Wednesday 28 January 2015


Gove is both a heavy industry port (Bauxite strip mining) and an Aborigonal community with its own name: Nulumbuy. The Gove yacht club has great food with huge servings, biggest I’ve seen in a restaurant since last time I visited the USA 20 years ago.. The slight inconvenience exists in fact that the club is 13km from the town where provisions can be bought. Transport can be a bit of a bummer, but we struck up a conversation with a local and he offered us the use of his car for the morning! So in one trip we filled up one trolley load of Woolworths goodies and filled up all our petrol gerry cans. Not happy that Woolies had no fresh meat, being a Sunday it was sold out. Also this town require you to obtain permission to purchase any take away alcohol (being an aboriginal mission they’re a bit touchy about the devils drink). Lucky we still have some rum left..

We had the big body of water known as the Gulf of Carpentaria before us, 330 miles across to the next settlement, Siesia, another aboriginal mission/town just South of the Cape of York ( - which is the most Northern point of the Australian mainland). We were warned that the seas can get quite rough in the Gulf too. The winds were still from the East so that bogey was still in place. I was hoping we can knock this off in 10 days, to the surprise of other boaties here, who plan on a 5 day trip, for reasons…  never mind.

Gulf sunset

It was great the first 1/2 hour sailing West through the harbour, the wind was behind us, such a rare event! Swung around the point and made Eastward into the 10 to 15knot SE’er. We sailed 42 miles made good that first 24 hours, compared to the 28 mile average of the last leg I’m not complaining. The we settled into a pattern, lashing the tiller most of the time, sometimes using TP when I thought it would do better. When the wind was closer to SE we’d make good progress as Siesia is on a ENE bearing. But most the time it seemed the wind was on the nose, ENE which made us go wildly off course. At least the currents this passage aren’t as bad as over Arnhem Land and we were doing better distances made good this time. Usually 30 to 35 miles/day. Doesn’t sound great but, our expectations have been lowered.. Some days there was a very light Easterly and tacking at 1 knot means more leeway and wider tacking angles, its much better to motor, 2.5 to 3 knots directly there. 

One time I was standing on the aft deck leaning against the boom crutch with hearing nothing but the relatively loud Tohatsu when suddenly a huge roar blasted from behind me. It was our old mates, the @#$% Border Protection plane flew really low over us, almost up the wazoo, to get a pic with their high tech camera mounted under the fusilage. Never heard them coming and scared the living c#@~ out of me! Of course they radio’d us to ask the same questions to which the answer was: “Fremantle, Gove, Siesia”.  Susie, who tends to do the talking with those guys, carried out her threat and asked them if they knew the weather forecast. You know, make them useful for a change, the border protection guy answered, “well its a SE’ly now” (thanks, we can see that) “we dont have any forecast reports…”.  She tried..

Gulf fishing boat

At one point the Tohatsu wouldn’t start. Usually its a problem of flooding, but un-flooding it didnt help. As Ashiki bubbled along at 2 knots I changed the spark plug, to no avail. That’s it, we’re one of those engineless cruisers now, and this doesn't particularly worry us. Thinking back, almost all the anchorages in the past 6 months were doable without motoring. I don’t think it's that hard. So we push on, sailing around 50 miles a day, of which about 30 is made good. That is to say, we are 30 miles closer to our destination. Two  days later, as I’m always puzzled why something stops working, I give the Tohatsu another pull on the cord, and the thing starts. Must have been a severe flooding problem and that's all. We are no longer “engineless” cruisers.

We made the halfway point in the Gulf and set our clocks forward 30 minutes to Queensland time zone, Ashiki is in QLD waters for the first time. Also we are officially in the “Eastern states” where strangely (to me) the sun sets on land and rises from the sea, as Susie is from the Eastern states, she gave a little “yay”. I dunno, I’m a sandgroper, but could become a banana bender, if coerced enough. I asked another cruiser in Darwin what he thought about that and he, having been to both places replied “the mind boggles”, maybe thought it was a concept beyond comprehension. (WA people and QLD people are both known to be quite parochial species.)

