2014 October – Weipa to Gove

Posted by on October 31, 2014


Total Days Sailed : 6
Total Sailing time : 101h36m (6096 minutes)
Travelled distance : 599.822 km (323.878 nm)
Average Speed : 5.90 km/h (3.18 knots)
Peak Speed : 12.89 km/h (6.96 knots) on 2014/10/25

XTsea was firmly anchored off Nelson’s Landing in Weipa for most of the month. We had been told to expect everything to be quickly coated in bauxite dust, which was completely true, but as an added bonus there were a number of fuel reduction burns happening which added some ash to the messy mix. The outside of the boat was turning a nice shade of ochre, but we knew that it would be pretty easy to clean once a bit of water was applied. The ropes however might be more difficult.

We were hoping to pick up some mail in Weipa, but thanks to parcel mail having to come from Cairns by barge it was a slow process, and if you were unlucky with timing, it could take three weeks. Needless to say we were unlucky.

Eventually we received an upgrade to the depth-sounder allowing it to interface to the chartplotter. For those in the know, the unit is a DSM300, which interfaces to the C90W as well as our spare C80, and used the existing through-hull transponder so it was an easy swap in. David felt the upgrade would be worthwhile to help find secure anchorage in areas where the conditions were not obvious, such as the Kimberley’s where the water can be quite cloudy.

With a lot of time on our hands, David was able to have a replacement mount for the prodder fabricated and painted. A hand-operated rivet gun was not available in Weipa for love nor money, so installation will have to wait until later on which means no screecher.

We also took advantage of the medical facilities there. David had the last of his wisdom teeth pulled, and Colleen sorted out some issues as well. All free with very little wait for appointments!

We met up with Peter and Donna on Two-Up who were returning to the east coast after an extended stint in Asia. Peter was spotted in the market wearing a shirt from the Kimberley Coast Cruising Yacht Club (www.kccyc.org.au), and as a fellow member David was obligated to say hello. We popped over for sundowners and discussed their travels.

We also encountered Nev and Penny (and Suzi their hound) on Pelagic. They had travelled extensively, but Nev currently has work in Weipa so they were calling themselves locals for the time being. They were kind enough to lend us their vehicle for a couple of runs into town saving us from sticking out the thumb too often. Another nice sundowner gathering, although the mozzies had a run at us, with Penny putting on a great spread!

2014-10-25 - FROM Weipa TO Nhulunbuy

Trip start : 2014/10/25 05:25:20 (Adjusted Local) (2014-10-24T20:25:20Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/10/29 19:10:00
Travelling Time : 96h56m (5816 minutes)
Trip Duration : 109h44m (6584 minutes)
Start Point : 141.852981,-12.664800
End Point : 136.816085,-12.182371
Straight-line Distance : 549.576 km (296.747 nm)
Travelled distance : 571.414 km (308.539 nm)
Average Speed : 5.89 km/h (3.18 knots)
Peak Speed : 12.89 km/h (6.96 knots)

When the last of the post in hand and the dentist giving us the all clear, we headed into the Gulf for the run across to Nhulunbuy. About 550km as the crow flies, this would be our first real passage!

The weather reports promised some good wind, which is what we wanted to get across quickly. Day 1 was disappointing, averaging only 10 knots of variable wind, and turning south-westerly just after lunch. It looked like being a long trip. The only point of excitement was a nice 70cm Big-Eye Tuna to restock the freezer.

As evening approached, it was time to get ready for our first overnight run. We decided to try for long shifts as we felt the conditions were not challenging enough to need shorter shifts and that they might allow us to get a decent sleep. Colleen would take the first shift.

Some yachtsmen have hard and fast safety rules that they lock in and never vary, but at this point we agreed to decide on rules to match the conditions. For the first night we decided that the only safety rule would be to always wear a Lifetag, and if leaving the cockpit to wear the SART as well.

David modelling the Raymarine Lifetag and the AIS SART.

David modelling the Raymarine Lifetag and the AIS SART.

The Lifetags are a Raymarine system consisting of little plastic transmitters that you wear on a wrist (or on your collar if you are a dog) that lets the boat systems know that you are on-board. If you fall overboard, the system will sound an alarm and place a Man-Over-Board position marker on the chartplotter. The SART is a Search And Rescue Transponder which continuously sends out an AIS message with the updated GPS coordinates to XTsea and any boats with AIS in the area. Recovery rates when a person falls overboard on a solitary watch are usually not good, but with this technology we will be in a much better position.

Molly with her Raymarine Lifetag keeping her safe

Molly with her Raymarine Lifetag keeping her safe

Colleen’s shift was quiet, with the wind consistent and the only interest was the occasional passing commercial ship. (Another piece of technology is our AIS transponder which lets commercial traffic know where we are and what we are doing.) The wind swung around to the east around 10:30pm, and after changing our sails to suit, Colleen hit the sack and David changed all the instruments to night mode and turned off the lights. Apart from a passing set of clouds which created a short gust of 20 knots, it was quiet night.

Daybreak saw the wind become absolutely useless, so on went the engine. We alternated between port and starboard engines over the course of the day, but every effort to use the sails frustrated us. At 6pm the decision was made to drop sails, drift, and hopefully get some sleep.

Next morning we had drifted four kilometres to the West. Winds were hopeless again, so David decided to whip out the spinnaker that Terry from SAN-E-T had kindly given us. With some jury-rigging, it was soon pulling us along nicely. Although small, it was very effective and convinced us that we needed to find room in the wardrobe for a full-blown kite.

Our hand-me-down spinnaker.  Small but got us across the Gulf

Our hand-me-down spinnaker. Small but it got us across the Gulf

Under the spinnaker we did not have to adjust our course as much as long as the wind was coming from the rear, so our track after hoisting it is a lot straighter. With winds again light and under 10 knots, we hummed along at a somewhat pedestrian rate, but at least we weren’t burning diesel.

Finally we arrived in the small bay in front of Nhulunbuy just after 7pm after five days of sailing.

Land-Ho!  Arriving at Nhulunbuy after five days at sea.

Land-Ho! Arriving at Nhulunbuy after five days at sea.

2014-10-30 - FROM Nhulunbuy TO Gove Harbour

Trip start : 2014/10/30 09:32:28 (Adjusted Local) (2014-10-30T00:32:28Z UTC)
Trip end : 2014/10/30 14:12:51
Trip Duration : 4h40m (280 minutes)
Start Point : 136.816146,-12.182491
End Point : 136.705093,-12.199010
Straight-line Distance : 12.209 km (6.592 nm)
Travelled distance : 28.408 km (15.339 nm)
Average Speed : 6.08 km/h (3.28 knots)
Peak Speed : 12.12 km/h (6.54 knots)

After a 2 kilometer run to the beach in the tender, David went into town to pickup some mail and a few small items from the supermarket. Back on board, we started around to the Gove harbour, and pulled up near the Gove Boat Club and went in for dinner.

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