The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sun 26 Jul 2015 22:48



10:19S   140:35E


So far we've done 425 miles with 615 miles to go. We did 165 miles in the last 24 hours.  We’ve got 60% cloud cover, with 18-22 knot SE winds and the odd shower around.  We’re on a nice fast broad reach, wing-on-wing with 1-2 metre seas.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


26 July 2015  Papua New Guinea to Indonesia (Day 3)

At daybreak, we still had 25-30 knots of wind, but it had veered by 20 degrees.  In addition, the shipping channel forced us onto a course of 210 degrees - putting us fairly hard on the wind.  We needed to charge the batteries, so we turned the engine on and motor-sailed for four hours - reefing the sails and making the motion more comfortable.


By midday, the shipping lane had turned more westerly, allowing us to ease the sheets onto a broad reach.  As we progressed through the Straits, the wave height decreased and the sailing was lovely.  The sea is very shallow, mostly around 20 metres, so with the blue skies, the water was a pleasant blue colour.


It was our 35th wedding anniversary today, but we didn't do anything special - just enjoyed the sailing.


In the late afternoon, we entered the Prince of Wales channel, which skirts a cluster of eight islands including Thursday Island - the most northern port of Australia.  We sailed within 250 metres of Hammond Island, going inshore of the light on Hammond Rock.  It's very strange to be passing so close to Australia and not stopping - if only their clearance procedures weren't so onerous.


Despite my earlier concerns about the currents through the Torres Straits, we experienced very little at the eastern and central parts and picked up a favourable 1.5 knot current in the Prince of Wales Channel.  I'm not sure whether this is normal or we were just lucky.


Similarly, the shipping wasn't a major problem.  By sunset, we'd passed only three ships, but after dark, there was a gaggle of them coming into the western end.  They caused us to alter course a few times and, at one point, scurry across the shipping lane between the traffic.


We left the shipping lanes of the Straits at 2100, but still had another 25 miles before we were clear of patches of shallow reef.  We were then able to set a course of 285 degrees, heading on a broad reach for Indonesia.  The moon was out until two o'clock in the morning, the seas were less than a metre, the wind was 15-20 knots and we had a lovely night.  I really enjoyed sailing through the Torres Straits.