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Darwin

11 July 2006, Darwin, Australia

Beachcombing in the Wessel Islands, NT
We spent two great days on the deserted
beaches of the Wessels after crossing the Gulf

Dear Friends and Family,

As I write this it's 7am - the sea is flat, we have a gentle 10 knots off the beam, the sun is putting on a spectacular show just behind us and the full moon(!) is setting in front of us.  We've been following the moon-path since about 1:30am when the tide turned fair for us.

Darwin has 25' (7.5m) tides, so getting there is an exercise in timing.  We first have to cross the big Van Diemen Gulf (with tides ~2 hours after Darwin) then go through a set of reefs and islands that try to bottle up the western exit to the Gulf (with more high tidal flows) and finally into Darwin itself, being careful where we anchor as Fanny Bay's very shallow and we've got spring tides now.  It got complex enough (2 tidal stations, 4 stream way-points, and sailing times between those way-points) that Jon put the data into a spreadsheet to find our 3-hour start window - which ended up being 1:30 this morning under the light of the silvery full moon.

No human footprints on the beach in Port Essington, NT
There were no footprints on the beach in
Port Essington - But we did see croc tracks!

We had a slightly frustrating sail yesterday as the forecasted 20 knot breezes never materialized and we motored for 6 hours to Cape Don (S1117' E13147') at the western tip of the Cobourg Peninsula.  We hit a tide-rip in the middle of nowhere and realized that we were getting a 3-4 knot assist!  After anchoring we all had big glasses of cold milk and some of Amanda's amazing apple/pecan upside-down pie!  Then Sue and Jon took a fun dinghy ride up the local river for 40 minutes while Amanda volunteered(!) to siphon 18 gallons (67L) of diesel from our deck jugs into each tank.

Darwin felt like a big city after the wilds of QLD and NT
Darwin looked like a BIG city after the wilds
of coastal Queensland and Northern Territory

We thought we'd have to motor the 90nm to Darwin, but we've actually had a sailing breeze for much of the night.  When we started this morning we really felt what the currents here can do - we were sailing at 6 knots through the water but making 11 knots over the bottom, for a 5 knot assist!  Of course, this meant that we made such good time that it threw our calculations all off.  We're now bucking a small current, but Darwin's just at high now - as it starts ebbing, it should pull the water from Van Diemen Gulf (and us) out through the narrow channels of the western exit.  In theory...

Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Jon, Sue and Amanda Hacking

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