Sunday, October 14, 2012

Margaret Bay (Cape Grenville) to Escape River and Seisia

Thursday - 11/10/2012

(Chart Portland Roads to Margaret Bay)

We set sail at 0415 hours  or should I say motor sail again with little to no wind, there are four trawlers to look out for and there are two cargo ships in the shipping lanes one going north the other south. This area is alright to sail in the dark not as many labyrinths  of reefs around here just a few islands to worry about but by the time we near them the sun would be just coming up. We passed Bird Islets at 0615 hours covering 13 NMS so far, if we can keep this pace we will be in Escape River well before dark.
Reading Craig's notes off 'Scarlett' who was here last year, this river would be a impossible at night with all the pearl farm structures. Craig had some information from another fellow sailor but did not put that in his notes.

As the sun rose the birds started flying from the night resting places and there were lots of them from Bird Islets and most of them were the Torresian Pigeon. We had never seen them before Morris Island and they have been everywhere since. There were also the sea birds that were starting their days fishing, the Terns that hover high up in the air looking for a target and then goes into a dive folding the wings back speared into the water and coming out with its catch.
(Sunrise at sea)
Sunrise was glorious this morning with a heavy cloud build up around it gave some different colours. After the sun had risen I went around and did a few checks having a look at the engines and bilges. The other day in the wave poundings we developed a small leak in the port fuel tank, nothing major just the occasional dripping, I have already replaced the starboard fuel tank so it looks like another job for Darwin.
(HMAS Maryborough passes us on the way to Escape River, I dipped the flag but no response)

We have had to motor all day with hardly any wind at all for sailing alone so have had one engine running but we have covered 72 NMS to Escape River. In entering the river I referred to Alan Lucas guide book he gave an ample description on entry to the river and stated to follow river in by staying in the centre. He provides a waypoint for the point of entry but no others.
(Chart showing track in and out of Escape River)
We followed the book and at the same time I kept an eye on the water and one on the depth gauge, I could see what Craig meant about the river there is Pearl infrastructure all over. As we passed the buildings of the pearl farm the VHF radio crackled with them calling us on the radio. As soon as I heard it I pulled both throttles to neutral in case we were heading for something they were about to warn us about.

The voice came over "This is Rusty at the Pearl Farm, do you know where you're going or are you just finding your way?" Nancy answered we are finding our way using Alan Lucas guide, Rusty replied, "Well we can start a fire and you can put that on it". "If you keep going on the same track you will see a cage to your left, pass that on its right side by about 50 metres, then go about 80 metres and turn sharp left and you can anchor in about 6 metres of water near the mangroves, you will get a good night sleep there and you won't have to worry about going the extra distance and having to get passed those rocks."

We thanked him for his help, he said he would be passing by soon as he has to work for a living.
(Waypoints for Escape River - Enter at 10' 57.914 S 142' 44.934 E  -  10' 57.397 S 142' 43.429 E -  10' 57.633 S 142' 42.274 E  -  10' 57.687 S 142' 41.407 E  - 10' 57.696 S 142' 41.204 E  - turn port at 10' 57.959 S 142' 40.649 E and anchor at 10' 58.208 S 142' 40.628 E call Rusty on VHF Ch16 VHF and confirm no changes)

A short time later whilst I was having a well earned beer Rusty and his wife went passed in their big tinnie to the oyster beds. Sometime later they returned and called by to say hello, Rusty and Bronwyn have had the farm for 4 years, Rusty said he couldn't understand all the boats going so far up the river, I explained that the guide books give that as the anchorage, hence his comment about where the book should go. I said with all the oyster beds I suppose  people are not sure where to anchor. Rusty said in the next 3 years there will be lights and indicators put in place. As he said he has $1m worth of pearls in the water he has to look after them. Before they left they invited us for a cup of tea before we left, unfortunately we had to decline due to sailing at first light. We thanked them for their help and kindness. 
(The Pearl Farm on the starboard side as you enter the river)
(Rusty and Bronwyn working after the sun goes down)

Friday - 12/10/2012

Out of bed just before first light and I started rolling up the covers and getting ready to sail, Nancy heard me up and about on deck so got up straight away, major thing first out the kettle on then turn on instruments start engines and as there was enough light to see where we were going we pulled the anchor and set off. I run both engines to get out of the river against the 2 knot current. Time was crucial as we needed the tide flow with us outside the river to speed our way to and through the Albany Passage. Once outside the river we headed northwest toward the passage about 15NMS to get there and the tide changes at 1030 hours against us which would stop us going through the passage as it would be wind against tide and the waves can stand up and get rather angry.

