Cairns to Darwin

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October 16th 2015
Published: October 19th 2015
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Wednesday 14th - Thursday 15th October 2015

After leaving Cairns the long leg to Thursday Island began. We hope to get there by 1200hrs tomorrow so that we may refuel. The fueling jetty closes at 1700hrs and does not reopen until Monday. An overnight stop is on the cards but we don’t want to stay all weekend if we don’t have to.

Dinner tonight was Tasmanian salmon with potato bake and green beans, followed by tinned peaches and ice-cream. Enjoyed by all but some of us are getting a little worried about our waistlines!

Rags had the 2100hrs – midnight watch, he happy that Ian joined him on the flybridge to give some support. The shipping lane was quite narrow in this section with reef and islands all along. To add to this several ships travelling in the opposite direction were encountered. With radar and the electronic charts and tracking it wasn’t as stressful as he expected. In the dark at sea it is very difficult to judge distance, lights and ships appearing to be much closer than they really are.

The coffee and adrenalin in his system, together with the vibrations of the propeller shafts, made it impossible for him to fall asleep in his cabin below. Instead, he brought his bedding to the main deck and after turning down the lights and fitting earplugs he managed to sleep for 3-4 hours.

Fishing has not been successful up to now, 2 lures have been bitten off and nothing has touched the new, heavy-duty line we trail behind us. “Mackerel steaks for dinner” has become a much bandied about phrase by the crew so hopefully this wish will be fulfilled before the end of the trip.

After breakfast, with all the crew up and about, Barry increased the speed of the boat to 15knots to see if it would ride better. This 5 knot increase did improve the ride, but fuel consumption went from 30 litres/hour to 130 litres/hour per motor! We only kept this speed up for 30 minutes for obvious reasons.

The day started out with the crew catching up with sleep and doing whatever they wished whilst they off-duty. The shifts seem to work well with one person on the helm for 3 hours, and then a 12 hour break before the next shift.

At 1500hrs we had
Thursday IslandThursday IslandThursday Island

An interesting face
our first big problem. The fuel bladder on the stern of the boat had shifted to the port side. This was caused by the following seas coming over the stern, and even though with 2500 litres of fuel in it, the bladder was lighter than water and was buoyant. With a lot of maneuvering and team effort, the bladder was finally repositioned where it was originally. Fuel was then pumped from the bladder to the main boat tanks on a regular basis, reducing the load.

Rags is enjoying his role as cook, it giving him something to organise and do. After a lunch of self-made wraps with lots of salad, tuna, etc, a simple dinner of 'blog', pre-prepared by Diane and frozen, plus 2 minute noodles, sufficed.

Friday 16th October 2015

It was after Rags came on duty for the 0300 - 0600hrs shift that Barry noticed the bladder had again shifted, this time so that half of it was over the transom of the boat. Luckily, because we had pumped a lot of fuel from it during the day it wasn't a lot hanging over the side, but still too heavy for 2 people to easily pull it back in. The seas were now coming from the side, not following as previously, due to a course change, and the wind had come up to over 20 knots. Ian and Mark went onto the marlin board, roped to the boat in case they lost their footing, and with Barry at the wheel. Again, team effort paid off, and the bladder was recovered. This time too much damage was done to the bladder and by 0900hrs we managed to have it stored, forward, not to be used again.

We had booked a fueling time for 0930hrs at Thursday Island but this was altered to 1030hrs as we were now running later than expected. The main tanks and several small bladders were filled with about 2100 litres diesel, they all off the marlin board and on the main level.

The main street of the island contained various shops, offices (mainly government) and cafes. Many of the local residents lounged about the street but it was neat and tidy unlike many small towns. After walking down the street and having a similar lunch to yesterday, we had a meeting and as we could only sit on a mooring, not tie up to the wharf, it was decided to press on to Darwin. This is expected to take 3 days, with Monday being the expected arrival day.

The waters out of Thursday Island were surprisingly smooth with just the wind chop to contend with. As it was on the stern this made little difference to the ride, just over knots being maintained with fuel consumption at less than 60 litres/hour. With the fuel we took on board at T.I. we have well over twice of what we require at this speed.

Dinner tonight was Panang meatballs with stir-fry veges and rice. The only complaint Rags has had so far this trip, is that the meals are too good and the chances of losing any weight on the trip as expected, won’t eventuate.

