Saturday, June 27, 2009

WEEK 9 : 20 - 27 June - King River to Alcaro Bay, Cape Don

Well on Thursday disaster struck (not really but it felt that way!) Our new (purchased February 09) chartplotter stopped working. We could not get it to boot so not only did we lose the chartplotter but we also lost the radar and AIS (shipfinder). While it is (was) a nice unit and very user friendly perhaps someone should have mentioned not putting all your eggs in the one basket!!! You don't realise how much you rely on your chartplotter till you lose it! You particularly need it for going into all the little nooks and crannies in the bays and rivers. But all was not lost - we have always been very smug that we have a backup chartplotter (our old one) BUT it turned out that the new chartplotter had corrupted the data disk and it would not work in the old one either. Well, thank goodness for paper charts - we had a handheld GPS in our grab bag (bag you grab when you are sinking) and then Peter managed to plot our waypoints from the paper charts on to the old chartplotter (no charts in there) so what we have now is a blank screen with a cross (waypoint) and a line (to follow) and thats it! Oh and we have Cilentro still with us.

Day 58 : Saturday 20 June - King River to Mullet Bay, North Goulburn Island
It was actually quit chilly this morning. We were waiting for the tide to rise a bit then left at 10.25am. We followed our in line on the chartplotter out and Escape and Cilantro followed us. My line out was a bit like a drunken sailor as it is very hard to steer to a line! The lowest we went down to was 4.3 metres and then we were out with no wind. We motored up between North and South Goulburn Islands and anchored beside an absolutely beautiful island with lots of pandannus palms on the beach. It is written that this island is of significant Aboriginal importance. We noticed one house on the point. Heard a big bang and it transpired that it was a huge school of fish near the shore. Thought something rather large must have been chasing them and then we saw some rather large sharks at the back of the boat.
Miles 30 Total 2,063

Day 59 : Sunday 21 June - Mullet Bay, North Goulburn Island
Eric from Escape really wanted to stay for a social day so we stayed and had morning tea on Escape with the crew from Cilentro as well. We could see an Aboriginal man on the beach and he appeared to kill a turtle then went in the bush and came out dragging what we think was a goanna. Obviously these people still hunt in their traditional manner. We went to shore hoping to ask his permission to be there but he walked away from us back towards the house. We walked the opposite direction down to some cliffs and back again. Nice to stretch the legs! And the boys caught a few fish off the beach for dinner. As we got closer to the tenders (boats) we realised that Sandra's was floating off so we made a mad dash up the beach (then we had to walk - not real fit!!) and we got in our tender and I motored out to retrieve it. Much excitement!! Then it was back to Cilentro for sundowners. All in all a very social day!!

Day 60 : Monday 22 June - Mullet Bay to Valentia Island
It rained through the night - first rain we have had since Dunk Island. Left at 7.30 am with storms threatening but we managed to outrun them. Put the jenniker up and were doing up to 7.5 knots but then it started getting scary so we got it down just in time. The wind was all over the place and then dropped off so after a boring morning of trying to sail and getting slapped by the sea we started the motor. Rounded De Courcey Head - wonderful scenery, then rounded Cape Cockburn and headed down to Valentia Island. Peter caught a mackerel just before we got there. Anchored on the south side of the island in 6m of water. Sweet & sour fish for dinner!!
Miles: 44 Total 2,107

Day 61: Tuesday 23 June - Valentia Island to Point David, Croker Island
Had a lazy start to the day and left at 9.30am - had a slow sail just under headsail around to Point David on Croker Island where we anchored waiting to go through the Bowen Strait tomorrow. We were a bit worried about our chart plotter as we had heard that C-map was out by half a mile and we wondered if our Navionics Gold was too. Got in at 1pm and had a lazy afternoon. The bay is full of pearl racks so we anchored a bit further out than we would have liked.
Miles 15 Total 2,122

Day 62 : Wednesday 24 June - Point David to Berkeley Bay, Port Essington
We left at 6.30am and we led the way through the shoals and our chart plotter proved to be exact and we had good water all the way through until we got to the end and turned to put the mainsail up then ended up in 3.8m - thought we had stuffed up but the others found 3.8m as well so obviously it had sanded up a bit at the end. Wondered why we had to go such a convoluted way when another boat went roaring up the left hand side under full sail and appeared to have no trouble! A dolphin came and swam under our boat for a while - he had a few scars on him - lovely to have him though. Its great to lean over the bow and watch them just staying in front of the boat. It was a most frustrating long day with no wind except for when we came round Smith Point where we had a great sail (albeit very short). Anchored about 3.30 at Berkeley Bay in the most beautiful spot very close to some red cliffs. Escape anchored a bit further north and saw a 12 ft croc on the beach.
Miles: 44 Total 2,166

