Mlingimbi Inlet to North Goulbourn Island and assorted other stuff!

06 July 2012 (Eastern Hemisphere)

Dear F&F,

Last I wrote, we\’d anchored at Yabooma Island and I\’d gone over the whole big tide math to make sure that at \”O Dark Thirty\” we didn\’t visit the muddy bottom of the Yabooma Esturary. WELL…. I got nervous after my own lecture and figured it would be too close for comfort (aka: a good nights sleep).

So, before it got dark, we picked up the anchor with our new engine impeller working great and re-anchored in deeper water at the bottom of Boojaragi Island in the estuary. The depth was good and I had to make sure we were not too close to the reef system which at low tide stuck out of the water like razor blades. A bit windy and the current was 2.5 knots during the flood, but we got a good nights sleep and moved on early the next morning.

We\’d heard that barges plied these estuary\’s as it\’s easier to supply the Aboriginal Communities by boat/ship than by truck as half the year the roads are closed anyway. As we were leaving the estuary, we passed \”M/V Victora Tujhua\” who was making his twice weekly visit to the Mlingimbi community that was several miles further up river than we went. As it was, it took us over an hour just to get out of the estuary and back on the track toward our next anchorage. Adding to the fun was the fact that many of the areas here say, \”Unsurveyd\”. This means, there is NO CHART and sailor beware. It was easy enough to skirt these areas, so no big deal, but it lets you know how far afield we truly are. Adding to the eeriness of it all is the pea soup green water that runs out of the various river estuaries along the \”NT\” coast.

The problem with this coast is that it is featureless. The land is no more than 20 feet high and it\’s that way for hundreds of miles along the coast and quite far inland. There is also no real \”welcome mat\” for the boats to visit the Aboriginal Communities (indeed it requires a permit which is a big deal to get) and, there are no facilities and nothing we can really do off boat except explore by dinghy. No swimming because of the crocodiles and the water is muddy anyway. Hence, not a lot of boats come along the \”shore route\”. There is no quality guide book materials, you are truly on your own.

The wind has been very strong offshore and because of this, the twenty of so boats behind us en-route to Darwin for the rally are stuck (99% of them are doing the offshore route to Darwin). As such, we figured we might be the only boat actually making progress toward Darwin as the winds were thirty knots offshore. They were down to a pedestrian 18-25 for us, but directly astern and small seas as we were close to land.

We still needed to find one more anchorage to avoid a night sail and we thought about several of the poor options. We opted for Rolling Bay. Yep, that\’s the name and boy did it roll! Very safe, no white caps even in 25 knots of wind, but the swell wrapped around the corner and around 11 pm we were rocked and rolled for about 2 hours. The wind dropped down and reasonable sleep was had. The next morning, the wind was up yet again. The phenomenon is that the huge high pressure systems that come up the East Coast of OZ from the Southern Ocean get accelerated due to the cooling of the continental land mass at night. This cold air \”falls\” into the Arafura Sea like a rock displacing the tropically warmed air over the water here near the equator. As the land heats during the day, the wind drops significantly as the temperature gradient disappears.

We had yet another great sail en-route to our next stop, a really comfortable anchorage, North Goulbourn Island. As the crow flies, we\’re 160 miles from Darwin and have covered over 2000 miles since we left Brisbane 7 weeks ago. We\’ve 200 sailing miles to go as we must go around the Coburg Peninsula just to the East of Darwin. The anchorages from here to there should finally all be nice ones. As we approached South Goulbourn Island, we noticed that a quarter of the island seemed to be on fire! Indeed, it was. We read that the Aboriginal communities burn the dry spinifex grass to hunt amongst other things and apparently it is good for the diversity of the plant life. They hunt a certain lizard for food, but again, we read this on the internet and are not positive. We noticed several land areas along the northern coast with fires burning including the Mlingimbi Community area at Yabooma Island Esturary. We shall investigate further…..

I hadn\’t mentioned this before, but our generator main circuit breaker went out on us several days ago. The good news was that the shore power breaker is identical to it and I just swapped them out. At first it didn\’t work. Nikki said (she\’s a certified electrician btw!) that the relay coil wasn\’t activating. I took it apart, re-assymbled and we\’re now back in the generator business.

Tomorrow, we\’ll be off to Malay Bay on the Cobourg Peninsula which has some sorted history of it\’s own…. More later, stay tuned!

KIT, Scott and Nikki

Happy Birthday Robert Sheinbein. Robert for those of you who don\’t know him, was my oldest childhood friend!