Saturday, 16 October 2010

Indonesia 1 Banda and Ambon

Indonesia 1 Banda and Ambon

Arriving in Banda on 27th July, we were all pretty excited about Indonesia and our next adventure. Anchoring in the pre dawn, we sat on deck watching the world wake up with the humid scent of the tropics, and palm fringed jungle around us.

Spanning some 2500 miles E-W and over 1000 miles N-S, Indonesia is roughly 3 times the size of Texas. Encompassing some 17000 islands, it is home to around 250 million people, (although with no birth or death register nobody really knows) of which 88% are Muslim,10% Christian and a smattering of Hindu (Bali) , Buddhism and in remote regions Animist..

Banda is a Regency of Maluku, one of 24 provinces that govern the world's largest archipelago state. It comprises 10 islands of which the three largest form a horseshoe, with a deep protected anchorage in the middle. To the west is the impressive 600-meter Gunung Api volcano, to the East is Banda Naira, the main Island and to the South Banda Besar home to many nutmeg plantations.

Known as the Spice Islands, for many years they were the world's only supply of nutmeg, mace and cloves, and from their discovery in the 15th century until the mid 19th century the Portuguese, British and Dutch fought for control of the trade. The Portuguese were out fairly early, and the Dutch East India Company held the 3 main islands while the British East India Company held the island of Run. This provoked war and siege and after the second Anglo Dutch war ended in 1667, the treaty of Brenda was signed, ceding the island of Run to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan Island, which in 1664 the Duke of York (the future James 11, brother of Charles 11) had illegally occupied and renamed from New Amsterdam to New York.

This gave the Dutch a complete monopoly on nutmeg and mace, at the time worth more per pound than gold, that amazingly lasted until 1817 when nutmeg trees were captured and planted on the British colonies of Ceylon, Grenada and Singapore ending nearly 200 years of Dutch supremacy of the spice trade.

With this exciting history we looked forward to seeing some of the ancient relics left behind by the colonists.

Deciding to cruise through the region as part of Sail Indonesia 2010, we knew that various festivities and celebrations had been planned along the way, but really had no idea what to expect. With 60 yachts arriving over 2 days we could expect swift entry procedures and shortly after contacting the harbour master we were boarded by a number of quarantine, immigration and customs officials. After refusing quarantine a bottle of whiskey and having photographs taken with immigration they seemed satisfied and I was instructed to report to the media centre at the local hotel to complete formalities.

The hotel was bustling with various uniforms and smiling faces and we were ushered through more paperwork until we were finally registered, had our passports stamped and signed and were issued with our CAIT certificate. This certificate enabled us to cruise Indonesia without having to forward a bond for Pegasus. At 25% of her value, this certificate was pretty useful and one of the reasons we signed up for the rally. In addition I was given 5 "Sail Banda 2010" polo shirts, which was surprising, but all would be revealed in due course. Whilst at the media centre I was approached by the Australian partner of the organising body. Although I had withdrawn from the race to Banda for insurance purposes, having arrived safely would I like to be re entered? We had sailed quite fast from Darwin, so I accepted his offer and heard no more.

Ashore for lunch and a look around. We parked the dinghy at the newly constructed dock and wandered into town. There were plenty of friendly people and the boys had a lot of attention, something they would have to get used to. Feeling a little hassled we looked for a lunch stop, and finding a restaurant worked out that there was a choice of two dishes, Nasi Goering (Fried rice with egg) and Soto Ayam (chicken soup and rice) Not wanting to get too involved we ordered both and had an interesting lunch being quite an attraction to the locals. The bill came at 50,000 rupia….was that a lot?? No idea. We were going to have to get used to the money.

In simple terms there is 13000 rupia to the pound, 7500 to the AUD and 8300 to the USD. I decided that if we took 100,000 note as £10, then we would always be 30% in credit. A little convoluted but it worked for me. With coins virtually non existent, the 1000 rupia note was the stock note of the poorer economy, so it was possible to have a huge bundle of cash amounting to no more than £30. Easily enough to buy 2 meals for the family, some groceries and maybe a gift or two, still leaving change for a packet of woodbines and a night at the flix! What an amazing difference from Australia where £30 doesn't even get you through McDonalds!

We wandered back to the boat and bought a couple of Sim cards for our phones. Having to activate them by text in Indonesian was just a bit challenging so I put them aside until I could find someone to help.

The anchorage was filling up and our friends on Orono1, Anui, and Red Boomer 2 had arrived. We called them up and parents and children came over to Pegasus for drinks while the children swam and played. They we soon joined by some local children in Canoes and they all had a great time playing in the boats and swimming in the clear dark water. It had been as long time since we were able to jump off the boat and swim and we felt great that this was now back on the agenda. That afternoon the harbourmaster arrived with an envelope addressed to the Captain… I guess. !0 Captains had been invited to participate in the welcome ceremony the following day, so together with Orono1 and Anui we were to be picked up by the harbourmaster at 9am the following day. It was suggested that we should all wear our polo shirts…..Ahh, our uniform!!!

9am on the 28th July arrived and passed. Clearly this would be Indonesian time, but at 10.30 the boat arrived and picked up all the Captains. We were taken to the main stage area next to the media centre and, arriving by boat, were greeted by all the heads of villages in Banda. After music, dancing and speeches we were escorted on stage where the Minister of Fisheries and Marine, the Governor of Maluku and the local "King" of the regency presented us with clove and nutmeg garlands and officially welcomed us to Indonesia. After more dancing we were ushered along the street lined with uniformed youngsters to a large marquee structure where we had a most delicious lunch with all the dignitaries. We wandered back to the main stage area where the minister was due to start the local War canoe race. It was a very busy day with lots of photographs with the locals. The boys were a big attraction but after the 100th photo became a little shy. The locals had a habit of pinching their cheeks (a gesture of good luck) but it was all becoming a bit much so by 3pm we were back on board for a break before heading ashore for dinner with Orono1 and Anui.

During the festivities I had met Randy from Convergence who had told us that Sail Banda 2010 was the focal point for a government marketing drive to attract tourists to the Eastern part of Indonesia, and that they had invested 200milliion USD to try and stimulate tourism under the banner "Small islands are our future", I guess looking at Bali as the role model. Sail Indonesia was seen as the catalyst and therefore we were all part of it. Now we understood why there were so many people, events, flags and new uniforms.

Over dinner we discussed the days events and wondered what would be in store for us in Ambon, where the President was due to attend the festivities.

The following afternoon we were due to go to Banda Besar to tour a nutmeg plantation so after a lazy morning and more Nasi goering for lunch, we boarded a local boat for the 30 min trip to the South Island. The water quality was amazing and skimming just 2 meters over the coral we could see the massive variety of soft and hard corals teaming with small reef fish. With 2 tour guides we wandered through the small village seeing cloves, mace and nutmeg drying on tarpaulins outside local homes. There were remnants of previous occupation everywhere with stone walls and steps to former homes. We climbed up a very steep set of steps and were led to fort Belgica, built by the Dutch in 1611. Old nutmeg and newer trees were everywhere, some planted in the shade of the towering Kanari trees, which drop nuts that the locals collect. The guides showed us clove trees, hugely fragrant, and explained how the locals collect and dry the cloves, preparing them for market. It was a very pleasant afternoon strolling through the plantations and village, and informative with our local guide. On the way back we drank the local nutmeg "juice" which was sweet and refreshing, later strolling back towards our dinghies.

One of our guides inquired whether we would like to buy some old Portuguese cannons. The girls decided this was not for them, but Peter and I went to have a look.

Walking into the heart of the village we approached the guides friends house, who owned the cannons. Searching under the bed he retrieved 3 small cannons, about 1.5 meters long and 15cm diameter. They were bronze and seemed authentic. We had been warned that there were many fakes, but these seemed genuine. The guide wanted 18 million rupia for the best one which seemed fair considering its age. I didn't feel Pegasus would benefit from a canon on board so declined his offer, as did Peter. He then started pulling out coins, and not being in the market, left Peter to have a look. Passing through the village I noticed a shack selling interesting old artefacts. In the back I found another cannon, similar to the one we had just seen, except this one was half the weight…a fake I'm sure. I'm unsure of the legality of canon purchase but suspect you would not want to declare it on your inventory entering Singapore!!!

That evening we had a drink on Orono1 and then went out for an early dinner. We found a fun restaurant and had another Nasi Ayam (variety of the same fried rice with chicken) and a few Bintang, the Indonesian pilsner larger surprisingly similar to Heineken!

We were keen to find a beach and swim before we had to make passage to Ambon, so decided on just 1 more day in Banda. I took the boys off to explore the large fort and clear out with customs while Amanda did a little shopping for provisions and nick nacks. The boys and I found Fort Nassau but it was locked up. Walking around the perimeter we found abandoned canons lying in the undergrowth. From the main gate we had line of sight to Fort Belgica on Banda Besar, a simple means of communication with the other island. We wandered back to the Harbour masters office who was out at Friday Prayers, so spent some time sitting on the dock watching a frigate preparing to leave. I guess it must have been a training vessel as it looked like it had seen better days.

A last dinner ashore, and a laugh with our friends and off to Run in the morning. The water shallowed remarkably quickly and in just 20m went from over 200m deep to 5 meters. Not ideal, but we only planned on a night there and conditions looked good. We swam in the warm water and snorkelled the amazing coral gardens. Walking along the beach we found shells and the boys played in the shallows. It was truly beautiful and we were delighted to be back at anchor in the islands.

