Monday, May 22, 2017

Last Stop: Thursday Island...Farewell Australia!

Our time in Thursday and Horn Islands has gone by quickly and tomorrow we have no choice but to clear out of Australia and be on our way to Indonesia! After arriving on Thursday afternoon (how’s that…we arrived at Thursday Island on a Thursday! Well timed and totally unintentional!!), we watched the sun go down and enjoyed a good night’s sleep!

We had good intentions to go and check out the town on Thursday Island on Friday, May 19th, but admin tasks and the weather got in the way. I spent all day working on our Australian tourist tax refund (making spreadsheets, copying and scanning receipts), the kids did school, and Dave got us all caught up and ahead with finances, paying credit cards, and ensuring our dwindling cruising kitty would see us home! We got a visit from the friendly Customs and Border Control people, whom we had spoken to earlier in the day, and they came to check us out, I guess. They didn’t come aboard, but one poor guy drew the short straw and had to stand in the rain on their boat and talk to us. We got some questions answered and then with a wave they were on their way.

Cool Runnings (way in the distance) anchored off Horn Island at low tide
On Saturday we decided to take the dinghy over the Ellis channel to Thursday Island. Horn and Thursday Islands are not too far apart, but long sand banks between them make it a mile and a half dinghy ride to get from one island to another. We walked around the main street, and unfortunately, most things were closed, it being a Saturday. We still managed to have a lovely lunch of Fish and Chips at the Grand Hotel, and then were thinking of going back to the boat, as there was not a whole lot going on! We walked down to the dinghy dock, and Dave asked a taxi driver how much it would be to take us up to the Green Hill Fort, one of the sights we’d read about. He said it would be $8 for all 4 of us. He also said he couldn’t take us, but he’d radio for another driver. And soon enough, another driver came along, ready to take us up the hill to the fort. We asked him how much for a tour of the whole island, and he said $30, which was a bit better than the $100 another driver had quoted us when we first got there!!

Our greeting as we came ashore on Thursday Island

Gaby with the turtle sculpture...for her friend Mya who loves turtles, and for her friends Julie and Sophie on Nogal..the T-Shirt is for you (from you!)!  We miss you guys!
So we hopped in the van and got a quick tour of this small island. We went to the cemetery where we found many old graves of long forgotten Japanese pearl-shell divers, who came here to seek their fortune, but never made it home. We also saw the grave of our driver’s great, great grandfather, and other Torres Strait islanders. There were Malaysian, Indonesian, and up on the slopes Roman Catholic and Anglican graves. The island is very small, only 3.5 square kilometers, so it didn’t take us long to see it all! 

Graves of the Japanese pearl divers

The grave of our taxi driver's great grandfather

A view of Thursday Island.  Horn Island, where our boat was anchored, is across the channel
The highlight was the trip up to Green Hill Fort, which was built in 1891 – 1893, and is one of the most intact 19th century forts remaining in Australia. Unfortunately the museum that is attached to the fort was closed, but we were still able to view the cannons and enjoy the beautiful views from the top of the hill!

Stunning views of the surrounding water and islands

One of the cannons perched on top of the hill

Dave and the kids inspect one of the cannons

Beautiful views across the Torres Straits

When we took the dinghy back across the channel, we decided to make a quick stop at Horn Island as well. Horn Island is one of the largest islands of the Torres Straits, extending over 53 square kilometers, but it only has 900 inhabitants, compared to the 3,500 living on tiny Thursday Island. I was thrilled to find a little book exchange outside the grocery store/café!

If there's a book, she'll read it!  At the little book exchange on Horn Island

Love it!!

Swapping my books!  My intention was to donate my books to get the ones I'd read off the boat, and make space and  get rid of some weight, but I found some I wanted to read, so it turned into a swap!
At about 5:30pm Dave’s phone rang, and even though it was a strange number he didn’t recognize, he thankfully answered it, because it was our friends on “Moby” that we had been planning to meet in Indonesia. They had left New Caledonia 6 days previously, and were about 330 miles off the Australian coast, heading for the Torres Strait, when they hit a submerged object, probably a log of some sort, which broke off their skeg, and subsequently hit their saildrive, damaging the hull. They were not in immediate danger, but were taking on water, and they wanted to know what the closest Australian port was, so they could divert there and get the damage fixed. Unfortunately for them, the closest port was Cairns, 330 miles to their southwest, so they diverted and had to beat into the wind for 2 days to get there!

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting in touch with Australian Search and Rescue to alert them of Moby’s situation, as well as Customs and Border control. Luckily the family had gotten Australian visas before leaving New Caledonia, for their stop in Cocos Keeling later this year, and that was one problem we didn’t have to worry about. We continued to monitor their position and situation well into the night. Our hearts went out to them, and it was a big wake up call for us as well. You just have to be prepared for anything!

We continued to monitor Moby the whole of Sunday, checking-in in the morning and the evening to ensure all was OK, and although Loic said the damage was a little worse than he initially thought, he was confident that they would make it to Cairns OK. Sadly, (and selfishly) this meant we would not be able to cruise Indonesia together, as initially planned, but the main thing was that they were safe.  We are thrilled to be able to able to report that they arrived safely in Cairns this afternoon!

Moby's track.  They have made it safe and sound to Cairns!
This morning (Monday morning), Dave and I were up at 5:30am and took the dinghy over to the dock on Horn Island, where the ship carrying our new batteries was busy offloading her cargo. We located our new batteries and got them onto the dinghy and then onto the big boat. That was my morning workout right there!! (well, that, and taking the old batteries out, and bringing the new batteries down into the battery compartment!!). Dave spent the day fitting the new batteries, as well as installing some new battery-related gadgets that Rosemary had brought over. We were also able to donate our old batteries to two locals, who were glad to have them. There was nothing wrong with them, they just didn’t hold a charge as well as they used to, and we just didn’t feel comfortable having them all the way across the Indian Ocean, but they were perfectly fine for two locals, who were happy to take them…win win!

It was still dark when we came back with our new batteries
Dave in the midst of the new battery install

All buttoned up and ready to go!
So here we are, on the eve of our departure from Australia. It has been our home for the last 6 months…quite a chunk of time! We’ve had an amazing time. We’ve reconnected with so many old friends and made many new ones. We will miss you all so very much. We’ve often said we have more friends in Australia than we do in America! Each and every one of you is welcome any time at all you are in our backyard…please, please, please look us up! On the other hand, we are ready to face our new adventure: new countries, new oceans, new people. We welcome it all! Thank you, Australia, we will miss you!

(PS: As a reminder, we won’t be able to get our email via gmail, which is, so please feel free to email us on our iridium go email, which is We love getting messages while at sea, so please don’t be strangers!! We will try and do blog updates while at sea, but they won’t include any pictures, so until we reach Indonesia, wish us a good journey and Bon Voyage!)
As the sun sets on this adventure, a new one awaits on the horizon!


  1. Hello Hibberd family! So, I am tracking you and was reading your post on FB with your stops from Indonesia to SA. Where the heck is Chaos. you know this spells chaos as in the world if full of chaos:):) Which it is now with our new president - so lucky you are missing this part. please don't get any ideas of having more friends in Australia than America. Your American friends are feeling a bit forgotten and will never let you go! Safe travels my friend, and look forward to reading more about your exciting journey. Hugs to all! Sherry

  2. Safe travels my peeps. Look after yourselves.