Sunday, November 27, 2011


14th October 2011. Friday.
Hour glass rock formation at Prudhoe Islands

7.30am saw us lift the anchor at Prudhoe Island and head east towards South Montague Sound. We were going through uncharted waters indicated by a big slab of grey on Cmap, so we picked our way carefully until we were on the area shown as the lovely blue of chartered waters on the map. Going past the islands we thought how like the Whitsundays it is, except there are no people, other boats and the navigation is a tad more than Grade 1 level. It is exciting sailing through the Kimberley with its tides, uncharted waters and the fact that you have to be totally self reliant. The isolation is complete.
South Montague Sound
We slid through a narrow canal and wound our way between islands to find our anchoring point off Wilyalkan Island. The island was rock strewn, but  looked older somehow than what we have been used to, more worn down and rounded. Poking up the top there are two or three what look like coconut palms pushing above the other growth in slender arching trunks.
After lunch and a rest (we had sailed a gruelling 16NMs after all) we set off in the dinghy to go exploring. We motored past huge blocks of rock bigger than a house that looked like they had only just slid down the cliff face and boulders balancing  precariously ready to topple over with just a little push, it seems. We found some caves that I risked slippery rocks to climb to, but they were empty of any ancient art. Most interesting was finding a beach that would do very nicely for a BBQ later.
Huge blocks of rocks look like they slid off the face just yesterday
Our pet Tawney Nurse Sharks

Our afternoon sched on HF with Frank and Karen was very scratchy but we did make out that their anchor winch had failed and they were thinking of going straight through to Darwin from Kartja Island, just out of the Hunter River. Their trip had been constantly dogged by gear failures and bad luck so it wasn’t really surprising. The news was a bit sobering and we did feel bad for them that they were going to miss out on some of the best bits of the Kimberley and that they were having such a bad time of it. With them in our thoughts we packed ready for our BBQ with folding chairs, hot plate meat and salads, and beer and wine of course. What followed was one of the special moments of the whole cruise. I want to write it down so the feeling and memory is never lost.  ( Frank & Karen were able to rig up a block and pulley system to raise their anchor so were able to continue their trip through the Kimberley in an abbreviated way)
The shell grit BBQ beach with our first thunder head of the season in the distance

The beach is shell grit and easy to land the dinghy and has large rounded rocks strewn about. Up higher past the wave like ridges of shell grit washed up by the tide there is an orange rock face and small cave and lying all about is dry wood seemingly ready chopped for the fire. We perched the chairs on top of the beach and sat there beer in hand like king and queen surveying the scene below. Stretched before us were islands bays and headlands softly changing in the sunset. Rob got to it and lit a fire behind a rock ledge and in no time we had delicious pork steaks and salads on our laps, all washed down with a glass of wine.
Rob cooking the BBQ

As we watched the big sun dip below the hills The Doctor was silhouetted in the bay. Two huge eagles floated catching thermals looking for the last feed of the day. (Stay low Motley).

Too wonderful to leave just yet we put more wood on the fire, checked that the dingy was still where it should be and poured another wine. To complete the picture off in the distance a lone thunder head  which, as the light faded put on a grumbling, flashing show of lightening forks and pulsating inner lights. We talked about my Mum and how we both missed her in our own ways. She is always with us in our thoughts and is part of us and through her all that we do is possible.
In a conspiracy of beauty, as we motored back to The Doc in the dark, phosphorescence lit the dingy from below and left a shining path in our wake.
Fine examples of Bradshaw Art

On further exploration we found an amazing art gallery on a rock face far up into the inlet. On the way up there the heat was getting quite extreme so we found a cool cave to wait for the tide to rise enough to get the dinghy over the rocks.   
Waiting for the tide

Shell graffiti cave style

We found that there was a very inviting billabong right at the end, but unfortunately not croc safe.
At the end of a long dingy ride, a beautiful billabong. No swimming though.

South Montague Sound was one of the highlights of the Kimberley for me. I stored lots of good memories here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Horizontal Waterfalls

