Thursday, December 24, 2009

Esperance to South Australia

Hello from South Australia. We arrived safely after experiencing a mixture of sailing conditions, from mild to moderate to lively, but never Oh #*#@ !!!!!

Last phone calls leaving Esperance

After leaving Esperance we sailed out through the Recherche Archipelago where the islands consist of large granite cliffs and boulders weathered smooth by the winds and seas which surround them. To catch the best winds we sailed south reaching 37 degrees which put us approximately 300 nautical miles (550 Kilometres) off shore at one stage.

Our blog posted from the Bight on Friday 11 December indicated that we could be motoring the following day. Well, the wind moved into the south west and was blowing between 12 to 15 knots, the seas moderated so on Saturday we put up the spinnaker and started to head north east towards South Australia. We had a fantastic sail that day enjoying balmy conditions after three days of cool to cold winds and overcast skies and the occasional rain squall with choppy seas and large swells that either slammed into the boat making it shudder and shake or pushed us from behind as we surfed down them. In Fremantle we had a screen made for the back of the cockpit which protected us from the worst of the winds and salt spray from the waves – a great investment.

During the day we started to plan where we would make landfall. As we had headed further south it looked like it might be Tasmania at one stage. After some discussion we decided that instead of going to Port Lincoln we could go further east to Kangaroo Island. Sunday morning we sailed past Cape Borda and along the north coast of the island before dropping anchor at Hawk’s Nest Bay, near Cape Dutton, 830Nm (1500Km) covered from Esperance. We went ashore in the dinghy through light surf to feel sand between our toes after 6 days at sea and enjoyed a spectacular sunset from the beach.

Washing the salt off the windows & clears

Monday 14 December we set off for Adelaide however the wind pushed us towards the Yorke Peninsula then veered south east so after another spinnaker run Port Vincent was our destination. We were not able to set our anchor in the soft sandy mud and sea grass. After two attempts and advice from a local sailor we headed for the marina where we tied up for the night. The following morning we set sail to cross the Gulf for Adelaide with the wind dropping out and the seas becoming glassy as we approached the port.

Our friend Richard was able to organize a berth for us at the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron at the Outer Harbour. So here we are in a rather surreal location with a container loading facility to our north and a car loading wharf to our east. The yacht club has been very busy over the past week with special sailing evenings and Christmas Parties. We spent our last day with Roy in the McLaren Vale and enjoyed a late lunch at Port Willunga before taking him to the airport for his flight back to Queensland.

Our main sail required repairs with a seam starting to come undone. Richard put us in touch with a local sail maker, Alex from Alegayter Sails, who fitted us in before Christmas. He found some additional wear from the topping lift and we also needed new pockets for some of the battens. Thanks to Alex we now have our sail back on the boat ready for our departure after Christmas.

Adelaide is a very enjoyable city to visit, with the famous Adelaide Markets where we have purchased most of our Christmas produce, the wine growing areas of the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale close by and some fantastic restaurants. Cran’s Mum and Sister arrived this week to share Christmas with us and we are taking the opportunity to enjoy many of the things that Adelaide and it environs has to offer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Great Australian Bight

Quick update to advise we are going well with our crossing of the Bight.

Left Esperance with light to moderate southerly winds and were able to lay a south easterly course to get some valuable southern miles logged. With the forecasted winds we needed to get a far way south of the rhumb line to make the most of the weather and not get too knocked around. It got a bit lively Weds & Thurs but has settled down now with reasonable winds albeit just not quite the right direction with a bit too much west in them. These should shift later today and get lighter to the point where we will have to motor for a while. Better than getting knocked around though. We have a slow moving high pressure system in the Bight and we are on the right side of it for favourable winds. Expect to be in Port Lincoln Sunday if the weather holds.

A more detailed update with photos will be posted once we are back in normal internet range.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dunsborough to Esperance

We have just left the harbour of Esperance (Tuesday 8 Dec) and are heading out into the Southern Ocean on our way across the Bight to South Australia.

We had a beautiful day to motor sail down the coast from Dunsborough around the two capes - Naturaliste and Leeuwin. Whales joined us during the day and were sailed close to the coast so that we could see the townships and pick out the geographical features along the way. Cape Clairault, Cape Freycinet, Hamelin Bay to name a few - sounds like wine country over those hills!!

