If ever a passage was going to be fun on this voyage it would be this one! The number one reason for a fun passage is always the crew and we had a crew member join us who is truly larger than life! Enter Sean O’Meara. We messaged each other from Cairns and as far up the Queensland Coast as I had an internet connection to get the logistics right. Sean would join us from Horn Island, directly opposite Thursday Island and a very remote part of Australia. He asked if he could bring anything along, I considered it and told him to bring a bottle of Single Malt as supplies were dwindling. Sean thought my request was modest so he turned up to the Wongai Beach Pub with half a dozen bottles of Whisky, Rum, Gin and something sickly sweet called American Honey. This set the tone for the trip. It looked like sundowners in the evening was about to be stepped up a notch. We got Sean settled onboard, fired up the dinghy and headed across the strait to Thursday Island to see the highlights. Well actually we went there to visit all 4 pubs. Of course this was on a Thursday! We managed a beer (or two) in each pub and then slowly made our way back across the strait to Pacha being careful not to run the dinghy aground on the reef that lies just off Horn Island. We made it with some very careful and skilled ‘one eye closed’ dead reckoning 😉 I’ll always remember a saying that Hamish introduced me to ‘anybody can sail around the world sober but it takes a good sailor to be able to do it whilst drunk’! Aye!
The following day we weighed anchor and said goodbye to the Azure waters and the sea turtles of Torres Strait. This is a stunning part of Australia and somewhere I’d love to return to. The trade winds were in full force as we pointed Pacha to the west and hoisted full sail with the #2 gyb poled out. The weather routing pointed us slightly north so that’s where we headed. Our AIS showed two yachts ahead of us each about 30 miles to the west. One of them were our old friends on Nauta D, a German registered Swan 54′ who we met in Cairns and on Lizard Island. With a performance rig, deep keel and great crew Nauta D sails fast. The old saying ‘it’s never a race…until we’re in front’ kicked in and so it was we chased Nauta D westward across the Gulf of Carpentaria. Catching them was no easy task! We made about 10nm on them, pushing the boat hard at up to 15kn for days before rounding Cape Don on the Cobourg Peninsula. Cape Don is a critical way point on this passage and it has to be rounded at high tide to get the southward flowing current through the Dundas Strait. We reached it at the right time but also found that the winds were against us so we had an uncomfortable beat to windward for the afternoon before the winds died down to basically nothing. Nauta D being about 6 hours ahead of us had to wait for the tide to change but by the time we reached the end of the Dundas Strait they had disappeared from our AIS. We motor sailed for the evening toward Darwin and eventually anchored off at 3am on a nice beach beside ‘surprise, surprise’ Nauta D.
The following day, arriving in the Port of Darwin we said our goodbyes to Sean. It was great having him onboard but he had to leave to fly back to Melbourne to continue with the sale of one of his businesses. It was great to have him onboard and memories will linger long of the time we spent together on this passage.
We headed for Tipperary Marina which is a locked marina due to the 6 to 8m tides that exist in Darwin. We were welcomed by Dani who runs the marina and I met many new yachties here who I’ve stayed in contact with ever since. Darwin is a great city. Stinking hot and a very laid back place. I used the time to prepare Pacha for the next passages across the Indian Ocean. I serviced the main engine and gearbox. Refuelled and provisioned and waited for the new crew to arrive who would be onboard until Mauritius and beyond.