Thursday, September 8, 2011

Broome.....the pearl of the north, a holiday mecca........oh yeah???

Sun sets over Pearler Intombi at Gantheaume Point

Broome is the last town we visit before our 3 month sojourn into the Kimberley so, like all towns we visit it means shopping, refuelling and repairs. Busy, busy, busy. Repairs were mainly focussed on yours truly as I have had this niggling tooth infection for some weeks and it needed to be sorted in Broome before we ventured into the wilderness. We arrived Sunday afternoon from Gourdon Bay and anchored at Town Beach. By mid morning Monday, I had booked a dental appointment and a cat scan for the following day. There seems no problem getting medical services in the country. Cutting a long story short, the grey shadow in my left sinus was not your least favourite worst case scenario and another course of antibiotics should finally snuff out this persistent infection......I hope!!! With bodily repairs in hand we turn to provisioning and Broome poses some interesting challenges on that front. Tidal ranges can be up to 10 m and so you need to anchor a mile at least off shore.
Dinghy wheels are a must have. Gantheaume Point.
Shore break on a good day. Cable Beach Gantheaume Point
We moved to Gantheaume Point Wednesday afternoon so we could arrange for our new Main sail to be fitted and very happy to report it is on and fitted and ready to speed us off to our next anchorage. Repair number two ticked off. While we were there, we hired an old station wagon for 50 bucks a day and loaded her up with our jerry cans for the first part of refuelling. Getting them ashore was no problem, getting them filled even less, getting them back, now there’s a story. We drove the car onto the beach right up to the dinghy, loaded the full jerries ( 4 x 20 lit plus 1 x10 lit petrol plus 1 x 5 lit petrol emergency) into the dinghy and waited for the tide to come in and float our little fuel barge. Meanwhile Diana drove the car back to the parking lot and I waded out into the now breaking shore break to hold the boat ready for a quick getaway. Diana was back quickly and she got in. I pushed the dinghy over the first few waves taking a couple over the bow but we were still floating. I jumped in and pulled the cord thinking we were good to go; she starts first go every time. Only if you have the red key in the stop button. We have recently taken to removing said key when we go ashore to stop inquisitive souls taking the dinghy for an unauthorised spin. I looked and alas, no red key. It was, in fact,  in the pocket of my back pack which I could have reached if I was not frantically trying to bail out a sinking dinghy as wave after wave swept over the bow. The jerries were now floating in a pool of salt water and it was time to abandon any hope of getting past the shore break. We turned around and surfed back to the shore unloaded the sodden mess and started bailing for a second attempt. To add salt to the wound (pun seriously intended) the tide was coming in so fast we had to keep moving all jerries back every 30 seconds and with the dinghy still full of water we were getting nowhere fast. Enter the HERO OF CABLE BEACH. Suddenly there appeared a tall, dark stranger and according to Diana, gorgeous, who calmly said, “You guys want some help? Looks like you’re fighting a losing battle” We bailed the dinghy and got it beyond the breakers while he lugged the jerries out through the wild surf ( OK maybe not that wild) and eventually they were all safely on board. The water was up to his waist in no time and on his last trip he had to throw off his shirt and stride out semi naked ( OK down to his boardies). Diana can confirm he was seriously gorgeous. (he actually works on Kimberley Quest, a charter boat that takes people up through the Kimberley.....if the rest of the crew are as kind as this bloke, I could highly recommend the company)