Being due in Ambon for the rally events we left early the next morning for the 120-mile trip. We had a mixed bag of weather, but managed to fly the kite for a few hours, which was great. Some early morning squalls and a rain shower on arrival set the tone for our few days in Ambon. We moored stern to the dock and cleared in with the harbour master. There was plenty of action in the harbour with many patrol boats, a few destroyers and representatives from other navies all getting ready for the line astern display in front of the Indonesian president. At the lunchtime briefing ten of the rally skippers from 10 nations were selected to have dinner with the president, and the programme of events was discussed, comprising of a sail past the following morning and a welcome dinner in the evening.

The weather was turning, with squalls and wind. We returned to Pegasus and at that point 6 of the moored boats started dragging their bow anchors. We jumped aboard not happy with the situation and quickly left the dock. Motoring 3 miles up the harbour we found another anchorage and secured for the night. Venturing ashore to a hotel we had a great evening with our friends on Anui and Orano1 returning to Pegasus far too late.

Walking up to squalls, rain and wind we found that at 9am we were in 150m of water…we must have dragged anchor!!! We pulled in our bottom gear and gilled around waiting for the appointed time to join the sail past. All the Navies proceeded and at the end came the rally participants in alphabetical order. In the driving rain we motored past the podium to cheers and waves from the crowd, knowing the president was there but unable to identify him!

We were keen to go back to the dock as that was the venue for the party and after securing stern too again, I pulled out the trusty Admiralty anchor and ran it out in the dinghy. We weren't going anywhere! After a quick lunch we went by bemo into town. A bemo is a small minivan that provides cheap public transport in Indonesia. You just hail them to stop and hop in, paying about 20p for the ride. Whilst in town we did a little shopping for provisions at the local market and we took a couple of rickshaws around the centre of Ambon. Great fun, but you felt a little exposed as the drivers peddled you through the traffic to your destination.

Having bought some local sim cards that were not activated we went to the telecomcell offices to get our communications sorted. After about half an hour we had mobile phones activated and my computer modem was up and running. Fantastic, we were going to have Internet at some locations over the coming months.

A little more shopping and back to Pegasus in the pouring rain. We were running late so a quick change and down to the reception area where many cruisers were seated in front of the stage being served cinnamon tea. On our way in we were stopped by a crowd in traditional dress. The leader, who we later found to be the local "King", was very interested in JJ and Louis. After 5 minutes of chat we found some seats and watched the traditional dancing.

Whilst sitting JJ and Amanda were ushered away with others, and unbeknown to me JJ was presented with a large picture as a gift from the king. Some other cruisers were given traditional welcome Ikat cloths….really beautiful. The speeches started and after a time the winners of the yacht race were called. I was surprised that we were called up on stage, so taking JJ and Louis with me we waited to see what would happen. After a little confusion where the winners trophy was presented to the 3rd placed boat…and taken back…the right sequence was found and we were presented with a huge trophy, topped by a sailing boat, as the 2nd winner in the Yachty race (as taken from the trophy) In addition we were given a small plaque and a fat envelope!!!

It was really quite a laugh as the 3 winners had our pictures taken by many photographers. JJ, proudly holding the trophy, tripped coming off the stage and our little sailing boat took an emergency reef, with the 3 sails lying in the mud at his feet. Poor old JJ, he had just been distracted by the mass of photographers. He stood at the bottom of the steps, head bowed, not knowing this strange emotion he was encountering. My heart went out to him and I immediately went to comfort him. Poor boy, he was very upset. Seeing this, the local King took him aside and JJ sat on his lap whilst they talked. He presented JJ with his name tag as a memento.

The Indonesians love children and all the villages we had been to thus far had been teeming with happy children. We were to see this all through Indonesia. As such, the boys were always a star attraction and were the centre of attention wherever we went. This could be a little overwhelming at times with faces being pinched and lots of photographs. We said to the boys that if they didn't want their photos taken they should just say no, so when we were asked we always referred the request to the boys.

After the bizarre events of the previous evening we decided that we wanted to head off to the islands. Looking at the weather files it seemed that the rain and squalls were mostly in the N and if we could get to Wakatobi, the next rally venue, we should have better weather, being S of the rain band.

On the morning of the 5th August we were planning to leave. We bought our plans to immediate execution as the yacht 20m to our starboard side suddenly lost its bow anchor, as it was backwashed by the propellers of a large ferry leaving the dock. Slamming against the wall, missing Pegasus by inches, we decided enough was enough and motored 30 meters off the dock and retrieved our anchors. As we made our way out of the harbour in 30Kt winds and driving rain we reflected on the strange time we had had in Ambon. It had been a dirty harbour with bad holding, but the people had been warm and friendly. I think we would have had a better experience if the weather had been with us, but everything was wet (including the laundry which hadn't be dried ashore) and we wanted some clean water under the hulls.

Just 30 miles round the corner, we found a secure anchorage off a tiny beach at Pulau Tengau. We swam and walked on the beach, and were joined by Anui, so the boys had some playmates. We decided to push south to Wakatobi the following day, some 280 miles SW.

Opting to leave at lunchtime, it gave Sarah on Anui some time to prepare food for their journey. We readied Pegasus, removing the canopy, pulling up the dinghy and stowing the large engine to keep the weight off the davits. We knew that we were in for a windy trip, but were relieved that we would see little motoring on this next leg.

At 12.15 on 6th August we weighed anchor and set off through the narrow pass between the islands, saying goodbye to Maluku province, our home for the past 10 days.

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Australia 10 Darwin to Banda

Australia 10 Darwin to Banda

Arriving in Darwin on 3rd July, we were just in time for Louis birthday. Venturing ashore and into the Club, we were surprised to see Shinge and Riri on Nirai, a Japanese couple who we had first met in Bonaire, and last seen in Huahine in the Society Island. Fantastic. We all shared our tales of adventure over a beer. It seemed that they were planning to sail through Indonesia as well.

Indonesia is a difficult place to cruise freely and there is substantial paperwork attached. Suffice to say that the easiest way to documentary perfection is to join a yacht rally, which we had done on arrival in Australia. All the yachts on the Sail Indonesia 2010 rally would congregate in Darwin in the 2 weeks prior to departure, the 24th July. It looked like we were going to see some of our Pacific cruising friends again and have some good social while we prepared Pegasus and ourselves for Indonesia.

Leaving the Club, we wandered up the road to a Saturday market where we bought essential supplies and had lunch. It was strange being with so many people in the bustle of the market and we made our way back promptly. On our return we were greeted by "Hey, Pegasus"…. Our old friends Orono1 were there…what a surprise. This was great news. Donna and Peter's children Heidi and PJ, although a little older, were good friends to JJ and Louis. The children went to the playground in the club, and we all settled down for a beer and talked of our adventures over the last 9 months.

The afternoon disappeared and after an early dinner we returned to Pegasus. Bed for the boys and Amanda and I set about decorating the pilot house and wrapping presents for Louis 4th birthday the following day.

We were all up early, and JJ was extremely excited having helped us prepare everything the previous evening. Presents, pancakes, and Ashore for Lunch. Next to the Sailing Club was the Trailer Boat Club, which had a pool. Meeting up with the Orono's we all settled in for lunch and plenty of pool action for the children. I managed to get back to Pegasus for a few hours to sort some internet stuff and fix the heads again….always a lovely job!

Monday arrived and we started our Darwin jobs: first Customs. We had acquainted ourselves with the bus system, and found an easy route into town. I went to customs and then the Indonesian consulate. On arrival we had collected our welcome pack from Sail Indonesia with clearly detailed instructions of what we had to do prior to departure. In effect we needed to inform customs of our plans, apply for Indonesian visas, obtain some local currency and fill out a number of forms for tax rebates on exportable items such as fuel and capital goods. In addition we had all the usual jobs of laundry, fuel, water and supplies.

With 8m tides, Darwin is not the easiest place to restock. Sometimes we had to haul the dinghy some 200m down the beach, but little by little we restocked and readied Pegasus. 14th July and JJ's birthday. We had many e mails, and a package from England, and having a hire car for a few days spent a very good afternoon at the water park with some other cruiser families. JJ had a great day.

We were progressing quite well and with Visas and money organised, Pegasus ready, we were ahead of the game. I was a little concerned as my jobs list was not as extensive as I would have liked. We were about to head off into Indonesia where any items for repair would be extremely limited. Just finding a stainless steel screw could be impossible. I tried to purchase in a pre-emptive manner until I could really think of nothing else.

Having been told that copies of all documents were essential, I out together some scans of passports, visas, ships papers, crew lists etc, and took them to the copiers in town for 30 duplicates. While there I noticed that they had a service for copying maps. Many cruisers were getting complete sets of "maps" for all the areas we planned to cruise. Charts, being copyrighted, are not allowed to be copied. Maps on the other hand are not subject to copyright so are fair game. I ordered some charts and guessed that as long as I knew where the reefs were on passage, close navigation would always be by "mark one eyeball". That said it always helps to know what water depth to expect on arrival. Sorting through hundreds of charts, I removed everything for Australia and New Zealand. We would not need these again, so donated them to the sailing club who were delighted.

