Monday, August 31, 2009

Raft Point to Broome

Hi to all our family and friends, we arrived in Broome late Wednesday 26 Aug, after a 16 hour journey from Beagle Bay on the West Coast of WA. We have TV reception again so were able to watch an episode of "The Cook and the Chef" while enjoying a well earned glass or two of wine.

Our last update had us underway to Raft Point. This area has a long Aboriginal history associated with initiation ceremonies on Steep Island, located opposite at the point at the entrance to Doubtful Bay. Raft Point gained its name from the launching of rafts to fish for Dugong, Turtle and also to send food across to Steep Island where the young men stayed during their rites of initiation. In the caves high up on the Point a series of rock art galleries are accessible after a walk up the hill. The paintings are of the large Dugong, Turtle, crocodiles and fish that were hunted as well as some more of the Wandjina art. The cave floor and walls are coated in soot from cooking fires as well as remnants of stone tools and shells.

Later in the day we smoked some Mackerel which we enjoyed for dinner. We spent two nights here, a good opportunity to catch up on the washing, and take some time out to enjoy our spectacular surroundings of sheer red cliffs, rocky islets and and the vista of Doubtful Bay across which a few of the large tourist charter boats travelled each day.

Our friends, Peter and Susan had planned to fly out from Cockatoo Island and when confirming their flight found that a change of departure point was required. The best option was to head to One Arm Point on the eastern side of the Dampier Peninsular. On Thursday 20 August we sailed/motored across the top of Collier Bay, past Koolan Island and Cockatoo Island. These islands have large iron ore mines carved out of the steep rock hillsides which fall precipitously to the shores below. It was fascinating to see the large mining trucks winding their way up and down the hillside.

We selected Myridi Inlet as our overnight stop however while looking for a spot to drop the anchor we ran aground on a sand bank. Luckily we were able to reverse off and anchor near a charter boat - providing some entertainment for their guests who were enjoying sundowners on the top deck as we came to a sudden holt. Cran philosophized that, if you are going to do something like that, it will always happen when you have an audience! The bottom went from over 10m deep to less than 1m on a verical wall. Luckly the top of the wall was sand/mud so no damage to the boat, just the skipper's pride.

The following morning we left early in order to work the tides to cross the top of King Sound. We motored through narrow straits with whirlpools and eddies, across strong current lines, zigzagging around the many islands in the Buccaneer Archipelago, finally passing to the south of the Sunday Islands. The islands at the top of King Sound have a low profile and are very weathered with sparse vegetation. We were heading for Catamaran Bay part of Cygnet Bay however at we approached the anchorage we could see a large pearl farm operation in the bay. A call then a personal visit from the owners of the farm advised us to anchor around at Shenton Bluff which proved to be a delightful anchorage and a short dinghy ride to the beach near the end of the air strip at One Arm Point. We enjoyed a celebratory champagne and dinner with our friends Peter and Susan, who were leaving us the following day. The past four weeks had passed quickly and we have covered 810 Nautical Miles since leaving Darwin, seeing much that the Kimberley has to offer. The vastness of the area is not easy to comprehend. We have met people who have cruised here for many years and still have new places to explore. We have been fortunate to see as much as we have and to be able to share this memorable experience with good friends.

On Saturday 22nd August Peter and Susan treated us to a scenic flight from One Arm Point over the Sound and Talbot Bay. We were able to view the area we had sailed through over the previous two days. From the air the vast folded landscape of the western end of the King Leopold Ranges and the many islands in King Sound spread out before us. We could see the movement of water in the sound as it raced past the islands on the outgoing tide. The highlight of the flight was to see the Horizontal Waterfalls from the air. The falls are two narrow gaps between vertical sandstone rock walls which are the entrance to two bays. As the tide rises and falls the water inside the bays rushes in or out with up to 10 metre tidal range causing height differences between the inner bays and the outer bays forming the waterfalls of whirlpools and raging currents as the water pours through. An amazing sight.After our return to One Arm Point we said our goodbyes and Peter and Susan flew to Broome and then on to Perth for connecting flights home to the Gold Coast.

Sunday morning we were invited by the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farmers to accompany them on a trip out to the Sunday Islands for a swim and an opportunity to experience the tides of Escape Passage at close hand. This was the pass we were planning to exit through the following day. Bruce and James generously shared their wealth of local knowledge of the area. The family has operated pearl farms in the area since the 1940's and were able to explain the history of the area including tales of Philip Parker King who charted the local coastline in the 1820's. Before we departed on Monday, Bruce, Alison and James paid us a visit for morning coffee and we were able to share some information about our boat how she was built, an area of interest to Bruce who is investigating the purchase of a catamaran. He previously owned a 70 foot Lock Crowther catamaran which was purpose built for the pearl farm as a dive boat and is keen to own and sail one again.

Monday afternoon we left our anchorage to exit King Sound via Escape Pass. We experienced the third largest spring tide of the year in the 10 metre range with currents over 10 knots. As we approached the pass a pod of whales cruised past on the last of the incoming tide. It was critical that we be at Escape Pass at slack water to catch the outgoing tide. At times we were going backwards as the tide moved at different speeds and direction in the pass however eventually we were cruising along at 8 knots heading for Cape Leveque. The seas as we left the Sound were very confused and the sail to our overnight anchorage just north of Cape Leveque was uncomfortable. The following day on our sail to Beagle Bay we experienced similar conditions however the anchorage at the head of the bay was secure. We left Beagle Bay at midnight in order to get to Broome by mid Wednesday afternoon. There are many pearl leases along the coast and not all are marked on our charts, so we spent the day on lookout for marker buoys and whales, who are now heading south.

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