december has been a busy month, some of the highlights were kai spearing a magpie goose while hunting with his mate jacob, they cleaned and plucked it and i grilled it on grillzilla, sal & I had 10 days in darwin and then after christmas we had 5 days on the big boat in the wessel islands while kai went to darwin for 2 weeks to stay with his mates over there for new years & his birthday.
our trip to darwin was also to visit the oncologist for a 12 month followup appointment for sal’s radiation treatment and hormone treatment for breast cancer, everything was fine as we expected and they were very happy with her health.
we treated it as our holiday this year, as we wont be going anywhere else! we rented a very smart apartment in wood st in the middle of darwin, but in a quiet area of the city. it was very comfortable and super convenient with a nice roof top pool on the 9th floor and underground parking. we ate most meals out and visited some old favourites as well as lots of new places.
i had a day out fishing with an old mate, don whyte & a friend of his markus spazzapan out of leaders creek, it was an early start, heading off at 4;30am. while we didn’t have any luck with the elusive barra, despite have a few follows and touchs, but it was a beautiful day and i got to see a lot of new country as well as having a lot of fun with don & markus.
our annual trip to the wessels was not without its dramas, on launching the boat on boxing day i discovered i still had a leak into the engine room that i believed i had fixed when i overhauled the stern drive recently. luckily it turned out to be a leak from one of the trim tabs where the hydraulics comes thru the transom at the water line – so although i couldn’t stop the leak, i knew it wouldn’t get worse and it was just a matter of the bilge pump running regularly to pump out what leaked in.
we had a lovely trip up there with light breezes and flat seas, we arrived at cumberland strait at about lunch time and decided to proceed through and anchor off survivors beach – where the survivors of the japanese sinking of the Patricia Cam drifted ashore. its an amazing story, i am sure most aussies dont know that the japanese bombed and sank an australian ship as well as taking one of the crew captive and then executing him. if you havent read the story here are some links,
we found the plaque on survivors beach that the past masters had placed in rememberance, as well as exploring the surrounding area including some small rock art sites.
it was quite awe inspiring to be at this historical site, and it was hard not to think about the hardships these people faced and the incredible luck that they had picked up narritjan & the other yolngu at gali’winku – i doubt anyone would have survived without their specific local knowledge.
after a fairly uncomfortable night due to swell across wind, we decided to go back thru cumberland strait and visit another important historical point of interest, australian’s bay.
cumberland strait is a scary passage of water between marchinbar and guluwuru islands, its got a hole over 110m deep on the eastern side which comes up to about 6m in a very short distance, like the gulgari rip (hole in the wall), there is an enormous amount of water trying to get from one side of the wessels to the other thru these tiny passages – we tried to time it near slack water but still had up to 8kts of tide under us, its full of tidal overfalls, rips and whirlpools – and thats on calm days with small tides! the australian nautical pilot basically tells you how to navigate the strait and then tells you if you have any other option, take it!
australian’s bay gets its name from matthew flinder’s visit there in 1803, he landed there for the night after deciding cumberland strait was too dangerous to navigate when he arrived in the afternoon having sailed up from malay roads. (his boat, that he was heading to england on was called the cumberland), flinders & his men were ashore cutting up a wrecked makasser prow for firewood when some yolngu came to meet them, flinders gifted them some axes and other tools and in his journal referred to them as “the australians” – the first time in all the years of his circumnavigation of australia that he called them anything other than “indians”! so his final act on australian soil was to document aboriginal people as australians.
Excerpt From: “A Voyage to Terra Australis.” Matthew Flinders
we also had some of our best fishing at the wessels this trip, I think we are slowly starting to work it out!
we also saw a pied manta ray swimming round the boat early one morning, I have never seen one this colour before, i have also put on a video of me catching a queeny, some pigmy killer whales balling up bait and a view of australian’s bay.
on the trip up we had developed a small issue with the engine, it was running a bit hot and the temp warning light was on, i decided this was likely a worn impeller in the sea water cooling pump, and on inspection I realised that although i had a spare impeller on board, it was not a job to do at sea by choice as it involved dismantling a fair bit of stuff and then removing the whole pump to replace the impeller, so we decided to limit any further exploring and just stay in australians bay until we were ready to go home.
we left on new years day and had a good passage back most of the way, it was a fresh NW wind but thats pretty well offshore on that course and from the aft quarter so it was quite comfortable.
unfortunately as we approached gove harbour a large storm developed over the harbour and the winds increased to 25kts+ and the seas stood up as the tide had started running the other way against the wind, it was soon a white out in driving rain and sloppy seas so we slowed down to make it more comfortable, suddenly the low battery light and high coolant temp lights came on and I knew instantly that the fanbelt on the alternator and fresh water pump had blown!
this meant i had to stop the engine as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage, so i turned into the wind and nasty seas and dropped the anchor and all the chain – but in 20m+ in those conditions I suspected it would be unlikely to hold, i called a friend who lives aboard a boat in the harbour and told him the situation, we were partially holding and partially dragging, but had probably 2nm sea room from the coast, so i felt I had time to replace the belt and get going again, I asked him to be on standby in case we needed a tow into safety.
in the end I was able to change the belt in about 30 minutes- of course you have to take off the power steering belt to get the alternator belt on and off so it was a bit fraught! anyway, we got it done, restarted the engine, winched up 60m of chain and made our way slowly into port in white out conditions.
11.4 hrs 115nm 265lt 2.3lt per nm.