Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Arafura roller coaster

After yesterday's exhilarating trip through the Torres Straight we were looking forward to an easy sail across the calm waters of the Arafura Sea. Unfortunately not, around mid-night a nasty squall hit us with too much canvas up. Charlotta called me up on deck. What a way to wake-up - spray constantly soaking us as we struggled to reef both the sails.

Since then the wind has continued 20-25 knots, with the sea becoming steep and confused. It's as though the waves result from five different wave-trains (copyright Sten on Mata'irea) giving the boat a very erratic motion. Perhaps the wind has an exaggerated effect on the shallow Arafura sea which is only 50-70m deep over most of its area. We were also forced to keep more vigilant watches as there was much shipping around. One ship shadowed us 5 miles to our north all night.

Cooking in these conditions is challenging, with unpredictable lurches causing predictable results. On one of these lurches the contents of a pan ended up on the galley floor, on another I narrowly saved the new contents when the fiddle rails flew off the stove. Still we finished off the mahi-mahi accompanied by (I'm embarrassed to say) some instant mashed potatoes.

Some morale raising dolphins stopped by this morning. It's been a while since we've had a prolonged visit - great to see them again and marvel at their antics around the bow.

The current conditions makes the trip feel like an endurance test rather than the fun sailing we enjoyed in the Coral Sea. Still we're making good progress which should continue to Darwin given the forecast. If only the sea would calm down a little...

Position @ 19.30 (GMT +10): S10deg 46' E139deg 26'
Distance to Van Diemen Gulf: 421
Daily run: 151

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