Monday, 7 June 2010

Australia 5 Freemantle to Carnarvon

Australia 5 Fremantle to Carnarvon.

We left Fremantle bound for Rottnest on 18th April. It felt great to be at sea again. We spent our first night in Thompson bay, and early on the 19th headed over to Stark bay, an interesting bay to the NW of Rottnest. It was a tight entrance through the reef but in the mild conditions all was well. We went ashore, swam, chilly at 21 degrees, climbed rocks and tried to give the boys as much exercise as possible, as the following day we were off N to Shark bay.

I was up early and when I looked seaward I was shocked. A 2.5-meter sea was breaking over the reef to seaward. It looked totally impassable. We would have to wait for the tide to rise and hoped that this would quieten the sea. After 2 hours it looked much better. Another local boat made the exit and we thought we would give it ago. Images of being back in the travel lift went through my mind, but we made the difficult pass and by 9am were on our way. Wind was light but due to pick up, so we motor sailed and by midday, batteries full, fridge blown down, we were sailing again.

In the light wind we made good way with a WSW but NW apparent so fairly close to. Heading N for the first time in our journey we all felt excited that we would soon be back in the warmer water and swimming in comfort…back to days of the pacific. The sea was alive with dolphins, and although we couldn't see them we could clearly hear them through the hull. At first light on the 21st the wind died and starting up the port engine I noticed that it wasn't charging the batteries.

I had forgotten that we had an intermittent issue with the diode bridge on that engine. We couldn't go into the wilderness with that issue so after some discussion we decided to stop at Geralton and sort it out. This really would be our last large town to get spares and sort any issues with relative ease. We altered course to head inside the Houltman Abrolhus islands, the major Cray fishing area of western Australia, and I was keen to get inshore before last light to avoid the extensive Cray pots.

As we were approaching the shallower water our lines went off like rockets. I managed to land one large yellow fin tuna. Fantastic, our first yellow fin of the trip. The second one got off just at the boat, but with 40Kg of fish in the cockpit we weren't too upset! Sushi for dinner anyone.

Geralton itself is a major port and well lit so would not present too much of a hazard with a night entry. We were going well but would not be in until midnight. With a howling wind and a beam sea we made our approach through the outer reef and shoals. We took a few big waves with plenty of water over the boat but made our entrance safely. We both felt relieved as we dropped anchor opposite the Yacht club in the shelter and quiet of the harbour.

Bacon and eggs and ashore. We didn't really need many supplies but I needed a few things from the chandlery and so headed a mile out of town to the marine store. Amanda took the boys to the play park and a look around town. Having the Internet, and failing to source a diode bridge, I organised an electrician to come and install a voltage sensitive relay in the starboard engine room. This seemed to do the same job but more efficiently, and I wondered why the electrical engineers in America and subsequently the Canaries had not installed this solution to the multi battery bank charging issue….it's a constant learning curve.

On my return from the chandlery I found a marine electronics shop. We had been having issues with the Icom VHF, and it seemed that they could have it repaired. I bought a new, cheap, VHF and took the old one back for repair, to be forwarded if it was an economical fix.

Amanda and the boys had had a successful day, finding both a McDonalds and a play park but no swimming pool. 2 out of 3..not bad. We were nearly done and the weather looked good so we planned to leave on Saturday morning.

On Friday night we went to the yacht club and had drinks with a few members. Local knowledge is always important and we picked up a few tips about Shark Bay, our next stop. We mentioned that we would not be going to the Abrolhus, and talked Cray fish. There are so many Cray fish in the area that in Geralton, they eat them for breakfast. Mentioning that we would like a few, the Barmaid placed a call and said she would bring some to the beach the following morning. We departed the club for dinner ashore and were back onboard by 9pm….really quite late for us all.

Geralton and the region are known as the Batavia coast after the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia was wrecked on the Abrolhus archipelago n 1629. For those of interest "google" Batavia. It's quite a bloody story of shipwreck, mutiny, slaughter and summary justice. Interestingly this was a few years before Captain Cook "discovered" Australia in April 1770.

The following morning and the weather looked good with a stiff breeze becoming lighter during the afternoon. At 9.30 I went ashore and met the Barmaid from the club who gave us 4 good size Cray fish. What a lovely gift from Geralton, we would have them for lunch.