The sun was setting as we rounded Cape Leeuwin and headed to Albany. The overnight sail into Albany proved to be quite choppy and uncomfortable and our comfortable anchorage in Frenchman's Bay the next evening was a welcome haven. The following day we tried twice to get an anchorage near the town however we were not able to set our anchor due to the thick sea grass. We headed for Oyster Bay where we picked up a mooring and spent the night, heading into Albany the next morning for some provisions and a coffee shop experience. That afternoon, Thursday 3 Dec we motored around to Two People's Bay for the night. Friday we sailed to Cheyne Island via Waychinicup Inlet, a small fiord with a narrow entrance between large granite bolders. As we sailed along the coast we could see the Sterling Range peaks in the distance. We were able to go ashore on Cheyne Island where there is a small Penguin colony and many seabirds nesting on the headland. A very picturesque anchorage and protected close to shore. (Photos to be added when we get to SA.)

Saturday we sailed to Dillon Bay, a large bay just east of Bremer Bay. There were people on the beach fishing and even swimming in the surf. Dillon Bay has some interesting homes located in the rugged but spectacular bushland. Sunday we headed off for an overnight sail to Esperance in confused seas and moderately strong winds so it was with relief that we dropped anchor off the sailing club in Esperance on Monday morning. We had a hearty breakfast then a sleep before hitting town to collect mail at the Post Office and do some last minute shopping as the weather looks promising for us to make our crossing of the Bight. We plan to arrive in SA on Sunday.

We are all well and enjoying this challenging sailing experience. Roy's sailing experience is helping us refine our techniques and it is a pleasure to have his company.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fremantle to Dunsborough

The past two weeks have been spent enjoying Mandurah, a lively and well organized city just south of Fremantle. The Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club (MOFSC) were very hospitable giving us a place on the collector jetty so that we could finish the repairs to the water maker. Our sail down to Mandurah from Garden Island was the best one we had experienced on the west coast.

The first weekend at MOFSC a Seawind Regatta of 5 boats arrived for a few days of sailing and socializing. Our friend Janice took us for a drive around Mandurah showing us the beautiful Peel and Harvey Inlets as well as their canal front home where they have moored their new boat Zoa Brunk which they purchased in Mooloolaba and sailed back to WA this year. We met Jan and Mick at Lizard Island with Brian and Betty in June.

The new membranes for the water maker had arrived in Australia however it was not until Thursday 19 November that they could be installed and tested. All went well apart from us needing to purchase some new high pressure fittings. The first week in Mandurah we experienced a few days of strong winds and rain so that kept us on the boat. I caught up on some of my sewing projects. Cran unfortunately had a dental emergency (a broken tooth) and after a visit to the Dentist in Mandurah, then a trip to Perth to visit the oral surgeon, he was scheduled for the following Monday to have his tooth extracted. Many thanks to Tony the Bosun at MOFSC for lending us his car for that first trip back to Perth.

We spent the time doing yet more boat maintenance – painting and varnishing, cleaning etc etc etc, we always have a To Do List that seems to grow even as we cross things off. While installing new o’rings on the hatch handles Cran had the misfortune to drop a part of the handle and as usually happens, it falls over the side of the boat instead of through the hatch. It provided an opportunity for Cran to try out our new Power Dive hooker. After about 20 minutes feeling around the weed on the bottom in 4 metres of water Cran recovered the part which was about the size of a golf ball.

We hired a car and drove to Harvey, a picturesque town to the south where friends Vince and Blanch live. They took us to lunch at Stirling Cottage on the banks of the Harvey River which was very relaxing. They have just sold their home and plan to move back to Queensland.

This week saw us back in Perth on Monday for Cran to have surgery to remove his tooth. All went well and he did not experience any side effects which has been great. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday preparing the boat to leave Thursday for Bunbury. Unfortunately our delays have meant that we will now be sailing through lobster pot territory as the commercial lobster season has just started. Not such a problem during the day but a different story when sailing at night as we will have to do at times.

