We have arrived safely in Darwin and are amazed at the difference having two extra crew members makes. Britt and Shadow are still honing their sailing skills so we ended up with two people for each shift. Britt and Janet were team one. Mark and Shadow were team two. Both Britt and Shadow were keen on learning everything about the boat while also helping with the cooking and cleaning. It was a joy. Having an extra set of eyes on each shift was a huge help. Although the seas were quite flat being inside the reef (and the shipping lane) along the way, we did have many cargo ships and fishing boats to negotiate around. There were also many small reefs along the way to avoid. We were able to sail for much of the trip and by the end of the trip both Britt and Shadow had learned so much about sailing our boat. One morning I was cooking breakfast and suddenly I saw that the spinnaker was raised. I didn't even have to get involved. What a nice team we made.
Once in Darwin, we had quite an interesting trip into Tipperary Waters Marina. Because the tide changes in the area can be up to 30 feet, you have go through a lock in order to enter the marina. Given our experience with the Panama Canal, we were somewhat familiar with the method but the lock we went through could only fit one boat and it was quite a tight fit. It was so tight a fit that the catamarans in the fleet were too big to go through the lock and needed to stay at a different marina.
We were able to visit Litchfield National Park while we stayed in Darwin which was one several national parks in the area. Our first stop on the trip was a visit to see termite mounds. There were two types of mounds, cathedral and magnetic. The mounds are basically termite excrement and can become about thirty feet tall. The queen termite lays about 3,000 eggs per day and lives to be about 150 years old. The magnetic mounds all face magnetic north and are flat like a tombstone. They face magnetic north to keep the sun consistently on them throughout the day. This seems quite amazing since the termites are blind and generally come out at night. Ants tend to like to eat the termites and we saw many of the mounds covered with them.
We also visited several watering holes while in Litchfield Park. They were beautiful and the water was clear, cool, and refreshing. It has again gotten quite hot here in Darwin compared to the sweater weather we were experiencing in MacKay. It was a little odd to go swimming in Wangi (pronounced one guy) Falls where there were crocodile warnings but we were assured that it was safe to do so.
While we were in Darwin we also went to a movie theater called Deck Chair Cinemas and saw the Pixar animated film Brave. The seating was outdoors in lawn chairs. We popped an incredible amount of popcorn on the boat and brought it with us. We also went to the Mindil Beach Evening Market. It was open on Sunday and Thursday evenings. You are able to watch the sunset on the beach, visit endless numbers of food vendors, buy all sorts of local handicrafts, and enjoy all sorts of entertainment. We listened to a few bands and also saw a show with a man who had fire torches that he twirled like batons.
Britt and Shadow have worked out so well on the boat that we have invited them to continue with us through to South Africa. The next leg of the trip (the Indian Ocean) can be one of the more difficult ones of the entire circumnavigation. They have happily agreed to join us and we are thrilled.
We are off for a five day sail to Bali, Indonesia. We are all very excited. Britt has been to Bali before so she has many ideas about where to go and what we should see. Unfortunately our stay there will be quick - about five or six days. Alas, the problem with completing a circumnavigation in 16 months!!!