"Look at that reef!" Kai and Megan enthusiastically enjoying our new view at Cod Hole Dive, Great Barrier Reef on the public mooring
They are off! Kai and Megan are off on their next adventure to Indonesia aboard the Danish boat Orbit. We want to wish them smooth sailing and loads of adventures along the way! We will miss you guys!
Kai and Megan joined us in Luganville and sailed across the Coral Sea to Cairns, staying aboard on our journey northwest up the Australian coast all the way to Darwin. They have been tremendously great company and completely easy to have aboard. They seemed to glide effortlessly into our routines aboard Paikea Mist. Together, Kai and Megan make a strong and dynamic couple who stay positive through difficult times are just plain fun to be with. They share the same enthusiasm for family, friends and life adventures as we do.
Both Kai and Megan are competent on a solo watch AND are exceptionally fine cooks! Now that's a combination that is hard to beat! Several of the areas we navigated were intensely reef stricken, and some of these areas we traveled through at night. We had no issue trusting Kai and Megan at the helm while navigating through these areas, they both made careful and astute observations on our behalf.
I have to thank Kai especially for increasing my knowledge bank with regards to fishing. (Okay, so that's not so hard to do considering how little I know about fishing!) Kai on the other hand, is an avid fisherman, and a exceptionally skilled and keen at free diving to spear his selected fish. Kai does the whole deal from catching, cleaning, filleting to preparing the fish for a meal. Always a deliciously inventive meal- Yum! Thanks so much Kai!
Kai and Megan left us with a new hand reel set up to catch Spanish Makarel, complete with a steel leader. These were the allusively hard to catch fish that chomped through several lures and sometimes took the entire thing in one clean swipe. Although we never were able to hook a Spanish Makerell we had much better luck in the Tuna department. We sure hope we can keep up the fish quota with the new gear! Thanks for the fish, the lures and the memories!
I have to finish by saying that Michael and I can't really think of Kai and Megan as simply "crew". We have shared our fair share of adventures together from exploring the Millineum Caves in Vanuatu to diving on the outer reefs at Great Barrirer in Australia. They have become lifelong friends that we will cherish forever, and we wish them the best of luck in everything that they tackle together.
Au Revoir, Aufweidersehen, Until we meet again!
07/16/2012, Top of Australia
Well, sorry for the interruption folks. We arrived in Darwin safe and sound on July 10th. I posted an update through our sailmail, but it seems it didn't arrive to the blog!
Darwin is a modern and fabulous small sized city with 'heaps' of festivals, markets and a nice tourist buzz at this time of the year. Darwin is modern because in 1974 it was totally flattened by Cyclone Tracey, which arrived on Christmas Day to wreak havoc on the 48,000 people living here at that time. On our first day in Darwin we visited the Northern Territory Museum with our friends Gordon and Sherry which has a great display of the cyclone.
Paikea Mist is tucked up nicely in Tipperary Marina. The tides at Darwin are huge, so going into marina involves going through a lock system, which was our first experience with this. Before we were allowed to go into the marina we had to have a hull inspection which involved a diver jumping into the crocodile infested waters and pumping some solution through our intake valves. Now, truth be told we didn't see any crocodiles, but they reported that they usually see 5-6 a season. Hmmm...We've heard that you'll never 'see' the crocodile that attacks you- their reflexes are 33 times faster than ours. Must be a well paid job!
Darwin is a great biking town and we've pedaled from one side to the other on mostly flattish terrain. Thursdays night in Darwin we rode out to the Mindil Beach Market. The market is a bustling mix of food stalls and local arts and crafts and imported items. At sunset the market empties and about 1000 people sit on the beach and watch the sunset! On our way back to the boat we stopped at Shannagins- the Irish Pub and enjoyed a table shared with the crew from the Italian flagged SV Chloe. I have to say Italians are lotsa fun!
As I write this update I am sitting in our "Eurovan" camper which we rented for 5 days to explore the nearby Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks. Its dawn and we are camped about 1/2 km from a huge billabong (yes this is a real word, not just a line of teen wear-it comes from the aboriginal word meaning still water) at Yellow Water River. Michael just opened the door for 5 minutes too long and I am typing and slapping mozzies at the same time. Both National Parks are gems - as usual we are really glad we ventured inland.
07/07/2012, Arafua Sea, Top of Australia
Yesterday morning we left our snug anchorage behind Cotton Island and made our way to The Hole in the Wall. We are very familiar with our own "hole in the wall' in the Pacific Northwest,,north of Desolation Sound. Transiting passes like this is SO much easier when you know what to expect ahead of time! Both channels make for interesting navigating through narrow places. Here in the southern hemisphere, the islands that separate to make the slot we were aiming for are quite low, maybe 50 feet elevation max. As we approached, we could see the small gap we were shooting for from the distance. At least we knew it was there! Otherwise we may not have believed the charts. We had to navigate around some shallows on the port side of the entrance. This made for an interesting approach, as the "gap" disappears altogether for the final 1/2 nm or so. With wind gusting to 25 knots, the seas were making it a dramatic entrance. Behind us, the Japanese boat "Harmony 6" followed. He was relying on us for interpretation of the tides and currents in the area to make a safe transit. The three hardy Japanese guys, all in their retirement years are finishing their 3 year circumnavigation in Thailand later this year!
