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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 19, 2012 - Through Albany Pass and Rounding Cape York - An Exceptional Sail

This morning was pitch black when we awoke but we needed to be ready at first light to move out of Escape River. The next part is a short trip - about 42 NM- but the trick is to run with the flooding tide going into Albany Pass and then catch the outgoing, coming out the other side as we go over the top around Cape York when the tide ebbed and turned.

What a beautiful sight watching twinkling mast lights bob as crew weighed anchor all around us. There were 9 or 10 yachts here staging to depart. I was still hosing off the mud and shell caked anchor when Avant Garde and two others passed on by us. Darn! I had pulled up an entire underwater kingdom with that anchor. I grabbed the boat hook and got to work knocking the chunks off. Finally we were away, following along we immediately felt the current grab us. Unless you sail or race on a yacht I cannot impress upon you the feeling of exhilaration that pumped through us this day. We were bristling with excitement because our friends, s/v Bebe, s/v Baraka, and s/v Harmonie had all really enjoyed this part of the passage in previous years.

Yachts were positioning all around us, falling into line entering Albany Pass. We were moving with a 3+ knot current through the pass, past beautiful little islands. It was magnificent. Pretty. Colorful. And it was FAST! The wind pushed us while the current pulled us to over 10 knots of boat speed. We reefed in the genny and furled the main all the way in so we wouldn't march up the backside of Solar Planet, a German yacht in front of us. I spent the better part of this passage up on the foredeck enjoying the ride, my foot wrapped around a stanchion, and holding onto my camera trying to capture some of this magic. Stunning vistas sped passed before I could snap decent photos, but our eyes took it all in. In hindsight, what I needed was a video camera.

At one point we picked up a near 5-knot current. We took pictures of the instrument panel showing that, although we were only sailing 5.8, our SOG (speed over ground) was 10.0. That is what a good wind angle and current will do for you. We hit a top speed of 10.8 knots with 1/3 of the genoa and no mainsail flying. As we broke free of the protection of the pass coming out the other side of Cape York we were immediately hit with 35 knots of wind gust. The winds were sustaining over 30 knots and the pressure on our sails was tremendous. What an amazing ride! We have now sailed 2080 miles since leaving Sydney.

We now had only 14 miles to go to Seisia. We enjoyed a fairly easy ride in, keeping the sails tightly reefed because it was blowing like hellfire. Approaching the little village we noted about 15 yachts sitting calmly at anchor just waiting for more new neighbors. It is very peaceful and calm in here.

We anchored in less than 10 feet of sand but let out plenty of scope allowing for the tide and wind which will both increase and decrease exponentially while we're here. We gathered our rubbish and went into shore for a nice stretch. It's been nearly a week since we have been off the boat. There isn't much to Seisia, population 165 according to The Lonely Planet, other than a large campground, a BP station, a fishing camp and a small grocery store where the price of a whole grain loaf of bread was $8.95. It was delivered by cargo ship packaged and frozen, thawing on the shelf. There was a sign posted within the store, prohibiting photo taking. I guess we aren't the first visitors to want to bear witness to highway robbery! That same loaf was 2/$6 in the real world (Port Douglas) that we have now left behind. We had been craving fresh veggies, but iceberg lettuce at $24.95/kg could sit and wait for the next customer. We purchased just a few items and then walked around some more. The earth here is red, red, red. There are termite mounds around that look like teepees. I did not have my camera (again!). Most of the inhabitants are indigenous Australians. There we also croc tracks. I suppose since they originated in Papua New Guinea, they are not indigenous but sure seem to own the place.

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