Well we made it to Darwin! Now Sleep !
90 nautical miles to go and they are turning out to be some very difficult miles to go. We have a 3.5 knot opposing current slowing us down to 3 kts and the wind is becoming less and less. We still have to sail through a narrow channel called Howard channel which unfortunately will be at night once again . We are also 5 nautical miles right of course trying to inch our way back to our course line without having to tack the boat. If we have to tack we will being going the wrong way and any chance of making it to Darwin by mid morning will be lost. I sure hope that we can pull our current route off and maintain 6kts of speed so we can clear in tomorrow with customs. I sure would like to have a beer on land tomorrow. I miss land, its just so stable and refreshing to walk more then 20 feet in the same direction don’t you think?
Current Position: 11deg 35.2min SOuth, 131deg 34.5min East, COG 186degM, SOG 6.2KTS, WS 12.5 ktss ESE, Clear Skies, Swell less then 1 meter
Ok, so we are cruising along the coastal waters of north Australia anywhere from 100 to 4 nautical miles out. Today was the third time that we saw a sea snake on top of the water. It was a large snake about 3 or 4 feet long with black diamonds on it back and a tan/white under belly. At first I thought it was a small log but when it swam quickly away from the boat I was shocked to see a snake. Cary and I have our minds running wild about snakes on boats now. We have slowed down to 4 knots to time our passage through the Dundas Straight and then onto the Clearance Straight as the current can run up 6 knots. Sense we are going so slow all I think of is a snake crawling up on our sugar scope which is only a few inches off the water and has direct access to my buttocks. So now we have to deal with sea snakes and soon salt water crocodiles in Darwin Bay, I am starting to wonder why I am sailing into Australia. I am not even on land and there’s so much that can kill me.
Current Position: UTC05:50, 10deg 48.4min South, 132deg 49.5min East, COG 260degM, SOG 4.2kts, Wind 12kts ESE, CLear SKies
Well to add to the list of hitting thing on this voyage we had another little incident. As we were eating our dinner in the cockpit we noticed like most evening night seagull’s trying to land on Dragonsbane but they always fall off when the boat rolls or jumps or whatever. But this seagull thought it would be a good idea to try and land on the back of the wind generator. I had shut the wind gen down a few times as I notice the seagull trying to commit suicide flying into the blades of the wind gen. But the odds finally ran out on this seagull and as he cleverly flew up to the wind gen all I heard was a loud bonk and the seagull was down floating dead on the ocean. I sure do feel bad for the bird that was just trying to take rest way out here in the middle of the ocean. Unfortunately I didn’t notice in time to save that birds life. As for the rest of us we are doing well and looking forward to the rip currents and channels that await us in the last 340 nautical miles to go. I sure hope that we catch the tide/currents in our favor as we come into Darwin. I was told by our cruising friends off Calico Jack that there is a 20 foot tide in Darwin which makes things a bit difficult.
Current Postion: UTC02:44 10deg 45min South, 135deg 17min East, COG 261deg, SOG 6.8kts, WS 12kts SES, CLear SKies
Around 03:00am traveling within the charted shipping lane I approach the first of two large ships that transmitted a AIS signal but didn’t identify vessel type. The ship did appear to be at anchor just outside the shipping lane with multiple flood lights. As the ship disappeared behind me I could see the same type of ship about 5 nautical miles ahead all lit up like Friday night lights. About half way between the two ships I struck a fish net that had large floats on it but because it was pitch black out I could not see it laying in the water. This was a clear shock because I am in the shipping lane. The net hooked first the keel and began sinking and I could hear the horrible sound of the net sawing across the bottom of Dragonsbane then slipped off the keel and hook the rudder, completing the second abuse to Dragonsbane. At that point all was on deck to see what the heck was going on. The net popped off the rudder and we continued down the center of the shipping lane. At this point I thought that we must of hit a drift net that made its way into the shipping lane. With Everybody on edge we continued for an hour and I handed off the helm to my dad for his shift 04:00 am to 08:00am. At this point we were parrel with the second 200 meter ship. As I was heading down to go to sleep we ran into the same MFing net. I jump onto the deck looked out and you could see from the side of the 200 meter ship a massive fishing net be retrieved or being held off the ships mid deck area. I was so pissed off at this point and the net once again scrapping across our haul sounding like we were ripping the boat apart snapped off the bottom of Dragonsbane. Not one VHF radio call from the dam fishing vessal was put out to us or any visual light aids indicating that the two fishing vessel had a 5 mile long fishing net strung accross the entire shipping channel. That was some world class bullshit and I just want to say WHAT THE HELL! During our the morning SSB radio net control a cruising boat that is about 30 miles ahead of us noted the same experience and there rudder has a collapsible hydraulic lift. There rudder collapsed when they hit the same fishing net. Not sure were I can report this but I may be wrong but I am pretty sure you cant have a fishing net across an entire shipping lane. Anyway everything appears to be in working order and all is well on aboard as we make our last 500 nautical miles to Darwin through this never ending gauntlet of shit.
