04 July 2012 (Eastern Hemisphere)
Well, the wind didn\’t look all that bad to us this morning despite the forecast for gusts up to 30 knots. As we would be very inshore next to the \”continent\” vs. small narrow islands, we thought the winds would be lighter and indeed they were!
With two reefs in the main and the staysail, off we went straight downwind to Yabooma Island Estuary. THIS IS ABOUT AS REMOTE AS YOU CAN GET. The charts have vast areas which are \”inadequately surveyed\” or worse, \”unsurveyed\”. Sort of like sailing without a chart IF we went in the unsurveyed areas which WE DID NOT. The Aussies have done a great job charting perhaps the most difficult waterway area in the world. 2000 miles of reef, reef, reef! We had an uneventful sail and were even marginally underpowered with winds at only 16-20 knots. Interestingly, a bit erie!, the water turned a pea soup green when we were 10 miles from the island and it\’s convoluted waterway. After negotiating the entrance, my first plan had to be tossed out the window as the \”anchorage\” (side of the river) was open to the prevailing wind. It wasn\’t blowing hard, but we never like the shore behind us and it was a bit lumpy. So, we headed up river!
Here\’s where the fun begins. We pass what was listed as an aboriginal community on the shore and see one shack! That\’s it! Nikki thought she might have seen some additional infrastructure behind the mangroves. I didn\’t. We did soon however find what we thought would be a nice 20 foot spot to anchor. Every time we were convinced we\’d found \”the spot\”, the water would suddenly be 70 feet deep! The current was running at a knot and a half against the wind, not uncomfortable, but it made the direction to set the anchor not as obvious.
We struggled this way for an hour and a half. The problem of course is TIDE. We had a 6 foot plus tide, but at 0233 tomorrow morning, we\’ll have a 0 foot tide. This means that wherever we anchor, we need to watch for the tide which will give us 6 feet less water in the middle of the night.
NEXT, as we were about to make our pass for \”the spot\”, I lost the starboard engine! It was overheating and I quickly diagnosed a broken impeller. We did get the anchor down on one engine (imagine that my monohull friends!) and a good thing as the river current was running at nearly 2 knots by now. After we finally got settled, I was able to quickly change the impeller and the engine is back in action, beautifully pumping water away. I have a special \”speed seal\” cover for it and it removes and replaces in about a minute.
Unbelievably, we have good internet here as the Aussie infrastructure makes sure that outlying communities have wireless phone and internet. Our phones don\’t work, but the internet does! In the time it\’s taken me to write this, the tide has risen 3 feet and will be 16 feet positive at 7:30 tonight. The excitement then is to watch our bottom and make sure we\’ve at least 3 feet below the depth sounder mounted at the bottom of the hull. I think we\’ll be in 5-6 feet of water at low tide. Currently, we\’re in 16 feet.
So with a full moon in the estuary, no sign of anyone, we hope to be off out of this jungle cruise tomorrow, heading for Junction Bay and getting closer to Darwin by the day.
KIT, more soon, Scott and Nikki