Saturday, 29 June 2013

"Tiare Taporo III" at Port Essington Lat. 11 degrees 09.1' S Long. 132 degrees 08.4' E

Well, today is a red letter day. We had been persuaded by Bill on "Kularoo" to come with them today on a 51 mile leg to Port Essington which is a real jumping off point for Darwin. This entailed a 0500 start from Valentia Is. to arrive here in daylight. The first leg of 8 miles was due west to the southern end of Bowen Strait which is a mostly fairly shallow 15 mile stretch of water west of Croker Is. and the mainland further to the west. Just as well we have the chartplotter because the physical landscape features are so devoid of individual character and low lying that they are not visible until about 5 miles (or less) off. If one was dependent on compass bearings it would be difficult indeed because usually there's nothing obvious to take bearings of. Even approaching Bowen Strait just after dawn gave no indication of the navigable pass up the mainland coast until we were almost upon it.
However, at the waypoint we turned onto the first compass bearing (314 true) full of foreboding as to the likelihood of there being enough water under us. However, we needn't have worried because at times there was over 80' and sometimes around 20'! Then we worried until the depth slowly increased again. The other concern was the tide which is significant through there. But again we needn't have worried because apart from a fairly constricted area where the current was 2.5 knots against us (and we used the engine) the rest of it only had a maximum of 1 knot against us and we sailed the whole way with poled out genoa and single reefed main prevented on the other side (goosewinged). Then as we exited the northern end of the strait the wind piped up to 25 knots so we went head to wind to further reef the main - then set sail once more. Even with this much reduced sailplan we were keeping up with "Kularoo" - often only 100 metres separating us. Mostly the sea was fairly flat as we were in the lee of Croker Is. just about all the way to Danger Point where we started to head west again after taking care to round Sandy Is. no. 2 on its outside. All quite shallow and quite bizarre to be rounding a major point or cape in 30-50' of water. Not like the rocky crags of Cape Brett with its 200' of water close in.
Then it was a straight downwind run to Smith Point which marks the eastern entrance into Port Essington which is a very large inlet 18 miles long. There's a nasty reef with breaking seas off the point to which we gave a wide berth - about a mile. We were achieving over 6 knots with our small genoa and double reefed main in over 20 knots of wind. The coastline remained very low lying and absolutely featureless so it was only the charts and chartplotter that gave any indication of the deep inlet round the point.
When we turned for the run in we then had the wind on the beam and we fair steamed into Essington almost gunwhales under! A fitting end to a most successful day. The anchorage is a bit rolly but it's a means to an end and tomorrow we are going across to the Coral Bay Resort where apparently you can swim in their pool for $25 per boat and have lunch for $25 per person which we are looking forward to.
Civilisation again at last!! Darwin just round the corner.
Cheers and love from us........
Jim and Jean

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Friday, 28 June 2013

Valentia Island Lat. 11 degrees 23.3' S Long. 132 degrees 46.4' E

Before chronicling today's doings, Jean's herculean efforts in the galley and on deck need mentioning. She consistently provides tasty snacks during the day even under extreme duress when the boat is rolling scuppers under sailing downwind - which is most of the time. And tonight is just another example where we had steak (Jim) and salmon (Jean) plus veges and all at the end of a gruelling day. And whenever there's a job to do on deck such as the other night coming across to the Goulburns when we had to gybe the main in difficult conditions she put on her harness, clipped on and went out in thr dark to transfer the main preventer from one side to the other while yours truly controlled the boat rolling diabolically - itself no mean task. We've said it before - this cruising the oceans in a small yacht is no sinecure. G&T's in the cockpit is a mirage and this coast is probably one of the most difficult to sail. High winds (mostly downwind which means ROLLING) and then up here strong tidal currents all combined with indifferent anchorages. Asia better be worth it!!!
Today we left North Goulburn at 0700 after 2 other catamarans had arrived from the Crocodiles in the small hours. We couldn't use the engine much because we are getting worried about our fuel reserves so we sailed straight downwind for 35 miles rolling all the time. Started off with the main double reefed and poled out genoa but as the wind didn't show any signs of increasing we shook the reefs out of the main. Probably increased our speed by 1 knot but then the tide turned and we eventually at 1300 rounded de Courcy Point doing 5 knots over the ground with Cape Cockburn 3 miles ahead. At last a slightly better wind angle and we then turned for the final 8 mile approach to Valentia. Not a bad anchorage but has the usual roll coming round the point. Darwin now 230 miles - within reach!!
Tomorrow something a bit different. We pass through Bowen Strait which is shallow (20-30') and strewn with banks. Fortunately all well charted so we will be relying on the chartplotter as usual!! Then either Raffles Bay or on to Port Essington which is 51 miles from here. We'll see how we go.
Lots of love from us..........
Jim and Jean xoxoxoxoxo

