Wednesday, 26 October 2016

27th October 2016 - Rossell Island (PNG) to Willis Island to Townsville

Thursday 27th October 2016

Notice at the gate to our pontoon in the marina
Another brilliantly sunny blue-sky Townsville day.  Michael and I spend a lot of our time, while walking to and from the gate, gazing into the water waiting for The Crocodile to appear.  There is one, apparently, lurking around this area.

Michael scouting for croc
My next task (well really an avoidance tactic…still haven’t purified the bathroom and master bedroom…tomorrow is another day) is to describe the passage from Rossell Island to Townsville.  No I wouldn’t rather scour the walls, but I am not thrilled with the job in hand.  Just thinking about it makes me feel all crazed and stressed.  I suppose this indicates that I didn’t really enjoy it.  One of the days was lovely, with normal rolling waves, a fair wind, easy sailing.  All of the other days and nights were difficult.

The sea was big, three metres at least, and we had strong wind, 25-30 knots.  Both sails were up, but at times we needed to reef them in.  “At times” usually meant in the middle of the night, when I feel even less coherent than normal, at sea.  Pete was fine.  Not sure if he was enjoying the passage, particularly, and I know he felt a big weight of responsibility for his passengers.  But he does love sailing, and doesn’t go batty while at sea.  Michael, I know, didn’t enjoy the passage.  He told me so when we stopped… But he was a true hero; didn’t make a fuss, just endured it all very quietly.  He was ready willing and able to all times to help winding winches, reefing sails, doing whatever needed to be done.

We had a three hour roster:

Three hours on the helm
Three hours in bed
Three hours on the couch, snoozing but being back-up for the person on the helm.

Michael was my back-up couch person.  All through the night watches he would lie in his couch-nest, aware of everything going on out in the cockpit.  Every half hour or so he would come up to ask if I was OK, if I needed anything.  This made me very happy.

Leaving Rossell Island
The trip reminded me very much of being in labour.  The good thing about being in labour is getting a baby at the end.  The good thing about doing a long passage in rough sea is that eventually it STOPS.

We went very quickly, often over 10 knots, which was a blessing, and in the early morning we had a half-moon behind us.

Willis Island at last
After two nights and three days we reached Willis Island, where we could STOP.  Bliss!  I scampered around, cooking and being human instead of being a zombie.  Willis Island is a meteorological station, in Australian waters.  It is also a nature reserve, with nesting turtles and many birds.  The birds were very interested and came to sit on the boat, so lovely.  We were intending to leave at 5am but…the engines wouldn’t start.  Time to get the little Honda generator out to kick start the batteries...  And oh damn and blast…Pete pulled the starter cord and it broke.  Miserable moment…I was relatively compos mentis at the stage and I managed to suggest talking to the Willis Island MetMen on the radio – maybe they had spare batteries they could lend us.  Indeed they did, but they needed to be charged up.  (The batteries, not the men…)   So we sat in the cockpit and ate our last eggs and communed with the birds.  And then Pete performed a minor miracle – brrm brrrm!  We were off and away.

Thank God…Willis Island is beautiful but…there isn’t water, there isn’t a ship.  We had 40 litres of water left…no more coffee, very little food, just some yams and pumpkins, and the odd can of baked beans, and some pasta.  Beer supplies in particular were critically low.  Nobody is allowed to set food on the island, and it is also forbidden to swim or to fish.  Last time we were there they told us we wouldn’t like to swim there anyway; the sea around the reef is heaving with very big tiger sharks and bull sharks…

I am very grateful we were able to leave the island with motors and sails putting in their best effort.  It is a very long way to the mainland from there and I don’t know how we would have got home – maybe the coastguard would have had to come and rescue us??  An ignominious end to the trip…As it turned out, we were able to power into the marina with dignity intact.  Never mind that the boat broke down in the fuel wharf and that we couldn’t move under our own steam after Customs and Quarantine had left.  We managed to limp into a makeshift berth, with a bit of a push from the marina tender and a bit of a pull from a kindly man on the pontoon.  And here we sit… The sailmaker has come to take the raggedy sails away; the Honda generator is in the Rising Sun workshop; a team of mechanics and engineers might or might not come and fix the engines.

And I am so happy – we made it!


  1. I am so happy you made it too.
    Looking forward to story in blog.

  2. I am so happy you made it too.
    Looking forward to story in blog.

  3. Utterly incredible, inspirational! You could be interviewed on "I don't know how she does it"