Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures
Welcome to Episode 52
BROOME TO DARWIN
THE KIMBERLEY PART 2
At the end of Episode 51 we had just completed a 900 mile adventure with Paul’s parents George and Chez on-board Lorelei as we sailed south-west through
The Kimberley from Darwin to Broome.
The Kimberley from Darwin to Broome.
We were just sailing towards Broome as the Sun was setting……
Our location for this Episode of the Blog.
Our route for this Episode of the Blog.
We sailed down the coast on the last leg with George and Chez.
It was a 90nm run so we left at about 2am and were just getting into Broome as the sun was setting.
The biggest issue is the main port faces SE-E so in the trade wind season the winds are onshore and it’s very rough.
So all the boats (both private and commercial) moor off Cable Beach which is on the ocean side and offshore in the trades.
It’s exposed to the Indian Ocean, rolly and far from perfect but there is no other choice.
Note the boats all anchored off the corner of Cable Beach
We arrived and noticed nearly every boat was on a mooring.
It was only 5m/16ft deep and we could see the sandy bottom so it had us perplexed.
That was until we tried to anchor and found out the sand was only very thin and covering the rocks & reefs underneath meaning the anchor would not grab & set.
We tried 3 times in different locations with failing light but to no avail.
We noticed the charter boat True North leaving with a new group of guests so we called them up and asked to use their mooring overnight.
The following morning we took George and Chez ashore at Cable Beach.
They organised a hire car and booked into their Broome accommodation for 4 nights.
Cable Beach was crazy busy with 100’s (literally) of 4WD’s along the beach.
There was anything from family picnics to sunbathers to cars launching boats of all sizes to charter businesses and even buses.
Talk about a super busy place.
Boat launching Broome style – straight off the beach…..
If you drove along far enough, you could still find a little peace and quiet.
Whale Watching the easy way…..
The charter companies had some great
tenders to get their guests to and from the beach
tenders to get their guests to and from the beach
The issue with Broome is it is not set up for visiting boats and there is nowhere to leave tenders and with tides up to 12m/40ft in height, that is a real challenge.
For us it was virtually impossible to have both of us ashore at the same time so we took it in turns to go ashore.
We had a strong wind warning forecast for 2 days’ time so we decided to get the most important job of refuelling Lorelei done first.
We also found out the moorings in cable beach were a ridiculous $50 per night which we refused to pay. It gave you no services – nothing, just a buoy to tie to. We’ve stayed at East Coast Marinas with full facilities for cheaper than that!!
So we took Lorelei around to the port past the large commercial wharf.
The wharf charges $300 to tie up alongside but the currents under the wharf are super strong and many a private boat has done a lot of damage when trying to get back off the wharf.
Additionally we weren’t going to pay $300 for that privilege and spend hours rising up and down along huge oyster encrusted poles.
So we anchored off the town beach and George drove the hire car to go back and forth to the service station with 20 litre jerry cans that we ferried in & out to Lorelei using the tinny.
We could only do it a few hours either side of high tide so we started at 4pm and carted 800 litres of fuel finishing after 9pm that night.
What a mission that was!!!!!
Sure enough the next morning the Southerly front hit with a vengeance and it was very rough.
Roebuck Bay - the photo doesn’t do it justice but Lorelei’s bow was dripping down below the waves whilst on anchor
We tried to move further into Roebuck Bay closer to land and it was OK at low tide but at high tide it was terrible and we had no option but to ride out the night and head back around to Cable Beach the next day.
Rather than paying the $50 mooring fee we rang a friend Cody who we met in the Marina at Darwin as his charter boat was berthed next to Lorelei.
He lives in Broome and managed to find a mate whose mooring was empty so we took that.
Cable Beach has some great sunsets and the whales were playing just behind the moored boats.
We met a nice couple Grant and Glynis off the power cat Sea Wolf 2 and decided to link up with them in helping each other with lifts to get to and from shore which solved the dingy problem.
They would go onshore in the mornings and we would do the arvos which was perfect.
It allowed us to spend some time with George and Chez in the hire car to explore Broome and to reprovision.
We liked the town of Broome a lot. It was a clean, quaint place with very friendly people and a lot of history.
The Pearling Industry was the town’s biggest industry and a lot of the history and even modern day industry & tourism centres around it.
An historical photo of a Broome Pearl Diver
The old Streeters Jetty is in the Chinatown area and has a lot of history.
It’s falling apart and Mangroves have grown all around it now but the old photos show a much different view.
Streeters Jetty in the 1980’s
Streeters Jetty in the 1970’s
We visited a Museum that is restoring two of the old Pearl Luggers.
The shell not the pearl was most sought after in the earlier days.
The Town Beach has a memorial to the women and families of the Pearlers who would wait for their husbands to return to the beach – if they even came back alive…
The historical photos of the same beach looked very different to the present day mangrove area.
Chinatown was very interesting to walk around.
The Pearl businesses and shops looked traditional and plain from the outside (so they can withstand the Cyclones during the monsoon season) but inside they had incredible fit-outs.
There were also some fantastic art shops.
In the main street is a Cinema that is the world’s oldest operating picture gardens.
The commercial wharf looked a lot different from the land.
Like The Kimberley, Broome has lots of Boab Trees.
Note the camels walking along the side of the road to the left.
The other end of Cable Beach closer to the town centre is beautiful and rated as one of the world’s best beaches.
The foreshore is well manicured and has a nice balance of parklands, restaurants & cafes.
Just before sunset the beach becomes alive with people to enjoy the sunset, a camel ride or to have a drink overlooking the spectacle.
