Global Voyage

A Story About Sailing Around the World

Ray & Jenny aboard the ketch Suka

3 years, 35,000 miles, Nov 1982 - Jan 1986

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Chapter 10: The Great Barrier Reef page 74 of 109



The ketch fairly flew past Cape Bedford, Low Wooded Isle, and Cape Flattery - each offering a possible respite. And after covering 54 miles she reached Lizard Island, at 1:30 pm. Rounding into its lee and now sailing close hauled, she bore in with the land and held it as close abeam as safety permitted. Then once down-wind of the anchorage she clawed her way sail-less toward shore, while bucking an impossibly fierce head wind that funneled over the island. Eventually she gained the anchorage: a bight well protected from the waves that characteristically wrap around any small island. And with so little fetch, the water here was flat, despite the remarkably heavy off-shore blow.

Lizard Island

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Because Lizard Island stands 17 miles from the mainland, its waters are far less turbid. The underwater clarity was not comparable to the pristine, sparkling waters of Tonga, Ndravuni, and other isolated Pacific islands we had visited, but here it was far preferable to the roily murk of the Queensland coast.

After pulling ashore and ambling about the beach front, we visited the nearby resort in hopes of buying a couple of cold drinks. The near total dearth of hotel guests, though, hampered our blending-in; the management immediately singled us out as boat riffraff. "This is private property and we cater only to our guests," the fellow stated curtly. And I had to admit that we represented no appreciable income.


Boat riffraff.


Lizard hoping for a handout.

On the hotel grounds we met a lizard, some 3-1/2 feet in length, sunning itself on the lawn. Rather than scurry away at our intrusion, it cautiously held its ground, as though hoping for a hand-out.



A wind sculpted tree near Cook's Look.

Cook's Look

The day following we ventured ashore again, and found a trail that penetrated the thickets and led up the steep mountainside. A sign read "Track to Cook's Look. Hikers are advised to carry water." As the track led ever upward, the anchorage fell away, and the views expanded dramatically. A long, heavily wooded ridge led to the windy summit, slightly more than a thousand feet above sea level. In 1770 the indomitable Captain Cook had climbed this peak, and from its vantage had "perceived the passage" through the outer reefs, through which he would sail his ship Endeavor. Indeed, Cook's passage was clearly visible as a gap between two expansive, submerged coral reefs lying far off-shore.

Virtually everywhere along the east coast of Australia where Captain Cook had landed now stood a placard commemorating the historic event. But here there was only a summit register. The last entry read: "We endeavored and now we're cooked," referring, of course, to the taxing ascent.


Trackless descent from Cook's Look, we have a good view of the anchorage.

The descent of the mountain's opposite side was trackless. A short distance from the top lay a large circle of rocks reputed as a ceremonial ground of early aborigines. Down we went, stumbling through knee-high, dense grass obscuring loose rocks, until at last we reached the seashore. This remote sector of the island appeared to be seldom frequented, and we collected a few attractive sea shells and a large glass-ball float.


The pellucid waters of Lizard Island.

Howick Island

Howick Island (Mislabeled).
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Departing the next morning, Suka lashed along with a 20-knot quartering wind, and arrived at Howick Island in the early afternoon. This was a jumping off point for the long stretch to the next anchorage, so the brig would tarry the night here. The holding was uncertain, and the island uninviting - being beachless and thickly covered in mangroves to water's edge. So for once we remained aboard.

The radio was disseminating gale warnings for the area, and the wind already had grown ferocious. The night was long and rough; Suka bounced and gyrated so wildly in the confused seas that sleeping was out of the question; nevertheless, we were most thankful for what protection the island afforded. By 3 a.m. the conditions began slackening, allowing us 2-1/2 hours of sleep.

At dawn the brig made good her departure, her crew anticipating a wild day at sea but anticipating prospects of better shelter at Flinders Island, 52 miles farther on. Sailing coastwise from Borrow Point to Cape Melville proved an exacting navigational exercise. A horizon-blanketing haze obscured the distant channel markers. So we spent most of the day insuring that Suka held to the restricted inner shipping channel - this by plotting cross bearings of land forms identifiable on the chart.