The Hole in the Wall down under is one of those on the 'must do' list. It's not for the faint-hearted, but if you hit it at slack, or just before (as we did) the pass is easily navigable. And stunning! We timed the pass to arrive at high tide; arriving a little early we had a slight current against us of a knot or two. The water floods here opposite to the passages we went through the previous day, just 20 nm away! The Hole in the Wall slices through the islands, and water and weather has worn the channel into gorgeous stacks of horizontal, but jagged slabs, some of them making long inroads exactly perpendicular to the gap. It is a shame you have to look where you are going, as all eyes really just want to take in the surroundings!
Once through the hole, we decided to keep going to Crocker Island, an overnight sail. We are now about 80 nm from our next anchorage, in the lee of Crocker Island. We've had an easy leg of fast downwind sailing in moderate seas. Got to love that. From Crocker Island we will make one or two more stops before one last longer passage to Darwin. We expect to arrive in Darwin early hours of July 12th. Our friends on Harmony 6 plan to sail straight through to Darwin, so may arrive there ahead of us!
Harbour view of Gove, with bauxite refinery in background- luckily the wind blows away from the bay!
We are tucked up quite nicely in the Gove Harbour, while outside the wind howls as a huge high pressure system sitting off the Australian bight creates super charged winds on the top side of Australia. Boats coming in yesterday faced 38 knots of wind and huge steep seas. Glad to be in Gove,but Michael maybe isn't so sure!
The aboriginal settlements are alcohol and kava restricted!
Going for a swim is also out of the question:
We went for a walk in the dusty wind through the outback, termite mounds, ant balls and birds abounded. And did I mention dust?
narrowest part of the road-surrounded by water and wind
We found a private airstrip and then turned around!
But there was the big screen 'footy' (Australian Rugby) party at the Gove Yacht Club,
so Michael was happy again!
Wind will die in the next 24 hours, so we hope to leave tomorrow for our last few jumps to Darwin!
07/03/2012, Gulf of Carpentaria to Gove
Finally a fish on!
We left Possession Island, near the horn of Australia early morning on June 30th, after only just arriving before sunset the night before. We were headed to Gove, about 350 nm west. We wanted to get out on an outgoing tide through the shallow reef area, and also before strong winds filled in behind us. The Gulf of Carpentaria is very shallow (30-200') and is known for short steep waves which build up quickly as the wind increases. As you sail westward, the fetch increases, as does any of the effects on wave conditions. With gribs showing 20-30 knots in the coming days, we weighed anchor and were on our way. This decision saw us motoring and motor sailing for the first 12 hours, but we were fine with that.
As we made our progress westwards across oily calm seas we were mesmerized by hundreds, perhaps thousands of tuna leaping out of the water in a wild feeding frenzy. Everywhere we looked we could see a huge swarm of birds, splashy water of a bait ball and tuna leaping out of the air. Despite our course directly dissecting such activity a handful of times we kept coming up empty. Frustrating, especially for Kai who is such an avid fisherman! Besides the tuna we were also spotting spanish mackarel and one other unidentified billfish which swam right beside the boat- about 5' long. We lost a fair number of lures trying to hook up a fish. Some disappeared entirely with a strong tug, others were shredded. Frustrated we decided to create our own steel leader using the the aluminum wire inside some electrical wire we had stored up front. As we were out of lures, we made our own. Finally just before sunset we caught the most beautiful blackfin tuna! This is the second tuna we've caught this week- makes for fantastic eating.
Then the fun began. We were finally sailing in sweet calm seas with 15-20 knots on the beam. Michael turned us to the south of the rhumline to make the upcoming heavier weather a bit easier to take when it caught up with us. This meant that instead of beating into high winds and steep seas we would have it just ahead of the beam. Good decision.
Our second day was superb sailing, right up to dinner time. Although it was hard to imagine anything could change the idyllic picture, I predicted a wet ride that night, and almost exactly when predicted the winds picked up. The Gulf of Carpentaria turned into one UGLY place! Megan was on her shift when the waves really started to present themselves. It was incredulous how quickly the seastate changed, and Megan's eyes just kept getting bigger and bigger. Thankfully we were closing in on Gove, and overnight as we approached the conditions turned down a notch. We entered Gove Harbour mid morning on the 2nd of July, thankful for a reprieve from the Gulf!
Gove is one of those places that doesn't require much commentary. Gove is a mining town, where they render aluminum out of the bauxite we saw all along the Queensland coast. The red iron ore trailings stretch for miles around Gove, and are eventually grassed over. I can't imagine a more desolate place to work in- Gove is an 8 hour drive from the closest town of Katherine, set deep in Australia's outback. The drive entails crossing 8 rivers,none of which have bridges in a 4WD equipped with snorkel. In town you can buy an "I survived Gove" T-shirt with a ball and chain on the front!
The Gove Yacht Club is a friendly hub, although it is only open on weekends, so we missed the action. Nevertheless, Rod who runs the club was a good source of information on local tides and anchorages for our next stretch to Darwin.
Gove has been a pleasant place to ride out the storm, with winds in the 15 knot range while they rage in the Gulf. We've stocked up on fresh fruits and vege and are ready for our last stretch into Darwin. This will involve two overnight sails and some further day hopping.
In Darwin we are staying at the Tipperary Marina. The song keeps running through my head. "It's a long way to Tipperary...it's a long way to go!"...
We will keep you posted!
06/29/2012, Cape York, Australia
We are on our way across the Gulf of Carpentaria to Gove! This crossing is 360 nm and will take a couple of days. We are looking forward to reprovisioning fresh fruit and veges there.