This blog is about my wife and I sailing our 13m sailing catamaran around Australia during 2012 2013 and 2014. We will sail from Brisbane at the end of April 2012 and slowly head north anticipating that we will arrive in Darwin for the cyclone season and head west when safe to do so and complete the circumnavigation.
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
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
afterI 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 wechange 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
(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.
(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,butlooking 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.
(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
(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.
(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 45⁰
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
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 phosphorescesthat 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
(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.