Saturday, August 6, 2011

Arafura Sea - Crossing Darwin to Saumlaki, Indonesia

Last-minute boat work pre-departure
The rally was set to depart at 11am, Saturday 23rd July. We woke early and launched into a mad rush of trying to prepare. The countdown was on my mind constantly as we  hurriedly tried to fix/build stuff, lash stuff down on deck and stow things away below decks. Last-minute shopping trip at the local Parap markets to get salad ingredients was a little hyper-real for me after the two complimentary glasses of champagne from the yacht club.

Pre-departure breakfast in Darwin
All of the other yachts were on the horizon when we set out, under motor, from Fannie Bay. Initially there wasn't much wind. Our second-hand wind instrument, was reading about 7 knots so we hoisted the main and the staysail (mainly so we looked like a sailing boat!). I was at the helm as Penny used up the last of her phone reception and Rene worked on getting the AIS and chart-plotter operational. The tide was with us initially but soon turned against us and slowed our progress significantly. Captain Rene decided we should weigh anchor and wait for the tide to turn. All the other yachts near us pushed on past, making pretty miserable speeds against the current while we anchored and I made the BEST nachos ever!
Amazing nachos en route!
The plan was to sleep for a couple of hours before working the tide further along, to anchor again at Cape Hotham. Rene was to teach Penny about night-sailing and I was meant to sleep. I lay in our cabin listening to the noises on deck and in the engine room, imagining all sorts of scenarios taking place. I'm not very good at letting go and trusting that all is well. Instead, I fretted about it all and ended up on deck anyway at about 1am. We anchored just off Cape Hotham in 10 metres of water but kept dragging, despite us trying to reverse it into place. So, we had to haul up the 50 odd metres (by hand winch) and motor further south to where we'd anchored previously. It was 3.30am by the time we anchored and held. Our grand plan of using the tide and getting plenty of sleep turned out not as planned! Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet were well on their way. The sheep in me was complaining that we should have just pushed on with everyone else.

Waking up a few hours later to catch the tide up to Cape Don, we actually were able to sail for most of it! As soon as we left the shelter of Australia, the wind got to about 20 knots and our wind instrument couldn't really cope. It kept flicking between 9, 11 and 18 knots and continued to spit out these readings for the whole journey (even as the winds picked up and the seas grew). The crossing from Darwin to Indonesia became one of endurance. With 20 knots of wind, we were sailing on a beam reach but the seas were quite boistrous and Anima was tossed about constantly. This made every normal task near-impossible. Sleep evaded me – my body just won't do it when it's being tossed about. During the second night, Rene lost one of our two winch handles overboard. It had rattled loose in the bouncy seas and slid overboard into the 1500m deep, black sea. Gone forever. The next day, the sea gave back, we caught a 50cm Barracuda on the trolling line.
Rene with his Barracuda
There were also hundreds of flying fish about, one landed on Rene during his night watch just to keep him alert. These fish are fantastic entertainment at sea when all there is to see is the sea. They pop out of the waves and fly for metres – often looking very similar to birds. 
The surprise flying fish!
Customs flew over us but for the first time, didn't radio in – we think due to our AIS telling them everything they needed to know. Due to the strongish winds, we had difficulty slowing Anima down so that we would arrive during daylight into Saumlaki. In the end, we had only our staysail and a scrap of headsail out and were still flying along at 5 or so knots. There weren't many ships about, but we maintained our 15 minute watches. Having Penny onboard was good – as she grew in confidence and ability, we could let her have more shifts alone and try to rest more ourselves. She is turning out to be a fantastic crew member. Full of stories and fun and always willing to help out. Lonliness is definitely not a problem with her around!

Three days later, Rene spotted land and we all jumped about excitedly (me especially). It was exciting to hoist our yellow 'Q' flag (to signal that we need to be cleared by Quarantine), our courtesy Indonesian flag and our Australian flag. We navigated our way past floating fishing huts and anchored with the other 20 yachts already here in 20 metres of water.
Indonesian fishing hut
Anima flying her Indonesian and Q flags
After anchoring, we spotted a long, blue rope floating about 2 metres off our starboard side. Weird. There's much more stuff floating about that shouldn't be. It turns out that they grow seagrass on this rope for eating (we think). It's a little nerve-wracking to have so much stuff floating about just waiting to get caught in our propeller!
Wow! We made it! The shoreline looks amazing, different and unique. Sounds of the muslim prayer waft out towards us and we are amazed to suddenly be here! 
Saumlaki, Indonesia 2011

1 comment:

  1. So proud of you guys!! It's amazing just thinking about the fact you got to another country using your own "steam" (wind sounds like you farted your way there heheheh)