Across the Top

Post date: Jul 6, 2011 3:23:19 AM

8 weeks and a day and 2400nm after leaving the Gold Coast we arrived in Darwin

714 miles in 7 days!!

Our longest single legs so far - Booby island (Cape York) to Cape Wessel – 304 miles without changing course

Cape Wesssel to Cape Don 218 miles

We left Seisia on the same day as 5 other yachts, after a week of strong wind and it was very comforting that we were in radio contact the whole way. Twice a day we tuned in to our radio network and talked about the conditions, our positions, fishing etc. Most of the time we were within visual contact with at least one other yacht, sometimes more than one. We were the only Aussies in the group. Aussies are definitely in the minority on this rally.

2 nights at sea and just after sunset on the 3rd day we were anchored at Two Island Bay at Cape Wessel. By the time we arrived there were already 4 yachts anchored - our friends from the Gulf crossing. On the chart it looked like a tiny anchorage but it was huge. The whole Indonesian Rally fleet could anchor here comfortably and still have room to spare. By the time we woke up there were 6 yachts. We stayed a whole day here to recover and celebrate our achievement, visited, and went for a walk on the shore keeping a close lookout for crocodiles. They are a constant menace up here.

We left here after a good night's sleep to cross the Arafura Sea to Cape Don. This leg took us to Alcora Bay where we arrived late in the afternoon 2 days later, dropped the anchor and rested. There were a few yachts here too, and another 2 arrived after us. This is a quiet and sheltered spot, again much larger than on the chart, to wait for the right tide to get to Darwin more than 80 miles away. Get the tide wrong at your peril! In order to run with the tide we left at 0400 hours, four and a half hours before high tide in Darwin, with 3 other yachts. We were doing over 10 knots past Cape Don slowed down across Van Diemen Gulf ( tide against us) and then 10 knots again past the Vernon Islands where the channel narrows We did the 85 miles in 15 hours – not bad!! and arrived in Darwin just after sunset..within 1/4 hour of 2 of the others.

We were buzzed by Customs Coast watch aircraft only once before rounding Cape Wessel, but we heard them out there on and off for about 3 days.

The biggest danger we had was boredom. Everything was working well and we had little to do but read, check the horizon for other vessels and the instruments to make sure we were on track. Paolo (auto helm) did not miss a beat until we tried to transmit on the radio, then he stopped. Lupi spun around and we wondered what was going on, stopped, checked him out, and then returned to our course. Later that day he did it again, again while on the radio. We were worried now – what could it be? We hadn't heard of anyone having this problem. There seemed to be nothing wrong when we checked him out . . . Later we found out that some of the others have strange troubles when transmitting on HF radio – it wasn't just us Phew!!Apparently these things happen when there are not enough volts in the battery to power the auto helm and the radio, particularly when transmitting, so the auto helm lets go. We must have been sailing at the time. Now we know this we start the motor when using the HF radio.

The landscape here is very low and flat so different to what we are used to. There is a lot of smoke in the air too which creates magnificent sunsets but can be hazardous at times when it reduces visibility significantly.

Now we are in Darwin and need to get ready for our next adventure The Sail Indonesia Rally. There is lots to do! Organising visas, grocery shopping, spare parts shopping, meetings with organisers and gathering information preparing the boat, all from over a mile from shore. (see photo) We are glad of the 8 hp outboard, although it gets a bit wet going ashore when it is blowing 20 knots . . .