Fiji, Vanuatu and Australia
Fiji to Vanuatu, Friday 18th to Tuesday 22nd September, Day 450
We left Vuda Point Marina after re-fuelling and motoring up to Lautoka to check out of customs. After completion of formalities we, 'White Hawk' and 'Hilde' headed for an overnight anchorage at a bay opposite the reef pass, to enable an early start the next morning.
The whole lagoon was full of debris, washed out of channels and riverbeds by the very heavy rain over the previous two days. Plastic bottles, large logs and other flotsam covered the surface and we became so intent on avoiding logs that we forgot to keep an eye on the forward looking sonar. Result, we managed to run aground on a large lump of coral! It was a pretty sickening moment when we realised we were tilting on the keel and very embarrassing to have done it in full view of the other two boats. We radioed to alert them of the situation, but after several minutes of very slow manoeuvring we managed to float off without assistance. The scunnering thing is that we have sailed unaccompanied around the world with no incidents, but the minute we have an audience, we do something stupid. Oh well, fortunately no damage done other than to our pride. We anchored overnight in Morni Bay and after dinner on 'White Hawk' got an early night.
Next morning we got up at 5.00am and on setting off at first light discovered the electronic compass was 180deg out, so had to calibrate it by going round in circles for a while. Eventually we headed out through the reef pass which was very lumpy. Sighted two whales throwing their tails right out of the water. What a sight!
The rest of the journey was fine with good winds and reasonable seas. We averaged about 6.36 knots overall to arrive at Resolution Bay in Tanna, Vanuatu at 09.06hrs on Tuesday 22nd September. Maximum speed was 8.99 knots and maximum wind speed 30.9 knots.
We anchored in the bay under the smoking volcano, which explains the black sandy beaches. Within minutes locals started drifting by in dug out canoes, just to say welcome and have a wee chat. Their appearance is a cross between Polynesian and Australian aboriginal. We were told that the chief had died last year, but his eldest son, Johnson, was currently acting chief and he would arrange transport to take us to customs in the nearest "town" but it would have to be done tomorrow since he was away at the moment with other yachties.
We went ashore to explore and discovered the most beautiful preserved way of life. Bamboo walled and palm leaf roofed houses, extended family living, fruit bearing trees and plants which are available to everyone (no ownership as on other Polynesian islands).
The people of the island speak either French or English, depending on which school they attended or which village church they attended. To communicate with each other they speak Bislama, a Pidgin English with some French words. It is a highly descriptive long-winded language, but very easy to understand once you get the hang of it. E.g. "egg beater blong Jesus Christ" is a helicopter, "tang yu tomas" is thank you very much, "me savvy long Inglis" is I speak English.
Over to Gordon for his blog on Tanna.
We got up early, at 0530am, the next morning to get the 4x4 pick-up to go to Lenakel, the main town on the island and where customs, quarantine, immigration offices and the bank are. There were eight of us from the three boats, one driver and Johnson with a friend and the vehicle was an old 4x4 pick-up with only one passenger seat inside. The other seats were planks of wood in the back. The distance to Lenakel from Port Resolution is about 20 miles but was to take us two hours. The 'roads' are single-track dirt roads with lots of potholes, ditches at the side and overhanging vegetation. The country is dense jungle. It would be very very difficult to walk over country without a machete and even then maybe one mile per day. There are numerous very large banyan trees and the usual coconut, papaya (pawpaw) trees etc. We went through several villages, mostly unsawn timber framed buildings with palm leaf roof and bamboo sides. There were concrete block/corrugated iron roofed buildings but these were normally schools or some official building. They have no running water just hand pumps, no electricity, so no television and no landline telephones.
Very large mobile phone masts were installed last year and in such a short time a lot of people have mobile phones. The phones used generally are recycled phones and they say it has made quite a difference. Things can be organise on the phone without having to travel to another village to speak to that person. Also socially it helps where girlfriends and friends can now be from another village, so eventually expanding the gene pool.
