Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures
Welcome to Episode 51
DARWIN TO BROOME
THE KIMBERLEY PART 1
At the end of Episode 50 we had just completed an 8000km Road Trip through Outback Australia covering 3 states in 7 weeks with Paul’s parents
George and Chez.
We had finished the road trip in Darwin which is where our yacht Lorelei was stored at a Marina.
Our location for this Episode of the Blog.
Our route for this Episode of the Blog.
Once we arrived in Darwin it was go, go, go to get Lorelei ready to sail for our Kimberley trip in remote NW Australia.
The plan was to have George and Chez on-board for a 6 week one-way trip from Darwin to Broome through The Kimberley, drop them at Broome and they would fly back while we continued on for another 10 or so weeks.
The Kimberley region is very remote and for 1000 nautical miles there is only a few small aboriginal communities, some basic scattered services (like fuel carts) and no telephone or internet.
We had to be 100% self-sufficient and have everything on-board in top-notch working condition.
It was a frantic 10 days to get Lorelei ready!
Whilst we had done most of the things prior to leaving for the road trip, there was still lots to do.
The shopping trips were huge and we put 5 trolley loads through the checkout on our first trip to the supermarket – and that was only the first half!!!!
The biggest concern was we had lots of things serviced or overhauled prior to the road trip and many new items added – but they were all untested.
It took ages to check and double check things worked as they should.
However we couldn’t check everything whilst in the marina within the confines of the locked system.
We had left our RIB at our friends Chris and Cyn’s place and had purchased a new 4 meter aluminium boat (tinny). It took ages to get the final modifications done to both the tinny and the davits. It fitted on the davits – but only just….
The last issue was a tear in our canopy roof that needed fixing.
It took 5 days to get it done at the local marine upholsterer only to have it returned wrong and needed to be re-done.
That took another 2 days and eventually we departed 2 days late but satisfied everything was good-to-go.
Going out through the lock was a great experience for George & Chez but for us a bit of pushing and shoving to get the overhanging new tinny’s bow past the concrete walls.
George with the bow line coming into the lock
George with the lock opening to leave.
Note the wet water level on the wall and how much we dropped in height.
We could only leave the lock on a high tide and that was at 4pm so we motored for 2 hours around to Fannie Bay out the front of Darwin and anchored for the night.
The final test was to run the desalinater which had received a major overhaul.
It was fingers crossed and fortunately it went well – for the first run anyway…..
For Paul it was a huge relief and the last test was passed.
We could finally relax and we enjoyed the sunset and a few celebratory drinks followed by George & Paul watching the 2nd State of Origin Footy Match on TV.
The next morning we took off for our sail to The Kimberley.
The first leg was to sail across the Joseph Boneparte Gulf which was a 230nm/500km crossing.
We managed to sail in light winds for most of the day until it dropped out just before sunset and we motored until 1am.
At 1am the wind came in from the south and we were sailing beautifully in 10-12 knots of wind that was forward of the beam and pushing wind over the boat the faster we went.
It was dead flat seas and a very enjoyable sail which was great as it was George and Chez’s first overnight sailing passage.
Paul was the only one awake for the sunrise under sail.
During the day we had a pod of Dolphins come and play in the bow wave.
They were happily playing for more than 1 hour.
For our second night we had a fantastic sunset under sail.
We arrived at the entrance to the King George River at 5am and just in time for sunrise.
At 9am Hamish from the power boat Queste came to say hello and asked Paul if he wanted to join him in his tender to check the river mouth bar.
It is dangerously shallow and the deepest part of the channel weaves like an “S”.
Hamish had also picked up Russell off the yacht Njord and the 3 of them went and plotted a course through the bar.
Fortunately all 3 boats had similar draft of around 2m.
Hamish had crossed it only 6 weeks prior so we sent him in first and the 2 yachts followed.
At stages we only had 30cm/1ft under the keel which was a little unnerving!!
Once over the bar, we motored up the river past the amazing rocky cliffs that had incredible formations.
Looking back to Njord, the cliff faces looked huge.
We anchored about half way up the river at a point where the river splits into 2 arms.
It was the deepest section but still only 6m/20ft deep.
Paul went up into the crow’s nest and took a panoramic of the anchorage.
We dropped the tinny in for its maiden voyage and went and explored the East Arm first.
At the end of the arm is a waterfall but there was not much water after the poor wet season that Australia’s top end had experienced.
The area received less than 10% of its average rainfall.
Paul and George tackled a rope climb up to the top of the waterfall to have a swim in the top pool that is free of Crocodiles.
It was a really sketchy climb and certainly not for the faint hearted.
The view from the top was fantastic looking both back down the gorge and up the canyon to the swimming hole.
On the way home we had a look at another area that had some amazing rock formations with some big rock overhangs.
The next morning Paul and George went for the first fishing trip in the new tinny.
They trolled around the rivers edges and caught 8 fish (George winning 5 to 3).
Unfortunately none of them were 3 or 4 star eating so they let them all go.
The Trevally and Queen Fish were a lot of fun on light tackle.
Lorelei on daybreak whilst we were out fishing
That day we loaded up the tinny and ventured to the end of the river up to the twin waterfalls.
The scenery on the way was breathtaking and we stopped loads of times on the way to look at the wildlife and the stunning rock formations.
At the end we saw the luxury charter boat “True North” anchored.
The boats helicopter was taking guests on scenic flights over the gorge.
The waterfalls had only a little water cascading down.
It was enough to get the front of the tinny under for a cool off.
The waterfalls were surrounded on 4 sides by an amphitheatre style enclosure.