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

South Goulburn Is. Lat. 11 degrees 31.3' S Long. 133 degrees 23.6' E

This is the final push towards Darwin. Yesterday we left Elcho Is. in the morning and sailed all day through the Arafura Sea north of the Crocodile islands (which have lots of unsurveyed water within them) and on to the Goulburns - 150 odd miles in total. We left on the morning of the 26th. and arrived here non stop after an overnight sail today (27th.) at 1430. A mixed bag of sailing. We had light conditions when we left and then the wind came up a little and we deployed our secret weapon (the UPS). This worked well for a while when we were on 293T for 45 miles but then when we changed course north of the Crocodiles and came around onto 268T the wind piped up and went NE. By then it was dark and all we could do was sail NW in winds which freshened to 20+ knots. We were hooning along under single reefed main only when after a few hours the wind started moving SE again and we were able to lay the channel between North and South Goulburn. Off the northern Crocodiles we had to avoid some shoals in the dark which thanks to the chartplotter we did. But it's a surreal feeling watching the depthsounder in the dark tens of miles from anywhere for shallow water. It went from 100' down to 40 or so but then soon went back down finally to 150'. We had a brisk sail all night and at dawn were 50 miles from our destination. Still blowing and we were on course. Some discussion with "Kullaroo" ( an Australian catamaran we sailed in company with) about the best approach to the Goulburns because strong tidal streams are a feature of this coast. We worked out that we would in fact approach the channel between the Goulburns around midday which was when the tide started to ebb in our favour so that worked out well. Tides are all important round here.
We couldn't see the Goulburns until about 5 miles off as they are the usual low featureless islands but the chartplotter guided us in. We anchored very thankfully after not much sleep and lots of rolling. The water is cloudy and discoloured - much the same colour as the South Is. alpine rivers when the snow melts. But all fully surveyed around here and the anchorage is secure. On to Valentia Is. tomorrow (42 miles) and Darwin 4 days later. The trip from Cairns is a marathon and we will be very glad to be finally there in Darwin. One more major challenge and that's the tidal currents in Van Dieman's Gulf before Darwin. Timing is everything but we think we have it sussed. The tidal range is 6-7 metres and the marinas are behind locks to keep the water in!
Message from Jean: Happy birthday, Jo and hope all is well with you and the boys. Love to hear from you or them sometime.
Lots of love from us.............
Jim and Jean xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Refuge Bay, Elcho Is. Lat. 11 degrees 49.8' S Long. 135 degrees 51.7' E

We travelled 39 miles today from Guruliya Bay in the Wessels to Refuge Bay, Elcho Is. Left Guruliya at 0630 in light winds for a change and these are forecast to continue until Saturday. We gave the north end of Stephens Is. a wide berth because of shoals and tide rips off the point but still our speed was reduced by up to 2.5 knots at times. Very frustrating. However, once around our speed picked up and we sailed the whole of the rest of the way to Elcho with full main, staysail and genoa. It was a lovely peaceful sail in up to 20 knots but mostly around 15. All the islands we passed to port were low, sandy and scrub covered - very unappealing and with extensive shoal areas and reefs around points so careful attention to the chartplotter was necessary.
We all arrived about the same time into the bay which is wide, shallow and windswept but calm. In summary, a very peaceful sail in calm conditions along a series of most uninteresting islands. More tomorrow.
Cheers and love from us.......
Jim and Jean oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Guruliya Bay Wessel Islands Lat.11 degrees 36.1' S Long. 136 degrees 17.8' E

We arrived here yesterday from Inglis Is. from where we left at 0530 to catch the tide through between 2 small islands on the southern Wessels. We had virtually no wind to begin with so our poled out Genoa was not much help but as we approached the channel the wind increased as usual to 20 knots +. We were about half an hour too early for a favourable tide so for a time we were slowed down and pummeled by big confused seas as the wind fought the tide. Story of our lives! However, when we were nearly through and hand steering to avoid reefs close on each side the tide abruptly changed, the seas flattened and our speed increased by 5 knots! Just like that.
Once through and then turned north to sail up in the lee of the Wessels the old girl really picked up her skirts and flew - up to 8.5 knots with the ebbing tide under us and the wind increasing all the time until the maximum wind speed we recorded was 32 knots. Double reefed main and even the smaller genoa reefed. Beam reach on starboard tack - best sail we have had for a long time. It seemed to take no time at all before we were approaching the point south of Guruliya Bay where we intended to anchor. All the other boats around us went through the Hole in the Wall but we remain pleased that we chose the southern route - the thought of approaching a lee shore in high winds and then trying to thread a 64 metre wide needle did not fill us with joy. However, all the boats who went through reported no problems and indeed it's a recognised route through the Wessels so no doubt our concerns were somewhat misplaced. However, we remain pleased that we took the route that we did.
Our friends, Lyn and Chris on "Out of the Blue II" (a Lightwave 38 catamaran) arrived a bit later after going through the Hole. They left Cairns a good 2 weeks later than us and so have made good time. Or we've made bad time! We've waited around in anchorages for weather windows not knowing local conditions and the worst mistake was not going through the Albany Pasasge south of Cape York but this is all due to lack of local knowledge, and in particular lack of knowledge of the weather conditions. We get the GRIBS on a regular basis through Sailmail but they always under estimate wind speeds by at least 20-25%. This has been a hard learning curve, that's for sure. Still as we've said before, not bad for a couple of 66 yr. olds from Godszone on a 1930's vintage designed timber yacht. The boat is difficult sometimes downwind in big quartering seas but generally she has behaved very well. And losing our big genoa has not so far been a problem as the winds have more than compensated for only having the smaller one.
Guruliya Bay is shaped like a boot and we are anchored off a white sand beach at the heel in 20' of water. This morning the wind is down but yesterday coming in was exciting because we had to drop our sails and head straight into a 30 knot wind and associated chop for 2 miles. Still, not for too long and we were glad to get the anchor down. The Wessels are an 80 mile long chain of islands (with few gaps in between) which stretch SW - NE. They provide an effective barrier to the incessant SE wind and sea and have many good anchorages on the western side. However, visually they are disappointing, being just like the rest of this coast - low and flat.
We have had another change of plan now. We were going to do an overnight passage to North Goulburn Is. (190 miles) but we feel the winds are too unpredictable and neither of us relishes the prospect (again) of being caught out there in 30 + knots. So, we have opted instead (along with all the other boats in the vicinity) to coast hop along the Arnhem coast. This has some disadvantages, not least the fact that it will take us 3-4 days longer but we have the time and avoiding the big wind driven seas is a major plus. The coast is very remote and in places not adequately officially surveyed but we feel that with the cruising guides that we have which are quite detailed we should muddle through. Whether the natives are friendly remains to be seen, and there is no landing without a permit - which we don't have. However, we aren't really on a sight seeing trip; our focus is Darwin as soon as possible. Some of the sea areas around Arnhem Land are designated Aboriginal only as well but if we have to stray inside any of these for navigational reasons they'll just have to sue us!! And good luck. Just imagine if any coastal waters around NZ were similarly designated and the outcry. Mind you with legal changes to our constitution (such as it is) currently under covert consideration anything is possible.
With that cheerful thought we shall leave you dear readers yet again.
Cheers and love from us,
Jim and Jean xoxoxoxoxox