We had no problems we got there before our expected time as the wind and current was speeding us along at 7.6 knots. On the way to the passage there is an area called Four Fathom Patches this is where there are many sea bottom contours of different depths that cause some turbulence of the sea, it was no major problem in the sea conditions that we had but it would be a place to avoid in strong weather as would be Albany Passage.
(Approaching Albany Passage, Nancy watches as we get closer)
(Short movie of Albany Passage)
(The most northern point we have been on the Australian Coast)
(York Island)

As we approached Albany Passage it look quite narrow from the distance the passage at its widest point is 0.5 nautical miles and about 0.3 NMS at the narrowest point, the flood tide (incoming tide) flows to the north the ebb tide flows to the south. Before we entered we dropped sails so we could see everything without the sails spoiling the view plus we found that there was no wind in the passage. It was a great experience going through the passage, I had engines running just in case the currents sent us in the wrong direction the force of the water took us through the 3.5NMS at a speed of 10.6 knots after the passage came the big moment of going around to Cape York passing the most northern tip of the Australian mainland, we rounded York Island and entered to anchor in the bay of Cape York. We did not expect to see any tourists here as grey nomads would have headed south by now for the summer. I checked the coastline looking for life of any kind in particular those large lizards we heard about "the crocs". I spot some long dark objects on the beach in a couple of places but could not make out what they were through the binoculars, I took photos of them with the zoom lens and then blew them up with the digital zoom to find out they were logs.

We lowered the dinghy and went ashore to have our morning tea, Nancy had made a cake and our thermal mugs of tea/coffee to have at Cape York. We got ashore and Nancy was a little nervous about crocs because of the stories told. I looked carefully around and all looked fine so we got ashore and skylarked around and had our brew. After a fair while I said to Nancy that we should move as we need to get to Seisia before the 20-30 knots winds hit. Cape York would probably be alright as an anchorage un such conditions but I did not want to be stuck there as if the winds came it would be tough sailing against it to Seisia the next day. Just as Nancy was taking some photos and I was sipping on my brew I turned and looked around the topside of the beach and spotted this shape, I looked again and again and could not make out whether it was a log or a croc sunning itself which they do. I said to Nancy I think we will go now so we got in the dinghy and moved off the beach, I took a photo of what I saw and when I checked it out , there it was sure enough as large as life about 3 metres long with the curvature of a tail it was definitely a log.
(Cape York, 'Alana Rose' anchored well out of the beach)
(We now claim this as another Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club social spot)
(Is it a croc or a log? It is a real live croc log)

We set sail for Seisia only about a 20NM run we followed the beach passage to round Possession Island. Fortunately the difference between Albany Passage and Seisia is about one hour Seisia being one hour later so we still ran with the tide all the way to Seisia.
(Chart showing track taken to Seisia)

Possession Island has a significance to Australia it is the place that Captain Cook drove a flag into the sand and declared the east coast of Australia as British territory on behalf of King George the Third and named the island Possession Island which was known as  Bedanug or Bedhan Lag by the original inhabitants, the Kaurareg people, in 2001 the Kaurareg people successfully claimed the land rights back along with surrounding islands.
(Plaque regarding Captain Cook's declaration of the East Coast of Australia) 


Seisia is a small community coastal port and is popular stop over for the people trekking to Cape York with the campground here servicing 50% of those that go to Cape York, it is also popular for fishermen that like to test their skills on the water and therefore a few charter companies operate out of here. The population here is mainly Aboriginal  and I would estimate the European population of around one hundred in number. The Aboriginal people here are generally shy people but will be friendly and talk to you if you speak first.
(Seisia anchorage areas, we are anchored at the centre position)
(Seisia Jetty, tug and barge working at replacing old timber pylons and SeaSwift's 'Malu Titan' just leaving port)

There are strict alcohol laws here very similar to the Northern Territory, alcohol can only be served at certain times and you are only allowed a certain amount. It is not cheap to purchase, this is due to shipping costs and the costs of power generation for the area.

