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Friday, June 15, 2012

June 14, 2012 - Howick Island to Flinders Group (52NM)

We bid farewell to the not very attractive but comfortable anchorage at Howick Island around 6:30 AM, motoring under pretty blue skies but not getting a lot of help from the wind. We swung out the main hoping to tempt the wind. The morning was so lovely, seas fairly calm and the motion of the boat so smooth that I announced to Frank I would prepare some passage food, beginning with King Ranch Chicken. He was busy fussing with the main sheet trying to eek out a little more speed and didn't seem to mind but shouted down that he sure could use a chocolate chip cookie! I told him I suppose I could throw a few into the oven while preparing the casserole.   As I busied about, the wind typically increased enough to wing out the genoa. This is beginning to sound like a broken record. Now we know the pattern of the trades (light in the AM and then building to gale force when we are ready for bed), which is nothing close to what our friends experienced the two previous seasons. They all praised the consistent 20 – 30 knot sou'easterlies they had enjoyed all the way up this coast to Cape York. We must have caught it on an off year. But who's complaining…we are still moving fairly steadily if not briskly along, and enjoying the heck out of it.

I finished the casserole, and while the cookies were baking, started on banana nut muffins. Every now and then I'd pop up into the cockpit to enjoy the beautiful passing scenery along the mainland. It is desolate here - native isolated beauty that looks as wild and untamed as nature intended. For us it yields a serene backdrop for pleasant surfing up the coast.

approaching Cape Melville
Approaching Cape Melville we were on the lookout for its famed boulders. We soon found there was no need to be on alert because you couldn't miss them. What amazed us most is that we had been cruising along commenting on the green, green mountains, white sandy beaches and then all of a sudden the entire landscape morphed into piles of nothing but large rocks and boulders heaped upon one another, appearing to have freeze-framed in mid-tumble right down into the sea. There were a couple of small "islands" of piles of boulders sitting right out in the water as well. It was a remarkable sight. I was immediately taken back to 2008 when Frank and I were driving with all of our worldly possessions in tow from Colorado to San Diego, and on the way, we passed a similar sight in the middle of nowhere. 

At the time I thought to myself these look like some giant's discarded marbles. So very odd, and to think these are the only two places we've seen anything like this. I wonder where else we may spot this same phenomenon. OK, I do tend to digress. 

At this juncture, we were sailing neck and neck with an Austrian catamaran, Renegade, and as we approached the boulders Frank hailed them on the radio to tell them we would take their picture if they would come out on deck. We snapped some great shots of them and then they in turn did the same for us.

About 14 NM beyond Cape Melville lay the Flinders Group of Islands. The passage between Flinders and Stanley Islands is called Owens Channel. This is our intended anchorage for the night. There are two ways to approach the anchorage Frank chose the western approach allowing us to pass into and through the channel between the islands allowing us to enjoy the view of both islands. It is lovely here, but not safe to go ashore. Saltwater crocs apparently patrol this area. At 3:45 we set the anchor in time to see the blue sky gobbled up by fast approaching storm clouds. 

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