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Saturday, 22 June 2013

Tiare Taporo III at Inglis island Lat. 12 degrees 01' S Long. 136 degrees 15' E 22/06

Another quick change of plan. We were going to stay in Elizabeth Bay today but made a last minute decision to leave and come in a SW direction to the west side of Inglis Is. Apart from being held up by a 2 knot tide against us between Cotton Is. and the mainland, it was a pleasant sail because we had a good lee from the mainland. It still blew up to 28 knots!! Surprise surprise. Had a great sail in flat water down the western side of Inglis Is. until we found a reef free bay to anchor in and it is quite comfortable. Such a remote area - it's quite surreal being here. All these islands are Aboriginal territory and you can't go ashore without a permit - which we haven't got - although if one was to go ashore there doesn't appear to be anyone around. However, that's not on our agenda. We are leaving here at first light tomorrow for the southern Wessels (18 miles away) and then sailing NE to Cape Wesesel whence we shall leave for the Goulburn Group. Hopefully we'll catch up with the gang somewhere in the Wessels - they are going through the Hole in the Wall tomorrow. As we've said before, we'll leave those sorts of thrills to them!
Tomorrow we need to be in the passage between Jirragari Is. (just south of the Wessels) and Bumaga Is. by 1000 to catch the ebbing tide through Brown Strait which all being well will waft us north!! This means a departure from here no later than 0600. We have the boat organised with the pole out on the port side ready for the downwind passage tomorrow. The wind seems to be down somewhat so we are hopeful of a more comfortable passage. Still, you can't tell around here as it often blows more strongly during the night and then quietens down until mid morning. But there's no pattern you can rely on.
These are the joys of sailing across the top of Australia.
Please email us with news of home. We miss hearing from you all - just don't hit the reply button!
Cheers and lots of love
Jim and Jean xoxoxoxoxo

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Friday, 21 June 2013

Elizabeth Bay

We are still at Elizabeth Bay as ever since we arrived there has been a strong wind warning and we have been having over 20 knots and sometimes over 25 knots at anchor. The anchorage is sheltered from sea action but not from wind. However, there is a wind driven small chop, so much so that we cannot launch our dinghy because we would get soaked if we tried to go anywhere. So we are getting stir crazy on the boat.
We've had a change of plan for our departure from here. With these strong winds the entrances to the Hole in the Wall and Cumberland Strait are probably quite messy and so we have decided to go south west to Inglis Is. where we would anchor before going up Brown Strait on the ebb. Should work except that the Inglis anchorage only has a mention in one cruising guide to the effect that the NW coast of Inglis "should" offer some reasonable anchorages. It is about 25 more miles but should be good sailing because this way we stay in the lee of islands and mainland all the way to the western side of the Wessels and then we can wait until later this coming week for lighter winds for the dash across the top to the Goulburn Islands. These schemes for getting west without getting too beaten up have been occupying our minds constantly. We were going to leave this morning but the winds are still high so it looks like Sunday which would then put us at the northern end of the Wessels by mid to end next week when we should be able to head west to Goulburn. That's the plan so let's hope it'll work. In the meantime we continue to swing around the anchor! Jean made a Spelt Flour loaf of bread yesterday which came out well and is now in the freezer!
Cheers and love from us..........
Jim and Jean

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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Gove and on to Elizabeth Bay Lat. 11 degrees 54.4' S Long. 136 degrees 34.0' E