Here, the hand-held compass proved its worth. As an aside, many brands of hand-held compasses have an unacceptable swing-error aboard a pitching, rolling, and heaving ship; and incidentally, I had found it impossible to simulate this motion in the store, while comparing the various models. But having owned a few of the less expensive types, I knew that their cards, which were steady enough in calm conditions, became disconcertingly animated when the seas roughened.

We were now plying the shipping lane. The steamers were few, but each one gave us a generous dose of adrenaline. Because barely submerged coral reefs threatened on both sides, we dared not stray too far from the fairway in yielding to the big ships. Invariably, though, the captains of these mammoth vessels proved alert, and afforded us plenty of berth.

“The sail refused to douse, so the pole attached to it commenced acting like a battering ram gone berserk.”

Boisterous conditions are to be anticipated when nearing any great cape during burly conditions. Accordingly, as she rounded Cape Melville, Suka encountered ever increasing wind and seas. But as we were dowsing the headsail, the flogging canvas hour-glassed around the headstay. I had not yet learned to reeve the jib sheet through the eye in the whisker pole's end-fitting. Instead, I had simply attached the fitting to the jib's clew. And now because the sail refused to douse, the pole attached to it commenced acting like a battering ram gone berserk. Its forward end was out of my reach, and its after end was attempting to bash the smithereens out of anything in its way. Eventually I managed to wrestle the spar into submission, and remove it from the sail, but not before it had kicked a few dents in a fiberglass dorade vent. Then what little sail I managed to subdue, I lashed to the catwalk.

(From that day on, we attached a topping lift, a foreguy, and an afterguy to the pole. And we reeved the jib sheet slidably through the pole's end-fitting. In this way, the headsail was more or less a separate entity from the pole, and in a heavy blow, the task of dousing each, in turn, was far easier.)

Rounding the headland into its lee, we found not calmer conditions as expected, but fierce winds and incredibly steep, confused seas. This environment was unquestionably hostile. With her deep reefed mainsail paid well out, and with her jib wrapped inoperatively about the headstay, Suka's weather helm was nearly unmanageable, yet in the fury of the moment we were unable to hoist a balancing staysail. Despite my wrestling mightily with the wheel, a few times the ketch broached hard, swerving calamitously out of control. Each time she plummeted down the face of a breaking wave and rolled ponderously onto her beam end, slashing the main boom into the water and bulldozing green water with her lee deck. Concealed reefs lay downwind, preventing our sailing off the wind, so our only option was to persevere.

Once in more open water, my brave companion crawled forward to clear the jib. She worked on the thrashing, wave-swept bowsprit for 15 minutes, while I wrestled the helm like Attila the Hun. Then after the mate had cleared and re-hoisted the jib, I winched home its sheet, and at last Suka found her equilibrium. With control of the ship regained, I was free to shoot a few compass bearings and to plot our approximate position. Meanwhile, Suka flung herself through the reef infested seas, the occasional rogue wave engulfing her, beam on. Twice the hull was sucked down into a smother of foam, both decks submerging together! The sensation was literally a sinking one, but each time, the seething maelstrom lost its grip and Suka struggled free.

Then while approaching Flinders Island the incredible happened. The wind hushed to a whisper, the seas flattened, and the brig coasted nearly to a standstill. Incredulous, we sat aboard the ketch as it bobbed gently on the now placid water, her storm sails deeply reefed. Distrustfully, we waited, expecting the gale to suddenly knock the sailboat hard over once again. But it did not.

There was nothing for it but to shake out the mainsail and rouse the engine, and thus Suka motor-sailed through the Owen Channel between Flinders and Stanley Islands - both, incidentally, named for early explorers of the area. And as if the ordeal had been but a figment of the imagination, the hook slipped into perfectly calm water on its way to the bottom; the roadstead was striking in its utter serenity.

Flinders Island Fuel barge


Fuel barge

Two beam trawlers swayed lazily to their anchors in the distance, while close at hand floated a red barge, unattended and moored to the sea bed. That night we would dub this barge "The Midnight Surprise."

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In the middle of that coal-black night a hoard of beam trawlers converged upon the barge, congregating to unload their prawns and to resupply their crews with fresh stores. Tonight happened to be party night for the fishermen, most of whom were having a jag on. We should have moved, but I was in no mood to be roused by these scalawags, so stood fast and defended our position doggedly. Clearly though, Suka was at the disadvantage, for each of the dozens of trawlers outweighed her perhaps 20 to one. One behemoth reversed nearly into her bowsprit, and when only a few yards away its prodigious engines erupted, its stern hunkered low, and its prop blast sent the brig reeling. The trawler lumbered slowly away leaving me wondering if the act had been an inebriated close call, or an aggressive prank. A few hours later, though, they had all gone away.