Reading the Alan Lucas guide book again gave me concerns regarding space to anchor he indicated that it was difficult with swing room and leaving an area for the ships that enter the port to offload cargo. I really think there is more room to anchor here than at Cooktown. The anchorage is good holding there are a few moored boats and at this time we have three other catamarans and one monohull yacht waiting to go south down the east coast, looking at the weather charts it may be a while before that will happen.

After we were secure at anchor we ventured over to the monohull yacht next to us to find out where things were and met Roger and Di, they have been sailing Asia over the past years and are now returning to Tin Can Bay. They told us where everything was and what was on, tonight and the Fishing Club the bar is open at 1730 hours and there will be burgers available to purchase at 1830 hours onwards.

By 1730 hours no one on the other boats had moved so we lowered the dinghy and started to make our way in and on the way called in to the other boats and introduced ourselves, they said they would be going in soon. We got there and there were a few locals there that invited us to join the so we did. They were also the committee workers for the night, apparently it was a karaoke night and a mad hatters night one of the ladies who works at the service station pointed out to me the bloke that arranged this mad hatters night he was a vertically challenged fellow just like myself maybe a little more than I, he had a large black top hat and black drawings on his face a bushy black beard (his own) and thick bushy black hair, the girl said looking at him, "It's hard to believe he is our doctor at the hospital". He came over for a chat, he said the same as all the rest we met today, "We saw you come in today". I don't think anyone can get into this port without being seen. Having worked in isolated areas before myself it is always interesting to see something new happening.

Although it is a little different in isolated places of today with modern technology of satellite TV and mobile telephone and internet services. Although I only spent a short time in the then isolated place at Daly Waters in the NT it was very different. You would wake a 0530hours to listen to the news on ABC radio and if you were really lucky you would get all the news before the radio faded out. This was in the days just after Darwin cyclone 'Tracey', that flattened Darwin. We sometimes did not see a customer for 4 days and a 4 day old newspaper was good to read. I saw the same place many years later with a big satellite dish out front and it was no different visiting there than the local pub in a big city. I think I preferred the old days with the 4 day old newspaper.

I digress once again, but I think you may now have the picture why I like this life now.

We had a good night at the Seisia Fishing Club last night the locals had to leave our company to go to working on the burger stand and the choice of burgers were beef, steak or fish they were all $8 each beers served in cans only, no glass bottles was $6 a can. After the locals left we went and joined the other yachties that had now arrived. Two of the catamarans spend most of their time sailing around the Gulf here and Torres Strait and return to Cairns or Mackay for the cyclone season but both area considering the Kimberly's next year.  We had a good night there and don't be too surprised when I tell you we were the first to go home.

We had been told that there are crocs here which made Nancy a little nervous  getting into the water to get into the dinghy. The locals said that there is one old man croc here, his territory that does not bother anyone usually, but there was a younger croc arrived I think she said last week which led to a fight between the old man and the new comer, the old man sent the young fella on his way and he hasn't been seen since. Apparently there is a female croc up one of the creeks that leads into a lagoon with two young ones. Before getting into the water with the dinghy I shone the torch around for any red eyes, being none I entered the water and pulled the dinghy into the water for Nancy to get aboard then I got in started the motor and went back to the boat. As Nancy climbed back on Alana Rose and I was hooking the dinghy up to lift it there was this sudden splash of water just behind me, I think I may have been in trouble if I had needed to go to the toilet. As it happened on a number of occasions after it was large fish chasing small fish.




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