An official welcome

The wind dropped overnight on Friday as per the forecast to F3-4 from the East although in the early hours of Saturday morning it swung more ESE meaning we had to head further north to keep the goose winged sails happy. Not a problem as we needed to gain a little northing to clear Sand Cay. Another dawn and another batch of guano to scrub off the decks, we never saw or heard the overnight guests but they/it left a mess and are most unwelcome to roost again on the solar panels.

The designated north south shipping lane that runs to east of the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef was crossed without sighting any ships at all. Shipping lanes to us Brits conjure up busy highways like the English Channel where crossing yachts feel like frogs on a motorway picking their way through the commercial traffic of all Europe, not empty purple dashes on a chart some two hundred plus miles off the coast from Australia. We kept a sharp lookout but in vain!

One thousand and a few miles sailed, just under three hundred to go. With lighter winds we could be hanging around through Monday night to make our final approach in daylight on Tuesday. But we shall see. Now, tucked up behind the expanse of reefs to the south, the big ocean swells have gone and the remaining Pacific chop has the boat jolting back and forth rather than a gentle roll, not conducive to good sleep. I wonder if it was past explorers of this ocean who invented the idiom “all at sea” for being confused?

Mid morning Australia officially welcomed us in the form of a low fly past by Border Force 99. A few minutes later they came back to speak to us; it was obvious they knew who we were from the conversation. They were friendly but read us an official statement regarding not stopping anywhere on our way in, not to have any physical contact with other shipping/fishing boats/yachts etc until cleared by Australian customs in Cairns; the skipper had to confirm he had heard and understood.

Later as Temptress sailed through a flock of seabirds something BIG took our lure and ran off many metres of line despite me pushing the friction up to its max of 50lbs. The line kept running, the skipper got to it but before he could don protective gardening gloves the line gave way at the reel. We never saw Mr Big Fish but he is out there somewhere with one of our 20cm long cheap Chinese rapala style fluorescent orange and white lures hanging from his greedy jaws trailing possibly 100m of white line. Still there is plenty of line left on our large Shakespeare reel (attached to the pushpit rather than a rod for ease of trolling) and the bonus is we are now trolling with some sparkling white line that hasn’t seen the light of day for many a year and certainly has never been trailed in salt water! We’ve no idea how much line there actually is on the reel as it was loaded on by a previous owner but so far over the years we’ve lost possibly half of what was there originally. And if the worst happens we have been carrying a spare 500m spool of line since Panama. We lost another lure in similar circumstances just before supper too but this time the line broke at the gear. Time to give up trolling again.


At noon we performed a messy gybe, the main sail bit went well but switching over the pole from starboard to port resulted in some cross words between the crew each blaming the other for mishandling lines. Anyway it is done, we made up and are now heading more towards Cairns at four or five knots. 

Geographically the Australian continent bulges out south of us to Brisbane some five or six hundred nautical miles away but in the same huge state of Queensland as our port of entry, Cairns. Due north, about half that distance away is the southern end of Papua New Guinea as it extends south east beyond Cape York at the very northern tip of Queensland. At the cape only eighty miles of island strewn sea, the Torres Straits separates the two countries. Open ocean is gradually being left behind and Temptress’ next ocean voyage will be across the Indian Ocean and in the northern hemisphere.
Ships log Saturday 10 September: noon position 15 30.04S 150 17.95E 1064nm