The vertical walls had some big caves, undercuts and overhangs that we could venture into with the tinny.
We were reluctant to go any further into this one due to the
huge rock overhead that just seemed to be suspended there.
huge rock overhead that just seemed to be suspended there.
The water in the entire river system was mostly shallow but the depth in the waterfall amphitheatre was over 55m/185ft.
There were 1000’s of large pink Jellyfish swimming around in the area.
On the way back down the river we explored some small tributaries that were mangrove lined.
We saw lots of birds but no crocodiles.
That night Paul taught Chez how to make Sushi rolls.
We would have loved to stay a few more days but with the tides going towards neaps (and lower high tides), if we didn’t get back out over the bar we would be stuck inside the river for at least 7 days.
Lisa and George went fishing in the tinny and at the same time plotted a new course over the bar that would give Lorelei the maximum possible depth.
Every centimeter counted!!
Fortunately we got over the next morning without hitting the bottom.
We ventured around to a small inlet only half a mile from the river mouth.
It was protected from the rising wind & swell and had a nice lagoon located behind the sandy beach.
As we walked up the beach, Lisa & George spotted a crocodile on the edge of the lagoon.
It was only about 2m/6.5ft long but certainly confirmed that there were crocs in the area.
We walked all around the lagoon and took loads of panoramic photos.
The biggest challenge of sailing through the Kimberley was to round Cape Londonderry which is the most northern point of Western Australia.
We left the bay in windy conditions and had a single reef in the main straight away.
It proved to be way too much sail area and we were over-powered surfing down waves too fast and weaving all over the place as the wind gusts rose and fell.
We stopped and put a second reef in and thank goodness we did as it got a lot windier and the seas much bigger.
Within sight of the cape we had large waves as high as the davits pushing us along.
Occasionally we were hit by large green waves which gave us all a thorough dousing leaving us and the boat soaked in saltwater.
We even got the spray from one wave down the companionway hatch into the saloon!
We didn’t dare to bring a camera out on deck….
By the time we rounded the point, the current had picked up and we were flying with it. Lorelei was sitting at a constant 9 knots and surfing down waves up to 13 knots. Paul & Lisa were concentrating on sailing the boat and dodging the many reef systems while poor George & Chez shared a plastic bucket to be sea sick in. Chez was surprisingly a lot better than George but they were both green in colour.
We were all very happy to round the second headland of Cape Talbot and pull into a calm bay.
We covered 55 nautical miles in a time of around 6.5 hours for an average speed of over 8 knots and were hopefully over the worst sail of the trip.
The next day we did another 40nm passage from Cape Talbot to Vansittart Bay.
It was still windy but the swell was way down from the day before and it turned into a fast but pleasant sail.
We arrived at a bay that had a wreck of a Douglas DC-3 aeroplane that crashed on the saltpan in 1942 after the pilot became dis-orientated and ran out of fuel.
The wreck is reasonably intact but the wings have a lot of damage from hitting trees and a section of the fuselage has been cut away for easy access.
Right near the DC3 was a large Boab tree. It was our first Kimberley Boab so we were pretty excited.
The get back to shore we had to walk over the saltpan which resembled a moonscape with lots of unusual shaped rock structures.
Back on shore we had the afternoon sun setting over the bay.
The warm glow made for great photos on the water’s edge.
The next morning we headed only 2nm over to Jar Island.
The island is small and surrounded by Pearl Farms and we had to go close to the island to skirt around the thousands of floating buoys in the water.
There was a lot of structure with submerged rocks and pinnacles so we had to be very careful motoring along.
We were only trolling for 15 minutes before the reel screamed off and we landed our first Spanish Mackerel for the trip.
Jar Island is most famous for its aboriginal art which is scattered all around the islands rocky caves and overhangs.
The artworks are more commonly known as “The Bradshaws” named after the Joseph Bradshaw who discovered them in 1891. Now they have been renamed to reflect their traditional aboriginal name and are called “The Gwion”
After the initial discovery they were thought to be the oldest artworks in the world but later tests confirmed their age at around 30 000 years old.
There are some in Africa at 42 000 years old and some in Kakadu possibly older than that!
The artwork is not as detailed and is not preserved as well as the Norlangie and Ubirr rock art we saw in Kakadu only 3 weeks prior but it is very impressive, remote and rarely visited.
We first visited the northern side of the island in the tinny and found a series of artworks under the overhangs within the rocky areas.
Paul bush-bashed through the dense growth and found a small cave that had some artwork inside.
There were no footsteps on the dirt inside the cave so he surmised no one had seen it for a long time.
Upon return to the shoreline, we walked along the beach and had a swim in the corner where it was clear and easy to spot a croc if one turned up.
The rock shelf at the end of the beach had some great caves with interesting structure.
There were some big pieces of driftwood on the beach.
After lunch we explored the southern side of the island and the coastline.
The rock art on the southern side is in a series of caves that looked out over the bay and Lorelei.
Overall it was a fantastic day exploring the island for artwork.
It was great to search for artwork in remote areas of the island that are rarely visited and even though we found some, we envisage we had only just touched on the amount of Aboriginal rock artwork at Jar Island.
We plan to return on the way back with a bit more time to search again.
During the day George had seen something large come up onto the surface near Lorelei but couldn’t identify it and it bugged him all day.
That night Paul was throwing the fish and veggie scraps over the side after dinner when 2 large objects came along and hoovered them up.
Soon everyone was on deck with deck lights and torches to discover we had 3 x two metre long Tawny Nurse Sharks circling the boat.
