Start of Trip

0830hrs: Leaving Cullen Bay Pontoon and heading off. Engine hours noted at 500 hrs. Reset the Sumlog at zero sea miles.

0900hrs: Unpack the duty free stores and stow them away. Position the fuel & water jerry’s to trim the boat and lash them down on deck.

1130hrs. Clear of Darwin Harbour at 12 nautical miles (nm) equalling 22 km. Incidentally 1 nm = 1.85km. Royal Darwin Hospital can be seen easily on the horizon to the east. We’ll be going through the Van Dieman Gulf, past Cape Don then north to the Tanimbars from there. Intend to spend our first night at anchor to get everybody settled in. Heading towards the Vernon Islands to the north of Darwin for our first anchorage. Conditions are calm. No wind. Flat sea. Motoring to recharge batteries which are down a fair way.

008 girls on helmRight: The girls on their first stint at watch-keeping. Ann on the tiller. The blue bag at left is the BBQ.

1200hrs: There’s a problem with the fridge compressor. It’s not switching on and off anymore. Find a thin copper tube connecting the pressure switch to compressor has broken off clean at the suction terminal and all the R134 refrigeration gas has escaped. On advice from the fridgie it had been decided to leave the spare gas at home and thereby save some stowage room, so we won’t be able to re-gas the system.

Further investigation shows that the thin tube had been tied to the water cooling pipe from the exhaust manifold. Vibration of the engine has subsequently caused the break. You would think a fridge mechanic would have known better. Skipper is not happy, especially considering the expense of the installation (unmentionables again….).

From now on there will be no refrigeration and we will probably have to throw out most of our cold stores e.g. milk, meat, cheese, dairy products. BUT – it’s not what happens … it’s how you handle it. We all agree not to talk about it or complain about it anymore. Nothing more can be done.

002 route

Above: The route taken to and from the Tanimbar Islands

1715hrs: Anchor at the entrance to Leaders Creek in the Vernon Islands area. Posn: 12 degrees 09.37’S, 131 degrees 09.26’E. Engine hours 508.6 hrs. Log distance travelled 33.1 nm. No sailing done today. Wind was right on the nose all afternoon and a bit gusty at times. Settle down for a nice evening aboard without the rigours of keeping a watch on the first night with new crew.

Evening: The girls use the new BBQ for the first time and cook a lovely dinner on it. Cook up as much meat as possible. The BBQ is a great investment. No pans to wash! Will be leaving the freezer lid closed and only open it on an absolute minimum to try and conserve some of the cold stores. We actually didn’t lose too much at all by doing his, mainly margarine. After dinner went to bed about 2100hrs. Early start tomorrow.

Sat 22 Aug 98
0400hrs: Early rise to catch the outgoing tide. Need as much help with the big spring tide run (about 5 metres) to clear Cape Don in case the wind blows up strong in the afternoon. A wind against tide situation is usually not very pleasant especially in that area. Cup of coffee or tea as applicable. Take the shade canopy down.

0515hrs: Anchor up and underway. Heading 030 degrees True to clear Cape Hotham. One ship out in the channel heading east. Breeze about 10 knots. Seas calm. Slight swells later around Cape Hotham.

0650hrs: Sunrise over the cape. Conditions nice. Near the first GPS waypoint. The GPS satellite tracking equipment takes all the labour out of navigation, but the prudent sailor will always double check using more traditional methods. Making good time between 6.5~7 knots motoring. Wind right on the nose. Unwilling to attempt sailing anyway as it would mean tacking and having to cover more distance. We need to cover as much ground as possible within the next 12 hrs to stay with the right tides. Running with a spring tide pushing us.

009 punching wavesLeft: Punching into waves under motor out in the Van Dieman Gulf.  The sails are ready to hand when the opportunity comes to put them up. So far the winds have been from directly ahead.

1115hrs: Reach Abbot Shoal buoy midway in the Gulf. Wind exactly on the nose at about 10 knots. Very choppy seas all morning so far due to wind on tide. Will not be able to make it through the gulf in one tide now. Approx 30 nm covered though and getting between 4.5~5 knots on average speed over ground. Still getting tide assistance. Reasonable run all considered even if it’s been a bit bumpy. Ann sights our first dolphin near boat.

1200hrs: Turn northwards. Position is a few miles north of the Abbot Shoal buoy. Sails put up for the first time as the wind comes around the bow. A single reef put into mains’l but still underpowered. Set up full mains’l and #1 jib. Motor sailing close hauled to the wind on 020 degrees True between 5~6 knots. Want to clear Cape Don in case the stronger inshore head-winds kick in later this afternoon.

