Friday, October 23, 2015

Margaret Bay and beyond

We pulled the pick at 0900 for the 48nm sail to Margaret Bay which had been recommended by other cruisers as a beautiful spot to spend a few days. We had an interesting time setting the genoa as a sheet had come loose so we had a mad flapping sail in very rolling seas-not a great start.

The sail up the coast was fairly uneventful, I was excited to pass close to Haggerstone Island which has a eco- resort, "Polynesian" style buildings and a great reputation. It is a continental island, beautiful beaches with extensive reef surrounds which is pretty unusual. The anchorage is pretty dicey so we didn't stop, but apparently the island's two lagoons are teeming with life. The resorts owner, Roy Turner,  earned the nickname "Gouger" when he saved the life of a young girl who was attacked by a crocodile while swimming in Margaret Bay, near Haggerstone Island, in 2004. He climbed on the back of the crocodile and gouged its eyes until it let go of the girl.

We also passed Indian Bay on the southern side of Cape Grenville which has the best beachcombing finds amongst the mangroves, if you can brave the crocs!

Margaret Bay is a protected shallow area behind Cape Grenville, the bays approach is through the Home Islands which was extremely rough on our entrance. We kept Sunday Island on our starboard. This Island which looks unimposing has a history.

It was on this Island that Bligh almost had another mutiny on his open boat voyage after "the mutiny". The crew stopped to rest and one challenged Bligh by saying "I am as good a man as you are", Bligh threw him a sword, drew his own and said "Let us see who is to be master here." The challenge went no further. This was on a Sunday-hence the Islands name.

Manatee's anchor went down in 3m of water at 1700hrs. The water was amazingly clear and full of fish and the odd turtle.

We hoped the very unpleasant night rolling at anchor would be a one off, so we enjoyed the view. Ruby was agitating to walk the pretty beach, but we felt croc eyes on us. After another sleepless night due to rolling we decided it was time to head off.  The forecast was 15-20kts SE - but it was actually blowing 25kts.

After 3 days we pulled the pick at 0515hrs. The forecast was SE 15-20, swell 1-1.5 so we unfurled the genoa and put up the main with 2 reefs in the dark. We were abeam Hannibal Islet at 1000 with the actual wind ESE to 10kts!

Our destination was Escape River which is over 60nm from Margaret Bay, so Hannibal was our only possible anchorage between the two. It was a totally wind against tide proposition so we voted to continue to an anchorage where we could all get a good sleep.

At 1030 we were joined by dolphins.

They frolicked with Manatee for a while, playing hide and seek with me as I was trying to take photos....

After 20 minutes, the pod seemed to disappear, so I stood on deck looking around (Marg and Ruby were asleep in the cabin) until I spotted a single dolphin just off the wheelhouse and I swear it communicated "we're off now"

Yep off to a bigger plaything! They must have had very busy days in the shipping lane.

We made the entrance to the Escape River just after 1630 where we downed sails. It was clear we were now in bauxite territory as the entrance was marked by red cliffs. As we passed the first sand bank Ruby became very agitated and on looking out we saw a massive croc sunning itself, enough to make anyone agitated.

The channel upriver has multiple pearl rafts as the Torres Strait Pearl Farm is located on the south-west tip of Turtle Head Island.

pearl rafts

The rafts would make a night time entrance very difficult as they are not well marked and we had a lot of trouble spotting them in the late afternoon.

We had our anchor down safely at 1720 and then had a long talk with Ruby about why we weren't going ashore!