17 June 2007

Morris Island, Queensland

Anchored Morris Island
Far North Queensland, Australia

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there and greetings from Morris Island! We left the anchorage in Stanley Channel at 5am in a very dark morning and set sail for Morris Island 60 miles away. We had lots of wind all day and was able to average 7 knots which is record speed for Sandpiper.

There are lots of course changes sailing through the reefs here. We passed several of the reefs at less than half a mile. Most of the reefs in this part of the Great Barrier Reef are submerged at high tide and they are very hard to see. At low tide the reefs are exposed and many are quite large, some over 6 mile long. Many of the reefs we passed on this passage have small sand islands, some with a few trees growing in the middle and a large light tower to mark its position as you pass.

We had winds at 20-25 knots making us race all the way to Morris Island. The cool part of sailing in this area is that we are so close the reefs that they break all the swells. So it is lots of wind with little swell... perfect sailing conditions! As we were blazing along at over 7 knots, Amy and I said "We are living the dream". 30 seconds later we got smacked by a big squall and had to reef the sails down.

We anchored at Morris Island at 3pm right behind our friends on Shiraz. We are the only boats here. Morris Island is a very small sand island, less than half a mile across at high tide. At low tide there are sand beaches that go on for miles.

As soon as we got the anchor set we launched the dingy and went ashore for a big shell hunt as it was low tide. Amy and Rene (from Shiraz) were in shell heaven as there are shells everywhere here since so few people stop here.

Morris Island is really in the middle of nowhere. It has kind of a cool history. Back when the British were trying to make this their territory, the British Admiralty's policy during the last century was to provide many of the Great Barrier Reef islands with a means of support for shipwrecked crews. So they put goats ashore, and in the case of Morris Island, they planted coconut trees with sisal trees near by. The sisal trees were intended as a means of knocking down ripe coconuts because the sisal tree produces a long stick from amidst its needle sharp leaves. There are lots of the sisal plants all over the island, but there is only one coconut tree left.

Also there is a diver's grave here. In the not so distant past pearl and shell divers came down this way from Thursday Island. One unlucky diver did not make it back home. We found his grave right under the coconut tree. Recent visitors from other passing sailboats have all placed shells on top.

Last night the winds really blew through here with gusts over 30 knots. Its been really dark at night lately since there is no moon. When the wind is really ripping in the middle of night, it can feel like that we have drug anchor since it is impossible to see the beach right off of our bow. Several times during the night were ready to start the engine thinking we had drifted out of the anchorage as sandpiper was being blown all over the place, only to see Shiraz right next to us. The only way to see anything in all the blackness was to shine our spot light on the beach to see if was still there.

After talking to Steve and Rene this morning, they had the same experience with Rene sleeping up top using our anchor light as a reference to make sure that they were not drifting out of the anchorage. Good thing that we both did not drift out as we were both using each others anchor lights as a reference.

Sandpiper and Shiraz have decided to stay here one more day to wait for out friends on S/V Blue Sky who are going to be here this afternoon. We plan to all leave in the morning for our next jump north.

The wind is still ripping through here with rain squalls. Hoping for a little sunshine!

Tom and Amy

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