06/30/2012, Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
Once again, the winds were too light this morning to start our journey up to Cape York and then over to Darwin. However, as the day slowly passed, the winds started to build. As I am writing this, the sky is overcast and the winds are pretty constant at around 12 to 15 knots. This is the most wind we have seen for a few days and they will continue to build through the night. We are ready to weigh anchor at the crack of dawn tomorrow. By then, the winds should be blowing in the 20 to 25 knot range from the SE. With the Great Barrier Reef edging closer and closer to the mainland as we head north, the seas should be fairly calm as there should be a very limited fetch. At least, that is my story and I am sticking to it!
Starting Monday, the winds here at Lizard Island will build to over 32 knots and should stay that way for the rest of the week as a strong high pressure system moves in. Thus, we either leave tomorrow before the gale force winds strike or we sit out the high winds until next weekend. We are ready to leave after enjoying our stay here so we plan on leaving before the high winds hit.
As we go north, the winds should stay in the 20 to 25 knot range, from the SE all the way up to Cape York. Tomorrow, we will be sailing past Cape Melville and it has a reputation of generating higher winds so we may see gale force winds as we round that Cape but they should be restricted to just the vicinity of the Cape. We shall see...
We plan on trying to keep our speed down to just 6.5 knots during our passage to Cape York. We will be trying to limiting our speed so that we can pass through some sections of the passage during the daylight hours where the reefs narrow. I have plotted our course so that will happen if we average 6.5 knots. The thought of passing some of the narrows during the night just does not sit well with us since we have seen too many times when charts are off a bit or we lose GPS connection. I understand that this passage is well charted so even if things don't go as planned, we can rely on our chartplotters but why chance it. I was talking to one of the cruisers here the other day and he was telling me a story of how a reef is misplotted on C-Maps by a mile. He did admit that the Admiralty charts have that reef plotted correctly and both of our chartplotters are based on using the Admiralty charts so I feel pretty good about that.
Once we leave Lizard Island, we anticipate being without Internet access. Plus, we are told and have experienced that SailMail does not work very well in these parts of Australian waters. Thus, while I will write daily blogs and enter them into SailMail, I may not be successful in posting them. Therefore, if you do not see blog postings for a while, don't be surprised.
I understand that there is Internet access at Portland Roads and again as Seisa (At the top of Cape York). If I can see the Internet access as we sail by, I will try to connect to post our blogs and collect our emails. However, that may be a crapshoot so I am not counting on it. I say all of this so our children don't worry if they don't hear from us for a while.
We hope to be in the Darwin area in about 7 to 8 days (arriving around July 8th or 9th). We may be delayed a bit if we have to sit at an anchorage in Alcaro Bay near Cape Don in the Northern Territory waiting for the right tidal conditions before continuing. The tidal currents running through the Van Diemen Gulf, to the south of Cape Don are said to peak in the 5 to 8 knots range so one is suppose to time the passage around Cape Don when the tides at Darwin are 4.5 hours before high tide. It is about 100 nm from Cape Don to Darwin so timing is critical. If things don't work out right, we may have to anchor for a while just shy of Cape Don and then again near Cape Hotham, which is shy of Clarence Strait, where the tidal currents can also be brutal. Such anchorages could delay our arrival to Darwin a bit. Fortunately, we are in no hurry.
Today, we just sat and rested for most of the day. One of the cruisers here has developed a bad eye infection and is planing on flying to Cairns tomorrow to get some medical help. He asked if Mary Margaret, who is a Registered Nurse in the US, could look at his eye. She confirmed that it is badly infected, offered a number of suggestions to address the problem and confirmed that he should seek medical help and proper drugs as soon as possible. That was the exciting event for the day. We hope we do not have any more excitement for a while!
I have mentioned a few times in the blog that we are considering sailing a bit south once we pass over the top of Cape York. We have been told that by doing so, we would have a bit smoother ride since the tidal currents are not quite so strong as you cross the gulf. The tidal current flows against the direction we will be sailing and are counter to the direction of the prevailing SE winds. This results in the waves "standing up" and the ride is very lumpy and uncomfortable. The stronger the winds, the worse the ride.
I was doing research on this today and found a very good article that describes the phenomena and presented this figure, which shows how the strength of the tidal surge, as measured by amplitude, varies across the gulf, Torres Strait and the Arafura Sea.
I have drawn two arrows on this figure. The black arrow shows the conventional path that cruisers take to cross the gulf. It shows how they cross through regions of the gulf with the highest tidal strength. The red arrow shows the route we have been advised to take. While it also passes through areas of significant tidal strength, the amplitudes are less than the convention route. Again, the degree of lumpy seas that can form is also a function of wind strength but, given that it is predicted to be blowing between 15 and 20 knots when we cross, I believe we will first head south before attempting the crossing.
