Here are Brian and Mary Margaret during part of our tour of Darwin.
07/17/2012, Fanny Bay, Darwin, AU
Today was Mary Margaret's birthday party. Using the rental car we are sharing with Jim of S/V Candela, I shuttled the folks from S/V Imagine, Kilkea and Sea Mist over the Buzz Café at Cullen's Bay. We were then joined by Jim and his crew, Jon David, who used their dinghy to get to the restaurant. It was great to see old friends again and they really enjoyed wishing Mary Margaret a happy birthday. Mary Margaret was beside herself as she was surrounded by friends, good conversation, and great food. A good time was had by all.
As a special treat, we were joined at the end of the party by the folks on S/V Salamander: Chris, Sue and Hilary. As it turns out, they had moved into the Cullen Bay Marina due to some unexpected repairs. Once in the marina, they turned off their VHF radio and that was the reason they never returned our hails. However, while we were having the birthday party, they fired up their email server and read the email we sent yesterday inviting them to attend. As it turns out, they were docked just a stone's throw away from where we were. What good luck.
As an added treat, as we were getting ready to go to the restaurant, Dana of S/V Northfork hailed us on the VHF radio. What a surprise! Only a few weeks ago they were down near Brisbane debating what they were going to do. They were thinking about spending another year in Australia with their new born son before venturing over to Indonesia. However, they ended up changing their minds and when they called us; they were just sailing by Fanny Bay. They were heading up to the Bay View Marina and had to meet a 1400 lock time. Due to the excessive tidal range in Darwin, all of the marinas are behind locks. Thus, they could not join us for the birthday party. However, we will be seeing them during the rally meetings and BBQ that start this Friday.
After the party was over, we were met by Brain Cann, our blog friend who lives in Darwin. He came over to wish Mary Margaret a happy birthday and to give us a quick tour of Darwin. As it turns out, Brian works for the Northern Territory Department of the Chief Minister, and is the Deputy Director of Gas Industries. We had heard that the liquid natural gas industry is now booming in Darwin in part due to the refocusing to LNG in Japan as its major energy source after the nuclear reactor fiasco they had last year.
After our quick tour, Brian took us to his beautiful house situated on a lagoon near the Bay View Marina. Here we met his wife, Gayle. Gayle teaches gifted 6th graders. The four of us plotted out a social calendar during our stay here in Darwin which includes getting together at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market this Thursday and a dinner on Leu Cat this Sunday.
By the time Mary Margaret's special day was over, we were bushed and returned to Leu Cat just as the sun was setting. The day was truly perfect because Mary Margaret heard from all three of her children, they all wished her a happy birthday as did other friends - that means an awful lot to her. Thank you all who wrote. Between the sunset picture perfect moment, the good times and warm "fuzzy" feelings (as MM would say) it was a perfect ending to a perfect day.
07/16/2012, Fanny Bay, Darwin, AU
This morning I kissed my loving wife good morning and then hopped in the dinghy and headed to shore. On the way in, I picked up Jim and his crew, Jon David, of S/V Candela. Jim and I had agreed to rent a car together for our stay here in Darwin.
Once ashore I ran a very long line from our dinghy to the rocks that made up the riprap that lined the shore banks. There are up to 8 meters worth of tidal range here in Darwin and this morning it was low tide. Thus, to make sure that I did not have to swim out to get our dinghy, I wanted use a long line to pull the boat into shore at high tide.
Next we went to the Darwin Sailing Club to check in with them and to become temporary members so we could use their facilities during our stay. As I approached their office window, I was greeted by their receptionist, Di, who said: "Oh, Leu Cat, I have a couple of packages for you!" Di had seen our boat's name on the breast of the shirt I was wearing and recognized me from that. From her warm greeting I felt like part of the sail club's family
Di gave us a lot of great information and then sent us over to meet with the Sail Indonesia Rally folks, who also greeted us warmly. Soon we had lots of great information about Indonesia and the Rally and were headed off for downtown Darwin and our rental car.
We had a lot of errands to do regarding starting the clearing out process with Customs and Immigrations, getting our Indonesia Visas, checking out restaurants for tomorrow (it is Mary Margaret's 61st birthday... ah yes I married a younger woman!), checking in with the rigger who will be replacing my cap shrouds, and stopping by the Coles supermarket to get stuff for dinner so Mary Margaret would not have to cook tonight. After all, she allowed me three days of birthday celebration so I thought I would surprise her with dinner for tonight and start things off for her a little bit early.
By the time we returned to the beach to get our dinghy, it was 1600 and we were bushed! The tide had brought in our dinghy so I did not have to pull it in. It was just sitting there quietly at the water interface. How great was that!
This evening I called our new Darwin friend, Brian Cann, and he has offered to meet us in the late afternoon tomorrow to give us a quick tour of Darwin and then plan for another get together. We are really looking forward to meeting Brian and his wife while we are here. They are being so generous to take the time to show us around.
For Mary Margaret's birthday party tomorrow, I have made arraignments for John and Cheryl of S/V Sea Mist, David and Marian of S/V Kilkea, Stuart and Shirley of S/V Imagine, and Jim and Jon David to join us so we will be having a real wild party with such a motley crew. I have also been trying to reach our friends Chris, Sue and Hilary of S/V Salamander to invite them but I have had no luck. Oh well, they will just be missing the Party of the Year!!!