We fed them more fish off-cuts and Paul managed to get a series of photos.
George agreed that it was a Tawny he had seen earlier.
It topped off an awesome day….
It was dead flat in the anchorage that night (after a few rolly ones the previous nights…) and we all slept great and woke to a calm sunrise.
We took off for a 12nm sail to Freshwater Bay.
By many other yachties accounts, Freshwater Bay is the best anchorage in the Kimberley.
So we planned to stay a few days and after anchoring we ran the desalinator for an extra hour to wash Lorelei from bow to stern and rid her of the caked on salt from the wild sails of the previous days.
We had another 4 large 2.5meter/8ft Tawny Nurse Sharks circling Lorelei as we washed which was great.
On the higher tide we tried to navigate the shallow mangrove inlet up to the freshwater swimming holes and small waterfall.
Being a neap tide the high tide wasn’t that high and we struggled with the shallow depth and had to paddle the tinny up the inlet.
The inlet became very narrow and the overhanging mangroves created havoc as we tried to pass them.
Finally we got to an area where we could stop and walk up the water course.
The saltwater pond at the end looked great but had a resident croc so it was definitely no swimming.
Unfortunately the water course was bone dry and even the spring fed waterhole (that apparently always has water in it) was empty.
We also noted that the surrounding trees and palms were really struggling to survive with the lack of water.
So much for a swim…..
That’s one very dry water course…
We thought Freshwater Bay was a nice anchorage but certainly not the best in the Kimberley and we decided to leave.
So our 3 day stop at Freshwater Bay turned into an overnight stay and we took off for Prudhoe Island early the next morning after a lovely sunrise.
Our washing of Lorelei was in vain and within 20 minutes of being underway, we had saltwater all over the boat again in the strong 20+ knots of wind.
Paul was not happy!!!
It was another fast and lively sail from Freshwater Bay to Parry Harbour where we stopped for the night.
We had sailed the 55nm from door to door and only used 1 litre of diesel just to lift the anchor in the morning and to find a suitable anchorage that night.
There was another great sunrise with 5 orange beams of light radiating out before the sun came up.
It was off again at 6am with more salt all over the boat right from the get-go.
To rub salt into the wound (or onto the boat…), it was a terrible sail and it was like being in a washing machine with very confused seas, strong currents and unusual wind angles.
We had to navigate through scores of small islands and shallow reef systems and put many gybes in which was a lot of fun with the 4 of us all having our jobs to do. We got better & better & faster on the winches and in the end were like a
well-oiled sail race team….
well-oiled sail race team….
One big thing was the lack of info on the electronic charts on both our laptops and iPads.
There were loads of rocks, islands and shallow reefs that were not even on the charts.
So we decided to name them ourselves.
We came up with names like Fraggle Rock, Play-Dough Island, Submarine Rock, etc, etc….
Surprisingly this group of rocks were not on the charts.
It’s now called Play-Dough Island.
We named this one Submarine Rock
Lisa realised we would never make Prudhoe Island before dark so we cut the trip short and stopped at Krait Bay overnight.
It was flat when we arrived at mid-afternoon but it started to get rolly around sunset and was terrible by bedtime.
Needless to say we all had a restless night sleep and woke bleary eyed the next day.
We had planned to stop and do some reef fishing for the day around the rocky reefs but decided to abort and push on to Prudhoe.
It was only a 30nm sail but the winds were light and it was directly downwind so we had another day of dogging reefs and gybing.
We arrived mid-afternoon to a gorgeous bay that was flat calm.
Finally we could stop for a few days to play!
Within an hour of arriving we had the tinny in and Paul, Lisa & George were fishing with soft plastics on the reef areas around the island just before sunset.
We all caught fish with Paul scoring the best one – a great sized Bar Cheek Coral Trout just as the sun was setting.
The next day was go, go, go with first a fishing trip at 6am.
We tried some of the outer reefs but lost lots of rigs to the ever changing bottom profile and the fish we did get off the bottom, we lost to sharks.
So we came back to the pass we had fished the night before and had 4 fish in the esky within 30 minutes.
George took the crown for the day with 2 Coral Trout to Pauls one and Lisa’s one Golden Snapper.
Whilst Paul struggled with the desalinator that was playing up, George and Chez went and found a nice beach for a swim before lunch.
It was a really hot day and we had to wait until after 3:30pm to go for a walk on the island.
By then everyone but Paul was tired so he decided to scramble up the rocks to the island’s peak.
It was only about 20 minutes before sunset by the time he reached the top so it was a rush back down to be safely back at the tinny before dark.
Note Lorelei anchored in the bay just right of the sun streak
The next day (after another mornings fishing – 3 trout and 1 snapper…) we all went and did a walk from the bay over to the protected side of the island.
It was the day of the spring tides (biggest tides of the month) and there was a whopping 7m tidal range.
We anchored the Tinny on a roving line so it was away from the rocky edge.
We tied the ropes off really high up but on our return they were still 1.5m underwater and Paul had to dive under to untie them.
Note how high the lines are tied to the rocks on the far right
There were loads of crystals in the rocks.
Some rocks had large seams of the crystals whilst others had broken away to have them attached to the side. There were smaller crystals and fragments scatted all over the ground.
The colours ranged from orange to brilliant white to completely clear.
George found a near perfect hexagonal one that looked like glass.
It’s going to get turned into a pendant for Chez.
The hike over the hill was a hard slog through the large scattered rocks.
We got to the coast and thought it was too strenuous to walk to the sandy beach for a swim, so we found a small cove and jumped in off the rocks.