Stanley Island

The Midnight Surprise Anchorage was probably to remain altogether quiescent for another week, but we weren't taking any chances. So at the crack of dawn the brig's crew relocated her from the grisly barge, sailing around Stanley Island, only to come upon some 20 trawlers peppering Stokes Bay. In quest of solitude, we shifted half-a-mile north to an empty cove, and after securing the ketch, we pulled ashore and explored afoot what small portion of the hinterland proved penetrable.

The story has 109 pages. This is page 74.
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Page Links
GV 001: Title Page
GV 002: TOC
GV 003: Dedication
GV 004: Preface
GV 005: Prologue
GV 006: Beginnings
GV 007: Work Done
GV 008: Making Ready
GV 009: Departure
GV 010: Sailing Credentials
GV 011: First Lesson
GV 012: Sextant Navigation
GV 013: Safety Harness
GV 014: Murphy's law
GV 015: Spirit of Adventure
GV 016: Holding On
GV 017: First Big Storm
GV 018: Storm Intensified
GV 019: Rolling Violently
GV 020: Mizzen Sleeping Bag'sl
GV 021: Freeing the Propeller
GV 022: Visits by Birds
GV 023: Crossing the Doldrums
GV 024: Nearing First Landfall
GV 025: Land Ho
GV 026: Fatu Hiva
GV 027: Trek Inland
GV 028: Anchor Watch
GV 029: Passage
GV 030: Hiva Oa
GV 031: Skin Diving Circus
GV 032: Almost Like a Jungle
GV 033: Polaris Missile
GV 034: Taiohaie Bay
GV 035: Cascade Hakaui
GV 036: Taipi Bay
GV 037: Cyclone Lisa
GV 038: Cyclone Nano
GV 039: Passage of Patience
GV 040: Tuamotu Archipelago
GV 041: Tahiti
GV 042: Cyclone Reva
GV 043: Secret Sharer
GV 044: Moorea
GV 045: Cyclone Veena
GV 046: Aftermath
GV 047: Good Weather in Papeete
GV 048: Huahine
GV 049: Raiatea
GV 050: BoraBora
GV 051: Rarotonga
GV 052: Tonga
GV 053: Fresh Air
GV 054: Tongan Feast
GV 055: Excursion to Maninita
GV 056: Mariner's Cave
GV 057: Fiji
GV 058: Ndravuni Island
GV 059: Mara Island
GV 060: Aneityum
GV 061: Noumea
GV 062: St Elmo's fire
GV 063: Breakwater Reef
GV 064: Bundaberg
GV 065: Life on the Burnett River
GV 066: Engine Sabotage
GV 067: Flying
GV 068: Aground in Round Hill Creek
GV 069: Gladstone Confinement
GV 070: Tropical Queensland
GV 071: Trip into Townsville
GV 072: Cairns Sojourn
GV 073: Cramped Cooktown
> GV 074: Lizard Island
GV 075: The San Michelle
GV 076: Lost Mummy Cave
GV 077: Land's End
GV 078: Darwin
GV 079: Christmas Is
GV 080: Passage
GV 081: Cocos Keeling
GV 082: Crossing the Indian Ocean
GV 083: Rodriguez
GV 084: Mauritius
GV 085: Reunion Cirque de Mafate
GV 086: Reunion Cirque de Salazie
GV 087: Passage to Africa
GV 088: Kruger National Park
GV 089: Richards Bay
GV 090: Durban
GV 091: Port Elizabeth
GV 092: Cape Town
GV 093: Storm Passage
GV 094: St Helena
GV 095: Passage to Brazil
GV 096: Fortaleza
GV 097: Passage to Caribbean
GV 098: Bonaire
GV 099: Passage to Panama
GV 100: Panama
GV 101: Panama Canal
GV 102: Medidor
GV 103: Costa Rica
GV 104: Passage to Acapulco
GV 105: Acapulco to Cabo
GV 106: Baja
GV 107: Home Port
GV 108: In Retrospect
GV 109: Next Time
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