If only all nights could be like this. The stars are rolled out like a massive, twinkling carpet on an inky black sky. The soft glow of Darwin's lights, about a 100 miles away, are a smudge on the horizon. Everyone is sleeping . I just saw a shooting star. Seriously. What more could I ask for? Dare I even say it... a little more wind?! We are crawling along, or should I say, wallowing, in 8 - 10 knots of wind, at a whopping 4.4 knots boat speed, our arrival in Kupang, Indonesia just extended by another day. It's night #5.
When we left Thursday Island on Tuesday, May 23rd, we put 2 reefs in our mainsail, anticipating the heavy winds that had been forecast. And it was the right decision. The first 2 days and nights had us dealing with 25-30 knot winds, the high wind alarms frequently going off in the night. The seas were also pretty rough, with big swells and choppy waves rolling across the huge Gulf of Carpentaria. I think everyone was a little miserable, and I for one, was seasick for the first time this entire trip! I don't know where that came from!
It took us 2 days to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, and once we were able to tuck in behind the Marchibar islands, things definitely improved a little. On day 3 the wind decreased a little, and while we briefly contemplated shaking out a reef, we were glad we didn't, as by late afternoon and into the nights we had strong winds again. Having the reefs in the mainsail reduces the amount of sail area, so there is less strain on the boat when the wind comes up. It is definitely slower, but we figured slow and steady would be the way to go on this trip, considering the distances we have ahead of us.
We've seen surprisingly little on this trip. When we left, we were buzzed by an Australian Border Force aircraft that radioed us for a check-in. We have a sneaky suspicion this might have been arranged by our friendly Border Force officer that checked us out, who was surprised to hear that we had not yet encountered a fly by check up, a very common occurrence in the northern part of Australia, and particularly in the Torres Strait area. This morning we had another encounter, the plane flying so low over us, we thought he might touch the mast! But he had a look, banked to the right and was soon gone again. We were eagerly standing by the radio, ready to have a chat, but no call came. I guess they knew who we were and where we were going!
We encountered a number of ships the first day and night, the Torres Strait being almost a bottle neck in the shipping lanes as they travel from the East to Australia's many ports, New Zealand and beyond. Thereafter, we saw nothing until this evening, when Dave spotted 2 lights in the distance, presumably fishing boats. Also nothing much in the way of sea life... Dave saw a sea snake or eel type thing, we both saw some tuna jumping in the distance, but no friendly dolphins have come to play.
We've now settled into our passage routine. Every evening before sunset, Dave puts on his life jacket and harness and does a thorough inspection of the boat. I marvel at his patience, as he checks every rope, lifeline, pin and shackle. But it's diligence like this that enables us to catch problems before they become disasters. We sleep when we can, taking turns at the helm, just as we do at night. The kids pitch in too, giving us both just a little bit of extra downtime.
The chartplotter tells me we have 436 miles to go, which means we are more than halfway through this 1,100 mile journey. We should arrive in Kupang on the 31st of May. 3 more nights... may they all be as starry, calm and uneventful as this one has been so far... with maybe just a smudge more wind!
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