Day 52, Year 3: Through The Hole in the Wall (Gugari Rip)
Date: Monday, June 30, 2008
Weather: Another Beautiful Day; Winds SE 15-20
Latitude: 11 degrees 33.408 S
Longitude: 136 degrees 21.273 minutes E
Location: Raragala Island, Northern Territory, Australia

We had a great, fairly calm, and safe passage through The Hole in the Wall late this afternoon. And that was much needed after the excitement we had last night. I’ll get to the “excitement” in a minute, but first I’ll describe our trip through the Gugari Rip. We left Wigram Island at 2 pm and sailed as slowly as we could the seventeen miles across to time our arrival at the opening at 5:15 pm. As we got closer, there were five other boats going our way, but somehow we ended up being volunteered to go through first. We do have the flat screen monitor in the cockpit that allows us to see the electronic charting very clearly, so it is easier for us to lead through narrow passages than boats that do not have this. We also have a powerful and reliable Yanmar engine that can drive us even against an adverse current.

We led, followed by Scot Free, then Oema (Australia), followed by Double Dutch (South Africa), Helen Kate (Norway), and Antares (Netherlands). The pass is only a mile long and less than 200 feet wide and with only a half knot of current against us, we all made it through easily before sundown. In fact, we were all tucked in nicely in an anchorage just south of the western exit in time to watch the sun set. No one has figured out why the recommended times for going through the pass are not correct this week, but they are at least an hour and half off. In two days, we will have a new moon and neap tides, so maybe that is it, but you would think that all of the “expert” formulas would take that into account. But they don’t, and as we have been told over and over, the tides, currents, and tidal streams in this particular part of the world basically do whatever they want. They surely do not follow the patterns with which we are familiar.

Now to the excitement of last night. The background to the story is that when we anchored we knew we were on the edge of acceptable depth, but we had read that the bay had a sand bottom, and even if we touched, we thought it would be no problem. It was high tide when we anchored and we knew low would be coming up sometime around 11 pm. Gerry and Donna on Scot Free II came over for dinner and very shortly after they left, I felt the first “bump.” I was sitting on the main cabin settee and Mark was washing dishes. Somehow he didn’t feel the jolt, so life continued on as if nothing had happened. This was at 9 pm. By 9:15, there were more “bumps” and a few “grinds” on what was definitely rock, not sand, and this got Mark’s attention. We immediately went to the cockpit and checked the depth sounder, but it told us that we still had at least a foot and sometimes six feet under the keel. Regardless, the bumping and grinding continued periodically. Just when we would get hopeful that the problem was over, we would have more bumps and grinds. By this time, I was at the near panic stage, but Mark was convinced that we would be fine. Windbird is tough, but some of the bumps were so hard that the mast would vibrate the entire boat and the sound of rock grinding away at the keel was not a happy sound. We actually had 45 minute periods with no problem, and then it would happen again. Sometime around 12:30 pm things seemed better and we tucked in setting the clock for one hour. We did this until 4:30 in the morning when we could see that the tide had come in and raised the depth level considerably. It was very dark, but we used the light of the stars, Scot Free’s anchor light, and our charting software to guide us behind Scot Free to anchor there in much deeper water. It was 5 am by the time this was done. We got a couple of hours of sleep, but then we were up for the day. All is well that ends well, but I must say we had a very bad, almost sleepless night. We will turn in very early tonight as we are leaving here at 3 am in the morning. But hopefully tonight will be uneventful and we can get six hours of sleep before taking off across the Arafura Sea toward Darwin. We have 200 miles to travel and should arrive after a day, night, and another day of travel. I made chili today and boiled eggs. That way we can eat granola for breakfast, have a boiled egg and pre-cooked bacon with cream cheese on toast for second breakfast, have a tuna salad sandwich for lunch, and then chili for dinner. This keeps passage cooking to a minimum just in case things get rowdy out there. So here’s hoping for a very quiet night and a calm and safe passage.

080630 Day 52 Wigram Island to Hole in the Wall (Gugari Rip)
Day 53, Year 3: Overnight Passage to Malay Bay
Day 51, Year 3: Gove Harbor to Wigram Island