We left Thursday Island on Thursday-how appropriate-with 20 knots of wind that gave us lovely sailing conditions. There are four other cruisers in the area who are also headed to Darwin so we were part of a radio net every morning and evening to keep track of everyone. We headed out to the Prince of Wales channel and sailed due west.
The conditions remained good for the first two days. The seas were small and the wind was between 18 and 22 knots, and we were quite content. On the third day the conditions began to get worse with the wind and seas picking up. We put a third reef in the mainsail and kept the jib all the way out. By that evening, the wind had picked up to between 25 and 30 knots so we reefed down the jib to keep our speed down. We found ourselves sailing in large, steep seas once again and getting wet all over again.
The fourth day and evening got a little better. It was another very wet ride with waves breaking over the side. One wave hit the aft part of our dodger and knocked a support pole out of its bracket. Steve was able to fix it pretty quickly. I was sitting in the cockpit on watch around 2 a.m. when a large wave broke and the water came pouring through our enclosure and drenched me and the cockpit. I heard it coming but was unable to do much except sit there and brace myself. Steve was not able to sleep at all, and even I had some trouble. The only good news was that the wind generator kept our batteries completely topped off-that is a lot of wind power.
Our fifth day out was better because the wind backed off to around 18 knots and the seas began to settle down. They were still a bit confused; however, the whole situation was much more manageable. Every boat out there with us was experiencing the same conditions, and no one was very happy.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at Cape Don, which would begin our course through a narrow channel that we took because it would reduce the trip by 80 miles. The drawback was that the tides ebb and flood at a pretty good speed so you have to time your passage through to use the tides in your favor.
We had been sailing the whole time, but now the winds had died down to the point that we started our motor. About 30 minutes later the wind picked back up so we turned off the motor and tried to sail again. We didn't have quite enough wind to do well, so we decided to start the motor again. When Steve pushed the button-nothing! He tried three more times before the starter engaged and started the engine. Another boat project to take care of!!!
Well, we worked our way through the channel with no problems. The wind picked up again, but we agreed that we didn't want to turn the engine off and not be able to start it when we got to the anchorage at Darwin since there were about 100 boats anchored there. We continued to motor, and we arrived at the anchorage around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6. We dropped our anchor and let the boat settle in. It was good to be somewhere where we could stay put for awhile and catch our breath.
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