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First Light adventures
60 nm to the Spice Islands
26/07/2010, The Banda sea

We've had a good night crossing the Banda sea. A steady 15-20 knot SE wind has kept us moving towards our destination at a comfortable 7-8 knots. Looks like we will make the islands mid afternoon which is a relief as the anchorage is through a pass between two of the islands and as the water is very deep right up to the shoreline anchoring is tricky, not something I was looking forward to doing in the dark.

We will be anchoring among a cluster of three of the largest Banda islands, one of which is an active volcano. The anchorage is supposed to be pretty spectacular....we'll find out.

We can't see any other rally yachts around, but expect some of the faster ones are already at the Banda islands. The rough passage across the Timor sea has sorted out the fleet.

Not sure if our radio transmission will be very good once we are in the anchorage at Banda due to the surrounding hills and volcano, so further updates may not be possible for up to a week when we move onto another anchorage

Love Bern & Di

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A rough crossing of the Timor sea
25/07/2010, The Banda sea

The last 24 hrs crossing the Timor was a bit tough, but we were expecting the worst and managed well. We had to reduce sail down to a triple reefed main (half a handkerchief) and a staysail. We are currently entering the Banda sea and have seen our first East Timorese islands. Conditions are improving, but the odd rain squall and strong gusts of wind is preventing us from putting up more sail. We are about 200nm from our destination, the Banda Islands, More news when the sea state is more conducive to sitting at a computer.

Love Bernie & Di

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sailing to Indonesia
24/07/2010, Darwin

We're finally sailing again. Since arriving in Darwin in June Di has spent time back in Victoria with her father following the death of her mother. I returned home for a couple of weeks, but have otherwise been preparing the boat for our next cruise with the Sail Indonesia rally to Indonesia. The sail Indonesia rally has 105 yachts entered, many from overseas who like us are using the rally to assist with entry into Indonesia. The rally started this morning at 1100 but only about half the fleet started due to the forecast strong winds in the Arafura sea. We could see no change in the weather for the next week so decided to start rather than delay and risk missing the officials sent to the Banda Islands to check us into the country. The consequence of this is that we would have to sail further north to Ambon, a port we would rather not go to. So far today the sailing has been in the sheltered waters between Melville Is and Darwin and has been very pleasant, but tonight we round the western tip of Melville Is and head north into the Arafura sea on the 500nm sail to the Banda Islands a tiny speck in the Banda sea. Hopefully we'll get another blog off tomorrow night. Cheers Bernie and Di

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25/07/2010 | Jane and Graham
Good luck!! Hope the forecast improves.
An emotional arrival in Darwin
07/06/2010, Darwin

We departed the Wessel Islands on the 2nd June bound for Pt Essington 280 nm away on the western end of Arnhem Land. We left early in the morning hoping to cover the distance before dark the following day. We mostly had good wind and some pretty steep seas, but arrived just after sunset and anchored at Black Pt barely inside the large Pt Essington bay. There was a lot of smoke about from burning off along the coast. We spent a pleasant night there and the next day prepared for the final voyage around the notorious Cape Don and Vernon Islands to Darwin. This is a 140nm sail with some narrow passages to negotiate that can experience fast tidal flows which when combined with opposing strong trade winds can cause very dangerous sea conditions. Timing your passage through these sections is critical. We decided to make the passage overnight as the winds are usually lighter. On checking emails just before departing we received the devastating news that Dianne's mother had passed away that morning. She was very ill and we had been on a mission to get to Darwin as soon as possible so Di could fly home to be with her. With heavy hearts we set off on the overnight sail and it was then that I realised that I'd calculated the tides incorrectly and we were 4 hours behind. A frantic review of tide heights and wind strengths indicated that conditions may not be too bad, so we pressed on. In fact as we rounded Cape Don, conditions we quite good and we continued on and crossed Van Diemens Gulf where we experienced gusty winds and some pretty confused seas. We managed to pick up some time and still had a bit of tide to assist as we entered the passage through the Vernon Islands as we exited the Gulf. Phew I made it by the skin of my teeth!! As we sailed towards Darwin the first we could see of it were a couple of high rise buildings appear over the horizon and then our mobile phones started to work and the messages flooded in. Before anchoring in Fannie bay, with help from family , we had already arranged a flight home for Di that night. We traditionally celebrate the end of each significant voyage with some sparkling wine consumed as soon as possible after arrival regardless of the time of day! S o this time we cracked a special bottle of sparkling red chilled from the day before and firstly drank an emotional toast to Di's mum and then to our little ship's successful voyage.

