0500 hours: Everyone up and about and preparing for sea.
0530 hours (0700 hours Darwin time): Lift the anchor and mobile again. Lots of Salamat Jalans – have a safe journey, called from the prahau Andrew as they wave goodbye to us. It’s unreal how friendly these people are. Everyone on board seems to be in high spirits. There is a certain amount of jollity aboard.
0600 hours: Coming out of Angsa Harbour and heading anti-clockwise towards the western side of Romang Island.
0900 hours: Heading southerly along the west coast. Nyata Island is abeam on the starboard side. Watch a huge pod of dolphins rounding up and feeding on schools of fish. The dolphins are particularly active with lots of spectacular leaps clear out of the water and splashing.
Making 3.3 knots against the current. There is a tidal set of just over a knot. Mainsail is up. Not much wind but what’s there is on the nose again. Made just over 8 miles so far. Running motor at 1400 rpm.
1200 hours: Off SW corner of Romang coming out of the lee of the island. Seas slight. Wind 10 to 15 knots coming from … guess where! Lovely day though with just enough wind to steady the boat but not to sail with at any sort of speed against the current. Only getting about .5 to 1 knot under sail. Continue to motor rather than persevere with sailing. Am trying to make the best of our weather window and don’t have the luxury of time to just relax and let the wind do it’s thing. Apparently there’s a big high pressure system coming towards SW Australia. It could potentially could give us more wind than we want here. There is also Barbara’s seasickness to consider. Almost on course at 150 degrees True.
1850 hours: Still on SE tack and about 20 miles from the bottom of Romang Island. Slight to moderate seas and averaging about 3 knots. Seas last couple of hours making us pitch a fair bit but not rolling much. Can see Leti Island light way off in the distance. It’s located 22 miles to the NE of the eastern end of Timor Island. Tacking southerly to come around Leti light on our port side and then out into the Timor Sea.
0215 hours: Abeam Leti Island light. Taking a SE tack towards Cape Fourcroy on Melville Island.
0700 hours: Have recorded 78.7 miles on the log in the 24 hours to this time. But have covered only 68 miles over the ground giving a current set back of about 10 miles. Distance made good as the crow flies to Solath village is 59 miles. Not outstanding but there has been tidal effects around Romang Island and bumpy seas to the NW of Leti Island.
Distance to Cape Fourcroy is 245 miles to the SE. Course required 143 degrees True. Seas flat and oily looking. Nil wind to speak of. All very quiet. Making around 5 knots motoring and sheeted-in mainsail. Better than belting into a 20 knot SE trade wind.
0900 hours: Refrigeration stops working. Find the system is out of gas due to a connection working loose. Have some spare gas and re-gas the system which takes a couple of hours. Very slow process requiring the motor to be just idling.
1100 hours: Re-gassing refrigeration completed. Looks all okay now. Hope no other leaks as the R134 gas is expensive. Seas still flat and virtually no wind.
1215 hours: Unable to pick up the High Seas forecast. Check engine oil. Thirsty bugger! Takes 1.5 pints. Engine has been leaking oil the whole trip but not from the cylinder head as far as I can tell. So much for the rebuild it’s just had but the situation is not serious. Head compression seems okay and the motor seems to be running happily enough, though the bilges are putrid and thick with diesel, oil and grease. Stuffing box seems to be working well, just needing a few pumps of grease every few hours depending on the state of the seas.
1300 hours: Fairly well on our rhumb line averaging just over 5 knots over the last 6 hours. Distance to Cape Fourcroy is 218 miles.
1900 hours: Distance made good last 12 hours is 60 miles averaging 5 knots plus just a little over. Seas still flat. Wind up to 5 knots with small gusts maybe 8 knots or so. Barbara not getting seasick and actually seems to be enjoying this leg and doing a great job on the tiller.
0100 hours: Threading our way through and past 4 fishing trawlers. Don’t know if they are Australian or Indonesian. Am confronted with a long line of blinking lights forcing a 90 degree course change to get around them. The lights indicate a set long-line or net and have a very bright trailer light which at first can be mistaken for another trawling boat. As I’ve mentioned before these things are a bloody pain especially if you don’t have a radar onboard.
0830 hours: Almost at the Australian Fishing Zone line about 5 miles away. Seas slight. Wind has picked up slightly to maybe 10 knots or so and swung from ESE to SE. Trying to maintain a more easterly than southerly course in case that high pressure system comes through. Haven’t been able to pick up anything on the radio.
1200 hours: Wind has been backing easterly and building slightly to around 10-15 knots. Able to maintain course under sail so turn motor off. Seas light with some white caps around. Well inside Australian waters so the Indonesian courtesy flag is taken down.
1530 hours: Coastwatch flies past and challenges us whilst under sail. Have a small chit chat with them and they give us a weather forecast which is really helpful. They tell us we’re, “Looking pretty good down there”.
