Tuesday, 24 August 2004

SALE RIVER TO CAPE BOUGANVILLE. AUGUST SEPTEMBER 2004

Google Earth Picture of the Kimberley Area NW West Australia. and some of our stops


Into the Sale River.
More water now. TIde running in. Rock on the right and rocks on the left. The bottom is very lumpy. Stop at the big right angle bend where there is a terrace with boabs and vine tickets left and right of it. Land with dinghy and small motor so we can pull it all out of the water and clear of the rising water and crocs. (some of whom we have met). Walk in to the left towards some very tall trees. There is a fresh water stream under the massive undergrowth. Tall emerges in a few places the vegetation is awesome. Huge trees, some sort of paper bark with palms and gums forming a cathedral like structure curtained in lush fine leaves all the way up to the sky. Under foot are giant ferns not unlike herringbone fern. Very beautiful. We disturbed two large birds which took wing They may have been wild turkeys but looked more like pheasant. Quite startling copper plumage. The sail river certainly deserves a closer look and a lot more time. Took flight ourselves at about 4.30 to get out of the river and over to Raft Point anchorage for the night.
Sale approach 15 58.110S 124 35.024E. Outer 15 58.139S 124 33.811E 16 00.084S124 30.112E 15 58.236S 124 35.471E 15 58.689S 124 36 419E Anchored 15 59.361S 124 38 417E
Raft Head
 
Wednesday 25th 16 01.567S 124 15.784E At anchor at Montgomery Reef. Pulled out of Raft Point around 6.30am and motored here. The tide was just starting to run off the reef. The reef is roughly 20 miles by 10 miles and covers an area of hundreds of sq kilometers with only a few islands. The entire reef uncovers at low tide. In spring tides it would stand 2 to 3 meters out of the water. Amazing spectacle as millions of liters of water gush off the edges, forming torrents in the gullies to empty the lakes and pools which form with the retreating tide. The water round the reef foams and turtles and other fish  flush out of the reef in an endeavor to escape as it dries. Predator fish hang about the edges to capture the fleeing smaller fish. This happens twice a day! We took an up close look from the dingy. 
 
At the moment David and Tas are fishing. No luck but certainly a fabulous view for fishing. At 10.30 am we pulled up the anchor out of a sea of glass, heading for a new destination at Deception Bay.
Thursday 26th 15 39.906S 124 23.116E Nice place east of Kid island. Just around the corner of Hall Point. Bit of rolling through the night but weather nearly calm. After anchoring last evening we went ashore and fished with the throw net. Pretty little beach but quite deep close in so I aborted my swimming plan. Back on board and Tas caught 3 little reef sharks. Yum. He used live bait and a 100 lb hand line – don’t forget the gloves. Presently 7.30am we are motoring north towards Kuri Bay. Outgoing tide assist. 7 knots of breeze.
 