Friends from Fremantle, Steve and Mike arrived at Mandurah on their way south to Albany and we spent time with them. Steve’s boat Lazy Bones was purchased in Malaysia and he is sailing around Australia then on to the Pacific before heading back to the UK, his home. Mike is from Fremantle and he and his wife Helen are heading north next year on their yacht Proteus 11, hopefully we will meet up again on the Queensland coast some time in the future. They left Tuesday in fair weather and when we arrived in Bunbury they were anchored off the town beach, after having a wild time of it beating south then loosing their satellite navigation due to a computer problem. They decided to turn back to Bunbury to get things sorted. We had just dropped anchor when Steve phoned and invited us over for dinner which we gratefully accepted after our own wet and lumpy sail down from Mandurah. The next day Cran was able to return the favour by fixing Steve’s computer problems.

On the trip down to Bunbury we were motor sailing and encountered a problem where the engine suddenly lost power. The most likely cause was something wrapped around the prop but unfortunately it was too rough to go over the side to investigate. The beauty of having 2 engines, we were able to switch to the other engine for the rest of the trip. Cran dived on the prop the next morning and found the prop wrapped with a woven plastic bag like the type used for bulk rice sacks. Bad luck to pick up something like that 10 Nm offshore.

Koombana Bay, Bunbury is a good anchorage just off the yacht club, main beach and town. There is a Dolphin Centre just to the north of the beach where daily encounters with live dolphins can be experienced. On Friday a large school group were there for the day and we could see the dolphins as they came close to shore to be fed by the children. Our friend Roy arrived Friday flying in from Brisbane. He will join us on our journey south around Cape Leeuwin and then we start heading east, firstly to Albany, then Esperance and hopefully across the Bight to Port Lincoln then on to Adelaide for Christmas. He arrived with a Christmas cake baked by his wife Deborah however I am not sure if it will make it to Adelaide!

Yesterday we came down to Dunsborough and took a mooring off the main beach. It was a beautiful afternoon with smooth clear waters so Roy was keen to launch the kayaks and have and explore. Today we have been preparing the boat for our trip around to Albany. We will leave about 5am and should be in Albany late Tuesday afternoon. We are all looking forward to this leg where we will sail around Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. At Cape Leeuwin we will leave the Indian Ocean and enter the Southern Ocean with its big rolling swell. We are fortunate to have a favourable weather window for the next few days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Geraldton to Fremantle

We arrived in Fremantle just over two weeks ago and have been busy with a long list of boat maintenance jobs since our arrival as well as catching up with friends and enjoying being in a major city for the first time since leaving Darwin.

After we left Geraldton our first night was spent at Port Denison. The wind picked up around lunch time and we had a lively sail south. As we were taking the sails down prior to motoring through the reef into Port Denison we received a call from the local Sea Rescue who were watching our progress along the coast. We had booked a berth with DPI on the main jetty and as we approached two very helpful locals took our lines and helped us to tie up which was greatly appreciated in the strong afternoon sea breeze. We enjoyed dinner ashore at the local pub that evening.

The following day we headed south to Green Head an interesting anchorage behind the reef close to the shore and a small fishing town. We had surf breaking both sides of the boat as we made the zigzag route through the reef however the anchorage was protected and we enjoyed a BBQ for dinner that evening. When we left early the next morning for an overnight sail to Fremantle and were lucky to enjoy a good day of sailing before taking the sails down later in the evening as we became surrounded by electrical storms and unpredictable wind direction. The lightening was quite spectacular however it is not a nice experience knowing that we had the tallest object (our mast) for miles around us. After the storms passed us we then had no wind and motored through the night and into Fremantle arriving at 9am on Monday 26 October.
The Fremantle Sailing Club has been very hospitable and has a well organized sailing program and social calendar and very professionally managed. On Tuesday evenings the local “Live-a-boards” have a BYO BBQ which is a good opportunity to share stories and gather information about the next stage of our journey. Our boat was tied up at the Collector Jetty - the main access to the other fingers where over 600 boats are moored. We had many comments and questions about the boat and its design. The crow’s nest and new wind generator were also major points of interest.