We passed the volcano via a desolate, volcanic ash, surreal landscape, from jungle to desert in 10 metres. We could see the smoke off this active volcano, in fact last night we could see the pulsing orange glow from our boat. Then back to jungle and still single-track dirt roads, mostly black ash but turned to mud the further west we went. The road goes right over the top of the mountain range with magnificent views of the island. Eventually arriving at the other side of the island and Lenakel, which is really a large village rather than a town, with dirt roads and is sparsely populated.
First we went to the bank to change USD to Vatu, then to immigration, then to quarantine but nobody there, then to customs and finally went for lunch. In the "restaurant"(bamboo walls, palm leaf roof) there was a television in the corner playing American evangelistic DVDs. We met one American lady whom is a 'voluntary worker' building a community building but she works for the US Military Peace Corps. We have come across this in Tonga where they have 40 workers for a population of 100,000!
After buying vegetables at the market and beer at the shop we made our way back to Port Resolution. This is the dry season, in the summer (January to March) it is very wet and these roads become impassable after heavy rain. We arrived back at the volcanic desert and our driver decided to take us off the 'road' up and down the volcanic ash dunes at high speed, just for fun or to frighten us, don't know which. We got back to Resolution Bay 'Yacht Club', a bamboo/palm leafed building, at 2.00 pm, had a few beers then back to the boat.
At 4.30 we all gathered to go to the volcano in the same 4x4 pick-up. The volcano is owned by two villages that split the entrance fees and maintain the two-mile dirt access road. There were about a dozen other 4x4 there from holiday resorts all around the island and special tour flights from the capital. It was very misty but we could see the glow, then suddenly a huge deafening explosion and Anne hid behind me. We knew we were at a volcano now. It was eerie in the mist. There were a number of other explosions, some followed by molten lava being fired high up in the air above the mist. We stayed till darkness and went back driving along the dirt tracks in the dark. In the headlights we could see steam coming out of the road surface and were told that the steam was very very hot.
Our driver dropped us at the village 'restaurant', a traditional hut, with hurricane lamp, candles and solar powered garden lights for lighting. The meal was traditional and tasty compared with similar meals we had had on other islands, chicken curry (mild and very boney), sweet potato, rice, salad etc.
We eventually got back to the boat after a spooky walk in the dark from the 'restaurant' to the dinghies. What a day we had had!
Thursday morning was drizzly and wet most of the day. I went to the village to see Johnson who had promised to write me a letter for quarantine officers in Port Vila. It read:
Hellow! more goodmorning long you fala. Me elseem replacement of coommendor of the Port Resolution Nipikinamu Yacht Club. Me wanten makem you save about clearance blong friend blong me long yacht Equinox me been maken was blong me. Me taken hem I go long Lenkel but all wan tock blong youmi oli no been stap long office. So me makem note ia blong you save makem clearance blong hem pteo ockey.
sign Johnson Ronnie, P.R. N. Yacht Club.
In the afternoon we dinghied over to the other side of the bay where we could see steam. Went ashore and found a bath sized pool surging away and bubbling boiling fresh water up from the ground. It warmed the sea around it. We climbed up the cliff on a rickety, "sticks tied with vines", ladder to the top and found more steam emitting from the ground. Further along the bay on the black-sanded beach was another fresh water bubbling pool, basin sized in which the locals boil vegetables. The locals asked for stuff, t-shirts, batteries, etc to view the springs. Money is not much use to them since there is nothing much to buy. Finn took off his t-shirt and gave it over
In the evening we went to a Kava ceremony. Our women sat with the village women, since only men are allowed. They did bring out some Kava for our women to try but they had to move away from the local women to drink it. It was completely dark with the only light from our torches and hurricane lamps from inside the huts. We could see fireflies up in the trees flying about like points of light. Johnson told us he had had a Kava ceremony that afternoon to stop the rain for our visit that night. And it worked! Johnson told us he is the only person in the village who has these powers.