06/29/2012, Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, AU
When we woke up this morning we were glad we slept in instead of weighing anchor at the crack of dawn. There was absolutely no wind! I went on the Internet to get the latest weather analyses from two different sources and they both are now saying that there will be no real wind until Sunday afternoon. Thus, it looks like we will be staying here until Sunday morning. I don't mind motoring for a bit but do not relish the thought of motoring all the way up to Cape York....
Our Friends on S/V Sea Mist (John and Cheryl) have spent the about 9 days dinging their way up the coast from Lizard Island to Cape York. In fact, they had started to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria but decided to turn back because there were no winds and they did not want to motor for two days to make the crossing. They are relaxing now in an anchorage at Possession Island and have Internet access. John has caught up in his blog postings and I was enjoying reading them this morning. He tells a wonderful croc story that happened the other night to our joint friends, David and Marian, of S/V Kilkea. Instead of telling it myself, I will just cut and paste what John said on his blog. If you wish to fellow John and Cheryl in their adventures, you can go directly to: http://blog.mailasail.com/seamist/
*********************************************************************************** John writes:
S/V Kilkea, David and Marian, pulled into our anchorage here at Possession Island just before dusk this evening and as they sailed close by Sea Mist to drop their anchor, they drew my attention to their boat flag/ensign that flies from the stern of their vessel as with all sailboats. I could see that the Canadian Flag was missing its outer red vertical bar....only the white center/Maple Leaf portion and the inner end red vertical bar remained. They had me guess how that might have happened as they moved slowly past Sea Mist.......???
I said to them: "You don't mean a crocodile got it".....to which they nodded..."Yes" > Now that is one heck of an experience!!!!!!
I had to have them tell me more>>>>>>>>>>>>this is what happened:
"At 1 am this morning, while they were sleeping at anchor at Escape River (from where we came yesterday), they were awakened to a bone chilling crash (or quick series of crashes)...they first thought they had been hit by a boat....then they thought of a piece of mast rigging breaking...and then as they were closing any large opening into the boat (the hatch by their aft cabin where they were asleep and the main companionway entrance) they came to realize that it might have been a crocodile. They did not venture out on deck to see what they might see....wise move....particularly since the croc had come out of the water so high as to reach and tear away a third of their Canadian Flag. At daylight this morning, they found that the big croc had taken out chips in their fiberglass/gelcoat at the stern and had almost pulled out the corner of the permanently installed stern fended with which Amel vessels are built.
Now there is, as David and Marian would put it, one whale of a tale....oops....no...."one crocodile of a tale!!"
A week ago we were told by some Aussie boaters that they knew of a crocodile that tore apart an inflatable dinghy that had been left in the water by a catamaran overnite right beside the cat's swim platform.....and along came a croc and tore up the dinghy seemingly just for something to do."
Techno-Tip Of The Week: Know Your Right Of Way Hierarchy
Toward the end of this cruising season we will be traveling through the Straits of Singapore. This is an area with the greatest cargo shipping traffic in the world. Therefore, I thought it would be wise to restate the pecking order of who has the right of way amongst water vessels.
In our travels we have found that there is significant confusion amongst cruisers regarding the right of way hierarchy. Since most of us grew up just having to worry about right of way issues between other sailboats and power yachts, this can lead to the belief that sailboats under sail have the ultimate right of way. This means that all other craft must yield to them. Unfortunately, this is patently false and, in fact, sailboats are rather low on the vessel hierarchy regarding who has the right of way. In this hierarchy, there are 7 rankings with the first ranking having the highest level of right of way. Sailboats are in ranking 5. The only other vessel that has a lower ranking is a power vessel (i.e., power yacht or other sailing vessel using their engines). The lowest ranking is reserved for sea planes, which I personally don't consider to be a vessel but what do I know....
This means that all other vessels have the right of way over sailboats, no matter where those vessels are or what they are doing (i.e., under way, at anchor, towing a barge, fishing, without command, etc.). Since cruisers are only in sailboats or power yachts, the concept of right of way amongst all other vessels that they come across is rather straight forward. Basically, it is...YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY!!!! STAY OUT OF THEIR WAY!!!! YOU HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MOVING OUT OF THEIR WAY!!!!
For those who are curious, the right of way hierarchy, as defined by the Collision Regulations as internationally ratified in 1972 goes as follows:
1. Vessels not under command (highest)
2. Vessels restricted in her ability to maneuver (this is basically all large ships such as tankers, cargo ships, and cruise liners).
3. Vessel constrained by her draft exhibiting the signals in Rule 28 for same.
4. Vessel engaged in fishing as defined by the rules.
5. Vessel under sail but not under power.
6. Vessel power-driven including sailing vessel using its engine.
7. Seaplanes on the water (lowest).
What a wonderful beach. It is just missing people and drinks to may the afternoon perfect. A few minutes after I took this, the party began!
As I walked by to where the party was starting, I took this shot of the fleet at Lizard Island.