Cape Bedford 15 14.017S 145 18.938E

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 5 Aug 2013 12:29
A longer sail today of 77 miles from the Low Islands to Cape Bedford. It started very slow, sailing around 2kts (wanted to conserve the fuel added in Cairns), but the forecast wind started to kick in after an hour or so and it was up to 4kts. By early afternoon it was blowing 15 to 20kts and we made 6 to 8 kts for the rest of the day. However, the slow start meant we would never reach the Cape in the light and with no moon, it was pitch black and blowing a good 20kts or more as we tentatively made our way in, using a combination of chartplotter, radar and Google Earth (having cached the area before we left). We think we're the only ones here - couldn't spot anything on Radar and there are no other anchor lights. We've anchored in 17ft, but are still 0.8 miles from the coast - another one of those big shallow bays. It's howling outside as I write. In the morning it will be interesting to see where we are and what it looks like.
The passage today followed in Captain Cook's footsteps (or wake). Firstly we passed close to the Endeavour Reef where the Endeavour came to grief in 1770. Then it was passed Cooktown where he and his crew spent 42 days repairing the Endeavor before heading north, past were we are now, to try and find a way through the reef to get back out to sea. He had sailed up the east coast of Australia between the coast and the Great Barrier Reef without realizing it was there.  He knew something was out there as he noted that the seas were not as big as expected, but he didn't know why.  The reef systems are much closer to the shore here and the shipping lanes weave in and out between the reefs in places. As we had our standard sail plan of poled out genoas, we hoped we wouldn't meet too many commercial ships as we can't make radical changes in direction with the sails poled out, especially in strong winds. Luckily we only met a couple and only had to change direction for one. There is a commercial ship channel throughout the length of the reef as ships heading for southern ports below the reef still go inside rather than outside. So you do get all manner of ships up to 960ft in length using the channel and it can be quite busy. So what with reefs and ships you have to be on your toes and try to ensure you are taking the right line to avoid the lot. Talking to one of the reef pilots yesterday, he made the point that small boats should always assume they haven't been seen, even if you transmit AIS, as we do. So the onus is on the small boat to keep out the way regardless of who has the right of way.