Cable Beach Camel Rides are a big attraction and we walked along with them on the water’s edge.
We then enjoyed a cocktail before changing venues and having a fantastic seafood dinner at a beach side restaurant.
Sadly that night we said goodbye to George and Chez as they flew out the next morning back to Darwin to pick up their rig and continue their travels towards the East Coast.
We had been together for over 3 months and had a wonderful experience together on both the 8000km road trip and the 2000km boat trip.
We had visited 4 states of Australia over the course of the adventure and it spanned 4 blog posts (Episodes 48-51).
When they left Broome, so did we.
Overall we liked Broome but it’s a really hard place to visit by boat.
You would be much better off to fly in or drive there.
We left on the day of the spring tides and the currents were rocking up and down the coast.
We had to leave on the high tide and travel for 6 hours as the tide fell and pushed us north, anchor and sleep for 6 hours, then go again, and again, and again…..
On the way up the coast there were so many whales and we saw hundreds of them.
At one stage we could see at least 6 at any one time and 360 degrees all around Lorelei.
At Beagle Bay we anchored overnight and Sea Wolf 2 arrived not long after and just in time for sunset.
On the fourth travelling stint we passed Cape Leveque with its lighthouse and unusual cliff edges.
We anchored overnight off a beach that had a large area of ochre coloured sand.
After one more 6 hour run with the tide, we arrived at Coppermine Creek and were excited to see Sea Wolf 2 there as well.
We had sunset drinks with them for 3 nights in a row.
At Coppermine Creek we got stuck into the fishing and had 3 fantastic sessions.
On the first morning we ventured right up to the end of the creek and found a small inlet in-between the rocky shore and a sand bar at low tide so we drifted along it casting lures.
We must have caught over a dozen fish each and about 10 different species.
We let most of them go and it was a blast on light tackle in only a few meters of water depth.
At one stage we looked up to see 2 Bush Stone Curlews looking down at us as we fished along the steep rocky edge.
The next morning we went fishing again but it didn’t go as planned.
We went to the creek mouth at low tide and started there.
We were in only 2 meters depth and on the first cast Lisa had something very big come and take the lure just as she nearly had it back to the boat.
We both saw its size so Paul packed the boat down for a long fight and we chased it out into the bay.
It spooled her reel right down to the knot 3 times with big powerful runs as it dived deep in the bays deeper water.
Eventually 75 minutes later and 3km further out into the bay, Lisa had landed a whopping 16.2kg Northern Bluefin (a.k.a Long Tail) Tuna.
The most amazing thing is she landed it on a small Daiwa 4-7kg bait-caster using 7kg braided line, a 90cm 24kg leader and a Barra Lure!!!
Pound for pound it’s probably one of the best fishing fights of her life and we are still a little amazed that she landed it with no breakages.
Needless to say, we gave up fishing for the session as Lisa was completely worn out after the marathon battle and was a little shaky.
Paul didn’t even get to have a single cast!!
After a relax we went out again in the late arvo and had another session in a small pass between 2 large bodies of water.
It was a lot of fun with over 20 fish landed and released.
We even caught 2 reef sharks on hard bodied Barra Lures!!
In between fishing we explored the area and saw lots of bird life.
We motored back to Lorelei just after sunset in the warm glow and glassy conditions.
After 3 fantastic days at Coppermine Creek, we took off towards Raft Point.
We had to wait until 10:30am when the tide turned, then it was a race to see how far we could get in the 6 hours before the tide turned again.
We had to motor for the first half as we transited through the Narrow Coolan Channel past the old BHP mine site with the unused wharf and ore loader.
The channel narrows at the end and winds through a series of islands before exiting out into a large bay.
The wind came up and we had a fantastic sail across the bay.
We had to go through a passage in the Kingfisher Islands and we reached them at 4:40pm.
The wind was still blowing but the tide was slowing and light was failing so we stopped for the night rather than attempt to arrive at Raft Point against the tide and in the dark.
It proved to be a great decision with a calm night and great sunset and sunrise.
The islands behind Lorelei and the sunset with the warm glow on them
The same islands at sunrise
When the wind picked up again the next day we sailed to Red Cone Creek which was another 10nm further past Raft Point.
We entered the creek at 5pm and were anchored up in a fork where the creek splits into two just in time for sunset.
It was mirror flat and a very comfortable anchorage.
We were up at 5:30am to take advantage of the high tide at 7am to explore the creeks shallow tributaries.
There were a lot of Crocodiles but most were small and less than 2m/6ft length.
We fished the washouts but only for a bit of fun as we knew it would be better fishing on the low tide in the arvo.
We went right up to the Sapphire Waterfalls but the water level was not quite high enough so we decided to wait a few days for larger high tides to re-visit with more water covering the mud flats.
In one tributary we could hear some bird calls. Paul was able to mimic the call and soon we had cute little Mangrove Robins in the branches next to the Tinny exchanging calls with Paul.
In the afternoon we went back to the same tributary to do some low tide fishing.
It looked completely different at low tide with the waterway being much narrower, exposed mud banks and oyster covered rocks.
There were lots of Mudskippers hanging on the muddy areas.
We fished the muddy washouts without much success but further up we found a series of rocks in the centre of the channel with a lot of small bait fish around.
It looked perfect and on the second cast, Paul had landed his first Kimberley Barramundi.
It was only small at 55cm length but at least it was a start.
Less than 5 minutes later he landed a second one that was a slightly smaller 53cm.
