Its time to go!
After 6 days R & R here in Bali, 1st mate Charlie Smith and myself are starting to get ready to depart on our FINAL leg of stage one. The time here in Bali has been surprising to say the least. The weather has been atrocious. Stormy, angry weather, massive rain storms flooding the island and knocking out the electricity. I made one visit to the beach with Stephanie and the girls, and the waves were ugly, the winds were screaming and the rain coming in horizontally – what sort of mad prickle head would want to go out in that I thought to myself.
We plan to depart Amed Beach on the 7th February, 2017 bound for Darwin. We will be attempting to make this massive 1250nm journey in one continuous hit. To put this distance into perspective, it is just over 800nm from the top of the North Island to the bottom of Stewart Island in New Zealand. In fact, 1250nm is longer than the Tasman Sea crossing from Coffs Harbour to New Plymouth (which straight line distance is just under 1200nm). So it’s a massive distance to cover for us in one hit, but I have three years of research into the currents and wind patterns that tell me we should be getting a good shunt along at least the first leg from Bali to just north of Timor Island.
From north of Timor Island, we will then attempt to drop south and enter the Timor Sea and cross to Darwin. This leg is known as cyclone alley, as this is exactly the time of the year cyclones regularly cruise along here wreaking havoc. We have our weathermen and a local contact and a very experienced sailor based in Darwin working with expedition project manager Dave Field to keep a close eye on the cyclone situation and give us the thumbs up or down whether to attempt the crossing or wait, the decision will be made on the water once we get close.
One of largest concerns now on the boat is that the rain and cloud cover are seriously affecting our boats ability to make enough solar energy to charge our batteries to make drinking water and run the electronics. We have manual hand operated options onb oard, we have back-ups for everything we can think of, but it is far from ideal to revert to using these. I pray for some fine, bright, sunny days to allow us to recharge our batteries and also allow ourselves and the boat to dry out.
We also have the Lombok Strait to cross as soon as we depart Bali – a massive highway for vessels around the world, from super tankers, bulk carriers to nuclear submarines. The currents here are reported to be around 5 – 8 knots currently so getting them right is critical to our safe passage.
No one has ever made a human powered crossing in a row boat from Bali to Darwin (or anywhere in Australia), and even given the research I have done it is also a massive step into the unknown. The local people and fisherman have asked us all the way down on our journey what we do “kalau laut ombak tinggi?”(If the waves are high). “Kamu dakut?” (Are you scared). They certainly have respect for the sea in which they live and work and it is hard to try and explain them to that our little boat is actually an incredibly sea worthy craft, and how much preparation and hard work we have done to get here. I feel much safer in Simpson’s Donkey in rough seas than I would in a lot of the motor boats I see around these parts.
Whatever happens over the next one month, we appreciate your positive thoughts being sent our way and remember whatever struggles you are having in your own lives, even if you wake up at 3AM in the morning thinking about them, remember we will always be up with you, rowing and rowing, straining on the oars and fighting to make out way to Darwin and safety.
Signing out from Bali
Capt Grant ‘Axe’ Rawlinson