With 3 reefs in the main we made our way out of the N pass and were over the drop off and in deeper water by 11.30. Slowly taking out the reefs we were making good way and settled down for a lovely lunch. We had great conditions as we made our way offshore to stay clear of the lobster pots. We needed to push on. The forecast was for 20-25kts S and swell height of 2.5m at 1500 the following day, and I didn't want to be approaching land and a Bar entrance with that sort of forecast.

Although, seemingly a mild forecast, the Australian forecasts come with a disclaimer…Wind can be 40% greater than forecast and wave height can be double. That meant that we could have 5 m seas and 40Kts of wind…fine if offshore in deep water, but a little less manageable in shallow water close to land. We drove hard and fast for the S pass into Shark bay.

By 1500 on 25th we were 3 reefs in and approaching the pass making 11kts with the wind just aft abeam, By 1700 we were over the Bar and by 18.30 we had the anchor down in shallow water close under the protection of the beach and dunes. The wind suddenly picked up to 35+Kts. We had made it by 30 minutes and were comfortable, hooked in hard on the Admiralty.

As we arrived we were overtaken by a large game fishing boat, which anchored exactly where I had intended. We met them the following day and were invited for drinks that evening. After a good day on the beach, meeting a family with children travelling round Australia by 4X4, and all enjoying the company, we retired to the Sally Jane IV for drinks and a very social evening. We returned to Pegasus late having had a great day.

The following day was my birthday, and I had promised myself an early morning swim, diving off the bows of Pegasus. It was still a little refreshing at 22 degrees but JJ, Louis and I all swam and then came onboard for breakfast of speigel mit eigg. Presents followed with the boys giving me some plastic red noses and finger puppets, and Amanda giving me some needed clothes and books. I received a book from a friend in England which proved great reading and was much enjoyed. This was my third birthday on Pegasus. The first was in Nassau, Bahamas, the second on route from Panama to the Galapagos and now Shark Bay, WA. I wonder where we will be next year. Time really is zipping by.

Peter from Sally Jane IV came over in the morning and ran over some charts for the Kimberly's showing us some of his preferred anchorages, and we talked about the coastline and possible stops N of Carnarvon.

We pulled the anchor up at 10.30 and headed over to the S side of Dirk Van Hartog Island for some swimming and walking. The Beach was untouched, not a footprint in sight, the first time since the Recherché group in March. We had a long walk collecting some varied, interesting shells and returned to Pegasus. As the wind had filled in again we returned to our previous anchorage and all had an early night. Tomorrow we would head up island.

The wind had eased and it was a beautiful, still morning….up anchor and away. We were headed to Qoin Bluff South, a sheltered shallow bay half way up Dirk Van Hartog Island. The water was glassy smooth and anything that broke the surface could be seen. Turtles, sea snakes, Dolphins and fish jumping…really spectacular. We anchored after lunch and went ashore to explore and walk. The bay was very shallow and while walking in the warm water we saw many blue spotted rays, reef sharks and a few Guitar fish, a sort of shark with a flat head! There were a few dead animals on the beach, Turtles, birds and goats, which the boys loved; I guess that morbid curiosity that is shared by all small boys!

Back on board after a swim and off to Sandy Spit, 10 miles up the coast. On the way up I hooked a shark, which after a stiff fight, luckily got off. Time to stop fishing; we don't really want a shark on board!

Another peaceful night, and absolutely flat and still in the morning. There were Turtles rising by the boat and sea snakes breaking the surface. We had laid the crab pot and were rewarded with 3 blue swimmer crabs. Lunch, a little light but a good start. We went ashore early, walking and looking for shells. We found some beautiful Bailer shells and our first Australian Trumpet shell. Fantastic. The boys and I went back for the dinghy and picked Amanda up further down the beach. She was keen to cover the distance while the shelling was so good.

By 11am we were back on board and after a swim headed off to Cape Peron, then down to Herald Bight for the night. Approaching the cape we started to see the Red dirt, sinominous with interior Australia. This was the first time we had really seen it and it would now be our companion until we left Australia in July.

