Australia is not letting us off easy. Our journey up the Queensland coast has so far been a mix of unexpected delights and confounding frustrations. As I write this it’s just about dawn and we’re safely anchored in the lee of Lizard Island. The full moon is a beacon in the west and the sky is brightening over the mountain opposite. The catamaran that was in front of us closer to the beach just weighed anchor and motored past. We waved to each other and I yelled, “Where are you headed?”
“Have a great trip!”
They put up the tiniest scrap of sail as they left the shelter of the island because while all of this sounds idyllic the wind is a steady 25 knots (about 29 mph) and gusting higher, even here, hidden behind the rocky peak of the island. That’s the frustrating part. We dream of sunny days and 15-18 kts of wind but instead we’ve got the strong trade winds that North Queensland is known for and a mostly overcast and often rainy sky. In the six years of sailing Escape Velocity halfway around the world we somehow managed to avoid bad weather, except for brief squalls, but there’s no getting away from it here.
We do get some sunny hours each day when the jackets come off and our mood lifts but the wind keeps us from kayaking, swimming, snorkeling or any boat chore that requires being on deck for long. Our trips ashore are timed with the tide and that means we’re often boatbound for long hours. That’s fine with us, as there’s always something to do, cooking, reading, cleaning. We have no internet here so our minds are blissfully empty of disturbing world news. That doesn’t mean that we, along with the other yachties in the anchorage, aren’t occasionally seen walking around deck holding cell phones aloft hoping for a signal. I watched one skipper climb onto the roof with his phone and then suddenly throw both arms around the boom as a strong gust nearly whisked him to Kansas.
At anchor in these winds the soft top crackles against the cockpit superstructure. Jack takes our American flag down to save it being torn to ribbons, and we sway and bob as the wind gusts vary slightly in direction. I wrap a bungee around the aging jib cover to keep it from being shredded as the wind billows through the front opening. We find open seams in the cockpit enclosure where the thread has broken down in the sun. Restitching goes on the to-do list but not today. Not in this wind.
Last night an older Lagoon catamaran sailed in and anchored behind us. They promptly launched the dinghy and went ashore for a half hour or so and stopped by to say hello on their way back. It’s a yacht delivery on their way to Darwin and the skipper, a veteran of many voyages on this route, told us this next bit, Lizard Island to the Flinders Group, is the worst of it. That’s two daysails for us and we have no ambition to head out in these conditions if we can avoid it knowing the overnight anchorage in between is secure but uncomfortable.
We expected the delivery boat to leave at first light but at 9 o’clock the crew went ashore again to retrace the challenging ascent Captain Cook and Joseph Banks made in 1770 to search for an escape route through the Great Barrier Reef to the Coral Sea. Jack is watching through the binoculars as they struggle upward against the wind. We plan to make that climb too, but not today.
There’s a hoi-toi resort on the other side of the bay but it’s not welcoming to yachties, not even to dine in the restaurant. That’s ok. We have the same view from the comfort of our own home, so we’ll take the zen approach, enjoy this gorgeous outpost and wait for more favorable conditions for our next hop. Just not today.