July 22nd: We arrived into Portland Roads anchorage mid-afternoon. Lovely little bay with a number of houses and cars! Excitement civilisation! We took the duck off and went for a walk. There is a Café but it was closed. We found Heidi and Peter who had found an ice cream vendor, which was more or less a small container with a freezer. However the mango ice cream in a cup for $5 was very welcome. There was not a lot to see so we headed back to the ducks. There were a number of people collecting rubbish off the beach and we had a chat. They have started an organisation called “Turango Blue” and they have a concentrated effort each year to collect the rubbish off the beaches. They collect 5 tonne of plastic off one Cape York beach alone each year. They believe the plastic comes from container ships, and boats, not from land. We can verify that we see a lot of plastic and debris on some very remote beaches. I have decided that from now on I will carry a bag with me on my beach walks to collect some rubbish. I have seen a video of the harm it causes to birds and wildlife (it’s on my Facebook) and it’s just horrifying.
We had a quiet night, now into the 4th series of Game of Thrones and we are loving it.
July 23rd: We departed Portland Roads at 8:00am with Oda, Stormvogel and Elonnisa, heading for Margaret Bay. It was a beautiful day’s sail and we passed through a narrow channel, the Paluma Passage and it was full of thousands of birds, diving onto thousands of fish. We think they were Spanish mackerel but not sure. Anyway we hooked up in the middle of the channel but it got off. (Yeah I know Fisherman’s story). We arrived into Margaret Bay, it’s a lovely big bay but very shallow and apparently full of Crocodiles. We took the duck into the beach for a walk, but I chickened out. We couldn’t get right to the beach and would have had to walk through the water and I wasn’t game. It was full of starfish though, they were everywhere. Oda had invited us and Stormvogel for dinner, for a Norwegian traditional dish. It was like a casserole and was scrumptious. We left early as we had all agreed on a 4.15am departure tomorrow morning for Mt Adolphus Island.
July 24th: We upped anchor at 4.14am and it was pitch black. It’s a real team effort for this sort of thing as it’s so hard to see anything and the light from the instruments, blinds the Skipper, so you can’t actually see anything ahead of you, especially when like this morning it was only a crescent moon. It was also raining. We just got the anchor up and headed out, I poked my head out the pilothouse door and there was a small yacht right in front of us with NO lights. I shouted at Robbie, he couldn’t see it, he went into reverse. He turned the spot light on them and sure enough there was a small white yacht with no lights on. We manoeuvred around him and quickly radioed Oda and Stormvogel to warn them. Robbie called him on the radio and blasted him, and he then turned on his anchor light and some other lights also. That was extremely stressful to say the least.
We are using the main shipping channel to navigate up the Cape York and we currently have a dolphin escort. Pretty cool. We tend to usually pass 4 or 5 container ships but it is no drama the channel is pretty wide and the ships have mainly been going down the coast so are on the far side of the channel. Once we got past the top of Australia the currents are very strong in the Torres Straight and we weren’t sure how bad it would be. It actually wasn’t too bad, it was a bit tricky navigating around some rocks and reefs once we left the main channel but we anchored up in Blackwood Bay, Mt Adolphus Island at 6.00pm. We were pretty tired after such a long day.
We left at 8:00am for Horn Island, Torres Straights. Horn Island is only about 1 nautical mile from Thursday Island, but because the tide, wind and currents are so strong the best anchorage is off Horn Island. We had a great trip, with the current with us, 9+ knots so we were flying. We anchored up about 11:30am. Wow! The water is just the most amazing Turquoise blue colour very, very pretty. We got the duck off and went for an explore on Horn Island. One small superette and one hotel. We went for a walk with Elizabeth and had a drink at the pub. We then decided to catch the ferry over to Thursday Island for a look. Robbie went back to Southern Star to service the engine and generator. Elizabeth & I found the supermarket and got a few bags each of groceries. It can be a challenge provisioning the boat when you are on anchor, having to cart everything down to the wharf, into the duck and then across to the boat. Much easier if you are in a marina. Also much easier in small amounts rather than one big shop.
July 26th: Went over to Thursday Island on the ferry to the hardware store and checked out the other shops. Everything closes at lunchtime so it was a bit of a rush. We went to the Grand Hotel for lunch with Peter and Heidi, and I met my work colleague, Karen Wright. Karen is doing the Business Manager’s position (same job as mine) up here and manages 17 other schools. It sounds like an awesome position, although a lot more challenges than that of the normal role. Pretty tough having to flit around in a helicopter from Island to Island! Karen gave us a tour around the Island in her brand new company car – a Ford Ranger. The island is not that big, a population of 3,000. There’s a pub for every 1000 people! It certainly is a beautiful part of the world, the water is the most gorgeous Turquoise Blue, just amazing. It was so good to catch up with Karen and it (almost) made me miss work, but only a tiny bit! We met all the rally participants at 5:00pm for sundowners at the Horn Island Hotel. There are 23 boats participating in the rally, from all over the world. We are the only Motor Yacht though.
July 27th: Caught the 9:00am ferry over to Thursday Island to the supermarket for a top up of supplies for our Indonesian journey. There are quite a few things apparently that we won’t be able to get in Indonesia, such as cheeses, nice meat, and a fair bit of other stuff so we are making sure we are well stocked up. The prices on Thursday Island are very expensive, at least double and sometimes triple of what we would pay in Woollies at home. The choice is also rather limited but we are getting used to that after Vanuatu.