We launched Spirit after an intensive refit in the Whitsundays on the 26th of June 2015. After six months of hard hot work we had turned the boat into our perfect cruising machine. we'd made the interior larger and created a cockpit that could hold more than two people at once and where you actually had a place to sit comfortably. It was a great time hard work but well worth it even after a week of sailing around the <whitsundays as our shakedown sail.
For some months we had been debating what to do once we were in the water. Our cruising permit was running out in October and we only had three months to get to wherever it was we were going to depart from. We looked at sailing to the solomons and up to png but couldn't really find a suitable place to be able to leave Spirit in December if work commitments panned out. For some reason there was a still an itch from when I was a kid and used to read my old mans multihull magazines and the amazing stories and photos that would always accompany the race article about Darwin to Ambon yacht race.
My partner Claudia and I looked it up and found that this year they decided to postpone the race until September the 5th, super this fitted in with our timeline and allowed us a good amount of time to sail from Airlie Beach to Darwin. It also allowed for us to have an easy entry into Indonesia to as the race organizers very helpfully do most of the hard yards and organising for you. The race fee is also very modest and they welcome all kinds of sailing craft, which we love.
The winter months were starting to show in the Whitsundays with nightly temperatures down below 10! it was with much haste that we departed Airlie Beach bound for the north. We made fast time to Magnetic Island where we caught up with our good mate Wazza onboard Barefoot, his awesome green machine. From here we decided to take the inland route up inside of Hitchenbrook Island, something we hadn't done before but highly recommend to anyone with the time and draft. It was a quick trip from Dunk Island to Cairns where we provisioned and stocked up for the longer passages to Siesa.
It was a standard trip north with cold winds blowing the normal 25kts from the south east. There's always days where it blows five more or five less but for the trade wind season it was pretty text book. As we got up to Lizard Island and around Cape Melville and Flattery it pickes up another five knots and the seas got a little steeper. After a beautiful few days in Lizard Island we high tailed it to the Flinders group and then from there Cape Grenville and onto Albany Island. What made the trip really good was the fact we could do all daylight passages from Airlie Beach to the top of Cape York. one of the biggest benifist for us is the ability to do high averages. We truly love to sail and to be able to sail fast in light airs. with the maximum passage distance from Airlie Beach to Albany Island being 110nm all we had to do was average 10kts to make the trips during daylight and when its blowing 20-30kts this is easily and safely maintainable.
There was some lovely stops on the way north and we really feel like we have to get back to this part of the world again when not in such a rush. Australia is so vast and has some many good anchorages and secluded places it takes years of cruising to see the majority of them. Siesa was a good stop and it was a surprisingly nice spot to be stopped for a few days of rest before crossing the Gulf. Theres good provisioning there and there's a lot of things to do like a trip to the top of Cape York should you have the need to get off the boat for a day. The fishing is good and theres some nice spots to anchor in the general area of Cape York. charts are good and the fishing is excellent just watch out for the crocs!
After waiting for the weather we decided to head out and make a run for Darwin direct. We had the options of stopping at the Wessels or Cape Don should the weather turn or we need a rest. As it turned out we had a great run apart from some residual swell that was coming from the southern end of the Gulf where they had strong winds. This is something to watch out for as it can be pretty short and steep even though you have god weather in the north sometimes they can have solid 30s in the south and it funnels up the Gulf.
With the following winds and good time being made we bypassed the Wessels and headed for Cape Don. We were getting into Darwin during the late night so felt that wed stop at Cape Don and leave early in the moring allowing us to enter darwin during the afternoon We did the last 100nm from cape don in twelve hours and it was one of those perfect afternoon sails as we entered darwin with the sun setting to the west in a blood red sky.
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