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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Seisia to Jackson River and Jackson River to Gove


Seisia to Jackson River


Tuesday - 16/10/2012

(Our last sunset at Seisia)
 

We left Seisia at 0620 hours this morning , the seas were flat and there was little wind but there was wind predicted in the 20 - 25 knots range and there was a strong wind warning issued for the area but the latest wind charts did not indicate anything above 25 knots. Seisia was still quiet as we motored out the channel the workers on the tug 'PNG Pride' that had anchored out from the jetty to allow another and tug and barge to unload waved as we passed, they were getting ready to go dockside to do some more pylon replacements on the dock. The other tug towing a large barge came in late afternoon yesterday and that was loaded with concrete pipes and other concrete objects that looked as though they were for the construction of large culverts on roadways.

We motored out through the leads closely watching the depth gauge as it was low tide but the shallowest point was 3 metres. After clearing the leads we hoisted the mainsail with a reef in it, the reef for two reasons with low wind speeds and side on swell having less sail up reduces sail slap as we rock side to side and the second reason is the wind up here has a habit of hitting fast when it comes and if we are hit with 25 knots I like to have a reef in. We motor sailed past Parau Island down Endeavour Strait and soon after  I went below for a rest and Nancy took the shift. It was not long after Nancy called me as the wind kicked in and the seas were showing white caps everywhere. We were now approaching Wallis Banks where there is a lot of shallows. We have to follow the deeper water tracks through these waters and it will also be the area where we  change course for Jackson River. As we approached Crab Island I could see a motor catamaran on the horizon, I said to Nancy that may be your friend Rob on 'Flash Dancer' a Lightwave 45' motor cat. Nancy knows Rob through the photography site Flickr.com, they are both in a photo group and they have never met. She called him up on the radio as he was nearing shore at Crab Island, he had spotted several crocs on the beach and went for a look. We could not afford the time to stop as we had 69 NMS to get to before dark if possible. They had a bit of a chat as we passed and Rob headed north.
(Chart showing course from Seisia to Jackson River)
(Chart showing the shallows around Wallis Banks near Crab Island, note the wind picks up speed on a SE'ly as it rounds the landform we had a reefed main only and was slipping along at 8 knots))

It was quite rocky as we sailed through the shallows, the winds got higher so we furled the headsail and went on reefed mainsail alone and we sailed between 7.5 and 8.5 knots after leaving Wallis Banks we had to sail to windward not very nice, (the saying goes 'gentlemen don't sail to windward'). Well we had no choice then a few miles short of our destination we had to start an engine as to get close to land we had the wind on the nose. We arrived at a place to anchor just south of Jackson River at 1700 hours, we dropped the anchor in 4 metres of water on the electronic charts it indicated that we were close to the beach in 0.4 metres of water. However I must say that they are quite accurate at Seisia and sailing through the Wallis Banks.

After anchoring we did not put ropes away we left everything ready to go in the morning as we had no set a time to leave, we reckon that when we wake we will have a cup of tea then set sail.

I thought now was a good time for a nice cold beer so that is what Nancy and I did and we sat and watched the sunset in the Smokey haze. There has been fires all along the coast, it is all Aboriginal Land so I assume they are the ones lighting the fires.

As we anchored we had a welcoming committee of dolphins and turtles that came to see what we are about. Another surprise was that we have internet service here, no phone service but a low internet service. I am led to believe that all the Aboriginal areas have full and strong Wi-Fi internet services which is a bonus for us as I can get up to date weather tonight and in the morning before we leave. The only thing besides lots of trees on the shore were pelicans around ten in number floating up and down .
(A smokey sunset from our anchorage south of the Jackson River)
(For my friend Eilleen who just loves sunsets)
(Smoke or clouds make for good sunsets)
 

When it was dark I could see a faint glow in the sky of lights south of us around Cullen Point the latest charts show some road tracks that way near the Ducie River. There must be some sort of settlement there.

We had dinner and an early night to bed.