FIrst Light III will remain in Darwin until we set sail for Indonesia late in July.

The photo is of Fannie Bay Darwin. First Light III is anchored way out, a 10 minute dinghy ride.

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13/06/2010 | Jane and Graham
Di - We were so sorry to read the news about your mother. Our thoughts are with you.
25/06/2010 | judith noaln
Di (and Bernie), we are saddened to hear of your mother's passing. We had heard nothing until looging into your blog. Hope all is well - safe sailing.

Crossing the Gulf!
31/05/2010, Cape Wessel

Well, we have achieved another milestone in our efforts to sail from Bundaberg to Darwin, by crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria. We left the east coast of the gulf on Saturday morning for the 300nm trip, in extremely calm conditions that had us motoring nearly all day. The forecast had been for good SE winds but unfortunately for us we didn't see any at all. A French contingent of two Catamarans and two monohulls set off with us, but as they were keen to conserve fuel we lost sight of them as the day got longer. Late Saturday evening we were able to hoist the sails with a freshening SE wind. The southern part of the gulf had been issued a strong wind warning and as the day wore on we began to experience the results of this, with huge swells rolling up the gulf towards us! First Light III sailed along happily enough and made great progress with the conditions. However, the 4 metre seas and 20+ knot winds made it not so comfortable for the crew, with a few waves ending up in the cockpit at times! Early Monday morning we rounded Cape Wessel to relatively calmer waters and found a peaceful anchorage in Two Island Bay part of the Wessel chain of islands. A hot shower, followed by bacon & eggs with freshly brewed coffee and life looks good again!

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Rounding the top!
26/05/2010, Seisia- Cape York

Well, we have finally made it around the first corner of Australia- it's most northerly tip. It seems to have taken awhile to cover the distance up the coast from Cairns. It is such a long coastline but fortunately it is protected by the reef, so we enjoyed some great sailing with predictable trade winds most days. The anchorages also became few and far between but we managed to day hop all the way which is good. We left Bushy Islet at midnight last night to ensure we had the current with us, as we went through the main shipping channel around the top of Cape Yorke Peninsula. However, we were mystified and a little disappointed to discover that the current situation changes much later then the tide times stated. It made it a slow trip to have nearly two knots of current against us most of the way round. Fortunately the winds were very light so there wasn't too much wind against tide action, which can cause uncomfortable steep seas.

We had a bit of excitement in the wee hours this morning as we sailed towards a rather narrow section of the shipping lane between two reefs. We observed, thanks to our new AIS system, a large ship overtaking another and heading directly towards us and also an Australian warship steaming up behind us at 18 knots. We all converged and passed through the narrow channel side by side at the same time. We radioed the overtaking ship before we converged to clarify how we would pass. All was very orderly and controlled and we watched the silhouette of the two big ships passing us in the setting full moon.

We are now anchored in a very peaceful, but extremely hot inlet (no breeze!) called Seisia. It is the port for the aboriginal settlement of Barmaga, a town 5 kms inland. It has quite a good supermarket, so we were able to top up our stores which was good as when we leave here it will be quite a few days before we see another supermarket. Seisia is quite small but obviously caters to the tourists who like to visit the top end of Australia as there is quite a large camp ground as well as,a wharf area for boats that go to and from Thursday Island. We plan to have an R&R day tomorrow to prepare for the next part of our journey which is to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria. It will be a trip of about 300nm, which will mean two days of non- stop sailing, as there is no where to pull over!

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26/05/2010 | Bob & Jenny Beattie
Hi Di & Bern, glad to read of your current happenings. Your stories of the top end bring back memories of our 4WD trip, oh so long ago to the tip. Just on our last 2 days in Spain, not looking forward to Melbs cold weather. Happy sailing. Bob

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First Light 111 Adventures
Who: Bernie
Port: Melbourne Australia
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