Date

Day 35 – Penultimate

While it may be bumpy and blowy out here, it’s a blistering pace we’re setting, with a new record today of 165Nm in a 24-hour period, which takes the total log to 4000Nm. I’m going so fast in fact that by the time you read this, I’ll be almost finished. 

I hardly slept last night so I’m very groggy in the early hours. I ran out of coffee when I crossed the equator and I pine for an energising brew. Tea is great, but when you’re exhausted there’s no substitute for a strong coffee. As I slowly regain the world of consciousness, I realise that, barring a disaster I’m now less than 48 hours from Cairns and I need to prepare for my arrival. I reach out to Border Force (ABF) and confirm my ETA, speak to the Marina and do the same thing. Confirm my hotel room and also confirm an anchorage for the early hours of Friday morning as its now looking like I’ll arrive in Cairns in the middle of the night. Everyone is super helpful, and I plot the anchorage waypoint and my confirmed mooring at the Marina. ABF lock in 9am at the dock and I’m told to stay on the boat till they arrive. I almost ask whether they could pick me up a strong Flat White on the way but figure that’s probably pushing my luck. There’s be plenty of time for coffee when I get to the hotel.

I also relook at my pilotage plans for Cairns and map this against the wind forecast. I estimate I’ll get to Grafton Passage around 9pm but there’s still another 34Nm to go from there as I need to pass the Great Barrier Reef, where there’ll no doubt be plenty of boat traffic in what’s a narrow channel so it will be a challenging final 6-7 hours navigation. I’m aware that many accidents happen when land is in sight and one lets their guard down, so I commit to getting as much rest as I can to ensure I make it safely inside to the anchorage.

There’s an air of realness. Of finality to this admin and final prep work. This journey is rapidly coming to an end and I want to make sure I finish it as well as I possibly can. I’m exhausted though, so once I’m on top of the detail, I try and get some sleep. I’ve always found it hard to sleep in hot, humid air but I fall asleep instantly and get a restful hour in.

I spend very little time in the cockpit today. There are waves breaking over the bow and the beam every few minutes and there’s not a dry inch on deck. Its loud and intense. It’s also exhilarating though, so to wake myself after my nap, I head to the foredeck for my daily inspections. The gooseneck repair is holding nicely. My cheese grater has certainly found a higher purpose in life. I look for chaff points and wear on the blocks and make small adjusts to the sheets and lines to minimise any damage. I see no issues though and head back to the protection of the dodger.

Looking out at the water, I notice how alive the sea becomes when its windy. Such a different persona to when its calm. It looks, sounds and almost feels like another place, growing in height, stature and intensity. It’s been blowing 22-25knts with gusts of 35+knts for over 24hours and the height of the waves is over 3m. The periods are relatively long though, so they roll through at a manageable rate. There is white foam on the crests of the waves with lots of spray and streaks along the direction of the wind. The pressure on the rig, the sails and the hull is significant and a breakage now would have serious consequences. I’ve reduced the sail enough to ensure its manageable (I hope) while also giving us good boat speed, so I head back to the relative peace of the saloon and hold on tight.

The boat is moving around far too much to be able to read so I put on a movie – Star Wars – and get lost in the wonderful story telling. Half-way through though, I hear a noise that seems to be coming from outside. I look up and see something moving. For a moment I think it’s a containership bearing down on me but before I have time to panic, I realise it’s a plane, no more than 100m in altitude directly above me. I run up-stairs, but it’s passed by the time I’m there. I wave nonetheless and realise it was Australian Border Force, coming to check me out. I find it incredibly reassuring to know I’m now well and truly on the radar of the Australian Government and that I’m in range if a disaster happens. Good luck to any smugglers out here though! My sense is not much slips past ABF. What a contrast to the countries I passed on my way here, where no one at all seemed interested, or even aware, that I was travelling through.

My sunset was obscured by clouds, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not being there to watch it – it’s still too wet to eat upstairs so I put another movie on as I work my way through the classics. The Sound of Music – no judgement please 🙂 

The weather doesn’t let up, though I manage to find some sleep. I guess I’m getting used to the constant battering… At 2am though my AIS alarm goes off and I wipe the sleep out of my eyes and begrudgingly get out of my bunk. 6Nm just off my port bow I have a massive container ship bearing down on me. Looking at its detail its 770ft long and 110ft wide, so basically two football fields. Our bearings are so tight that I’m not sure which way to turn to give him a wide enough birth. Just as I decide its safest and easiest to bear away, the captain gives me a call on the VHF. We both agree to alter course to starboard and pass to port. I wish him good night then sit attentively for 20 mins watching my instruments until he’s safely passed, immensely grateful for AIS.

