When I come on watch at four this morning we are making good headway towards the Palm Isles. The settlement is on Great Palm Island facing a lagoon bounded to the north, east and south by smaller islands. We are still beating to windward and I resign myself to some fast tacking around breakfast time to negotiate the narrow channels between the islands. I am also resigned that we will probably have to resort to engines to get to the anchorage in time for our commitments. We pass close to leeward (downwind) of the southern islands but we are heading straight for Fantome Island to the west of the lagoon. The rocky shore looms closer and I am about to tack the ship when we get a slight favourable shift in the wind which allows us to slide past with a few hundred metres to spare. A favourable wind shift? Am I on the right ship? One tack in the lagoon and we are sailing straight for the anchorage. Duyfken approaches to within half a mile of the shore and rounds up into the wind. The sails flap as they are doused and the anchor splashes into the clear blue water. OWe did it,' I remark to nobody in particular. The crew bursts into a round of applause. I'm not sure if it's to congratulate themselves or the ship. Either way it's well deserved. We have just made the best windward passage the ship has ever done, and managed to sail into a nearly landlocked anchorage without firing up the engines. Palm Island is one of the largest Aboriginal settlements around, with between three and four thousand people. There are two schools, Bwgcolman and St Michael's, and I have been invited to talk to an assembly of both. It's a big audience. How can I hold the attention of so many youngsters? OWho has heard of Captain Cook?' I begin. Hundreds of hands go up. OWhat was the name of his ship?' OEndeavour,' a few brave voices cry out. OWell, that's not our ship.' I tell them the story of Willem Jansz and Duyfken and how they were the first Europeans in recorded history to arrive in Australia, well before Cook. I mention that it's one of the stories the Cape York people have handed down through the generations, but that most Australians don't learn it in school. I tell them how we asked permission to come ashore in Pennefather River, and how that made us lots of friends in the area. I tell them about the message stick from Fremantle and show them the one the Yupungatti people gave us in return. I go on to tell them that our Duyfken is now part of the story to be handed down the generations and that it makes me proud. Then it's the kids' turn to visit us. Boatload after boatload of enthusiastic youngsters pour on board like marauding pirates. They run all over Duyfken on deck and below, shouting to each other with each new discovery. OLook, there's a window up there.' OHow about those cannons?' OI found the toilet.' The questions are endless. OAre there pirates?' ODo you sleep on this boat?' ODo you get food?' There is great satisfaction in giving so many young people so much pleasure. A man called Alfred comes out on board for a look around and we get talking about Palm Island. Alfie tells me the settlement was a penal station for most of the twentieth century. That's why there are so many tribes represented here, about 41. Both Alfie's parents were sent here as children when Palm Island was a penal settlement. OMy mother's father was a witchdoctor, a traditional medicine man, from the Pennefather River area. They said he was a troublemaker so they sent him to Palm Island on a boat. He jumped over the side and swam back so the next time they put him in chains. He was chained up for the whole trip, Weipa to Palm Island. My father was from Cloncurry. The police picked him up one day on his way home from school. They sent him to Palm Island because they said his mother couldn't look after him. That was one of the so called policies of the time. OAssimilation' they called it.' Alfie goes on to tell me stories about not being allowed to work for wages and having allowances paid into a government controlled fund from which the money often went missing. When people wanted to buy something, shoes, a shirt, whatever, they had to write to the government director for permission to access their earnings. He tells me of mission settlements ruled by the chime of a bell to tell people when they had to stay indoors, when to go to bed. He tells me of adults being told what to wear, when to wash their clothes, who they could and could not marry. He tells me of people being forbidden to speak their own language, do their dances, sing their songs, while being trained as cheap labour for stations and white households... These stories are becoming more familiar to me the more aboriginal people I meet. I sense that people tell me these stories simply because I am prepared to listen. I repeat them here because it seems consistent with what Duyfken is all about: retelling the past and not leaving out the bits we don't want to hear. Duyfken is about goodwill, about making friends wherever we go. Alfie befriended me because I listened to his story. It was as easy as that. Time to heave up the anchor. Andrea calls out: OWho's going to buy me a rum in Townsville?' OI will,' responds Cian. ORight, you can take the whipstaff. The rest of you haul on the cable.' We sail from the anchorage and clear of the lagoon 1600s style, with muscle and wind power only. It's a shame to be leaving this beautiful group of islands so soon, but our schedule dictates we must arrive in Townsville tomorrow. The trade off is that it's another beautiful night for sailing. Moonlit, warm, with light breezes. And an occasional shower to keep the euphoria at a sustainable level.