We finished up having quite a social time at Gove which with its sattelite supply town of Nhulunbuy, exists solely for the Rio Tinto bauxite mine and alumina refinery. Rio had threatened to close the mine due to the downturn in world aluminium prices but their continued presence is now assured by the Northern territory Government agreeing to build a gas supply line from Darwin at a cost upwards of $A800 million. There will be more demands forthcoming to the NZ govt. too in order to keep their Tiwai Point smelter running.
Anyway, we met a very charming Philippina woman called Rose who turned out to be married to a Kiwi, Kevin. They own a coastal property in the Philippines and we have been invited to visit when we eventually get there. We were talking to them at the Gove Boat Club and there was another NZ'er called Clarry who was also married to a Philippina. He had been married to Lynda who was a childhood friend of Jean's younger sister and their fathers had been close friends. Such an incredibly small world. Lynda (nee McNeill) originally from Tomarata just out of Wellsford, works for the local Shire Council and her husband travels around Aboriginal communities teaching them life skills. They apparently have a totally different way of thinking to Europeans so any form of teaching is challenging. We saw several very dark Aborigines in Nhulunbuy and they have a genetic characteristic of very skinny legs. Apparently that is unique to this part of Australia.
Kevin took us into town one morning and showed us the lookout tower on top of a low hill where you get a good idea of the surroundings - also the channel where we had come in in the dark. There is an excellent cafe run by a family of Philippinas and we had some very good food there. Apart from that there is a Woolworths supermarket, a Westpac bank, and a BP service station as well as many government offices. Lynda took us to town on our last afternoon to get some diesel (60 litres) from the local BP servo. After the fuel we bought in Seisia we are now full again with some on deck as well to get us to Darwin.
Yesterday (19/06) we sailed north from Gove to Elizabeth Bay which is still on the mainland but a good jumping off point for the Wessels. We had the usual 20 knot SE which built to 25. Very big confused seas off Cape Wilberforce where there is a strong tide which runs between there and the Bromby Islets to the NE. Fortunately we had the tide with us as we came between the two and it added 3 knots to our speed over ground without even trying. Tides around here rule everything. Timing is crucial to get between islands and especially through the Hole in the Wall in the Wessels where the gap is only 67 metres wide and the tide runs at up to 10 knots. Other boats are going through there for the thrill but we are going through the Cumberland Straits a little more to the north where the "thrill" is a little less nail biting!
As we were entering the bay yesterday "2XS" called us up to warn of a massive pearl farm in the bay. This necessitated hugging the northern side of the bay close in to avoid the lines of black mooring buoys which are very hard to see even in daylight. However, we skirted around the edge and came to anchor beside "Settlement" and "2XS". The bay is wide and windswept and there is the usual fringing coral reef out from the beaches so it is not possible to anchor "off the beach". Instead we are quarter to half a mile off the beach in a wind driven chop and 30' of water which doesn't bother the yacht but would make a dinghy ride ashore wet and unpleasant. Jim saw a very large shark swimming slowly under the boat earlier so with those and crocs there's NO swimming! "Solace" and "Screensaver" (both Kiwi boats) came in shortly after us yesterday and they have both left this morning via a circuitous passage to avoid the H in the W altogether. We have opted to stay here for 2 days or so to wait out another expected blow and then will head north for Wigram Island (one night) and then Cumberland. Intermediate stops where possible are desirable to more accurately time the tides on arrival. They are generally 2.5 hours after Darwin. It is very complicated trying to juggle passage times, anchorages and timing the tides through the myriad passes. Some passages flood (rising tide) east and others west. There is one that floods south. You simply cannot go against these massive streams of water. It has been driving us to distraction because as soon as something looks good there is something else to militate against it. The wind here right now (0900 on the 20th.) is between 15-20 knots from the SE but the anchorage is fairly smooth and the holding good. Jean has just done some hand washing and is brewing herself a cup of coffee. Darwin looks as far away as ever but we are making progress and will soon be doing an overnight sail from the Wessels to North Goulburn Island 155 miles to the west so that will cover some ground. We have been told that from the Wessels onwards the sailing is much more enjoyable because the winds are generally lighter and there is the whole of Australia as a lee - not the case on the other side! Let's hope it comes to pass because this sailing so far is taking a toll on us and the boat. We can't wait to get to Darwin.
Hi all, Jim has given you the run down. We are held up here and tonight we are going onto "Settlement" a catamaran for Andrew's birthday. Sue his wife is from N.Z. and used to Nurse at Kawakawa hospital. Small world. We will be joined by Irvin and Jenny off "Backchat", Pete and Marguerite off "2XS" and Tania (another kiwi)and Don (Canadian) off "Pedajo". Will be a nice interlude from sailing. All at last seems possible with about 400 miles to Darwin. But still tides and weather to contend with. Great to speak to Tracie and Perry before leaving Gove. Peapod (pending grandchild) and Mum doing well. Also talked to Sister Heather, who sounds amazing!!!! Well love to all. Jean.
And cheers and love from us both.............

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Saturday, 15 June 2013

June 15th 2013 Tiare Taporo III at Gove, Northern Territory Lat. 12 degrees 11.7' S Long. 136 degrees 42.3' E