Until now we’d been getting between 4 to 6 knots under sail but the wind has stopped abruptly. Not enough even to make way. Keep the sails up and start motoring.
PM: Wind disappears for the rest of the day and night so have to keep motoring. Seas calm. Mainsail sheeted in.
0930 hours: Waypoint off Cape Fourcroy 22 miles off. Wind has risen from the NE so set the genoa headsail. Motor off and sailing 5 and up to 6 knots as puffs of wind came through. Cloudless sky.
1130 hours: Wind dropping again. Covered 10.5 miles in the last 2 hours sailing. Waypoint 10.7 miles away. No sign of land due to land haze. Melville Island is low lying anyway. Speed down to 4 knots.
1200 hours: Not a breath of wind and motoring again. Frustrating …
1400 hours: Reach waypoint off Cape Fourcroy. Can see it 5 miles away towards the east and low on the horizon. Can also see a couple of beaches. We will be maintaining our course for the next hour to clear some shoal patches to the south of the cape.
1700 hours: Sailing again and located 50 miles from Darwin. Have been averaging 5 knots for the last 3 hours. Variable winds and getting between 4 to 6 knots with the occasional puff.
1830 hours: Still sailing. Has been quite reasonable even if we’ve slowing down to 3 knots at times in the lulls. Wind has backed to the NW so change the sail pattern to a goosewing rig. Change course from 120 degrees to 100 degrees and swing the goosewings around to take best advantage of the available wind.
A booby lands on the foredeck for a ride. It’s totally unafraid of us to the point of standing comfortably at our feet around the mast base while we tend to the sails. Makes no attempt to peck even when I gently try to move him out of the way with my foot.
2300 hours: First sighting of Charles Point light marking mainland Australia situated at the entrance to Bynoe Harbour just to the west of Darwin.
0400 hours: Uneventful night sailing the whole time mostly around 3 knots. Have been timing ourselves to arrive at Darwin Harbour at daybreak. Very pleasant indeed so far. Take the genoa down as we’ve picked up the incoming tide off Cox Peninsula pushing us along at 2 to 3 knots.
0700 hours: Reach the #6 buoy which is our Darwin Harbour waypoint. Contact Darwin Customs on radio and awaiting call back to confirm timings for clearance. Shoo away the booby still sitting quite comfortably in the same place. Seems reluctant to leave then looks a bit puzzled as it flies off. Finally gets its bearings and heads back out to sea.
0800 hours: Darwin Customs advise us to be at Cullen Bay pontoon at 0830 hours for Quarantine and Customs clearances.
0830 hours: Notify Customs that we are still 20 minutes away.
0900 hours: Tie up at the Cullen Bay pontoon. The Quarantine guy comes aboard and we start going through the formalities. The same Customs lady who cleared us out also comes aboard. Everything goes off smoothly. Quarantine take away a few wooden items which have borers in them, but which Paul can collect later. Quarantine charges us $114 for the privilege.
0930 hours: Clear Customs and Quarantine and leave the Cullen Bay pontoon heading for Lowana IVs mooring in Sadgroves Creek. Crew in high spirits being back in Darwin again.
1030 hours: Secure the boat on her fore and aft mooring up Sadgroves Creek. Martin removes all his personal gear from the boat. Paul and Barbara decide to come back out later in the day to collect their gear, clean the fridges and divide up the unused groceries.
1100 hours: Meet wife Delma ashore at Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht club where we have a final cup of coffee and divide the remainder of the cash ‘kitty’ which had been used for boat expenses. We had all contributed to this kitty before the trip started. Each person got back about $100. Eventual cost per person was $500 for the month away including CAIT and Quarantine fees (together $464.00), plus food and boat consumables including all diesel/petrol fuels, engine filters, oil, gas, kero etc. It all adds up when you list it.
Delma and I go out to the boat to get my own personal gear and have a general clean up inside.
Martin and I go out to the boat, top up the main fuel tank with diesel, give the motor a degreasing and clean up around the outside of the boat. It had rained overnight saving us from having to also wash it down.
Take some of the sails and shade canopy off for washing to a friends place in a nearby suburb, where we scrub and lay them out to dry in the grounds of a local school behind the house.
Back to the humdrum of work. Still more sails to take down and scrub, plus there are some things such as the autopilot and motor oil leaks to be checked. These aren’t particularly urgent and can be done in slow time as part of the usual ongoing maintenance.
Lowana IV is a very safe and fairly dry sea boat for a 30 footer. She performed beautifully with the exception of being unable to make reasonable headway under sail against any strong head winds.
In our case this wasn’t a problem by using the motor, but if the motor had failed we would have been out there for a very long time trying to get back.
It’s hard for just about any boat to travel into the face of 20-40 knot headwinds and matching seas, but at least a headsail can usually be set to help pull the boat forward without sacrificing excessively in course direction. This wasn’t the case with Lowana IV and a problem I am going to have to look rather long and hard at.