Across the top
09 July 2011 | Darwin
Daryl, Carol and James
Here we are in Darwin. What a fantastic place. We have been here two weeks now and I have just got around to updating the blog. We have been so busy organising things and attending briefing sessions for the rally to Indonesia. Carol believes we only needed to attend one to start with but they are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Darwin Yacht Club and they are an opportunity to meet other crews not to mention the social (beer) aspects.
We have organised customs, visas and various other items but still need to do fuel for the yacht and fuel for the crew (food I mean). Duty free looks good.
We are anchored at in Fannie Bay and have been running the dingy in to the yacht club (about a Klm). Just after we arrived in Darwin it was Territory day and there was a fireworks display not far from us. It was the best display that we had ever seen. Went on for nearly an hour. Not to mention that you can buy fireworks and the public show from one end of the beach to the other went on from sunset till about 4 in the morning. The NT, what can you say,. I think it is so far away from the rest of the country it actually goes back in time. Not saying that is a bad thing, in fact I think their lucky. All the things that go with a capital city except the traffic and some of the bureaucracy.
To describe our trip from Thursday Island across the Gulf of Carpenteria, I have asked James and Carol to contribute their versions and then I will give the captains view.
Horn Island to Cape Wessels (Gulf of Carpenteria) 10'35.55S - 142'14.57E
The Gulf Carpentaria
The Gulf seems to lure you in and we are keen to get started on the three day trip. Day one is nice weather, just a gentle swell and a bit of cloud cover broken by the odd bit of sunshine. It was a real cracker of a day. Pleasant enough to troll a lure and even though we did actually get a strike the anticipation takes my mind off things as happens when your sailing day draws slowly into night. I think the first night was one of the best night watches I have had but it's all just a front for once you're at the point of no return and you have been sucked in the Gulf opens up on you. Slowly the next day it breaks loose, no pleasant swell, no broken sunshine and no trolling a lure behind the boat for a bit of fun, just hours and hours of big swells and uncomfortable times ahead. It's a helpless feeling but you still have to have a lot of respect for the Gulf. There is no room for heroes out here. The second night watch was the opposite to the previous night, the worst. We had big seas and waves breaking over the port side, a bit wet I guess you would call it and I was tired because I didn't get much sleep at all the night before and today has been full on. I lay here in the lee bunk writing this with waves crashing over the roof. We arrived at the Wessel Islands later that on the third night and with a shower, a sense of relief and a stiff nip of single malt scotch we retired to bed for the best night sleep we have had in three days. I think if a doctor has the sad task of telling someone they only have three days to live the prescription should be sail across the Gulf it will make three days feel like forever such is the gulf of Crapentaria.
"Darwin or bust," that's what we said. Well, here we are and now there is time to reflex on our journey so far. There have been many wonderful sights and people along the way. But there were also sometimes I wouldn't want to repeat. We watched the landscape change from lush tropical mountains to a harsh flat terrain worried by erosion. The isolation of the places we visited was something I found better not to dwell on too much least you put yourself into a panic. Better to focus on the beauty of their sandy bays and very welcome flat (flattish sometimes) water. There were always amazing things to see. Not every day but certainly often enough to keep you looking.
The big seas and seasickness of the Gulf were a challenge, but I think the greatest challenge for me has been living on a smallish boat with two males. I suppose it takes time to whip a crew into shape.
Now the real story:
The gulf was challenging, we had 2 and a half days and nights of challenging but not unsafe conditions. The crew was magnificent and stood all watches as agreed. They are the sought of crossings that while you are doing them, you wish you were somewhere else, when you finish them the memories are soon replaced with the stories and then they fade to nothing. What is at the other end, the anchorages, the sights, the adventure soon take over and you move on to the next one.
Log Summary Two Island Bay (Cape Wessels to Darwin)
Forecast was for 15/20 for the next few days. We departed 2 island bay, 11'05.14S - 136'42.56E at 11.00hrs on the 16th of June. Wind was 15/20 from the south east on a course of 270 deg. At 14.33 we had travelled 19nm at 5/6knts still with 15/20 and two reefs in the main, conditions were ok. By 16.14hrs the wind had increased to 20/25 and we had covered 30nm. Conditions were expected to ease during the night. By 0700hrs on the 17th we still had 20/25 but manageable, covered 116nm and sailing at 5knts. Swell was 2.5mtrs. at 1100hrs we had travelled 138nm still doing 5/6knts and comfortable the swell was down to 2 mtrs. About midnight the wind died to 15nkts and then the wind disappeared. We sailed/motored all night at 6nkts in 0 swell. We arrived at Malay Bay 11'21.32S - 132'51.78E at 0845hrs on the 18th of June. We anchored out but by about 10.00hrs the wind was up again to 25knts and we all moved close to the shore in 5mtrs of water all the way.
Departed Malay bay for Danger Point at 0730 NT time on the 19th of June with 10knts SE it increased during the day but the passage is protected. The passage goes between Crocker Is and the Coburg Peninsula. As you approach the passage, the water shoals a bit but we headed for the centre. It is hard to see as you approach but trust your plotter. The water comes up and at stages we had 4 mtrs under the boat. This happens a few times on the trip through but never felt unsafe. At times there will be 13 mtrs of water. We stayed to the west of the rock on the chart. It shoaled a bit but ok. Need to give danger point a bit of room and the rock off the point but safe to go between the little island of the end and the mainland. Good Anchorage sand and mud 49nm covered. Danger Point 11'08.38S - 132'20.00E
We sailed from Danger Point at 0745hrs on the 20th of June intending to anchor at Alcaro bay just behind Cape Don but decided to go through because we had the tide right. You need to be at Cape Don 4/5 hours before the high tide in Darwin and that will take you all the way through past Cape Hotham through the Clarence strait through the Vernon Islands and into Darwin Harbour with favouring tides. James was on watch thought there and reported 10knts, I was asleep. (trusting Captain) You can stay at Cape Hotham. We had no wind for 70% of the trip and motored. Not much traffic. We arrived in Darwin at 0930am on the 21st of June, safe and well.
The rally has organised a social night for the 16th of July at the sailing club with all participants attending. There are now 110 yachts registered so it should be a good night. We have already had an informal gathering of a few boats that are heading on the Suamlaki, Banda, Ambon leg of the rally. On the following Tuesday night there is a session run by Sail Malaysia in Darwin city. As we intend to head through to Phuket before the end of the year, we will attend this as well.
Carol has been back in Brisbane for a week, visiting Hailey and is due back in Darwin tomorrow evening (Monday the 11th of July). We have managed a few boat jobs while she has been away but most of the time has been taken up by socialising. Kelolo with Sam and James aboard have left Horn Island to cross the gulf and will be due here in the middle of next week. Same news from Jamie and Dawn White on Azzan, we heard from them on their way to Malay Bay so not far from Darwin now.
Freycinet is definitely providing us with a safe and comfortable mode of transport that is serving us well as our home. Looking forward to the next leg through Indonesia commencing on the 23rd of July. Hope you are enjoying the trip.
Carol, Daryl and James