Low Isles

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 15 Aug 2019 07:42

Position: 16 22.89 S  145 33.52 E
Moored Low Isles
Wind: SSE, F4-5 moderate to fresh breeze
Sea: slight  Swell: SE, 1m
Weather: overcast, warm
Day’s run (since midday yesterday): 58 nm

Yesterday we looked to find an anchorage for the night but none were to our satisfaction. First we sailed past Fitzroy Island but the boats that were anchored there were lying at all sorts of angles to the wind and tide and the only monohull was bobbing and rolling quite a bit to the swell wrapping around the islands southern point. Sylph, with her narrow beam and round sections, can roll quite a bit if there is much of a swell so we pressed on.

Next we tried Turtle Bay a few miles north. We reached in around its headland into its clear shoaling waters towards its sandy beach but, once again, the swell did not make the bay look to attractive.  Next option was Mission Beach only a few miles on. This too was discarded, not because of the swell but due to the distance off the beach we would have to anchor and with several hours of daylight left we decided to push on.

The next option was Cairns. We rang a couple of marinas and the cruising yacht club and considered the possibility of anchoring; however, discounted the anchoring options as not feasible if we wanted to row ashore in Sylph’s dinghy.  In the end we decided on spending he night at Half Moon Bay Marina at Yorkeys Knob for the night. Bet even this option was not without its issues. The channel giving access to the marina is dredged only to 1.5 meters, we would be arriving right on low tide and Sylph draws 1.8 meters.  Fortunately, low water was 0.8 of a meter so as long as the channel had no shallow spots we should be clear.  The other challenge was the  seas that rolled across the channel. By the time we got to the entrance at 1600 the sea breeze had freshened considerable and ran pretty much across it.  We turned into the wind and sea and Kate bravely dropped the mainsail as Sylph pitched into the steep short sea, copping some spray across her back as she did so.  Once the main was down, we motored into the channel keeping a close on the depth sounder while ensuring the leads remained lined up. I had a couple of heart in mouth moments when the depth sounder dropped four feet, which meant there was only a foot of water under the keel. Things also got a little hairy as we approached the breakwater entrance with small breaking wavelets indicating a shoal patch on its eastern side.  I biased our approach to starboard and then we were into smooth water. My heart rate settled and we continued in to our assigned berth.

Showers, laundry and a couple of beers at the boat club, then back onboard for dinner and an early had us up bright and early keen to continue on our way.  I topped up the water tanks, then we walked to the shops for some fresh supplies then back to Sylph and we were away again on the morning high tide before the wind had freshened. Clear of the channel and into deeper water, we set sail and were once again running wing-on-wing before the south east trade wind. As the day progressed, the breeze gradually freshened justifying my decision to leave the reef in the main from the day before, and at 1430 we rounded the western side of Low Isles and picked up a public mooring buoy.

Since then we have rowed ashore managing to get ourselves tangled up in some shallow coral patches on our way in due to the very low tide.  We extricated ourselves from the shoal bits and into deeper water, accompanied, unfortunately, by some irate shouts emanating from the shore, presumable one of the tourist boat operators.  (Mental note to self, do not row over coral at low tide!)  After a walk around the island which took about five minutes, we launched the dinghy and took the long way back to Sylph.

Now all the tourist boats have gone leaving only Sylph to enjoy the solitude of these small islands. Kate is in the galley putting the fresh supplies to good use. Nachos tonight followed by apple crumble for dessert.  Life is good and …

All is well.