As our we completed our resupply, so we had time to enjoy a few of the sights in Darwin. We spent a great day at the "Crocasorous", a crocodile farm in the centre of Darwin. This is where, so the local paper reported, Harry, the physic croc predicted the winner of the world cup. He was presented with 2 lumps of meat on a line, each with a national flag above. Harry correctly ate the Spanish meat and flag, thereby gaining local notoriety over and above the German Octopus who was performing the same physic stunts in Europe!

Over the 3-week period we had some great social with many friends from the Pacific. Sail Indonesia organised a large BBQ, which we all enjoyed, and as our date of departure approached, we were required to attend a detailed skippers briefing. This was a very detailed and informative affair. There were many representatives from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, and it appeared that no expense had been spared on various brochures, t-shirts, hats and documentation. Clearly this was over and above our entry fees and was indicative of the sort of reception we could expect.

There were two routes planned for the Rally. A southern route to Kupang and on to Flores, and a Northern route, which we had chosen, to Banda, Ambon, Wakatobi and Bau Bau, then heading S to join the southern route in Komodo. As the 24th July loomed so we started to get excited about our next adventure.

Australia had been fantastic, and although excited about moving on, we were a little sad to leave such a great country. There is an ethos there about family and the outdoor life, and although massively bureaucratic and as expensive as it is large, we had really enjoyed the way of life and generosity of the people.

As part of the Rally to Banda, a race had been organised, and we had entered in the early stages of application. I checked with our insurance company, and it was confirmed that Pegasus would have only limited coverage if we took part. With reluctance we withdrew from the race.

The Sailing club organised a champagne breakfast on the morning of departure and after a few pastries and coffee, returned to Pegasus and readied her for the passage to Banda, a 650 mile reach across the Arafura sea, into the Banda sea. There were over 100 yachts in the rally and the Darwin Ambon race, a separate event, was sharing the start line. With so many boats we hung back, and crossed the line half an hour after the start, still in a large fleet.

With the wind ENE at 15kts we had a good reaching start and as the fleet thinned so I released the reefs and Pegasus picked up her heels, We were quite heavy with water and stores, but had decided against carrying the additional 200lt diesel that had helped us through the Kimberley. Early evening saw the wind ease, and keen to get NE of the shoals off Bathurst Island, and into deep water, motor sailed until first light when the wind filled in with some force.

The Arafura was proving to be herself again with a rough, confused and steep sea. Pegasus was going well and with 3 reefs in the main and staysail out, was making great speed. Although pretty rough and with the wind over 30kts, it was a walk in the park compared with the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, and we could expect the sea to ease as we entered the Banda Sea.

By 0100 on 26th July the conditions were moderating and although squally, we were passing between the Islands and the sea was easing. Over the morning we shook out the reefs and Pegasus made good progress. It looked like we would arrive just pre dawn the following day. With fair winds and flat seas we powered through the Banda Sea making anywhere from 8-12kts up wind. We passed Pulau Serua, our first volcano, and arrived in Banda just at first light.

Passing the committee boat we reported our engine hours and made our way into the anchorage, where a few of the early starters were at anchor and one or two who had started with us. We had clearly made good time.

The Anchorage between the islands in Banda was very deep, but we managed to find a spot and dropped the anchor in 30m water. On a short scope in the well-protected harbour we turned our engines off at 0630 local time.

We had arrived in the Spice Islands, our first stop in Indonesia and very different from the scene we had left in Australia. A large jungle clad volcano dominated the anchorage, and ashore were many coconut palms, our first since the Pacific. It reminded us both of the Marquesas, some 6000 miles to the East and a lifetime ago.

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Friday, 3 September 2010

Australia 9 Kimberley 2

Australia 9 Kimberley 2

A slow start the following day saw us arrive at Hanover Inlet at 11.30. Motoring hard against a short chop, I was starting to get a little concerned about our fuel supplies. The next resupply would be in Darwin and with fickle winds and strong tides we had planned on motoring most of the way. That said we were less than halfway through the Kimberley but halfway through the diesel! We would have to hope for some fair winds and longer passages.

Hanover Bay leads to the approaches to the Prince Regent River, one of the largest rivers in the Kimberley. It stretches some 75 miles in a straight line inland, having cut itself a channel straight to the sea. The river flows in a gorge 120ft below the plane and is fed by many tributaries and waterfalls, the most famous of which is Kings Cascade. We had decided not to venture up to Kings Cascade. It was some 40 miles up river, would take a week out of our time, and make a serious dent in our fuel supplies. With difficult navigation and strong currents we felt that we could make better use of the time and resources. It is also home to many crocs. And lives have been lost.

In 1987 the 24 year old American model Ginger Medows, on a charter boat at kings Cascade, saw that their dinghy had started to drift off a ledge on the rising tide. Thinking that it would be safe to swim and retrieve it, she entered the water and was immediately dragged under the surface by a large salt-water croc. Her body was recovered some days later and taken to Koolan Island, to be flown south for Autopsy. In true miner fashion the tale in the pub that night was…If cows like green fields,…..She was not the first or last of northern Australia's crocodile victims, just one of the prettiest!

Either way, a week deep up river in serious croc country didn't really enthral us so we decided to explore Hanover Inlet, a small creek with fresh water pools to be found just 2 miles upstream. After a swim and a walk, and looking for cave paintings we returned to Pegasus for Lunch. On our way back we saw a croc and were reminded of our vulnerability in the little RIB. A long beach walk around treachery head was rewarded with a few fine shells, but we cut it short when we saw another large croc eyeing us up, just off the beach.

Lizard had arrived and we all had sundowners on Pegasus and discussed our plans. We were keen to push on and wanted to see some of the outer Islands, so said our goodbyes and left for Careening bay early the following morning.

We had the end of a foul tide and as we arrived at Bat Island we decided to wait before tackling the narrows that lead to Careening bay. We found a good looking beach and approaching with caution dropped anchor in 10m over sand. Lovely. Ashore for a walk and a bit of shelling.

Whilst in the region we were all very croc aware. We kept telling the boys not to walk too close to the waters edge and not too close to the bush. Staying in the middle of the beach was the safest option, we thought. Well, JJ and Louis were running up the beach as boys do. I saw JJ suddenly stop dead in his tracks some 30m ahead. He quickly turned on his heels and ran back to us shouting croc, croc…he was pretty scarred / excited.

Right, I thought, arming myself with a pathetically small knife. Amanda and the boys behind, I approached slowly, just making out the head of a croc above a sand ridge. It looked a little "dry" to me and not moving. I approached with caution and discovered a dead croc, which looked like it had lost his tail. Poor old JJ, he must have had an enormous adrenalin hit thinking he had stumbled across a live croc. We were very pleased that he had done exactly the right thing.

Well, on discovering that it was dead the boys set about examining it. After a little amateur dentistry we left the specimen for the birds, and with the tide now turned, made our way back to Pegasus, and pulled up the anchor.

After navigating through the rocks in the narrows we made our way into Careening bay and dropped anchor at 14.15 on 15th June. In 1820 Phillip Parker King, whilst charting and exploring the region, careened his vessel HMC Mermaid in this bay. Whilst he was there he had his men carve a huge Boab tree with "HMC Mermaid. 1820". We had come to see this inscription as a piece of living Australian history.

The directions in the cruising guide were pretty ambiguous so on arriving at the beach we headed to the left, following some footprints alongside a small creek. There was a reference to fresh water being available in a creek behind the tree so we thought we were on a good track. I had come a little better armed…with a spear!!…what was I thinking….the head of a croc is principally solid bone, you need a large, high velocity weapon to stop a croc, something like a 308!! I guess anything was better than nothing. We made our way up the dry creek, feeling less confident with each step. We started to see fresh water when suddenly I froze. Amanda feeling the tension grabbed Louis and started backing up. JJ was behind me. 3ft ahead was a large, bright green snake, absolutely still with its head poised. We all backed up slowly…it was proving to be an exciting day!!

Slightly lost, we debated our options. Seeing a weak trail leading from the creek vaguely towards the beach we took it, and after 50M saw a massive Boab tree. As we approached we knew we had found "the" tree. The inscription was there and clearly visible….along with a well defined path that lead straight to the beach only 20M away!

Well, when you've seen a tree, you've kind of seen it! A few photos and back to Pegasus. We decided to push on 10 miles to get a clean start early the following day, when we would head out to the Maret Islands, and hopefully some good offshore shelling.

0500 and a very dark morning saw us pull up anchor and head N through the islands. After bacon and eggs all seemed pretty good and motor sailing we made fair time heading towards the Maret Island group, arriving just before lunch.

As had become habit, we liked to go ashore, explore the beach and see what we could find, then move and look at another beach. That way we could cover more ground and see more in our limited time. After some good shelling, Nautilus and some Rosy Harps, we headed to S Maret Island. Another beach combed, and with the dinghy stowed we settled down with a cup of tea. The Tide was falling and we watched as the waves started to break on the shallow rocks, slowly getting closer to Pegasus. (I had been in situations off the Isle of Wight where a pleasant sea had turned into nasty breaking surf with just a change in the tide level….not recommended!) We pulled up the anchor, and managed to find a spot in deeper water just on the edge of the current. I didn't sleep well, and being an uncharted anchorage, in anything other than the prevailing mild conditions would have been untenable. The following day would see us back inshore, out of the swell and in a secure anchorage, so it wasn't a concern.