We have undertaken some major maintenance on our Generator replacing the oil pressure switch and had the starter motor overhauled. We have had a new staysail made (by Peter Carstens from Pioneer, who has now completed his circumnavigation of Australia). The old staysail was over 12 years old and the cloth was delaminating. Peter has his own sailmaking business, Shoreline Sails & Marine and we were fortunate that he rescheduled his workload and was able to make the new sail within our limited time in Fremantle. The staysail will be a much used sail when we get down into southern waters and stronger winds so it is essential we have one that is up to the task. Other work has included a new roll up cover for the back of the cockpit which looks great, new ropes installed, all ropes and rigging washed down to remove the last of the red dirt from the Pilbarra. Cleaning up the boat both inside and out, has been a major task as we have not had heavy rain since Cape York.

Many thanks to Brian and Ted, Bosons from the Freemantle Sailing Club for their friendship and invaluable information that have helped us resolve our boat maintenance issues. We first met Brian & Ted at Geraldton where they were returning from their winter cruising in the Shark Bay region and they arrived back in Fremantle the same day as us. Thanks also to all the sailors who shared their local knowledge about the sailing conditions of the WA coast especially Pam and Alex Balloch, Jack Baxter and Peter Carstens who have provided us with details for sailing south and around the Capes then east to Albany, Esperance and across the Bight to South Australia.

It is Thursday 12 November today and we are moored in a bay on the north east tip of Garden Island in Cockburn Sound. There are seals on some rocks just to our north. Tomorrow we head south to Mandurah where new membranes for the water maker will be installed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Carnarvon to Geraldton

As we sailed across Shark Bay to Cape Peron (Thur 14 Oct) we encountered many whales heading south, breaching and slapping their fins in spectacular displays. Approaching the southern end of Dorre Island we observed whales holding their tails above the water. As we passed the first whale we were not sure if it was in distress so sailed a little closer to observe. The whale surfaced and took a deep breath – all was OK. After we saw the second and third whale doing the same thing it was time to do some research and we found that male whales do this mainly during the breeding season but also when singing. “They suspend themselves head down in the water with their tails pointing skywards and sing for up to 15 minutes at a time. The songs apparently change between seasons and are some of the longest and most varied of the animal kingdom.” (from Watching Whales published by Dept of Environment and Conservation, WA).

Our first overnight anchorage was on the eastern tip of Cape Peron, just in front of the lighthouse. Cape Peron has high red sand cliffs with white sandy beaches. The waters surrounding this cape full of marine life feeding on the sea grass beds or the small fish that live in the sea grasses. When had dropped our anchor we observed dugong, dolphins, turtles, sharks and sea birds swimming around our boat. All this and a warm wind blowing off the land with seagulls cruising the thermals catching insects in the last of the sun’s rays. In the distance we could see the Young Endeavour sailing south towards Monkey Mia. Quite a change from sunsets in the Gascoyne, with the lights of Carnarvon along the foreshore and the odd set of car headlights shining in to the back of our boat.

We awoke to very light winds and set off for Steep Point, motoring all the way with no wind and glassy conditions. We had a visit from a boat from the Marine Parks advising that the swell outside Steep Point was over 3 metres and recommended that we don’t go out today. Passing close to Dirk Hartog Island we saw large sand hills covered in low bush. It was hard to believe that this was once a sheep farming pastoral lease. A large motor yacht followed us up the passage and anchored near us in Shelter Bay in front of a stunning holiday home built of stone. We enjoyed a swim before lunch in balmy 24 deg water temperature. After lunch a yacht sailed past us and exited Steep Point and then the large motor yacht also left. Both appeared to have reasonable passage across the bar, so we checked the updated weather forecast and decided to follow them. The sea swell had dropped making the bar crossing not so daunting. As we left we could see fishermen high on the headland using helium balloons to take their fishing lines out over the cliff edge to deep water. It is amazing the lengths that some fishermen will go for the ultimate catch.

Surprisingly the swell on leaving Steep Point was 3 metres and manageable because the wind had dropped out over the day and there was no sea on top of the swell. We motored through the night and at sunrise we were off the southern end of the Zuytdorp Cliffs in calm conditions. This is a notorious stretch of coastline littered with many wrecks and well known for huge sea swells which bounce off the cliffs and come back out to sea to create difficult and confused seas. We were very fortunate to encounter this stretch of coast in relatively calm conditions. Late morning the wind picked up and we enjoyed about only 2 hours of sailing before it died off altogether. We were then forced to use a motor for the rest of the day and overnight to Geraldton in calm flat seas where dropped anchor off the town beach on Sunday morning at 6am. Coming into the anchorage we passed Seal Rocks and found them true to name. It was a surprise to find seals this far north. After breakfast we headed off to bed to catch up on some sleep only to be awakened by jet skies, ski boats, fishing boats and then sailing boats using our boat as a marker buoy as they headed out to the water sports area. Very different to our last overnight anchorage at Cape Peron. We gave up on the sleep plan and went ashore to explore.