Day 63 : Thursday 25 June - Berkeley Bay to Black Point to Victoria Settlement to Berkeley Bay
Left at 8.30 and headed back to Black Point to go ashore to talk to the ranger. There is a small museum there and we got some good info and a map of the Victorian ruins. Here is the history lesson: Victoria Settlement was established by the British in 1838 when it was hoped it would become another Singapore Harbour in northern Australia. It lasted 11 years and was finally abandoned in 1849. The ruins which are left are in pretty good condition being made of stone/bricks containing ironstone. It had a jetty, Govt House, married quarters, hospital & kitchen, bakery, cemetery and garden etc. It was said of the hospital that "the garrison suffered from dysentery, diarrhoea, influenza, scurvy and malaria. At times the hospital was crowded with half the garrison being desperately ill with fever and others being only capable of light duties. At such times maintenance of the stock and gardens was not always possible and buildings fell into disrepair." It was impossible not to feel some of the despair these people must have felt. It was incredibly hot - couldn't imagine what it would be like there in summer.

It was on the way to the Settlement that our chart plotter died so we had to follow Cilantro up the channel and back again. After our 3.7km walk Escape decided to stay (very sad) so we followed Cilantro back to Berkeley Bay but we didn't get back till dark so we nudged our way in (its like being blind without a chart plotter) and our anchor didn't take so had to try again and at the end weren't really sure where we ended up!!!! Had stacks of garfish round the boat which would leap all over the place when we shone the torch. Also saw a small shark feeding on them and the next morning the dolphins take over!!
Miles : 26 Total: 2,192

Day 64 : Friday 26 June - Port Essington to Alcaro Bay, Cape Don
At last, we found out where Cape Don is - its always the last area on the weather report! Saw a dolphin leap right out of the water this morning! We left with Cilentro at 8am. We followed them out and then followed Peter's waypoints - he checked our position on the charts every half hour which got us to Alcaro Bay very accurately arriving at 4.15pm. Absolutely no wind so motored all the way. James and Sandra rowed their tender over for sundowners and we planned our next move. It is all about timing now as we have to catch the correct tides or we would be going backwards!
Miles: 40 Total: 2,232

Day 65 : Saturday 27 June - Alcaro Bay to
We left at 4.30am and it was so dark I was totally disoriented - it was like being in a black pool and not knowing which way was up. Currently heading down the Dundas Strait (went through heaps of whirlpools!) with 5 knots of current with us heading to Cape Hotham tonight for a 2am start tomorrow for our run into Darwin!!!! Got up to 9 knots speed with the engine idling. Not a breath of wind, sea like the desert.

Love to all - miss you heaps
Fair Winds
Dell and Peter

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Friday, June 19, 2009

WEEK 8 : 14 - 19 June - Refuge Bay to King River

Day 52 -Sunday 14 June - Refuge Bay to Galiwin'ku
Left at 8am with a very light wind and had a beautiful slow sail. Were quite close to land and we weren't in a hurry. The sun was shining, the sea was flat and it was so peaceful. Passed a few houses on the way (we were told these were people who didn't want to live in the settlement). Saw a Telstra tower and finally at 2.30 came into Galinwin'ku, an Aboriginal community, and anchored in the bay. There were children playing on the beach and one little boy spearing a fish. A huge cry of delight went up when he got one! Dogs running around and later in the evening three children started lighting fires along the beach. We couldn't decide if there was a purpose to it or if they were just little pyromaniacs! Everywhere they went little fires would erupt - they all went out eventually. There were four tyres on the beach which looked awfully like they were still attached to an upside down 4 wheel drive. The sea was like glass and the sunset was beautiful.