Up Early and off to Bigge Island. Having read that there were dramatic cave paintings of Wadjina figures, we wanted to see them before pushing on. It was a beautiful morning and heading into the rising sun with the wind and tide behind all seemed good. By 9.30 we had the anchor down in Wary bay and were surprised to see another yacht. On learning that they were heading S, we suspected we would now see a few others, as the yachts heading N crossed those heading S. We ventured ashore and easily found the rock art in the caves at the top of the beach. The boys loved the caves and squeezed themselves into the tightest spaces, to reappear behind us, as if out of nowhere. The art was really quite spooky and there was a definite feeling of tranquillity about the place, maybe due to the burial ground just behind the caves or the ancient Aboriginal ceremonial ground at the head of the bay. One had the feeling it was a special place.

Back on Pegasus we motored round the headland to Prudhoe Island some 8 miles to the E. We found an excellent anchorage protected from all direction, tucked between Prudhoe and 2 other islands. We went ashore on Quoy Island and walked the beaches, taking a swim in a natural rock pool, which we all enjoyed. Climbing back over the rocks Amanda nearly trod on a large snake. Enough for today…back to Pegasus.

Sitting in the cockpit in the afternoon light we were delighted to see Lizard making their way into the Anchorage. We had enough tuna lasagne for all, so invited Bruce and Maureen over for sundowners and dinner. We all had a very jolly evening, and decided to spend a few days cruising together as we explored South Montague Sound.

Midmorning the following day, the 18th June, we caught the tide and slowly made our way deep into South Montague Sound. Passing through the islands and reefs in the clear, calm water we saw Eagles soaring in the stunning wild country. We were surprised to see our first palm trees since Bundaberg, which I guess shouldn't have been a surprise since we dropped anchor off Palm Island, a rocky island with a smattering of palm trees. We walked the small beaches and that afternoon had a fire to burn rubbish and marshmallows.

We moved Pegasus into the creek and took the dinghy a few miles to its head to try and swim and look for Art. We found some shallow pools and all cooled off and washed in the fresh water. It wasn't the safest place, but we could see the bottom and all around so we felt secure. On our way back we found some art. 4 figures paddling a canoe: remarkable from the respect that these figures were doing something. We speculated that they could be ancient Macassan visitors captured for prosperity. We returned to Palm Island and that evening were visited by 3 large Tawny sharks, at least 7 ft long. They circled the boat, banging on the hull, and were clearly attracted by the music. When we turned it off they moved over to Lizard.

The wind had picked up and we could see a few days of strongish winds coming. We anchored in the Lea of Dog Ear Island and went ashore to explore. We circumnavigated the island, and saw more Eagles. Finding a nice sheltered beach on our return, we spent some time walking and the boys played in the white sand. Back on board we waited for the wind to ease.

Our next passage would take us round cape Voltaire, through the narrow Voltaire passage and on to cape Bougainville. We could expect strong headwinds and wind against tide, and if we got them wrong, it could be very nasty. Keen to get close and wait for the tides we sailed up the W side of the headland and anchored in it's lea behind Murrangingi Island, some 8 miles from the first cape. We were in a lovely sheltered bay and went ashore, walked the miles of white sand beaches and found small salt-water pools for the boys to "swim" in. We saw Emu and Dingo tracks but no animals, and after some mediocre shelling returned to Pegasus for a fried chicken, pumpkin and roti dinner.

With the forecast still for E30kts, we decided to wait and leave 1.5 hrs before the tide change, trying to enter Voltaire passage at slack water. Maintenance morning, using the last of our reserve fuel and switching water tanks. I estimated we had 3 weeks of water left if we were careful, so should be enough to get to Darwin. I was still concerned about diesel, but we should be sailing the last 300 miles so would just have to be careful with engine use over the next two weeks.

We pulled up anchor and headed towards the first Cape at 1300. The wind had eased and was only 15-20 from the E as we rounded the Cape. The tides were a mystery. We had some current with and some against and nothing from the predicted direction.
With the tide building against us when it should have been with us we found some shelter behind Kingsmill Island and dropped anchor for the night. With the wind at 25kts from the SE we had a disturbed night. Pegasus was anxious at anchor as the tide eddied between the islands and up early in the morning I was keen to round the Cape Bourganville and find secure shelter in White finger bay some 35miles E.

With the tides a mystery, there was little point in planning, but to round the cape at approximately slack water seemed prudent. With a rough start we bore away round the reef and after an hour Pegasus settled down making fast time to the Cape. We decided on a close pass and were pleased to note that the tide turned in our favour on rounding. We had fortuitously timed it to perfection! We headed towards White Fingers bay, described as " Anchor in shoaling sand off the white sandy beach" sounded pretty good! After negotiating the pearl leases and entering the bay we found it slightly different. "Anchor between the sand banks off the muddy rocky beach" was a better description. Good protection was afforded, and after an interesting walk ashore where we found what we thought was mineralised Uranium on the rocks, we returned to Pegasus for dinner and a quiet night.

The morning of the 24th was beautiful and still, and with the tide just making against we motored 5 miles round a headland into a no name bay and found a sheltered anchorage to wait for the tide. We went ashore for a long beach walk. Eagles, shells and Boab trees, and a "quick dip" saw us refreshed as we returned to Pegasus for lunch. Lizard arrived, but being unable to find a tenable anchorage due to swell, pushed on. We would see them in Freshwater bay. Back ashore to burn the rubbish and marshmallows…again…then off to Freshwater bay just 5 miles further S.

On glassy seas we arrived at 17.30 to see two other boats at anchor. We were to learn from them that Australia had a new prime minister and Julia Gillard had become premier and ousted Kevin Rudd. Well well!

Lizard arrived and we spent a peaceful night at anchor, excited about the prospect of some great walking and swimming in the morning.

Up early and off through the mangroves to the head of the creek. We walked up and over the small falls, making our way along the creek. There were many fresh water pools and the boys enjoyed swimming in all of them. We stopped on the way back down at the "best" pool and all swam. Whilst checking for snakes and crocs, we spooked a large lizard, which gave us a similar shock. Cold after its swim, it sunned itself until it had the energy to move on. Bruce and Maureen arrived, and continued to walk up river, as we made our way back to Pegasus.

Unfortunately JJ was stung on the ear by a bee, and looking like a prop forward, received medical attention from mum when back on board. Drinks on board Lizard in the still, quiet sunset saw the close of a beautiful day. 3 large Tawny sharks, which fascinated the boys, again joined us, but thankfully these ones were not banging into the boat.

Another beautiful morning, still, with a heavy dew. We picked up the crab pot, laid the previous evening, to find 1 blue swimmer crab and a small fish. We set them free and prepared to leave for Jar Island, 10 miles to the S.

Philip Parker King, on his survey of Australia in 1820, found a Macassan earthenware jar and so named the Island. We navigated our way through the pearl leases and anchored just off the beach. With Lizard, we ventured ashore to look for the Bradshaw art that was said to be found there. After a short search, we found some caves with fantastic art of a different nature and definition. It was clearly different from anything else we had seen and is said to predate aboriginal art. This quote from Wikipedia sums it up.

They are named after the pastoralist Joseph Bradshaw who was the
first European to discover them in 1891, whilst searching for grazing land for his cattle. The Bradshaw's are also known as Gwion Gwion by the local Aboriginal people. Scientists estimate that there may be more than 100,000 sites spread over 50,000 km² of the Kimberley. In 1996 one of the paintings was dated by analysing an ancient wasp nest covering it (using thermoluminescence) The nest was found to be over 17,000 years old, indicating that some paintings are at least this old. Debate rages as to who actually created the art. On one side of the debate is Grahame Walsh, an amateur archeologist and the leading expert on the Bradshaw's with over 1.2 million images he has amassed over 21 years studying them. His hypothesis claims that the Bradshaw's were painted by a culture predating present day Indigenous Australians. On the other side are the mainstream scientific community who believe that it is completely plausible that the art was produced by the local people. Controversy surrounds this debate as it is believed by some non-indigenous Australians that if the Bradshaw art is found not to be Aboriginal in origin, land rights claims by Indigenous Australians may be undermined. Regardless of
whether the Bradshaw art is Aboriginal or exotic, "mainstream" Indigenous art is also found in the Kimberley region - proof that Indigenous people have inhabited and had cultural connection to the area

We climbed the rocks and walked the beach, all taking a quick dip before returning to Pegasus for sundowners and a great evening.

The following morning there was a large Croc just meters from Pegasus, reminding us that the killers were always present. Bruce and Maureen, who had been a little less "quick" about their dip reviewed their attitude and I noticed a greater level of precaution from them both!

We set off together some 5 miles E to find the remains of a DC3. Anchoring off the beach we dinghied ashore and walked across a mud flat, finding the well preserved wreck site 100m into the bush.

In February 1942, an American Douglas C-53 (DC3) made a forced landing on a mudflat on the eastern side of Vansittart Bay. The plane had been en route from Perth to Broome when the pilot had become disorientated in bad weather and darkness, and made a forced landing when fuel was running low. (That's a big mistake, Broome is some 300 miles SW of the crash site!!) The two crew members and two passengers survived the landing and were rescued three days later by a QANTAS flying boat, the "CORINTHIAN". Looking at the plane and landing area, it is apparent that the crew and passengers were extremely lucky to survive the landing and to be rescued quickly from this remote area. How they were located I don't know!

