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Published: June 25th 2010
An enjoyable, safe but tiring crossing to Darwin as we simply hadn't experienced passages in months and night watches never fail to exhaust.
26/5 An early start to Magnetic Island with a washdown overnight to rid us of the salt buildup. Last night stayed in Shark Bay, Cape Upstart which was named by Capt. Cook as many of the areas around here were, and as for the charting of this stretch of coastline. Few revisions have been made in later charts. Funky winds due to a low pressure offshore which have unsettled our usual S E trades. The inner barrier reefs are to the west of us and NE are the outer reefs. 100 gallons of fuel equating to 50 hours of motoring (350 nautical miles). Overnight at Horseshoe Bay and were surprised by the welcoming 26 yachts already at anchor.
27/5 A 6am start to Hinchinbrook Island and had to motor in the afternoon again due to light winds. 4 mackerel caught and 3 throwback as the freezer is full. The island is heavily treed and very hilly so attractive. Anchored near the resort at Missionary Bay.
28/5 02.45 start as a long run to Cairns today and light SW winds predicted which turned out to be NW winds of 5-10 knots so not helpful to sailors. Motorsailed much of the day and anchored outside the marina in Cairns near the town. Mangroves alongside and a lot of Sail Indonesia rally yachts around.
29/5 Explored the city and dinner with Caj from Anchee III at the yacht club. His boat has been hauled out and we took the dinghy way up one of the creeks to visit and saw no crocs despite this being the area for them.
30/5 Provisioned with fresh goods. Tom and Suzie from Priscilla for dinner.
31/5 Took on 330 litres of fuel at 09.00 in the marine entrance and headed off for Low Islands, 35nm. We have six weeks to get to Darwin so can take our time if we come across something particularly beautiful. On arriving in the anchorage we had black tip sharks surrounding the boat - luckily no need to join them. Lighthouse on the island as well as a reef research station (since 1928).
1/6 We had made our way up through the Barrier Reef from Cairns by going north to the remote Ribbon Reefs, which are rarely visited and are therefore in good condition. Friends Lisa and Paul from Manly had advised us of their merits for snorkelling and diving, and with over 2000 diving experiences in the area we couldn't ignore their advice. We took a mooring the first night at Steve's bommie which is considered Australia's number one dive site, located on ribbon reef 3.
2/6 In the early hours of the morning a dive boat Spoil Sport arrived and took one of the other moorings. When breakfast was over it was suggested by the diveboat captain that we moved, presumably so that their divers didn't have to swim before descending on their dive. As we were planning to explore the coral head ourselves it wasn't convenient so we continued our plans for the morning. By late morning it was clear the diveboat was going to remain so that the divers could revisit the divesite so we moved up the coast to ribbon reef 5. Had a washdown and prepared to varnish as the weather is superb, light cooling breeze and water temperature 30 degrees.
3/6 Only two shark encounters the latter sending us out of the water and back to the boat a bit sheepishly! He was probably only curious but looked menacing and was heading our way in a spooky manner. Walter hauled me into the dinghy at my request as he hadn't yet entered the water with his speargun and I felt shaken for the next few hours.
4/6 A morning of sanding the teak in preparation of doing the brightwork soon. Wet weather on its way so left reef number 5 while the light was good to head for reef number 10 which has moorings. Arrived after sunset and anchored in 32' of water after Walter drove around the area in the dinghy with the depth sounder (portable hand held). Caught a tuna and mackerel so a good days fishing!
5/6 Strong winds forecast for the next few days and hadn't found the safety of the mooring buoys so made our way to the safety of Lizard Island instead - a 4 hour sail. 15-20 knot winds and a beam reach so literally flew along. Arrived at Mrs Watsons Bay and stayed overnight with a few other rally vessels including Tea, Demarri and Do It.
6/6 Scrambled around on the rocks around the bay and enjoyed a beach BBQ.
7/6 Morning visit to the marine research station which has been monitoring the condition of the reef for the past 30 years.
8/6 At 7am start for Howick. Caught yet another mackerel in 60' of water. Had a change of plan enroute as the sailing was superb so carried on to Bathurst Bay near Cape Melville. A full day of SE winds blowing 20 knots consistently. Arrived 5pm and anchored with other rally boats. Ashore are hills which look like large piles of rubble.
9/6 V Early start with 60 miles to get to Morris Island. Not much wind all morning so put up the mizen then main and motorsailed to try to arrive before sunset. Just enough light to anchor safely when we arrived.
10/6 6.30 start for Portland Roads. All sails raised this morning and a fab day of sailing averaging 9 knots. Arrived and dropped the hook at 3pm. Other rally boats there are Ajax, Amazing Grace and Spirit of Sobroan.
11/6 Enroute to Margaret Bay with great winds - 8-10 knots all morning. So exhilarating.
12/6 Resting up today as it's been all go, and at this rate we will arrive in Darwin much earlier than required.
13/6 4am start 20-25knots and doing 7-8 knots with only the jib up. Anchored in Escape River with 5 other vessels.
14/6 Took the dinghy up the creeks in search of crocs but none sighted.
15/6 Daybreak we started the engine for the journey down the river through the pearl farms and back to sea. Slack tide as we went through Albany Pass - the most north easterly passage. Arrived Seisha after 30 knot gusts which buried the cap rail - stresses the boat too much so not good but fast sailing. A supermarket run for fresh veg as you certainly miss salad when it's not aboard. There have been days and days of high pressures going over and a number of vessels here are waiting for these to pass before crossing the Gulf of Carpenteria to Darwin.
16/6 09.45 left for Darwin - not a breath of wind despite forecast 15-20. Flew the geniker until 11pm when Marnie was sailing at 13 knots and it was gusting 30 with bigger seas. Fun and games getting it down and ended up with most of it in the water with all the bioluminessence.
17/6 Winds reduced somewhat so using the jib and slower because wind is off the stern quarter
18/6 From the Coral Coast, 300 miles across the gulf and passed Cape Wessel. 300 miles to go in the Arafura Sea. Averaged 7 knots throughout the day. Loving the beanbags which have now been placed in every location on deck and they work equally well wherever they are.
19/6 15-20 knots all day increasing to 25-30 in the evening.
20/6 Stayed overnight at Clarence Straits in order to arrive in Darwin on the flood tide which can often give a 4 knot current, which you just don't want against you!
21/6 Final leg into Darwin on this leg from Brisbane. Beautiful conditions and cooler than of late which is welcome. Dropped the hook in Frances Bay, Darwin near our friend Cay and enjoyed dinner with him aboard Marnie.
22/6 - 30/6 Explored Darwin by foot and taxi, topped up the provisions and enjoyed a few nights of live music. Firstly at Dinah Beach Yacht Club with Irene and Peter on Catspaw, and then at the Darwin Sailing Club where The Eagles tribute band entertained us, in a fashion! Had a washdown before relocating in Fannie Bay. Varnished the exterior of the boat while Walter did the saloon table. A day trip to Litchfield National Park with friends we made when they cruised around the bay, stopped to say hi, and we invited them aboard. The next day we had a roadtrip to natural spring pools where we swam together with all the other tourists who'd been bused out there from Darwin!
1/7 Territory Day celebrations - wonderful fireworks display all night. This is the onlys state in the country where you can buy fireworks and they can only be purchased between certain hours on this particular day.
2/7 Visited Customs to advise of our departure date in 3 weeks time and the Indonesian Consulate to obtain visas.
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