Well, we have made it across the Gulf of Carpentaria. Another milestone. We thought for a while that the 300 mile crossing was going to be relatively easy and were being lulled into a false sense of "this isn't so bad after all" when on the 3rd day we were hit by big winds. But we digress.......
We had been anchored for a day and two nights at Vyrilya Point on the eastern side of the Gulf and were still intending to go further south before crossing but we sailed out and the wind wasn't going to be co-operative so we just looked at each other and decided there and then to continue across. Disappointing, because according to one of our cruising guides sailing in smooth water down that coast is "one of life's great experiences"! But not to be and just reinforces our opinion of the Australian coast in general. Probably that's not entirely fair because with enough time to explore no doubt there are many memorable experiences to be had but for us, with a timetable to get to Darwin it's go all the time and it becomes a punishing schedule. Particularly when weather conditions aren't benign. One factor above all else seems to epitomise this coast and that's the incessant SE wind. It literally howls at all times of the day and night and makes sailing less than enjoyable and the nights are not restful - getting up every so often to check the GPS position, but to date we have never dragged the anchor. But enough bitching and on with the Carpentaria crossing.......
Day 1 - we left the Vrilya anchorage at 0800 on the 12th. and made the instant decision to carry on west to Gove. Course was 261 true and the wind came around more to the SE from E which gave us a better angle. "Mrs. Fleming" (our windvane self steering) did the honours and did the usual outstanding job. Wind was between 14 and 18 knots - perfect for sailing. We had, with all that we'd been told and heard about Carpentaria, worked ourselves into a bit of a tizzy about the crossing and as a result had become obsessive about weather reports and over analysing every bit of weather information. This then creates indecision which in itself is stressful. So, after day 1 we had a great sense of relief! But Carpentaria had not finished with us.
Day 2 - the wind went more south which suited our course to Gove and it still never went above 18 knots so we had some good sailing. We sailed very conservatively with the smaller genoa and double reefed main. So, we certainly weren't pushing the old girl - or ourselves.
Day 3 - Most of the night was still benign until about 2 in the morning when the wind started increasing and Jean had gone on watch! It increased all day reaching a peak in the afternoon of 29 knots. The seas increased also exponentially until we were experiencing at least 4 metre windy swell/chop with nasty little breaking crests. Every so often one would break against the hull showering us with salt water and slopping a good deal into the cockpit. Very unpleasant. The day was fine though so that was something. But Carpentaria is like that. It's probably a lot to do with the conflicting tidal patterns and also the fact that the water is relatively shallow. It gets to 200 feet for much of the crossing but at the eastern side is only 50 feet for some way. Not like an ocean crossing.
We were very glad of our conservative sailplan as the wind and sea rose. Still a good wind angle and we hooned along in great style with Tiare rising like the graceful lady she is to each big sea coming at us from the port side. You'd watch these walls of water coming and wonder whether she would ride it but she just effortlessly rose to the sky before falling back into the next trough - and usually rolling the scuppers under! The motion which can be extreme is very tiring but Jean as usual kept titbits flowing from the galley under the most trying conditions. However, all this was taking its toll as we had been "up" since the early hours and were in urgent need of some sleep. So, we decided to heave to in the afternoon as we have done coming up from NZ and on the way to Bundaberg. Although the boat still moves around, it's amazing just how things quieten down and we have found that she heaves to well under backed staysail, double reefed main sheeted in hard and opposite lashed helm. At that stage we thought we might stay there all night as we were not going to be able to arrive in Gove before darkness in any case but the weather was showing no sign of abating and we had had some sleep by then. And we were slowly forereaching (drifting) in a NW direction which would have meant we would have missed Gove altogether and finished up in the Wessel Islands over 40 miles away. We are going there but wanted to see Gove first! So, we made the decision to get underway again which only took 2 minutes by unlashing the helm and sheeting in the staysail on the other side. Soon we were hooning along again with just under 40 miles to go to the waypoint just outside Gove. We weren't going to arrive there until 2300. The wind and sea were just the same which at least meant that our progress was rapid. At the waypoint where we could see the loom of the lights of the port and the town of Nhulunbuy we turned onto a NW heading to pass through a narrow but navigable passage between the mainland (Cape Wirawawoi) and Bremer Island. Then a turn to port again and we passed by the bauxite (alumina) refinery and ship loader. All thanks to the trusty chartplotter which at least gave us the option of going in in darkness and getting some much appreciated flat water. Saw some ships at anchor waiting to load and then turned onto a southerly heading to pass down past the wharf installations where we turned again to the NE to head directly into the yacht anchorage off the Gove Boat Club.
We anchored fairly well off at 0230 and we could dimly make out quite a few moored boats so wending our way through that lot in darkness would not have been fun. We were still running on adrenalin and so didn't feel tired. However, a couple of whiskies and a shower later and we fell into exhausted sleep.
A total elapsed time for the crossing (anchor to anchor) of 66.5 hours including the 4 hours spent hove to. If you include this "rest" period we managed to achieve an average of 5 nautical miles per hour - not bad for a conservatively sailed old girl with variable wind and sea conditions, even if we did motorsail at times to make power and water.
A brief history of Gove - the town was an outpost of Australian defence against the Japanese during the 2nd. World War and got its name from an Australian RAAF pilot who was killed on active service. There is road access from Katherine but it is a metalled road through Arnhem Land and evidently to pass over it you need permission (dollars!) from the local Aborigines. So, it is still remote and the main access and servicing is by air and coastal shipping.
Hi All, Well I don't often get on here,but will progress to putting in my odd view on things. We have had a trying time on this trip, but the elation, when we have conquered each daunting part of it,is rather wonderful. We are over half way to Darwin, wow!!!! and it has taken a month. We have met some amazing people, fellow boaties, on our way and will continue to meet them, as there are 89 boats now booked for the Rally ,leaving Darwin on the 27th of July. A league of nations. We need to be in Darwin by the end of June, as we now have a list of repairs and bits to do before our departure to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. What I personally find,is the unknown quantity of stamina and energy we find when we have to. We humans under estimate ourselves. All sounds well in N.Z. Tracie (Perry my son's Girlfriend) sent through 20 week scans of Peapod the grandchild to arrive in October. All very exciting. And last but not least, welcome home to NZ Rakesh and Geraldine. Well bye for now,keep your thoughts always open. It is the transcript for life.
Lot of love from us as always................
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Northern Territory
P.S. At the risk of repeating ourselves, if you have the inclination you can visit the website as above because not all blogs are sent to everyone - it is a bit random!!

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Monday, 10 June 2013

Vrilya Point Lat. 11 degrees 13.4' S Long. 142 degrees 07.2' E 11/06

Well, we had a fairly unpleasant introduction to the Gulf of Carpentaria yesterday. We left Seisia as planned at 0945 in company with "Mohea" to catch the tide at the entrance to the Endeavour Straits and all went well as we wended our way through the maze of shoals - courtesy of the chartplotter. You could not discern visually any shallow water except for a couple of breaking reefs that we saw.
Then after about an hour we left the Straits and were out in the Gulf. At that point we were about 12 miles from land. Suddenly it became very rough indeed as there appeared to be a conflict between the SW flowing tide and the SE wind which was gusting in the high 20's. We started sailing south and tried all sorts of combinations including motorsailing but were hammered by big seas and high winds. However, we didn't have much choice and continued battling south until we left the tidal influence and slowly but surely we came more into the lee of the coast as we came closer. From Endeavour Straits to Vrilya Point we had about 15 miles to travel but it was a very long 15 miles. We anchored in twilight in a calm anchorage (thank goodness) and after a quick meal and shower went to bed. Had to do a bit of cleaning up at first because we hadn't thought to put a cover on the fore hatch and with the amount of water cascading over the boat some salty drips came down onto our bed - much to Jean's chagrin. We slept well needless to say.
Tomorrow we will be going further down the coast to try to avoid the higher wind zone in the northern Gulf.
Cheers and love from us
Jim and Jean xoxoxoxoxo
Postscript to above - as the morning progressed the tide was going out and Jean noticed what she thought was a crocodile on the surface. On closer inspection though it turned out to be rock which was just uncovering with the ebbing tide. We hadn't seen it last night because it would have been covered so we were lucky we didn't anchor any further in, particularly as the tide went further out there were numerous rocks showing just in front of us! We had been blissfully asleep last night unaware of the proximity of these hazards only 30-40 metres from us! We knew there was s reef in front of us and that's why we anchored where we did but had we known how close we would have been a little further out. Anyway, we shifted anchorage this morning and are a little safer for tonight.
We are now debating whether to go direct to Gove direct from here as the weather is expected to moderate over the next 3 days. The wind angle would be better than if we go further south. We'll make a final decision once we hear the weather forecast this afternoon and see another set of Gribs. If we do go in the morning, there won't be any further blogs until we get to Gove which would be Friday night or Saturday morning. It's a bit over 300 miles - about a 1/3 of the distance from NZ to New Caledonia! But the wind will be with us this time unlike that 1st. passage!

