Wednesday 26/7/2006 – Cullen Bay Marina, Darwin, NT
Well, what an exciting trip it’s been so far. We’ve seen dolphins, dugong, turtles, sharks, mantarays, and crocodiles. We’ve had a Sandpiper (small wading bird) on board as a hitchhiker, walked our legs off, caught a huge Barramundi without using a lure or bait, and been shot at by the Australian Navy. Most nights we yell goodnight to the sun as it spreads its glorious, golden glow across the horizon while we drink ourselves silly (you don’t have to be mad, but it helps). It’s been wonderful. Can’t say I’ve thought about going back to work at all. Funny that. Oh, but I did wonder how the DCC team and the QPS project were going once (hi, guys).
We’ve been on a pretty tight schedule to reach Darwin by the last week of July. However, we made it after first rendezvousing with our friends Kim and Jill on Alpha Centauri II, at Cape York on 1/7/2004, who’ve been waiting for us to catch them up since our little incident last year. Originally, we were to meet them in Cairns but they’d moved on well before we got there. Then they said they’d wait for us at Lizard Island, then it was Margaret Bay, and then it was Escape River, but 40 miles out from Escape River we were talking to them on the HF radio and they were up anchoring. We couldn’t believe they were moving the goal posts yet again! Nevertheless, it was a good decision because what better place to finally get together than the top end of Australia? We shared a well earned bottle of champagne to celebrate, and it’s been one big party ever since.
The sailing has been awesome. I’ve discovered I’m a bit of a speed freak and love hand steering while surfing down waves. I held the boat’s speed record for a while (from Lizard Island to North Goulburn Island) at 16.8 knots, but Terry well and truly broke that with 19 knots! We were reaching in 25-27 knots SE wind, under screecher and 3 reefs in the main. It felt great, although Terry admits his little heart was pumping over time for a while there. The waves were short and sharp, but not steep, before we sailed out of one we were into another. We took a photo of the log because we feel we won’t be going for the Lightwave speed record of 20.4 knots. Six to eight knots feels slow now! I wrote the following poem, which depicts my feelings of sailing on Ridgee Didge:
Her gently curving form gracefully glides
Across the ocean
Her billowing sails proudly precede
Her wake of foaming blue
Lifting her skirts she races the wind
Taking us to adventures unknown
Her rigging sings and our exhilaration mounts
As she majestically rises to the cause
And we ride the waves of life
Lizard Island (14deg 39.67 S 145deg 27.16 E) was as magnificent as ever. We had the anchorage to ourselves for a while, which is most unusual. About an hour out from Lizard on our way to the Flinders Group (14 deg 10.64 S 144 deg 13.75 E) , we heard Warship Ipswich announce they were going to commence live firing about 5 miles from our position. We immediately got on the radio to let them know we were there and asked them to fire in the opposite direction, which they did of course. Just goes to show that it can be more dangerous in Australian waters than overseas (lol).
The water maker saga is over finally (fingers crossed), but it wasn’t until we had more parts sent to us at Gove. We can now make our own water, which is fantastic. Crossing the Gulf was excellent, as far as crossings go. Having a cat makes a big difference, and we had a full moon, which helped too.
People in the NT are very relaxed, friendly and generous. Take the fisherman we came across on fishing vessel ‘Pierre’ in the Caddell Strait (11deg 59.68 S 135deg 45.53 E). We were enjoying a fast sail up the Strait when we saw a fishing boat anchored up ahead. The fisherman called us on the radio and said that if we slowed down he would give us some fish. Well, not ones to say no to free fish, we turned the boat into the wind for a minute while the fisherman passed us a huge Barramundi (about 8kg) from his tinny. Amazing! We weren’t expecting anything like that so we felt bad that we’d only managed to grab and pass him a couple of cans of beer. However, the fisherman didn’t want anything in return so he threw us a mud crab too!
The northern end of Australia is as flat as ever, and cyclone damage is still pretty evident but there are some beautiful spots. One such spot is Alcaro Bay (11deg 17.41 S 131deg 7.95 E). We spent a couple of days there but could easily have spent more. This is where we saw the mantaray and crocodile, and walked the seemingly endless, dusty, red road to Cape Don. We weren’t sure how long the walk would take, but figured we’d walk for an hour and a half before turning back if we couldn’t see the lighthouse by then. Fortunately we glimpsed the lighthouse above the trees after about an hour of walking. It felt so good to finally see it through the trees.
We arrived at Fannie Bay, Darwin on 24/7 and spent one night there before moving into the marina. Staying in a marina is easier while we restock and service the boat etc before the next long haul. We will be in Darwin till about 15/8, so will be contactable by phone until then should you like to call us, failing that an email is always welcome. So, until next time, take care, Jan and Terry.
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