010 staysail upRight: Martin and I setting the staysail. There are three sails – mainsail, jib headsail and staysail in between. There is very little wind as can be seen by the surface of the sea.

1400hrs: Change direction again to due north. On course for Saumlaki in the Tanimbar Islands. Still got a little way to go to reach Cape Don. Seas have dropped. Now slight. Wind has dropped to gentle puffs and has backed further. Change headsail to genoa. Tide is turning against us (Low Water Darwin – 1252hrs).

1445hrs: Change to full sail only and turn motor off. Wind has backed sufficiently to put up a goosewing rig with the mains’l and jib positioned alternatively each side of boat. Wind coming from astern. Getting around 3.5 knots. Bugger all breeze. Not complaining. It’s better than having strong headwinds in this area. Beautiful day.

011 bowline 012 on the bow
Left: Martin finally learns how to do a bowline knot after 25 years or so of sailing. Above: Ann standing at the bow. Motor-sailing and getting more assistance from the wind. The boat motion is smooth through the slight seas. The staysail has been taken down. The bucket lashed to the staysail is used for washing…both decks and people.

1600hrs: Beautiful sailing until now though only averaging 3 knots. Wind slowly dies away and tide starts pushing us backwards rather than just slow us down. Back to motoring. Situated 7 nm to the east of Napier Bay on the eastern end of Melville Island. The girls have made some bread on the BBQ. Smells absolutely delicious. Seas slight.

1930hrs: No shipping seen all day. Speed over last 3 hrs averaging between 2.5~3 knots. The slower speeds attributable to the head current of the incoming tide. It gets stronger the closer we get to Cape Don. Tide is slacking now though. Log and GPS speeds read about the same. Tide must be nearly ready to turn again (High Water Darwin – 1820hrs). Cape Don light can be seen to starboard coming up almost abeam. Everything looking shipshape. Secure for night travel and open water. Draw up a watch-keeping roster. Seas calm. No wind to speak of. Set GPS waypoint for Saumlaki.

2030hrs: Wind coming up again this time from the NW and freshening. Sails put up. Motor off for the last time until Saumlaki. Speed up to 4 knots. You beauty! Cape Don light now abeam to starboard. Goodbye Australia.

Sun 23 Aug 98
O’night: Absolutely beautiful sailing overnight. A good introduction and a good start. Wind gradually came around to the SE and we maintained a speed of around 5~6 knots. No moon. Boat handling a pleasure. Seas slight at first to moderate later on. No one getting sick although one crew with a slight tummy upset from the Doxycycline tablets.

Heading to Saumlaki is 350 degrees True. Actual heading is due north on the compass to allow for leeway. The front hatch was found to be leaking. Martin got doused and stared in bewilderment when I asked if much water came in. Cushions and bedding sopping wet. After that a piece of stainless flat bar used in the right place firmly dogged down and sealed the hatch. No more water ingress problems.

0600hrs: Boat starting to buck around and hitting up to 7 knots. Still have the #1 jib up. Wind is turning easterly (from SE) the further north we travel. Getting a beam reach with corresponding waves on the beam. Wind is freshening so will have to power down and tighten up the sails. Put a reef in the mains’l but still a tad overpowered so put in a second reef. Boat sitting more upright after this. Speed drops to a more comfortable 5 knots and sometimes 6 knots. Seas with some swells up to 2 metres or maybe 3 metres at times. Bit rolly polly.

0930hrs: Rocking and rolling along around 5.5 knots. Occasional large wave gives us a good slap or sends solid spray into the cockpit. Very refreshing! Lovely day again. Wind drops suddenly. Take out the 2nd reef in mains’l to pick up some speed, however as a cruising boat we’re not racing anybody or trying to prove some point. We could easily achieve much higher speeds if we want to.

Our reefing actions this morning pretty much set the style for our trip. We spend more time trying to slow the boat DOWN rather than speed it UP. Our aim is comfortable sailing or at least as comfortable as we can make it. Overall the sailing conditions are quite good for open water.

1600hrs: Still powering along. Winds variable. Averaging speed around 5 knots up and down in the 2.5m to 3m swells. See birds working schools of fish in vicinity of 9 degrees 50’S, 131 degrees 33’E. Almost at the Australian Fisheries Zone (AFZ) coastal limit.

