Hello Again from the rather warm and slightly humid Northern Territories
We phoned Quarantine for our clearance and were told to visit them the next morning. That proved an interesting trip. We took the tender the mile and a half across the channel where crocs, sharks and sand bars are, to the township on Thursday Island. Alec crossed the bars which were very shallow and I told him, it would be him and not me, who would get out and push if we got stuck. There was a bit of a breeze blowing but we were going with it so all was OK. Quarantine were good and did not want to come aboard to check our stores, but we were given a form and every food item we purchased had to be from accredited retailers, and we had to keep the dockets which have to be shown to the officers before leaving the Island. It is because we are so close to the Papua New Guinea Islands and the Aussies don’t want any plant or animal diseases coming in!! Lots of boaties miss out this area because they think it is all too much of the hassle which is such a pity as it really is an interesting place to visit. The local people are quite different from the Aboriginal people being a mixture of Melanesian Polynesian and even Asian. It was once a huge pearling centre and the local cemetery shows just how dangerous that occupation was. Today it is the seeded pearl culture farms that you come across tucked away in bays. We went into one of the main pearl shops, just to have a look, and I came out with the most beautiful ‘golden’ pearl. Poor Alec, he was not even keen to come into the shop in the first place! We then wandered the town just to see what was there, and read the History Boards as we came across them. About mid afternoon when decided to head back to SHAMAL. Well this was the interesting part all right. The wind had got up to a good 25kts and the waters in the Channel were sure dancing along at a good rate. We had wind against tide! We should have taken the local ferry which runs about every hour between the two Islands, but no Alec saw someone else crossing over in the morning before us and said all would be OK!! My swimming to date in these northern waters around Oz has been pretty much nil what with all the creatures both great and small that inhabit them, but this was about to change. I did not get into the water, it came into the tender!! We did not get to the stage where we needed to bail water (but it did get all drained out once back up on the davits) We were soaked. All I can say is thank goodness the water was 32 degrees c. And thank goodness I had not stocked up with supplies.
The Gove Yacht club was great. Very basic but a great bunch of people. Alec was concerned by the number of ‘drowned’ boats sitting around the bay. Four of them were in the vicinity of the main anchorage. We were later told they had not survived cyclones which had passed through the area in years gone by.
Next day a 50nm sail to Cape Stewart. A mono came in behind us called “Catspaw”. A lovely English couple who are on their trip around the world. So far they have taken 14 years, but this is because they spend half the year on their yacht and then the other half back home in Portugal. They invited us over for sundowners. Our night stop there was a very rolly one as the wind had changed to the East and rather big waves came into the bay.
Day 8 since leaving Gove has us sailing a 45nm leg to Valentia Is. Just south west of Cape Cockburn. Again another pretty anchorage but we could not go ashore here as it is one of the places you just can’t!! The next morning we up anchor – NOT – CAN’T – BOTHER!!! – we end up with Peter’s help from ‘Catspaw’. Basically the chain keeps binding up on the sprocket making it impossible for us to bring it up on the electric winch so it will be a manual lift each time we anchor till we reach Darwin and sort this one out!! After an hour and a half (good thing we have time on our side) the anchor is up and we are under way with the MPS up heading for the inside passage between the mainland and Crocker Island to arrive in Raffles Bay by 2.00pm. Late afternoon we all go ashore to stretch our legs. Oh how the water is so cool and enticing, but we only dip our toes in and just try to imagine how refreshing a quick dip would be. We have been watching something dark coming to the surface about a 100mts out and cannot make out what it is. Croc or not!!
The next day we sail up the inlet for about 10nm into the inner harbour to the site of the ruins of Victoria – a settlement which the British tried to establish here in 1838. We decided we would go ashore and visit the ruins the following morning when it was a little cooler. Then the next morning around 7.00 I saw my first croc!! He swam within a metre of our boat - then a second!! Help we had to get ashore in the inflatable. We have heard stories about crocs and inflatable’s! An hour later we scooted across the bay and landed on the beach with no problems. We then wandered the ruins of Victoria which were most interesting. The Settlement was the third at the ‘top end’ which the British tried to establish, but in 1849 they abandoned this one as well, and those who had not died of disease exhaustion or despair, left. It is impossible to imagine how anyone could have survived here those 11 years in the middle of nowhere, with next to nearly no contact with the outside world, supplies which were most unreliable and could only arrive by sea, water shortage a major problem, and to top it off one of the harshest climates on earth. As we wandered the ruins one could not help but feel sadness for the terrible struggle these people had. The cemetery holds a quarter of the residents who tried to make a go of it.
We move on out of Port Essington with ‘Catspaw’ a couple of days later and head on around to Cape Don where we anchor in a small bay for the night before making a 3.30am start, to make the run down and into Darwin. In this area one needs to work the tides or you may find yourself going backwards. Not quite, but there are very strong currents in this area so it is much easier to ‘go with the flow’. So we had an early night for our early start. Fat lot of good that did us, for as from around 11pm we had the most incredible lighting storm which was still going on when we upped anchor and left. That was also when the rain started. A great down pour which washed all the red dust off our boats. The rainy season is just about to start and we got a taste of what is to come for the region. This will carry on till about April. With our leg down to Darwin we had a we had a mixture of winds from all directions, to no wind at all , then towards the end the wind increased and with a 5kt current and were scooting along at 11kts into Fannie Bay where we are now anchored while we sort out a marina.
So will sign out for this letter
Love to you all
From the Admiral and the Captain