With the higher tides the next day (the tides were going 1 meter higher and 1 meter lower each day we went towards spring tides..!!) we were able to transit up to the Ruby Falls at the end of the southern arm.
The high tide covered the Mangrove Trees and made for great photos looking into the sun through them.
Ruby Falls were excellent with lots of fresh water cascading down a series of waterfalls within a stunning ravine lined with amazing rock formations.
The lower pools are known to have crocs in them so we climbed up the rocks to the top plateau and found a series of long freshwater holes that looked perfect for a swim.
Paul took a panoramic pic of the waterfalls and ravine on the way back down.
Just as we were leaving we spotted a large croc sunning itself on the rocks.
It was the biggest we had seen in the Kimberley and we were able to get very close before it slid back into the water.
After lunch we tried fishing again but the inlet that had the rock bar was so low that we only had a 20 minute cast around it before we left for fear of being stranded at low tide.
So we tried a few other larger inlets and whilst they were very picturesque, we didn’t get any fish. But we did get some bird photos and a nice sunset.
The next day we tried to get to Sapphire Falls again and this time with success as the water level was so much higher at the high tide.
It was nice to go for a walk but it was a stinking hot 35 degrees and the waterfalls were dry meaning the pools were stagnant so no swimming. Bummer!!!
Paul tried to climb up a rock face to get a better view and brushed up against a large ant’s nest in the trees.
He had ants from head to toe and all over his camera backpack so it was a quick scurry down for Lisa to help him undress and get them all off him.
As we walked up along the plateau we passed a very small water hole and Lisa spied a 1m/3ft long Freshwater Croc in the shallow stagnant water.
We were amazed that he was living in such a small isolated and stagnant pond.
That’s the effect on the poor wildlife by the lack of rain from the not so wet seasons of the last 3 years.
We found an easier path back down that had nice views over the inlet.
Paul had a walk around the rocks casting lures at the end of the inlet and caught a small Mangrove Jack.
At the lower end of the inlet we stopped to go crabbing & fishing and Lisa turned our freshly caught crabs into yummy Chilli Mud Crab.
On the day before spring tides we left the inlet as the 12m/40ft tides that day would have had Lorelei sitting on the bottom at low tide.
So at high tide we motored out of the creek.
The wind was NW meaning we could not sail up the coast to our next destination into the wind so we stopped at Raft Point overnight and waited for the forecasted 20 knot easterly blow to hit the next day.
The scenery on the way was great.
The Kimberley’s version of Uluru/Ayers Rock…
Raft Point is a beautiful place and home to the best Aboriginal Rock Art we have ever seen. (See our last blog post - episode 51).
The rocky headlands surrounding the bay are stunning particularly at sunset and sunrise.
Paul took 3 photos of the same headland at sunset, just after sunset as the full moon rose over it, and again at sunrise.
On the turn of the tide we sailed up the coast.
We downloaded the weather and it was still a 20 knot easterly forecast, so we were a little perplexed when we sailed north to Deception Bay with westerly winds.
With the tides advancing 1 hour each day we swapped from late afternoon passages to early morning ones for current assistance but the downside was the lack of wind in the mornings.
Fortunately it was only a short 20nm run to Camden Harbour and we started with a nice sunrise as we motored out of the bay.
Once again it was a SE-E forecast and we had NW winds…???!!!
Camden Harbour has some sad history as it was the first white settlement in The Kimberley.
In 1865 a group of Victorian sheep farmers loaded up a ship with sheep and supplies and sailed to the harbour to establish a Sheep grazing property.
They arrived in the middle of the monsoon season.
The boat dragged anchor in a violent storm and sank, many people died of heat stroke and the venture was doomed before it even began.
Most people left on the next ship bringing supples but a small group decided to stay and try to make it work.
By the middle of the dry season most of the sheep had died from lack of water and Mary Jane Pascoe died in childbirth making her the first white woman to die in The Kimberley. The settlement was abandoned soon after and all that is left is a few remnants on the mainland and Mary Jane’s grave which is on a small island named Sheep Island.
We went to the island and found the grave site next to a huge Boab Tree with engravings dated back to 1865.
Next to the tree and the grave we found a waterproof container that had laminated copies of the history of the settlement, the recorded deaths of the settlers and some drawings. It was a very interesting read.
We walked around the island on the spring high tide and marvelled at the immense amount of fish life in the clear water around the mangroves.
It was very picturesque.
Note the Turtle swimming close to the beach just next to the mangrove shadow
There were also some great Boab Trees around the islands foreshore.
Unlike many we had seen in dense bush growth, these were standing alone on the rock edges and had unusual shaped trunk and root systems.
That afternoon it went overcast and a storm came over the bay.
We were so excited at the possibility of rain as we had not seen any decent rain for months.
Sadly all we got was a few drops but the cool wind and lower temperatures were a welcome change.
We ventured further NE towards our next big stop, the Hunter River.
On the way we stopped at Ivy Cove to see the historical Boab Tree.
Ivy Cove is in a narrow pass between 2 small islands that is notorious with current. Being only 5 miles from Careening Bay and the famous Mermaid Boab (See Episode 51), the charter boats choose to visit the easier to access Mermaid Boab rather than stop at Ivy Cove.
The cove is very picturesque and the Boab was huge.
It is engraved by the crew of the “Ivy” a pearling boat that worked in the area in the late 1800’s.
Across the pass on the other island we spied a Boab that was sitting on a rocky point all on its own.
We went over and Lisa put Paul onto the rocky headland while she stayed in the tinny.
It is a magnificent Boab Tree in excellent condition and no engravings.