1900hrs: Pass the AFZ and in international waters. Located approx 110nm north of Cape Don. Have completed about 120nm since changing to full sail last night not yet 24 hours ago. Making very good time. Pretty much an uneventful day. Enjoyable sailing.

2030hrs: Wind freshening again. Take down the #1 jib and put up the #2 smaller jib. Still have the 2nd reef in the mains’l. Seas quite lumpy on the starboard beam. Occasional large waves coming through.


Mon 24 Aug 98
0400hrs: Located 155 nm north of Cape Don and 45 nm from GPS waypoint. The waypoint is positioned at the entrance to Egron Strait. This is at the bottom of Yamdena Island which is the biggest and main island in the Tanimbar group. Our objective Saumlaki is the provincial capital and it’s 10 nm further on from there. Seas very lumpy. Some are quite sharp faced and hit the side of the boat with some force. They’re coming at us at an awkward angle causing Lowana IV to pitch and yaw hard as they go through. Fair bit of water coming aboard and going out the scuppers.

0500hrs: My turn on the tiller and can hear a loud ominous rumbling noise coming but can’t see anything out there.  A rogue wave slams into the side of the boat and causes a particularly hard roll as it passes beneath.  Lowana IV lays right over on her side and the mast dips into the ocean, then rolls again as the wave passes through and dips the mast into the ocean on the other side. Luckily I’m the only one on deck and hang on. Alarmed cries coming up from down below.

Temporarily lose bearings as the boat rights itself. Can’t see the water and unable to clearly read compass. Disorientated for a short moment but that’s about all it takes. Wind gets behind mains’l and it gybes. Mainsheet knocks over the BBQ with a loud bang as it slams across causing the entire boat to judder. Get the boat back on course without further ado. Everybody’s adrenalin going. No one seems to feel tired anymore …

0530hrs: Mains’l taken down. Running under small jib only. Take up new course of 340 degrees True to bring the waves in more from the starboard aft quarter. Boat still yawing heavily but not as hard as before. Down to a sedate speed of 3.5~4 knots. Much more relaxed sailing in the darkness when you can hear the waves but can’t see them.

0900hrs: Located 26 nm from GPS waypoint. Wind has moderated slightly. Mains’l with 2nd reef put back up and making 4~5 knots. Breeze comes in bursts of 10 to 15 mins before a lull. Large sets of waves come through regularly causing boat to pitch and yaw fairly heavily still, giving the helmsman some work to keep her on track.

1245hrs: Located 9.5 nm from GPS waypoint. First sighting of land low on horizon in a smoky haze. Capt’n Russy wins a double coke.

1330hrs: Indonesian flag and Quarantine flag raised to crosstrees.

013 raising flagsLeft: Russ and Ann preparing to raise the Indonesian and quarantine flags to the crosstrees. Boats visiting foreign countries are required to fly their national flag as a courtesy. A quarantine (all yellow) flag is also flown to signal authorities that you require clearance.

1530hrs: Nice easy run into strait. Have passed the headland of Pt Asutubun and Saumlaki town is in sight 5 nm away up the harbour. Some small craft around. Get a sun shower in the form of a very slight spit of rain.

014 end in sightRight: End in sight. In Yamdena Strait proper and heading towards Saumlaki which is the provincial capital of the Tanimbars. The town can just be seen ahead from here.

1550hrs. Final turn to Saumlaki. Maintaining same tack with the sails. Not necessary to even adjust them. Sailing all the way in until final stages of approach when the motor will be turned on.

1750hrs: Depth sounded the anchorage and select an anchor site. Drop the anchor and get it set in. Motor off and canopy up.

Anchored Saumlaki:

016 off saumlakiRight: Lowana IV lies at anchor off Saumlaki. The change in the water colour indicates the fringing reef all along the coast.

Posn: 7 degrees 58.62’S, 131 degrees 17.33’E. Saumlaki is located on a harbour at the bottom of Yamdena Island. We anchored in 20m depth of water at a point 300m north of the main cement jetty in front of the main township. The fringing reef is very wide and necessitates anchoring a long way out from shore. The anchorage has good mud holding. It gets very windy most days out on the water where you might hardly feel it in town.

Total sea miles from mouth of Leaders Creek was 241 nm. Total distance Darwin to Saumlaki 274 nm through the Vernon Islands. Actual travelling time 2.75 days including time spent checking and sounding both anchorages. Engine hrs at 525 hrs. Total trip engine hours so far are 25 hrs.



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