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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Leaving Seishia tomorrow

The plan is to weigh anchor at 0930 (low tide here) to catch the start of the flood tide to the Endeavour Straits entrance. There are several routes through there but we have chosen the central one starting at Lat. 10 degrees 55.6" S Long. 142 degrees 05.0" E as it seems to offer the easiest way through the shoals. Navigation needs to be fairly precise because there are extensive areas with only a metre over them at low tide. Still, the RAN charts together with the chartplotter will see us through. The Great Navigator had no advance knowledge, much less the aids available to us, and yet he made it outbound to Batavia so we should have no problem.
The plan then is to sail south along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria until Lat. 12 degrees south from where we will leave on an easterly heading direct for Gove 300 miles away. The rationale for this is that the winds are lighter further south in the Gulf and also we should be free of the competing tidal influences further north which by all accounts can throw up some nasty seas. These tides are largely unpredictable, such are the complexities surrounding the movements between the Arafura and Coral Seas.
It will take us 2-3 days to get south and then we should be heading east about Wed/Thurs providing the weather is still looking OK.
We had lunch on board "Settlement" today with Andrew and Sue (another Kiwi!) and Irvin (also a Kiwi) and Jenny off "Backchat". Before that we went ashore and Jean did some more washing (sheets this time) and we hung it all out to dry. There was intermittent drizzly rain but we rigged our plastic poncho raincoats over most of it and that did the trick. Had a meat pie and a cup of tea and then lunch.
Later getting the dinghy on board and all lashed down and generally getting ready for sea. We are sailing in company with a German boat - "Mohea" - which is also in the rally. They are Helmut and Ho Ying - she is Korean. Hope we've got the name correct! We will anchor tomorrow night at Vrilya Point but they will be carrying on south during the night - we will see them in Gove.
We'll let you know how we get on with our first foray into the Gulf. It is supposed to be very good sailing because it's all flat water with the wind offshore. It will make a welcome change from the passage up the Coral Coast.
Cheers and lots of love from us.......
Jim and Jean xoxoxoxoxoxo

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Fwd: Tiare Taporo III has rounded Cape York at Lat. 10 degrees 41.4' S Long. 142 degrees 31.4' E

----- Original Message -----
To: "Alastair Whitelaw" <>
Subject: Tiare Taporo III has rounded Cape York at Lat. 10 degrees 41.4' S Long. 142 degrees 31.4' E
Date: 04 Jun 2013 00:51:47 -0000
From: zmq5985

Oh frabjous day - caloo calay - beware the jub-jub bird and the frumious bandersnatch.
Sorry for the misquoted bit of "The Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carrol but the first part seemed absolutely appropriate for we have finally beaten the Coral Coast. But wait, we get ahead of ourselves..............
At first light we started pulling up the anchor at Boydong. All went well at first until there was about 10 metres left to go and then the anchor or chain stuck fast on something on the bottom. We still couldn't see very well but we knew we were fairly close to some coral heads about 20 metres ahead - however, the 20 knot offshore wind was holding us off. We tried the time honoured trick of motoring ahead with fingers crossed and then with a series of bangs and graunching noises the anchor came free. The strain on the chain, shackle and anchoring system is enormous but fortunately nothing broke and we completed the anchor retrieval with great relief.
The course for the first 40 miles was 340 true and we set the double reefed main and small genoa as usual. The wind strength had been forecasted to be down and so it proved. The angle was good too and we started having a good relaxing sail on starboard tack on a broad reach. Speed was between 5 and 6 knots and we were looking forward to it continuing. Alas, as is usual on this coast it did not, and the wind started dropping and going further south - right up our derriere. We couldn't alter course enough to compensate due to reefs in the way and the need to eventually arrive at the southern end of the Adolphous Channel. And we had to keep our speed up so as not to arrive in the dark at the end of 60 miles. So, on with the engine and we motorsailed. Jean kept the home fires burning with offerings of soda water, spaghetti with bacon, and cheese and crackers as the day wore on.
Then, when we were getting towards the southern start of the Adolphous Channel at about 1300 the wind really started piping up over 25 knots (still up our bum) and the tide was still against us. We hadn't realised it would make such a difference off Wyborn Reef but our speed through the water was 6 knots and over the ground 4.5. We knew when the tide should start turning based on Torres Strait tides but it simply didn't and our speed remained down and as well the wind against tide effect was creating a very nasty sea. We rolled abominably (scuppers under) and took some water into the cockpit - however, we persevered. But it seemed to be getting worse as we entered the Adolphous Channel proper and the tide was not obeying the timetable!! So, a hasty last minute decision to abandon the planned stop at Mt. Adolphous Island and instead we steered straight for Cape York itself. Finally into the very welcome lee of Albany Island and then on and around Eborac and York Islands and Cape York itself into an anchorage right in the lee of the cape at 1800 just as the sun was beginning to set. Again many thanks to the chartplotter giving warning of a reef to starboard and a deep boil hole (22 metres) created by the strong tides as they rip through here.
We managed to anchor between the two in just 7 metres on a secure mud bottom with no worries about security for the night. As we speak Cape York lies just a quarter of a mile ahead of our bows. We have finally beaten the Coral Coast - not bad for a couple of 66 year olds on a vintage Gauntlet 1930's designed timber built monohull. The euphoria was great and we celebrated in style with a couple of whiskies, a glass of NZ wine and some dinkum Aussie "Happy Camper" meat stew together with reconstituted dehydrated mashed potato. A long 11 hour day but, although tired we are not exhausted. We are certainly looking forward to some fresh vegies in Seisia 15 miles away where we shall be tomorrow.
So far so good and we are well aware that more challenges lie ahead but we think we have beaten the major one so far.
More fascinating stories to come on
With lots of love
Jim and Jean xoxoxoxox
P.S. It's now 0130 on the 4th. and have just been woken by high winds hitting us on the beam as we are held sideways by the ebbing tide. No sea to speak of but jobbly. We are just very thankful that we left Boydong when we did even though conditions just south of here were very unpleasant. Can't sleep but feeling exhausted. We're just hoping that the Gulf of Carpentaria crossing treats us reasonably kindly because the Coral Coast has been a challenge and a trial. What with high winds and now up here strong tides it's not a holiday camp. We're supposed to make the 15 mile passage to Seisia in a few hours and will have to leave here by 0700 at the latest to have a rising tide with us as we enter Seisia. We'll re-assess the conditions at 6. However, we would be in the lee of the coast all the way. Couldn't get any propagation last night so will try sending this now and then hopefully get some sleep!
----- End of Original Message -----