Back on board we headed off S to Low Island 5 miles to the S and found secure anchorage for the night. Lizard arrived and we set off across the island for a long beach walk on the windward side. We found great Australian Trumpet's Bailer and many other shells. We also found a mass of black coral washed up on the tide line. Just the second time we had found it!

We started another fire and had sundowners on the beach. This would be our last stop with Lizard as we pushed E and they headed S to pick up crew and restock in Mission cove.

We set off in the morning after coffee with Lizards and headed for middle pass, a very narrow pass between the rocks separating Vansittart and Napier Broome Bay. With a fair tide we made some good progress and pushing tide for the last hour arrived at Anjo cove, a convenient overnight stop, but otherwise unremarkable bay. Pushing on early the next morning we headed E to the Governor Islands before a planned night passage round the infamous cape Londonderry, our last major cape of the Kimberley.

We were anchored in a beautiful secluded, sheltered cove. Launching the dinghy we spent the day exploring the 3 islands and walking the beaches. 1600 back on board for showers and tea before setting off N towards cape Londonderry. The advice we had sought had warned us about this cape and it was recommended to round at night, keeping well offshore, arriving at the cape at the turn of the tide. The reasoning being that the winds are lighter at night, and the flood tide should take us S to Koolama Bay, an easy bay to enter at night and anchor. Strong winds against the ferocious current could lead to extremely steep and dangerous breaking seas, which we were keen to avoid. Again luck was with us, and motor sailing we gave the cape a wide berth, picking up the fair tide rounding the cape. I was relieved as we set the anchor in the quiet of Koolama bay, having rounded an obstacle that had been worrying me for 2 weeks.

Koolama bay is the entry point to the King George River, and our last stop in the Kimberley. This would be our only river venture and it proved to be spectacular. Taking the early morning tide we motored carefully over the sand bars and 7 miles up the impressive gorge to its head where twin falls cascade 150m off the plane. Anchoring in a pool we launched the dinghy to explore. It was a little spooky under the falls so after lunch we decided to climb the cliffs, some 150m, and a very steep climb. Arriving at the top we found fresh water pools and all swam while the boys played in the safe water.

On our way back down we chanced across the gremlin chest, known to cruisers of the Kimberley. Some years ago a yacht was having all sorts of intermittent engine and system problems. They decided that the best thing to do was put all the gremlins in a chest and find them a new home in a cave on the cliffs. Anyone can leave their own gremlins in the chest in addition to a small gift. The boys were very excited so we opened the chest, signed the book and left our gremlins there in good company along with a New Zealand dollar, found in my rucksack….which was a bit odd as we haven't been to New Zealand!

Back on board we agreed that we had well and truly explored the Kimberley, and if we made for Darwin, some 250 miles NE, we would be there for Louis birthday on the 4th July. That evening I prepared Pegasus for passage, putting the big outboard away and securing her for open water. It had rained overnight and in overcast conditions we made our way downriver in the early morning light. I had reviewed the weather and although the conditions looked windy, I could see no change for at least a week, so we decided to push on.

As we made open water so the wind picked up and by lunchtime we had SE25kts with a steep sea. All I can say about the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf is that it was filthy! The wind was on the nose, and for the most part was above 30Kts. The sea was steep and short, making for difficult driving conditions. I suppose that the wave height was about 3m and frequency 16m, so at 14m length, Pegasus was being seesawed by the waves in a most uncomfortable fashion. The waves were coming at us from everyl direction. We were all wet, there was a lot of water over the deck and for the first time in ages we were sailing with he front door closed. Louis was sick 5 times, JJ 3 times and Amanda was feeling terrible. I was even feeling off colour. Not good.

Conditions started to ease the following lunchtime, which was a relief, and by 1800 2nd July the seas had flattened and we were sailing in 15kts SE…very much better. As the wind died so we motor sailed through the shoals that abound at the head of the Cox peninsular, and with the tide now foul rounded Charles point and started to make our way up the estuary towards Darwin. At 0100 we decided to pull over behind a headland and stop. We were 8 miles from the anchorage in Fannie bay, Darwin, and with shoals and shallows it would be better approached in the morning. We were both delighted to be within sight of our objective and slept soundly in the quiet of the bay.

Up early and away. In the morning light we were surprised to see high-rise buildings and what looked like a large city appear out of the haze. We had imagined Darwin as a small country town….we had been in the bush too long!

Motoring against stiff headwinds and current we made slow progress, but at 11am 3rd July we dropped anchor in Fannie bay, opposite the Darwin Sailing club. This would be our base for the next 3 weeks as we prepared Pegasus for the next leg of our journey, N across the Arafura and Banda seas through Indonesia and up to Singapore.

Dinghy down and ashore to the Club for Beer and Cigarettes, the only two items we ran out of in the Kimberley and our 6 weeks bush! It felt great to be back in civilisation.

Both Amanda and I felt a terrific sense of achievement, having finally completed a three-quarter circumnavigation of Australia (the wrong way) against the prevailing winds. During the last 9 months in Australia we had sailed through the Coral Sea, Tasman Sea, Bass Straight, Southern Ocean and Great Australian Bight, into the Indian Ocean, and on to the Timor Sea and finally the Arafura Sea. We had logged some 7600 miles and added 550Hrs to each engine! Of the major Australian cities, we had taken Pegasus to Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth (Fremantle) and Darwin. We had seen Tropical Queensland through the wild, cold south, to the deserts of WA and back to the tropics. We had caught Mahi Mahi on the East coast, Blue fin Tuna on the South Coast and Yellow fin on the West coast. We had seen the fantastic museums in Brisbane, sailed under the Sydney harbour bridge and seen ancient aboriginal paintings in the Kimberley……..

All across the Pacific, Amanda had been excited about seeing Australia. Since her Father had served there when she was a little girl, it had been her dream to travel in the continent……….AUSTRALIA? ………DONE!

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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Australia 8 The Kimberley 1

Australia 8 The Kimberley 1

We had been looking forward to cruising the Kimberley region and finally had arrived. It was the start of what would be six weeks cruising virgin Australian country, with numerous anchorages, as we made our way slowly towards Darwin and our exit point from Australia.

We left Cape Leveque on the morning tide, 5th June, using the flood to take us past south Alarm shoal and through the tide race at Karrakatta point. Once through we could head more S towards our first anchorage at the Graveyard. The wind was light from the E so we were motor sailing and with the afternoon tide against, it looked like a long slog up King sound towards the Graveyard. We altered course and found a nice anchorage under Dunvert Island. A pod of pilot whales guided us in and by 1700 we were all secure out of tide and wind. In the evening light there was a purple haze as bushfires raged to the S and we felt glad we were not in the Graveyard surrounded by fire and its fallout.

With no easy access to shore apparent, we decided to push on and headed off to a river inlet known as Coppermine Creek., some 15 miles as the crow flies but 30 miles through the islands. We headed off with the tide, which proved to be a mystery as we had fair tide trough some passes and tide rips through others. No doubt the tide direction would become clearer over time, and I was keen to get it sorted before springs and the full 8-12 meter tides that could cause massive eddies and tide rips running at up to 8kts between the Islands! With an engine speed of just 6kts you don't need to be a mathematician to work out the potential result!

Once through the Rips we motored along the S side of Yampi sound and by midday we were at anchor in a beautiful bay at the entrance to copper mine creek. After lunch we launched the Dinghy and ventured ashore. We were both very aware of crocodiles, as we knew they were there but we didn't see any, and took "croc" precaution. Ashore we donned our "Aussie" boots and went off for a bush walk. Gaining height we could see into the water, a kind of milky turquoise, but nothing sinister loomed from the depths. We spent 2 hours walking, watching the Eagles soar above, looking for signs of animals…snake tracks, Kangaroo poo etc….and found our first giant termite mounds. We also found copper in the rocks and picked up a piece for prosperity. Back to the dinghy and a little explore up the creek. Mangroves lined the creek and after a while we decided we wouldn't push our luck, and returned to Pegasus.

When cruising the Kimberley, it was advised that a "Tinnie" was the best tender, as Crocs were known to bite Ribs (Rubber Inflatable Boats). We, of course, only had the Rib, which locally were known as teething rings!! We had been told that the noise of a Rib slapping the surface was appealing, so as a discipline we always raised the dinghy when not in use. That evening, as we sat under the stars, we could see the lume of the bush fires to the south, and the purple haze gave us an amazing sunset.

We headed off the following day some 20 miles up to Silver Gull Creek. Aided by the tide we made good time and were at anchor in another beautiful inlet just after lunch. We had planned to stop at crocodile creek, a favourite stopping place for cruisers, but we decided that the entrance was just too narrow and so pushed on. Crocodile creek is a narrow pass through rock, taken at full tide, which allows a yacht to tie up in a pool, remaining afloat at low water. To the N is a ladder next to a waterfall that leads to a fresh water pool where one can swim. Saying that, nothing is certain, as some friends on Kialana (see Geralton to Dampier blog) had been anchored there and watched a 14ft salty croc slide down the waterfall!!!

On our way into Silver Gull, we saw a charter boat "The Kimberley Queen" come out of the creek. I guess there are 10 or so charter boats of various sizes that cruise the Kimberley, and we would see them at the more favoured spots over the next 6 weeks.

