Windy Cooktown

Stephen Bassett
Tue 4 Jun 2013 01:52
We had planned to arrive in Cooktown last night but the conditions were too slow so we stayed at Hope Island anchorage. Well – that was hairy as the wind got stronger from the moment we dropped the anchor. And stronger, and stronger. Overnight there were gusts up to 30 knots and Stephen could not sleep as he was imagining what would happen if the anchor did not hold. So no sleep for him.
We were all up early (6 am) and after 30 anxious minutes we were out of the coral reef and back in deep water. There were 5 other yachts in the anchorage and all but one left at the same time as we did!!
As we headed towards Cooktown, the wind was strong (25-30 knots, SE) and we sailed with Jib only and one engine at 13.5 knots.  Although only 22 miles from the anchorage the nerves were taut and it was good to round Grassy Hill below Mount Cook into the River harbour. Anchored after the third attempt but the wind is still finding us – must be swirling around the Grassy Hill. All this by 10am.
Stephen has gone to sleep now and we may go ashore later.
Cooktown is an interesting place, as Captain Cook was here in 1770 after hitting the Endeavour Reef with the Endeavour, of course. He spent 48 days here repairing the ship and that is the longest time he spent ashore in Australia. It was here that the first recorded sighting of a kangaroo was recorded, and the first time there was ‘friendly contact with the Aborigines. The river is also called Endeavour, the only river Cook named in Australia.
Later, about 1870, Cooktown became the main port for the Palmer River Goldfields and boasted a population of more than 30,000, with “163 brothels and 94 off licences (bottle shops)”!! Now the population is 10% of that. It is however the last town before going up past the top of Australia and busy with yachts and fishermen.
All well on board – if tired.