Sunday, July 13, 2008

Arrival in Darwin

We knew it was a risk. While we slumbered in our peaceful anchorage, Mata'irea silently sneaked passed us. It's a shame that even with ten extra feet of boat speed they still had to resort to such underhand tactics... When it was clear there was no way we could catch them this morning we re-framed the race as Kika against the tide. We'd worked out the complex tidal situation carefully, but it relied on an average of 6.5 knots; only achievable with a favourable wind. We made a good start, but by mid-morning the wind started to die, so we resorted to a little engine assistance. Throughout the day, we made valiant attempts to sail, but "tide and time wait for no one" and as our speed under sail repeatedly fell under 5 knots we admitted defeat and let the engine cover most of the ground for us.

Finally customs made contact with us. Most of the yachts we know have had daily custom's fly-bys from patrol planes, but so far we've been passed over. The other yachts have become blasé about such visits, seeming to treat the enquiries as an annoyance. Not us, we've been excitedly making ourselves presentable as soon as there's a whiff of a plane in the area. Finally, today, we were graced with an official visit. Not by a surveillance plane, but the next best thing - a custom's patrol boat. They even came along side to take a photo. As I write this a doubt has crept into my mind, perhaps their interest in photography wasn't a good sign, none of the other boats have mentioned having their photo taken, could we plastered over the front page tomorrow...

We're finishing off any stores which could be confiscated by quarantine. No rich pickings on Kika; half a yam and that's their lot! I'd saved the last of the Vanuatu pamplemoose for today. It was a large juicy looking specimen. Looks can prove deceptive; it was all skin and no fruit - what a let down.Being on an English boat, Charlotta announced that it was about time we had some traditional "English" cooking - "too much raw fish". She took the matter into her own hands and created what she described as a traditional English breakfast - yam hash browns, fried egg, hotdog sausages and baked beans. I'm afraid it didn't make me long for the white cliffs, but she enjoyed it.After we failed to catch a fish, we had the dilemma of how best to use the remaining three lemons. When we discovered a small Tupperware of sugar and still had three eggs to use, there was no contest - Lemon Pudding Cake. The result wasn't too bad, but handicapped by adding milk mistakenly reconstituted with salt water.

We made it into Darwin around 4am. The tide should have been rising until 4.30 so it should have been with us on the way in, but no, we had half to one knot against us. I know things are done a bit differently "down-under" but I still haven't worked out how it's possible to have a flood tide against you when entering a port. Baffled. While I'm on the subject of befuddlement: entering a large harbour at night is a riot of flashing navigational marks, which slowly emerge from the background lights of town and are duly identified on the chart and their significance noted. Navigational marks come in well defined colours and flash patterns; green starboard lights, red port lights, white flashing cardinal buoys, and yellow special marks. When I saw a flashing blue light I naturally assumed it was marking the entry to the local nightclub, but no, it was in the water, flashing a well defined - one short and one long every five seconds - but still haven't a clue what it indicated and neither has the chart. Bizarre.

Tomorrow we'll do the rounds of quarantine, customs and immigration then hit the town.

Position: Fanny Bay anchorage: S12° 25.9' E130° 48.7'

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