Roving Rear Commodore Report - Australia

Roving Rear Commodore Report - Australia

S/Y Kinabalu report from Bermagui SE NSW coast of Australia en route to Tasmania, 31 March 2019

By Bob & Judy Howison - 01/04/2019

It was early November 2018 when we weighed anchor in Balbulol, Misool, a magical isolated anchorage amid conical karst cliffs. Misool is in the southernmost part of Raja Ampat Marine Reserve and is strikingly beautiful, in fact for nine months of the year you can dive and snorkel in crystal clear coral waters with all types of fish and rays. We spotted whales spouting and schools of dolphins as we sailed southward. Our next stop might have been Triton Bay on the south-west coast of Papua, again to swim with whale sharks and the Pygmy seahorse, but our time was running out for our entry to Australia and a cyclone free voyage south along the east coast of northern Queensland.

We checked out in Tual, very close to Debut, where we had checked in to Indonesia July 2017. These were to be our last days in Indonesia and although there was a certain sadness, we had an immense feeling of gratitude toward these happy generous people, Muslims and Christians alike, who had made our stay so pleasurable. Trash Heroes have yet to do their clean up in Tual but
their campaign has taken hold and it won’t be long!

For four days we motor sailed to get some good angles in light to moderate ESE breezes, although for one 24 hour period when the wind backed to the E and 1m swell from the same direction, we had some wonderful sailing. We weathered Cape Wessell at the entrance to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 2m swell with the wind backing again to the N. Australia!! Clearing in to Gove was so laid back we began to wonder if all the stories we’d heard about officious Border Force and Customs officers were fictitious!!

We met Lars Larson on Nanok, a Colin Archer 49 and rented a truck together for a few hours. I’m ashamed to say that neither of us were flying the Flying Fish and it wasn’t until we arrived in Sydney that we found out he was a member of the OCC!!

In its heyday Gove was a busy centre for for the refining of alumina from the extensive deposits of high-grade bauxite. The alumina smelter has closed down but the mine has over 20 years to go before known reserves of bauxite are exhausted. In 1931 the Gove Peninsula, an area of 96,000sqkm, was proclaimed Arnhem Land Aboriginal Reserve and is one of Australia’s last strongholds of Aboriginal culture. It was fascinating for us to visit some of the Aboriginal communities and meet people from Miwatj Health, the Regional Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Service in East Arnhem. Judy was finally able to hand over the last of her Days for Girls kits and material to enable Aboriginal girls to continue their schooling with hygiene and dignity. (See daysforgirls.org)

We made good progress sailing across the Gulf of Carpentaria, and in three days we found a sheltered anchorage in Horn Island after the currents proved too strong off Thursday Island. The wind and tide around Cape York didn’t matérialise and we breathed a sigh of relief! We had some spectacular sailing conditions, under spinnaker some of the time, through the islands of far North
Queensland inside the Great Barrier Reef and anchored in the lagoon at Lizard Island for three days, meeting up with other sailors for drinks and tale-telling on the beach.

The coral reef was spawning while we were there, a whole new experience for us. Despite cyclones and coral bleaching, there are a number of areas still pristine and untouched, while some of the affected areas are showing signs of regeneration and regrowth. More time is needed of course to cruise this
amazing area but we had to move southward.

S/Y Kinabalu was imported into Australia painlessly (apart from GST 10% and Import Duty 5%) and unceremoniously….and in 7 days Border Force declared us “free to go”! Tropical Cyclone Owen came early in the Gulf of Carpentaria and we couldn’t leave Marlin Marina, Cairns for another week!! By the time we sailed to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands there was huge SE blowing and we spent Christmas Day with friends in the marina. It was the wrong time of the
year for cruising in the Whitsundays with the threat of sharks, irukandji and box jellyfish and, horror of horrors, horseflies which made themselves at home from one end of the boat to the other!

By 1st January we were holed up in Mackay Harbour Marina waiting for Tropical Cyclone Penny to come and go. By 19th January we were anchored in Port Macquarie and Tropical Oma was moving down the coast! By the time we reached Pittwater and Sydney Harbour the rain and strong winds had cleared and we had some wonderful respite with old friends and family.

We arrived at the Flying Squadron for the OCC meet a day late! Not sure how that happened?

This is our last report as Roving Rear Commodores as we sail towards Tasmania to build a house in the Huon Valley. We will continue to cruise locally and do some club racing and look forward to sitting back and reading of adventures far and wide by intrepid OCC members.

Photo: Huon Valley, Tasmania


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