Thursday, 23 September 2004


Wednesday 15th September
We have some waypoints for the bar crossing from Yampi and after a frustrating hour or so last night, this morning we got straight in on them. They are anchored inside. While Tas and Pearl go to catch some bait fish David makes pikelets and invited Yampi crew for afternoon tea. Ken and I swap a bit of software, tide program, and some charts. 
Kimberley Escape heads upstream in King George River.

Up the river as the sun sets and it's another unforgettably stunning sunset in this spectacular river.

We are anchored on a big bend with majestic red rock cliffs towering over us. There's a small sand spit fringed by mangroves and it looks like an ideal spot close for the fishy action. As it gets dark the fish are a jumpin! Wow.. Fishing heaven. Trevally everywhere the bait fish are dead but a rig with two hooks tied to 50lb line is pretty effective and the phosphorescence is breathtaking. Pools of light float past in the current, occasionally coming close enough to see the individuals fish lit up like stars, swirling around in schools. The fish chasing the lures become darts of bright light swooping on it. The Lures greate their own phosphorescence.

Our attempt to catch mud crabs next morning was unsuccessful so up anchor and slow motoring the 14nm upriver marveling at the amazing gorges, cliffs, waterfalls and an occasional wallaroo. There are very few breaks in the sheer red rock walls which zig zag inland to the falls. The rocks appear to be just balanced on each other with very little holding them there. The river is often only about 150M wide and the cliffs are at least 80M high.

The best is saved for last. Suddenly the river stops at the Majestic Twin Falls. The highest falls in Australia at 100m. Millions of tons of water rush over these falls every wet season. It's the dry season now so we can safely approach right to the base of them. Tied up to a small hole in the rock.

Taipan at the bottom of the falls

Amazing photo by unknown photographer from the same spot, in the wet
Excercise time. We anchor Taipan a little away from the face. A few moments of panic as Wombat does a runner and heads off back to the falls. No one is keen to jump in and recapture him even though he's only just out of reach A rapid un anchoring is called for and we race to catch him before he goes into the shallow water. 

Phew. re-anchor and off to the base of a steep scree slope to walk to the top of the falls. Its a fair climb. About half an hour up and fifteen minutes on a well-defined track marked with small stone cairns. The country on the plateau is very rocky and although treed they re small and wired looking There are still a few small pools at the top with drinkable water and enough to sit in for a welcome cool off.  Back down the cliff and David frightens a large goanna which runs straight for Pearl eliciting a loud screech from her. One very startled lizard heads for the hills. Few oysters to rejuvenate us at the bottom of the hill then back aboard. We watch a couple of dugong drifting and diving lazily about.   About two-thirds of the way up the river we passed a huge crack in the cliffs. There is supposed to be a lovely swimming hole up here but a climb to the said hole reveals a very slimy looking green hole. Too late in the season I think. Re-anchor Taipan close to the mangroves for fishing. Mangrove Jacks and Trevally. David caught a holy mackerel. This converted into strip bait and that converted into dinner.

Friday 17th September. 
Slept in. The shade of the huge cliffs caused that. up anchor and back to the big bend where we anchored the first night "Eclectic Dreams" and "2nd Innings" were at anchor here too. Into the dingy and down to the climb at the head of a large creek This too ends abruptly at a vertical cliff. It is very arduous looking though and we reckon were ten years too late for this climb. There are some lovely ferns growing under the rock overhangs on the cliffs around here. Aground. Nothing serious. We have to leave on thigh tide around 8.00pm .Dark. All prepared. Dam, the current is going out so its a falling tide. Radar giving good images but depth 0 to 100mm under the keel. David keeps very cool as we meander our way out at 2kn. Steering is difficult at such low speed. Half an hour later and we are anchored outside, ready for an early getaway.

Saturday 18th September
5.30am and were up for the run down the coast to Berkley river. It's about 40 miles. 600am and were off. Glassed off completely. The current is against us so were motoring again The Kimberley docent turn on much wind. Whales slapping tails. We haven’t seen many this trip. Perfect wombat weather. The smoke is so thick we cant see the coast. 9.30am it's still glass, but now, with the addition of brownish floating sediment type slime. Possibly some sort of coral spawning with the new moon last night. "Rite Track" appears ashore of us heading in the same direction but we lose him mid-morning. The wind has come and we put up the MPS. Multi Purpose Spinnaker  No pole. Steady 10knots on our beam. 90°. Trucking at 7knots. The Volvo gets a welcome break. 4.00pm sail down and we attempt to get over the sandbar. We are a bit early for the tide and after much banging and bumping we abandon the attempt. Take up anchorage at Reveille Island overseen by a platoon of stately Boabs. They appear regiment style on the hillside facing the island. Tas and David mark a track with the handheld sounder and GPS. A light appears to our north “Rite Track" is at anchor.

