The magnificent range of Oyster Yachts taking part in the inaugural Oyster World Rally have now past a significant milestone in their round the world adventure. For the first time, since starting the rally in January the fleet is now heading back towards Antigua, the point of origin for the 16-month Oyster odyssey.
“We finally passed the northern tip of Australia, Cape York, and moved into the Torres Straits. The Cape itself is pretty non-descript, no towering cliffs but just low scrub and sand dunes. However, passing the Cape meant we could finally sail west again and closer to home.” logged Andrew Lock, owner of Oyster 54, Pearl of Persia.
“The wind had been building for three days and by now was whistling around us, so we took shelter behind Adolphus Island for the night. It’s always amazing coming into the protection of land when the wind and sea have built up. Having to hold on and shout to each other, soon becomes quiet and ‘all calm’.” continued Andrew. “A short sail next day brought us to Thursday Island, an Australian outpost in the strait, where we could re-provision. It had a strange third world feel to it.
Looking at a chart the Torres Straits shows blue between Australia and Papua New Guinea. I imagined it would be a deep clear sea but in reality it is a maze of shifting sand, rocks and reefs, most of it no deeper than 10 meters. Ships need to keep to very specific channels to avoid going aground. We zig zagged through the channel markers, leaving behind Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Island (no mention of Monday) and moved into the Prince of Wales Channel. We had been in the Pacific Ocean for 6 months and we’re finally leaving it behind, out into the Gulf of Carpentaria, towards the Indian Ocean.
After crossing the Gulf, we passed through the English Company Islands, all Aboriginal lands and off limits, and on to the Wessel Islands and into the Sea of Arafura. The option was to sail around the northern tip, a half day detour, or through a tiny passage between two islands known as the ‘Hole in the Wall’. We had seen no other boat for three days but had agreed to meet two other Oysters at the entrance to the ‘Hole’ and as we approached the specified latitude and longitude just after dawn, we spotted the two masts in the distance. The land ahead looked just like a continuous cliff of shattered rock and it was only when we were half a mile away that we could spot the passage. As we entered, the wind, waves and spray quickly calmed, we were in another world. Jagged cliffs just 20 metres each side of the boat and then after a mile we were through. We were tired after three nights at sea, so decided to anchor and recover before the final push on to Darwin.
Photo credit: Dreams Come True
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