1,000 Kilometres on a 14 Foot Catamaran
Alexandra Bay to Thursday Island
By Jesse Martin with Kim Miller
This story comes from Jesse, the older of the two boys. My work in this has been to nudge his story into shape here and there, getting some of the gaps filled in, setting his photos & captions into the text, adding some notes about places they visited, yet always allowing the 14 year old Jesse's style to remain. It is the things that are significant to Jesse that you read about here. This is not the captain's log of a major voyage, it is a teenager enthusing about a major adventure. I hope you are inspired by this journey as much as I continue to be.
There is a map of the journey at the bottom of the page. It is a large file and will take some time to download. So have a read of the story, then look up the map.
At places in the story there are links. These take you to the notes at the bottom of the page. You can read the note and another link will return you to your place in the story.
"Oh $#!+. Dad, did you see that?" I said as convincingly as I could.
"No, what was it?"
"I saw something under both bows only a few feet below us."
We all looked around and concluded that it must have been a reflection. Being out on an open 14 foot catamaran for long hours of the day tends to tamper with one's vision. Then about a minute later one of us spotted it and we knew what it was immediately. A 12 foot tiger shark was swiftly gliding through the water only 15 feet away from us. From then on, until we reached our stop, we were all glued to the centre of the boat with our eyes peeled!!
Hey. Wait on. You don’t even know who we are. I’m Jesse Martin and am 14 years old. My brother over there is Beau, he’s 12. And that’s our Dad, Kon. We’re on our 14 foot Caper Cat somewhere near the Howick Group of islands out in the Great Barrier Reef on the north-east coast of Australia. In the twin hulls of the boat is all the gear necessary for a thousand kilometre journey in some of the best sailing water of the world.
We had no idea of the excitement and adventure that we were in for when we humbly left the small local beach on Alexandra Bay, above Cairns in Queensland. The breeze on that first day was so light that it took us five hours to reach our first stop.
|We're on our way at last. Heading off to the middle of nowhere on the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest and most beautiful marine park.|
|Did I tell you that the fish just jump
into the boat whenever you get hungry? Not.
That's me on the left, Beau holding the fish, Dad holding the camera.
We soon learnt about cooking fish.
Leaving Cooktown was even worse! We were on a downwind run with the
breeze coming down the river. When we passed the shelter of the headland
we were greeted abruptly by the sea wind that was hurtling by and we were
caught off side. One hull slowly left the water and kept rising until Dad,
through the sudden chaos, uncleated the main sheet and the hull splashed
back into place. We'd been up on one hull before, so what was the problem
here? Well we were in the mouth of a major water system that led to where
the notorious salt water crocodile happens to live. This was no place to
be invited to breakfast by a crocodile.
|Just in case you don't believe about the
crocodiles, here's Beau holding our dilly net. A crocodile decided to have
a go at it.
Because of the danger of saltwater crocodiles we did not camp on the mainland much. We hopped between islands and coral cays which were safer for camping.
|This is our camp at Cape Bedford, just north of Cooktown.|
|Here we are at Lizard Island. Lots of
boats make it this far, not many go further north. We went right to the
top of Australia.
Lizard Island is home to some of the best black marlin fishing in the world, as well as being the greatest diving place ever.
Beau is sleeping on the boat. The Lizard Island Resort costs more than $1,000 per day. Sleeping on the boat is cheaper but you have to cook for yourself.
That's Beau on the left, me on the right.
Dad always wanted to be like Crocodile Dundee, this little shark is as close as he got on this trip.
Come over for dinner and you will see a man eating shark.
|Drying out the stuff in the boat. You can see the lid off the hull locker on this side. We had lots of room in there, as long as you like eating rice.|
|This is some of the Aboriginal rock painting
that we saw at the Owen Channel near the Flinders Island Group. There are
pictures of turtles, fish, dugongs, & ....
There was no way we could tell how old the paintings were. Some of them must be very ancient.
|It looks like clear weather out there, but something is coming up that is making me look a bit worried.|
|Then the weather hit. Suddenly it was getting rough, and there was Dad taking pictures. We thought he was supposed to be steering!!|
|But mostly the sailing was calm and peaceful over flat water among beautiful islands and coral cays.|
|Fish for dinner tonight...|
|And another night...
More fish for dinner
|This sure looks like hard work. Soon I suppose we'll have to go fishing.|
Our days were spent swinging in the hammocks and playing with the Aboriginal children that lived on the beach. During the day the women would go to the waters edge during low tide and fish for a few hours. They would come back with enough fish to feed the whole family. Their huts were no more than a frame made of poles with a corrugated tin roof and portable sides that were put up when it got windy. On the ground they had foam mattresses which they slept on.
|Here I am with some of the kids from the Lockhart River Aboriginal community. This was a fun stay.|
We were invited back to their yacht for some dessert after dinner and
by the time we left it was dark. It was about a 100 meters to the shore
and we sailed off trying to adjust our eyes to the little flame marking
"Hey dad. A kid told me today that there is a four meter croc that lives" around here.
We’d better move the camp back from the water a bit."
" Really ? In that case we’d better..." CRUNCH!
" Beau, Jess. Move up the front " Dad said in great anxiety. This wasn't a time to say please. “We've got to get the rudders off the bottom!" The boat came to a grinding halt as the fibre glass boat wedged itself upon a coral shelf.
" What now?" Someone murmured.
I kept my eye on the water as Dad leaned over to set the little outboard motor into life and tore our belly out, or at least that's what it felt like, until we reached the freedom of deep water and a long way round back to camp.
|Here we are stuck on a reef. The water can be shallow, depending on the tide, and it is easy to get stuck. Trouble is, that coral is hard and sharp and the boat can get damaged.|
|And this is the result. We had to take
the mast down and turn the boat upside down, then start filling the gaps
with repair resin.
I'm holding the gap open while Dad stuffs the goop inside.
|This is Forbes Island. Another of Australia's
tropic paradise islands.
It needs a fresh water supply.
The subject that my Dad was a builder came up. So was Roy, the owner, and they were even familiar with each other’s work and Anna, Roy's wife, worked as a cook where Dad used to live. This opened up the opportunity for Dad to help Roy with the work which was burdening him down. We stayed there for a week, with great pleasure might I add, and learnt how to look for and catch crayfish.
|Getting stuff from the boat at sunset. They sure know how to turn on the evening lights up this way.|
|Another tropic sunset. We never got used to it. All too soon it would be time to go home to Melbourne. No tropical sunsets down there.|
We had come, at last, to the very top of Australia. Now all we had to
do was find the real Cape York, something like finding the real North Pole.
Where is that marker post?
"There it is !"
"No it's not, that's it. Or maybe that's it."
When we found the sign which marks that actual point of Cape York we got a photo and rounded the tip. We had made it to the top, now where to?
THE NORTHERNMOST POINT
OF THE AUSTRALIAN
What an Adventure !!!
|Time to unload the boat and head for home.|
The spectacular Lizard Island, 240km north of Cairns, was named by Captain Cook in August 1770. It is in the Coral Sea surrounded by coral reefs. It is a continental island, not a coral cay, with dry stony and mountainous interior. The 24 beaches are superb with some of the best scuba diving, snorkelling and gamefishing in the world. Much of the island is national park with camping permitted in limited numbers.
Return to place in story
|Part 1. The Story of the Tropic Journey
Part 2. The Interview with the Martins
Part 3. Jesse's Plans for sailing around the world