Today is Thursday 22nd October. We have enjoyed a very relaxing and friendly time in Geraldton. The Western Australia Maritime Museum – Geraldton has an excellent display on the history of the Dutch ship the Batavia that was wrecked on Houtman’s Abrolhous Islands to the west in 1629 as well as the history of early settlement. Travelling along this west coast with all the French, Dutch and Portuguese place names highlights the fact that Australian could easily have not been an English speaking nation.

We have purchased a few Abrolhous Pearls, visited the HMAS Sydney memorial, explored the city and waterfront and enjoyed lunch ashore at local cafes. Tomorrow the weather is looking promising for a run to Perth / Fremantle so we plan to head off in the early hours for our first leg to Port Denison. If the weather holds to forecast we plan to do another day hop on Saturday then an overnighter Sunday/Monday arriving in Fremantle Monday afternoon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tantabiddi to Carnarvon

On Friday 25th September as we were enjoying a bottle of Friday bubbles Pioneer sailed into the anchorage at Tantabiddi. We had first met Peter in the Kimberley and we swapped travel tales of sailing the west coast of WA over a few evening drinks. Pioneer is on the final leg of its circumnavigation of Australia heading for Perth. On the leg Peter had Bob Emery as crew assisting him.

Our last night in Tantabiddi we enjoyed a beautiful meal of reef fish caught by Cran and left early the following morning for Norwegian Bay where we anchored overnight on our way to Coral Bay. Norwegian Bay is the site of an old whaling station now in ruins on the beach. The water here was crystal clear and as we swam off the back of the boat we could see many small star fish on the white sandy bottom, white with pink/red dots.

Our next destination was Maud’s Landing, just north of Coral Bay. This part of Ningaloo Reef is famous for the variety of colourful coral and fish. We spent 4 days here with very strong winds once again. Luckily we were able to use a Dept of Conservation mooring buoy. Cran cooked our dinner on the BBQ in 30 plus knots one evening – notice the polar fleece vest!

The township of Coral Bay was a half hour walk from where we could take our dinghy ashore. This part of the reef has many sanctuary zones where boating is restricted or prohibited. Coral Bay was very busy with school holiday campers and visitors. It has two small supermarkets, clothing stores, newsagency and post office, so all our shopping needs were met. There were many tourist businesses offering water related activities from glass bottom boat tours to deep sea fishing outside the reef. Situated behind the town are 3 tall wind generators visible from quite a distance off shore.

The reef is very accessible and we just had to walk in off the beach to snorkel. The water temperature not quite as warm as further north however the cabbage shaped corals were spectacular as were than many reef fish, some quite large as they cruised below us among the bommies. The turquoise water crystal clear and the white coral sand match all the superlatives on the travel brochures.

Time to head south again and Saturday 3rd October saw us heading towards Carnarvon. Just after we cleared the reef at the entrance to Coral Bay we caught a 1.3 metre Mackerel – well done Cran for landing this monster. We enjoyed BBQ Mackerel that evening for dinner at our overnight anchorage at Gnarraloo Bay where we dropped the anchor close to the beach where people were fishing. As the moon rose the sky filled with pinks and mauves above the sand dunes.
Leaving early the following morning for Cape Cuvier surf was breaking across the reef. As we approach and leave these anchorages we keep a forward lookout for isolated bommies as we motor through the passages in the reef. The reflection of the sunlight on the water adds an additional challenge and keeps the adrenaline pumping. The seas are lumpy with choppy seas and steep swells close together – not a comfortable ride. As we lurch around the boat making tea, coffee, lunch etc our balance and agility is tested. It is a relief at the end of each day to set the anchor and enjoy the view from the back deck.
Cape Curvier would have to be the biggest surprise on our trip south with 60 metre high limestone and sandstone cliffs rising up from the sea. As you can see from the photo we were anchored quite close to shore in deep water, with surf breaking on the shoreline. After weeks on low sand dunes and distant limestone ridges the change of scenery was appreciated. While enjoying sunset drinks a herd of goats made their way along the cliff top and down and across the precipitous slopes looking for food. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset that evening as it dropped over the horizon through the structure of the jetty where salt and gypsum is loaded on ships for export. That evening was full moon and as it rose over the cliffs the moonlight lit them to a creamy glow. This was a magic experience and when we left at 3am the following morning it was sad to leave such a beautiful location. We were fortunate to have the right wind and wave conditions to enjoy this anchorage.