The water surged in weird ways making different levels of water in 3 adjoining areas. The water cascaded over the rocks into each section – sometimes taking us with it.
Note the 3 different water heights from the left to the right
After 3 fabulous days at Prudhoe Island we took off again for the next leg.
We transited down the Scott Strait which apparently is not recommended as it is mostly unchartered and has tidal current of up to 8 knots.
Well that didn’t deter us and we navigated it successfully on a rising spring tide and motored though with the current pushing us along at up to 10 knots.
Well at least it was a fast trip…..
We found a bay that looked stunning and decided to anchor and explore.
It is rarely visited and is uncharted so we carefully navigated our way into a side bay and anchored up.
It was only in 8m/27ft depth and we surmised we would have less than 1m/3ft under the keel at low tide – well we hoped for nothing less than that….
At midday on the top of the tide we took the tinny about 6 miles up into a small tributary.
On the way we passed a small island with the rocks that looked like the ruins of an old ancient city.
The river was well protected and we threw some lures around, had a troll and stopped for a bite to eat.
After another 30nm run, we stopped overnight at Careening Bay to have a look at a famous Boab Tree on the beach.
The beach was great and there were a few Boab Trees up above the high tide mark.
The most popular one is a huge Boab that is over 1000 years old and has split in two.
It has the inscription of a British Cutter Ship called the Mermaid that was careened on the beach for repairs in 1820.
The crew carved the ships name in the tree under instructions from the British Secretary of State to leave some evidence of their landing.
The carved ships name and date is still very evident even today.
Fortunately the WA National parks have put a walkway around the tree in an effort to preserve it and to stop people getting too close and walking over the trees exposed roots.
The back of the Mermaid Boab was a wild looking twisted mix of truck and branches.
There were some other great Boab Trees along the beach too but they were not nearly as big.
The beach had lots of fresh water running along it from the sides and it was evident in the healthy wild flowers in the area.
The sun was setting just as we left which made for a nice view looking out from the beach.
From the boat it looked pretty good too…..
We pushed on with a 45nm run to The Prince Regent River.
We had to enter a series of narrow waterways and the St George Basin before arriving at the river mouth.
The spring tides were flooding and we were flying along under motor up to 12 knots (twice our normal speed) but were consistently over 10 knots.
It made for a very fast and fuel efficient passage.
The Basin was surprisingly deep and we had depths over 100m which was the deepest we had encountered of the entire trip.
The whirlpools in the narrow passages are marked on the charts and we had Lorelei going in all directions each time we motored into one.
Some were very fierce and threw Lorelei’s 30 tonnes around 90 degrees in seconds.
It was a lot of fun and the photos didn’t really do the whirlpools any justice.
The scenery along the passage was excellent with some amazing escarpments along the way.
We passed a small island that had loads of large Boab Trees on the shoreline.
We were rushing to make the river mouth on the high tide so we didn’t stop but we made a note to have a look on the way back.
The currents in the main channel of the Prince Regent River are strong so we anchored in a side inlet called Purulba Creek which is about 7nm in from the river mouth.
There were a set of cliffs right along the edge that made an easy reference point for anchoring.
In the afternoon we took a trip in the tinny for about 6nm up Purulba Creek.
The glassy water and afternoon sun made for a pleasant trip.
We stopped to have a look at a large rock plateau only to find a large crocodile sunning himself on the lower rocks.
We didn’t even see him until he moved to slip into the water and we didn’t have the cameras ready.
We motored up some little mangrove lined side passages and did some trolling.
The rock walls and mangroves made for some great reflection photos.
In one little inlet George spotted a very small Crocodile that was only about 30cm/1ft long. He was happily sitting on a log and didn’t move despite us only being about 2m/6ft away and taking photos.
Note the Mudskipper Fish that was also hanging out
on the log in the bottom of the photo
On the way back to Lorelei we stopped in a small inlet to throw some lures around the mangroves.
We heard a noise that we have heard a few times now in different locations and we were sure it was a crocodile grunting to let us know he wasn’t happy about us being in his area.
Sure enough a minute later a croc swam on the surface right up to the tinny.
It sat only 1m/3ft of the side and watched us. It would sink after a few minutes and come up next to another part of the tinny.
We got a lot of close-up photos of him before we left him in peace.
It was an excellent croc experience and a bonus to finally confirm that the noises we were hearing were from Crocodiles.
The first morning’s sunrise in Purulba Creek was great with the reflections.
Once the tide started to flood back into the river system, we took off in the tinny towards the Kings Cascades.
From Purulba Creek it was a long way and we did a 23nm (40km) return journey.
We packed lunch, fishing gear, 2 tanks of fuel and bolted on the 3.3hp auxiliary engine just in case.
The Kings Cascades are a series of large waterfalls on the waters edge and swimming holes with more waterfalls that you can climb/walk up too.
It is all located in a small amphitheatre off the side of the main channel.
Unlike many of the other waterfalls in The Kimberley that were dry, these ones were flowing nicely.
The falls are the location of the Crocodile attack that killed US model Ginger Meadows in 1986.
She was standing on the rocks under the waterfall and decided to dive in and swim back to the boat.
She died from the crocodile attack that happened on the day before her 25th birthday.
Paul was able to tweak his camera and use a ND Filter to slow the shutter speeds down for some soft water shots of the waterfalls.
We parked the tinny off to the side and walked/climbed up to the top pools.
About ½ way up we noticed the luxury cruise boat Kimberley Quest arrive and nose the boat right up to the main waterfalls.
The river is so shallow in parts with lots of hidden rocks and there was no way we were going to attempt that with Lorelei’s deep keel.
