In 2010 Charli and Ben decided to live a life less ordinary; six months later they embarked on an undefined period of travel. Enforcing no restrictions on their itinerary they have chosen to travel at a slow pace and incorporate house-sitting assignments in each country they visit. With no time limit on their adventure they are content to continue exploring the world as digital nomads. From backpacking through Central America to road-tripping around Australia, they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of Charli and Ben transporting an Australian yacht!
Below is a week from our 2012 Aussie adventure. Responding to a Crew Wanted advert on Gumtree, we were offered the chance to transport a 40ft yacht from Darwin to the remote mining town of Gove in the Northern Territory.
Day 1: Monday
8am: We set sail after a still night moored in the calm waters of Port Essington and motor east along the uninhabited coastline of the Northern Territory. Having left Darwin Harbour two days ago we are making good progress on our journey across the top of Australia on the Arafura Sea.
11am: Ben spots a desert island, a small sandy outcrop complete with just three palm trees.
4pm: An Australian customs plane flies low over the boat to signal their request for radio contact and Charli jumps out of her skin as the ear-splitting noise breaks the relative silence. After we’ve informed them of the number souls aboard and our itinerary they wish us a safe journey and head down the coast in search of vessels illegally entering Australian waters.
8pm: The wind picks up and we are able to unfurl the mizzen sail. We’re aiming to reach South Goulburn Island today so make use of the good winds while they are with us.
11pm: We cut the engines completely and are greeted with the gentle sound of the bow waves crashing against the hull. Flying along on the breeze the yacht makes a steady nine knots on the sails alone.
Day 2: Tuesday
1:30am: We drop the anchor just off South Goulburn Island. There are some fires visible on the shore from a traditional community of the Warruwi people that inhabit the island. Cut off from modern civilisation, they choose to live a very primitive existence just as their ancestors did on the mainland only a few hundred years ago.
8:30am: After just five hours sleep we’re feeling a little dazed but have to start work changing the oil and fuel filters in the engine. The large distances the yacht has covered in the last few days means regular engine maintenance is required to avoid costly repairs in the remote ports along this area of the coast.
10am: As we sail out into the open ocean a pod of dolphins joins us and plays in the bow waves.
3pm: Further sightings of dolphins accompanied by turtles and large schools of flying fish inspire Ben to cast a hand line from the back of the boat. Almost immediately he reels in an enormous blue fin tuna. He is thrilled with his catch and cleans it up for our supper.
7pm: We serve up the catch of the day and enjoy a spectacular sunset over the calm ocean. Our chosen course means no visible land for the next twenty four hours. While the thought is a little daunting, we’re excited to follow in the footsteps of history’s great explorers and witness a 360 degree oceanic horizon. The night watch rota is decided by the Captain and we head below to try and catch forty winks.
10pm: The wind picks up and the swell rises. We lost sight of land this morning, and the night is enveloping the horizon – and our only frame of reference. The inky darkness eats us whole as we bob around on the waves like a cork.
Day 3: Wednesday
1am: Charli begins her stint on night watch. Alone on the bridge, she checks the instruments every fifteen minutes. The darkness plays tricks on the eyes and can allude to objects on the horizon that are not there. The wind has risen to 28 knots and the mast is straining against the force powering the sails. An hour into her shift she makes the call to drop the sails and calls the captain for assistance.
3am: The tuna supper from earlier makes a reappearance as the swell increases. Charli spends the remainder of her shift leaning over the guard rails. Alone and responsible for the safety of the yacht and its crew, it takes all the will power she has to complete the final hour of her shift.
4am: Ben emerges from below to take over the night watch. The wind is starting to ease however it is hours before the sea gives in allowing the crew some respite.
9am: The wind has returned to a steady rate and is powering the sails at a comfortable 8.5 knots. With Charli no longer feeling green, breakfast is served on the deck and we recount tales from the previous night, including vessel sightings, losing our sea legs, and a rather tall tale of a passing whale.
2pm: With calm seas ahead we catch sight of Echo Island on the horizon.
4pm: Taking advantage of the calm conditions we lay on the forward deck and soak up some sun.
7pm: Finding shelter in one of the bays on the south side of Echo Island, everyone hits the hay. The thirty-hour crossing has taken its toll and we are all in need of some rest and recuperation.
Day 4: Thursday
9:30am: The Captain wakes us after a rough night. The swell was particularly bad and had disturbed our sleep in the early hours.
10am: We set the sails and head for the notorious Gugari Rip or ‘Hole in the Wall’ as it is known. Navigating the narrow channel between Gulguwuru and Raragala Island will save us a day of sailing. We will need to time our entry with the receding tide to ensure control of the yacht is maintained; travelling against the powerful force of the water rushing between the islands would be impossible.
