Our keel did a bit of sand hopping as we exited the shallow Endeavor River in Cooktown near low tide at the end of June. But the Captain’s skilled maneuvering allowed us to stay afloat and steer clear of the numerous boats anchored in the channel. Once we were out, we enjoyed a lovely day sail over to Jiigurru (Lizard Island) with 15 knots on the beam. We were up early the next morning for a hike to Cook’s Lookout.
The extremely difficult trek up a 359 m steep, rocky incline was totally worth it for the 360 views. It was from here that Captain James Cook sought to identify a way to sail The Endeavour out of the Great Barrier Reef.
On 28 June, we had planned to go snorkeling at Lizard Island, but a crocodile that had been spotted on the Reef (15 nm offshore!) kept me out of the water. Instead, we lifted anchor for the 320 nm sail to Mount Adolphus Island. With frequent course adjustments in 20 + SE winds, sailing in the shipping lanes of the inner GBR required a vigilant eye. So we tucked in at Lloyd’s Bay along the way to allow The Captain one full night of rest.
We arrived at the top of Australia on 1 July and spent the evening in the Mount Adolphus Island anchorage off the tip of Cape York. Then we waited for a favorable tidal stream to carry us through the Endeavour Strait, into the Gulf of Carpentaria and onward to The Indian Ocean.
Early on the morning of 2 July, we set out into that patch of sea which is the stuff of harrowing legend. But for us, it was serene as we left Mt Adolphus Island in calm seas when the current was slack at Hammond Rock. As we made our way, the current rate increased to a lively clip of 6.42 knots and we were out before the next slack at 1408 when the tide would turn against us.
Initial depths in The Gulf of Carpentaria were 16 m, shallower than the shipping lanes through the GBR. We’ve anchored in deeper places! This results in a beautiful blue color and a slightly uncomfortable chop when the winds picked up. Luckily, the winds were a comfortable 15 knots, so the ride was comfortable.
After a 770 nm sail from Mount Adolphus Island with stopovers in the Wessel Islands and Alcora Bay, we arrived safely and virtually repair free in Darwin on 8 July. Still, there was a lot of work to be done before we could sail onward to Indonesia including installation of a new radar and a few big sewing jobs, visas that needed to be secured and a life raft that needed to be serviced.
But there was also a birthday that needed to be celebrated (mine) and The Captain delivered with a four day tour of Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. My favorite bit was the crocodiles. I’ve grown to love (respect/admire) them…from a distance.
Other highlights included a Yellow Water cruise ….
… the Aborigal art …
… and the views at the Burrunggui (Nourlangie) Rock Art site …
… the colors of Ubirr at sunset….
… the plethora of termite mounds…
… lots of 4WD driving over the rivers and through the woods with The Captain ‘on the helm’….
…the falls that weren’t running (Jim Jim Falls – Kakadu) ….
…and the falls that were running (Wangi Falls – Litchfield National Park).
We’ve made our way back to Darwin and are busily preparing for our 470 nm sail to Kupang in West Timor, Indonesia. Winds and weather permitting, we will depart early in the morning of 24 July 2016. Once we leave here, we will be off-grid for about a week but will be sending periodic position updates via satellite phone along the way. You can follow our updates on Farkwar or on Twitter.