As we rounded the last corner and sailed toward the Hunter River, we spied a whale breaching. It was a mile away further into the inlet and we had to sail past to clear the headland before gybing and sailing into the bay.
The whole time we could see it breaching.
As we got closer, it turned out to be a mum with her small calf that appeared to have only just learnt to breach and was having a blast doing it over and over again.
Mum would do the occasional big tail or fin slap but it was junior who stole the show with its endless breaches.
They didn’t even know we were there as we quietly sailed close to them.
We sailed into the bay until the run-out current finally beat us, so we stopped for the night in a quiet side inlet and waited for the flood tide in the morning to take us the last 20nm down the bay and into the Hunter River.
The tide was racing in the next morning and we were motoring at low revs doing 8.5 knots.
On the way Lisa spied a tall fin swimming alongside the boat.
A fin that shape and colour is so distinct and is from our favourite shark, a Hammerhead.
It was a big one so we motored back around for another pass.
We were excited to have it swim right up alongside the boat and it was not scared at all particularly considering the motor was running.
As we were just about at the river mouth, we motored past Naturalists Beach which is a popular spot for the charter boats to fly guests in and out using helicopters from the Mitchell Plateau.
The small cruise ship Caledonian Sky was there and we noticed 2 helicopters on the beach.
It was cool to watch both helicopters leave together.
The Hunter River is stunning and has some incredible rock formations along is entire length.
Within 2 hours of arriving we had the tinny in and were enjoying a late arvo fish up in the smaller tributaries. It was amazing and we stayed until well after the sun had set.
We went to bed as the only boat in the tranquil river but the next morning it was like a circus in the side tributary where Lorelei was anchored.
True North had turned up and had anchored not far away.
They had 5 tenders running around fishing on the low tide and their helicopter was going non-stop as they took the guests on scenic flights.
The larger Coral Expeditions & Caledonian Sky were also out in the main channel and together had 6 large RIB’s and one big tourist barge holding about 50 people all going up and down marvelling at the scenery and spotting crocs.
The boat wash and helicopter noise was just a little silly and we wondered how they saw any wildlife at all!!!
We fished anyway at a couple of rocky areas we knew held fish the day before and had landed 3 before we saw the 5 True North boats get one between them.
If they spent more time with lines in the water and less time blasting every few minutes from spot to spot then they might get something…..
Lisa landed our first Threadfin Salmon in a gutter right next to True North and Paul caught one 30 minutes later in a small inlet when the tide had risen enough to get into it.
In the quieter areas we found lots of crocs lazing on the mud banks in the morning sun.
In the afternoon the circus had left town and we were alone once again.
On the high tide we did a scenic run up to the end of the tributary and marvelled at the stunning scenery with its perfect reflections in the glassy water.
We had a few casts around some structure for a bit of fun.
Talk about scenic fishing at its best….
We also saw some varied bird life.
Great Egret & Common Sandpiper
Azzure Kingfisher & Red Headed Honeyeater
We stayed until sunset and the warm glow covered the rocky cliffs.
The morning of day 3 in the Hunter had once again more boats in the inlet with Kimberley Quest doing its helicopter flights and tourist runs up the inlet.
They don’t fish so much and have a very friendly & respectful crew in their tenders.
We had a croc hanging around Lorelei.
It was a big one and swam round and round the boat.
We had expected a lot of this in The Kimberley but after 10 weeks this was our first one.
On the arvo high tide we went out into the main arm and took a long run up to the end of the river to the Hunter Falls.
We stopped on the way to view some of the rocky cliffs on the water’s edge.
Like many of the waterfalls in the Kimberley this year, these huge 40m tall falls were only trickling down. It’s a rough and rocky walk from the end of the river so we decided only to walk up the rocky dry river bed to the first swimming hole.
The wind was strong and blowing along with us as we motored up the river so we were a little concerned about the 8nm trip home into the wind with a run out tide.
Fortunately we got out into the main channel to find the wind had dropped on dusk and we had a relatively smooth trip home. Thank goodness!!
It wasn’t only the late afternoons that produced the nice reflections, the morning sunrises around Lorelei were also stunning.
For our last day in the Hunter River, we did an early morning run in the tinny to the river mouth, Naturalists Beach and the surrounding bays.
Originally we had planned to take Lorelei there but the afternoon winds would have been uncomfortable in the anchorage so we took the tinny instead and headed back as the winds picked up.
The rocky headlands marking the river mouth looked great with the morning sun.
Naturalists Beach was beautiful and untouched. The only thing we found were helicopter skid imprints in the sand above the high tide mark.
On the rocks at one end we found Kapok Trees and it was interesting to see the trees with all phases of reproduction from the buds, the flowers, the green seed pods and the seed pods open with the Kapok Fibre exposed.
The beach was great for a swim and we had fish, small reef sharks and Eagle Rays swimming around us as we swam in the clear shallow waters.
The other bays and beaches were just as nice too.
Whilst being in the Hunter for a week, we had a pet Brahimy Kite that would hover around Lorelei and pick up our food scraps we threw into the water.
It seemed to be always waiting after meal times and we got lots of photos of it flying overhead.
Our next stop was to Rainforest Ravine which is about a 20nm run from the mouth of the Hunter River.
We had read about some amazing sea caves on an island 4nm from the ravine but they were only accessible on a low tide.
Fortunately we had a low at 2pm on the first day so we decided to try and find them.
There were 5 small beaches with lots of rocky headlands so it was hard to work out which ones had the caves.
