Sunday, June 26, 2011

New To The Northern Territory

Northern Territory beach flowers.
Our arrival at the other side of the Gulf of Carpentaria was timed perfectly to be just before a week of strong 30+ knot winds. Just getting down the Wessel Islands 6 miles to anchor was difficult for Ani as we had to motor-sail directly into a 25+ knot wind with conflicting current and only made between 2 and 3 knots with the engine on high rev's, waves smashing up over our bows and spray blowing over everything. Doing this in a 30 knot wind would be even more intense! We anchored in the isolated 'Two Island Bay' and celebrated with a big fish lunch (yes, more leftovers!) and white wine thanks to Les and Kath from Sea Temple (back in Townsville). The beach here is similar to many others in that it's littered with plastic bottles and random thongs, but there were some differences in the rock formations and more bamboo pieces here. Rene found a bottle of "tea" washed up, and pricked it open out of curiosity, only to find as it splashed back that it was disgusting old urine – eurgh!! Why would you put urine in a bottle and throw it in the sea?

Walking felt strange and my legs hurt after only half an hour! Three days of not walking much is bad for my health. Time for some Ashtanga yoga!!

We arrived here in the Northern Territory with very little knowledge of this remote land. The time zone is different and we didn't know by how much. Are there fishing zones here like in QLD? Where are the Aboriginal settlements? Normally we'd just 'Google' these things and figure out the answers but there's not even a scrap of Telstra signal here :(
I resort to the low-fi technology of HF radio. Through my daily log-ins to the 'Shiela Net', Jan from Yawarra 2 (currently cruising the Kimberley's in Western Australia) has been following our progress and making sure we're OK. She has kindly sent a few emails on our behalf to family to let them know we're still above the water.

Our first full day in the Wessel's was spent relaxing and recuperating. Rene zoomed off on his own in the dinghy to explore the islands and bays here (our dinghy will plane above the water with one person onboard). He found turtle, bird and wallaby tracks.
Anima tows Artemis from the reef.
We were beginning to go a little strange from lack of contact with other humans and so were very relieved when another yacht made its way into the other side of this bay. 'Artemis' (from the Netherlands) radio'd us the next morning inviting us over for a cuppa. They'd had engine troubles yesterday and had arrived under sail. In order to test their engine fix, they elected to motor around the island that separates the two halves of this bay. It worked fine until they turned to come in again, at which point the engine failed again. They were forced to sail into the anchorage (almost directly into the wind). Luckily they have a boat that sails well (it's really nice – 'Island Packet' design) but unluckily, just as they were about to tack across and anchor behind us, they ran up onto an uncharted reef and were stuck! Rene raced over in our dinghy to help while I watched with binoculars, prepared Ani for motoring and tried to apply suncream quickly. Soon he was back again and we pulled up our anchor, motored over to near where Artemis was stuck and used our longest rope (tied to their longest rope) to pull the yacht off the reef and clear of bommies. The manoeuvre worked well – with a close call as Fritz got his foot stuck inside a loop of rope as we were pulling it with our engine. He could have lost his foot but luckily I was alerted by their desperate hand gestures to ease off and he came away with a line of deep bruising and cut skin. Afterwards, while sipping tea and eating freshly baked Anzac's Peter and Fritz commented that we pulled them off like professionals! It was mostly by chance that we'd used the best point on the ship (midships) to tie off the towing line. We had fun chatting with such lovely guys. They were so grateful for our rescue that we were given their old wind instruments! Wow! One of the items on our wish list! Thanks!!

This experience has taught us a few things: it is beneficial to cruise in company with other yachties when in remote locales; it's vitally important to keep a keen lookout when approaching new anchorages because the charts are not always accurate; it's important to be really aware of where ropes are and keep all body parts free of them when they are under great strain. Rene's grandfather lost a good friend one rough night (he was a ferry operator in Kenya) when the man wrapped a towing line around himself and was cut in half).

The next day Artemis bravely set off for Darwin in the strong winds (to meet with their wives in Darwin who'd driven overland while they'd sailed from Cairns) and two new boats limped in: Frecinet and Veedon Fleece. They had unfortunately had to sail for over 24 hours in the strong winds and it wasn't fun. We'd met Frecinet in Lizard Island and had spoken to Veedon Fleece on the Shiela net regularly so we invited them over to Anima
Ros, James, Daryl, Gote and Rene looking up at the customs plane.

Alfa, November, India, Mike, Alfa - ANIMA
The strong winds just didn't want to go away. Stuck in the one spot, I decided to get one of the sewing jobs finished and whipped up a replacement bag for our staysail. Rene got out the Bahasa Indonesia language books and we've begun trying to learn some words and phrases. Getting the pronunciation right from a book results in some hilarity! We watched movies and I baked a lot. Waiting, waiting.
New staysail bag.

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