We arrived in Carnarvon after a long day of lumpy seas however we did see many whales close to the boat as they make their way south. Carnarvon is a low flat town with a strong agricultural industry, growing bananas originally brought in from Queensland. We spent the last few days of Carmel’s time with us sightseeing, the historical precinct at One Mile Jetty with its Lighthouse Keepers Cottage and Rail Museum as well as the long jetty the was used for many years for the transport of produce and livestock and well as the people travelling this long coast before the road network was constructed. After lunch at the River CafĂ© on the banks of the mostly dry Gascoyne River, we drove up the coast to the Blowholes through low scrub and desert and visited some of the farms along the Gascoyne River to purchase eggs, chutneys and bananas. Water for the farms and the local residents comes from aquifers taking the water from below the dry river bed.

Today 14th October we depart Carnarvon after enjoying just over a week sitting out strong winds in the protected reach of the Gascoyne known as the Fascine. The Carnarvon Yacht Club provides facilities for a small fee and access to a small dinghy pontoon which makes life easier when going ashore. The town centre is a 10 minute walk along the river. We finally caught up with Mike & Chrisy off Ohmless, a Fusion 40 cat - we were in the Kimberley at the same time but didn't meet up and we were leaving while they were arriving at both Broome & Dampier. Mike & Chrisy sailed out of WA 29 years ago in a mono and after many shore based years are completing their circumnavigation of Australia in a catamaran. It was good to spend some time with them in Carnarvon. We have also met many other yachties who have generously shared their local knowledge of this part of the coast south to Perth, and beyond. Many thanks to them. We have made new friends who we hope to catch up with as we sail south or perhaps meet up again in other locations over the next few years. It has been an opportunity to catch up on boat maintenance, service engines, fix water makers and gensets, repair engine water pumps and an engine mount for the port engine as well as the usual cleaning and washing and shopping for provisions for the next leg of our journey. We have enjoyed our stay in Carnarvon and look forward to our next destinations.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Onslow to Tantabiddi Anchorage (Ningaloo Reef)

The past week has been spent sitting out strong wind warnings then taking advantage of breaks in the weather to make passage along the coast. We spent 3 days anchored off the township of Onslow. It is a small holiday town that also provides support to the offshore gas and oil facilities. We were able to purchase the weekend papers and replenish our fresh fruit and vegetables while ashore, and visit the local Goods Shed Museum which houses an eclectic display of local memorabilia. We enjoyed lunch at the pub on Monday after investigating the boardwalk which joins Sunset and Sunrise Beaches through the sand dunes at Beadon Point. From the walk you can observe the salt loading facility at the end of a long jetty. The dunes are home to an interesting range of plants that somehow survive the dry conditions. At the start of the walk is Onslow War Memorial depicting a Diggers Badge. It was designed for the sun to rise through the centre every Anzac Day.

On Tuesday 22nd Sept we set sail for Serrurier Island, a spectacular long sandy island with good snorkelling and fishing (21.36S 114.41E). We enjoyed a lazy day there on Wednesday before heading south to Ningaloo Reef and our present anchorage at Tantabiddi. We left Serrurier at 3am and had a good sail until we were abeam of North West Cape where the seas were very confused with large waves coming from all directions. The tall communications towers on the Cape (built by the US Navy) were visible from 5 miles offshore. No longer operational, the site has become a tourist attraction and a few of the towers are taller than the Eiffel Tower.