So with the drama sorted we pushed out to the Doc and finally got the jerries on board. Even that has its little challenges. The swim platform that extends beyond the transom is one of the best ideas on this boat and it’s great for off loading shopping, fuel, beer cartons etc... We have taken to showering off here at night as we have a hot and cold deck- shower set up. Showering away under a warm starry night with the sea a step away and the moon casting a muted glow across the bay is one of those rare and exquisite joys of this cruising life. However, loading provisions can be a tad less romantic. With a big swell running you have to grip the hand rail and heave the items up to a willing hand and hope it all arrives safely. Once, after ferrying out our modest supply of booze (10 cartons of beer, 1 doz red and 1 doz white, 3 months don’t forget) the cardboard had turned into mush from the constant spray over the dinghy’s bow. As Diana handed me her half dozen whites the bottom of the box suddenly gave way. I desperately threw my hand underneath to save them but at the same time a wave hit the stern and I had to grab on to save myself going in. 6 bottles of white fell to the swim platform and I managed to scoop in 4. 2 fell to their death. I took a mental note of the position and decided to dive and salvage said items at low tide. It was the next day and while on shore two things happened. First, Frank, our cruising mate commented that he had seen a 6 foot long hammer head chasing dinner near our boats and second I read again the warning that a croc had been sighted in the area on the 27th of August. Diana wisely suggested we offer the two bottles of SSB, reduced from 19.95, to his holiness King Neptune in the hope he did indeed drink white and that he might see to it we had some favourable conditions on route to the Kimberley. The fact that we are now sitting at Gantheaume Point waiting out 5 straight days of wind warnings suggests he prefers red. Damn!
We had another interesting provisioning experience that very afternoon. Once back on board we quickly weighed anchor and motored back to Town Beach, mainly to escape the horrific roll that sweeps through this anchorage that makes sleeping impossible and using the loo akin to an ascent of Mt Everest. We drove back in some friends’ car to retrieve out station wagon and then set off to Woolies to do our twin trolley 700 dollar shop that would last 3 months. With that loaded into the back of the station wagon it was time to think of dinner. There could only be one option.....Chicken Treat and OMG, take away never tasted so good! With tummies full, we drove down town and parked near the Sun outdoor cinema hoping to catch Red Dog. We didn’t manage Red Dog but we did pick up a film festival screening of Oranges and Sunshine, a film about the Australian and British policy of child migration in the early 40s. David Wenham stars in the film and lo and behold who do think was there in person to introduce the film......well done, the man himself. It was a great film and a stunning setting with the warm Broome evening wrapping itself around you. The only concerns were the planes coming in to land as the cinema is right in the flight path. They get so close you see the pilots trying to catch a few scenes of the film as they pass over head.
The film finished and no, your intrepid adventurers did not motor home for coffee and sleep. We drove back to Town Beach and decided to get the 30 bags of shopping back out to the boat. We walked out over the mud flats (crocodile sighting 3 days previously) to see how far out the tide was and it was far. We had to wait. It was 9.30 pm and it should be in by 10.30. I checked a few minutes later and I could hear this rushing sound like waves on a beach. I shone the torch and could just make out a line of white water coming in fast. I got back to the car and said to Diana, start loading...........quickly. Within 10 minutes we had all the shopping in the dinghy and were feeling the cooling waters of a flooding tide licking our toes. The tide came in, we floated the boat and motored out to the Doc, very slowly. Shopping finally off loaded and safely stowed down below we could, at last, STOP. It had been a big day, it’s been a big week here in Broome but we are now anchored back at Gantheaume Point, with mail finally in hand and ready, very ready for our 3 month odyssey into the wonders of the Kimberley...

