DAY 73 – AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER
DAY 73 – UPDATE FROM AXE ABOARD SIMPSON’S DONKEY – An emotional roller coaster
Hello from the cabin of Simpson’s Donkey on the evening of day 73. As I write this, I can hear the rhythmic sound of Charlie on the oars as he pounds out his last one hour shift of the day before we move into the two hour night shifts.
I hear water sloshing around the hull as we move at 2.2 knots and rain falls gently on the cabin roof. I am warm and dry and feel almost insanely comfortable inside the cabin, but in 50 minutes time I will be out in the rain for my first two hour shift of the night.
The past three days have been an emotional roller coaster for us as the wind and currents continue to tease and haunt us on an hourly basis. Day 72’s morning call with Dave Field at 0800hrs almost bought me to tears as he said we had three days of southerly winds at 10 knots and more to look forward to which in effect would send us backwards most probably. Fortunately we made good time during the day yesterday as the winds stuck to the North West until early evening time when they swung around. By 2100hrs, we were fighting a 14 knot south westerly and could not control the heading of the boat, the best bearing we could hold was 75 degree which was taking us away from the Tiwi Islands. So we deployed the para-anchor which immediately picked up the currents which were north setting and started dragging us directly north at 1.5 knots. Again not good at all, so we pulled that in. The area we were in was only 70m deep so we took a punt and joined the 30m anchor line to the 70m para anchor line and dropped our 8kg anchor over the side.
Normally you need at least 3 times the anchor line of the water depth you are in to hold your boat, in our case we only had 100m, when in fact we should have had 70m x 3 = 210m. Maybe because Simpsons Donkey is so light or maybe because of luck the anchor set and held and we stopped moving! Well stopped moving is not completely true as she then started bucking around like a wild horse for the rest of the night.
We stayed on anchor until 1100 hrs this morning and tried to rest and sleep. To get an idea of what is like to sleep in this little boat on anchor in strong winds in the middle of the ocean, please lie on your side on your bed, then get a good friend to hold your shoulders in both hands and shake you vigourously on a 1 second interval for hours on end. You get the picture! Needless to say we did not sleep that well!
However at 1100 hrs the wind had died to less than 5 knots, still coming from the south but we heaved and groaned and managed to retrieve the anchor without using the SARD (stuck anchor retrieval device also known as a knife). I made only 400m in that first hour of rowing as we fought headwinds and current, and nothing makes me more depressed than spending a lot of energy to make bugger all progress. However over the course of the afternoon we have sped up and are now happily moving at 2.2 knots.
Even better news is that the evening call to Dave Field revealed strong northerlies coming our way on Sunday – we just have one more day tomorrow (Saturday) to battle out some crap from the south then we will be flying to the Tiwi Islands and onto Darwin.
We are now only 77nm from the mouth to the Tiwi Islands channel called Apsley Strait, also known as Bathurst Channel which we hope to pass through to line us up for good run for the last 40nm into Darwin. I am super excited to have the opportunity to navigate this channel – it is full of mangroves, sand bars, sandy beaches and of course salt water crocodiles which will be no threat to us in our boat as we pass through the centre of the channel.
I am a little nervous of coming into Darwin with her strong tidal currents and another unknown harbor so relying very much on Dave Field for advice coupled with our local man on the ground John Punch who is an experienced sailor and helping us enormously.
Today we got flown over again by the plane from the Australian border control and managed to make radio contact, they were friendly and told us a few rules and restrictions and we hope to see them again tomorrow if they pass by for another flyby. That’s all from Simpson’s Donkey – good night!