We are anchored inside Ningaloo Reef surrounded by sea grass beds with large waves breaking on the reef about 2 kilometres away (21.54S 113.59E). On shore we have a back drop of limestone ridges – the Cape Range National Park. There is a boat ramp with a tourist information shed and a bitumen road regularly traversed by cars towing caravans. We are experiencing very strong winds 25 to 35 knots with several gusts over 40 knots and a maximum of 48 knots. This morning at 2 am we were woken by the sound of the anchor chain grinding on the anchor winch. The chain is normally connected to a bridle that takes the strain off the winch; however the stainless steel shackle that connects the bridle to the chain broke as a result of the hours of straining against the winds and the currents. So there we were in the early hours of the morning on a pitching deck doing repairs in gale force winds. Fortunately the anchor didn’t drag nor the winch clutch let go so it was a good outcome. As we say “Cruising is an adventure everyday”

The conditions are forecast to ease off for the next 3 days before the next set of strong winds arrive. We will use that weather window to travel down to Coral Bay before heading for Carnarvon late next week. The weather is quite warm with the winds blowing from the south east and the humidity is 28 %, so it is time for a quick swim off the back of the boat before lunch, then a snorkel and walk along the beach this afternoon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dampier to Onslow via the Montebello Islands

Dampier is a port for the iron ore mines of the Pilbara and natural gas from the North West Shelf. Karratha is the main township providing housing and services for the workers and their families. Dampier is located on a peninsular and separated from the mainland by a vast salt pan from which salt is mined and exported. We were surrounded by mountains of iron ore and salt when anchored in Hampton Harbour in Dampier and the boat was soon covered in red dust.

We hired a car for 2 days and were able to shop in Karratha for supplies as well as collect Carmel from the airport on Tuesday 8 Sept after her long flight from Sydney. We had not seen Carmel since March when she left to start her new job with the ABC in Sydney. It was great to see her and to catch up on all her news over a bottle of bubbles in the cockpit watching the lights of Dampier and listening to the rumbling of the conveyor belts as they transported the iron ore out to the stockpiles next to the wharves.

We enjoyed dinner at the Dampier Yacht Club on Wednesday evening before heading off to Enderby Island on Thursday. We decided to sail out to the Montebello Islands, 60 nautical miles from Dampier and left Enderby Island at midnight to arrive in not very accurately chartered waters in the middle of the day. It was a lively crossing with strong headwinds and very lumpy seas. We sailed between two large gas platforms and were pleased to enter the calm waters inside the outer islands of the Montebello’s. (20 27.5S 115 32E) Our chosen anchorage was Brandy Bay located at the entrance to a lagoon on Hermite Island. Many bays are named after alcoholic drinks eg Champagne Bay, Claret Bay, and Vermouth etc etc. We read an article by a yachtsman whose dream is to drink a bottle of each beverage in its namesake location!! There were two yachts anchored in the bay and a third sailed in on our third morning - an unusual sight, 4 yachts in the one anchorage. One of the things we often comment on is the low numbers of cruising yachts in this part of the world. We saw a few in the Kimberley’s however along the west coast we mainly see yachts in harbours, not during our journeys between major towns. There were also a few fishing boat charters cruising around the islands.

These unique islands are low lying rugged limestone covered in spinifex and termite mounds. They are also the site of British atomic testing in the 1950’s. We decided not to venture into that area as our cruising guide recommends not going ashore for more than one hour per day – we did not want to glow in the dark. The waters are home to many sea creatures including stingrays, turtles, dolphins and reef fish as well as sea birds and small finches (Zebra Finch) with red/orange beaks and striped black and white tail feathers, who visit us each morning. We enjoyed four beautiful evening reef fish meals provided by our keen fisherman – Cran, as well as some fresh oysters collected from the rocks near our anchorage. Many of the channels are shallow and best navigated at the top half of the tide. We have experienced strong winds during our stay however were able to enjoy swims off the back of the boat crystal clear waters and today off the beach in our new anchorage in Manision Bay. We have used our kayaks for the first time since leaving Queensland. We did not want to have a close encounter with crocodiles in the NT or Kimberley so the kayaks have not had much use to date.