Silver Gull is popular as there are a couple (Phil and Marion) who have been camping there for 16years, next to a large water tank that is fed by a fresh water stream. It is accepted that people who stop can come up the creek and swim in the tank. Usually this leads to a few drinks with Phil and Marion and a wait for the tide to return and refloat the dinghies, hence it is know as the Squatters Arms. We spent a memorable afternoon there with the boys enjoying the tank and as people appeared and disappeared there was quite a social party atmosphere. Phil explained that they always had a lot of visitors during neap tides as the major local attraction, the horizontal falls, was far more spectacular during spring tides.

The horizontal falls are caused by the tide entering a lagoon with a 70ft entrance through the cliff. When the tide ebbs out it produces a 10 ft standing wave and corresponding drop in sea level and is reputed to be an awesome sight.

The following morning, by invitation, we went back up the creek and as the boys swam, I went through the Kimberley region with Phil to find his favourite places and his tips on tide and passages. We spent a lovely morning with them and Marion gave both boys a hand carved pearl shell dolphin with black coral eye. A lovely memento of a beautiful place. We mentioned in passing that we had seen no crocodiles. Marion remarked that they were there, but the only boats guaranteed to see crocs were those with children or dogs on board! I guess we were going to see them!

Back on board and with a fair tide we headed off to our next anchorage, an overnight spot at Melomys Island, half way to Raft point. As we left Silver gull we decided to exit Yampi sound to the S of Koolan Island through a narrow pass called the Drainpipe. Koolan Island is a high-grade iron ore island, where they have been literally cutting the island up and loading it onto ships. There is a jetty onto which ships moor and when they are loaded the next one comes in. They have been doing this for years and it looks like they will continue for some time. The Island adjacent to Koolan, Cockatoo Island has the same operation. Passing through the Drainpipe we passed an island called Iron Island. It is pretty much 100% iron ore!

We arrived at Melomys Island in flat calm conditions and enjoyed a red sunset refracted through the iron ore haze of Koolan Island some 15 miles to the W.

Leaving early with the tide, and into a brisk headwind we made our way to the S of Montgomery reef, a huge reef structure, and arrived at Raft point at lunchtime. After soup bread and ham we went ashore to explore. This area was a sacred Aboriginal site and was know as a good hunting ground. Aboriginals would build rafts and paddle out to the reef to hunt Dugong (like Manatee's) and turtle. Up in the cliffs above the point were caves with Aboriginal paintings and we planned to climb the cliffs and look for them.

With the dinghy on a long line and following the usual croc precautions we donned our Aussie boots and set off up the steep incline towards the cave site. We passed many Boab trees, the first we had seen and quite strange. The Aboriginal people know it as the upside-down tree, which was uprooted and planted upside-down by one of their gods for some misdemeanour! After half an hour climb / walk we found the caves and our first Aboriginal paintings. Pictures of Dugong and other fish were apparent as well as other images that defied imagination. It was clear from the location of the art that they liked to lie on their backs and paint the ceiling, perhaps for longevity of the image…who knows.

We made our way back down, admiring the view across to Steep Island, and once on the beach made a fire to burn our rubbish, then roast marshmallows. Back on board we decided to head to Red cone Inlet the following day some 15 miles across Doubtful bay.

By 9.30 on 10th June we were anchored in Red Cone Inlet, looking forward to our first trip up the creek and to the waterfalls and safe fresh water pools at the top of the cliff. As we anchored we saw another boat in the creek and were pleased to see that it was our friends "Lizard" who we had last seen on Surrier Island some 1000 miles to the West.

We launched the dinghy and headed up the winding, mangrove fringed creek. After 2 miles the creek narrowed and we motored slowly between the cliff faces only about 40 ft wide. There on the rocks was a huge croc, baking in the sun, the first we had seen. He looked primeval and sinister, but in reality did nothing. Even so, I would have been happier seeing him through bars!

We tied up the dinghy to some roots up the cliff and climbed 30 ft up to the freshwater pools. It was absolutely fantastic, swimming in fresh water, in a garden like setting, and having seen the croc we quickly forgot about the snakes!!

Taking the opportunity to wash our selves and clothes, after a long swim we headed back to our dinghy. Bruce and Maureen from Lizard had joined us at the falls and we all made our way past the croc and back to our boats before the tide fell and stranded us up river. Having coffee on Pegasus we talked about our adventures and our plans. We knew we would see each other along the way and shared our cruising information. They intended to stay at Red cone Inlet and we planned to meet them at Sampson inlet in a day or two. We said our goodbyes and after lunch headed up the coast with the tide to Langgi, another sacred Aboriginal site.

As dusk fell on a still sea we found an adequate anchorage, only acceptable in the quiet conditions. We were ashore early and ventured up the cliffs to look for some fresh water pools so we could all swim. After half an hour we found some but they were just too inaccessible, so carried on looking. After an hour and a half we decided that our bush walk was just too much and slowly made our way back to the beach. After climbing carefully down some cliffs we arrived back at the dinghy. NO reward after a hot bush walk!

We had developed a quick dip technique with the boys. Dad runs into the water up to his waist followed by the boys. We all immerse fully then run back out. Mum watches from the beach. That way we cool off with the minimum risk…we think!

We took the dinghy up the creek as far as we could and found the strange rock formations revered by the Aboriginals as a meeting of spirits. It was a lovely setting, but we needed a secure anchorage for the night so pushed on to a beautiful beach tucked behind Wilsons point and set the hook for the night. We ventured ashore, and after checking for croc tracks, pulled the dinghy up the beach. While walking along the white sand we saw Lizard arrive and were joint by Bruce and Maureen (B+M) on our walk.

Drinks on Pegasus and the boys watched Avitar, loaned by B+M. We decided we would all use the morning high tide to make our way up Sampson inlet, some 5 miles away, and look for the fresh water pools at the head of the creek.

By 10.30 we had the anchor set and launched the dinghy. Definitely croc country with mangrove, mud and still water. Slowly motoring up the gorge we saw wedge tail eagles gliding the thermals and felt eyes on us all the time. The mangrove was close, only 10 foot apart, and any attack would be sudden without warning. Luckily we were 2 dinghies so more threatening, and a less likely target according to theory!

We walked up the creek and found some fresh water where we could see the bottom. It wasn't that deep, but safe, so we swam, cooled off and washed. Returning to Pegasus we saw a large croc some 10m from the boat. We were glad to be back on board and made our way to the mouth of a second inlet where we had good deep water and a safe anchorage. We explored this second inlet in the dinghy (The site of Phil and Marion's last camp) found some more Aboriginal art, and retired to Pegasus for an early night. We planned to head up the W side of Augustus Island and on to Hanover bay the following day.

Up early and away. With clear skies, little wind and a flood tide we were all set to make a fast passage to Hanover bay. Lizard was a little ahead of us, and approaching some narrows between 2 islands reported a strong current. In theory we should have had the current with us, but it appeared against. Being Solent sailors we found a favourable back eddy and approached the narrows with caution. Both engines full power we hit the current and made it across the whirlpools. We were making just 0.5Kts against the tide but after an hour we started making better progress and 2 hours later we were round Adieu point and heading towards the next headland at High Bluff. We could see a nice beach on an island, so decided to stop for the day and slowly made our way towards Entrance Island. Feeling our way past the rocks and shallows we found good holding in 8m of water. We settled down to a late lunch of fresh bread, Pate and bits, followed by Amanda's pineapple upside down cake…. delicious.

Dinghy down, ashore for a walk, and another beach fire and rubbish burn. Fire is a dangerous element is such dry country and care is needed when starting a beach fire. We tend to dig a 2ft pit well below the high water mark and build a strong, hot fire, then introduce the rubbish slowly to ensure a total burn. When we're finished we cover the embers over with sand and after the tide there is no sign of any activity. It is very effective leaving us with only tins and bottles for later disposal.

After a good walk and some rock climbing for the boys we were all back on Pegasus by 6pm for an early night. We watched another beautiful Kimberley sunset before turning in, knowing that we only had a short distance to make the following day into Hanover Bay, where another inlet waited and hopefully some good swimming.

See Photos of the Kimberley on our website at

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Monday, 9 August 2010

Australia 7 Dampier to Cape Leveque and the Rowley Shoals.

Australia 7 Dampier to Cape Leveque and the Rowley Shoals.

Having left Dampier early on the morning of 27th May, we were well offshore before the wind started to build. We were heading to the Rowley shoals, 3 reef atolls some 200 miles NE of Dampier.

The Rowley Shoals are a marine park controlled by the DEC (Department of Environment and Conservation) and as such one is required to inform the DEC of your plans and book mooring buoys of which 7 are available throughout the 3 reefs. We had made our booking, and understanding that the wind was building, had reserved the only Buoy on the W side of Imperious Reef, thereby offering some protection in the lee of the reef.

By 6 am the following morning we had 30-35Kts and 3 reefs in the main. The sea was rough and confused with a 2m swell from the SW and a 2m sea from the E, creating 4m holes, and difficult driving conditions. We were very glad to find shelter behind the reef and by 1500 were tied up to a strong buoy in relatively flat seas. It was pretty impressive with the sea crashing 50m in front of us and the wind howling, yet being in flat water with a long SW swell lifting onto the reef.

The following morning the wind had eased and we set off to look at the E side of the reef. It became apparent early that the sea was still too big to stay on the E side so we headed back to our buoy. We popped a lure over the side and within 1 hour had caught 2 Yellow Fin and a Mahi. Just fantastic fishing, but enough for one day. We would forsake the E side and head up to Clerke reef the following day, some 30M NE.

