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Only one foot under the keel...
With a modest cruising kitty in the bank we headed back
to Darwin Australia. We planned on spending some time
in the Wessel Islands, then on to other places we had
not seen on the way over. Mike contacted an old friend
and invited him along for the journey.
We passed through a channel at the base of the Brumby Islands
where Whimoway clocked at 8.6 knots, then anchored for the
night on Wigram Island.
The next morning we went back through the hole in the wall.
Even with previous experience it is incredible how close
you get to the islands before you see the gap and just hope
you timed it right!
As it was we timed it perfectly, passing through slowly
at slack low under headsail.
We anchored in a bay on the other side then Mike and Graham
headed off fishing and they caught a huge mackerel which
burned Mikes arm with the line and caused quite a scene
of blood and screams as they finally landed it!
Friends on a fishing boat that had left Gove days before
were there stranded with gearbox trouble. It was unfixable,
so while they waited for their tow, we took advantage
of the time and wallowed on the beach and enjoyed some
of Northern Territories finest fish for tea.
We continued on to explore many bays on Guluwuru and Marchinbar
Islands in the Wessel Group, and spent lots of time ashore
searching for fresh water and admiring the vast assortment
of flora and fauna in this magical place.
There was plenty of fresh water around as it was the end
of the wet and like many arid places of Australia where
there is a trickle of water, there is always a small garden
feeding off it as well as birds, lizards and other life
You walk on the soft plates of rock and then you stumble
upon small pockets of lush forest, but you have to look
to find them.
Fresh water is a precious commodity on boats here so when
the opportunity arrives onshore to find some, full advantage
is taken, no matter how small the source.
Refuge Bay offered just that, a safe place, which often
requires leaving in the early hours of the morning to avoid
arriving at an unknown anchorage at night.
We like to day hop so we can explore many places and avoid
overnighters if possible. The charts and guides showed an
anchorage not recommended as the best, but adequate!
We had a terrible days sail then arrived at Cape Stewart
on False Point! I have renamed it Cape Stupid as it was
the worst night we have ever had!
We had to anchor in as close as we could to get out of
the swell but it was too close so we bottomed out and
then as the tide went out and back in, we bounced and
rolled and the rigging groaned, it was awful.
Mike kedged us off the mud with the winch in the wee hours
of the morning and we picked our way out past the reef
and headed out again into a rough Arafura Sea.
This last 24 hours convinced our crew that he should head
back home! We don’t blame him. The life we have
chosen is full of these moments which seem unbearable
at the time but then we go out and do it again!
He left us at North Goulburn Island as I knew there was
an airstrip there. We continued on to Malay Bay back on
the mainland and timed our next run through the Bowen
Straight as we had been given waypoints that the barges use.
All seemed well until we once again had only one foot under
the keel and all sails up! We were following the waypoints
but there were rocks to our right, very close, and sandbars
to our left! We were glad Graham was not with us this time.
We made it through and when recalling the event back at
Dinah Beach CYA were told that we should have hugged the
rocky shore closer!
Danger Point (I didn’t want to go there after our
last two events) was an interesting place just on the outskirts
of the Coburg Peninsula.
It is a thin peninsula which appears to have been used
for grazing cattle in the past. Damage from Cyclone Ingrid
was obvious here as it was at Black Point further west. Time
was running out so we went back towards Cape Don where dolphins
played around us, then into Popham Bay
C Map was very accurate here as we squeezed between the
two reefs at the entrance. Visual spotting is impossible
in these muddy waters close to the shore, so the depth
sounder is often our guide. We watch how accurate the
electronic charts are then if so, we use them to help
us get back out.
Whilst anchored in Popham, we took a dinghy run to a tiny
little island at the entrance to the bay. Here we found
a table complete with sushi and a bucket with ice and
beer! An Australian Naval ship was anchored out the night
before and left us a treat I guess. You never know what
you are going to find when you go exploring.
Our last trauma was in the Van Diemen Gulf where the weather
cut up again and whilst I was on the helm, a large wave
jumped up and filled our headsail and ripped it apart!
Back in Darwin Australia, we purchased a secondhand auto
helm (for self steering) and fitted a second hand roller
furler. (A device which enables Mike to roll the headsail
in and out without scrambling on the deck or bowsprit
being inundated by waves)
In total, we spent 10 weeks in this largely underutilized
cruising ground and feel that we only scratched the surface.
Our next Sailing Story is to Indonesia via the Darwin to Saumlaki Rally.
Map Of Darwin, Arnhem Land And Gove