Update from Fountaine Pajot Orana 44 “Scallywag” – Gove to Darwin – crocs, water buffalo and more!

Posted: 10th July 2012.

Hi All,

So now we’re really in the wilderness, no towns or even villages until Darwin.

Rounded cape Wilberforce, first stop, Cotton Island part of the English Company Group of islands. On our own in a stunning bay, beautiful white beaches but we’re not venturing ashore. Just before sunset we saw movement on the beach, and through the bins a massive water buffalo appeared. No idea how he got here on the island, was definitely a he, amazed he didn’t trip over it.

Next day we moved on to the Wessel Islands and through the famous Hole in The Wall. This is a 1.3nm channel, at times only 100m wide and never more than 175m. Incredible scenery, almost want to turn around at the end and do it again. Five other boats in the bay tonight, all on the rally and we’d met them all previously. “BBQ on shore at 1700” friends on Christine Anne informed us, no way to wimp out of this one. So armed with out- of- date, red, handheld flares, our totally inadequate croc deterrents, we nervously enjoyed an evening ashore. Most of the boats left the next day but Avant Garde turned up looking for a sucker to race across the 225nm to the Cobourg Peninsula. We had another night in the bay and ventured out in the dinghy for a fish in the mangroves. Caught a long scary looking fish which turned out to be a Stripped Pike but luckily it got itself off the hook before we had to decide what to do with it.

Good winds for the overnight passage across the bay and a great start by hooking two yellow fin tuna. The bigger of the two got itself free, just as it was being pulled onboard after fighting for at least 25 minutes. Things went a little downhill after sunset, still had the screecher up as the wind built, will I never learn? Made a hash of furling it and had to drop the halyard and force the sail into a forward locker, hopefully not damaged but didn’t want to look too closely. Made it around Danger Point and into Port Bremar bay the next day. Drinks and sashimi tuna on Avant Garde, ok they got there first, length does matter (they’re 60ft)!

With assurances from food connoisseur big Frank that we need to eat at the Seven Spirit Bay Eco- Wilderness Resort , we set off for Coral Bay in Port Eslington. Civilisation, but at a price, had the use of the resorts pool and ate there that night, remoteness costs big time. Sighted the biggest croc to date, patrolling its territory in the bay, hard to judge but was easily over 4m.

Ok now it was time for the tricky bit, Van Diemen Gulf. A spring tide in Darwin of up to 8m has to come and go through this stretch of water. Get the tide wrong and you aren’t going anywhere. Problem is that it’s too far to get through on one tide. So we moved to Alcaro Bay on Cape Don to get an early 0530 dark start to ride the tide down to the Adelaide River to overnight and pick a tide the next day for a passage through the Vernon Islands. It didn’t get light until 0630 but by then we were doing 10knots in the right direction. Great run through Van Diemen and by good judgement, through consensus, we also managed to pick the tide correctly the next day and had a great trip around to Darwin. Looks like a real city, tall buildings and traffic, we’re all pleased to have arrived. The boat is covered in salt mixed with ash; it seems a traditional practice to burn the bush this time of year and the whole of Arnhem Land sometimes appears to be on fire, makes for amazing sunsets. We’ve lucked out and managed to get a berth in Cullen Bay marina, the only marina with a lock wide enough to accommodate Scallywag. Minor hitch refuelling on the way into the marina, the back should be ok again in another few days, nothing compared to what another experienced, but that’s not my tale.

So, 2300nm (4250km) since leaving Mooloolaba nearly three months ago, big, interesting country, great experience for all. Minor catastrophe’s; ripped screecher and huge struggle to retrieve the anchor in the Cairns river. Highlights; Lizard Island, flat water sailing, crocs, good fishing and great company. All goes to make cruising one of the last unregulated, free, challenges available, not without dangers but with great payback.

We’ve got until the 28th July to get Scallywag provisioned, sort out the Indonesian paperwork, then explore Darwin and the surrounding area.

Yes it’s hot.


Paul & Glor

SV Scallywag

Current Position:

12 27’04.68 S, 130 49’23.52 E

12-07-10 21:12:44 +1000 +0000



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