The final approaches

A pair of Brown Boobies with their dark chocolate coloured backs and white bibs made themselves comfortable aboard Temptress after dark on Saturday. One tucked his head under a wing on the pulpit rail up front. The other perched on the end of the outstretched spinnaker pole (the foresail at the point was on the opposite side as having reached Sand Cay we were now reaching south of west towards Grafton Passage). There they stayed all night waking up only to squawk and clack warningly at a third bird who tried to join them from time to time. Boobies are about the same size as their close cousin the northern gannet familiar to those of you who have sailed in European wasters and seemingly fearless of humans, even shining a led torch beam on them didn’t disturb them nor a camera flash.

Sunday, hopefully the last full day at on passage is a beautiful day, champagne sailing on a port tack at five and a half knots through moderate seas under blue skies dotted with fluffy trade wind clouds. The reefs in the main were shaken out after breakfast (the last eggs fried) and almost all the genoa unfurled. Having shower was a pleasure, no bumping around in the head sitting on the floor or attempting to rinse soapy hair, one hand holding the shower head, the other gripping the handhold, legs braced against a sudden change in the angle of heel. 

In the night a fishing boat skipper called us up, their 12v system had failed taking with it their GPS, in his words Blue Moon had “gone dark” so were we heading towards Cairns via the Grafton Passage? They had their 24v radar so could follow us in if we didn’t mind! It was a dark old night once the moon had set, the wind shifted several times as we neared the continent though Temptress was still some fifty miles from the Great Barrier Reef. The fishing boat doggedly followed us west about a mile or so behind. We furled the gennie and sailed under main alone gybing a couple of times as the wind changed. Eventually around 4am we spotted the loom of the lighthouse on Euston Reef, our first sight of Australia but still some twenty odd miles east of the mainland. A couple of hours later at dawn Temptress entered the Grafton Passage, our ocean sailing over for a few months. 

It was another sunny day as we motored north inside the Great Barrier Reef (disconcertingly reduced to GBR by the locals, to us poms GBR is Great Britain). We called Cairns a Harbour on the VHF who directed us to call Border Force and Quarentine, both of whom it emerged were listening anyway. They would meet us at eleven am on the quarantine berth (E11) in the marina. At a couple of minutes to we tied up and the officials bordered Temptress. Forty five minutes later we were officially in, our passports stamped, Temptress has a permit to be in Australian waters, we have a practique (clean bill of health) and the AQIS guy carted off our garbage except for the recyclables and remaining fresh veggies including the garlic and ginger. He looked at the Mayo jar and butter in the fridges and declared “safe” commercially produced product. 

The only question mark hanging over us are some tablets left over from my slipped disc problems back in Oban; they are small quantities of controlled drugs too small to be of commercial use but there is nowhere suitable on Temptress for them to be locked away under a customs seal. The border force guy took pictures of the itemised list we carry and of the tablets themselves and said he expects his boss will be ok for them to remain onboard stored as they are but we may need to account for them all when we eventually check out of Australia. I said if we needed them whilst we were here we’d probably be making a visit to the hospital which should be proof enough of their use!

So that is it; Temptress has reached another continent. We are now at anchor across Trinity Inlet from the marina, river traffic causing us to bob up and down a bit. Lots of tourist and dive boats head out to the GBR from here. There are tugs bringing in empty barges and later going out to sea with them fully laden (bauxite or coal?). And it’s raining, everyone is commenting on the weather as it is supposed to be the dry season. 
Ships log Sunday 11 September: noon position 16 02.29S 148 05.07E 1198nm

Ships log Monday 12 September, 11:00: 1344 nm Port Vila to Cairns (two hours short of nine days at sea) 


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