Restless night I awoke about 4.30am and got to thinking about Davids crazy house boat scheme. Maybe its not so crazy. The sand flies would still drive me nuts but air conditioning would help relieve the itch. An ideal house boat would be able to sit on keels, to also steer efficiently in the currents and turbulence. Be powerful enough to go against a reasonable current, Accommodation in two cabins. One bathroom come laundry and WC altogether. Galley with normal household appliances and a large freezer. Should open into main living space and have good visibility . Main steering station forward but second station aft. Hydraulic controls and outboards probably. How about rudders fore and aft? Ideally the whole thing should pack into a 40 foot sea container except the pontoons. No mast. No sails. Workshop out the back. Large capacity diesel storage. Fishing boat with easy docking facility and interchangeable motors. A small tinny and outboard for me. Upstairs  deck and vegie garden. Miles of hose and a big pump to collect water from falls and creeks. Plenty of water storage. Fish tank for live bait and viewing. Computer work station for me. Studio space and plenty of cupboards.
Meanwhile we motor up Rogers Strait through Kuri Bay Pearl Farm. Very pretty section. Imposing bluffs in the distant ranges. Vine thickets ashore look interesting . A rock appears ahead, not in  Cmap but is shown on the paper chart!. Hate that!. Huge pearl farm boats owned by Paspaley. Onward towards Prince Regent River. Spectacular islands with very inviting beaches. Past a white catamaran at anchor. No luck trolling need to purchase a small live bait trap.
House boat needs water catching facilities. Perhaps an awning over top of foredeck with hole in the center which can be fitted with a hose to tank. Telescope on top deck for bird watching. Decks could be perforated aluminum sheet to facilitate breeze and very few internal walls. Roll down canvas walls ok for privacy when other people aboard .External walls of fridge panel for lightness and insulation. Ceilings too. Big sliding aluminum windows with shutters outside. What about fold out wall which turns into a bed over the water. All shade cloth or clear ends and canvas top. Fun spare room. Great ventilation. Good way to keep the floor space available when no visitors. Pop up roof would be good too. Provide a seating area on the top deck and to help ventilate below useful spot to roll out the swag too.
Prince Regent River. The prince of rivers in the Kimberley. Great flooded ranges with countless islands and high ridges of ochre and white stone. Sage green tide line on the rocks at the edge of aquamarine waters. Whirlpools and eddies cast the light in unusual directions. A large humpback whale and her calf cruising. The calf determined to impress us with a display of big belly flops and tail slapping, there have been a lot of whales about today. They are very difficult to photograph! Maybe the pop-top can be high enough for a table. It could be nice up there in the shade with a wine and a view all round.
Need to have a garbage muncher to mush up food scraps so we don’t attract snapping lizards.
The channel is conducive to heightened anxiety with very erratic depths. One minuet its 100m and then its 16m. There is a smoke haze which partly obscures the distant mountains and somewhat washes out the spectacular, Mt Waterloo and Mount Trafalgar. As the afternoon draws to a close however, the last of the suns rays highlight the west faces of the rocky battlements and edifices. This area has apparently the largest number of mangrove species in one place on earth. 

I want to be able to see out from the chart table / nav station when we go down the Prince Regent in the house boat.!! Ive had to watch the Radar screen to keep us 150m off the southern shore....There is a big row of vicious rocks running up the center of the chanel which have had plenty of action. Bottoms out of boats mainly!!

The focaccia I made for lunch was a hit. Its the cheese and onion one in the muffin book. I used a bit of phylie cheese mixed with tuna as a filling.

Friday 27th August.
Very close to mangroves up the creek. Its about 10m deep right to the edge. Yesterday was a big run so we didn’t fish but did eat the shark fillets cooked on the barbie ring in a batter of plane flour, bicarb, salt and water. Flour fish first. Runny batter but was superb. My sand fly bites are really driving me nuts. Was quite severely eaten at the beach on Wednesday night. The creeks off the main stream here very fish and crabby. Must come back with house boat!. Its quite hot this morning and very very still. The reflections are awesome.
We mooch about up little rivulets and tidal mangrove creeks for an hour, in awe of the variety of vegetation and the spectrum of greens is impossible. Still quite smokey so the distant vistas are shrouded in a purple haze. The cacophony of birdsong starts pre-dawn and crescendos by 8.00 to tail off to intermittent ditty’s during the late morning. Its all quiet in the heat of the afternoon, then builds again into the evening. 

The coast watch plane seems to have lost us. We haven’t seen them since Raft Point. I have been having great fun with the camera. Going a bit wild and will have hours of editing ahead to delete the rubbish. Currently the hunters are out depositing crab traps baited with the heads of beautiful mangrove jacks we caught in the Sale River.
Wow! Crabs we can do!. The hunters have returned with three muddies. They’re not that pleased about having their fierce looking nippers removed. We break them up , wash them out and get the cooker fired up. Bread is a proving.... This hunter gather life style is very time consuming and pretty hard work! Feasting on crabs and warm from the oven Focaccia is not hard to take though.
Now its time to go up river where its narrow. The trip is about 20nm. We did 10NM yesterday so we are going up about 7NM to anchor till tomorrow when the tide is full and we can get up to the falls. Staying .125m from the right bank to start then we cross over to the Left and as we enter a section where there are 2 islands to go between the river widens and Pernulu creek goes off to the left. Squelch! A sand bar. 