There were a few holes and cracks that we checked out and we found one large cave system but we didn’t think it was the one we were looking for.
Further along we found a series of holes in the cliff, which turned out to be the right location.
The cave system was big with lots of smaller tunnels and chambers going in all directions.
When we got back to Lorelei we saw a charter boat had arrived and taken its guests to the ravine so we were glad we made the decision to do the caves first and have both places to ourselves.
The ravine must be visited on a rising tide and that meant for us either right on daybreak or towards sunset.
We decided to beat the stinking hot 33 degree day and get in early.
So we left at 6:30am which would give us 3.5 hours at the Rainforest Ravine before and we could return to the tinny at the same tide height.
The temp was already 29 degrees when we left so we knew we were in for a hot hike!!
The start was a clamber over the dried mud & river rocks before we got to a dirt trail and sun protection from the trees.
We came across the first waterfall and swimming hole and went for a swim.
We then realised there were more and more waterfalls of all shapes and sizes about every 150m along the water course.
The pools were glassy on the surface making for some great reflection photos.
We walked up a second water course off the side of the main one and found loads of lavender flowers along the water’s edge and some interesting trees & ferns.
Getting back to the tinny was a mission as the tide had risen and fallen back to where it was when we arrived.
It meant the banks had become wet and were now soft mud. We were sinking into it on every step.
It was impossible to get up onto the higher rocks due to a steep cliff face and the going along the scattered rocks at the water edge put us at risk from the large resident crocodile.
By the time we got back we were covered in brown sticky mud with no way to wash it off safely and we stayed like that until we got back to Lorelei.
Our last trip in the ravine was to an amazing series of rock formations along the water’s edge in a series of small bays within the ravine.
We called it the lost city because it was like being in old stone ruins.
We called this one Teddy Bear Rock….
Crocodile Head Rock….
With the strong NW afternoon sea breezes prevalent almost every day, we took off early from Rainforest Ravine, headed 32nm north to beat the wind and found shelter in a small bay on the NE coast of Bigge Island.
The island is large by Kimberley standards (hence the name) and the main reason for our visit was to view the Aboriginal Rock Art.
When Lisa did the research on Bigge, she found a lot of info on the Wandjina Art on the west coast which is popular with both charter and private vessels.
However she did find a small reference to some Gwion (Bradshaw) Art on the east coast that deserved a little more research.
Sadly there was not much info but Lisa did manage to get hold of a rough hand-drawn mud map showing some art under a ledge.
Well that was like a red rag to a bull for us and we set about finding this elusive Gwion Rock Art.
We searched for a long time and by 3pm we were hot, had stinging legs from the spinifex grass and were dirty & dusty from crawling through caves and rolling around in Wallaby poo!
We were just about to give up when Paul had a thought….
A few months back in Kakadu, we had gone on a guided rock art tour with a local ranger named Christian.
He told us the correct way to enter an Aboriginal sacred area is by talking to the spirit ancestors – telling them who you are, what you are doing and ask for permission to be there.
Most people on the tour thought it was a bit weird but Christian was adamant it was the right (and polite) way to enter an Aboriginal sacred area.
So Paul did just that and when he was finished, he looked up there was a 2m long rock art drawing of a fish within touching distance above his head.
It was vivid and clear and to his left was a whole overhanging roof covered in rock art.
Paul had been under the overhang for a few minutes prior and never saw a thing and now it was all suddenly there and very apparent.
Lisa was up above the ledge and climbed down to find Paul somewhat perplexed.
Needless to say he was a little shook up from the experience and had to have a sit and think about it for a while before taking the photos.
We walked along a bit and found a second overhang.
It also had art but not as much.
But what it did have was a thin slab of rock that had split from the top of the main cave. We could look into the split for meters in any direction and it was not connected anywhere except for the edges.
How it was still holding up was anyone’s guess and despite there being more art underneath it, we had no intention of crawling under it.
On the way back we climbed up to the top of the rocky area for a great view over the bay & Lorelei just before sunset.
With the NW winds we didn’t want to take Lorelei around to the Wandjini Rock Art on the west coast so instead we got up at daybreak and did the 20nm return loop in the tinny.
Fortunately we woke early to an overcast but glassy day and the 10nm run there was smooth.
With a rising tide and swell pushing onto the west coast beach, we decided to anchor the tinny out and swim back out when we had finished.
It was a nice beach with clear water so we figured it would be OK…wrong!!!
We got onto the beach to find loads of Turtle tracks from large females that were coming up to lay their eggs.
The tracks were right down to the water’s edge at the low tide so we surmised that they had only been made a few hours prior during the night.
What was most disturbing was all the Crocodile tracks as well.
We saw one turtle track that had done a big detour, then linked with a crocodile track and there was a lot of sand messed up like they had a big fight. Fortunately the turtle track continued to the water indicating it had survived.
It was a little unnerving to have croc tracks that were only a few hours old and Paul was going swimming when the tide was 2 meters higher!
It was awesome to see the Wandjini Rock Art so close to the water’s edge as they were in a series of caves just above the high tide mark.
The artworks were in these caves along this rock face
The images of the mouth-less Kaiara Spirits were excellent.
It was great to see the art below in such good condition considering how close it is to the beach sand. Sadly many of the other artworks in adjoining caves were badly faded.
Lisa found a high ledge in one cave that had lots of human bones and skulls.
It was cool to see artwork of Macassan Trading Ships that used to visit The Kimberley to collect Bech-de-mer (Trepang or Sea Cucumber) during the 1700’s.
It was painted with an unusual green coloured ochre that we have rarely seen before.
