The installation of Sadie (as she has come to be known), the new sail drive, went as smoothly as we could have hoped, with the guys from McLeod engineering doing a great job. They were able to have us ready for a lift back into the water by Friday lunchtime, and ran a sea trial with us as we headed back down to the marina. Everything seemed to be working well, though the gears felt a little different with the new sail drive. We cleaned the boat that afternoon, as she was filthy from the rain, then the dust, and by the end of the afternoon, she was glowing white again. We ate steak on the BBQ, the last of our Rocky meat, and the very last item from the freezer. Tomorrow we were stocking up!
Saturday passed in a blur of shopping and stowing. We got meat from a wholesaler, fruit and veg from Rustys market and the dry goods from Coles. There were numerous trips up and down the marina, and it looked for a while like we were not going to be able to fit everything in, but in the end, everything was away, and we treated ourselves to a kir royale to celebrate. We also took ourselves out to dinner, so that in the morning, we would only need to do the last minute stuff before casting off.
The forecast was looking good, with light winds for the first few days, and increasing south easterlies from about mid-week. We really wanted to be able to sail as much as possible, because as well as being quicker, the options for refueling were going to be limited. We had enough diesel to motor about 600 miles, but the full distance to Darwin was about 1000 miles. We threrefor needed to sail as much as possible. We had detailed route planning done to Cape York, with the option of overnight stops if we wanted them. From Cape York, we would aim to go straight across the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Wessell Isles, stopping there fore a few days to recuperate, and plan the next leg. At this stage we are expecting that we will go from the Wessells, straight to Cape Don, before entering Van Dieman Gulf, to get to Darwin. We aim to be at Darwin by around 1 December.
We cast off from our marina berth at 1115 on Sunday 29 October, destination the Low Isles. It was warm and sunny with a light NE breeze, so we motored out of the long Cairns fairway, feeling relieved to be back at sea after too long ashore. We are both nervous and excited about this next part of the trip which is truly an adventure. It is very remote sailing, we have few places to buy any sort of provisions, and we need to do some long overnight passages, which we have not done since we rounded Fraser Island. We know that Wine-Dark Sea is in as good a condition as we could make her, she has plenty of supplies and we are both fit and well. Bring it on!