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Sailing around Australian East Coast  Sydney — Cairns — Sydney , July-December 2007

The Narrows



The rain has stopped and weather forecast improved a little. Today the wind is still strong and the waves are high, but we decided to go north through the narrow passage between the mainland and Curtis Island, drying at low tide called simply “The Narrows”.

If we go this way we will be able to make more headway north without having to fight the sea.

 Gonzie bought Noel Patrick’s “Curtis Coast” book which has quite detailed instructions for how the crossing should be done and local sailors at the marina convinced us it is possible even for yachts with 2.5 m keel.

Sounds like it can be done, just need to time the passage with the tides well.


Having left the marina at 2 pm we arrived to Black Swan Island at 4:30 – the tide is at least 3.5m (2 meters at the drying section) now and it should be enough water for our 1.7 m keel to pass.

The high tide today is at 17:55, but we want to clear the drying part just before the tide is in its highest point, so if we do run aground, we don’t have to lay on the side in the mud for a day waiting for the next high tide (there will be another early in the morning but it won’t be high enough). 


Each red and green beacon in a chart is numbered and the book has maps with a dotted line showing the safe passage between them, it also tells you how many meters you should be away from mangrove shoreline. Gonzie is steering and I’m standing next to him with the chart and the book and having to read the instruction telling him which way to go. The passage from green starboard beacon No5 to red port beacon No10 is relatively long and it is a curve, not a straight line. We took slightly wrong curve and ran aground digging 20 cm of the keel into the mud (that we found out later when we saw the marks on the keel underwater). After moving back and forward a few times we set free.


We however passed the most shallow part between green markers No 7 and No 9 without any problems (we tried to be more careful) and then followed the leading triangles out the deeper channel. It is all done and we are on the northern side of the Narrows!

For the night we anchored in Mosquito Creek, still well protected from the swell of the ocean (and by the way does not have any more mosquitoes than the other nearby creeks, it’s a mystery why they called it that).

Some sections of the Narrows completely dry at low tide. Photo from Noel Patrick’s “Curtis Coast” book

Chart of the Narrows from Noel Patrick’s “Curtis Coast” book

Passing the beacons

Aligning leading triangles

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