Anyway, we are now struggling against wind on the nose in QUEENSLAND and someone, Neptune, Poseidon or who ever decided no more mister nice guy and sent a 30 knot gale our direction. We’re down below, as usual, laying around reading our kindles, as usual, when Ashiki starts heeling a little more and is noticeably more bumpy. Poking my head out the companionway it all looks quite violent pitching over 1.5m waves and decide its time to reef. All it takes is to sit in one corner of the cockpit, release a line and drop 2 or 3 panels, snub up the 2 parrels, move to the other corner do the same to that sail and the motion completely changes. Less heel and more gentle and I’m back below with my Philip K Dick novel. This is what a storm is to us now. No big deal. Ok, sometimes when Ashiki is pounding my mind does wonder whether the foremast is strong enough, will the hull stay together.. I really paid attention to detail building this hull, over built a little, extra layers of glass on all the chines. Over the next couple days the sea remained quite rough as we were warned about, but don’t think the waves are ever over 2m. If this is as rough as it gets in a the Gulf, well, from a West Oz sailor… “ call this rough?”  (Holds up a piece of WA coastline) “This is Rough!”

As with the leg from Darwin, we get into a routine, we grow accustom to life at an angle. Susie actually likes the completely water borne existence, with no land in sight, only flat horizons and and the length and breadth of Ashiki becomes our known world. It does take a fair bit more effort to do anything at an angle. You must climb everywhere even at 20˚. (I can see the point multihullers make..) I try to keep the heel to no more than 20˚, though going to windward she will go faster at 30˚, but that angle is too hard to live with. Oddly enough, Ashiki doesn’t become more efficient as we reef. Most Bermudan boats when overpowered in a strong breeze will sail faster after reefing down. On the other hand Ashiki goes a little slower after reefing, both windward or on a beam reach. Overpowered and on her ear she loves, however, an overpowered junk sail doesn't look overpowered, there’s no ballooning out off the sails like on a bermudan, because the battens keep it in shape. She just heels more, and goes faster. This could be to do with the hull shape too, the dory is quick to heel the first 20˚ then hardens up considerably. She’s never been over 35˚ in the strongest squalls. 30˚ just may be a performance sweet spot. But it's too much.

The easiest dish to serve when its rough is to open a can, otherwise cheese and something else in a mission bread wrap is a favourite, that’s after the fresh bread is finished. Sometimes when Susie feels energetic she’ll make one of her Thai style coconut curry veggie dishes with white rice, yum. Dessert is canned fruit and if lucky, Susie has a batch of home made yoghurt to serve, both cold from the fridge. Breakfasts are commonly either Wheat Bix, Museli or porridge. We drink lots of tea too, with biscuits.

Sleeping is variable, if is calm enough, Susie will sleep in the forward berth with me on the couch. If its rough the forward berth is bouncing too much, she’ll take the couch with lee cloth up or not depending on the tack and I found sleeping on the sole (cabin floor) on a few cushions the best location. The pilot berth at the stern has fallen out of favour for now, it is hard to climb out of and is has since turned into a defacto storage area. We set the alarm and climb up from a look each hour. Waking up every our isn’t the most peaceful sleep around, and I usually fall asleep right away, but never the less, a night at anchor is a nice change.

The last half of the voyage is slower, the winds are more against us and currents seem a little more bothersome, I had a tide app downloaded online while in Gove but its not as user friendly as Navionics one, of whom were still offline (they’re having problems). Then I remembered fiddling with the tide info on the OpenCPN chartplotter on the laptop a few years ago and had decided it didn't work. I reread that part of the manual, hit the “show tides button” on the screen, and presto….  tide stations showed up all over Australia! I had nationwide tide charts all along.  Double checked it with the WA tidebook and its spot on correct.…  DOH.

Siesia, Cape York Peninsular.
On one of the better days we nodded along for 32 miles NNE, tacked and 32 miles SE, 64 miles sailed in 24 hours but 34 miles made good. We ended up approaching the York peninsular more South that we prefered, but the seas were getting flatter, protected by the mainland and started seeing more ships, I assume coming from the bauxite mining port of Weipa. Drawing closer to Seisia we negotiate the long shoals and opted to anchor in the shallows in the lee of Crab Island for a peaceful sleep, just below the entrance to Endeavour Strait. Yep, Captain Cook territory.

We anchored off Australia’s northern most mainland town, Siesia by midday next day, 12 days out from Gove. Averaged 29.6 mile/day made good which was slightly better than Darwin/Gove but consumed less than half the fuel. Time to re-provision.


  1. Hey guys, good to see that you're doing well, we're really enjoying reading about your adventures. Good luck going around the corner and sweet sailing. Love Ben and Belle sv Ocean Jaywalker

  2. Hi there, great to see you have found our modest little blog. It is a little behind where we actually are but its catching up slowly. We're holed up waiting on winds, again. You guys and the oyster must be getting ready to head out of Darwin soon? Have great sail!