Tuesday 22nd July

Passed lots of algal blooms along the way.

Got close to catching Haulback after giving them over 3 hours head start. Anchored close in at Morris Island for a reasonably quiet night.

Wednesday 23rd July

Headed off early but Haulback and En Point had left before first light. Took us few hours to pass them.

Got some phone and internet service as we passed the Lockhart River Aboriginal Mission in Lloyd Bay, our first for 8 days so we were immersed in our phones and iPads for an hour or 2.

Rounded Restoration Island and found a large restoration project happening ashore. This Island is where Captain Bligh found refuge, fresh water and food on his first landfall after being put to sea following the famous mutiny.

We anchored off the Portland Roads Settlement.

There used to be a large jetty here allowing supplies to be shipped in to the Iron Ranges Airfield during WWII. Ever since the Kissing Point Memorial at Townsville we have been conscious of the role FNQ played in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Iron Ranges was a significant airfield for bombing runs out in the Pacific. The sad part I find is that so much infrastructure built was so easily discarded and left to go to ruin. Fortunately the airfield still operates servicing the Lockhart River Community and the RFDS.

Little En Point from San Francisco came in next followed by Canadian Haulback . We had their crews on board for drinks that evening. Tom from En Point is doing a solo world circumnavigation in his little trimaran. Jim from Haulback is doing his second circumnavigation with his new partner Jen after completing his first one solo. Both boats are entered in the Sail2Indonesia Rally.

Thursday 24th July

Ashore we went off for a walk reading some of the history of the place. Haulback and En Point were long gone.

Rain cut our walk short so we retreated to the last coffee shop, restaurant on the east coast. Here we spent a very pleasant morning savouring fresh coffee and cakes, chatting with the chef and other guests while admiring the view between rain squalls.

In a lull between rain squalls we headed back to the dinghy before the falling tide stranded us ashore. Quiet afternoon reading. Late rubbish run ashore when the tide was back in. Last garbage service for a while too.

Friday July 25

The Spinnaker was up quickly as we departed Portland Roads. Held it until mid morning when strengthening gusts and a 20 degree course change dictated a sail change. We sailed through the narrowest part of the Shipping Lane in the GBR and were thankful that the 4 big ships in the area had already passed us and there were no more on the horizon. Lots of reefs but all well marked.

On our final approach to the narrow Paluna Pass between Home Islands, we had a huge strike on the lure and the reel screamed. I tightened the drag as much as possible then Lea and I rushed to slow the boat down by changing from Screecher to Genoa. We were in an area with no room to spare. Fortunately the speed reduction allowed the fish to shake the lure. I was left to bring in over 300 meters of line and then bend the hooks back into shape as they had been nearly straightened. Don't know what it was but it was big. So glad I didn't have to deal with it on the boat.

Dropped anchor in Margaret Bay after following in some leads painted on the rocks. This lead to a much more close in and sheltered anchorage than off the beach. What a beautifull beach it was though.

Apart from the infestation of starfish in the low tide shallows

Picked up a green coconut and collected a couple of dozen oysters off the rocks.
Retired back to Gemini Lady for chilled beer and oysters.

Saturday 26th July

Strong Wind Warning so ashore early to catch the high tide and walk across to Indian Beach before the weather turned really bad. The track was well marked with blue coloured flotsam and jetsam and a sense of humour.

There must have been a container load of blue plastic stuff wash up on Indian Beach. This beach is renowned for its accumulation of detritus but we were amazed at the quantity we found. Last year we had been asked to note the level of plastic rubbish that we found in New Cal and Vanuatu. There, we had been pleasantly surprised to find very little. Now we know why! It's all on Indian Beach, being slowly ground up by all the pumice stone to create micro plastic that then enters the food chain. From what we could identify much of the rubbish was either Asian in origin or from fishing boats.
However, it was good to see some constructive use made of the rubbish.
Indian Beach was another gorgeous beach with lots of coconut palms.

Back at the boat, Lea picked up the small fishing rod and came up with this ugly offering.

We couldn't identify it and it did not look appetising so it was thrown back.

Maintenance half hour repairing the mount for the port engine room bilge pump that wouldn't shut off.

Sunday 27th July.

Another SWW but not supposed to hit 30 knots until evening so we are off to the shelter of the Escape River, 70 NM North. Good sailing with a 15-25 knot SE punctuated with stronger rain squalls. Happened to get caught crossing in the Shipping Channel at the worst possible time, with a big ship turning toward us. Some confusion as both vessels turned the same way making the situation worse. We then headed up 30 degrees generating lots of apparent and accelerating us to 12 knots and quickly getting out of the way. The Captain of the ship called us up on the radio and politely told us we had no business to be in the middle of the shipping channel. Really!

Entered the Escape River at low tide and were very surprised at the extent of the exposed reefs that are not on the chart. Proceeded very cautiously with all three sonars on. It was too rough and windy for the outer anchorage off the Pearl Farm so we headed up the River where it was nice and sheltered.

We knew there was a very nasty uncharted rock up there as well. After we anchored and the tide had dropped a little further we could see this rock poking up. We took the opportunity to abandon our G&T's for 5 minutes and took the dinghy over to the rock. It was quite an extensive reef. We used the iPad Navionics App to register the GPS position of the rock and made notes about it that will be uploaded to the community layer when next we have internet.

Our good deed of the day done we returned to our G&T.

Monday 28th July

Saw our first croc this morning, a small one swimming into the mangroves some distance away from us. Have to say I'm even getting paranoid about taking a leak from the back of boat these days now that we are on croc country.

Another SWW, with the forecast saying it will not improve until Thursday or Friday. However, the sky seemed clear so we tried to call up the Pearl Farm and try to arrange a visit. Kerryn and John from Eosoterica had visited here last year and bought pearls. They highly recommended the place and we knew it was owned and run by Rusty and Bronwyn. No response on the radio but we elected to motor over there anyway. As we prepared to anchor Rusty called us on the radio. He was surprised when I greeted him by name and readily welcomed us to come ashore.

We had a delightful morning chatting over a couple of coffees. Rusty is a great character and loves a good yarn. Bronwyn is also delightful. They are slowly rebuilding the Pearl Farm after years of neglect. We talked a bit about Pearls but got lots of politics and Rusty's life story thrown in. We have invited them for dinner tomorrow night, so that should be fun.

Left them just before 1400 as the weather came in hard and wet. We retreated back up to the calm of the River.

A Belgium registered Lagoon 440 called Byzance came up the river to anchor near us around 1700. We spoke on the radio and they had had “much wind” today. We arranged for coffee the next morning.

Tuesday 29th July

Met up with Denis and Michele from Byzance. Michele spoke no English but Denis did very well as long as we spoke slowly. Denis had forgotten to purchase more credit for his satphone so he couldn't get the weather and the VHF Broadcasts were spoken too quickly for him to understand. We sent an Email to his wife via the HF to tell her they were ok and to recharge the satphone.

We all went on an excursion to find the track on the southern side of the river. We found it and followed it about a km but it was very overgrown and dug up by wild pigs making it very hard to follow. Found some pretty impressive ant hills though.

Retired back to Byzance for a cuppa then back to Gemini Lady to prepare dinner for Rusty and Bronwyn.

The weather was so foul that we were concerned they wouldn't make it but they did and a great night was had. They gave us a present of a beautiful pair of marbé pearl shells.

We were invited to lunch next day but the weather was improving so we planned to move on. Might have stayed if Rusty wanted a helping hand but as he joked it was his big Mecanno Set and he didn't want to share. I reckon Rusty should have his own radio talkback show, he would be brilliant and bring some common sense and reason into the politics up here.