We survived the Torres Straits
01 August 2012 | Arafura Sea
Two weeks since our sad departure from Rodrick Bay, SI, and we are still eating from the bounty that they gifted us with. We've even dreamed about them, which tells me that it significantly altered our psyche's to be there!
Back in the Louisiades of PNG, we spent our first night at anchor after 4 days of rough sailing from the SI. After much trading and another day of sailing, we anchored again in front of a small village and we were totally inundated with children in canoes coming out to trade. It was the first place we've ever seen in the entire S.Pac. that gathered eggs from their wandering chickens. We were also offered a rooster there in trade for a ball. We told them we wouldn't care for a rooster, that they should eat it themselves (the woman said she would kill and dress it for me even) and after much debate, the boys decided they couldn't part with their beloved Mexican soccerball (futbol). They wanted material to sew clothes, but aside from sailcloth we didn't have any so I traded off a couple of old sheets. One lady wanted to make sport jersies so they could tell the teams apart, and I said that would be a terrible waste of material, why don't they just use a banana leaf or such tied on their arm or waist, the same way they neatly wrap bunches of veggies at the market. I also asked why don't they just make grass skirts and apparently nobody even knows how to make them anymore.
We left that anchorage after one night, only to be faced with high winds and horribly rough seas within the giant lagoon, so we didn't dare try and go through the pass out but for the first time ever turned around and went back to our anchorage. Of course, the traders were happy to keep trading until we had to call it all off because it was getting repetitive.
After another 5 days of really rough sailing, and a final puking salute to the Pacific, we found refuge behind Dalrymple Is. in the Torres Straits. We weren't the only ones there, there were 2 other boats. It was 80 feet deep right up to the edge of the island, and it had a beautiful beach teasing us. Despite being at anchor, we didn't go ashore in any of these places, although we did swim in the Louisiades. We also caught a giant dorado, the first since leaving Mexico! And can you believe I actually had the exact items necessary to make delicious poisson cru, or Fijian kokoda?! That's amazing having not been to a market or grocery store in 3 weeks! It's raw fish marinated in lime juice, coconut cream that I squeezed from coconut I shredded myself, diced tomatoes, slivered cucumbers, a real red chili, and pepper. YUM! I should've served it up in a coconut shell!
What a strange body of water, the Torres Straits, one which we hope to never transit again, nor would we recommend it to anyone! The whole thing is full of islands, rocks, shoals, reefs, and it's all the same depth of 50ft. or less, with big winds and steep, choppy seas. The water is also murky green, seafoam green, no matter deeper or shallower, so it's no fun trying to pick things out, unlike in Fiji where you know there's reefs but the water shows deep blue, green, and turquoise to tell the difference.
One small "rock" that was directly in our path seemed to have a giant force field sucking us up to it, and instead of going to leeward of it we were on the windward side blowing towards it...even with the motor on 1500rpm we barely made 2kts and scraped by.
We anchored another night at Nagir Island and it was so rough we might as well have kept sailing, although that seemed to only be asking for trouble trying to find your way around all the obstacles in the dark. There were always several giant cargo ships that were transiting as well, and kept us on our toes. One day we even had a sleek little airplane overfly us, AUS Maritime/Customs, and they radioed us for some info. and that was that. Once we made it to the final channel we couldn't believe our speed over ground, 13 knots! It was like being spit out, more likely! The only time Love Song's ever moved so fast was on a sleigh ride from San Diego to Catalina Is. in a gale force storm that closed LAX airport! Anyways, we are THANKFUL to be done with it! The only fun part was looking at "Australia", the closest we've ever been or will be?
We celebrated Dallas and Dulce's birthdays on the 31st of July, complete with chocolate cake. Hard to believe it's August and 3 of us have birthday countdowns on. Finally we're getting some deep water under the keel again (130ft/HA!) and are flying along in the moonlight at 7.7kts, and should be to Tanimbar, Saumlaki by Sunday.