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Jason and Fiona - Trenelly
17th Jun 2011 - 6th Jul 2011
Final Push To Darwin

 We had a bit of a big birthday en route up to Darwin. I had decided that I would like to spend it sailing up inside the Great Barrier Reef with my lovely family. Lucky that!

We were up early and sailed pretty well in light winds. We experimented with the poles, and with our cruising chute. neither of which had been out for a while. With the kids playing together so much better now, we get so much more time for playing as well, with the sails. The winds dropped and we drifted slowly along contentedly, until we really weren't getting anywhere and got the engine on.

Birthday cake, balloons, present opening and pin the palm tree on the deserted island, passed the afternoon until we dropped anchor at Morris Island. We packed the kids off to bed and Jason chucked a couple of steaks on the barbie and popped a cork to celebrate.

It was a lovely day.

We left at the crack of dawn as Molly woke up before it got light, and we thought we may as well get going to Margaret Bay. The bigger boats in our group soon left us standing, but with the cruising chute up, we at least felt pretty! PLenty of reefy bits to dodge and another interesting brush with a large boat. Good winds meant we had a very speedy trip. A few boats were anchored in Margaret Bay and we saw a couple of crocs floating round the anchorage. Nice.

We'd been told that the Escape River was a miserable anchorage, so had planned to bypass it and head straight to Albany Pass, but to catch the tide we would have had to sail through the night. We were tired and didn't fancy dodging ships and reefs in the dark, so decided to do the day sail up to Escape and on the next day. We came into the entrance on the ebb, but luckily the winds weren't too strong and the entrance was pretty smooth. The first anchorage was windy and exposed, but the other 2 boats headed down river and reported a really calm spot further down. We joined them and found smooth water, no wind and mangroves. Beautiful. We had another barbeque, and listened to the big croc-y noises as the sun set. A rather nice anchorage. We had a bit of a lie in the next day and didn't need to leave until 0900 to catch the tides. Since we had had enough water under us on the way in, we followed our track out of the river. Suddenly we came to a sickening halt - we'd hit a rock. We hauled ourselves of it, and anchored in the middle of the river to check there was no water gushing into the boat. Thankfully all seemed well, but our nerves were jangled. Usually, we would have dived on the bottom to check it out, but in these croc ridden waters...

Nevertheless, we had another good sail north. The Albany Pass has strong currents, so you have to time it right to get it with you. However, we had half a knot against us the whole way up and very little with us through the pass. It was rather pretty passing through, and very exciting to get to the northernmost point of the country - Cape York.

More fast sailing towards Seisia, with plenty of current with us now, pushing us on at high speeds! Bit shallow rounding the/ buoy into the anchorage, but a beautifully protected spot once in. A load of boats had left that morning, so there was just one othe boat in when we arrived. Plenty of space to choose a spot.

We decided to wait a couple of days for some weather to pass, as the gulf of carpentaria has a bit of a reputation for short choppy seas. A few other boats arrived and we all left on the same day in a bit of a flotilla, once the winds had eased. It has been great to sail in company up the Australian coast. We have not done it before.

The trip across the Gulf was fairly uneventful. We had good winds, but not too strong, and made it to Cape Wessel in good time to anchor in Two Island Bay. We spent a couple of nights to rest up and have a leg stretch on the beach, then pressed onwards to Darwin.

Another 2 nighter got us to port Essington, where we anchored in Coral Bay. There were already 1 other yachts in the anchorage, but room for another one! We spent the following day in the resort there. It has newly re-opened and not busy at all. In fact we were the only people there, so had the small pool and sun loungers to ourselves - bliss. The kids loved the pool with it shallow edges and ledges. We've really missed playing in the water, while there has been the threat of crocs around. Whilst at the resort, someone pointed out a large crocodile floating in the bay - it was enormous, and looked so menacing just floating on the surface. The resort is a little higher than the beach, so we could look down on it, without too much worry. Later we also saw a small one sunning itself on the beach, but it ran into the water and floated as soon as it saw us coming - they are pretty quick on land as well. We had also heard that some cruisers had been for a walk on the beach and been chased by a croc.

We left the resort in the evening and suddenly felt nervous. Our dinghy had a slow puncture, we only had our small, slow outboard on and all the ther boats had left the anchorage heading for Darwin. We loaded the kids into the dinghy and began the slow drive home. It seemed to take an age. We didn't want to freak out the children, but both of us where jumping at every ripple, scanning the water for movement. The kids lolled around the dinghy, wanting to dangle their hands in the water, it would be dark soon, the boat seemed a long way off. We were so relived to get Dylan and Molly up the ladder and get ourselves and the dinghy up out of the water!

The next morning we had to leave at 0400 am to catch the ttides out of Port Essington and round Cape Don, but with the anchor up, we realised that the plotter hadn't left a track on the way in and we had to inch our way out in the pitch black. There was no moon, no stars, no yachts as a point of reference. We inched our way at 2 knots, thankful that the plotter had been accurate on the way in. Once out, we had a strong current helping us down the coastline, but spotted a large boat on the AIS. They didn't respond to VHF, although we called several times. We headed towards the reefy shore, thinking a larger boat would stay out, and we did not want to cut across him if he didn't know we were there. He still didn't respond to calls on the VHF and we could see red and green lights as he headed straight for us... He passed by as light started to break, but we had had to drastically change course and felt a bit squeezed towards to the shore. Bit nerve-wracking. The current just got better and better and swept us past Cape Don and down through the Gulf. We made good speed until about halfway when the current turned and the wind dropped. One more night at anchor, then a short day hop into Darwin.

Finally, it felt like the end of the trip. It is an enormous country and we have thoroughly enjoyed sailing up it. But very very good to be in Darwin at last.

Next: Darwin and Kakadu
Previous: North Queensland - Australia

Diary Photos
17th Jun 2011  The Kids Help With The Birthday Cake

17th Jun 2011  We Know How To Enjoy Ourselves!
Birthday Bread!

17th Jun 2011  Birthday Cards

17th Jun 2011  Pin the Palm Tree on The Island

18th Jun 2011  Fancy Sail
We haven't had our cruising chute up since Molly were born. Now we are a bit more two handed again, we can experiment with the more interesting options!

18th Jun 2011  Playing With The Big Boats
The passage north was fantastci sailing, but also kept interesting by the reefs, islands and large boat we had to avoid

20th Jun 2011  Escape River Anchorage

20th Jun 2011  Nudies Feed the Crocs
A beautiful evening anchored up the Escape River. Lots of splashes round the boat

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