Townsville to Darwin (English)

Townsville - Darwin

Dear family, friends and  landlubbers,

It was not easy to get away from our good friends in Townsville. We had enough to do with stocking up the boat, the last projects and the organisation of the farewell party, but it is always hard to say goodbye when you%u2019re a cruiser. Our Danish Lars (Prince Charming) and his much more charming friend Debbie we shall miss a lot. Nice and always laughing Lynda with her husband Jock and their daughter Shayla stretch the good times a little and sail to Horseshoe Bay to go on with partying for a week.  But after that the trip is starting. We are sailing to Orpeus Island and then to the Hinchenbrook Channel. It is really awesome and the surrounding  is stunning.  We spend several days there and we go fishing with the dinghy and we are eaten by the sand flies. The flies are so little that they come through our mosquito nets on the boat and they bite enormous. Then we go further on to Dunk Island, Mourilyan Harbour, Fitzroy Island and then Cairns. This is a nice town. There are a lot of tourists but we enjoy ourselves and we meet already many boats heading for Darwin so a bbq is easily organised. After 10 days we are going on via Low Islets, Hope Island and Cooktown. This is the most northerly habited point in Queensland. We climb the not so easy Mountain Cook and have a diner at the RSL. A long daytrip is bringing us to Lizard Island. This beautiful  island has a resort where you have to pay 1800 AUS $ for a budget room. We are anchoring, together with another  15 boats, for free and enjoying the nice hiking%u2019s and BBQ%u2019s on the beach,  under the jealous faces of the resort guests. But we have to go on, further north. We are sailing always inside the Great Barrier Reef what is coming closer and closer to the mainland. This is also the main shipping line and you always have to manoeuvre between the thousands islands, reefs, shallows and ocean giants ... On Flinders Group, Stanley Island, we watch the Aboriginal paintings and during the long dinghy trip we caught a beautiful queen fish. For the good understanding Townsville-Darwin is the same sailing distance as Amsterdam-Casablanca. We are making daytrips from 25 to 70 nautical miles with now and then a resting day. At the end we had 34 anchorages and one long passage of 500 nautical miles. When we are at Escape River we make ourselves ready for rounding Cape York. In the morning at 07.00am when the water was just high enough to cross the sandbar, we are heading for the Albany Passage. The tide is very important here and we figured it out very well because by rounding the top and doing the passage we have a lot of current with us. The weather is beautiful and the nature and environment are awesome.  Due to the current and a lot of wind we make a speed between the 8 and 11 knots and we seem to fly. The last 8 miles we have to sail up wind, and we beat the whole fleet on speed and height. Cheers Mary-Eliza! Tired but satisfied we arrive in Seisia, a village only to reach on dirt-road and where the ferry between the mainland and the islands of the Torres Strait (Thursday Island) departs. We are lucky because a cultural dancing festivity is organised with beautiful dressed islanders and a band is playing, very nice and unexpected  we dance and swing in  the middle of nowhere.  From here we cross the gulf of Carpentaria. We never heard a good story about that passage and the first night we can admit that. We get 35 knots of wind, normally not too bad, but the waves are enormous and they come from all directions. The old, greasy chicken, we bought in Seisia,  with 3600 flying hours, we just had eaten is teasing us but fortunately we keep it inside. The rest of the trip is good and the third day at 2 o%u2019clock in the afternoon we are lying behind the large factory of Gove. People are working here most of the time 6 days a week and 12 hours a day. It is a little village and you can go nowhere, so a lot of money can be earned. There are some shops, but if you want to buy a case of beer you first have to go to the police station and later to the town hall to get a permit. For free they make a picture of me and a complete document is made up. They never asked for it or looked at it at the shop. Again some extra local rules but in fact there is a big drinking problem among the Aboriginals. The factory scenery is boring so we go on. Elizabeth bay, the Hole in the Wall (a small ditch through an Island), Refuge Bay, Howard Island etc.etc., never heard of it, nobody is coming here only some stupid yachties on their way to Darwin. But we have fun. It is beautiful, different from Queensland, the water has all kind of different green colours, the wind is strong to heavy and the sun is shining every day. One day we are misplanning our anchorage and we arrive in the evening at 23.00, of course it is pitch dark. Navigating on the electronic charts we anchor on the Liverpool river just in front of an Aboriginal village. After a call with the police we can go ashore without a permit. This was maybe the biggest shock we had in all our OZ experiences. We never saw people living in their own dirt. Everything they get in to their hands they drop as easy. All garbage bins are empty and unused. Inside the houses and outside it is a mess and after asking around  they say it is not too bad at the moment. There is a long way to go with the integration of the Aboriginals. The government is busy with it but if they%u2019ll find a good formula for it, that%u2019s the question.  It is  a huge problem. On the other hand what is working perfect is the Australian Coast Watch. More than 10 times we are visited by helicopters and airplanes. We are called many times on the radio and we have to answer a lot of questions. It seems we are in no man%u2019s land but %u201CBig Brother%u201D is watching you. We are having some more anchorages and then we are at a perfect anchorage for the birthday of the Admiral. We have reception with our mobile on the excellent working Australian NextG network and Jacqueline is in heaven when her sister Rita is calling. On the HF radio net someone says that it is Jacky%u2019s birthday so half of Australia knows it. In the afternoon we start the activities with a bottle of Berenburg which we found in the bilge. We have fun and a very nice time and when we are in the saloon with the crew of 4 boats in the evening  it is late very soon. Fortunately the weather the next day is not too windy and the hangover isn%u2019t too bad. A few more anchorages, a nice shower near a deserted holiday park and then we are anchored in Alcora Bay, the last anchorage before Darwin. A crocodile of 6 meters is swimming next to the boat and Jacky keeps all her limbs inboard. After all awesome trips the wind is gone and we have to motor all the way, 17 hours, to Darwin. Ok we have to do that and we are lucky to be just in before the big group and we get one of the last berths in Tipperary Waters Marina. The rest of the fleet has to anchor and when you have bad luck you have to carry your dinghy, due to the tide difference of 5 to 6.5 meters, more than 200 meters into the water. Always nice when you have a lot of shopping bags and a dinghy of more than 100 kilo. It is in the middle of winter, but don%u2019t worry because it is 33 ?C and the sky is blue.  We have 3 weeks to do the formalities for Indonesia, a lot of shopping and  some boat projects. July the 22nd we are going to leave Australia and much, much later you will hear about our next adventures.

LOLXOXO Rob and Jacqueline



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