Herald bight was shallow and unremarkable, other than picking up another 3 crabs in the pot, so early the following day, 30th April, we headed off to Monkey Mia, some 15 miles South. We had the tide with us and arrived just in time for lunch of Crab and toast. We intended to spend a few days here and the wind was due to blow from the South so we chose our anchorage well, just off the channel and to the N of the campsite and resort.

Monkey Mia has developed as a sort of small eco resort due to the fact that Dolphins appear early each morning and can be hand fed. As this is widely reported, the resort draws people from all over Australia and many international travellers were staying in the campsite as well. It had changed a bit since I was last there in 1986, when it was just starting, and now there was a certain level of infrastructure, phone reception and Internet. It was a great stop for us. The boys enjoyed the pool and we ate out at the bar a couple of nights and enjoyed the wildlife and beach. We attended the dolphin feeding and the boys were chosen to feed one of the dolphins, which made their day. We explored the coast a little in the dinghy and saw plenty of turtles, dolphins, sea snakes and fish.

After 3 days it was time to head N and continue our journey. We left early, 25kts wind from the SW headed N on flat seas. Great, fast sailing! As we cleared Cape Peron the seas picked up and we decided to head to Bernier Island some 30 miles West of Carnarvon. We anchored at Red Cliff Point, and although shallow, we just managed some shade from the swell. We arrived in time to launch the dinghy and explore ashore. We walked the beach and the boys climbed the sand dunes and ran/rolled down. A great game when you've been on board all day.

A windy and rolly night had us up early and away to Carnarvon by 7.30am. Another fast reach across Shark bay and by 1100 we were approaching the narrow entrance to the Fascine. We anchored deep in the bay opposite the town in a beautiful setting, finding a deep hole in the shallow estuary on 4th May.

We had a number of jobs to do here, the most important of which was to get our last Rabies inoculations. We had ordered the vaccine and it was ready for collection and payment at the pharmacist. We arranged for the nurse at the medical centre to perform the task and although we had some slight side affects, we were glad that this process was now complete in preparation for Indonesia in late July. I had planned to have the new outboard (15HP) serviced, its 10 hour mandatory service, so arranged with the local Yamaha dealer to oblige. Luckily I could drive the dinghy close to his workshop and return with the 2HP engine. Next Fuel. The best diesel was 5km out of town, so with a few hundred dollars to spend I thought I would give them a call. I arranged for the service station to collect me with 9 Jerry cans and drop me back at the dinghy after filling.( I took 40 lt unleaded at $1.42 per Lt, and 231Lt Diesel at $1.41 per Lt. Onboard we had 2X 150 lt fuel tanks plus 240 lt in Jerry cans, and 65lt unleaded) we now had plenty of fuel until our next planned stop at Dampier. All the fuel and stores onboard make Pegasus heavy, increasing all the loading, but fuel would only be more expensive the further N we travelled, and if the winds were light we could always motor. Supermarket, Laundry and water, and we were ready to leave again. We planned to depart early on Saturday 9th May. We enjoyed Carnarvon. We had eaten out at the local restaurants, done plenty of shopping and on Mothers day we had bought Amanda a little girl time in the treatment / massage salon. I think she really enjoyed being pampered and away from the 3 boys if only for a couple of hours.

The boys had been saving money in their piggy bank, and as this was our last stop for a while we decided we should empty it, divide the booty and they could spend it on what they liked. They ended up with $22 each…..I really have to be more careful leaving change around!

We spent a good 2 hours in the toyshop and other toy outlets and after much deliberation they both chose Spiderman web slings(???) which provided 40minutes worth of fun and action. Louis seems to know what he wants and will choose quite fast, as if he thinks the opportunity will be denied him. JJ likes to look at everything, then go back and look again. He is just understanding that he doesn't have to spend it all at once, and saving some money leads to another shopping experience, getting more bang for his buck!

We had a great evening at the Carnarvon Yacht club, talking with members and gaining some local knowledge about our next cruising ground. We left as planned and headed N towards Ningaloo reef and NW cape. We had been looking forward to this part of the coast and expected the water to become significantly warmer, and who knows, maybe we would catch some Mahi again after 6 months of Tuna!!

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