Sunday 19th September. 
Dawn and Tas and David finish marking our course in. 700am, heart in mouth. Anxiety prevails. We’ve been aground, and on our side, for the duration of a tide last time we were here. Tentatively we edge our way towards the mouth. There's about 1.5nm of the sandbar to negotiate and the tide doesn't give us long before it turns and heads out. We manage to get into the river and no less than 700mm under us. Phew. Timed it right. 
The trip upstream is just stunning. About 12 miles of winding flat mangroves then into gorges. Ancient blocks of pink stone stacked on each other in enormous columns. Each reliant upon the other. We drop anchor only 500m from the end of the navigable waterway having come through spectacular gorges and emerged in the inland with sweeping views of the ranges and Mount Casuarina away to the North East. A trip to the waterfall is very welcome as the Kimberley heat has really kicked in in the last couple of days. Very little breeze and quite high humidity. The small falls on the left of the end of the river are an easy climb. A large grey kangaroo is startled by our arrival but the greenish kingfishers hunt on unperturbed. The series of ponds and falls stretch away into the spartan stony countryside. Kapok flowers abound. Large yellow blooms resplendent against the blue sky. 
Taipan had taken a little wander during our absence. We return to find her sitting very smugly with her rudder firmly on a rock, tail in the air and tide falling. An effort to pull her off with the dingy failed. The Berkley strikes again. The anchor has dragged. Oh well. Sit it out. After a couple of hours and with about 400ml of bum exposed the tide turns  There are a lot of very perplexed fish swimming about. No damage was done and we re-anchor. The bottom of the river here must just be sheets of stone and it takes a while for the big plow to get a grip.

Monday 20th September
Walking up the Berkley river. There are miles of pools and waterfalls. The fall is not great so it's an easy walk. A dip in the running water here and there gives welcome relief in the heat. There is a lot of grass about and we soon come across fresh cattle shit. BBQ? No sign of the polluters. A few kilometers up there is a track winding in off the eastern bank. We presume it goes across somewhere because we’ve been advised of the existence of a track from the Oombilgari community near Wyndham to Kalumburu. Some large black waterfowl with black legs and beaks take flight ahead of us. Most bush life must be in the shade by now, however. Plenty of dingo tracks. Time to head back. Taipan still where we tied her this time  The 2-hour return downstream to the entrance is uneventful. Even "Rite Track" has disappeared. Tas and David off to catch bait fish. Tonight is the night for Barra!!

Tuesday 21st September. 
Well, last nights Barra didn’t manifest itself aboard. Pearl had one on but it snapped the hook in half. Darn However a lovely big thread-fin and 2 small sharks weren’t so lucky so we eat fish again. All action aboard this morning. We leave the Berkley River for Darwin. Taipan doesn’t like leaving the Berkley so her  first attempt to stop us was to refuse to start. Glow plugs not working. David flies in to action. Dr Diagnostic is effective in the electrical mysteries of Taipan. The delay costs us precious time. We have to be out by 8.00am. Theres a 3.7m tide and this is lower than the one we came in on. The tension builds. By 7.30 we are underway. Anxiety plus. We go over several spots where the bottom is only 200mm below our keel but we don’t touch. By 8.10 we are anchored safely on the Darwin side of the bar. 
Taipans next effort includes refusing to run on the fuel tank we switch over to after changing her filter. By10.30 all is ready and she’s finally capitulated and we all agree, we are off. We only have about 90 liters of fuel so it could be a slow trip. There's not much wind  6-7 knots and it's from the wrong direction so we put up the MPS again and go on the wind as hard as possible about 90°. Start off at 5 knots The wind drops and were doing 3 knots. Finally, we get a decent breeze. The endless flat water drifts by. We eat. We sleep. We do four hour round the clock watches. Calm. Night. Hissing through the inky black casting stars in our wake. A pall of smog and cloud obliterates the skyline and as the moon leaves below the bank of dense cloud the darkness is complete. The trusty Volvo is humming now we are forgiven and she's ever-ready to take up the slack when the wind fails. Phosphorescence abounds. Sometimes fish are illuminated as they wizz by leaving their own trail of light. Dawn.

Thursday 23rd September. 

The clouds persist. Sunrises through a distance bank. The buildup is coming.  Tas and Pearl sleep on. The change in time zone and a bit of night watch slow down Tas morning wanderings. We are riding the tide into Darwin. 15nm to go. Into Darwin and into the Cullen Bay Marina we head. This is a locked marina and its an adventure of its own going into the small box. The doors shut and in comes the water. Soon we are riding high above the tide in the marina basin. Welcome long hot showers and someone else to cook the food. What a great trip. Thanks David and Pearl Hammond for all the great fishing lessons. I hope our future holds lots of fish!.