Gulf of Carpentaria
In the middle of breakfast a plane soars over Gove harbour. Greg and I call out in unison: 'Here come our fuel filters!' Gary is at the airport to meet them. The near gale of the last few days has died down to a steady twenty knot trade-wind. Nothing now prevents us from getting on our way to the Pennefather River. As usual it feels as if we are leaving too soon. The people of Gove and the nearby town of Nhulunbuy have been so friendly and generous that I wish we could stay longer. It will be hard to forget these helpful strangers, every second one clad in steel capped boots and khaki shirts with Nabalco, the company that runs the aluminium refinery and the port, embroidered across the chest. This seemed to be the uniform for the whole town. We motor out into the Gulf of Carpentaria, past Cape Arnhem, named after one of two ships under the command of Jan Carstensz who was another VOC captain. Arnhem and Pera were the next two ships to visit Cape York Peninsula after the Duyfken. They arrived at the peninsula in 1623 and covered much the same part of the coast as Jansz had sailed 17 years before, although Carstensz appears to have ventured further inland in search of trade, a search that still yielded nothing of interest to the Dutch. On their return to the Indies Pera sailed by the way they had come, via the coast of what we know as New Guinea. The captain of Arnhem, on the other hand, decided that a westerly course was the fastest way back. By taking this route he found the land that today bears the name of his ship. He explored and charted Arnhem Land before returning to Batavia. Though the wind has eased considerably overnight there is still an uncomfortably steep swell in the gulf. We can barely make three knots against it. As Duyfken leaps from each crest and dives into the troughs, shaking and juddering from masthead to keel, I reflect that we certainly made the right decision to wait for the conditions to abate before leaving Gove. The poor little ship is getting shaken up badly enough as it is. She wasn't designed for this, slogging into a head sea under motors. I'm not sure I was either. I'm feeling decidedly queasy. We are not used to being at sea with nothing about to run out. We have plenty of gas, so hot drinks are back on the menu. Jane has bought plenty of fresh supplies, so tonight's dinner is stir-fried chicken with capsicum and broccoli. Dessert is five squares of chocolate each. Chocolate! Broccoli feels like decadence enough, but chocolate! And this is on top of the banana and cinnamon muffins Ben knocked up for smoko. It wasn't like this on the original Duyfken.