The waves from the storm far east made many of the sandy beaches north
and south of Yamba disappear. Between the breakwaters where Clarence
River meets the Pacific Ocean, breaking waves were rolling in. It was
not safe to depart from Yamba before the sea had calmed down.
June 7th the sea finally had calmed down and it was possible to take
Empire between the two breakwaters without placing her in danger. We
were back out sailing again – now with a crew of three onboard
The east coast of Australia south of The Great Barier Reef has almost
no protected waters – at least not like the Norwegian fjords.
Still, between Southport and Brisbane there is an inner waterway that
can remind of canals or rivers. It was near Southport in such a canal
that Empire met the bottom of the river. Luckily Empire and the crew
experienced the meeting with the bottom without damages.
As we visited Southport Norwegian Arild came onboard. We did not know
Arild from earlier. Via The Seamen’s Church in Sydney Arild and
his wife had heard that we were going to have a Christening Ceremony
onboard Empire. They contacted us via Internet, and told us to let them
know when we would be in “their” waters. Arild is a busy
man. After arriving from Hong Kong the same day – and before he
the next day set off for Dubai – Arild found time to visit onboard
Empire. Arild was among many other things also a previous submariner,
so Arild and Eivind had a lot to talk about.
In Manly Boat Harbour we met the sailor family Donna and Ian again.
They were the family we got to know when we arrived in Bundaberg Port
Marina from New Caledonia in October. Then they were sailing inside
The Great Barrier Reef for ½ a year, together with their three
sons. Now they were back in their everyday life, and invited us to their
home south of Brisbane.
When we met in Bundaberg 9 months earlier Heidi was growing into BIIIG
proportions. This time it was Donna’s turn to tell that she was
pregnant – their 4th crewmember was expected in Septrember. We
had a good time with the Luxons. Ian even put us in contact with his
sister Helen living in Darwin – in case we were in need of anything
when we later were sailing through that part of the big continent.
At Reidar’s and Margrete’s place
Since we sailed from Yamba late – in relation to weather and seasons
– we sailed long legs north along the cost when we had the chance.
From Brisbane to Yeppoon we sailed almost nonstop. When we tied up in
Rosslyn Bay Marina Norwegian Margrete and Reidar were waiting at the
pier. We met Reidar (74) first time in New Caledonia. Then he was underway
to Australia – sailing alone from The Mediterranean in his new
yacht! Now Margrete and Reidar took us to their home in Byfield. They
settled in Byfield 20 years ago, after 5 years of sailing from Norway.
We had marvellous days together with Margrete and Reidar – and
on top of that Reidar loaded Empire with huge amounts of fruit from
his own garden before we left.
In crocodile country
At about this stage the hunger for a bath in the sea disappeared. The
crocodiles exist in numerous amounts north of Mackay. The further north
you get, more numerous they are.
We had to sail far north before we met a “saltie” in person,
but just knowing that a saltie could be nearby was enough to stay dry.
Even on the islands closest to the shore you might encounter crocodiles.
Salties have been observed as far as 40nm of the coast. – with
a few occasions even further out!
We had to sail as far north as Margaret Bay to see our first saltie.
We were driving around in Don Tærst, our Zodiac dinghy, when the
elderly couple in the motorboat nearby waved us to come along side.
“Do you know that there are crocodiles around?” they asked.
“Yes” was our answer, “but we haven’t seen any
- yet”. They told us that they had just seen a big saltie between
the anchored boats – and asked us to be careful.
“Are we safe in the rubber-dinghy?” was our next question.
Their answer “maybe” didn’t make us feel too safe.
Anyway – with Eirik in the dinghy we felt a little unsecure. Our
planned expedition was shortened to only be between the nearest boats.
When we came back to Empire Eivind climbed the rig and waited on the
second spreader. After a few minutes a big crocodile showed up between
the anchored yachts. It was as big as our neighbour’s dinghy –
which means about 4,5 meters.
The crocodile were swimming around under water for about ten minutes
before surfacing – over and over again. It was a bit scary, we
thought, and continued to store our dinghy on deck when not in use.
We had heard that some crocodiles had mistaken a rubber dinghy for chewing
The last anchorage on our way north before Cape York, was Escape River.
Finally an anchorage without swell – and we hoped to see more
The only one we met in Escape River except from a couple of other yachties,
was the owner of the pearl farm. The very nice Australian peralfarmer
came alongside in his motorboat, cheered us a toast with Australian
beer, and welcomed us to Escape River.
It had been like this wherever we met Australians – the Australians
seem like a very nice people. They seem to always have the time for
a chat or to give a helping hand. It is very good to always feel welcomed.
Wonder if Ola Nordman in general is that friendly when he meets foreigners
in his country?
Over the top of Australia
From Escape River we sailed towards Cape York, the northernmost point
of Australia. You have to round Cape York when coming from the south
if you are heading for Darwin. The current was setting our way as we
entered the sound south of Cape York, ready to head west after rounding
West of Cape York is the big Gulf of Carpenteria, which is well known
for its shallow water and uncomfortable sea – if the wind starts
picking up. Before heading across the Gulf of Carpentaria we anchored
in the very nice Simpson Bay at the western side of Cape York. It was
still not too tempting to check out the nice tempered seawater. The
crocodile danger was still not over. Actually you can find salties also
further north and west – even in Asian waters.
We had a lot of
nice sailing inside The Great Barrier Reef. At the time of the year
we were visiting, the wind came out of the southeast most of the time.
A gale from behind was common in the so called protected waters inside
The Reef, which resulted in long daily legs. The costal water of Australia
is well marked. Sailing inside The Reef at night was no problem.
It was a little pity that we left Yamba that late, since we were planning
to sail all the way to Thailand for Christmas. The late departure gave
us limited time to stay longer in some of the nice places. BUT –
the nice places will still be there, waiting for us to return…