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Seisia Lat. 10 degrees 50.9' S Long. 142 degrees 21.8' E

We arrived into the anchorage off Seisia village at 0930 yesterday morning (the 4th.) after leaving the Cape York anchorage at dawn to catch the west setting flood tide. Up here you go with the flow, or you don't go!!
We motorsailed in generally lighter winds with the old Ford just ticking over at 750 rpm making water and power. We were being pushed along at over 7 knots with the current and watching the chartplotter and depth sounder as there are extensive shoals along the coast. We came around the north side of Possession Island at over 9 knots over the ground with tidal whirlpools all around. Couldn't stop if we'd wanted to.
Possession Island was named by the Great Navigator (Lieutenant James Cook R.N.) and it was where he took possession "of the east coast of New South Wales from 38 degrees latitude to this place" in the name of His Majesty King George III in 1770. There is a monument to commemorate the event and we saw it as we scooted past! When this formality was completed Cook and H.M. Bark Endeavour left Australian waters through the Endeavour Straits for Batavia where full repairs to the ship were carried out after their encounter with Endeavour Reef some months earlier. They had been very lucky to survive that encounter on what is now Queensland's east coast. They managed to float free of the reef by jettisoning all their canon to lighten the ship and, pumping furiously to keep the water at bay the made it into the Endeavour River where present day Cooktown is. There they spent 48 days repairing the damage with the ship careened on a sandbank. There were a number of historical firsts. It was the first time that Englishmen had spent more than a few days ashore and it was where the Kangaroo was sighted for the first time as well as contact being made with the local Aborigines who evidently appreciated the obviously peaceful intentions of the visitors. Cook's exploits were amazing when you consider that he had only his own resources for navigation, extremely accurate charting, scientific and botanic observations, victualling the ship and carrying enough materials to effect any necessary repairs. His was an awe inspiring achievement and very poignant for us who have sailed these same waters. We have found it difficult enough and we have the benefit of all the modern technology available with GPS and chartplotter and well detailed paper charts.
The entrance to Seisia was relatively straightforward once we picked up the leading beacons and buoys leading into the anchorage. However, the last half mile or so was across the tidal current so we had to constantly watch our position and course to stay clear of the shallow water on each side. We went past the wharf and then rounded up into the current to drop anchor near "Settlement", "Backchat", "Forty-two" and "Pedoga". "2XS" came in today from Horn Is. Seisia has a wharf and an attractive beach and is serviced weekly by the Seaswift barge from Cairns. The beach is definitely NOT for swimming though as crocodiles are prolific - although we are yet to see one. We do not tarry on the water's edge when getting in or out of the dinghy. There is a strong current running parallel with the beach - west on the flood and east on the ebb. Ashore there is a camp ground which is very popular with 4WD trekkers who make the journey north from Cairns. Jean met 2 women who drive all the way up here from Geelong every year! The camp ground has a very acceptable cafe and also clothes washing facilities, so today we lugged our considerable quantity of washing ashore and after it was washed Jean hung it out on their clothes line. Had to buy some clothes pegs as we'd left ours on the boat. There is a small but well stocked supermarket and a service station where we have been buying 40 litres of very expensive diesel each time we have been ashore. It's quite a business carrying 4 x 10 litres of fuel plus the washed washing back to the yacht in our little 2.2 metre rubber dinghy through the tidal currents and very strong winds. And all the while being mindful of the large scaly things with teeth.
The local service station owner is quite a character and has been very kindly giving us a lift down to the beach with our fuel. He also took Jim into Bamaga on a fruitless search for another watermaker booster pump so we have seen a bit of the countryside. We'll just have to hope that the present one keeps going until Darwin. Bamaga is bigger than Seisia and only about 15 minutes drive away. It has more shops and a local hospital. But all characterised by the all pervading red soil and dust - which is actually bauxite from which aluminium is smelted. The bauxite that is shipped to Tiwai Point at Bluff comes from this area. The 2 bauxite shipping ports are Weipa, about 160 miles south of here on the eastern side of the Gulf of Carpentaria and Gove on the other side.
There is a normal strong wind warning (25-30 knots) in force at the moment so we will stay here until things die down - if they ever do. Then the strategy will be to sail in the lee of the peninsula down almost as far as Weipa before heading across the 300 miles to the other side. The accepted wisdom is that the further south you go the easier will be the passage, so we hope that's correct. Hopefully we might get away about the 9th when we might expect another weather window - but they are short lived around here. Even the locals say the constant wind is unusual so here's hoping that normality returns soon. At the moment it's 2230 and the wind continues at up to 20 knots in the anchorage.
More fascinating news in a day or two.
Cheers and lotsaluv from us............
Jim and Jean xoxoxo