The first top pool looked black with its deep water and high surrounding cliffs.
The only way to access the next series of pools and waterfalls was to swim across the black pool.
We were so fortunate to have George’s small waterproof camera to take with us up to the next levels.
By the time we got back down to the bottom, Quest had gone and we explored some other areas within the amphitheatre that also had water coming down the rock faces.
We took one last photo as the sun set behind the rocks and motored back to Lorelei in the orange colours of dusk.
It was just getting dark as we arrived safely back on-board.
We did a second trip up to another series of waterfalls at Camp Creek which was only about half the distance of going to the Kings Cascades.
We left a little earlier on the low tide and had to slow down in the creek due to the shallow water.
So we turned the engine off and drifted along with the incoming tide to do some lure casting and watch the wildlife.
We saw a Chestnut Rail that we have never seen before and is only found in small patches throughout Australia’s top end.
The view up at the end of the creek within the high rocky sides was amazing.
At the end we stopped for lunch on a rock ledge overlooking the canyon.
After lunch we walked up the water course looking for a safe swimming hole.
We passed lots of small waterfalls and rock races that were flowing strongly.
Further up we found a series of large billabong style waterholes.
They were big with black water and we decided to find something a little smaller and safer for a swim.
On return to the rock bar we tried to fish from the rocky edges as it was close to the high tide.
We threw lures for ages and tried a dozen different sizes and colours but George caught the only fish – and even then it was a large Saw Fish which got off.
We were pretty disappointed not to get a Barramundi.
On the way home, the sun was setting creating a warm glow on the rocks and reflections in the glassy water.
It topped off another great day but by 8:30pm we were stuffed (after many consecutive days of going non-stop) and we all slept until 8:30am the next morning.
The next day something really unusual happened – it rained!!!!
Whilst that doesn’t sound too weird – it is supposed to be the dry season with SE trade winds, cooler weather and clear skies.
The cooler conditions lasted for about 1 week (the week prior) and then a low pressure cell formed off the NW coast of WA (which usually happens in Summer) and we were back to stinking hot days, no wind and rain.
It just adds another chapter to the book of crazy weather for 2016 that has been with us since Bali at Christmas time and hasn’t stopped since.
We figured the rain might flush the Mud Crabs out of the creeks so we set up the new WA approved crab pots (which are a bit unusual) and put 4 of them up the creek inlets.
We put our round polystyrene floats on them that we have used for years on the East Coast.
We discovered that the Crocodiles love to chew on them and after only half an hour we found a Croc hanging out in the shallows with one of our floats in his mouth and bits of polystyrene floating down the inlet.
It was a bit of a mission to wrestle it away from him but eventually we got it back.
So mental note for when we arrive in Broome – purchase some new hard plastic crab pot floats!!!
In between checking the pots we threw some lures around and caught & released 3 different types of fish.
We also celebrated George’s birthday in the Prince Regent River.
With the wild weather off the coast (and rising winds with big seas to add to the already silly weather…) we decided to stay and do some more fishing.
Before going fishing Lisa cooked George apple muffins for breaky.
We split the fishing into 2 parts.
George and Lisa fishing the main inlet along the rocks at low tide and caught Mangrove Jacks.
Not big but VERY tasty…..
In the arvo Paul and George tried the side tributaries on the rising tide but all they got were Crocodiles hanging around the tinny.
Despite the strong weather lingering for days we pushed off and snuck around to another protected area called Hanover Bay.
The passage was a lot flatter than we expected but we did weave through the islands for protection.
Hanover bay was fantastic!!
It had beautiful white sandy beaches with clear water where we could have a quick swim and some nice tributaries close by for fishing.
The fishing was a heap of fun.
We found the mouth of a small inlet on the first arvo that had a mixture of rock bars and mangroves.
It was the first time we had 3 of us in the tinny all lure casting and it was no problem at all.
We teased the Queenfish and Trevally right up the boat and it made for a fun arvo of sport fishing on light tackle.
Paul had tried and tried to run the desalinator on the previous 10 days but could only run it for about 30 minutes before it played up and sadly we were slowly going backwards in the main tanks water levels.
It had him stumped! It was the only thing not running right on the boat and was really bugging him.
It was also one of the most important and critical items on board and it needed to run properly to complete the trip.
Paul was about to start to break down the system and replace pumps, etc. with spares on board but he decided to check the filters first.
They looked fine looking through the blue tinted housings but on closer inspection we found them coated in a fine film of light grey clay that was
non-porous and had virtually clogged the filter, subsequently starving the system of incoming salt water.
non-porous and had virtually clogged the filter, subsequently starving the system of incoming salt water.
The filters which normally last for well over 3-4 months and are usually only replaced as a preventative, were well and truly spent after only 3 weeks in
The Kimberley’s silty muddy water.
The Kimberley’s silty muddy water.
It turned into a 3 minute and $6 fix!
Fortunately we brought about 30 new filters before we left Darwin.
We thought that amount would last for years - but obviously not….
Either way Paul had a smile from ear to ear for the rest of the day and enjoyed an extra drink or two at sunset.
The hot weather came to an abrupt ending when a strong wind warning was issued and the wind brought big seas and cold (really cold….) weather.
We had a yacht next to us that left in the morning and an hour later they were back after coping a flogging for 30 minutes under sail before returning covered in salt water and a little worse for wear.
So we rugged up and decided to explore the inlets around Hanover Bay.
The inlets high sided cliffs offered great protection from the wind and were stunning to look at.
