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

1 comment:

  1. Town beach Broome brings back memories. We moored in 5 metres of water there. Came back from town to look up and see Majek resting on her keel. The water kept going out until she was over on her side. Of course the side facing the incoming tide.It was a very nervous evening sitting with our legs over the side waiting. Enjoying your adventures very much. Safe sailing north. We thought you were still off Dampiers Islands having a great time. Little did we know you were slogging your way to Broome. All is well in Busso.