Today Friday 18 September we are underway from Great Sandy Island to Onslow, a township on the coast. We left the Montebello Islands on Wednesday and have a lively sail to Barrow Island, zigzagging through the shallow reef, around gas platforms and around low lying islands that are off limits to visitors because of the gas and oil extraction. All the islands in this area are low lying; some have large storage tanks on them which stand out from a distance, often being visible long before the actual island itself. We have been fortunate to see many whales during our travels, many surfacing not far for our boat rolling on their backs and flapping their tails or flippers on the water’s surface, or just broaching creating an enormous splash. Yesterday we came across a large whale sleeping on the surface, at first it looked like a large shiny black log but as we came closer the tell take shape of its back alerted us – so altering course we watched as it floated past in the current sending the occasional spume of water and air skywards.

Barrow Island is a nature reserve and it is not possible to land there. There are some unique plants and animals living on this island that require vigilance to protect them from extinction. We had a visit from the survey vessel and another from a shore based worker to advise us not to go ashore. It is good to see the Chevron employees taking an active interest in looking after this island and proud of the fact that they have the opportunity to help protect it. We were fortunate to be able to secure a safe overnight anchorage here as we made our way back to the coast.

We are all keeping well and enjoying Carmel’s company. Our time is spent reading, doing normal boat maintenance and creating interesting menus for our evening meals. We are lucky that all our friends enjoy cooking - much fun is had in the galley each evening. The IPOD gets a good work out however there is no TV reception most of the time. We watch the odd movie or music DVD and have been fortunate to be able to pick up local ABC Radio in some pretty remote locations – thank you Aunty!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Broome to Dampier

It is Monday 7 September and we arrived in Dampier this afternoon after spending a few relaxing days at Dolphin Island just to the north east. We had a slow sail from Broome south without much wind for much of the time, so it really was a motor/sail for most of the time. When we left Broome we headed out from the coast to avoid the pearl leases close to the coast. The bonus was sighting whales every day as well as many sea snakes, who sun themselves on the surface during the day. The water heading south is inky blue quite a change the milky blue of the Kimberley area. Off Port Headland we started to pick up many ships traversing the coast and our AIS system came into its own providing vital information as to the route and destination of these large ships. There is nothing quite like being on watch at 2am and seeing bright lights appear over the horizon coming towards you.

Our first landfall was Dolphin Island just north of Karratha and north west of Dampier. A spectacular anchorage surrounded by red cliffs and small sandy bays which provided a brilliant backdrop to the full moon.
It was a good opportunity to catch up on domestic duties and boat maintenance as well as kicking back and having a few relaxing swims and a few glasses of white wine and some cold beers. We were able to smoke some of the Mackerel that we caught in the Kimberly with Peter and Susan which we have enjoyed. We had our anchorage to ourselves for a couple of days until the weekend when some local boaties and fishermen were out enjoying the bay.

Tonight Dampier provides quite a contrast as it is a large iron ore and liquefied gas port with many ships and conveyor belts thundering around us in our anchorage in Hampton Harbour. This port operates 24/7 with bright orange work lights on shore and a busy airport just over the hills to our south east. Tomorrow Carmel arrives from Sydney, what a contrast for her.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Broome had been a relaxing break however working the tides to get ashore in the dinghy has been a challenge. We were anchored 1 mile off shore so it was usually a very wet ride home into the westerley afternoon sea breeze. Broome is a tourist town with many interesting shops and restaurants as well as the rich history surrounding the pearl industry. Cable Beach lives up to its reputation with a long sandy beach and many resorts and restaurants along the high sand dunes looking out over the "azure" blue of the Indian Ocean. We were fortunate to have friends in town who lent us their car, a big help with boat shopping and reprovioning for the trip south. We also managed a trip to the dump to remove a "few" empty wine bottles from the trip from Darwin!!

While in Broome our friends Nick and Kat announced their engagement. They joined us for a lovely day on the water on Sunday with their friend Sarah. We motored around to Cable Beach, with the fishing lures out but no luck. Tried a bit of fishing at the reef then anchored just off the beach for a swim and lunch. The beach was covered in 4WD vehicles, the occupants enjoying the beautiful weather. We then had a good sail back to Roebuck Bay and nearly lost the lure to a large mackerel - however it was one the ones that got away, such a shame for Nick who is a keen fisherman.

The Sea Princess was in Broome for the day - it is a large inernational cruise ship and was quite a site at the wharf. We are currently sailing out of Broome heading south to Dampier. We will be sailing non stop for the next few days as there are not many anchorages of this stretch of the coast.