Several attempts to negotiate fail and so finally in neutral we let the incoming tide find us a channel ..which it does. 

Attempted to get into camp creek it its 5.20pm now and there doesn’t seem to be enough light left to do all the anchoring stuff required in there so we cross the river and anchor slightly down steam. 25M of chain out in 3m. Now we are moving again.
Need to have a set of wheels to go under the house boat so we can tow it with a tractor up a ramp or hard beach for dissembling to transport.
Shifted anchor because the current will swing us onto some rocks when the tide changes. Now have 50m of chain out. 15 32.334S 125 12.106E

Saturday 28th August
Prince Regent River. Dawn. Its still again. A croc visited in the night and is still hanging about so we decide to leave the missing crab trap. Maybe we will get it later. Motoring on up the creek in the early dawn light. Subtle pinks and orange mingle in an oily sheen over the still water. Tide is quite low but coming in. There are a few moment in a couple of places where sandbanks are not where they are supposed to be. Kimberley Quest tender comes by and gives us some advice just at the right time. With the entrance to the Cascade we encounter another bank but hard right and along a steep rock wall and we are past. Kimberley Quest 11 huge thing, is just pulling out and we have the falls to ourselves. 


After tying onto the face of the fall we eventually maneuver into position where a funnel in the water tank has us catching enough water to fill our tanks. Tas and Pearl frolic in the falls as they cascade on to the fore deck. Go ashore to walk to the big pool at the top. Me I'm going to have a rest instead 
 
No sooner have they gone when up pops 2 yachts. Opal Shell from Fremantle and Storm Child from Port McQuarry. Just getting them sorted, and in rocks Penrod II with Ken Lipold. We’ve met and sailed with Ken on the Splash Return from Darwin and on the first trip back with Taipan at Montgomery Reef. 

Tas and Pearl arrive back and we off out with the tide. Make anchor at last nights spot and plan to go up Camp Creek a little later. Everyone has gone for a GU. Tide is whizzing out now. Tas got a lot of fish action here last evening but only landed one small shark so hes keen to get another go at them tonight.
It has been named. The house boat will henceforth be know as Wombat. (Eats roots shoots an leaves.) A somewhat ungainly creature with the capacity for a good turn of speed if the occasion warrants. Some how construed as a cuddly animal, it snuffles about in burrows and remote places.
Our Wombat needs two sets of anchors on windlasses. Forward and stern and easy to deploy and retrieve so it can anchor in tight creeks and across current if necessary for wind.
Everyone is up from naps and it looks like time to re anchor. So we do then its live bait to catch. It seems that live bait are really the only way to catch fish. Tas will teach David to throw the bait net.
Fishing more successful. Sharks..a quite good size one is chased aboard by a very aggressive croc. Hes hard to dissuade. We tried donging him with the boat hook but hes still hanging about.

Sunday 29th August. Camp Creek
We are off in the dingy to explore Camp Creek. Motor ...Motor... Motor... its a long way and the tide is quite low so the mangroves look pretty battered. The end is sudden and very pretty. We disturb a small croc sunning himself on a ledge he quickly scampers off into the water. Its not a good place to land at low tide. A long climb over very slippery muddy rocks so we abort that plan and go back to Taipan. Really need to go up on top end of a rising tide. It looks like an interesting place to explore if a person had more time. Wombat time! We have heard that there are aboriginal galleries in the area.
Back aboard now and Tas and Pearl have been fishing in our absence and very successful too. Mangrove Jack, Cod and shark.

Camp Creek to Careening Cove
The tide is still coming in so our progress is a little slow for the first 2 hours. No bars present themselves because we have more water. Many of the hazards have disappeared underwater. Its a beautiful clear day. Less smoke about . A breeze blowing from the west. Sails out and we turn north with a nice breeze. The whirlpools are fairly whirling making steering interesting.
Penrod ll following us but veeered off towards Ivy Cove. Sun sets on another beautiful Kimberley day.

Monday 30th August. 