The Macassan’s would trade with the Aborigines.
Sadly some things traded were tobacco and alcohol.
Could these people in the artwork below be smoking tobacco pipes?
It’s the first time we have seen this in Wandjini Rock Art.
We are no experts in rock art but we have seen enough to know that there were some unusual artworks with different styles that were from other eras or possibly tribes.
This “Descriptive Art” painting of a Saratoga’s body is different from the rest of the art at Bigge Island.
Note the addition of the white dots outlining the painting. Sadly the dots that made up the head have mostly faded.
On the way home we pulled into another small beach that had some great sea caves at one end and some unusual shaped rocks at the other.
We walked up the watercourse on the beach and found a large archway in the rock.
Morning tea was at a tiny inlet that had clear water and a small beach with a weird free-standing rock right in the middle.
That night we were up on deck at 10pm marvelling at how clear it was.
We could see the Milky Way from one horizon to the other and it was strikingly clear.
The black hole was the most vivid we have ever seen it and it seemed like there were a zilliion stars!!
We’ve had so many awesome clear nights over the years in remote areas of the pacific but nothing like this.
It was interesting to note the UV index on our weather station was going off the scale during the day with super high readings for the next week or so and we were getting easily sunburnt. Our solar panels were also pumping in the power greater than we have seen since they were brand new.
We were not sure if it was a case of a thin ozone layer or something similar in the atmosphere right above us at the time.
We later spoke to another cruising couple who also said they had experienced the same thing.
We really enjoyed exploring for rock art so we added a few extra stops over the next 10 days that gave us some more opportunity to see more art locations.
We chose to head next to Dog Ear Bay & Swifts Inlet which were about 20nm east of Bigge Island and on the mainland.
We got up early to leave and Paul looked over the back of Lorelei to find a big croc sitting only 1m from the stern.
It looked really aggressive and when we walked around the deck, it followed.
Paul got game and put the contour camera on a pole and put it into the water.
It came straight up to it and Paul had to pull it out.
On the third attempt it came in again and as Paul lifted the pole out, it jumped up and tried to grab it and bit the bottom of the pole
It jumped so high it hit the bottom of the tinny (which is 2m/6ft above the water), its legs got caught in the crossed brace lines on the davits and it smashed into the raised swim platform.
So we didn’t try it again….
We named it Cranky Croc! (Hunter J that’s for you….)
These are the shots from the contour and the second one is taken just a second before it jumped up. The contour has a super wide angle 170 degree lens and the camera was a lot closer to the croc than the photos look.
The whole irony of this croc experience was that we were away from the mainland & rivers and out at an island that had nice bays, clear water and sandy beaches.
Considering all the muddy & mangrove lined rivers we had just spent weeks in, it was the last place we’d expect a cranky croc.
We’d caught Coral Trout on the reefs only around the corner…..!!
The passage to Dog Ear Bay was excellent – we were able to sail the whole way!!!! After so much motoring it was a welcome change.
At Dog Ear Bay it way really blowing hard so we waited until early morning to put the tinny in and explore.
We had another mud map showing some rock art locations on some small rock islands around the corner.
It wasn’t that accurate and we transited along some tight channels in the tinny before eventually finding some rock art high up under a rocky overhang that we could see clearly from the tinny.
We had spied a large overhang on the other side of the island that looked like it had rock art potential but it was up towards the islands peak and it looked impossible to get up there through the dense foliage.
Paul tried anyway and Lisa managed to put him ashore on the rocky shoreline while she stayed in the tinny.
It took a while but he managed to get up to the large overhang which had great views down over the bay.
The first thing Paul noticed was the floor of the cave was untouched and full of shell middens indicating the aborigines used the area as a location for eating.
The walls had heaps of different large rock paintings but many were faded.
There were still 6 large ones that were clear and vivid.
Paul was very excited as they were not on the mud map and we had not heard of anyone else having seen this art.
The fact that the area is very overgrown, remote, can only be approached at a spring high tide and not near a recognised safe anchorage tends to suggest it is rarely visited.
Paul may have been the first person for a very long time to see these artworks.
We went across to another location and climbed the rocks only to find a mangrove area on the other side filled with shallow clear water that had loads of fish and stingrays in it.
We walked around the mangroves and searched in a few other locations but we did not have any success.
The views from the tops of the rocky areas were pretty good though.
We moved 7nm that afternoon from Dog Ear to Swifts Bay.
The next morning it was a glass out but already 31 degrees at 6:45am!
(It was the 1st of September so welcome to Spring…)
We went around into the southern bay to search for more rock art and scored big time!
With the help of a single photo of a rocky headland from another yachts blog, we were able to locate the area, park the tinny against a rock wall in the glassy conditions and climbed to the site.
It was a fantastic area and probably the most diverse amount of rock art we had ever seen. There were many areas and probably over 100 artworks of all colours and sizes.
This artwork of a person was about 2.5m/8ft long
Note sure what this is but it looks like a 10 fingered monster (or alien or prehistoric animal) with some big teeth
It was interesting to see white artwork on the black rock.
We found cooking fire pits, shell middens, areas where they made the ochre for the paintings and even burial areas with human remains.
It was a complete living area and if you could only visit one Aboriginal art site in The Kimberley, then this would be it.
If you were wondering what Paul goes through to get the artwork photos then these photos below tell the story as some of the best artworks are in very confined spaces.
He was hot, covered in grey dust & Wallaby poo and had minor scrapes & scratches from getting in and out.
Thank goodness we have a good washing machine and unlimited water….
