Nothing prepared us for the spectacular beauty of the Far North’s coastline as we sailed during the course of a week, from Lizard Island to Horn Island, ready to clear customs at Thursday Island before leaving for Indonesia.
On the way from our first anchorage on this leg, Ninion Bay, towards the Flinders Group, we were completely amazed at the remarkable and possibly unique terrain of Cape Melville.
Comprising massive, smooth granite boulders of every shape and size – all piled on top of each other- in deep, deep piles, for mile after mile, it looked for all the world like magnificent man-made fortifications or as if some giant had decided to build a very high, very deep and very long dry stone wall.
We could not stop marvelling at this spectacular sight and both felt it should be added to the list of Natural Wonders of the World. Any film location people out there – Cape Melville is the place!
Passing Cape Melville, we headed for the Flinders Group where we anchored for the night in the very pretty Owen Channel.
After (another) breathtaking sunrise we set sail for Morris Island, approximately 50 miles north of the Flinders Group, in the company of about 12 other rally boats. It was great to be sailing in a flotilla and to watch how different boats approached sailing their craft.
Some were lean mean racing machines (particularly one French boat where the crew worked together like a finely oiled machine). Other boats were also speedy and meant business with twin poled out head sails and yet others followed in a more sedate fashion in the manner of the tortoise and the hare.
We cruised along somewhere in the middle of the pack, berating ourselves once again for not organising a pole to hold out the foresail, or Genoa, so it fills with wind continuously rather than flapping about when we are hit by a big wave or the wind drops slightly.
Arriving at Morris Island at 3 pm after a brilliant sail, we were delighted to see this pretty coral cay which provided a great anchorage in fairly boisterous conditions. A solitary coconut palm planted in memory of a diver who died in the days of pearling and trochus shell luggers, stands like a beacon to guide sailors on.
The palm tree is actually noted as a navigational aid on the Australian Chart for the area.
This tiny island at one time was inhabited by goats. These destructive animals had been put there by the British Admiralty in the 19th century (as with a number of other Great Barrier Reef islands) along with a plantation of coconut palms, to provide a means of support for any ship wrecked crew that might find their way to the island. Over time the goats ate all the coconut palms before being removed from the island many years later.
We woke the next morning very early (yes, finally we have thrown off our late rising habits and become Queenslanders, getting up between 5 and 5.30 am!) and were rewarded by a most spectacular sun rise (even better than the day before’s).
We sailed away from Morris Island in the company of around a dozen other rally boats. Such a great feeling sailing with a fleet of beautiful boats!
We went past lots of reefs and sand cays, most lit with large trellis lights which have helipads attached for maintenance purposes.
We passed the Lockhart River in the middle of the day and joy! We had phone and Internet access! There is a large Aboriginal Community at Lockhart River with a large telephone tower which accounted for this.
As we sailed across the bay there was a distinct slowing down of all the yachts while everyone caught up with their emails and important calls. We spent a good time talking to the bank, our superannuation advisor and others to sort out last bits of business while we could.
Portland Roads was our next destination. A tiny little place, it is 250 miles north of Cooktown and 150 miles from Thursday Island. Such a remote spot, I’m not sure what keeps it going but wondered whether it might be home to people who provide services to The Lockhart River community but choose to live “out of town”.