Late start. Lluewin pulls out at about 7.30. A pretty sight. Head ashore in the dingy with the throw net and camera. Mermaid tree to photograph and bait fish to catch

Pleasant little sit in the water to cool off. Not that its really hot, although David Tas and Pearl are a bit warm after an explore up the creek. Lots of little whiting make it into the net for lunch and a few baby millet will join the others in the intensive care department. Its a plastic net basket about 600mm deep and 300 across which I made yesterday to hang over the side in which to keep the bait alive. Seems to work well. The new chums have adapted well to basket life and appear to be quite revived. The mermaid Tree is so named for His Magestys Cutter Mermaid which beached here in 182o for repairs. The name HMS Mermaid 1820 is carved into the trunk of a huge Boab on the beach.


At 1.30 we Left Careening Cove and headed for an anchorage somewhere on the way to Biggie island. Westerly breeze 10 to `5 knots, out going tide helping a bit making 8+ knots which is quite change in this generally windless corner of OZ. “Yampi” left a little earlier for Scott Passage. (Ken and Phylis and young Ken.)
Wombat needs awnings. Something which fold down and strengthen waterproofs sides.
At about 5.00pm we drop anchor at Cape Pool. Very rolling and wind not dropping. Lowering the dingy and off to shore. “Yampi” are also anchored here and they already ashore with buckets. Must be oysters. Mot much daylight left and we race about getting a respectable number of molluscs. Its a pretty spot. There may be some fresh water running in here because a small stream crossing the beach appears to be brackish, not totally salt. Turning in early tonight. Tas and Pearl feeling a little off, so dinner very light.

Tuesday 31st August
Cape Pool to Wary Bay
Its an early start. We are up at four and in the water by 4.45. There is what looks like a trawler anchored further into Scott Strait, They are usually lit up like a night club. Beautiful sunrise with streaks of orange shot through pink clouds. An aura of gold around everything. The wind is light, about 7 knots and we are motoring north west. Petulant little waves throw tiny white tantrums of rage against the unyielding black rocks fringing the island. Inviting secluded white beaches appear out of the soft morning light. This country side is flatter, although still streaked and daubed with colorful stone edifices. There are islands all around. Pretty and crisply defined on the aquamarine surface.

Ever present Kimberley currents are against us this morning slowing our progress. Lures still out but no fish Our bait fish escaped from the intensive care basket in the night. Will have to make a lid.
Its around 10am and we’ve just arrived at Wary Bay. It shoals steeply so we have anchored quite a way out again. Its high tide so the dingy doesn’t have to be dragged far. The beach here is quite short but coarse pale sand littered with coral and shells make it clean and attractive. The surprising feature of the place is that there is a rock art gallery right on the beach. Its bemusing to behold the new chums. It seems so unlikely. The cave has a beach sand floor and consists of several small chambers. Most have some art. Ships with men in them predominate and are in stark contrast to the elaborate line work in the serpent on the ceiling and turtle like creatures. There is one striking male figure with impressive genitalia. We have been told he is a lizard man. Lucky lizard woman!. The figures in the boats are wearing clothing and appear to be wearing clogs or some sort of boot. They smoke pipes and have high elaborate head wear. The is one Winjarra figure in red and white ochre facing the water and in a separate cave. Its about 1m high with many halos. There are 3 human skeletons is small caves near by. 



Now for a swim. The water is fairly clear although its better in neaps. Not exactly a swim. More prolonged immersion with a sharp watch being kept. Tas and Pearl have gone to explore the forested gully to the north east. Back to the boat to make bread. These people still have to eat!
David off to pick up Tas n Pearl. They found a wet gully with small fresh water pools. Too small to swim but running and fresh.
Destination Prudhoe Island to anchor in Shelter Bay for the night. Its only and hour run. The bread is done and Tas,  Pearl and I go to explore. These islands are so rocky and clean looking. No mangroves to speak of. They sit in a sea of glass sparkling somehow after the rivers which although full of life are slightly claustrophobic. A mission to replenish the live bait is fruitless in the very shallow water of the bay. We all walk about in knee deep water for half an hour before giving up. Back aboard not more than 2 minuets and Pearl spots a large croc just behind the boat. He must have been stalking us just out of sight. Phew!
The bay is a bit shallow so we have to re-anchor to avoid bumping a low tide. Its the low end of springs so would not be much good in springs. Tides here are a little inaccurate we have found. The range is so great that I guess you would expect some discrepancies.