Saturday 17th October 2015

And so the near 700 Nm trip continued. The wind increased to about 24 knots during the night, still astern, the boat surfing down the waves on occasions. Rags had the midnight – 0300hrs watch again, but with the deep water and the automatic tracker setting a route outside of shipping lanes, it was more
Booby IslandBooby IslandBooby Island

Ian was disappointed he didn't see any!
a battle to keep his eyes open for the last hour than anything else.

By mid-morning we had covered a third of the distance to Darwin, late Monday afternoon being our expected ETA. The afternoon continued with the crew snoozing between watches.

The one break in the monotony was at 1300hrs when a Border Protection Force patrol boat radioed us for identification. Graeme ignored the call the first few times, not realizing it was our boat being called up. They came closer and Ian was then woken up to give them our details.

For the rest of the day it was an easy trip, Rags found his 1500 – 1800hrs shift very easy, the auto-pilot keeping the boat on course, he only having to watch the radar. How isolated we were was brought home when he extended the radar to 72Nm (about 120kms) and saw nothing, no boats, no land, not anything.

Dinner was a very easy one, frozen meals for all, lamb roast & veges followed by apple strudel & ice-cream. All sat around and talked after the meal but by 2030 hrs the main cabin was deserted, showers and a rest before a night duty being high priorities.

Sunday 18th October 2015

An uneventful night, Rags managing to sleep soundly in the crew cabin with his earplugs, waking just before he due to be on the 0600hrs watch. We have now travelled close on 2/3 rds of the way across the gulf, our ETA going from 2200hrs tomorrow to closer to 1800hrs when Ian adjusted our speed to just on 10knots.

The rest of the day was very easy, with a following sea and a straight westerly course across the gulf. We didn’t see land or another boat all day, not even when the radar was taken out to 72kms radius, nothing at all, just us.

As Rags was on a 12 hour break, with 2100 hrs being his next watch, he spent his time reading and preparing the meals. The cooking has been a lifesaver for him, he would have become quite bored without this chore.

For the evening meal he was a little more daring, roast chicken, mashed potato, cauliflower cheese and peas. All this, with the boat moving in different directions whilst he cooked it. The end result wasn’t bad, no-one complained and several
Our routeOur routeOur route

It took about 72 hours to cover this distance
went back to finish off the leftovers.

A sat-phone conversation with Rags’ wife Judy opened up the possibility of she & Ian’s wife, Jenny, meeting us in Darwin. This will give them a bit of a holiday and may even give them a chance to be on the boat for a few days.

Rags had the 2100 – midnight watch. The following winds crept up to just over 20 knots, enough to make the boat surge on the back of the swell. The only bit of excitement for him was when the Border Protection Force radioed again wanting our details, and a little while later a light on the starboard side about 10 miles ahead had him puzzled. Ian was pulled out of bed on both occasions, he doing the radio bit and on the second occasion demonstrated how distance is under-estimated in the dark, when the radar was set out further it showed the island with the light on it. Another lesson learned for Rags!

Monday 19th October 2015

Morning had us around the islands near the entrance of the bay in which Darwin is situated and as we had breakfast it was

Our new home for the next few days
only about 70 Nm to go. With the time difference to our advantage our ETA was near 1400 hrs. Up to now we have been on Qld time and when we leave Darwin we will go to W.A. time to simplify rosters etc.

Reached Darwin at about 1500hrs and because we were early we cruised up and down the entrance to the marina waiting for the tide to rise. We tried to enter at about 1630 but near the entrance the boat touched bottom and we reversed out immediately. After anchoring offshore until 1730hrs we tried again this time we were successful with the tide being over a metre higher.

While Barry & Ian went to the office to do the required paperwork Mark & Rags took the opportunity to use the fire hose on the jetty to give the boat a much needed wash. At completion she looked like new again! Rags was given special permission to stand inside the lock area whilst the boat was driven in, giving him a good photo opportunity.

After docking and setting up the boat Barry took us all to a nearby seafood restaurant where we all enjoyed a "much
Cullen Bay lockCullen Bay lockCullen Bay lock

Indian Pearl entering the lock to the marina
as you can eat" meal. Full stomachs returned to the boat where we chilled out for the rest of the evening.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11



Sunset as we entered the marina

20th October 2015

Your latest Adventure
Great to read your latest Blogs Rags. It sounds like a terrific trip. JS
24th October 2015
Local wildlife

Photo worth a thousand words
Excellent catch.

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