Jackson River to Gove


 

Wednesday - 17/10/2012


Today we start watches as it will take us two to three days sail to get to Gove just over 321NMS distance, we have not kept formal watches since we crossed the Pacific in 2008. We keep a four hours on four hours off system between the two of us, we find this a better way of getting some sleep when your off watch. The main problem is, is to teach the body to get sleep on demand it usually takes three days for the body to adjust and we will have reach our destiny by that time.

We set off at 0600 hours after having a wash , checking the weather on the internet and cup of tea dawn was just starting. The wind was light to start with but we hoisted the mainsail to catch any available wind. We hadn't gone a mile when the wind came not great wind but enough to sail, we unfurled the headsail and shut the engine down. We sailed along at around 4 to 5 knots to start with so I set the trolling line out it was only out for a short time when there was a strike. At first I could not reel it in then it started swimming towards us and I thought I had lost it but I kept reeling in as fast as I could then it started to fight again at one stage it jumped out of the water then when it got within 15 metres of the boat it came to the surface and I just reeled it in as it skated across the top of the water as I lifted it up on the boat I noticed why I had shared my catch with something else. The fish's tail and a quarter of the body had been bitten off. It was a good size Spanish Mackerel, I filleted it and we only get two meals from this one due to the competition who took the third serve.
 
video
 (The fish or should I say three parts of a fish)

Nancy took the watch after breakfast and I started these scribbles we are 13NMS off the coast and sailing well around 5.5 to 6.5 knots. I checked the Wi-Fi when I started the computer and was surprised to find we still had service so I checked the AIS web page to see if there was any shipping activity around here from Weipa but none was found,  but  looking at the system I don't think they cover the Gulf they have Cape York and Darwin areas.

We got about 20NMS out from the coast and the wind disappeared we had 2 knots of apparent wind and the sails just started to slap side to side so one motor started. and sails down.

We have had two lots of dolphin moments today and what great moments they were especially the second lot, about six or so and they were huge. They played between the bows for a while before they set of as they had spotted fish and swam there for a feed.
video
(Enjoy a dolphin moment)

We had a good sail until the wind dropped right out and the seas glassed which was around 1130 hours, the sails started to flap so we dropped sails and used the starboard engine, when the tide was with us we managed 6 plus knots when it was against us we dropped to 4.5 to 5 knots. Mid afternoon the wind came in from the SW but not strong enough to sail alone so we hoisted sails and motor sailed this lifted our speed slightly but the wind was against us with the tide at times. At around 1730 hours I could see an aircraft approaching from the stern it was low flying and I knew it would be the coastal watch plane. I took a photo and waved as they went by at close range then waited for the radio call. After then went by the plane banked to starboard and headed in a northerly direction, it was a while before they called us this was probably due to the fact that they were checking the boats name on the system and getting the details. The crew was as polite as usual and asked the boats port of registration and our last port of call and our next port of call, then thanked me for our assistance and wished us a good evenings sail.
(Maritime Services plane 'Customs 11' as they check us out before calling us)
 

Nancy had dinner ready just before sunset, the seas were calm so we took diner and cameras out forward and sat on the front deck to watch another glorious sunset. After dinner I went for a short rest before taking the watch at 2000 hours.
(Sailing west into the sunset, we have not done that since crossing the Caribbean and the Pacific)
 

During my watch the seas glassed out again and the wind dropped so I dropped the mainsail again as it just started flapping side to side which damages the sail so we just motored.

Thursday - 18/10/2012


 Nancy took the watch at midnight, she prefers this watch rather than the 2000 hrs to midnight watch. During her watch at about 0315 hours some wind came and she unfurled the headsail, the mainsail is too big and heavy for her to handle. The different movement of the boat woke me and I went on deck to see what was happening and suggested we put the mainsail up which would be better, so we furled the headsail again and I went out to the mast whilst Nancy turned the boat into the wind to hoist the mainsail just as it started to rain. By the time the main was up I was drenched. When all had settled it was time for me to take the watch again. We had squalls all around us at daylight and I was pleased that I had hoisted the mainsail with a reef in it as we started to get winds in the high 20 knots and choppy seas of around 2 metres.
(Chart showing the end results of our track across the Gulf of Carpentaria from south of Jackson River to Gove)

At 0600 hours we had been sailing for 24 hours and covered 133 nautical miles, not a great total but we are doing alright. Then at 0700 hours I did the radio sched with SICYC, Andy on 'Paws' who is still in the Whitsundays took our lat/long and we had a chat before he went on with other yachts calling in. 0730 hours I listened to the weather forecast on the HF radio sched, the seas and squalls are supposed to go by this afternoon.

