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                               AUSTRALIA Queensland - OVER THE TOP to Seisha
From Cairns north into Australia's largest frontier is nothing short of rugged craggy mountains, sandy lowlands and untouched landscape. Only formidable roads connect small remote Aboriginal outposts. We were prepared for a journey without facilities or shore excursions. In fact, permits were required to step onto Aboriginal land and even having secured permission, generally visitors are unwelcome.

June 10 LOW ISLETS

Our first stop after Cairns was Low Islets, about 45 miles away. The anchorage was good, albeit rolly. It consisted of two islands, one a mangrove forest and the other a sand spit with a lighthouse. We didn't leave the boat but Emma on Freefall swam to shore only to find crocodile warning signs posted on the beach. It was a rather daunting swim back to her boat! The anchorage was uncomfortable that night  as usual and we left early the following morning.

June 11 CAPE BEDFORD

The seas were rough and the wind was strong when we passed our intended anchorage at Hope Island. So, along with Aliesha and Ice Maiden, we continued on to Cape Bedford where we thought we would have more protection.

We arrived just after sunset, rounding the cape in 50 knots of wind. We used Aliesha's anchor light to find the entrance. Ascension was pitching and rolling, the bow plunging under the water with each wave, as we had to remain far from shore as the bay was shallow and so there was a very long fetch. I had to go forward to drop the anchor and I got thoroughly doused by the cold salt water.

Our night at Bedford was a nightmare, the anchorage so rough that we kept breaking our snubbers. Aliesha and Ice Maiden were kept busy replacing equipment too. Every time anyone checked his anchor he were assured of a thorough soak by the waves and spray. Hence, the Snubber Club was formed, and it became a contest to see whose snubber could last the longest!

Because there was too much pressure on the windlass to lift our anchors, we were trapped in Cape Bedford for 3 days and nights, the wind raging and reaching 50+ knots. A sensible little tern took refuge one night sheltered under our dodger and would not leave no matter how close we got to him.

The area around Cape Bedford was Aboriginal land, uninhabited. On shore, sand dunes were so white they looked like snowy hills.

June 14

We decided that the winds had decreased somewhat (from 50+ to between 30 and 35 knots!) and the gale warnings were downgraded to high wind warnings so we  finally made a break for it! We all managed to get our anchors free and gladly left Bedford in our wake. 

LIZARD ISLAND

It was a full day's sail to Lizard Island but once we arrived we were rewarded with a flat anchorage. Although the wind was blowing 40 knots off the hilltops, the boat lay bow to the wind in smooth seas and we had a peaceful night set amongst 17 other boats.

The following day we went ashore for the first time in over a week and hiked to the other side of the island. The trail wove through spiky palm and eucalypt trees. As we passed an airstrip we met up with Dick and Pam on Aliesha, then continued on through brush and sand dunes until we reached a beautiful beach.

Blue Lagoon

We walked along the deserted sandy beach every wary for the reported crocs that made the nearby mangroves their home. The entire bay was turquoise water surrounded by shallow reefs.

That evening the cruisers in the anchorage all got together for a Pot Luck Dinner on shore.   There was an old barrel under a tree that caught out attention. Inside was a beautiful wooden Treasure Chest. Inside the chest was a collection of rum bottles, gold chain, an old lamp and other treasures and also a guest book!

June 16 Snorkeling with the Stingers

There was a reef right beside the boat in the anchorage so we joined several others and snorkeled in the cool, clear water. The soft coral was outstanding, the large fish were abundant and colorful but the best was the sightings of huge clams, some 2 meters across, their bright lips ranging in color from fluorescent orange to blue to green.

We didn't spend very long in the water because we were cold, despite out wetsuits, complete with stinger hoods. But no sooner had we got out of the water, Gord's face started to swell, evidence that he had been stung by a jellyfish on the only small part of his body that was exposed. We treated it with vinegar and ice and although painful, the sting was not life threatening but we were glad we were wearing our suits.

Lizards on Lizard Isle

After our swim we ventured to the Resort side of the island, where we hiked around. We soon came upon a goanna, the large lizards that gave the island its name. We saw a few interesting things including the tent-like green ants nest that hangs from the trees in woolly clumps all over the island.