We found a small Perrenti in the rock art area.
Bush bashing and rock climbing is always fraught with a little danger and sooner or later minor accidents happen.
On the way down, Paul rolled his ankle which sidelined him for 36 hours.
He was bored after 4 hours rest and ended up making Sushi and did short stints of cleaning the boat, before getting roused at by Lisa to lie down and put his foot up.
When the swelling and pain had gone we went to a nice beach on the side of Swifts Bay to see how the ankle coped with a walk on the sand.
The sand turned out to be mostly coarse shells but it was still walkable in bare feet – just.
The beach was short and steep and had lots of unusual shaped rocks on the spit separating the 2 bays.
The beach was short and steep and had lots of unusual shaped rocks on the spit separating the 2 bays.
We managed to have a swim in a protected corner and there was a rock ledge as a bonus to provide shade.
With the test passed, we strapped the ankle and put it into Paul’s new Scarpa hiking boots so we could do some more rock art exploring.
We had seen a large rock standing alone on the ridge top overlooking the bay and appeared to have an overhang going right around it.
We surmised it would be a potential spot for rock art so we tied up the dingy at a nearby rock ledge and headed towards the hill.
On the way we found some other caves and did a few detours to explore them.
We didn’t find any rock art on the overhangs facing the bay but we went a little further back into the hillside and found a second line of caves that had Gwion/Bradshaw art in them.
We had to go back down to the rock shelf along the water’s edge to traverse across towards the big rock.
We came across a rock cairn and saw a path up the slope through the spinifex grass indicating there must be something good up there worth seeing.
There were loads more rock cairns on the way highlighting the trail and we were getting excited….
The rock was awesome with a large overhang the entire way around.
The entire roof of the overhang was covered in art and some were massive.
The only issue was a lot had faded and there were many artworks that were painted over the top of each other and in places it was a jumbled mess of mixed art making it had to decipher and even harder to photograph.
Note the whole floor of the overhang covered in shell middens
There were lots of ones worthy of photographing though.
This artwork was about 4m/12ft across and Paul had to lie on the floor
and photograph it with a 10mm fisheye lens to get it all in.
and photograph it with a 10mm fisheye lens to get it all in.
This is a 2.5m/8ft long Stingray done in white ochre
Right: Not sure if the holes in the rocks were supposed
to be the eyes but the effect is great
to be the eyes but the effect is great
These 2 figures were over 2.5m/8ft long.
The bottom spirit was faint but had an incredible Kiara
head with the smaller heads all around.
head with the smaller heads all around.
That afternoon we were inside and felt a cold wind come over Lorelei.
We went upstairs to find a fantastic looking storm highlighted by the setting sun.
It was behind Lorelei meaning it was downwind but it appeared to be getting closer.
A look at the storm from down both sides of Lorelei
Sure enough, just after dark the boat swung around 180 degrees and we had rain!!!!!
It was soooo awesome and the first real rain we had seen in over 4 months.
We were running around in the rain like little kids…..
It was the first time the new tinny had seen rain and the salt rinse off was so welcome.
Despite the stormy night, we woke to a clear day and a clean boat!
It was still blowing light SE winds which was perfect for our next leg which was a long 50nm day sail to round Cape Voltaire and back into the next bay.
We took off for a big days sailing and we went from SE winds to nothing then to NW by the arvo so it had a bit of everything including a few hours motoring in the middle.
We arrived at the north side of Port Warrander and tucked into a protected bay from the NW sea breezes and hoped we didn’t get another SE storm overnight.
The headland in front of Lorelei was lined with loads of Boab trees all along the rocky foreshore.
The next morning we crossed the bay in the Tinny to go and view the aboriginal art which was reported to be on the rocky areas behind 2 sport fishing camps.
We arrived at the bay to be greeted by the camps owner and were politely told the area was privately leased from the Aboriginal owners and the rock art was not be viewed.
So we struck out on that one and decided to do a scenic tour around the bays beaches and headlands on the way back to Lorelei.
We found an interesting beach covered in drift wood at the high tide mark and above. It covered the entire length of the beach.
The Boabs just back from the beach were huge and most were standing alone overlooking the water.
We went to the headland near Lorelei with the grove of Boabs but it was low tide and the sun position was wrong for photos so we went back at 4pm to view them as the sun was setting behind them.
The sizes ranged from fully grown right down to only 1-2m/3-6ft tall.
We found a small one on its side and it was starting to shoot branches vertically off the main trunk.
It’ll look awesome in another 50-100 years…..
With the recent rain, some of the Boabs were already starting to spout leaves in preparation for the coming wet season.
The next day we were going to leave but there was no wind and it was stinking hot.
It was 35 degrees outside and 37 inside Lorelei by 11am!!!
The wind never eventuated and by 2pm we aborted and stayed for another night.
So instead Paul rigged up his time exposure camera, tripod and timer and we headed into the Boab headland for sunset along with a picnic dinner and Paul’s camera to do a star trail shot.
The sunset turned out to be great and Paul used another camera set-up to do some Boab post sunset photos.
He was very, very happy with the results.
After a lot of planning and tests, Paul had found a suitable Boab for a star trail shot. The camera had to face due south and then we had to take into account the moon location and our illuminated picnic area.
It took two hours to do the shoot using nearly 200 images, some using a flash and others with Paul manually light painting.
The combined results turned out pretty good.
By 10pm we were done and packed up but ran into bit of a problem as we had a crocodile stalking us every time we tried to come off the rocks, cross the beach and get to the tinny, particularly as we had 8 bags of gear which required 2 runs to get them into the boat.