The men moved to a small clearing in the jungle where a fire was lit but with only glowing embers. We sat on a board. There were other men around us but we could not see them, only hear them coughing and spitting now and again. In Tanna, Kava ceremonies are silent, so we had to whisper to each other. We had bought the Kava root, a stringy root as if from a bush, the previous day. That day the unmarried boys had chewed it all and spat it out to form a khaki stringy substance. About a tennis ball sized lump is put in a cloth and water poured over it, as it is kneaded with the ceremonial stick a dirty looking khaki 'juice' seeps through. We were presented with it and drank. First the taste is a cross between wet mud and dishwater with a strange tingling in the mouth. Later your lips and tongue go numb, just a mild form of the dentists anaesthetic. The men take Kava frequently and last night one guy had taken so much he had to be carried back to his home. The women do not take Kava because they are told that the children will die if they did.
We could hear from another part of the jungle chanting and singing. This was the 'Cargo Cult' practising for their ceremony tomorrow. The 'Cargo Cult' is a religion practised here alongside Christianity. It started in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War. The Americans arrived, built a runway and then from the sky came these machines from God bringing cargo. Ever since the cult has built their own 'runways' which they worship and wait for the cargo to arrive. The local branch has their runway near the volcano and will sing and chant from dusk to dawn waiting for their cargo.
All evening every now and again we could hear the explosions from the volcano. It was a most bizarre night.
End of Gordon's bit now Anne again.
Friday 25th September Tanna to Port Vila
We awoke early to find the boat covered in a layer of black volcanic ash, obviously as a result of last night's 'booming'. Strangely enough my current book is Robert Harris's "Pompeii", perhaps not the best reading in the situation. The feeling of malicious power that emanates from this volcano makes one feel very small indeed.
As we prepared to leave "Drimea" and "Mikado" came in to the bay, making it possible to say our final goodbyes to some of our boat family. We now go our separate ways. Gordon and I to continue our circumnavigation and the others either home to Australia or to hole up for the cyclone season and continue their journey next year. (Well met, good fellows. Here's to reunion someday in the future.)
We left Port Resolution at 12.45 with twin headsails out and 11 knots SE wind.
Saturday 26th September, Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu.
Arrived in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu (previously called the New Hebrides before independence) to find a very modern marina with restaurants and bars stretched along the front. Tied up stern-to at 1400 hrs after journey of 25hrs 25min.
Later that afternoon our friend Murray Carmichael (P.E. Yacht Club) joined us once again. He had last sailed with the boat from Spain to Portugal when I had to return home last year. I asked him if it would be ok if I abandoned ship again to fly to Oz, since I really want to see more of it than sailing will allow. Good fellow he is, he agreed, so I will book a flight to Brisbane and travel from there to Cairns to rejoin the boat.
On Sunday we tried to rid the boat of its coat of ash, but it is in every fold, nook and cranny so could take some time.
Murray had lugged a reconditioned chart plotter all the way from the UK, which we were reassured would fulfil all the functions of our old one but on installation it became apparent this was not the case. Gordon cheesed off!
Town here is a mixture of some very modern shops, offices and banks, lovely green parks and traditional market places. There is no housing within the town.
As we sat having lunch on Monday, next to the market place, a face popped up over the harbour wall shouting "Hello!", it was Bertil from "Blues". They were anchored off awaiting customs clearance so could not come ashore. As we spoke I could see the officials boarding his boat so Bertil had to beat a hasty retreat, thinking up excuses as he went. We all met up later for sundowners once they came into the marina. We booked as island tour for tomorrow.
Tuesday 29th September, Island tour, Efate.
The minibus picked us up at 08.15. We had a French speaking driver and an English speaking guide who of course could only speak to each other in Bislama.
Our first stop was a "custom" village where a 16-year-old boy, the chief's son, greeted us in full (i.e. very little) native costume. He led us through a wooded path to where the cooking houses were. Inside were rough shelves housing pots and pans and an open fire on the ground. Each extended family has its own kitchen hut. Living houses are separate. He showed us how they trapped food including cats, dogs, chickens, prawns and pigs. Yes they do eat wild cats and dogs. We were treated to a display of dancing by the village men, women and children, a kind of foot stamping dance more akin to African dancing. The children then took our hands to lead us in dancing round in a circle with everyone else. During this the men chant and play drums. Quite energetic.
