Heading West - Day 4 - 10 45.659S 132 32.595E

Mike and Liz Downing
Thu 22 Aug 2013 06:38
Another lovely sunset last night and a red glow filled the sky to the west. But, at the same time, this great big orange glow appeared in the east. The moon was actually up before the sun went down and stayed up until the sunrise this morning. With not a cloud in the sky it was 24 hours of light. Can't get much better than that out on the ocean! The winds were light and we ghosted along at between 3 and 5kts most of the night, with very little sea, and what there was, was right behind. The winds have picked up a little this morning and we've been making 5 to 6kts most of the time. Overall noon to noon passage was 132 miles.
With the lighter winds we've missed the tidal gate to get into the Van Dieman Gulf, the shortcut to Darwin. Being at the height of springs the entry into the Gulf and exit from it have to be times to coincide with favourable tides. Having missed the time, we could either anchor somewhere (at around 22.00 and wait until 04.00) or sail on around Melville Island and approach Darwin from the west (an extra 60 or so miles). Having discussed the options with Jacaranda, who has continued to wander around us within a 10 mile or so radius, the decision is to continue, which is probably the easiest option at springs. It does mean we may have to beat the last 60 miles, but the winds are light so we hope that won't be too bumpy! In continuing on round, we will pass from the Arafura Sea into the Timor Sea.
At first light a pod of a dozen dolphins arrived and spent half an hour playing in the bow wave. They looked like young common dolphins, all very small and their colours were quite dull, but to see so many without any adults, we're not too sure. Will have to consult the books (just in case we've discovered a new species!). The friendly Australian Maritime Patrol aircraft flew overhead this morning and we passed across our details once more. Not long before that we spotted a ship on AIS, on a reciprocal course, so called it up to agree to pass port to port. It was 195ft long, so not big, but not something you want to argue with. As it turned out, it was a Customs patrol ship, so while agreeing how we would pass, they also took all our details down. The waters here must be some of the most patrolled in the World - aircraft, Customs ships, navy ships, the lot! When the Customs ship passed, it looked like something out of James Bond - big, but very sleek - a stealth patrol boat if there is such a thing!