Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Islands

On the 27th August at 0930 we bid farewell to the Cape and pulled the anchor for Thursday Island (Waiben). The seas were extremely choppy. We tacked numerous times in an attempt to keep the swell on our stern rather than our beam. Welcome to the Torres Strait- windy, choppy, extreme currents! Anchor down Horn Island 1330.

Tuesday or Wednesday?

Tuesday or Wednesday?

The strait has a scattering of islands, including Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which run like stepping stones from Cape York to Papua New Guinea.

Thursday Island (Waiben) is the commercial and administrative hub for 20 communities spread across 100 islands. Prior to European arrival in the straits, Thursday Island was un-inhabited, possibly because its island name Waiben means place of no water. Even though many communities have very close ties and are only a few km from PNG (with islanders roaring across in their tinnies to obtain cheap fuel amongst other things), islanders are Queenslanders. Due to fears of PNG pests and diseases reaching the mainland, the area is considered a 'special quarantine zone', which caused us much angst re: Ruby. It was very difficult to obtain specific advice. Whether that was due to quarantine officers not understanding regulations/laws or the basic laid back attitude of islanders, I will never know.

A little history - in 1606 the renowned Portugese navigator, Luis Vas de Torres sailed through the strait which was given his name. After the establishment of the penal colony at Sydney Cove, the Torres Strait became the main thoroughfare to and from England. Immigrants from Asia, the South Pacific and Europe moved to Thursday Island to work in the pearling industry in later years. The Japanese were the most numerous of the new immigrants and played a significant role in every aspect of the pearling industry, including diving, captaining vessels and construction and maintenance of pearl luggers. Thursday Island had its own ‘Japanese town’, with boarding houses, stores, a divers club and a public bath house. During the war, Thursday Island became a centre for military operations in the Torres Strait with war artefacts playing a large part in the tourism industry. Horn Island had a museum that covered a bit of all aspects of the areas history.

Many of the islanders were very friendly and very Christian, even a taxi driver offered us a bible. We were 'god blessed' many times. The water colour was an amazing jade, filled with lots of bities. Fishing by locals was a constant, jetties covered by families putting a line in at dusk and tinnies constantly buzzing around.
looking across to Horn Island from Waiben

view from Horn Island jetty
We anchored off Horn Island rather than Weiben as the holding was better. Even there it took us a few attempts to get our anchor to set due to the fast currents. We braved the channel to visit Waiben a few times in our tender but decided the inter island ferry was a safer bet. A very strong wind would rise out of nothing and we all got drenched by high seas in one very scary trip. We enjoyed walking around Waiben and we also spent a lot of time in the quarantine office getting clearances.
street scene Waiben

Waiben PO

Our visit was following the visit by then PM Abbott. Not a good word was said about him by the islanders. He managed to antagonise everyone! Well done Tony. The local paper was filled with letters and editorial bagging him. A local hotel owner was furious as Abbott's staff had booked every room and then cancelled at the last minute, losing the hotel substantial income. Abbott allegedly was staying in a tent "in a room" at the army barracks instead. The local paper was denied a press pass with cries of 'it's just a publicity stunt' being pretty close to the truth, I thinks. When the journalist from the local managed to turn up at events, Abbot's staff allegedly demanded to know how they were informed of the schedule. Well hello, its a small community and everyone was really pissed off. The only good word was that he spent 'a bit of money' at the art gallery.  

The Gab Titui Cultural Centre was fabulous. We were lucky enough to view an exhibition on masks- exciting and scary. Here is their link- And yes the gallery shop was fantastic. A large portion of art was centred on ghost net art - making art works from the discarded fishing nets which wash up on our shores or continue catching marine life indefinitely. Here's a great video-

Our beloved Ruby was going through a bad patch, appearing very lethargic and off-colour. Luckily she didn't require a vet check to return to the mainland, rather an inspection by a quarantine officer. The young chap who attempted to poke her got a scary snarl in response so we were grateful when an older man with his own Jack Russell took over and gave Ruby clearance. The youngun did the paperwork for both Ruby and ourselves and managed to stuff it up- but more on that later! Ruby did enjoy the ferry trip.
almost smiling!
We did have a moment when we considered staying in the straits for an extended period as the hospital was employing EENs. Alas the trade winds are the strongest and longer lasting than anywhere in the world. Combined with reefs and fickle currents, the straits are a very difficult area to sail through. We set off looking for a more secure anchorage.

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