We got quite excited now as Darwin was our next big destination…. the last part of civilisation before we -hopefully- reach the Kimberleys.
When in Darwin our boat Never Land will have brought us safely 1840 nm = 3407 km away from home, so her maintenance and lots of TLC was on top of our priority list for Darwin.
Our way lead us along the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory : Pobasso Island, Entrance Island, Elcho Island, Maningrida, The Goulbourne Islands and Malay Bay are just a couple of our anchorages. Mostly the ocean gave us several hours a day when we had to deal against wind and waves, they were not in our favor. But sometimes the ocean was calm and shiny like a lake, with sea snakes drifting on the surface and nearly every day we had a pod of dolphins accompanying us.
Lesson learnt !
Choosing an overnight anchorage is a science itself with winds shifting 180 degrees overnight : we preferred to have a rolly start but calm after midnight….and again : we were not always lucky 😉
We also experienced the first time ever that our anchor started drifting in the early morning hours. And having dropped the hook far outside and away from any rocks we suddenly found Never Land’s bow 2m away from rocks one morning around 2 am. To top this we did not have much navigable water around us. With the engines switched on we tried to stay in place and at the same time get the anchor off. We had no space to drive Never Land closer to her anchor or even get over it. As a result we had to pull the long stretched chain by hand to avoid ruining the anchor winch. Around 4 am we were free and very slowly looked for a way backwards into deeper = safer water. (We learnt our lesson about an anchor alarm …)
An hour later we anchored one island further and awaited the sunrise and the tide to change. We also needed to calm down, as you can imagine !
Around Maningrida we had the chance to have some (unstable) internet connection, so we wrote to four marinas in Darwin. From the people we had spoken to about marinas in Darwin everyone has had his own favorite one, but we wanted to make up our own mind.
The most friendly and detailed answer we got was from the Cullen Bay Marina, they even asked, if we ever have been in a lock and immediately said we should just come and tie up to a fuel dock outside. Then someone will show us the whole process from land…what a nice offer ! The only thing we have heard about locks ( in Darwin) were that because of the huge tide levels there will be a big descent or ascent, and this most probably will cause water turbulences inside the lock. Because of the height different you’ll „work the ropes“, which means that your boat is not tied to anything during that process, but the crew = Ingo and me has to keep the ropes in hands and adjust our boat’s position in height with that.
Never seen or done something like this before it sounded complicate and „dangerous“ to us, so we were very grateful for the offer to first watch another boat going in or out. With that said, the decision was made to stay in the Cullen Bay Marina.
The last 38nm to Darwin were a devil’s ride through heavy seas. In this area and due to the high tide level differences there’s always a whirlpool within that huge area and we didn’t have a good timing…. We knew when will go back we must learn to do it better !
Anyhow we came closer and closer and anchored the first night in front of the well known Sailing Club in Fanny Bay. That gave us first of all the time to get our boat cleared by quarantine inspection (a must as we came from the Torres Straits) and we were thinking of dinghying to the beach and having a stunning sunset over the open ocean together with a served meal – luxury !
Our Never Land was cleared all good within an instance, dinghy in the water, finding a way through the many anchored boats and there we were !
Coming into the sailing club we had to stand in a very long row waiting to order some drinks. Having survived that we found ourselves a small bistro table just in front of the beach. What a sunset – magic !
So many people around, a mixture of boaties and business people having an after-work-drink, the loud noises of talking, laughing, a bit of yelling were just too much for us, we won’t have dinner there…. so with the sun just below the horizon we headed back to Never Land and thought we must get used again to so many people and noises. With a bit of fear we were thinking about our days to come in a real CITY…..