07/15/2012, Fanny Bay, Darwin, AU
We kept up our act as a motor yacht for our last push to Darwin. There was absolutely no wind so what is a sailor to do? The currents within the Gulf of Van Diemen were disappointing. We had heard so much about what great assistance we would be getting while making the run from one end of the gulf to the other. However, the only real currents we saw were as we were making our way out of the gulf and weaving our way in the dark, through narrow channels between the Vernon Island Group. Here we had maybe 3 to 4 knots of current. It was nice but certainly nothing like we were lead to believe.
We popped out of the gulf around 2200 last night and could have been at the Darwin anchorage around 0200. However, if we can avoid it, we will not enter an unknown anchorage in the dark. Thus, we just went slow and zigzagged through the dark early morning hours, waiting for dawn to break. I think this was the hardest part of our passage. We were so ready to get there but had to hang loose and while away the hours.
When dawn did break, we made a beeline for the anchorage and faced a fleet of over 50 boats. It actually looked more like an armada instead of a fleet! We always like to hang toward to back and it looks like we are the boat furthest from the beach. It is about a mile in front of us. We may move closer in a day or so just to make it easier to get to shore.
We anchored next to our friend, Jim, of S/V Candela. However, when the breezes came up before noon, he started dragging. Thus, he pulled his anchor and moved way up to the front, near the beach. He has told us that there is room there for us, if we would like to move. We will wait a day or two and then decide.
When we entered the anchorage we were amazed at the number of boats we know. Whenever a boat comes into an anchorage, the people of each boat at anchor come out to watch you. They are interested to discover who is coming in but more importantly, they want to make sure you do not anchor too close to them. We waved or shouted our greeting to Two Amigos, Tin Tin and Candela, who we anchored next to. We saw where Salamander was anchored but they were too far away to say hi. We will look forward to seeing all of our friends here during our two week stay in Darwin.
We have rented a car for the time that we are here. I suggested to Jim that we share the car so we will be splitting the cost. This will make provisioning and exploring the environs much more convenient.
We will be calling our Darwin blog friend, Brian Cann, in a day or two to make arraignments to get together. We look forward to buying him and his wife a beer. They have offered to take us around Darwin and show us the sights. We have met the nicest people through our blog and this is another wonderful example!
Our trip from Seisia to Darwin took about 5.5 days, not counting the time we waited off shore for daylight to come in. The distance was 792 nm. We averaged 6 knots but that really does not mean much since we ended up having to motor so much. However, it was a very easy and safe sail, something that we are always grateful for.
07/14/2012, Sailing Through The Gulf Of Van Diemen, Australia
At 1300 yesterday, we lost our wind. It just disappeared. It died. It went away. OK, you've got the idea. Thus, we dropped the sails, started up the starboard engine and motored, and motored and motored some more. In fact, we are still motoring and it is 1230 the next day. There has been no hint of the wind returning. The water in the Gulf of Van Diemen is like glass. It is as flat as it can be. Sheeze!
Now, this is not to say that we have not had some excitement. This morning, right on schedule (it is easy to keep to a schedule when you motor); we rounded Cape Don and entered the gulf. Even though the two rules dealing with when to enter the gulf that I mentioned indicate that we should have had a favorable current as we entered, we actually had a slight current against us. It was only about 0.5 knots, so it was not a big deal. However, I had great expectations of riding this powerful current and reaching 10 knots of speed. Well, it never happened. In fact, we did not get an assist by the current until about 1000. Even then, it was only about 0.7 knots.
The excitement came when a heavy fog rolled in about 0900. We are used to sailing in fog from our sailing days along the west coast of California. However, with an exception of a spot of fog along the coast of Queensland, we just have not experienced any fog in the South Pacific.
As our visibility dropped to less than 100 feet, a large cargo ship appeared on the chartplotter thanks to our AIS. It was about 10 miles in front of us and on a direct collision course. I changed our course by 30 degrees to starboard so he could see that I was getting out of his way. However, as I did, two more blips appeared on our radar right in front of us. I had been tracking two other sailboats via the radar for a while and was surprised to find these two new blips suddenly appear. By now the cargo ship was 3 miles away but no longer on a collision course. However, the two new blips were approaching fast and directly ahead of us. As I was figuring out what my next course change would be, the radar now connected the cargo ship with the two new blips in an arc and then added a bunch more blips in a semicircle around our boat! Ahhhh! I get it now. The new blips were just radar reflections from the cargo boat. I decided to change course so I was now heading toward the stern of the cargo boat, which was about to pass me about a 1 mile to my port. As I changed directions, the arc of blips disappeared and just the cargo boat was being shown. Whew. What a relief!!!
We are now making our way through the Gulf of Van Diemen. It is about a 50 nm run before we shoot out the far side and then turn toward Darwin. We should be out of the Gulf around 2100 tonight and if we wanted to, we could arrive at our anchorage at Fanny Bay in Darwin by 0200 tomorrow morning. However, we have a strict rule that we just do not enter unknown anchorages in the dark. This is especially true with probably about 80 to 100 boats sitting there at anchor. We could use our chartplotter and radar to snuggle up between some boats and then drop anchor but why take the risk? Thus, once we get out of the gulf, we will either slooooow waaaaaaay down to about 2.5 knots for the last leg or just heavy to and wait for dawn before entering Darwin. This means one more night of watches but we will be able to anchor in light right after the crack of dawn.
Our position at 1230 is 11 39.5'S/131 36.3'E. We motored 143 nm during the last 24 hours. We have traveled 714 nm so far and just have another 80 nm to reach Darwin. We are so close, we can taste it now! There are still no winds and the seas are flat. The skies are bright and sunny and it is such a beautiful day!