The inlets had some Mangrove Trees with big solid trunks that looked more like gum trees in the water than the normally stunted, twisted mangroves.
At the end of the inlet we found loads of Boab Trees up on the hill sides and deep within the dense growth.
George spotted one huge one with its top sticking out high above the other foliage.
Lisa and Chez dropped Paul and George ashore and they bush-bashed up the slope to the tall Boab Tree.
There was a smaller second one behind the first and the photo looking into the sun was as challenge but came out well using the flash on high power.
We saw a few Rock Wallabies on the rock faces and were amazed at how agile they were.
We watched one jump from near sea level all the way up a large rocky cliff face in a very short time.
Paul managed to get a shot of one mid-air as she jumped from rock to rock.
On the way back to Lorelei we stopped in a small rocky bay that had 2 small beaches that were only exposed at low tide.
The shallow shoaling water was perfect for a safe swim, however George was wading through the water and a small curious shark swam right up to his feet.
Above the beaches were lots more Boabs and we clambered up the rock to have look at a few.
Fishing started a little late that arvo and we only got a 30 minute session in just before sunset.
Paul managed to hook an Estuary Cod on only his second cast.
We don’t eat Cod so we let it go after the photo.
If the day before was cold, the next day was windier and much colder.
We all were in long pants and jumpers all morning and stayed on board while it blew dogs off chains.
The poor people on the yacht next to us still couldn’t leave despite having to meet friends soon.
We still managed to explore a new inlet that was protected from the wind.
The cooler temps allowed us to go for the trip without the canopy.
The arvo fishing session was a very fun one with lots of big fish action on the rock bar at the inlet we explored during the day.
Paul lost a huge Mangrove Jack just next to the boat and we soon discovered it had straightened the hooks on the lure.
He then had a barracuda take the lure right next to the boat just has he was lifting it out of the water. It made a hell of a splash and stripped a lot of line off the reel before finally boating it and letting it go.
We caught loads of Cod of all sizes too.
Sadly after a great session we went home (once again) with no fish to eat.
We had a terrific sail from Hanover Bay to Sampson Inlet.
It was a solid 20 knots and we were reefed down and flying downwind.
We went past a Humpback Whale and it put on an incredible acrobatic show for us and was leaping well clear of the water.
Nobody had a camera on deck and by the time Paul got one set up it, the show was almost over.
We had to weave through lots of islands and tight straits (although there was nothing straight about them) and we had to do a lot of gybes to dodge things.
Eventually the tide got the better of us when the high cliff walls shadowed the wind and we had to motor the last few miles.
As we approached the inlet we could see large schools of Northern Bluefin Tuna (also called Longtail Tuna) busting up whilst they fed near the surface.
They were still at it even in the confines of the inlet!
So as soon as we anchored Lorelei, it was in with the Tinny and off to catch a Tuna.
It didn’t take too long and soon we had landed a 7.5kg one which was a hoot on light tackle.
The inlet anchorage was super protected and glassy flat.
Early the next morning we headed up stream on the high tide to explore.
The inlet was stunning with lots of interesting rock structures, loads of Boab Trees, Cycad Palms and wildlife.
We saw the biggest Boab we had ever seen right up on top of the escarpment.
We called it Sampson and figured it was the Granddaddy of all Boab’s in the area.
At the end of the gorge we tied the Tinny up to the side rocks and ventured up the water course on foot.
With the 8m tidal range we had to be careful not to tie the Tinny up too tightly.
Paul went climbing up a steep grass slope to take some Boabs photos when the rock he was standing on to take the photos suddenly gave away and rolled down the hill. Paul went tumbling into the rocks and smashed his camera and face onto the rocks.
The camera was fine (fortunately it was one of the older ones….) but Paul received a split and bruised lip, grazed leg and a nasty cut to his toe that he got through his shoes!!
It knocked him around a little for the next 24 hours.
The Boab shots came out well though….
On the way home we stopped at another smaller inlet which was reported to have aboriginal rock art.
We searched and had all but given up when George found some under an overhang. It wasn’t very clear and quite faded.
From Sampson we ventured a little further around to Deception Bay which is the best area to view Whales in The Kimberley.
We saw a mother and calf lazing in the shallows close to land.
George, Chez and Lisa spent a morning swimming and exploring the area while Paul rested up after his fall.
Do you think they even took one photo??? ……No!
But they did find fresh turtle tracks on the beach and freshly dug egg nests.
From Deception Bay we headed to Langgi on the day of the full moon and spring tides which were around 9 meters difference between low and high.
On the way we saw more whales. We tried to get close with the motor but they would dive. So we stopped the motor and unfurled the headsail and ghosted along in the light winds which allowed us to get much closer.
Langgi is a special place for the Aboriginal people as it has rock art, a burial cave and some very unusual rock formations on the water’s edge that are unique.
The rock formations are covered in water at high tide so we had to wait until 4pm to go ashore.
The rocks are amazing and we spent a long time walking around them and exploring.
You had to have a bit of an open mind when looking at the rocks, many of which resembled animals or other objects.
Low tide was 5pm and by then the Tinny was high and dry so we had to wait until after 6pm before we could re-float it to get back to Lorelei.
The low tide and setting sun made for excellent photos as the light spread over the beach and rocks.
We watched the sunset and the amazing colours that formed after the sun had set. At the same time the full moon rose bringing lots of light to the area.
It was a terrific experience and certainly a highlight of the entire trip.
We left the coastline and ventured out to Montgomery Reef.
The reef is famous for its cascading water overfalls when the tide drops and water pours over the reef into the channel.
