745nm / 5 days 18hrs / avg speed 5.39kn
Leaving Bali on the 25th May we motored out of Serangan Harbour with very little wind to assist us on our way to Dampier. But once clear of the land about 3 hours out a light SE’ly wind puffed in and we were on our way under sail only. By 1530 that day we had put a reef in the main and were averaging a good 5.5kn. By 1600 we had reefed the headsail and our speed picked up to a steady 6.5kn picking up to 7.0kn on occasions. The wind had turned more E’ly but still had a little S in it but we managed to sail on a course of 171deg which would take us straight into Dampier. It had been a long time since we had winds like this and we were surprised at just how different the new sails were pushing the boat along. We both had to dig into the depths of our lockers to find our sailing gloves as handling the sheet ropes was starting to make the hands a little sore. Of course sailing at this speed and direction meant the boat was leaning over so getting around took some getting used to, again after the last few years in Asia where it was 95% flat waters and very little wind. It was a bit like doing a 24hr pilates lesson!
Not that we were complaining. At this rate we would be in Dampier in 5 days!
We had these winds for the first 3 days and averaged 140/150 miles per day, we were very pleased with progress. However, by the end of the 3rd day the the wind starting dropping and we shook our reefs out and not long after that the motor was on. We motorsailed on & off for the next 24 hrs, still able to keep up an average of 5kn.
Day 4 a very light S’ly came in, dead on the nose so we had the choice of sailing slightly off course or continue to motor. By this time the dear old gearbox was back to rattling again so we decided to sail and tack our way south giving the gearbox and our nerves a rest from the constant rattle. That night the wind dropped altogether so the motor was on again and we adjusted course towards Dampier. By Sunday night we had a S’ly again but with the motor on and sails up we were able to stay on course for Dampier and not be too uncomfortable.
We arrived just outside Mermaid Sound, the approach into Dampier Harbour, at around 2100 and we tossed up with hoving to and waiting until morning to enter or continuing on in the dark We had been into Dampier a few times before so we decided to go on and Jerry chose to sail down the gas line as anchoring is prohibited and we figured we would not bump into any other boats or moorings. It was a good decision.
The wind now had picked up and turned westerly and there was a fair swell running so we were constantly trying to slow the boat down and had to decide on where to anchor for the night as our chosen anchorage off Angel Island would have put us on a lee shore. We carried on into Dampier and Jerry suggested we round the bottom of Angel Island and motor into Flying Foam Passage a short way and drop anchor there. Now I was a little nervous of this decision as its not called Flying Foam Passage for no reason. We had sailed this very narrow waterway before (in daylight) and the current rips through at a rate of knots so if the wind is coming the other way there is a lot of chop. We had wind and current with us and it was only a matter of maybe 15 mins before we were in calmer waters. Dropping the anchor was fun as the current was very quick to shoot the boat back on the anchor so I had to be very quick on the anchor winch.
By now it was 0200 on day 5. We were very tired but very happy to have almost arrived so we had time for a celebration beer before falling into bed for some much needed sleep.
I was up bright and early the next day and oh what joy it was to look out the porthole and see Australia, the Plibara landscape, though red is very beautiful. We had 5 mile to motor into Hampton Harbour where customs and quarantine awaited us.
Apparently when we left Australia 3 years ago we should have exported our boat and now on return we needed to import it back into our OWN country.! How ridiculous is that. But you cannot argue with customs and so we had to do as advised. We needed to engage the services of a customs broker to complete all the paperwork formalities for us, something we thought we should be able to do ourselves after all we were now experts at paperwork after being in Asia. But no, that is not the case as the paperwork is not available unless you have a broker. After quarantine inspected the boat and took what was left of our fresh fruit and vegetables and some rice that had little insects in it we were able to go ashore but the boat could not leave the harbour until paperwork done and customs had finally cleared us. That took a week! The cost for coming back into Australia - Quarantine $350, Customs Broker $385, Quarantine woodwork clearance certificate required by customs $85 !!! So all you yachties out there that complain about having to pay the odd bribe in Asia (something we never did) stop complaining!
With the help of a friend we are now looking into the regulations for yachts returning home to Australia as there is nothing on the customs website detailing any of this. Apparently it is not legislation just a policy that any yacht that is going to be away for more than 3 months has to exported and then imported on return. That seems ridiculous but what is infuriating is that that we are not able to complete the paperwork ourselves and have to pay someone to do it for us.
Dampier is a great place to stop, apart from the red dust that can blow across the anchorage from the conveyer belt if the wind is in that direction. The harbour is very safe, there is a yacht club ashore that has showers and a washing machine, the kitchen is open 4 days a week and they cook up the biggest meals, one can be shared between two easily.
A community bus runs into Karratha 3 days a week and mostly you can get away with a concession ticket for $420 return otherwise its a bit expensive at $11.50.
Its expensive here but the we are in a NW mining town so its to be expected. But everyone is just so friendly and go out of their way to help you if they can. Nothing is too much trouble.
We have a new gearbox arrived here yesterday, so when the wind abates we shall put it in the dinghy and bring it out to the boat. Is blowing a good 25/30kn E’Ly at the moment. Good weather for heading south.
Its good to be back in home waters. The wind blows everyday, sometimes a bit too much, but we are enjoying the change of climate and snuggling under our duvet at night.
Sorry no pictures this time. There was not a lot to take out there in the Indian Ocean!