Cable Beach
,......there is only one minor hitch.......we’ve just got  a weather report and it’s strong wind warnings for the next 5 days.....somebody even used the “gale” word.......Ahhhhhhhhh, this cruising life. See you in Darwin sometime in December. Rob
Ps. This will be the last blog entry till we get to Darwin, no internet access in the Kimberley but we should have some interesting tales to tell then. Stay tuned.

Cable Beach

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dampier to Broome

Foggy Dampier
We left a Dampier shrouded in deep sea fog and some two and a half weeks and 500 nautical miles later here we are in sunny Broome. I really do feel that we have arrived. The worst of this gruelling coast is now behind us and we have the wonderful Kimberly to look forward to. It has been a bit of a grind (as you may have picked up from especially our earlier blogs) with some shining highlights. Even as recently as in the last two weeks some of the crew have had crisis of confidence, brought on by long tedious passage making, a niggling health issue and contrary winds and waves. Hopefully that too is now behind us and we can build on the confidence that we have gained and really start enjoying this cruising life. It will be our second trip through the Kimberly and I am looking forward to staying put for a while in some beautiful gorge, with time to write, paint and absorb the spirituality of the place.

Back to the journey.... Flying Foam Passage looks really scary on paper. Its name doesn't help either, though it is named after the boat Flying Foam that explored the passage in 1863. It is a narrow, narrow channel between the outlying islands of the Burrup Peninsular, near Dampier. Narrow is not really a problem, but when you have to consider a vicious tidal flow, timing is everything. You must be in the right place on slack water (between high and low tide) otherwise you have to battle against the immovable force of tide against you, or have an out of control sleigh ride with the tide behind you. As usual, it is the unknown that keeps me awake at night and keeps the knot in the stomach. As it turned out Flying Foam was a doddle and we finished up spending a few nights anchored within its banks totally in awe of the beautiful dark maroon rocks that seem to tumble down towards white crescents of beach. Each day pods of whales would drift languidly past the boat with the incoming and out going tide.
Motley may not have such a favourable lasting impression of Flying Foam Passage. One night I left her on the back swim platform gazing as she loves to do at the flotsam and jetsam that floats past the boat on the tide. She wasn't going to budge so I went to bed. Minutes later there was a loud scratching and scrambling sound from the back. Knowing immediately what it was I leaped out of bed with torch in hand. Down in the water was Motley gallantly swimming up the side of the boat against the tide. We hang ropes on either side of the boat for just these occasions and Motley hit the rope and started to drag herself up. Still out of my reach, she looked up at me and let out an awful gurgling meow, before she lost her grip and fell back in to the water. Not to be deterred, she had another go and managed to get enough purchase on the rope to get up and into my arms. I wrapped her in a towel and waited for her panting to calm down. Rob and I both decided that what had happened was a good thing and a timely reminder for Motley to be more careful. We don't want her swimming laps up in the Kimberly amongst the crocodiles.

Flying Foam Passage

Red iron rock spills down towards Flying Foam Passage

Passage making can be very boring. If the conditions are favourable and the boat is just going along chewing off miles, there is not much to do other than doing the hourly entries in the log, checking the course and sail, reading, preparing meals and snacks and watching the water go by. Fishing has been a dead loss lately and we have trawled a line for miles without success.

Motley bored with passage making keeps an eagle eye on the fishing line.
Fires up north create Japanesque sunsets
One diversion has been the enormous amounts of whales that we see every day. We are  getting much more relaxed about having them around now. It is the ones that float on the surface, either sleeping or feeding their young that are the real concern. We have had to steer around several of these. I would hate to think what would happen if we didn't see them, because they don't seem to move away.
Whales every day

We caught our breath at Port Hedland for a couple of days anchored off the brand new yacht club. It is not the greatest of anchorages but it was kind to us on this occasion despite the wash from the huge ore carriers and associated tugs that sent us bobbing around and about. Caretakers Steve and Judy extended their hospitality by allowing use of the washing machine and gave me a lift into town for fresh supplies.

An ore carrier slips past The Doctor's stern

Leaving Port Hedland was a unique experience because we did what we don't do often, and should do more probably, but we turned back. After slogging away for about four hours into a head wind and a wave state that was reminiscent of a steeple chase we had made only fourteen miles, (enter crisis of confidence) so we did it. We turned back. It is a funny feeling really, this turning back business. Firstly after you do the deed, you are now travelling with the wind so everything levels off, the boat is stable and you are moving quickly in the direction to which you are pointing to. There is relief, I guess, but there is also the niggling doubt that creeps in. Should we have kept going? Are we total wimps? Common sense or should I say justification wins the day and we are resolved to dropping anchor back where we came from, and that of course deserves a beer!
The big leg we did towards Broome was done overnight and although I hate over nighters, this one rated as a pretty good one. The winds were light but we were able to sail and although there was no moon, the stars were bright. In the early hours of the morning the easterly wind came up strongly and we were glad that we had opted to hug the shore of the Eighty Mile Beach and not cut straight across in open sea. We had some protection in the lee (protection) of the land and although the waves became steep and jagged they would have been a whole lot worse out in open water.
We pushed on to an anchorage 35 miles south of Broome, Gourdon Bay and anchored along side a pearl farm. Rob was hoping for TV reception for the Rugby Trinations, but alas, no. Another good reason to sell the boat I fear.
Broome drifted into sight, apricot headland set against torquise water and we dropped anchor off the Town Beach. The temperature soared to greet us and we were ducking for shade and hanging off the back of the boat to cool off.
Here there is mail to collect, provisioning to do for a possible three month sojurn in the Kimberly, and that health issue to be resoved.

Towards Broome
We love getting your emails and comments. keep them coming. We will do a quick post just before we leave, but then we will be off station until Darwin, some time in November or December.
Till next time.....Diana

Town Beach Broome