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Saturday, 1 June 2013

Boydong Cays Lat. 11 degrees 29.1' S Long. 143 degrees 01.0' E

We copied our email to the Cairns Chart Agency to the blogsite ( which contains details of the anchorage here. It certainly should be well capable of providing the respite we needed on the way to the top. It's a relief to find it is actually quite a reasonable anchorage as it's not in any of our cruising guides and we could not be absolutely sure. If it had proved otherwise, we would have had to carry on to Mt. Adolphous Is. (another 58 miles) which would have meant sailing tonight and arriving around 11 or midnight tonight. Not good arriving anywhere in the dark but Adolphous is a fairly easy approach so would be doable; the biggest problem would have been us and tiredness.
We had a good sail from Shelburne with the wind angle just tolerable for comfortable downwind sailing. The wind averaged 22-25 knots and the old girl fair hooned along achieving over 7 knots a lot of the time except for about an hour when we had to bring the wind dead astern (with a preventer on the main) to clear a reef which was inconveniently situated. Certainly the combination of double reefed main and the smaller genoa has proved to be a happy one in these conditions which might abate a little for tomorrow. But the wind is coming up again 24 hours later due to a low now in the Arafura Sea and then again as another huge high drifts slowly over the Great Australian Bight. This one is even more intense than the last one so sailing this coast will remain a challenge. At least by then hopefully we'll around the top and in Seisia.
Crossed fingers we hope that the watermaker keeps working - so far so good.
Boydong is a series of reefs within the Barrier Reef and 10 miles off the coast which is the usual flat featureless topography so typical of the Cape York Peninsula. And we are anchored just north of the largest of them. There is a lovely sand cay with azure blue water all around with patches of brown and light torquoise denoting reefs and shallow patches. We must be getting blase because it's all a bit ho-hum and we won't be going ashore because not enough time and it's more important to get some rest. The wind is still up around 20 knots and the wind generator is screaming around. Still it means we don't have to run the engine so much. None of these anchorages could be described as tranquil however. The wind still screams over the top of the cay.
That's it again for now; we're off at 6 am tomorrow. We're looking forward to Mt. Adolphous because it denotes the top of this pesky coast and it will be a good sheltered anchorage for once.
Lotsaluv from us
Jim and Jean xoxoxo

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Anchorage Boydong Cays

Hi Matt,
We had a good sail from Shelburne this morning except for having to have the wind more or less dead astern to clear the gap between Hannibal Is. and Viking Reef. We don't carry a spinnaker and vintage designed monohulls tend to roll their guts out! Still, once through there we had a much better wind angle and hooned along. The wind never really went below 22-25 knots.
The approach on 032T NW of Wizard reef was no problem and we dropped the sails well out from the beach on the northern side. We had a bit of fun finding somewhere to drop the anchor. We edged in close until we were in 10 metres and dropped it there roughly 2/3 of the way along the beach from the end of the spit to the rock outcrop. There were some small bommies close by but weren't a problem. We let out 40 metres of chain and the boat finished up in 20 metres depth, so there is obviously a steep drop-off. However, we have a Rocna anchor which we have great faith in and so far we are holding firm. The co-ordinates here are Lat. 11 degrees 29.051' S Long. 143 degrees 01.025'. There is a slight jobble coming around the sand spit but we think it's better than Morris Is. was in that respect.
Once again, many thanks for your help. We'll be leaving here at 0600 tomorrow for Mt. Adolphous Is.
Jim and Gina
s.v. Tiare Taporo III

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Leaving again tomorrow

No rest for the wicked - we always seem to be on the move. But it's a case of necessity - we have to be in Darwin at the end of this month and there's still 900 miles to go. At 5 knots that's a long way.
We had intended to break the trip to the top by spending a night at Boydong Cays which are sand islands surrounded by reef and they are part of the inner Barrier Reef. Then we heard that the anchorage was a little deep which would make anchoring difficult so that introduced a quandary in our minds. Then we had a brainwave. We emailed the Cairns Chart Agency where we originally heard about the cays from a former trawler skipper. They then emailed us back to advise the the depth was 12 metres which is well within our capabilities. If it's over 25 metres then it gets a bit fraught with all that weight of chain to get back up.
We've spent a quiet day getting a few things organised. We had become concerned about the watermaker again as the boost pump is making an on and off noise which sounds like a bearing. It isn't repairable. It's the small electric pump which supplies the main high pressure pump. Still, when we ran it today the noise was much diminished and, while it does seem to be developing a problem, we can only hope that it lasts the distance to Darwin. We may be able to get a replacement at Seisia or Bamaga but we wouldn't hold our breath. Anyway, we are in the water conservation mode and the tanks are full right now so we should be OK.
The weather forecast is for slightly diminished winds (at last!) so we might have a more comfortable ride tomorrow. Maybe they'll go from 30 to 25 knots - whoop-de-do!! The high that's given us all this grief has passed over NZ so you all down there would have had a pleasant few days. Up here it's been anything but. At least 4 rain squalls hit us during last night which necessitated closing hatches and listening to the wind scream for 20 minutes or so. Always sounds worse at night.
Our bible for sailing this coast is Alan Lucas's "Cruising the Coral Coast" and it has so many helpful details of anchorages. However, in it he describes this coast by saying "people sailing into this area should treat the exercise as an adventure, not as a means of having a relaxing day's sail". And this is very true and sums up our feelings. It's a means to an end. That doesn't exactly mean an endurance test but it's not exactly swanning along in 15 knots downwind supping on G&T's and Champagne either!! We are seeing some very remote places as where we are now, but very few would meet any standards for inclusion in a tourist brochure. Add to that the abundance of creatures which would kill you as soon as look at you and it's hostile. Last night none of us wanted to launch our dinghies to go visiting because this is an ideal crocodile habitat. Then ashore there are Death Adders and Taipans, both of which would despatch you into oblivion in a very short time. Taipans are very prolific on the Cape York Peninsula. And even if one was foolish enough to go swimming, at least in the summer the jellyfish pose an absolutely lethal threat. Especially the Irukanji. Perhaps I (Jim) am paranoid but coming from gentle little NZ one is entitled and perhaps even justified.
This is an experience which no doubt we will dine out on for years to come and is unlikely to be repeated. That's not necessarily from choice , but rather from circumstances which will preclude us from coming back this way. The weather and the prevailing SE winds are the main reasons for that.
So, we are definitely taking Alan Lucas's advice and we are having an adventure.
Lotsaluv as always from us..............
Jim and Jean

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