Current Postion: UTC05:30, 10Deg 41min SOuth, 137deg 32min East, COG262degM, SOG 6kts, WS 16kts ESE, Swell 1 meter, Cloudy Skies,
It was a very exciting evening last night when I took over watch at midnight from Cary. Cary was have the time of his life traveling 10 to 12 knotes with current racing through the shipping lane. When I came out on deck and looked ahead it was difficult to make out navigational maker lights and the shore lights were lit up like a Christmass tree. So Cary waited for me to get my bearings on were the shipping lane was and the forth coming nav aids. It was funny how Cary put it “its like riding blind on the line”. Its funny because at night you cant really see anything in front of you, you rely on your compass, nav lights, and charts that you have drawn a line to follow. So after Cary went down to sleep I was alone yet again on a beautiful star lit night.
About 30 minutes into my shift I was approaching the Prince Whales shipping channel at the very tip of Queensland Australia Province. The VHF radio erupted into shipping chatter and the one indication of a ship in front of me was a small sailing vessel nothing more. So I continued hugging the far right side of the shipping lane. Then a hale to a sailing vessel sailing south bound please respond. I looked at my compass and I was heading west bound so gave it no thought. Yet again the cargo ship haled and I responded not knowing if I was the sailing vessel or the one a mile in front of me. I was told to pass red to red running lights and continue. At the same time I had the radar running and looking up the channel I could see something that looked like a Island right in my path on the wrong side of the shipping lane. Looking out over the water I could see 3 red lights one blinking, and two sold red. SO I new the blinking had to be a nav aid and the other two had to be ships. Between the radio chatter and the speed at 10 knots the situation was escalating fast so I maintained my course when the cargo ship radio to say they could only see my green running light so a turn 90 degrees straight out of the shipping channel confirming he saw red and then a great big ship appeared out of the dark night and passed us with in a two boat length. The ship was deadhead of us the whole time and he was taking up the entire shipping lane. Then right behind him was another tug boat pushing a barge through the channel which I navigated without a problem because he was on the right side of the shipping lane. Finally after we made it out of the channel and back into the ocean we calmed down and everybody else went back to bed, what a exciting night.
CUrrent Position: 02:39UTC, 10deg 33min South, 140deg 30min East, COG 270degM, SOG 5kts, CLear Skies, Swell <1 meter
Well we made it through the hole in wall to the Torres Straight. We have begun our weaving around and between rocks, islands,shallow water, and coral reefs that are so close to the shipping channel that you could pee off the deck and hit the beach. We are starting to see shipping traffic and have been contacted by the Australia Coast Guard twice. Once a helicopter flew over and around us, radioed us for our current information which we provided. So far our arrival in Australia waters has been a good experience and we are looking forward to landfall in Darwin on Monday. But for now we are sailing through a narrow shipping channel littered with obstacles so night sailing will be much more exciting to do. Most of all after not seeing land for 9 days I woke today to see a island covered with trees and we all have become much happier to finally see real progress.
Current Position: 06:25UTC, 10deg 21.9min South,142deg 42.3min East, COG 245deg M, SOG 7.1Kts, WS 19kts, Swell >1 meter, Party Cloudy Skies, Air Temp 89deg, Water Temp 93deg