Miles 25 Total 1,098

Day 53 - Monday 15 June - Galiwin'ku
We weren't real sure about the permit thing for visiting Aboriginal communities so James and Sandra (Cilentro) picked us all up in their tender and we all went to shore about 10am. We met one of the officials from (TBA) who said we didn't need a permit and pointed us in the way of the gallery. The door was open but it said it didn't open until 1.00pm. However Dion (a Melbournite) welcomed us and said we could look around while they continued their meeting. Dion was employed by the Cwlth Govt and worked for (TBA). They had 125 Aboriginal artists who all made a living from their art. There were 60 white workers and Galiwin'ku had 1,500 people which ranged up to 2,200 in the wet. The artists negotiate a price with the gallery (and the artists have to be happy with it) and get paid up front. The gallery then add its mark up. All the profits from the gallery go back to (TBA) which then goes back to the community paying for the weekly barge (fresh food from Darwin), health facilities, mechanic etc. If artists don't wish to come into town Dion flies to the homelands and visits them in their areas. The art was amazing. The lines and dots so meticulously done and we wondered how they did it without smudging and also without glasses!!! Beautiful and some of the artists are known around the world and have showings around our capital cities. Prices seemed to range from $20 for a necklace to $6,600 for a large bark painting. We then walked to the store and bought some fresh produce at very reasonable prices. Except for our ice creams which were $5 each!! A building which we presumed was the bank had a sign saying Money Business.

Day 54 - Tuesday 16 June - Galinwin'ku to Cape Stewart - Happy Birthday Suzanne
We got away at 6.45am and had a lovely sail on flat seas for the first five hours. Then we had to go past the shoals near the Crocodile Isles and we lost the wind and had the current against us and motored for a while and then had a very slow sail into Cape Stewart. A lot of the sea around here is either "Inadequately surveyed" or "not surveyed" which doesn't fill you with confidence!!!! We were lucky with Cape Stewart as it tends to be swelly in a wind but the wind dropped off and it was very slightly rocky but fine - quite comfortable.
Miles: 55 Total 1,963

Day 55 - Wednesday 17 June - Cape Stewart to Entrance Island, Liverpool River, Maningrita
Left at 7.45 and motored around False Cape which were rocks sticking way out in the bay. Got a good sail doing over 7 knots with seas building a bit so had to reduce sail. Lots of horrible tipping though!!! Arrived at Entrance Island which is at the entrance to the Liverpool River at the Aboriginal settlement of Maningrita at 2.30 An official looking boat came racing out and the Aboriginal officers on board photographed all our yachts then waved and left. We elected not to go into Manigrita as we had heard you needed permits and also it would take an hour to get in and an hour to get out. The anchorage turned out to be quite rolly so not so comfortable.
Miles 35 Total 1,998

Day 56 - Thursday 18 June - Entrance Island to King River
Departed at 6.30 with a reef in the sail and headed up around Cuthbert Point which was a very uncomfortable sail with confused seas. Once around the Point the seas settled and we had a nice breeze and nice sail. The Aborigines, we have been told, burn off in the dry season and the horizon was full of smoke and ash falling on us even though we were more than 5 miles off the coast.. Cilantro and Escape disappeared like ghost ships into the smoke. Finally lost the wind and motored the last little bit and got out of the smoke. Came through the King River entrance with a clearance at mid tide of 4.3m and came straight up the middle of the river. Once in, the right side had deeper water than the left. We headed for the point on the right with the mangroves and stayed about 50m off. Cilentro and Escape anchored in the middle of the river. We anchored quite close in (5.2m) and a crocodile came out to meet us within 20m of the boat. A croc fight erupted a bit further down and the croc moved like streaked lightning. Had no idea a croc could move that fast! A big one came to the front of the boat then disappeared. Peter fished off the boat with a great deal of care. Just on dark we moved a bit further out into the river so we would not swing around into the mangroves in the night. Could see the croc eyes in the torch light. A beautiful calm night where you don't even realise you are on a boat!!
Miles 35 Total 2,033

Day 57 - Friday 19 June - King River
Peter started fishing at 8am and one of the crocs was still watching us - a bit unnerving really! Caught a shark, trevally and some other thing but threw them back - no barra unfortunately -Had a quiet day. Couldn't believe Eric and Kim came down in their tender to visit us. Kim had a plastic bucket which could be used if crocidillus maximus attacked to stuff it in its mouth so you can make your escape!!! We were relieved when they made it back to their boat. A lovely relaxing day. Tomorrow is the day to find our way out of the river!!!!

Much love to everyone. Getting close to Darwin. Feel free to email us. Love to hear from you

Fair Winds
Dell and Peter.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

WEEK 7 - 7 June to 13 June - Gove to Refuge Bay

This has been a lovely week. Finally slowing down and starting to smell the roses so to speak. And the scenery in the NT is pretty amazing plus we have some good company to travel with.

