DAY 76 – DARWIN WE ARE COMING FOR YOU!
Before we launch into sharing Captain ‘Axe’ Rawlinson and 1st Mate Charlie Smith’s update for Day 76, we would like to share with you all that their arrival to Darwin is very close!! As we share this latest blog it looks like the guys will arrive at Cullen Bay Marina tomorrow (Tuesday 21st March) at 9am – 10am local time! Of course you all know that this timing might change so we will do our best to update you with any changes as they occur, but keep your eye on the tracking map for the most up to date progress and if you’re in Darwin tomorrow, come on down and join us in welcoming Simpson’s Donkey to shore.
Now for what you have all been waiting for……..
Hello from the cabin of Simpson’s Donkey on day 76. What an interesting last two days we have had. We were so excited to catch our first glimpse of Australian soil as we approached Bathurst Island yesterday that it was very disappointing we could not see it at all until we were very close. Bathurst Island is so flat that we had to get within 12nm away before we could make it out. At 1630 hrs yesterday afternoon, I turned my head from the rowing position to scan the horizon as I had been doing regularly all day, and I had to rub my eyes. I thought I saw a smidge of something. I jumped up and there before me was the coastline of Bathurst Island, I whooped and shrieked and Charlie came out of the cabin to do a small jig on the back deck. What an amazing site and something we will both never forget.
Alas the night did not go so well after that. The decision to pass through the Apsley Strait or go around Cape Fourcroy was basically made for us by the Northerly wind which did not allow us to make enough easting to reach the Apsley Strait. So instead, Cape Fourcroy it was to be. We were making great time and were only 2nm from the southern tip of Fourcroy last evening when the tide turned and we started being blasted north at over 1 knot even while trying to row south. We were also subject to a 10 knot westerly wind which was threatening to blow us onto the shore of Bathurst Island – we were only just over 1nm offshore at this stage. So out with the anchor again and in 46m of water we dropped it over the side. It immediately held (to our relief), and we lay and rested with one eye on the wind gauge and one on the GPS chartplotter to observe our direction of drift. At 0100hrs we noticed the current seemed to be trying to push us south again so we set about trying to retrieve the anchor. With both us hauling we could not even budge it one little bit. After many attempts at this, we set up a 3:1 ratio pulley system (to those mountaineers out there – similar to a ‘Z’ pulley system for crevasse rescue). We tried a further 30 minutes but still could not get it to budge. So with reluctant acceptance, just before 0200hrs we cut the anchor line and said goodbye to our trusty anchor. This was a committing thing to do because the anchor was a major part of our strategy and safety plan to make it into Darwin against some very strong tides which are too strong to row.
We then however proceeded to make very good time around Cape Fourcroy, before turning east for 7 miles, hugging the coastline to avoid the potentially dangerous ‘Afghan shoals’ just 3nm off the south coast of Bathurst Island. Once past these it was a special moment to plug in the final waypoint of so many for this journey, Cullen Bay Marina in Darwin – our final destination, a distance of 50.4nm away. We set a direct line for this, crossing the Beagle Gulf. We are now around 36nm from Darwin and nearing the middle of the Beagle Gulf. The tidal currents here are fierce and they run with us for 6 hours and then set directly against us for 6 hours. So that means for the past 6 hours we have almost rowed on the spot, making a measly 2nm as we wait for the tide to turn in our favor. Our trusty anchor we lost – here we so desperately need, and as we get closer to Cullen Bay Marina the stronger these currents will get. We must find a solution for holding our position.
We are both a little tired now and having mixed emotions about potentially ending the journey sometime tomorrow. On one hand we want to arrive safely and step onto shore, on the other hand it is a special time for both of us out here on this boat, finishing a once-in-a-lifetime journey. At the same time we are constantly reminding ourselves not to be complacent, we are in a dangerous part of the world for a tiny underpowered boat, not only currents but today we had another reminder when a shark swam up to investigate the oars as Charlie was rowing.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those people who are part of this journey with us and have helped and supported us to be here. This is not a story of two people in a boat – it’s a team effort and special thanks must go again to Dave Field – tirelessly, calmly and so professionally providing such important information to us twice per day, a better project manager we could not have wished for. John Punch for being our man on the ground here and hopefully we will see him at sea somewhere later this evening in his yacht – we are forbidden to make physical contact until we clear customs and immigration but at least he will be keeping an eye on us as we negotiate these last 36 miles of strong tides. To Alistair our film producer who once again has made the long journey down to our landing point as he has done all previous landings – we can’t wait to see you buddy. Monique Dickerson who receives these blog updates and posts them on our behalf, and to all our sponsors who have contributed so much. And finally to our families and loved ones back home for continued support and love. For me especially, Stephanie my wife, I always remind myself that no matter how knackered and crap I feel out here at times, it is not as hard being at home running a house, working fulltime and acting effectively as a single mother with two (lovely but energetic) little twin girls. I don’t think I can ever repay your faith and support in me.
We hope you have enjoyed following our journey. We also hope that at least a few of you may be inspired to take on larger and greater challenges in your own lives. Challenges with real risk, with no guarantees of success, and that will push you far from your comfort zone. Because as I have found once again with this expedition – adventure is super food for the human soul and that area outside your comfort zone is where the magic starts to happen.
Much love and respect, Captain ‘Axe’ Rawlinson and 1st Mate Charlie Smith.