We moved on to a village where we were taken for a short run in a canoe, then to a beach restaurant for lunch via a spider stop to see huge hairy beasts. Then on to a great snorkelling beach where the livestock in the "showers" was an education in itself! Apparently the TV show "Survivors" was also filmed here at one time.
The coastal road was well maintained but there were very few villages, mostly large coconut plantations. We were dropped off at 4.30 pm at the marina and had drinks with "Blues".
Wednesday 30th September and Gordon continued trying to get the chart plotter to work, but no joy. He Skyped "BlueV" for advice.
I was chatting to the boat next to us when they told us a massive tsunami had hit Samoa early this morning. I couldn't believe it. All our lovely Samoan friends in such danger. The effects were also felt in Tonga and around Fiji. Heard from "Mikado" that they fled Tanna when the tide went 'strange'. We felt no effects at all.
Tsunami and Earthquakes. Our reaction to the devastating tsunami in Samoa.
We left there three weeks before the wave hit and whilst there you may remember us writing about the wonderful family we met. (The father worked in R.L. Stephenson's house.) There were many children and elderly people in the extended group and they lived right on the beach in open sided homes. They ranged in age from a three month baby called "Good Friday" to elderly grandparents of almost 90 years. There is no question that their village is gone, but as yet we cannot find out if they made it to high ground. Watching television coverage was difficult since the faces of the people looked so familiar, but so different without the smiles. We will keep trying to find out more. While I was in Brisbane, a week later, I heard of two further sea quakes each more than 7.5 on the Richter scale just 150 miles off Vanuatu, where we had just left a few days earlier. Fortunately the effects on those islands were small and Gordon and Murray were unaware of anything untoward at sea.
We have been extremely lucky so far and hope when we get to Indonesia they will have made good progress towards recovery from their terrible earthquake damage. We really thought our greatest danger on the trip would be from piracy but it looks as if nature has other ideas.
The Samoans have had a mass burial for the dead and have declared that they will not rebuild the villages by the sea. Instead they are going back to the hills which is where they lived before the missionaries persuaded them to move to the shore for better trade.
I think we were one of the last visitors to see that Samoa. It will become very different, since the only good road circled the island was at sea level, with all the villages stretched along it. Very few people lived inland. They are very resilient people however and have a strong faith which will see them through.
From Thursday 1st October, and for the next three days, I provisioned and cooked for the boys 10-day sail to Cairns. I got out the old vacuum packer again. What a great tool that has been on this journey. Gordon fitted the new chart plotter even though it could not be used to its full advantage, but it will do till Cairns. By Saturday 3rd October all was ready. I went with Equinox to refuel and then came off the boat. My dear friends from "Mikado" took me in until my flight time and we had an emotional parting.
Gordon's account of the Vanuatu to Cairns crossing.
We left Port Vila, Vanuatu on 3rd October at 1100 hrs to a brisk 15/20 knot East wind so had twin headsails up poled out. Wind continued until Sunday afternoon when the wind turned right round to West for a while then back to a light East wind by dark. The sea was calm and in the early hours of Monday morning I fell down the saloon steps. All six steps. Murray awoke with the noise to find me lying on the floor with my legs up the stair. I was rather shaken, but all my limbs seem to work. Luckily I had not hit my head. I was thinking Murray is a doctor so I'll be ok. I had a very sore back and thigh. Murray took over my watch while I rested. Murray was thinking to himself "Which port could I divert to where there is a hospital?" Later I got up for my watch. It was very sore when I moved but luckily nothing broken. I was to get much better as the passage progressed and was almost back to normal as we came into Cairns. But it makes you think. What if it had been more serious? Concussion, broken limbs or ribs, it made me stop and think. I now go up and down the steps more carefully.