1:30pm: Reaching the rip we make a first attempt at powering through the surging water. The current is too strong so we moor up, eat lunch, and play trivial pursuit.
3pm: The captain estimates that it is almost ebb tide and is keen to reach Cotton Island before nightfall. We try and power through the rip once again. Charli stands at the base of the mast pointing out hazards to the Captain and Ben keeps a watchful eye on the depth gauge.
4pm: Having successfully navigated the channel, Ben takes the helm and steers the yacht towards Cotton Island. With no protection from the open ocean, the waves roll in, crashing on the side of the hull. We are all tired and eager to anchor in the calm waters of a sheltered bay. The Captain is grouchy and barks orders for us to raise the mizzen sail.
7:30pm: We reach the Island and drop the sails. Anchoring in shallow water, we catch sight of a Dugong feeding. Unique to the waters of the Indo-Pacific, they are the only strictly marine herbivorous mammals in the world and are under threat of extinction from hunting and habitat degradation. Siting on the deck with a glass of wine, watching as the Dugong sifts through the floor of the bay for his supper is the perfect way to end the day.
Day 5: Friday
11am: With wind speeds of over 30 knots and rough seas, we are unable to leave the relative safety of the bay.
2pm: The weather forecast is bleak and the Captain defers our departure until the morning.
Day 6: Saturday
4am: Lifting the anchor, we begin the final leg of our journey to Gove Harbour.
10am: Passing by the rugged shores of Arnhemland, we relax on the deck and take in the views of the uninhabited coastline.
11:30am: As we motor into Gove the owner of the yacht greets us in his tender. Welcoming him aboard, we anchor in the harbour and ferry our gear ashore.
2pm: We’re ahead of schedule and as such, our flight out of the remote town isn’t for another three days. With accommodation at a premium, we make camp in the local pub and utilise their wifi.
5pm: With the only lodging options catering for the influx of wealthy miners, we are deflated to learn we must pay $250/night for a substandard hotel room. Determined not to lose hope of an affordable alternative, we grab a beer and some supper and Ben jokes that we should consider the possibility of bivouacking in the surrounding outback.
7pm: After chatting with a friendly chap at the bar, Ben returns to our table grinning ear to ear. He has found us a place to lay our heads that is free of charge. His new friend runs the local car rental company and has kindly offered us a bed for the night in his storage unit. At the prospect of saving $500, we agree to investigate the opportunity despite its resemblance to countless horror movie scenarios now flooding our thoughts.
10pm: With our new friend vetted and approved, we learn he is looking for someone to deliver a 4×4 to Darwin. An 1100km journey on over 900km of unpaved road, we would need to traverse rivers and navigate outback terrain before reaching tarmac just south of Katherine. We’re offered the job; it’s unpaid but it will get us back to Darwin for free.
11pm: Never one to turn down adventure, we accept the offer of free accommodation and agree to deliver the 4×4 to Darwin.
Day 7: Sunday
10am: After our first night of unbroken sleep in just over a week, we pack up the 4×4 with our gear and stop in at the supermarket for supplies. The remote location of the small mining town is apparent from the astronomical prices we pay for food and fuel.
10:30am: Pausing at the local pub to fire off a few emails, we collect our permit to enter the surrounding Aboriginal land and set off on the only road out of town.
12pm: We’re making good progress, but are stopped in our tracks by a raging river. Having been advised that we ‘should’ have no issues we edge slowly down the bank. We’re nervous as the water level rises around us but make it safely to the other side.
2pm: More rivers and rugged terrain eats away at our diesel reserves. We stop to refuel in a small Aboriginal community. The inhabitants stare at us with interest, and as we leave they remind us not to deviate from the road under any circumstance. Our encounter leaves us a little nervous but Ben points out that we have been granted passage through their land and they are just reminding us to honour the agreement in place.
4pm: We see a vehicle speeding towards us – our first since leaving Gove. It races past with such vigour the 4×4 physically shakes and we have to slow to a standstill while the dust settles and visibility returns.
8pm: Reaching tarmac, the realisation that the worst part of our journey is over comes as a relief. Still another three hours of driving, however both the 4×4 suspension and our bottoms are pleased to have emerged from the rugged outback terrain unscathed.
11:45pm: We reach the city and crash out in a homestay we found on airbnb.com. We’re back where we started, one week after an unimaginable series of events.
Charli & Ben completed their eleven month Australian adventure and sold their beloved motorhome before beginning a new chapter in their travel journal in New Zealand. After house-sitting their way around the North Island, they are currently on a two-month road trip of the South Island. They work on freelance projects as they travel to keep their travels financially-sustainable; and you can track their adventures on their travel website Wanderlusters.