The squalls eventually left us but it also took most of the wind and we had to start an engine, the seas appeared to get lumpy with large swells coming in from the NE this put pay to the sails, we dropped the mainsail as it was slapping side to side due to very low wind from directly behind and the swell hitting us off the starboard aft quarter. We tried just the headsail held out with a third sheet but ended up after a while doing the same.
video
(The sloppy seas but hardly any wind)

Our progress thus far today has been slower than yesterday. Yesterdays hourly speed average for the 24 hour period was 5.54 knots, today for a 12 hour period is 5.25 knots.

At around 1330 hours I was reading my book sitting comfortably on the helm seat when I did my look around scanning the ocean for anything such as other ships and the first thing I saw at about 45 off the port bow was the maritime services aircraft approaching at low height as it neared us it turned to pass behind, I went to the radio ready for the call but they did not call us, they just checked it was us and went on their way checking the rest of the areas. I have heard yachties complain about these guys calling and checking who we are and where we are going. As far as I am concerned they are doing a good job in protecting the borders and seaways of Australia. It is these aircraft crews that find the illegal immigrant boats, illegal fishing boats and other craft that get involved in illegal acts.

The seas remained sloppy all day with 2.2 metre swell from the NE it did settle a bit after sunset, the swell was still there but reduced in height.

Just after I took the watch last night I experienced a great dolphin moment with three dolphins coming up the starboard side and swimming and jumping alongside, the green starboard navigation light shines bright on the water and attracts many sea life. The incredible part was as they kept coming back along the side of the boat swimming underwater you could see them and the water glow around them from the phosphoresces  that stirred with their movement. We continued to motor through the night.

 

Friday - 19/10/2012


We continued to motor until near daybreak when a little wind came so I unfurled some of the headsail it made a little difference but not much. At 0600 hours we had completed another 132.5 nautical miles for the last 24 hour period much the same as the day before so all going well we should reach Gove before dark tonight.
(This morning sunrise)

The day was pleasant but no wind motored all the day to Gove. It was a little exciting to see land ahead knowing that we had nearly finished the crossing of the Gulf and visiting a new area. We saw our first ship since leaving Seisia as we neared land it crossed behind us heading for Groote Eylandt.
video
 (Fixing a loose baton in the sail bag and removing a third sheet from the headsail)

Although we were near the land there was another 21NMS to go before arriving at Gove Harbour, the first thing that stands out as you approach Gove Harbour is the refinery . Gove was a major place for the Air Force during the second world war, they actually built the airstrip here that is used today, the place was named after a Pilot Officer William Gove who was killed in action. Today Gove has the refinery for bauxite and alumina which created the township of Nhulunbuy. In 2004 the population was just over 14.000 with 64% of these being indigenous people
(Gove refinery and the long jetty to the right to the ships loading area)
(Passing the loading ships)
 

We entered the harbour which is very clearly marked, short cuts can be made as there is deep water outside the marked channel but care should be taken not to round land points too closely as there are shoals and rocks close in, the electronic charts appeared to be accurate. We found an anchorage in amongst the moored and other anchored yachts and when all was squared away we had showers and headed to the sailing club for a cold beer and we ended up staying for dinner.
(Gove Boat Club)
 
 
(Sunset from the Gove Boat Club, the smoke is from the fires lit by the Aborigines more than the refinery)
 

Tomorrow we have to source fuel and water ready for the next leg to Darwin.

Cheers

 

 

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