Day 45: Sunday 7 June - Gove
A down day to catch up - washing, visiting and walk on the beach. Sundowners on Escape - an enjoyable interlude!
Day 46: Monday 8 June - Gove
Spent the morning catching up on internet stuff (not quite) then met James and Sandra (Cilantro) in the bar and they were thinking of leaving tomorrow so we hitched a lift into town (as you do!) with a school principal who visits all the remote schools and her dog Lulu. All the signs are written in English and also the Aboriginal dialect - isn't it amazing to think that English is not the first language of the Aboriginal people! The town has about 3,500 people so walked around and had a bit of a look then bought some fresh produce and hitch hiked back again. A family man gave us a lift to the main road then someone was heading to town and turned around to come back and get us to give us a lift back to the yacht club. Had sundowners on Wave Sweeper.

Day 47 Tuesday 9 June - Gove to Elizabeth Bay
We all left at 8.30 for Elizabeth Bay which was purported to be a beautiful Bay but in actual fact it was a pearl farm with just a bit at the end left for us to anchor. We were supposed to come in on a flood tide but we came in on an ebb and paid the price! It was an exhilarating ride around into the bay (terrifying is a long time, exhilarating is terrifying but only for a short time!!!!) Peter commented on the radio that it was "exhilarating" and Cilantro came back and said that his partner would be washing her knickers for a week!!!!
Miles 28 Total 1,815nm

Day 48 Wednesday 10 June - Elizabeth Bay to Guruliya Bay, Raragala Island (via Gugari Rip)
We left at 6.45 thinking that everyone else would be leaving too but not to be - Only Wave Sweeper followed, the others going to Wigram Island. We passed a fishing boat and the skipper came on deck to wave to us - a little bit of magic. We headed off to the the Gugari Rip (otherwise known as The Hole In the Wall = THITW) - it is 64 metres wide, one and a half miles long and 9 metres deep and currents run at 9 knots plus so it is important to enter at slack water on the ebb of the Arafura Sea (which runs opposite on our side of the sea!) So we had to arrive between 10.30 and 11.00 so that was a skill in itself to make the 23 odd mile run to get the timing right. It looked quite wide as we approached but as we got closer the gap got narrower!! We entered a little early going against one knot but half way through it changed and we had a dream run through and the scenery was just stunning!. I steered us through and Peter was on camera duty and Wave Sweeper was right behind us. It was AMAZING! Then had a wonderful sail 6nm round to Guriliya Bay on Raralaga Island. A dream day.

Miles: 28 Total 1,843nm

Day 49 Thursday - 11 June`Guruliya Bay, Raragala Island
Waved Wave Sweeper off about 6.3-0am as they were keen to get to Darwin. We cleaned up and went to the beach where we saw a small crocodile slide and mud crabs just sitting there. Walked around then went to another beach and walked around all the rocks - such amazing country - so very ancient - absolutely gobsmackingly beautiful. Spent three hours walking around - saw a rock cod grab a crab and eat it and a family of mullet. About 12.30 Cilentro and Escape came around the headland followed by a wooden ketch called Sea Hog. We had sundowners on our boat with Cilantro and Escape and were happy to meet up again.

Day 50 Friday 12 June - Guruliya Bay, Raragala Island
Started off as a bit of an ordinary day - went fishing in the tender but all we got was very wet!! Eric however had caught a lot of fish so at 3.30 we all met on the beach for a barbeque. Everybody supplied a different salad and we feasted on coral trout and mangrove jack - couldn't get better in a top class restaurant. Sea Hog came too (John, Kate and their son Luke and dog Ralph). It was the most wonderful afternoon. Luke became Eddie Maguire and ran a Who Wants to be a Millionaire contest much to our amusement and then we finished with French cricket (very quick) as we all left as soon as the sun went down (very crocodile savvy these days!). Absolutely magic day!

Day 51 Saturday 13 June - Guruliya Bay to Refuge Bay
Escape, Cilantro and we all left at 8am heading 40nm to Refuge Bay. We had light winds so it was a very slow trip, albeit enjoyable. At one stage we got caught in the overflow around Stephens Island and we were only doing 1.5knots so had to start the motor as the current kept pulling us towards the island - we had about 4 knots going against us. Would have been a good ride if it had gone with us! Put the jenniker up and made some headway. Peter caught a nice mackerel and we got in at 5.10 and saw an amazing sunset.

Miss you all but especially Jackie, Rosie, Jessie (hopefully Jack and Rosie are not becoming Crow supporters!!! Anna!!!!!)