By Thursday 9th October the wind had died and we had to motor much more now. Then the next day disaster, the electric autopilot stopped working. Luckily we had a bit more wind so set up the Hydrovane wind steering system. This works well when there is wind but follows the wind. With the reefs coming up we cannot afford to be off course so have to monitor the course all the time. Meantime I contacted the Raymarine agent in Cairns, on the satellite phone, and he had the necessary spare part in stock.
On Saturday 10th a brown booby landed on the outboard engine. We took photos and oohed and aahed at it. We had one land on the boat before between Panama and Galapagos and found by the next morning that they are not toilet trained. In fact I would go so far as to say that they are guano factories, producing what appears to be their own weight every day. So out with the boat hook to push Mr Booby off. No he wasn't having it and pecked at the pole end. Eventually he fell in the water. Five minutes later he was back, pushed off again. Five minutes later back but this time on life raft, pushed at him again. But this time he stood on the pole. I tried to rotate the boat hook but he did his lumberjack log-rolling trick, he must have been world champion! Eventually he fell off. He came back a further three times before leaving us but I could see in his eyes he was thinking, "I'll be back."
In the dark early hours of Sunday morning I was on watch and Murray asleep. We were 500 miles from the nearest land then suddenly without any warning a clammy hand grabbed my shoulder. What a fright I got. Who was this? Then a bunch of feathers. It was the brown booby back with a vengeance. I got a mouthful of salty feathers but after a bit of a struggle I ushered the bird off my shoulder and on to the deck. I reached for the boat hook and pushed him off one final time. Later that night a white speckled booby tried to land on the boat. He's sending his friends now.
On Sunday night three brown boobies circled the boat for about an hour. It was very creepy we were waiting for the onslaught. But they flew off and that was the last we saw of them.
On the morning of Monday 12th October we gybed accidentally and bent a stanchion. We took down the main and reverted back to twin headsails for an easier time. We arrived in Cairns at 2150, very tired after a lot of hand steering, and anchored in the river entrance opposite the marina. Distance travelled was 1294 nm, max speed was 10.0 knots, maximum wind speed 32.6 knots.
On Tuesday morning contacted customs, quarantine and the marina. We moved to the marina and were cleared by customs and quarantine by 0930am. Anne arrived at 1030.
Anne's story in Brisbane.
After a pleasant 3-hour flight I landed in Brisbane at 11pm local time. A short taxi run took me to a small motel where I had booked for one night. Very comfy if quirky little place run by a lady who appeared in pyjamas and hair curlers to book me in.
Next morning (Sunday) I phoned around and found a self-catering apartment very close to Central Brisbane, in fact only 10 minutes walk from Queen's Mall. The facilities in the apartment were excellent, including the all-important BATH! Also washing machine and dryer, so just because I could I laundered one or two items as I used them, luxury.
On the drive to the apartment I asked the driver what some particular trees were called. They were laden with the most piercing lavender/violet coloured blossom. They were the famous Jacaranda and they dressed the city and surrounding hills in a lacy brilliant veil of blue. They had just blossomed and would apparently drop the blossom in 2-3 weeks, so I was thrilled to see them in all their finery.
I spent the next five days enjoying the delights of this busy vibrant and very cosmopolitan city. It seems though I may have lost the shopping gene. Having found myself in the midst of retail heaven in Queen's Mall, I didn't know what to buy. The problem was the amount of choice and so many people rushing about looking purposeful. Rather overwhelming after so much third world. So all my plans of Christmas shopping and replacing boat stuff evaporated. Instead I spent hours each day just wandering, viewing galleries and strolling across the new footbridge which opened while I was there. It spans the river to the South Bank where all the museums and theatres are. A scenic walkway along the river leads to an old bridge re-crossing to the centre of town. The new bridge has been likened to "a heap of knitting needles" but is really quite magnificent.
Another lovely pastime was riding the river cats. These are passenger catamarans that coast up and down the river and I loved taking them at night when the city lights sparkled.
The people are so friendly and open and the expression "no worries" is used constantly. And they mean it. Nothing seems to be a problem.
