Back again to Australian’s Bay in the Wessels, with the public holiday falling on a Thursday it meant Sal had a 4 day weekend so we packed up and headed off in Lumiel. The prevailing conditions suggested it would be better to head North, we started motoring as conditions were far too light to sail. In the end I only got the headsail unfurled for about 15 minutes all day – when we had a very brief puff of breeze and I was able to motorsail – for about 10 minutes!
We did catch a nice mackerel trolling on the way up, it went 1.05m!
Based on the winds and tides we decided the best option would be just to motor to Australian’s bay and we arrived there just on sunset and dropped anchor in the northern end of the bay.
The next morning I went to the beach to chase some bait with my cast net, I didn’t have any luck, but did manage to find a luckless mud crab shuffling in the shallows, it met my spear and went in the esky! I also found a beautiful fresh water creek, I am not sure how we had missed it in our other trips to this spot, but I guess it just shows its worth going back to these anchorages in the Wessel Islands and continuing to explore!
In the middle of the day Sal and I went in the tinny to traverse Cumberland Strait thru to Hopeful Bay on the other side of Marchinbar Island. Its named for Matthew Flinder’s ship the Cumberland, the ship he spent his last night in Australia, in this bay before tackling the strait and heading to Timor. Quite appropriate exploration on our part at this time! We have been through a couple of times in our old boat, but it had the potential to push against a lot of tide which we cant do in Lumiel. So the purpose of traversing the strait in the tinny was to determine the exact time of slack water relative to Gove tide times and plot a course that would be safe.
I am also in the middle of reading Ernestine Hill’s novel, “My Love Must Wait” based on Matthew Flinders life, its quite surreal to be reading it in this very bay where he was anchored 150 odd years ago.
An added benefit was that it was spring tides, some of the biggest of the year so the current would be as strong as we should ever encounter. Even in dead calm conditions its a scary piece of water, the current has been measured at 11 knots! there are tidal overfalls of up to 3m and whirlpools to negotiate. The start of the narrowest part of the strait is 115m deep, a bit further in its 12m!!
The two routes shown in the picture are the Southern one taken from the Australian Pilot, which I am very dubious about as we would have had to cross pretty severe tidal overfalls to follow it, and the Northern track which is the one we have used in the old boat, and is recommended by John Knight in this NT Coast cruising guide.
We ended up getting to the passage a bit early and we went from going slowly forward in the tinny at 7k, down to 0k as we approached the narrow part of the channel! We played around for about 1/2h until we were able to motor thru without much current against us, ideally in the yacht we would like the tide to have just turned and being running with us a little bit. (too much and you lose steerage).
We then spent an about 1/2h exploring Hopeful Bay and having a swim before heading back thru the strait in the other direction. It actually ended up being a bit inconclusive and I couldn’t be certain of when exactly slack water was because it seemed like the tide was running in both directions and meeting in the middle! I am comfortable that it would be safe to traverse from time of high tide at Gove and up to about 30m after.
Otherwise its been a pretty quiet time, we have had quite a few rainy periods so we have been confined to quarters, but there are always little jobs to do, books to read and now with Starlink, we have internet where ever we are and can watch stuff – today while its been raining I have been watching the Rugby 7’s in Sydney!
This morning, between showers I took Sal into to show her the spring fed I had found yesterday and we had a lovely swim. I walked upstream a bit further to see if there were more swimming holes and nearly stepped on a water monitor lying on the bottom of the creek!
We set off for home at 07:30h on Sunday morning, a beautiful morning with a cool breeze and a promise of perhaps a motor sail at least, as we cleared the bay it set at about 8k from the NE so we unfurled the code 0 and motor sailed at about 6.5k on a flat sea.
We managed to keep the sail up the whole way home – but to be honest, the engines were running too! All in all a very pleasant 4 days, and a serenade of dolphins to take us home!