Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Indonesia to Australia

It's a bit rainy in Darwin this time of year.
We left Saumlaki on a wind forecast that was higher than we would have liked (first 12 hours was still up to 25 knots and the apparent wind would be creeping just forward of the beam).  However,  the trend was that the wind was moderating and, more importantly, there was an almost zero chance of a major low forming and turning into a named storm in the next few days. So it was time to put on the big girl panties and get to Australia.

The locks at Cullen Bay
The forecast was accurate for the first day and we made good time (averaging over 7 knots), though it was not the most comfortable. The next day, the winds died down and went behind for a bit, with the usual trade-off of comfort for speed. We were able to sail most of the way to Darwin, excepting a few lulls where our speed dropped too much. Ordinarily we would have just sailed slowly, but we had to get to Darwin during business hours for Border Force or pay hefty overtime charges.

On passage we witnessed the total eclipse of the moon, which was interesting but slow. It was like seeing the all different moon phases in a few hours rather than a month. A solar eclipse is much more spectacular because it's over in a few minutes but at least with a lunar eclipse, you don't burn your retinas. It's certainly worth watching if you have to be up on watch anyway.

Because of the super blue blood moon, the tides in Darwin have been more extreme than usual. As (bad) luck would have it, the entrance to Cullen Bay, where we had to park Perry to do our formalities, was going to be too shallow for us at low tide. We weighed the options of trying to get our speed up or waiting until late in the afternoon to make the entry. The lure of a new continent, a safe port, and more importantly, a cold beer  had us firing up the engine. Even with the engine, it was pretty slow as we were fighting a 3 to 4-knot current. We eventually made it through the entrance, with about 15 minutes to spare based on our tide calculation, though it was close (we saw less than 2 feet under keel at the little bar entrance). The sailboat that came in a few minutes behind us (which had to be towed the last bit to Darwin due to mechanical difficulties), got stuck on the sandbar and had to be pulled off by the Cullen Bay tender. They had to wait several hours until the tide came up to check in.

If Mark learned nothing else from
Indonesia, he learned about selfies.
The dock at Cullen Bay was a bit tricky for us with one engine. The locks were draining and as we approached, the flow of the water basically stalled the rudders and made steering next to impossible. Our heavy boat steers much better with twin screws in tight areas at slow speeds. We finally got docked with no damage to the boat (or dock) and the Border Control force came and checked us in. We had heard horror stories about Australian officials being hard on yachts, but the officers we met were very friendly and professional. They are definitely thorough and go through your whole boat (we tried to put out all the items that might be 'questionable'). Also, quarantine is fee-for-time-based so the longer they take, the more it costs. The kids waited with bated breath to see if any of their treasures would be confiscated. The only thing that didn't pass muster was a wooden sword given to us by the chief in the Mortlock Islands that was suspected of having termite damage.

In the few days we have been here, we have hardly made a dent in our extensive to do list, but we have spent lots of money. A single burger at a casual place in Cullen Bay was $20 Australian, which would have fed our entire family in a typical Indonesian restaurant.

It also took awhile to get online. Activating a prepaid SIM card in Indonesia involved putting into the phone and turning it on. In Australia, they want an Australian address, your date of birth, your passport number, and the size of your underwear (not really that last one). And even after we provided all that, it still took 4 days and multiple visits to the store (including the intervention of a regional manager who happened to be there) to get connected.

Steve Backshall's Deadly 60 Live on Stage show.
Nose-bleed seats but the kids loved it.


  1. I have to add that, ever since I read this blog.......Tyy as I may I have NOT been able to get the image of Matt wearing his "Big girl panties" out of my mind ;)

  2. That's because you've been imagining it for months before it was even mentioned aloud...


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