There was a lot of TV coverage of the Samoan and Indonesian tragedies. Of course in this hemisphere it is local news. Massive aid was being sent from Oz.
After my five-day stay I flew to Cairns, another two and a half hour flight. The scale of this country is massive. I had booked another self-catering hotel apartment overlooking the bay where Gordon and Murray would sail into in a few days.
This town has a very holiday feel to it with many hotels and restaurants stretching along"The Esplanade". On my second day there, while sitting in an outdoor café, a lady asked me to join her group and after a lovely evening with her, her family on their apartment balcony, they invited me to go with them to "Yorky's Knob" Boat Club for lunch on Sunday. With a name like that I couldn't say no. So on the day they picked me up and we drove out of town, almost immediately into "the bush" and up to the hills. On the other side was a stunning wee marina the aforesaid "Yorky's Knob". Yorky was a bloke and**** is a hill. The club facilities were fabulous with restaurants, games rooms, live bands, and outdoor decking to sit and watch the boats. A wee bit different from Port Edgar.
I also saw my first aboriginal people here, wandering barefoot in single file through the town, usually on the grass strips in the middle of the road. It was as if they didn't see the tarmac or concrete. Anywhere in the city where trees had been left or planted an aboriginal family would be found sitting under its shade. They seemed so dispossessed and were certainly not a part of what was going on around them. I think this is where Australia lets itself down. Yes they are smelly, but their settlements frequently have no water or facilities to be clean. Yes there are huge alcohol problems, but no help to get them dry. They are dependant on government handouts and seem hopeless. Very sad.
After five lovely days of exploring and getting to know the town I got a call from Gordon to say they would be arriving at the anchorage in Cairns on the night of Monday 12th October. I was actually able to watch the boat make its way down the marked channel into the bay from my hotel balcony. I couldn't go aboard till the following day since they hadn't cleared customs, but next morning after checking out, I made my way to Marlin Marina and we were re-united on Tuesday 13th October. Which happened to be our 36th Wedding Anniversary but we both completely forgot all about it.
Equinox in Oz.
Customs and Quarantine had come on board at 08.15 and carted off all non-Australian and non-NZ milk and dairy produce, rice, seeds etc. We had expected this and they were very thorough.
Murray and Gordon looked very well and reported a good trip. However the autopilot had packed in and a stanchion was bent in an accidental gybe. The chart plotter was of course still acting up, so Gordon contacted the local Raymarine agent.
Apparently customs were very flattering about the cleanliness of the boat, so well done boys.
On Wednesday 14th October Murray left at 10.30 am to continue his journey around Australia visiting family and friends. Gordon and I began the big boat clean up which is necessary after any long voyage. List of jobs and replacements done to boat: new boat hook, replacement water jerry can, movement alarms, tap connections for hose, new stanchion, engine service, new 'D' shackles on jenny, service anchor remote unit, align Hydrovane, order new Hydrovane cover, new set of auxiliary batteries fitted and finally try and put boat back together before the arrival of Sue Wilson (Port Edgar) who is joining us here for the journey to Darwin.
On Friday 16th October Sue arrived at 18.45 from Sydney where she had been visiting a friend. We ate in one of the many excellent restaurants that form part of the marina facility.
Next day Sue and I went off shopping in town while Gordon met Raymarine's chap re chart plotter and autopilot.
We have decided to call in on Lizard Island and Escape River only on the trip to Darwin since time is quite tight. The first part of the voyage will be entirely within the Great Barrier Reef, so some interesting navigation and pilotage required. We did huge shop for 10 days at sea, I cooked and vacuum packed and we had an early night in preparation for tomorrow's departure.
Cairns to Darwin
We departed Marlin Marina at 10.30 am on Monday 19th October, after refuelling and made our way along the well marked channel out to the lagoon. There was a fair old chop on the water leading to quite rocky conditions but ok. At 20.30 hrs a huge brown dolphin leapt right over the bow of the boat. All night we saw the flames and glow from numerous bush fires around the coast and the smell of burning was very strong. They really need some rain here.