At spring tides it is far more dramatic and water level differences of up to 5 meters can be experienced between the top of the reef and the inside channel.
We had a 10.4 meter tidal difference so we knew we were in for a treat.
We didn’t know what to expect of the reef and had images in our head of the Great Barrier Reef with clear water and easily visible reef edges.
Well it was nothing like that and the reef was totally covered at high tide and we couldn’t see any reef.
However we had to navigate up the narrow channel, anchor Lorelei and sit and wait for the tide to drop.
Anchoring up turned into a mission with huge currents running through the channel making it hard going to scout around and find a safe and suitable anchorage without knowing where the reef edges were.
Once anchored it was surreal and it was like being anchored up in the middle of the ocean with nothing visible for miles around.
Fortunately it was dead flat seas, clear skies and only a little wind so conditions were close to perfect.
As the tide dropped the reef slowly became apparent and somehow we fluked it and had anchored right in the middle of the channel and opposite a series of great overfalls.
As the reef became exposed the current channelled through the pass and was flying at well over 6 knots.
We had to be extra careful dropping the Tinny in off the davits and getting it tied safely up to the side of Lorelei. If it had tipped onto its side whilst being tied on, the current would have rolled it over for sure.
At first the overfalls were small and we were able to nose right up to the edge with the deeper water.
As time went on, the overfalls became fiercer and the water at the base of them became shallower. It was all the more difficult in the Tinny as we couldn’t see the rocks in the turbulent water.
The birds also turned up for a feed when the reef became exposed.
When the tide dropped right down, the water backed off but was coming down fast in certain areas which allowed Paul to walk up a drier section and get some photos.
Dead low tide was just after sunset and it was glassy flat as we were about 3-4 meters below the water level on the outer reef areas.
Just on dark the tide was rising and the water had backed off to a slow run.
Despite it being flat and calm, we had to be vigilant that night and monitor our positions, particularly during the tide changes.
The sunrise at low tide in the glassy conditions was special and the full moon was still up.
We managed to leave at 9:30am the next morning.
It was a great experience (and we were the only ones there) but a little fraught with danger and we had to really be in the ball with getting in and out and anchoring.
We motored through the channel and over to Raft Point.
The bay is open and exposed but the calm conditions made for a perfect anchorage.
We took the tinny into the next bay and around some amazing rocky headlands.
We parked at a fantastic beach that had lots of Boab Trees close to the water’s edge.
There is a trail that winds up into the hills and finishes at 2 caves that have Aboriginal rock art.
The rock art is different from both The Gwion/Bradshaws and anything we had seen in Kakadu.
It was quite vibrant against the rocks and came up great in the photos.
The area is well known for Dugongs (Sea Cows or Manatees) and there were lots of paintings of them in the caves.
That evening was excellent and dead flat.
Lisa and George went fishing, a neighbouring yacht came to say hello (it was one of the only ones we had seen) and Paul and Chez watched the rocks transform into amazing colours as the afternoon sun cast its glow onto them.
A cruise ship then came into the bay after dark.
By morning it was still dead flat and the rising sun cast its glow on the rock faces on the other side of the bay.
The next big stop was the Horizontal Waterfalls at Talbot Bay but it was a 55nm run and there was not enough wind to sail the entire way in daylight hours so we split the trip into two and stopped half way at Kingfisher Island.
We saw stacks of Whales on the way.
The second half of the trip to Talbot Bay had dead flat seas and no wind so we motored the whole way.
It started with normal boat speed but as we entered the channel into the bay, the flooding tide pushed us along faster and faster.
At one stage we were doing over 13.5 knots boat speed which is the fastest Lorelei has even gone under motor.
That equated to 6.5 knots boat speed at the engine revs we were doing and 7 knots current assistance!!
The islands within the passage were stunning and the water was a glassy green colour.
We arrived at the end of the bay to find a hive of activity.
There is a floating hotel (called The Horizontal Hotel) with pontoons attached to it all around.
We counted 4 helicopters on the hotel roofs and pontoons, up to 5 sea planes coming and going and tourist boats of all shapes and sizes for exploring the area.
We anchored not far away and watched the spectacle.
We had helicopters flying overhead, sea planes taking off & landing right next to Lorelei and boats wizzing past.
The Horizontal Waterfalls are a series of narrow water filled passes that separate the long steep rocky gorge and an inland sea that is landlocked. The passes are the only entry for water to the inland sea. The tidal ranges and times differ from the gorge to the inland sea and at the ends of the tides there can be a significant difference in the water heights.
The water then spews through the passes with tremendous force.
At the opposite end of the tide the water forces its way back through the other way.
We listened on the Hotel’s radio frequency and found out they were doing a 1:30pm boat trip through the Horizontal Waterfalls for guests.
So we put the tinny in and beat them there by a few minutes so we could check it out and see what they did at the waterfalls.
Their boats were large RIBs with 3 x 300hp outboards and they blasted through the passes at high speed.
We thought it looked possible in the tinny so we turned around, lined it up and blasted through the pass at full speed. We hit a few whirlpools and current patches which threw us around a bit.
We ventured over to a second waterfall that was very steep and not even the big boats were going through it. We watched the skipper carefully reverse the boat back down into the top of the waterfall and manage to hold it there with high revs for the excited guests.
We realised it was going to be a huge challenge to get safely back through the waterfall we had just come over.
The water was screaming through at well over 12-15 knots and there were deep holes from whirlpools and loads of turbulence.
We did a dummy run first to pick a line and take some photos.
Everything was packed away and locked down before the main run.
Paul had a big run up and was going at 100% full throttle.
