Trip Reports

The Origin of the Specious (15-Oct-2001-22-00):
10:00 PM local time, Sunday, Oct. 15th (1230 Oct. 15th UTC) 12 27 S 130 49 E. Temp. 87, Humidity 77%, Cloud Cover 50%.

We arrived in Darwin, Australia Tuesday morning. After the Torres Strait we headed west across the Arafura Sea and above the north coast of Australia, passing the Gulf of Carpenteria, Cape Wessel, Cape Essington, and Cape Don, and entering the Dundas Strait and Van Dieman Gulf south of Melville Island. Here again Dave and Ros of Arafura Maid had helped us with local knowledge as they had for the Torres Strait. Surrounded now by Australia, we expected to see something, but the land was low-lying and there were no other boats or ships and it seemed oddly desolate. We hove to near Cape Hotham to await a favorable tide in the strong currents at the Clarence Strait between the NW Vernon and SW Vernon Islands. At about 0200 Tuesday we entered the pass between the Vernons and headed to Darwin, motoring in a stifling calm near a thunderstorm.

At Darwin we were told via VHF to come to the dock outside Cullen Bay Marina, and there we were met by the various authorities. For the first time in our journey the boat was thoroughly searched for contraband by customs and again for various food products and seeds by quarantine officers. Then the fisheries department came to explain that the boat would have to be hauled out and inspected by one of their officials before we could enter the marina at Cullen Bay. A few years back the marina was infested by a zebra mussel that caused millions of dollars of damage so now they inspect boats to make sure these and other foreign critters have not attached themselves to the hull. The haulout was arranged for the next morning.

As soon as the boat had been raised by the Travel Lift, the fisheries guy announced that there were monsters on the hull he didn't approve of, even though we had done a bottom job just prior to departing California. This meant that we would have to leave the boat in the yard to dry out for 48 hours, the time it takes for the fearsome little guys to meet their death. The haulout was on them, but putting the boat on the hard and the launch would amount to $160 Australian, about $80 US. So while the boat was out we figured we'd paint the bottom and raise the waterline. By that night, 36 hours after arrival, we had prepped the bottom and applied the first coat, and also visited both the Darwin Sailing Club and the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association, hoisting a few at each. By Friday we were back in the water and heading for Cullen Bay. The tides in Darwin at springs are in the neighborhood of 25 feet, that's 25 American, and therefore all the marinas are behind locks. This also serves to keep out (most of) the saltwater crocodiles. So having completed the requirements we were now allowed to go through the lock, a quasi-interesting experience and the first one of the voyage, and enter the marina. I know you're thinking we're getting soft. But the most viable alternative is anchoring off the Darwin Sailing Club at Francis Bay, and this has the disadvantage that, aside from saltwater crocodiles and box jellyfish, the sting of which is fatal, the large tide means that at low tide you must pull your dinghy a mile up the beach to place it above high water. But not only that, check out the marina fee: $50 Australian (that's $25 US) per WEEK. That's about $3.50 US a day, and Mr. Shrode and the Captain split that. You see that anchoring off the Sailing Club can be viewed as a false economy.

There are two bits of troubling news to report.

One is that the windlass motor has died. Monday we will have it looked at to see if it can be rebuilt locally. If not, another must be ordered at a non-trivial cost and the Captain worries that there might not be one available in Australia. This would be a major problem, to which no solution comes readily to mind. Of course the repair must be completed by the end of the month so we don't get into cyclone season. Or else what, we don't know.

Secondly, we have heard that a large group of circumnavigating American boats are returning to Australia from Indonesia rather than continuing. Since cruisers are as a rule pretty tough folks, the fact that so many have chosen to return, presumably for political reasons, is a bit daunting. This needs some more research.

The good news is that Caroline and Theresa are braving the airways and a long flight and coming to visit us. When the Captain was on the wrestling team in high school, he was given to believe that wrestlers who spent a lot of time with their girlfriends were less masculine than those who hung around the guys and gave them the occasional pat on the ass. Manly men, it seems, should have nothing to do with women. There was some breach of logic here that troubled the young seaman, though he was not completely clear on what it was.

But now, effeminate or not, the Captain looks forward to these visits with an unalloyed anticipation that his wrestling coach would have found a distraction and an embarrassment to his sex. It's of course not easy to talk about this. But as one ages, one learns to live with one's flaws. The Captain has accepted his and fervently hopes that this weakness will be forgiven by his readers. To the extent that it is, he will owe you a beer.

PS As Theresa is the email monitor and will be here and Jim Mead is webmaster and will be in the Grand Canyon, there may be an interuption in this service for a few days. We'll do what we can to work around it.

PS to MW: Happy birthday and thanks for the invite. I must, sadly, send my regrets, as Mr. Shrode has decided that it will be necessary for me to stay aboard.

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