Thursday, February 4, 2016

post Gulf

We slept and tidied Manatee after our Gulf crossing, giving ourselves 24hrs before heading up to Gove and then around to Darwin.

We woke to gorgeous blue skies and calm waters so pulled the anchor after lunch for the 20 odd nm to Gove Harbour.

leaving Dalywoi Bay, Cape Arnhem

We had a nice sail under main and genoa, passing several small coastal settlements. Marg was keen to troll as the gulf is reputedly a magnificent fishing spot. Within minutes she had caught a huge mackerel followed by another-enough to fill our freezer.

The seas became nasty between Bremer Island and the mainland and of course the furler jammed so we struggled for a few hours, causing us to enter Gove Harbour at dusk. We anchored off the boat club and relaxed! Ruby was rewarded for her fine sailing with a lengthy beach walk.

Gulf crossing - only look ahead!

The weather forecast for our crossing was variable 10-15kts increasing to 20kts NE/SE! We were happy with this as the winds and seas were forecast to increase at the start of the next week.

We were eager to visit Groote Eylandt after deciding not to sail down the western side of the
Cape due to the smoke. Our planned track was a distance of 322nm and we were hoping for kind seas. The Gulf is shallow and the seas can be huge! We had heard horror stories but we took comfort in the fact that Manatee loves a good surf.

Groote Eylandt-the large island on the NT side of the Gulf

We set the alarm for 0400 to be ready to use the tide to exit Weipa. The channel was extremely busy with shipping movements so we waited for a break in traffic before contacting Weipa VTS for clearance at 0545. We were told to wait for another departing ship and to follow her out-damn. We pulled the anchor at 0600 and had the main up at 0615 ready to follow and left Weipa with an incoming tide, managing only 4kts. Shoulda got up earlier!

We did spot a whale at 0800 which improved our spirits.

The seas were choppy and confused overnight which was very tiring- we had an overnight watch system of 4 hours and a daylight watch of 6 hours. Our first 24hrs gave us a distance of 105nm and I woke to beautiful seas like frosted glass.

That afternoon we changed our heading for Gove as we encountered a nasty beam swell. We saw no other boats or any coast guard aircraft. At 1415 we had only travelled around 34nm. With our new waypoint of Gove we had 146nm remaining at 1730.    

I was eager to see a cloud named the morning glory which is a rare meteorological phenomenon found in the Gulf.

No morning glory but a fabulous swell so Manatee had a surf, but it was tiring hand steering so as not to broach. I only look behind once and gave myself a fright at the size of the swell!

We managed 70nm overnight and decided to head to Cape Arnhem rather than spend another night at sea as we were both very weary. In the early hours of the morning a large fishing vessel came very close to Manatee giving Marg a scare.

At 1540 we had 21nm remaining, at 2100 we had the anchor down off Cape Arnhem's beach. Hooray we did it in 57 hours.

Weipa.....what can I say!

The next morning we rested while we waited for the seas to calm. At 1430 we pulled the anchor for the trip to Weipa, following the marked channel to Evans Landing. We anchored in the little bay, making sure we were well clear of the wharf with huge cargo ships that take bauxite to China.

We spent 3 days walking around Weipa, which had a small industrial area and a huge 'workers camp'-uninspiring dongas. Buses picked up and dropped off workers in high-vis uniforms regularly.

We visited the 'cultural centre' which is funded by the mine (Rio Tinto). It was very run down and the caretaker/administrator was a English woman who referred to the local Aboriginals as 'too lazy' to be involved in the centre. The exhibitions were, in my opinion, quite amateurish and neglected, with the pictorial exhibit showing the process of local mining  presenting the end process of bauxite refining as steel. Oh dear!

'cultural' centre

The area between the Pennefather River and Cape Keerweer has a unique place in Australian history as the location of the first recognised contact between Aboriginals and Europeans. In 1606 the Dutch yacht Duyfken visited, in 1623 the Pera called both crews disappointed that there was no interest in spices!

view of the bay where we anchored

After exploring all within reasonable walking distance, we hitched into the shopping centre with a young tradie who was employed by the mine. He spoke of the 'good money' to be had but that the loneliness due to isolation was 'quite bad'. Fishing and hunting (guns and dogs) was a very popular pastime.

On the 16/9 we headed to the Evans Landing wharf for fuel. It required lots of discussions with Cairns where the fuel is booked as the wharf was in 'shut down' as all workers were involved in a weeks intensive mine maintenance. After explaining that we were eager to make the Gulf crossing in the available weather window, Kate in Cairns made the arrangements for us. We took on 566L of fuel and filled our water tanks before anchoring on Cora Banks for the night.

looking back at Evans Landing from Cora Banks

We spent the evening relaxing for our early morning departure to cross the Gulf.