Sailing Story - Gove To Darwin Australia - Black Point, NT

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    Gove to Darwin Australia

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 forms!

    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