Fair Winds
Dell and Peter

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Monday, June 8, 2009

WEEK 6 - 31 May to 6 June - Escape River to Gove

Well we made it – we crossed the dreaded Gulf of Carpentaria and are now in Gove in the Northern Territory taking a little time out for some well earned R&R!

Day 38: 31 May Escape River to Cape York
Two yachts and a cat came in late yesterday afternoon so we called them up and told them we would be going out with them so we had a convoy leaving the Escape River heading to Cape York. Despite the strong wind warning the seas were surprisingly flat and we left at 12 midday to catch the rising tide to go through the Albany Passage to the Cape. Coming into the Passage was just magical. The current caught us and we floated through doing almost 8 knots but it didn’t feel like we were moving. Came out the other side and the sail was so good we just kept going and rounded the Cape and anchored on the western side where it blew an absolute gale and rained all night.
Miles: 30 Total 1,422

Day 39: 1 June Cape York to Seisia
We all abandoned our trip to the Cape as we couldn’t even get our tenders in the water it was so windy so left to go to Seisia. The sail was lovely until we rounded the corner past Possession Island where it gusted to 45knots!! It was a short sharp blustery trip down and we anchored on the western side of the Seisia anchorage with Whistle Down The Wind and Cillentro while Escape and Wave Chaser joined Kristie 1 in the bay. Went to town and had a nice walk. It is a lovely clean little town with friendly people.
Miles: 20 Total 1,442

Day 40: 2 June Seisia Happy Birthday Judy
Whistle Down the Wind and Kristie 1 left for their trip across the Gulf and we went to town – found a hot dog at the petrol station – amazing the things you crave for!! Spent some time in town, walked to the jetty and watched the kids fishing and met up with Eric and Kim from Escape. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at lovely little Seisia. Returned to the boat and Peter cooked meals for the next three days and we prepared the boat for the Gulf crossing.

Days 41 – 43 Seisia to Gove
We left under cloudy skies at 8.30am with Cillentro and headed for the southern channel of the Endeavour Straits. Escape, Wave Chaser and Play On left and headed for the northern channel. It was extremely windy and the seas through the Strait were like a cauldron and it was very hard to steer the course Peter was calling to me – correction followed by overcorrection etc but we finally got through so put the autohelm on and headed out to the Gulf. The seas were very confused with. very short steep waves from all directions -extremely uncomfortable. We did three hour shifts through the night and it was always comforting to see Cillentro’s light in front of us and their sail through the day. During my early morning shift I was singing all the songs I knew (that’s Dell not Peter) and came to the realisation that I did not know one song all the way through – just snippets and chorus’s. Very sad – resorted to nursery rhymes and then made up my own – whatever, it got me through the night. The first night was overcast and the second night the moon was up – personally I prefer the dark as if you can’t see the waves they can’t frighten you! Jeff off Wave Sweeper called us all up morning and night to see how we were all travelling and to give position reports. Coastwatch aircraft called us up again after swooping low beside us. Obviously their eyesight wasn’t as good as the last time as they called us Pacific Princess and Cillentro became Charlotte! Suffice to say it was a truly uncomfortable three days and two nights with very short sharp seas the entire journey and the sea was so dark. I saw my first sea snake and when we sighted land at noon on the third day small dolphins played around the boat. We had a lovely sail between the final island and mainland and made our way round to Gove closely followed by Cillentro. There is a huge aluminum plant on the point which looks a bit like a large fun park except it smokes! At night it lights up like a Christmas tree and is very pretty! We finally anchored at 5.30 and went to bed feeling absolutely shattered!!!
Miles: 345 Total: 1,787

Day 44 – Saturday 6 June Gove
We got up late and tidied up and then went in to check out the yacht club. Called in to see Wave Sweeper on the way and went aboard for morning tea. Met Tom who runs the yacht club and got some good information then had a couple of drinks with Kim and Eric (Escape) then back to the boat then back to the yacht club at 5 for drinks and dinner with the crews from Whistle Down the Wind, Cillentro, Single Malt and Wave Sweeper A lovely young girl was sampling different types of champagnes for her wedding in three weeks time so came over and asked us to sample them all to see which ones we liked the best. Suffice to say it was a good night out!!!
As I said we are finally in the NT and we will stay here a few more days (besides it is a holiday tomorrow and the shops are closed in the nearby town).

Miss you all.
Fair Winds
Dell and Peter