towards Cumberland Islands
We left off in the last journal entry with Duyfken again sheltering from strong headwinds at Magnetic Island. I am reminded of a quote from a weather-bound Elizabethan sailor who remarked “I, with the rest of her Majesty’s fleet, do here wait for a wind that may give me liberty…” On Tuesday, we thought we may have a chance to obtain that liberty when the weather forecast gave the promise of easterly winds and even the possibility of a NE’ly sea breeze. Full of hope we weighed and put to sea, only to find that the same headwind was blowing, a strong SE’ly that all but stopped the ship once we got out of the lee of the land. I am at a loss as to how the weather reporting stations work out their reports. Of course we have been watching the reports carefully but no-one was reporting the wind we had. You can’t tell me that it was only just over us that there was a strong wind. Maybe these reporters may benefit by going outside and actually having a look, instead of reading some dodgy instrument. More fool me for believing them I suppose. Trying to make some ground we burnt more fuel struggling out to the ENE, trying to get an offing. We put the courses on her, braced up sharp and motor sailed, but didn’t make much better than if we had just sailed. By mid afternoon, allowing a tropical squall to sweep through first, we came about and made sail, standing back inshore full and by on a port tack. We made some useful ground; although we found that without the fore bonnet (we need a sail maker to fix that clew that was torn out) the vessel was very unbalanced and we needed to hand the mizzen. Soon after 1600, some 4 miles ESE of Cape Cleveland, we went about. A short, steep swell stopped her coming about and we were forced to wear ship. Now the breeze shifts east, what we needed a few hours ago and now a dead head wind once more. We lose ground to leeward of the last track and it is obvious that once more it will be a struggle to get up to windward. The breeze freshens further and it is more than we should be carrying topsails in but I push on, trying to gain ground. Duyfken heels over and clouds of spray burst over the weather bow as the swell stops her in her tracks. The topmasts bend alarmingly and we have lost. We hand sail and go about under power again, I hope to claw back out to windward and have another go. But the breeze, far from easing, freshens further and with the speed down to 1 knot, we are not going anywhere. The helm goes up and we run back to our anchorage in Horseshoe Bay. A day wasted. Next morning, we do our own weather forecasting and with the barometer down a little and the sky somewhat less chaotic, we go again. The breeze, although still fresh, has eased a little and this time we make ground to the east. We plug away all day, burning valuable fuel, but we gain an offing and at 1815 we make sail. The wind now plays the game and backs a little more into the east and we get under cruising rig, courses and topsails and stand south. A massive relief to have the engine off and we make good ground at a reasonable speed. Soon after midnight, the wind begins to haul back into the SE and we are off Cape Upstart. We could have put her on the other tack, but we are already some 6 days behind schedule, so again the engines come on, we hand sail and stand east, getting back up to windward again. By 0500 we are down to about 30% fuel capacity – if ever there was a good indication of Duyfken’s inability to motor against strong headwinds, this passage is it. Again we get under sail about mid morning – we now have no option but to sail her to wherever we can to get more fuel. It as if she knows it – we get her under all square sail, main tack lead to the windlass to enable to look up a little higher into the wind and stand south. Now we make some real progress as the wind backs a little with the sea breeze effect and by sunset we are tacking off Cape Gloucester. We beat back and forth through the night, and finally, after much cajoling and occasional stern words on my part for them to pay attention, some of the crew are getting the hang of steering full and by and we work up to windward. Wallace, our self styled “Duyfken's nomad” has booked a fuel jetty for us at the Abel Point Marina at Airlie Beach and now through some hard work by ship and crew through the night, by first light we had reached a position where we could get in under power. Sails are handed – no one can complain about the lack of sail drill – and we head in. Getting his manoeuvring hand back in, Toby takes us in to the tight marina and soon after 0830 we are secured amongst the plethora of charter boats super yachts and island ferries that abound in this area. We fill the fuel tanks and shift to a pontoon berth for a couple of hours – letting the crew have a welcome shower, an ice cream and Bree to top up some of the fresh stores. With little time to waste, we can’t hang about too long and depart about 1230. Working up past North Molle Island, we get under all sail and although we still have a headwind out of the ESE, now everything else is in our favour. In the flat water under the lee of the land, a favourable flood tide and helmsmen who, through encouragement or threats, were paying attention and keeping her up to the wind, Duyfken beat south through the Whitsunday passage, tacking 4 times and boxhauling once (when a wind shift caught her aback). Clearing the narrowest part between Dent and Pine Islands, we then stood out east to pass north of Pentecost Island. Now the tide lefty us and the strong ebb was away, setting us back north again. The correct thing would have been to anchor and wait for the next flood, but I am conscious we are still well behind, so at 2200 we hand sail and motor east. By 0400 we are to seaward of the Lindeman group and with the start of the south going flood tide, all hands get called again and we get under sail. The broken sleep is starting to tell on some, sail handling was a bit sloppy this morning and people are making mistakes. We need to be careful – Peter Brocks recent accident is an example of what fatigue can lead to. A bacon and egg breakfast on a bright sunny morning brings most crew back to life, as we continue to the south towards the Cumberland islands, still hard on the wind but making some progress.