Secured on the Buoy we all went snorkelling off Pegasus. As we jumped into the crystal clear water we could clearly see 2 manta rays directly below us. We all watched in wonder at these marvellous creatures as they swam in circles below us. Needless to say there were no other boats around but at 1500 we were buzzed by the Customs / coast watch plane who asked us a few questions and bid us G'day.

After a quite night we set off early for Clerke reef. With 2 reefs in the main we rounded the head of the reef and were pleased to see the conditions much improved. The sea had calmed and after 5 hours we rounded the N of Clerke reef. As we approached we could see the pass as calm water with the sea breaking either side of it. This pass is quite narrow at some 20-30m, and snakes through the reef a little. We approached with caution and after 20 nervous minutes were inside the lagoon and in calm water again. We were both a bit shaky after the pass as, once started your committed and you cant see the end when you start!! Not for he faint hearted!

We spent the afternoon snorkelling the various coral heads and reef structures. Fantastic reef variety and colours, and an abundance of marine life. We saw a number of giant clams just 3-4m under the surface…..i have never seen them that size at over 1.5m wide, and could imagine a diver getting his leg caught, having to cut his way clear to freedom. Plenty of sharks, but nothing too sinister. Later we landed on Bedwell Island, basically a sand bar, but home to the Red Tail Tropic Bird. We saw many of these beautiful birds that have a single red tail feather some 40cm long. As this is a sanctuary and one of only 2 nesting sites in WA, we built a couple of nest sites, as others had done before us, and left the island after the boys had enjoyed a long swim.

After waiting for the sun we exited the pass at 11am on 1st June headed for Mermaid reef and another, hopefully less tricky, pass into the Lagoon. With light winds at SE 15kts we headed slowly up to Mermaid reef, enjoying a lunch of Pate and cheese and Amanda's fresh bread. Customs buzzed us again, just checking our details were the same? And by 1600 we were on the buoy in the lagoon after a much more pleasant experience. We swam off Pegasus and planned to get to the small sand Cay the following day.

Waking up early the weather had changed and with a short nasty chop we found it difficult to reach the Island. We abandoned our plan and returned to Pegasus. The Weather looked good to push on to Cape Leveque with light SE and E winds.

I had been worried about this leg of the passage. It is not unknown for boats to wait many weeks in Dampier trying to get to Broome and further N to Cape Leveque. We had opted to miss Broome as it didn't appear to offer easy access or comfortable conditions for Yachts, so with plenty of stores, water and fuel, our next stop for supplies would be Darwin, some 600 miles NE.

We cleared the pass at 11am on 2nd June and close hauled with 2 reefs in headed NE in the hope the wind would clock to the S. The conditions were favourable and when the wind died we motor sailed E, slowly making our way to Cape Leveque. The passage was unremarkable other than we caught 5 small Yellow Fin in 1.5 hours and I was told to stop fishing!!

At 4.30am on 4th June we finally dropped anchor just to the E of Cape Leveque. It had been a slow passage but we were relieved, as the really difficult and exposed section of Australian coastline was now behind us and we could look forward to the main event, the Kimberley. We planned to spend a night at anchor before crossing York sound and heading deep into virgin country. We were excited about the remote Kimberley region. It looked like we could find many anchorages, beaches and bays, fresh water pools, waterfalls and exciting, challenging navigation. On the down side were Crocodiles, 12m tides and NO Swimming in the sea!!!

We went ashore and took the opportunity to have a last swim, before walking up to the campsite to try and find an ice cream for the boys. Another swim and back on board for an early night. We would be off on the morning tide to our first anchorage some 40 miles away on the E side of King Sound.

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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Australia 6 Carnarvon to Dampier

Australia 6 Carnarvon to Dampier

We left Carnarvon on 9th May with fresh SW winds making for a fast sail. The coastline was changing, so we were to adapt our techniques again. We were heading into reef country and, as with the pacific, we would need to time our arrival so that we could see the outer reef and passes to transit into the calm water for anchorage. You just can't see the reef unless the sun is high and preferably behind you, so between 1000 and 1600 is best. With this in mind we broke our first passage, pulling up behind a bluff at Cape Cuvier. There was a massive salt export station there, with a gantry and buoys for shipping, but nothing else. We secured to a tugboat mooring just out of the swell with 30kts wind across the deck, thankful that we had found some shelter. Being only 40 miles S of our first stop on the Ningaloo reef, we knew we had our timing right and being on a stout mooring we slept soundly in the hostile conditions.

By morning the wind had eased and with 2 reefs in we set off up the coast for another fast sail N. By 1300 we were through the reef and looking for a place to anchor under the headland.

Although a bay may look spacious, usually there is only a limited area that provides protection from sea and wind, offers good holding for the anchor and is free from navigational hazards while swinging through wind and tide change. In addition, although this part of the coast is very remote, the Australians have a tradition of camping, and as we arrived we could see that there were 15 fishing boat temporary moorings right where we wanted to anchor. We call this the Tinnie brigade as most of the boats are aluminium, and have encountered them all the way up the coast in the most remote locations. We motored around Gnarloo point for an hour or two, dropped the anchor, and pulled it up again, until we found a suitable spot and a good hold. That sorted, we launched the dinghy and went ashore. We all needed the exercise and after a long walk and swim we felt better about our stop.

That night we noticed we had attracted quite a few moths. Well, there were millions of them, and I watched them marching up the sail cover and disappearing. With still conditions the following morning I had to raise the mainsail to get rid of all the moths that had taken refuge there. I had visions of them eating our sail and was glad that I evicted them successfully.

As our first stop on the Ningaloo reef we wanted to take a long walk and see what we could find on the beach. We set off early with a picnic and found a great spot for lunch and a swim. While there, another family appeared over the dunes! The boys made contact and we enjoyed the afternoon in company. It's just so bizarre that you can be hundreds of miles from anything and suddenly people arrive seemingly out of nowhere! We found good treasure, 3 fishing lures and a Hawaiian sling (a sort of spear gun) for me, and Amanda found some beautiful shells. JJ has taken to finding lumps of wood to make things with, and insists that I carry the really big bits. This usually means that I carry it for a mile or two while trying to convince him that it's too heavy. When achieved he will leave it as readily as it was picked up.

While walking 2 other sailing boats had arrived in the anchorage. Bruce from Lizard came over and asked us for sundowners on the beach. We planned to leave that evening, but not until last light (following our GPS track out through the reef), so we headed inshore for light drinks. We spent a good hour meeting Lizard and Kialana, two boats we would no doubt see again. The boys ran and swam: they would sleep well tonight.

With light winds we upped anchor at 1830 and motor sailed out through the reef and N towards our next stop, Norwegian bay. The wind stayed light overnight and backed to NE in the morning. We were making good way and at 9am we had a double strike on the lines. Yellow fin, 1 landed, 1 got off at the boat. By 11.30 we were anchored off the remains of an old whaling station. The water was clear and turquoise, and the bay secluded….a Tinnie appeared round the corner and there was a motorbike on the beach……where do they come from!

We went ashore for a long walk and made a plan for the following day. The wind was due to pick up and I wanted to find some protection from the S. It looked like Tantabiddi would be suitable. After an evening where we finally caught some squid….not quite enough for lunch… we set off early and by 0700 had cleared the reef heading N to our next reef pass. We had 55 miles to run and with 15kts from the SE we were going well. Great fishing. By 8.30 we had caught 3 small stripy Tuna, which we threw back, and at 9.30 we had a massive strike. I retrieved the line to see that the hook had been straightened.

Replacing the hook with a double stainless, we reset the trap to see what was striking. An hour later and another massive hit. Big tension on the line and looking back I saw an enormous Marlin leap from the water. Twang and the 300 lb hand line snapped like a piece of twine. The Marlin jumped again, then again and again trying to shake the lure clearly visible in its mouth. Our hearts sank. It had not been our intension to catch something that big, and on our gear we shouldn't have attracted it, but there it was, and we could do nothing about it. We hoped that it would shake the lure and swim free from the line, but in our hearts we knew that this magnificent fish was now shark food. Oh dear! We felt drained and upset. There was nothing we could do. We pulled in the other line. No more fishing today.

The wind was picking up and after lunch of pate, cheese and Amanda's bread we entered the pass into Tantabiddi.. The wind was now 30Kts on the nose as we motored slowly up to the boat ramp area looking for a suitable place to anchor. There were a number of charter boats on their moorings in the good water. These boats take charter guests out through the reef to see the whale sharks that congregate at Ningaloo reef at this time of year. They are pretty successful at finding them with the help of spotter planes, and when located the charter guests can swim with the sharks…must be a fantastic experience. We had hoped to see them, but as yet hadn't spotted any. We would have to be pretty lucky to chance upon them.

We motored past the boats and tried to anchor, failed to get a good hold and dragged back. Passing astern a charter boat for another try, the crew directed us to a mooring that they owned and said we could use it. They had seen the forecast and knew that we needed a strong hold for a few days. We gave them some beer and thanked them, feeling lucky we had good protection for the forthcoming windy weather.

We spent 2 days on the buoy, with the wind blowing the tops off the waves, spume flying everywhere, but quite secure on board. I managed a few maintenance jobs, and on the 15th May the wind eased and we ventured ashore for a long walk and a swim. We were keen to move on, and after letting the sea quieten down we left early on the 16th to clear NW cape and start on our next section of the coast, the Pilbarra iron ore region.

