Sailing the Gulf of Carpenteria
14 June 2013 | 11 33'S:136 20'E, Gugari Rip, (Hole in the Wall), Wessel Islands, Northern Territory, AUS
Sea Child is now in Northern Territory, Australia, after a wild crossing of the Gulf of Carpenteria! We left the west coast of Cape York Peninsula early Thursday morning, and initially the sail west was a breeze, 15-18 knots SE as we sailed a course of 265 for Gugari Rip in the Wessel Islands. We left the anchorage at Seisia at 4:30 on a cloudy, dark morning. We hoisted a full main and rolled out the jib in the light 10 knot SE trades, heading for Endeavor Strait. By just after sunrise, we hit the narrows that edge the Endeavor Strait with the Gulf of Carpenteria, and for most of the first day, we saw comfortable speeds of 8-9 knots in a gentle swell out of the SE. However, Eric was getting a little concerned, as we needed to average 10 knots boat speed to reach the Gugari Rip at the Wessel Islands in a specific period of time, 350 NM to our WSW. To transit the Gulgari Rip, you need 1) daylight and 2) tide on your side, flooding WEST for the strong currents to transit this less than one mile long passage between two very large but very narrow islands. Not to fret, though, since the 2nd day brought an increase in winds, up to +30 knots SE and a building swell, up to 2 meters. Sea Child took a punch in these conditions, sailing hard and fast, then double reef and staysail still saw us with speeds around 15 knots. Wave after wave hit the port mid section, the Gulf at this point being over 300 miles to the inside bend off on port. A building sea for sure, we took it in the chin, literally, and even with reduced sail Sea Child weathered the punches. By 4pm yesterday the entrance to the rip was visible (barely, the approach looks like we were sailing into a lee shore at 10 knots, ya right!) and once we entered the pass, the seas flattened out and within 5 minutes and an 8 knot current, we were through the other side of the Wessel Islands and off to anchor at a very cool, remote, secluded and flat anchorage. Needless to say the RUM bottle came out a little early, we toasted our survival at sea and felt pretty special having crossed the wild Gulf of Carpenteria on our journey towards Darwin.
We expect to be in Darwin by the end of next week, after we cruise the northern shores of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.