We said our farewells to the Whitsunday Islands and to Abel Point Marina, by far the best marina we have visited on our trip (if Heineken built marinas this is what it would look like). The last night was an informal BBQ in their fabulous Club House, typical Aussie affair with the guys doing all the hard work cooking the meat and the girls providing the green stuff.
So off we set on a 1500 miles passage from the Whitsunday Islands to Darwin, known to the locals as “sailing over the top”. Our first stop was Magnetic Island, 3 miles off Townsville where we met up with Paul and Carol, our good friends from the UK who were joining us on the passage up to Cairns. Paul and Carol are also on a circumnavigation of the globe but their chosen form of transport is planes, cars and bikes!
Unfortunately for them the weather deteriorated as they arrived and the passage up to Cairns was more reminiscent of a squally day on the Solent! After a bouncy passage we arrived in Cairns. The highlight being a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef on a dedicated dive boat just for the Oyster team. There is no doubt that the Great Barrier Reef has suffered in recent years – whether due to a couple of very serious hurricanes or a rise in the sea temperature we do not know – but the wonderful coral has been impacted.
We said goodbye to Paul and Carol and left Cairns to travel around the top of Cape York. The passage up the East Coast was certainly memorable. The channel inside the reef twists and turns at regular intervals and the constant checking of our position was important to make sure we did not find ourselves washed up on coral (check out the photo of the chart route up the coast, each red cross is a change of course!). The journey was made more complex by the container ships that ply this route. The exciting highlight of this part of the trip was a huge humpback whale continually breaching... literally a couple of hundred yards from the boat – a truly memorable sight.
Captain Cook travelled up this coast in the late 1700’s and we were in awe of the skill required to navigate a ship without engines / charts / GPS etc up this treacherous coast. Every island seemed to have a monument in honour of this amazing sailor. We rounded Possession Island and turned west – aptly named, where James Cook planted the flag and claimed the East Coast of Australia for England and King George!
The trip west to Darwin was fast, with strong winds, beautiful sunsets and some delicious fresh Spanish Mackerel. On arrival we were inspected by the Fisheries Dept, with an expat official wearing his Norwich City football shirt – Hugh’s passion for his beloved Norwich follows him far and wide (actually another Oyster boat tipped him off!)
Having cleared into Darwin, it was a quick trip to watch the jumping crocodiles (no-one swims in the rivers or seas here!), a beer in a typical Aussie pub at Humpty Doo and the sad viewing of the England v Croatia game. At half time Hugh, Debbie and Janice left for the airport to return to the UK for family commitments, (shame the result did not stand at this point!). Andy was left to sort out the boat for their return and the next part of the rally...our trip to Indonesia.