned route, as they say plan A, plan B and whatever. We reckon if we keep sailing the way we are we could get to Morris Island which funny enough was a planned stop we are just a day early.
Nancy cooked breakfast with the shipping lanes nearby it was hard to sit down to a breakfast so instead of bacon and eggs we had omelette and toast with the omelette in a bowl and toast on the side.
Sailing up through this area is great the reefs are close by now so although we have good winds the seas are reasonably flat with the occasional small swell creeping through as you pass the gaps between the reefs. The water is a wonderful blue colour and you pass these pretty islands along the way. Along the way at some of the sandy islands there is a trawler anchored getting sleep ready for the nights work.
(One of the many trawlers anchored at different islands/reefs throughout the shipping lanes north)
These trawlers here, in the Torres Straits and the Gulf stay out months at a time and are serviced by a mother ship company like SeaSwift who we registered with in case we need fuel or water. They also bring food supplies if you organise it.
I noticed as we go along that there is one trawler here another further on and so on as though they all have their allocated area of fishing.
We arrived at Morris Island well before dark and what a pretty island it is and full of bird life some that I had never seen before. The anchorage was great it was calm all the time even though we had a small squall pass just after dark.
It was another great days sail covering 75 nautical miles.
(First light at Morris Island)
(Morning glow Morris Island)
Morris Island is a good anchorage they say you can ride out a gale here from S to E winds. We watched the sunrise and soon after lowered the dinghy to go ashore. It was near low tide which is good for going ashore having greater beach area at this time, low tide also reveals an opening of the reef where you can get the dinghy ashore. As we got ashore some of the birds fluttered about from tree to tree. The most prominent bird here is the migratory Torresian Imperial Pigeon that migrates from Torres Strait areas of PNG, they migrate here around July-August and return to New Guinea February - April, they are mainly an island settling bird and they are here in the hundreds. Other bird life here are Heron, Egret, Oyster Catchers, Terns, Pelican , Black Bellied Storm Petrel and a Sea Eagle. The vegetation on the island is unusual it is full sisal trees which are tall spindle type tree with very short branches . There is one major palm tree that stands out and can be seen 7 NMS before you reach the island. The island is only small but is part of a large reef that has some beautiful coral. The southern end of the island is referred to a beachcomber area in Alan Lucas's guide book, this part of the island has a water current formed gully that collects all the floating debris that has found its way to the sea. If you have lost a thong (ones you wear on your feet), at sea or near a waterway it may be here along with plastic drink containers. I can understand that accidents happen and things may fall overboard but I think a lot of this stuff was thrown overboard or at sometime been litter discarded close to waterways. (Waterways include storm drains in streets, creeks and rivers). Many council areas have storm water drains direct into the sea or other waterways only some councils have rubbish collectors (cages) installed before it discharges into the waterways. The fact is that Councils should not need to do this if people put their rubbish in a rubbish bin.
(Sunrise at Morris Island)
On this island there is a gravesite of a pearl diver from earlier times. Torres Strait pearl divers would venture through these waters and if someone died they would bury them wherever they could, they would also kill the pigeons for food by blinding the pigeon with a torch at night and clubbing them.
(Torresian Imperial Pigeons)
(Sea eagle being chased away from the nesting area)
(Pied Oyster Catchers)
(Egrets settled in for the night)
After a short time on the island I had to return aboard for the SICYC radio sched at 0700 hours on HF radio 8161.0 frequency, so I left Nancy on the island to do her photography and returned to the boat. After the radio sched I tossed a coin to see whether I went back to pick Nancy up or leave her there, no not really but that's what I told her. So I went back and rushed Nancy along to get back for the weather radio sched at 0730 hours on HF radio 12365.0 frequency, they also transmit the weather for this area at 0330, 0730, 1130, 1530 and 2330 EST. This is what we do when we are not in an area of internet or phone service. We wanted to get going this morning because the wind forecast was for SE 15 - 20 knots and that was good for sailing.
(The beachcomber area where the rubbish collects)
(Have you lost a thong, its probably here, this is just a few of the thongs that are here along with glass bottles and many other items)
(A reminder of the tough early days, a trochus shell divers grave, they traveeled far and wide and many deaths were dealt with on the spot buried on a nearby island or at sea.)
We returned on board and weighed anchor there was no sign of this promised winds just a slight breeze from the east, as we cleared the island we pointed the bow into the little wind we had and hoisted the mainsail and then set course towards Night Island. We motor sailed along with the sail giving us an extra half knot in speed we only had one engine running to conserve fuel and motor sailed along at 5.5 to 5.8 knots. After a couple of hours it was evident that the winds is not arriving so it was look at where we will anchor tonight. The original plan was for Portland Roads but we will not reach there in daylight so we chose Lloyd Island.
(Things break and have to be fixed on the run, here a sailbag rope broke that is secured high up the mast)
(Chart showing track from Morris Island to Lloyd Island, Lloyd Island is a good anchorage for calm conditions and NE winds but be aware it is croc territory, yes we are well into the croc country now)
(On watch, set up with sun shade behind, plus an old life jacket as a back rest, I can watch fore and aft from this position whilst George steers, (George is the auto pilot nice bloke George)
(My little set up, shade good book and comfort)
Again today's journey took us passed some beautiful small island that are attached to reef systems, we passed some fishing trawlers at anchor and one motorboat. Just before Cape Direction there is Chapman Island which has a very significant light with heliport attached, this light and island is at the junction of the shipping lanes that either leads to the way we have travelled or to the shipping channel between the inner and outer reefs. I could see a sail of a yacht coming from that direction which is often used by overseas yachts that have decided that they will not visit Australia other than Darwin. This is because of the bad publicity we have had through some publications like Coastal Passage that has an editor that has a hate session with Australian Customs and bags them out every opportunity, the other major reason that they by-pass Australia is because we are one of the most expensive places for people to visit in costs of items and in labour.
(Chapman Island light complete with helipad and a yacht I mentioned passing by)
As we and the yacht came nearer to each other I called them on the radio with no response, this could be for a couple of reasons, if it is a foreign yacht it is going to continually sail until they get to Darwin therefore some crew or the other crew member could be asleep and the radio is turned off, or the radio is just turned off to save power or they just don't want to talk to us. We always have the radio on for safety even at anchor.
We rounded Cape Direction and changed course for Lloyd Island in Lloyd Bay, this is just north of the Lockhart River there is a large Aboriginal community located near here and fortunately for us because of that we have internet and phone service.
We entered the area behind Lloyd Island where a barge was anchored and we anchored not far from it but far enough not to hear his generator that well. We had motor sailed 53 nautical miles only under sail alone for a few miles after we rounded Cape Direction.
After anchoring we considered that this just might be croc country so we made sure we did not put ourselves in places where we would be vulnerable. Our catamaran has very easy and wide transom steps which can be inviting for the lizard friends so we partition the cockpit off just in case. After dark we heard some movement in the water and when we shined the torch we saw fish and two bright orange eyes, our first croc experience. Most of the night you could hear it making it noise around the boat, it took Nancy awhile to get to sleep.
There is little wind for the next few days so we may motor up to Portland Roads tomorrow it is only 15 nautical miles.
The other day when we were nearing the Howick Group of islands I notice that we had just reached the 13,000 nautical miles since we brought this catamaran into Australia so looking at the trip meter on the GPS today we have sailed 13,185 NMS in Australia and 24,901 NMS since leaving St Lucia in the Caribbean.