On Tuesday 20th October arrived at Watson Bay, Lizard Island. It had been a very windy rough night with wind speeds of up to 40.9 knots, so we were glad to anchor. It took three attempts to get it right in the high winds of 30 - 35 knots and a very crowded anchorage. Everyone seemed to be sheltering from the weather. We couldn't launch the dinghy due to the bad conditions, so did not actually get onto land. However it was good to rest up.
The next morning we upped anchor and headed for Escape River a distance of 268 nm so approximately two nights travel.
The entire journey was uncomfortable due to steep short wave movement, but good winds meant we had to slow down to arrive in daylight at our anchorage.
On Friday 23rd October at 08.00 hrs arrived at Escape River. Only one other boat, a catamaran, was anchored, but he shouted over that he had to move since the anchorage was now all used for pearl farming. We could see the houses and outbuildings of the farm through the trees, but apart from that no other buildings, this was real wilderness.
We moved up towards the creek and anchored at the river mouth. Shortly afterwards a chap came out in a small motor boat to advise us that "the crocs here are very real" and he said there was a nine footer around. He seemed amused when we asked about putting the dinghy in the water, saying "it's up to you mate". I took that to mean we shouldn't so once again we were boat bound.
On Saturday 24th October we left Escape River without having sighted any crocodiles and made our way towards the bay exit. The chart was pretty basic and in avoiding the pearl buoys we managed to glance the keel off some coral. No damage thank goodness, but another heart stopping moment.
We sailed through Albany Passage, a narrow way between islands and bays, many covered in giant red angular shaped anthills. We came through Endeavour Strait to our long leg across the Gulf of Carpentaria of 323nm to the next waypoint. Saw a large turtle floating by with its neck craned to have a good look at us.
We can smell more bush fires and the sun disappeared behind huge banks of smoke which has also blotted out our view of land. Phoned our son, Chris, on satellite phone to wish him happy birthday.
On Sunday 25th we discovered a stowaway! Gordon discovered a small gecko in the head. After much debate have decided to call it "Gertie". Quite an active wildlife day; dolphins, Gertie, a turtle, and many jumping fish. However none of the latter seem to be attracted to our lures! The wind has died completely, so sails in and engine on at 1650 hrs.
Monday still no wind, seas flat calm now. The up side is that Sue and I are being "creative" in the galley.
Gertie escaped from the head and was found in the saloon, so we caught her and made a little home with Tupperware and mosquito netting, but she looks really miserable in there.
Tuesday and still no wind. Seas now silky smooth with only a gentle swell. Another busy day on board, bread making, blogging, Sue doing sextant work for "Ocean Master", cooking, cleaning and chatting. Usual boat life. It's incredibly hot and we have to drink loads of water. No clouds at all. Strange brown scum on water, plankton? Or dust from fires? Since we are motoring so much we have to syphon diesel from the nine deck mounted jerry cans into the main tank, very messy and smelly. Most evenings the wind seems to pipe up for about four hours or so then die in the early hours of the morning.
On Thursday 29th October we went to check on the stowaway's progress but alas Gertie's a goner. She popped her clogs sometime during the night. With all due ceremony she was tipped into the sea.
We arrived at Darwin at 0841 on Friday 30th October after a passage of 731 nm with maximum speed of 9.42 knots and maximum wind speed of 34.4 knots but alas total engine hours was 107.4hrs. The first people to greet us was the Fisheries Protection boat. They had to send a diver down to check for striped mussel. At the same time I asked them to check the keel after the coral reef collision and all looked ok, just a bit of paint scrapped off. We then had to go to an anchorage overnight while all the boat sea inlets were chemically treated to eradicate any contamination. So blew up the dinghy and went into Darwin.
The next day we moved to a marina via a lock (all marinas here have locks to enter), but it has poor facilities. Sue left us for the airport early on Sunday morning. It was really good having Sue onboard she proved an excellent crewmember and great fun to have around.
Now we are awaiting my cousin Frances to visit for a few days.