One step closer to Darwin

Another big step towards Darwin! We just finished a 56 hour sail from Mt. Adolphus on the far north-eastern tip of Australia across the vast Gulf of Carpentaria (GOC) and arrived at a safe and comfortable anchorage on the western side of GOC at the Wessel Islands. We are now another 360 miles closer to Darwin. About 400 to go….
The very cool part about the trip was the first 6 hours when we left Mt. Adolphus and had to pass by several small islands (including a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Island) and a number of reefs before entering into the open and unobstructed waters of the GOC. The area is called the Torres Straits and it is a band of water that flows south of Papua New Guinea and just over the northern coast of Australia, connecting the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. It is famous for its boat traffic and its strong currents. If you time the currents right (which we did) you can pick up an additional 5 knots of boat speed. That means that if you are sailing along at 6 or 7 knots (a typical speed for us), you can suddenly be going 11 or 12 knots. We had a crystal clear day and the seas in the Torres Straight were flat and aquamarine blue and we absolutely flew along for the first few hours at speeds of up to 12 knots. It was really amazing. We were sailing with a new friend of ours, Northern Winds, who has a magnificent boat and they were blazing along at up to 14 knots.

After that we were in the aquamarine Sea of Arafura (Ever hear of it before? I had not. It opens to the Indian Ocean.) and crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria (see our last blog for a map). We went with a good wind forecast and a relatively light sea swell forecast (
We had another surprise at the end of the trip when we rounded the northern most tip of the Wessel Islands – a long, thin strip of islands that mark the western border of the Gulf of Carpentaria. As we approached the tip we noticed that the water ahead of us was a totally different color and swirling and filled with white-caps. Suddenly we were in the most beautiful, strange, and furious looking water that we have seen for some time. We had arrived at the tip of the island (where currents and wind can be strongest) at a time of day when the current was moving towards us while the wind and waves were coming up behind, making a confused and swirling sea state. The water was 50 meters deep, and obviously soft white sand on the bottom and the whirling water was creating patterns of various shades of blue, depending on how much sand was swirling up. The swells were large and it was difficult to go faster than 2.5 knots (rather than the 8 knots we were doing just before that) because the current was pushing us one direction while the wind was pushing us another. The water was such a beautiful color – which I have tried to capture in pictures and video. We were glad to have reached that point while it was still daylight and while the winds were relatively light. I would imagine it would be unnavigable during certain conditions.

Once we turned the corner at the tip of the Wessel Islands we were out of the churn and the tumult and we proceeded another few miles down the coast to a beautiful protected anchorage where there are 6 or 7 other boats – all heading to Darwin. Slept about 12 hours last night and feeling fine…..


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