Surprisingly I’m able to get back to sleep easily. This will be the last sleep of the journey, so an important one, though no matter what, I think the excitement of the final day’s sail tomorrow be enough to keep me awake all the way to Cairns.

Postscript:

I estimate I’ll arrive around 2am Friday morning, not long after you read this, so I’ll combine day 36 and 37 blogs and will make sure I post it once arrival formalities in Cairns are complete.

I’ll then collate photos and send through over the weekend and plan on two more posts after that. One in about a week with some reflections once I’ve caught up on sleep and had a chance to digest all that’s happened and then a final blog when I get the video footage edited with a link to YouTube.

If anyone wants to reach when I’m on land, below are my contact details:

WhatsApp – +61 408 322 184

Email – roryhunter88@gmail.com

@Stuart

Hi Uncle Stuart!

So wonderful to hear from you. I was worried about you for a while there but am thrilled to hear you’re on the mend.

Give my best to Maggie and Kyle.

Much love,

Rory

@Hilary

Thanks so much Hill!

@James

I thought a lot about our trip to the Solomons when I was sailing by. Remember how we went spearing at night with those locals and they caught a turtle, which we had to buy from them to release, otherwise it was soon to become their dinner? Such an epic trip.

Great work on the open water swim mate. 1.2km. That’s a long way with no training!

@Tory von Bergen

Aww Tors, that’s very sweet of you to say. So lovely you’re able to share the tales with your boys. Will be lovely to catch up when I get to Sydney.

@Aimee McCammon

Not long now Aims! So stoked you’ve enjoyed the journey. It’s been lovely to share

@Campbell Mackie

It’s definitely a boisterous breeze! Nice to be blasting into port this way.

@Nick Hunter

I love that suggestion Uncle Nick. I may just do that.

Much love,

Rory

12 Responses

  1. Wow, Rory, you’re almost home!! What a feeling, combination of feelings, you must be experiencing. Just wow. I hope you can go easy on yourself once upon terra firma, and allow the experience to acclimate in your being. Sending so many cheers and a big hug!

  2. Rory,

    Just checked your position – at the pilot boarding ground off Euston Reef. You should be anchored and asleep by midnight, but don’t relax until the pick is dug in. A great effort and I am already feeling spectator’s remorse knowing that it’s all over bar the arrival formalities.

    Congratulations, it’s a wonderful achievement which will shape your life voyage in ways that are unimaginable to you just now.

    Best regards

    Campbell aka Old Goat

  3. Welcome Home Rory, we have followed your journey and blogs with interest and regular discussions with Gill and Harry daily actually. We will go and have a drink with them tomorrow while you sleep perfect sleep in the Land of OZ.
    Pam and Peter.

  4. Rory,
    You have made amazing speed towards Cairns, Incredible given the wave height and conditions.

    The going has been tough, but you are now within reach.

    Good on the Border Force Boys giving you a fly past. ✈️

    We are all so excited and happy for you. ⛵️🌍😎

    Savour that Coffee!

    Bonnie Scotland

  5. Hey Rory- ask for a disabled room once you hit terra firm… You will need the disabled hand rail in the shower in my experience. 😘

  6. Congratulations Rory 🍾🍾⛵️⛵️😎😎

    Relieved and delighted you are in safe.

    Sleep well once the adrenaline subsides.

    🐋🐬🐳🌏👏👏⚓️⚓️🐬
    Eileen

  7. Rory, you are amazing. I’ve read your daily blog and just cannot believe your journey is almost(?) over and I am so happy you are safe. Take care, get lots of sleep, eat well and congratulations on a feat well done.

  8. Woohoo, you made it! What an epic journey. Congratulations on this true adventurous feat, you’re amazing! Now welcome home!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More
articles

Rory Hunter
Sailor

Bio

Entrepreneur. Chief Executive Officer, Song Saa Collective. Pioneers of sustainable development in South-East Asia. The collective includes Song Saa Resorts and Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago. 2006, co-established the Koh Ouen Marine Reserve, Cambodia’s first-ever marine protected area. The reserve has since expanded to 400 square kilometres and has gained the support of Monaco’s Prince Albert II. 2013, founded the Song Saa Foundation, an independent NGO dedicated to preserving Koh Rong’s underwater sanctuaries, providing alternative means of livelihood for its residents and bringing much-needed healthcare and education to the region. Speaker at international conferences, including the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organisation. Former advertising executive and worked for multinational firms including Saatchi and Saatchi. Graduate, Harvard Business School; studied sustainability and resilience, Stanford University: Global Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School; BEcon, Sydney University. Completed the Coast to Coast in 2015, one of the world’s toughest endurance races, set in New Zealand, in 17 hours; offshore sailor, downhill skier, long-distance runner and proud dad of two boys.