May 16 - July 3, 2007
We did not take Passage any further south than Bundaberg, so our sailing within Australia was limited to our sail from Bundaberg to Darwin. That was quite enough at 2,059 miles. We left Bundaberg on May 16 and headed north. We have condensed seven weeks of our lives on a single map that shows our course from Bundaberg to Darwin.
Our sail is easily divisible in to two parts. The first part was 1,306 miles from Bundaberg up the east coast and around the top of Australia to the small village of Seisia 20 miles southwest of Cape York. The second part was 753 miles from Seisia to Darwin.
Bundaberg to Seisia
We were able to cover the first 1,306 miles in day sails. We had one very late night, but most days we were anchored an hour or two before sundown.
Some days we had a bit too little wind, and some days we had a bit too much wind, but most days were beautiful sailing. We were headed north and northwest, so the southeast trade winds stayed nearly dead aft most of the time. We spent days sailing wing-and-wing with a single reef in the mainsail and 100% of our #2 jib poled out. We made occasional changes, but that was our usual sail plan. We had only one actual delay due to too much wind, and that was only for a few days.
Although most of the sailing was wonderful, the anchorages were something less. We stopped at only two marinas along the way - one to hide from some possible weather that did not eventuate and another for some mental health time. Otherwise, we were anchored out. Most of the anchorages were shallow and had rocks and/or coral bommies scattered about. We rarely saw more than 15 feet of depth. The holding, however, was good.
After leaving Bundaberg, our stops on our way to Seisia included:
Middle Percy Island
At times it seemed that we would never reach the top of Australia - Cape York. We kept sailing day after day after day, and we finally made it at noon on June 18. It took us 33 days to sail the 1,286 miles from Bundaberg to Cape York. We still had another 20 miles to get to Seisia where we would celebrate and rest for a few days.
Seisia to Darwin
Our plan was to sail non-stop from Seisia to Darwin approximately 750 miles west. After leaving Seisia, we headed west across the mouth of the Gulf of Carpenteria -about 350 miles across. This gulf is very shallow and cuts a few hundred miles south. It is infamous for producing uncomfortable seas even in mild wind conditions, and the seas were, indeed, uncomfortable - very choppy on our port beam. Within 24 hours we were both somewhat seasick - Nita more than Bud - but we had no choice but to continue across the gulf. By our second night out, both the wind and seas were building, and we were miserable. By morning it was blowing a gale, and we sought out the nearest shelter (we didn't even make a log entry for almost 36 hours). We were finally almost across the gulf, and we were approaching the northern tip of the Wessel Islands. We spent a few hours clawing our way in with gale force winds on our nose and a few knots of current opposing us. It was a slow slog, but Passage again showed her stuff. We anchored in Two Island Bay to lick our wounds as the wind increased to 40 knots.
Boats that arrived a day earlier than us had had a relatively nice sail, but the boats that were behind us were getting slammed. Boats that arrived 16 hours behind us experienced 52 knots of wind during the night. That much wind had created some very nasty seas across the shallow gulf. Fortunately, everyone made it through with very few problems.
Although the gulf was behind us, and we would have slightly deeper water for the rest of our passage, we still waited for the winds to abate. We left five days later. We were less than halfway from Seisia to Darwin, so we again set out to sail the remaining 400 miles non-stop. We didn't quite make it.
Darwin has the largest tides in Australia - up to 30 feet. Consequently, there is a considerable tidal stream, especially through restricted passes. We rounded Cape Don about 100 miles before Darwin, and we needed to consider the tides in our navigation of those final 100 miles. We decided to anchor in Alcaro Bay on Cape Don until 0230 the following morning. That gave us a better tide condition for our final miles.
We left Cape Don as planned at 0230, and we had a nice trip in. At times we had as much as 2.5 knots of current against us, but we also had slightly more with us at another time. When our speed through the water was almost 8 knots and we were in 2.5 knots of favorable current, we saw our speed over ground at more than 10 knots for a short period. But the most exciting event of the day was finally reaching Darwin. We dropped our hook in Fanny Bay at 5:30 in the afternoon on July 3 after another 15 days and 753 miles.
We spent a total of 48 days traveling 2,059 miles from Bundaberg to Darwin. Most of the first part was pleasant, and much of the second part was unpleasant. It was a long haul, and we don't want to go sailing again for a few days.