The top of Australia
Tuesday 11th July 2017
Distance run: 109 nm
After much deliberation and discussion with Bob and Sue over distances, tides and more importantly the weather which was forecast to include strengthening winds from Monday evening, we decided that as all would be favourable to go straight to the Horn Island anchorage (opposite Thursday Island which has no appropriate anchorage), we should abandon the plan to visit Mount Adolphus Island and make straight for Horn Island.
This raised the question of whether to use the Albany Passage, a narrow stretch of water between the mainland and Albany Island which shortens the distance and gives a quiet, calm passage through to the Torres Strait – once inside, and if you get the tides right. The approach can be unruly, however, so we decided to plan to use it and then assess it once we get there, with the backup of going through the main Adolphus Channel instead if necessary.
We left the Margaret Bay anchorage at 1800 and kept an eye on our speed as we didn’t want to arrive at Turtle Head Island, south of the Escape River, before the tide changed in our favour at 0600. We actually arrived 40 minutes after low water, and the very lumpy seas told us that, even so, we had arrived before the turn of the tide. We most definitely did not want to go through the Albany Passage on an ebb tide, but as it was still two hours away, we depended on the tide turning in our favour before we got there.
Fortunately the tide gradually lessened its hold on us, and by the time we approached the passage, we had a favourable half a knot tide and the lumpy seas had smoothed out somewhat. The entry into the passage was exciting, but once inside the seas were completely flat and we had a couple of knots of tide pushing us through. Lovely. We popped out the other end into the Torres Strait and got our first glimpse of Cape York, the very northern tip of the Australian continent. The Aussie yachties all make a stop there to take a selfie beside the sign, but we decided a photo from a distance would do.
The Albany Passage is the left-hand gap, nearest the boat. It opened up as we approached.
A visible line between the lumpy and smooth seas. Flat and calm inside the passage.
The islands around Cape York come into view to port. Cape York is the low finger of land to the left of centre.
The chart shows us passing through Albany Passage.
And then we were in the Torres Strait, the narrow passage of water between Australia to the south and Papua New Guinea to the north. And as we turned left around Eborac Island we were at last heading west again – towards home. Almost as a sign, the clouds cleared and the sun came out as we headed towards the Flinders Passage and then rounded Horn Island and into the Ellis Channel towards the anchorage.
As we rounded Horn Island, our first glimpse of Thursday Island. Heading up the Ellis Channel – yachts visible in the anchorage.
Cape York, bottom right. Our red arrow shows us anchored off Horn Island.
Our first impression was that the anchorage was not particularly well protected – we had over 20 knots and lively seas until quite close, but as we got further in the sea state went almost completely flat. Can’t do much about the wind, but the surroundings are lovely, so as Meatloaf reminds us “Two out of three ain’t bad”! Mangroves in front, sandspit behind and hilly islands all around – lovely.
The sandspit and islands behind. Mangroves in front.
Our new neighbour – look carefully... Yep, it’s a saltie. Won’t be going for a stroll over there then!
Where is he now?... Waiting on the water’s edge for a yachtie to go for a swim...
Thursday Island, where we need to check out, across Ellis Channel.
So, here we will rest up and wait for a good weather window for our 700 nmile passage to Debut in the Kei Islands, Indonesia.
The red arrow shows our position at the northern tip of Australia.
Next stop, the Kei Islands in eastern Indonesia, shown by a blue thumbtack
left of middle, top, to the right of ‘Banda Sea’.