Thursday, 7 July 2011
Across the Gulf of Carpentaria
We remained only overnight at the Bay of Cape York. Our plans had included a visit to Seisia, a small but active township on the West coast of the Cape York Peninsula. However two major detractions forced us to abandon the plan; firstly we were short of time and secondly the depths of water in the area of the anchorage were rather shallow depending on the tide. So we headed for Endeavour Strait, a journey that took us past the entrance to Seisia, and took us at speed!
The current had to be in our favour to enable us to sail the route and we timed it carefully. Leaving our anchorage also required care - we had watched as a fellow cruiser ran aground on a sandspit just minutes before our own departure. At least he had kindly highlighted the extent of the shallows for us!
As dawn approached we picked up an unexpected passenger in the shape of a Booby. He looked enormous at close quarters, and Liz took several photos, expecting at each click of the shutter he would take fright and go. But no, he was settled in for a jolly good rest!
Just a day sail took us to Alcaro Bay which is situated no more that a couple of miles from the notorious Cape Don, where the timing of currents is crucial.
Whilst there we took a trip on Ken and Wendy (Cop-Out)'s dinghy. This is reputed to be an area rich in wildlife, notably the infamous saltwater crocodiles (salties). And we spotted on emerging from the creek onto the sandy shore. It was only about 20-30 metres away and Liz and I looked at each other '...hmmm, is this wise we asked ourselves!' they call dinghies 'salties teething rings' in these parts.
Many boats wait at Alcaro for the right timings and we did the same. The following morning saw us sailing very gently around Cape Don and getting a mild current boost as we headed South across the mouth of Van Diemen's Gulf.
Nothing is straight forward however, and we suffered another fuel blockage which restricted our engine speed to just a little over tick-over. This was fine whilst the current was with us, but as the current direction shifts 180 degrees every six hours or so, we had to content ourselves with just better than breaking even for the remainder of the time.
We did have a brief stop-over for a rest near to Cape Hotham, but we were off very early on the final stretch to Darwin. It was a long run in totally calm waters, partly motoring at 7 knots and partly at 1 knot depending on the state of the current. However as we entered the Beagle Gulf, the wind started to pick up and by the time we were approaching the city limits of Darwin, we had over 20 knots on the beam ...we were hurtling into the busy harbour. We took in a bit of sail to make our progress more sedate and then finally made radio contact with Tipperary Marina (they call it Tippery here - just to be different) and were directed into our pre-booked berth. Phew!