The boat bucked and tipped and lurched all over the place and at one stage a gunnel went under water.
We slowed considerably from the current once in the main pass and the engine was screaming from water cavitation.
We crab walked quite close to the rock wall at one stage but slowly we crawled through and eventually into some green and less turbulent water at the top where we picked up speed and got through – just!!!
Looking back it was a little silly and there were lots of white knuckles
- but hey, we did it!!!
- but hey, we did it!!!
Later in the afternoon we explored Cyclone creek which is close by.
The rock formations were stunning and we spent ages exploring all the different inlets.
Later in the arvo we were all relaxing when George walked on deck to see a shark swimming around the boat.
Initially he thought it was a Tawny Nurse Shark so he went down onto the rear platform only to have a good sized Hammerhead Shark come right up to him, roll onto its side and look up at him.
It hung around for a least 30 minutes and came up very close to us heaps of times.
It was Saturday and that night they had live music on the pontoon.
In the calm conditions we could hear it and were singing along as we had a BBQ outside.
The next morning we had a look at the waterfalls going the other way and a second trip up to Cyclone Creek.
We contacted the Hotel and organised a doors-off helicopter flight over the area.
We arrived at the pontoon to find lots of very friendly staff and a really tidy and well run set-up.
We were able to tie up the tinny right next to the helicopter.
The flight was excellent with firstly a fly over the horizontal waterfalls.
We then did a trip around the inland sea and then Cyclone Creek.
On the way back, Fraser our pilot did a loop around Lorelei on anchor.
After the flight we were just about to leave when Chez enquired about a series of alloy cages in the water and they said they were for shark feeds.
They explained how it all works with the local Tawny Nurse Sharks which sounded great.
By chance they were just about to start one on another pontoon and they allowed us to come along and watch.
Talk about good timing!!
The feed has the guests in shallow cages and the sharks are free to swim under the pontoon and up to the cage side for a free feed.
They get up to 20 of the harmless Tawny’s each time.
There is also a 4m long resident Bull Shark that usually hangs a little deeper under all the action and the area is also known for Tigers and Hammerheads, hence the reason for the cage.
With the huge current flow we had entering Talbot Bay, we needed to get the run out tides spot on when leaving otherwise it was going to be a very slow trip.
The issue was we either had to leave at 2am or 2pm.
2am was fraught with danger manoeuvring through the islands at dark and leaving at 2pm would mean arriving at the next available anchoring location after dark.
Lisa planned and planned and managed to find a route that would get us to Silver Gull Creek just on dark – providing we had no current against us.
Any current with us would mean we would arrive earlier but we had to go through a few narrow passages and the current direction in those areas were unknown.
So we took off as soon as the tide ebbed and motored out at normal speed.
The forecast was for a strong wind warning – apparently!!
It was so glassy with zero wind and no swell.
Things were going well but the big trial was to navigate the Koolan Canal.
It is narrow and has an old wharf and mine site that was run by BHP up until only a few years ago.
The mine face which goes all the way to the water’s edge is an eyesore and as yet has not been restored by BHP.
Fortunately the currently was flying along with us in the Canal and we were all very happy with Lisa and her navigating abilities.
We entered Silver Gull Creek with light to spare and passed some awesome rock formations and a beautifully kept old gaff rigged yacht.
Lorelei was anchored up just on dusk and in time to enjoy a drink or two (or more for Lisa…) and a great sunset.
We tried fishing again and threw everything at them but once again no edible eating fish.
We did get a few Trevally and George managed to hook 2 at once on a single lure that had 2 treble hooks on it.
In all our years of fishing we have never seen that before.
After lunch we decided to explore the Inlet and found lots of small arms on the high tide with steep walls and narrow passages.
Paul walked up one water course for a look.
Once again the waterfalls were all bone dry and the pools stagnant.
We found 2 large birds nests that had both adult and chicks in them.
We left Silver Gull for Cape Leveque which was a full day sail.
We had currents, whirlpools, winds & tides going in all directions and it made for a frustrating days sailing and motoring.
Cape Leveque looked nice from the water but we had to anchor Lorelei out a long way from the beach due to the shallow water and it was a little too rolly to bother putting the tinny in.
So instead we got an early night sleep and tackled the 50nm run from the cape to Beagle Bay the next day.
It was our second last run before tackling the final 85nm run to Broome.
The sail to beagle started nice and finished poorly.
There was a strong wind forecast and we left at 6:30am reefed down and flying down the coast in 18 knots of wind and doing 10 knots boat speed with current assistance.
Great we thought – 5 hours and we’ll be in the bay.
But slowly the wind died, not strengthened, and our speed went down and down until eventually it dropped out and we motored the final 10 miles.
We anchored in the bay and had NW winds on the nose which was crazy as the strong wind forecast was for SE-E winds.
So that’s it for this episode of the blog.
The next leg is the final day sail to Broome where we will spend some time there with George and Chez before they fly back to Darwin, pick up their rig and continue onto QLD.
For Paul and Lisa on-board Lorelei, we will continue sailing on the next leg of our NW coast of Australia tour.
As to where that will be – well to be honest, we just don’t know yet……
Either way, with the very limited internet in this part of the country, it may be a while before our next blog post.
So that it for Episode 51 and the last of the 4 full Episodes with George and Chez.
We’ve been together for over 3 months, have explored 4 states of Australia by boat and car and travelled well over 10 000km (8000km by car & caravan, 1700km in Lorelei and over 300km in the new tinny).
Cheers for now
Paul and Lisa Hogger
George and Chez Hogger