 

June 17 FLINDERS Group of Islands

The anchorage was getting rough so it was time to move on.

We left Lizard Island at 4 am, the sail was idyllic as the winds had settled somewhat.  Along the way the landscape changed to a combination of steep rocky headland with sand. We were definitely getting into Arnhem Aboriginal land, no signs of civilization or habitation aside from the odd Aboriginal outpost.

We sailed through several islands comprising The Flinders Group, their high rusty colored stratified rocky shoreline reminding us of the San Juan Islands. Beside the dense scrub, mangroves bordered the waters edge, a perfect home for crocodiles. We anchored in front of a sandy spit along with several other cruising and fish boats and enjoyed a peaceful night.


June 18 MORRIS ISLAND

We were anxious to press on as there were lots of boats ahead of us making their way to Darwin and we didn't want to be the last ones there and miss out on any activities planned for the rally to Indonesia. Our next stop was Morris Island, a tiny sandy island boasting one lone palm tree and looking somewhat like the islands you see in cartoons. The anchorage was outside a reef but offered fair protection from the swell.


June 20 PORTLAND ROADS

We set sail for Portland Roads at 5 am and arrived in time for a fresh fish dinner on Gone With the Wind since we were the only ones in the flotilla that didn't catch fish that day!

We were all a little fuzzy the next day after partying when we all got up at 4:30 am to continue our journey. We have not been to shore at all for quite a while so being on another boat was a nice change.


June 21 CAPE GRENVILLE, Margaret Bay

We had a fast sail to Cape Grenville in 30 knots and were glad to take refuge along with a number of fishing boats in Margaret Bay where a long deserted beach stretched along the shoreline for miles. We left the anchorage at 6 am.


June 22 ESCAPE RIVER

Finally yesterday, we caught our first Australian fish, a Yellowfin Tuna. We made Sushi mi and invited Gone with the Wind and another single-hander, already in the anchorage, over for a sundowner, after a wild and terrifying bar crossing through a gale into the anchorage up Escape River. Unfortunately Aliesha and Ice Maiden were stranded at the mouth, Ice Maiden  having gone aground, and they were waiting for the tide to rise. They were both fine.

Because the weather was so severe and the anchorage was so protected, we decided to stay a day and rest. We did not go ashore because there were lots of crocs around. We were only 20 miles to the top of Australia and it was exciting to know that we were getting close. Although we were not looking forward to venturing out into the gale , we needed to press on.


Over the Top

June 24 ALBANY PASSAGE & AND CAPE YORK

We left very early to try and time the current going through Albany Pass, situated between the mainland and Albany Island, 14 miles NW of Escape River. Almost as soon as we entered the pass, the seas flattened and we accelerated as the current pushed us along at 10 knots! It was a fabulous experience.

Sailing onward we headed for Cape York, the northernmost point of Australia. It gave us intense gratification to finally round the point and officially be "Over the Top." It had been a tough slog up the coast and this was definitely a milestone!


June 25 SEISHA

We settled in a calm little anchorage in front of Seisha, and waited along with 20 other boats for more settled weather to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria. The town only had 100 people but offered fresh produce and groceries at a well stocked supermarket. There was a washing machine available at the campground but no dryer so as a result of the rainy weather I withheld doing my laundry.

One night the group wanted to get together onshore for sundowners but Seisha is a "dry" aboriginal community and there is a hefty fine for possession of alcohol of any kind. So Silver Fern hosted the party and 30 people gathered on their 70 footer, more than enough room for everyone!

Seisia is fringed with a beautiful white beach but you don't see the locals swimming anywhere, perhaps as a result of the grim monument on shore in honor of a local that was taken down by a crocodile here. The people here are very dark skinned and look more Melanesian than Aboriginal. The earth is red colored and there are palm trees bordering emerald green waters..inviting but deadly!

We spent several days in Seisha which proved to be a busy port with a large dock constantly busy with ships coming and going. We were able to get fuel, propane and fresh produce.

We finally left at sparrows for a 3 day passage to Gove, a small Aboriginal isolated settlement in the Northern Territories. We anticipated a "washing machine" ride as others traveling ahead of us had reported.

PHOTO ALBUM QUEENSLAND

NEXT>>> GOVE TO DARWIN

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