Eventually we managed to get all the gear and us into the tinny safely – just…….
We moved on to the Osborn Islands but the short 17nm run from Port Warrander was a bit of a stressful one as the channel through the Osborn’s is packed with Pearl Leases operated by Paspaley Pearls.
The leases are right in the middle of the channel and skirting around them sometimes put Lorelei into very shallow water and at times with barely inches under the keel.
At one stage we had to cut the corner and skim the leases or we would have run aground!!
We spent 3 days within the island group exploring, crabbing and fishing.
We were experiencing very hot days of up to 36 degrees and afternoon storms.
It was early-mid September and the monsoon/wet season was creeping up quicker than expected.
We started our daily activities at 6am to escape the heat.
The first place to explore was a location called the Three Arches.
The beaches surrounding the arches were picturesque with loads of rocks in the water providing wind and swell protection.
The aches were huge and much bigger than we expected.
The caves off the side of the arches were also large and we even found a small amount of Aboriginal Rock Art there.
In one cave we found shell middens and unusual shaped bones or an exoskeleton that we thought may be from a turtle.
On the higher tides we explored 2 shallow creeks further into the bay.
One creek has a large rock formation called “The Castle” with a very large series of catacombs running through the rocks.
There were scores of pathways running in all directions and varied in length from only a few meters to over 50m long tunnels.
Paul didn’t take his tripod so long exposures balanced on rock ledges had to suffice.
There was a lot of Rock Art under the ledges around the outside of The Castle.
We found some unusual golden coloured trees and some others with huge amounts of sap seeping from the limbs.
We ventured further up the creek on the high tide and could even see rock art from the tinny under large overhangs behind the mangroves.
On the way home we spotted a Jabiru running around on the sand spits doing its dance with its wings out.
We couldn’t get any closer as it was too shallow for the tinny.
The next morning we ventured around to the exposed side of an island to view what is reported to be the largest Boab Tree in The Kimberley.
We had to trek through Mangroves and slippery rocks to get to it but it was well worth it. It is huge!!! We’ve seen other Boabs dated over 1000 years old and they are less than half this one’s size. Could it have been around since BC?
The tree was as deep as it is wide in the photo
We found 2 large Boabs on the other side of the island that were standing alone on a rock ledge overlooking the passage between 2 islands.
Around the back of the island was a huge rock pile that went from the water’s edge to the summit.
The long rocks we strewn in every direction and most had an unusual hexagonal shape to them.
We had an interesting sunset that night with the clouds but unfortunately no rain.
For the next few days we travelled with most passages between 30 and 50nm daily before stopping overnight.
It was neap tides but we still had to deal with strong currents in many areas and most of the travelling revolved around tide time to get the current assistance.
We stopped at Freshwater Bay and decided to stay 2 nights and have a travelling rest day so we could tidy up, do the washing and a bit of spring cleaning.
For the next 2 days the wind blew and we took advantage of it with 2 large day passages.
The first day we sailed most of the way and the second day we sailed 50nm from door to door and only turned the engine on for anchoring.
The passage was around the infamous Cape Londonderry which is always rough and the water is brown with the strong current and churned-up water.
We were lucky to have reaching winds and current assistance and we rounded it with no problem – unlike the passage down 3 months ago when it was windy and rough with big seas as high as the davits.
We arrived at Glycosmis Bay and decided the small bay to its north would have better protection from the 20 knot NW winds.
It was only a small and shallow bay but we snuck in ok.
As we were about to drop the anchor Lisa spied what we thought was a rock in the centre of the bay.
That was until it started moving - it was coming towards us.
It turned out to be a massive Crocodile and by far the biggest we had ever seen in the wild.
It swam right up the side of Lorelei and was looking up at us from only a few meters away.
We were looking at our tinny on the davits and back to the croc and the croc was way longer and we estimated it to be well over 5m/16ft long.
Its tail was huge!!!
We had been quite blasé about crocs so far as most had been small with the occasional medium to large one but not like this huge thing!!
Unfortunately the cameras were packed away downstairs.
We had to be very careful the next morning when putting the tinny in and setting it up.
We had a nice sunrise before exploring the southern bay.
The southern end was amazing with a big cliff face that surrounded a small bay.
We sounded around trying to find a path in for Lorelei but it was just too shallow.
We explored some other beaches and bay in the area too.
We had planned to visit the King George River and possibly the Berkeley River too but after looking at the weather and tides we just couldn’t make it work.
We threw 20 different scenarios around but nothing would work unless we crossed the bar at the Berkeley River and were prepared to stay up the river for 11 days.
So with favourable winds, we left The Kimberley and tackled the 260nm passage to Darwin.
It was a slow passage but we sailed most of the way (albeit zig-zagging down the rhumb line to cope with the wind direction changes) and arrived safely in Darwin harbour in 64 hours.
So that’s a wrap for another Episode of our sailing adventures.
It’s been a great experience during our 3 months in The Kimberley.
We are back in Darwin but it’s so damn hot already and we are a little concerned about the coming wet season and the cyclone risk in the top end. If the temperatures are anything like the end of the last wet season, then we don’t want to be around for that.
We’ve got to hope the monsoon season doesn’t kick off too early……
We have only put a small amount of The Kimberley Boabs and Rock Art photos in the blog Episodes and there are loads more photos in the “Aboriginal Rock Art” and “Boabs Trees” folders which can be accessed via the top tabs back at the top of our blog home page.
Paul and Lisa Hogger
Safely back in Darwin