Wednesday, July 09, 2008

July 8, 2008 - Darwin Dash, Day 11

Last night, when the tide came up, our anchorage behind the reef ceased to be as protected as we hoped it would be. Our cruising guide had described this anchorage has having a clean, gently sloping bottom, but instead we found a foul mess of coral and poor protection during the 2am high tide. I had trouble falling asleep, as I was was still traumatized by nearly parking the boat on the reef. But eventually, I was able to nod off. Sten fell right to sleep, helped along by a glass of gin (I'd call it a gimlet or a martini, but really, it was just a big ol' glass of gin), but around 11pm, the hobbyhorse motion of the boat jerking heavily on the anchor chain woke him up. And then we dragged. Sten spent the next few hours on anchor watch. This morning found Sten exhausted from anchor watch and me still anxious from yesterday's drama.

Luckily, the sailing today was terrific. We scooted along through turquoise waters, doing well over 8 knots with the assistance of the current. A pod of dolphins frolicked in our bow wake. Once we reached the Adolphus Channel, we found ourselves in deep and steep chop created by the combination of big breeze, lots of current and shallow waters. In these conditions, we had to hug the east side of the channel to allow a sheep ship to pass by us. We could feel the thrum of its engines as it passed to windward.

Just about that time we caught sight of Kika, as they were entering the Albany Pass. They left the anchorage behind the reef an hour before us this morning (as required by the rules of the Heavy Displacement Cruising Boat Division of the inaugural Over the Top Race, as written by me) to handicap Mata'irea for her longer waterline length. We might have caught her, but Kika got a boost from the flat water and current whizzing through the Albany Pass, and she passed the lighthouse at Cape York just in front of us.

At Cape York we departed Kika's company. She will be continuing on through the night towards Darwin, but we needed to pull in and make a few minor repairs before we jumped off on the final 750 mile leg of the passage to Darwin. We dropped anchor in Simpson Bay. The hills around us are covered by dry scrub, interrupted by a few giant ant hills and Aboriginal dwellings. There are pearl buoys dotting the water behind us. Torres Islanders are net fishing in the shallows in front of us and speeding by in their tin boats. Out on the reef, we could have been anywhere, but this, this feels like Australia.

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