Rutea on the tip of Australia! (AND going 10 kts!)
We made it! To the tip! The northern-most point of Australia! For some reason this is exciting, but I really don't know why. There is not much up here, and we still have very far to go. But at some point you have to stop and say, "Wow, we have sailed a hell of a long way. This is an accomplishment." Never mind that Darwin is still 750 miles west through some rather treacherous waters. Never mind that.
Rounding Cape York was fairly exciting. We sailed through the Albany Passage with 30 knots of wind and a 6 knot current running with us, hitting 11 knots with only the mainsail up. That has to be some kind of record. Aside from some serious rapids at the east side of the pass, the water was perfectly calm and it felt more like we were flying rather than sailing.
We are now anchored off the tiny town (if it can be called that) of Seisia, which boasts of a holiday park (camp sites) a cafe of sorts, washing machines (no dryers), a gas station and a supermarket more reminiscent of a Fijian store than the giant, brightly lit supermarkets of the south. Yes, northern Queensland is very different from the southern part of the state. Actually, if you think about it, it's pretty nuts. Seisia feels more like another country, let alone a different part of a state within a country.
Which brings me to my second point. After sailing oh, say, a quarter of a way around this country (and continent) I am beginning to appreciate how absolutely massive Australia is. Everybody knows Australia is huge. But sometimes it takes an act like driving through the 1,500 mile long desolate desert or, (and more impressively in my book), sailing the 1,700 nautical miles from Sydney to the tip of Cape York with a road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne chucked in there. It gives one a most appreciative sense of the word "big."
Forgive me for a moment while I inform you that I feel very I have traveled the east coast of Australia very well, with over 2,000 miles of coastline covered from Melbourne to Cape York by car and campervan, but mostly by boat. To put it in perspective, it's roughly 2,000 miles from San Diego to the border of Alaska as the crow flies. Ok, I am done gloating (but I promise it wasn't ALL fun).
Back in Seisia, things are nice -- if a bit rustic. The soil is as red as bricks and there are more coconut palms than anything else. I already told you it is like a different country up here, but it makes sense geographically. The tip of Cape York is 80 miles south of Papua New Guinea. I could practically swim that! The Torres Strait, which flows between the two countries, is cluttered with islands, some of which are Australian and some which are not.
Thursday Island, known as T.I. to the locals, is supposed to be an interesting island full of native history as well as WWII relics, but as it is a foreign country we would have to check out and go through bio-security if we wanted to visit on Rutea. We saw about taking the ferry over for the day but frankly I, and I was not alone, did not want to go back out to sea on the one day we had for resting -- on any boat.
Yes, only one day. Tomorrow we leave to cross the Gulf of Carpenteria. See that little bite taken out of the north-east part of the country? That is "the Gulf" and it is 350 miles across. 350 miles! It will take us two nights and the better part of three days to cross, so we spent today doing laundry and other shore things in preparation.
Main road in Seisia... looks more like Fiji than Oz, minus the red soil.
One great thing about Seisia (aside from the internet) is the Fijian-like market. To be fair, we are a long way from anything, and the fact that the store has fresh produce that actually looks pretty good is going to make the rest of the trip to Darwin so much better. The last time we provisioned was Cairns, over two weeks ago. We ate the last of the pears and apples a long time ago, nursing our last few carrots and cabbage for the past few days. Now once again we are chock-full of apples, oranges, lettuce, bananas and all other foods I take for granted when I live within a mile of a grocery store.
Even though Cape York doesn't have much to offer, I don't really want to leave. The Gulf of Carpenteria is a notoriously nasty crossing, with wind against current conditions, not to mention very small passes with very strong currents one has to navigate upon arrival. However, we have to get to Darwin (unless we blow off customs, hang a sharp right and head for PNG) to gear up for Indonesia, pick up crew and check out of the country. And so, the journey continues!