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.

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