With light winds we rounded the cape and sailed to Surrier Island, dropping the anchor before last light. Both Kialana and Lizard had been sheltering in Exmouth and we all arrived within 3 hours of each other. We were in a protected bay with a glorious beach so decided to spend a few days there. I managed a little more maintenance, and we went ashore to walk and swim. Surrier is quite narrow and it was possible to walk across the island to the windward side. It reminded us of the islands in the Bahamas. That first day we walked the south of the island and found some lovely shells. In addition there were loads of Turtle nests, and of course a dead turtle for the boys to poke and prod.

Back on board and we had an excellent evening with both Lizard and Kialana….many laughs. The following day we walked the north of the island, really quite a long way, and found some fantastic shells including a nautilus, most unusual and not seen since New Caledonia. We also found quite a few golf balls? and had great fun with the boys playing hockey with drift wood on the hard sand.

This stretch of the coast runs NE and for 175 miles is littered with small islands with the Montebello group to the north and the Dampier Archipelago to the east. It was our plan to day sail through the islands and stop in Dampier to restock before heading up past Broome and into the Kimberly's, the main event, and the best cruising in WA and possibly Australia. We thought about going 80 miles N to the Montebello's the site of the UK nuclear tests of the 1950's, but we love island hopping, and we could definitely make Dampier without delay on a more southerly course. It would be easy to get stuck in the Montebello's with strong Easterlies, and I wanted to push on to spend as much time as possible in the Kimberly's.

We left early on the 19th and picked our way through the reef, islands and Gas platforms, motor sailing in light SSE winds. As the wind clocked I set the Kite, the first time in Australia and we had a lovely run up to Great Sandy Island arriving at 17.30. Up early and ashore. Fantastic sea life, loads of turtles, reef sharks and dolphins, strange blue spotted rays and some huge birds, which we thought to be Eagles of some sort. By 10.30 we had the anchor up and headed off to Scholl Island, a 20-mile hop. Toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch and a small mackerel caught (which we threw back) and by 14.30 we had the anchor down again.

With the islands being mostly sand and coral, I had changed our ground tackle. I stowed the faithful Admiralty anchor, which had looked after us so well in the rock and weed of the south and west coast, and had reverted to the super Maxsea, a claw type anchor much better in sand, mud and coral. We planed to use this all the way to Darwin and possibly through Indonesia.

More great shelling ashore, and away after walking the island. Again, great marine life with turtles, snakes, and sharks. We were headed up towards Dampier, but with the light conditions stopped at Steamboat Island in an exposed position. We went ashore and the boys swam in the surf and amazingly I managed to catch a crayfish, which we were all excited about. That evening was just magical. As the sun dropped the sky and sea turned purple and fish were rising all around the boat. They would come up in great boiling spheres for only 10-20 seconds then disappear to resurface again elsewhere. There were always 2 or 3 spheres visible over that hour or so. The Turns were feeding on the wing. They would dive at the baitfish, taking a jumping fish at the last split second. Timing and flight precision fantastic. Everything was feeding; even turtles were rising close to Pegasus. Really magical and unforgettable.

I was not happy with our mooring position and with the wind filling from the SW (unusual) I decided that we should push on overnight to Malus Island in the Dampier archipelago. At 2200 we raised the anchor and motor sailed up past Cape Preston. There appeared to be a big development in progress with lights and cranes, plenty of action as we slipped past slowly…nothing indicated on the chart.

By 04.30 we were within Dampier Port Control area and after a quick conversation headed up to Malus Island. Anchor down in Whalers bay by 08.30 and a hearty breakfast aboard. I felt relieved that we had made Dampier and now I could look at our next leg up to Broome, Cape Leveque and on to the Kimberly's. With the wind predominately E, SE it is possible to be weather bound in Dampier for weeks waiting for good condition to make the 400 mile trip to Broome. Once in the Kimberly we could day sail through the islands making the 300 miles to Cape Londonderry, and wait for suitable weather for the final 250 mile passage to Darwin.

From Dampier we had a choice. We could sail straight to Broome or head out to 3 shoal/reef systems called the Rowley Shoals, some 250 NE of Dampier and 150 miles W of Broome. Having read about Broome, I was not convinced that this was going to be a great stop for us. The Tidal range is pretty big at 8meters (long way to pull up the dinghy!!) and the town is a few miles from any suitable anchorage. That would make restocking Pegasus difficult. In addition, Broome is 50 miles to windward to the Rowley Shoals, so in effect we would be backtracking.

No, we decided we would restock in Dampier and head from there through the Rowley Shoals and on to Cape Leveque and into the Kimberley's. That would mean that we would need to provision for 6 weeks, the longest period away from any available resources of the journey so far. With Fuel and water and stores we would be heavy in the expected beam sea out to the Rowley Shoals. We would have to take it easy!

We spent a great day on the beach at Malus Island, and met a family with children who were spending the day at their beach shack. The children played and we spent an enjoyable few hours talking. Chris and his wife lived in Dampier and said we could use their car to go to Karratha, the main town some 20km away, to restock. Great, first problem solved. We decided to spend the evening in the bay and head into Dampier the following day, Sunday 23rd May.

After a long beach walk and a swim we made our way into the harbour and anchored off the Yacht club at midday. Dampier is an iron ore town (Rio Tinto), and has massive exports of iron ore, salt and petroleum. The only reason people live there is to work, and with the massive amounts of exports and associated shipping the various wharfs are pretty busy. Surprisingly there is very little in Dampier itself. A convenience store, post office, petrol station, café, Chinese restaurant and workers pub called the Mermaid. In addition there is the Yacht Club, Bowls Club and Tennis Club.

Very little was open on a Sunday, so we checked out the Pub as a possible dinner venue. No way! This was a bloke's pub with the only girls in the place being on the stage! Not really family friendly so we decided that it would be dinner in the Yacht Club. We met some of the members in the bar and had another offer of a car for the following day. We were keen to get our jobs completed and start on the next stage of our journey.

Monday arrived and we started to service Pegasus as usual. Fuel, water, laundry, stores and a bit of real world for the boys. We picked up the car after completing the laundry in the morning and headed off into Karratha. We've never been to a working town like Karratha before, and it was strange to see 80% of the people, both men and women, in the standard workers wear of yellow and blue shirts and blue trousers. They looked like some sort of weird team, all with the various company names and their Christian names on the front. We found somewhere to fill our gas bottles, filled up 150lt of diesel ($1.50/lt) and headed up to the supermarket.

We stopped at McDonalds for lunch, a treat for the boys, and then set about emptying the bank account in Woolworth's. It seems to be that each time we stop we spend $1000, and this was no exception! We arrived back at the Yacht Club after dark and r 3 trips in the dinghy later, finally had everything on board. We had broken the back of our jobs list and would stow the stores the following day.

On passage I had organised for our repaired radio to be delivered from Geralton to Dampier post office. We went up to collect it and looked for some boxes to start packaging excess items for shipping back to the UK from Darwin. I refitted the radio, and after checking that all was working, we headed off into Karratha again in the new, borrowed car. We only had a few things to get, and so after another hour or so in the supermarket we headed back towards Dampier on a bit of a sight seeing trip. There really wasn't much to see that we knew about, so we headed back to stow Pegasus.

We planned to leave in the morning, so took the opportunity to go out for dinner at the Chinese restaurant. I have to say that it was the most expensive meal we have had out, and quite average, but it was a break for Amanda and we weren't depleting onboard stores before our departure.

On Wednesday 26th May we pulled up the anchor and after filling with water at the jetty, and washing some of the iron ore dust from Pegasus, we headed back to Malus Island before our early departure the following morning.

Planning to go to the Rowley shoals, we had made contact with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) who administered access to the group. There were a few buoys at the various reefs, which you were obliged to use and therefore booking was required. I knew we would have decent E, SE winds so our first stop would be Impeieuse reef, and there happened to be a Buoy on the west side. I definitely wanted to book this single buoy in the lee of the reef for a safe few nights, while we waited for the wind to ease. After a few e-mails and telephone conversations we had made our bookings for 9 nights at the 3 reef systems.

Malus bay, although a convenient start off point, proved a difficult spot to get a good hold and after dragging the anchor twice we finally found better holding. I was a little anxious about the weight on Pegasus, and dragging anchor just added to the apprehension one always feels before departing into the wilderness. We all went ashore for a good walk, the last we would have before we got onto Bedwell Island in Clerke reef. I didn't sleep well and was up and at 'em at 0345. Last e mails and download weather and at 0445 on 27th May we pulled up the anchor and headed N through the shipping channel then NE out past the Methane tankers anchored well offshore. With SSE 15kts and building, we had a good wind for the 220 mile leg.

We were on passage to the Rowley Shoals and had started our next leg deep into the Kimberly's, one of the last wilderness frontiers available to the cruising yachtsman, and the main event in our three quarters circumnavigation of Australia, then on to Darwin.

(For reference, Impeieuse reef in the Rowley shoals is at 17.33.46S 118.54.64E and is the Eastern most shoal. Interestingly google earth only shows Impeieuse and Clerke reef. Mermaid reef is not shown but lies 15M NE of Clerke reef. For details about the Kimberly's look at

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