Wednesday 1st September.
Stunning glassy morning. The reflections are dazzling. 9.30 anchors aweigh. Tides a rising so we head slightly east of our course to Cape Voltaire to avoid going straight into the current. The wind is gradually picking up from the east. By 11 its about 14 knots.
Round Cape Voltaire and “Yampi” is at anchor in Krait Bay. Ken is very helpful with advice re Crystal Head, waterfall etc. “Kimberley Escape” is just coming out of the Mitchel River and they also offer advice re fishing and anchorage in the river .Now “True North” emerges. Its very large and has a big white helicopter on the top deck They seem to be heading for Wyndham. I guess their charter is finished.
As the light dies and a pall of smoke billows away to our left the plumes become apparent. This large fire seems to be burning over a huge mountain to the south east of the entrance. Tide is almost out as we drop anchor with relief. Its been a long day and the fuel filter blocked again in a tricky spot. As it always does. Taipan's way of relieving the boredom and sharpening up everyone’s stress levels. Who says “this is the cruising life”. Or where does the anachronism “just cruising” come from. Break out the wine and steaks for dinner. The cryovac machine is essential. Just need a bread maker now.

Thursday 2nd September. 

Dawns cloudy but destined not to last as we watch the puffy little clouds dissipate to the north west. Down into the Mitchel river. Its a very wide shallow mouth and remains wide for quite a distance. As with most Kimberley rivers it is preeminently straight. It runs almost north south. Out into the Mitchel plateau at 14 30.336S 125 41.350E We drop anchor outside an unnamed creek running out of the west. It hasn’t much to recommend it visually but “True Blue” said they caught good barramundi here so we are going to give it a shot. Tas and David are off a bara hunting. Pearl washing and I’ve just made my first short crust pastry. Self sufficiency or what!
There is now a heavy pall of smoke all around. Visibility must be less than a mile. The incoming tide however has turned our otherwise muddy dead stick view into quite a charming sight with clean rock piles and lush green mangrove tops.
Fishing isn’t much good where we are. Couple of sharks was all we could manage.

Friday 3rd September. 

Smoke less of a problem but the wind is quite strong and gusting up to 25 knots. Yuk. The weather can really color your opinion of a place and with smoke and wind and no fish my opinion of the Mitchel is rather off the bottom of the scale.
 
We have decided to try for Parry Harbour. The SE wind should be favorable. Iv'e just made a bacon and olive foccacia for lunch but its pretty rolly down there.
The wind is getting stronger so we’ve decided to head for Osbourne Island. There is a large pearl farm there and a respectable anchorage on the SE corner of Middle Island. Almost directly SE from here there is another small enclosed bay on the mainland which the pearl farm use as a cyclone mooring area. The wind dropped overnight.

Saturday 4th September. 
Reasonably early start. Were heading for White Finger Bay. Near Cape Bouganville. It will probably get pretty blowy later. The pearl farm takes a while to get through. There are necklaces of black buoys strung together on about 100m lines and anchored east west. Its a maze to negotiate and we certainly don’t want to pick up any of their lines
Sailing is pleasant heading almost due north, at Parry Harbor we decide to go on .The wind is building across a strengthening current .Rock n Roll. Wet and wild would be the name of a show ground ride however its not. Its us rounding Cape Bouganville. Its very shallow so the seas stand right up. Bad decision to drop the sails as it gets shallow, cos now we cant steer very well. Not enough grunt in the Volvo. We finally make it through. Wet and wiser but unscathed. White Finger Bay is not viable because the NW wind is blowing through the entrance and we haven’t been in there before. We are are going on to Freshwater Bay. The sun is setting as we drop anchor in the very sheltered anchorage. Wind is dropping. Its too late to try for oysters but tired and relieved, showered and fed, we crash for an early night.

Pictures Fremantle To Darwin Incl Kimberley