in the tank.......
Mid October and it’s getting warm up here in the Kimberley. We’ve just spent a couple of days at Silver Gull Creek in the company of Phil and Marion, two Kimberley legends who set up camp down a creek 17 odd years ago and who have no interest in moving back to “civilisation”.  Mind you, they now have internet access, a flat screen tv and a satellite phone so they are not exactly doing it Bear Grylles’ style. We were there 7 years ago and things haven’t changed. Phil still wears his Rio jocks as standard attire whether or not there are 20 tourists swarming around from charter boats and he is still brewing and sampling his fine home brew. Marion still looks the same and still rolls the most perfectly thin rollies which seem never far from her fingers. It was hot and sticky and Squatter’s Arms has the perfect remedy. A spring somewhere back of their camp has been piped into a concrete tank that through a series of holes flows through and down the bank into the creek. It can hold 8-10 bodies and they have plastic chairs set up so you can sit in comfort as the fresh water flows over you. Once you are in, it’s hard to leave. While we were there, 3 burly barge crewmen emerged from the tank after a 2 hour session looking a lot like boiled prunes. We took our turn and finally emerged reborn and refreshed.
We said farewell after milking them for tips and advice on suitable bays, anchorages and basically where to go next. We got a bit carried away in Marion’s small jewellery shop and this may have been a mistake as we found out the next day. Next door is Dog Leg Creek where diesel can be bought for 3 bucks a litre. It’s a must do as you motor more than you think up here and we tied up the next day with thirsty tanks and, alas, slightly empty wallets. I would have loved to fill up but could only afford 80 litres. I asked if he took plastic and he gave me a curious stare, then turned his head slowly around the spinifex and sandstone backdrop and said in classic Kimberley tone “ Ahh no mate, we don’t do plastic, shoulda  come here before yous went to Marions.” Got that in one buddy! He recounted a story of a catamaran that pulled in and took 800 dollars worth of fuel and the skipper (Dad) had to raid the kids’ piggy banks to pay the bill.
 Anyway, we were three quarters full and we still had 80 lts in jerries. We anchored off for the night and planned our sail down to the Horizontal Waterfalls, thinking carefully about tides as our first hazard was going to be negotiating The Gutter. You all know what gutters do; correct, they catch water then channel it away. This channel was about half a mile wide and it ran between the mainland and Koolan Island and it carried a fair bit of water mid tide. It was going to be a quick run down between the island and the mainland but then the gutter took a sharp left hand turn through some smaller islands. We had been told to leave 2 hour before slack water so as to get the free rundown the island. We still had some flood tide with us as we approached the tricky bit among the islands and whirlpools started to appear and strange bits of foam began shooting past us. It was time to hand steer.
getting interesting
 I took the helm and was steering hard to starboard to keep our line through the islands when suddenly the whole boat slewed to port like someone had picked it up and set it on a different course. We’re talking 14 tonnes of boat pushed as easily as you’d move a leaf on a pond. It was a bit unnerving but it was nothing compared to what we would see tomorrow at the horizontal waterfalls.
approaching the gap
The horizontal waterfalls are interestingly named. If you think about it, most waterfalls fall vertically, that’s where the “water fall” concept obviously came about. How then do waterfalls work horizontally, where’s the gravity man?? It’s all to do with tides. There are two gaps in a rock wall through which water flows during flood and ebb of tide. Narrow gap, a heap of water to squeeze through (10-12m tides) and you have water flowing from one height to a lower height but essentially it’s a horizontal set up. The first gap is wider and so less spectacular. The second is about 10 feet and at peak flood or ebb it is seriously spectacular.  We took the Ron Jensen designed ultimate dinghy gingerly up to the entrance just to have a peek. There were whirlpools everywhere and Diana was on the verge on a major dummy spit if I went any further so we turned the thumping 3.3 hp outboard around and high tailed it back to the Doc. We would do it tomorrow with the tourists on board the specially designed inflatables with their twin 300 HP outboards. Luckily they did take plastic because we were broke and after 2X 55 dollars were transferred via sat phone we were on our way. The boat does a short tour of the nearby gorges and the guide is knowledgeable and provides information we would never have known. He took us through some mangroves and when I asked him if he saw many crocs in here he said in true Mick Dundee fashion, “ Mate, the only time you see a croc is when they want you to see them”........ummmmmm I thought...deep, very deep but what does he mean? Does it mean they need you to be visible as they line you up from the mudbank for a spot of lunch? We didn’t linger on the possibilities because the tour was over and it was TIME TO DO THE WATERFALL. We sped across the water at a speed that made The Doc’s 6 knots seem ridiculous and we were suddenly there, poised, just out of reach of the churning froth and bubble. When the tide is really roaring the drop can be as much 6 m, that’s 20 feet. Today it was about 5 feet and the operators are careful not to go when conditions are down-right suicidal. The most amazing thing as you go through the gap is the sheer push and pull of the water on the boat. The boat skews left and right, up and down and just when you think it’s all over and we are going under, the driver hits the throttle and the 600 hp blasts you out and through the maelstrom. This guy was good. He backed the dinghy down the drop and held us there with deft touches on the throttle while water roared all around. And then it was over. We motored back to the pontoon, the tourists disembarked, then embarked their float plane for their 1 hour flight back to Broome.
down we go............
hang on now!!!

A fish out of water?
 We stayed on and had a chat with crew who operate the whole show. They’re just a bunch of young guys who live and work in this remote spot in the Kimberley. They can have up to 80 visitors a day and that means serving brekky or lunch, taking them through the falls, greeting and meeting and being polite and friendly 12 hours a day. Hard work! Home is a floating shed down the creek tied to a cyclone mooring. They have a collection of pet Bat fish which have become part of the tourist agenda. We stopped next to their shed and the bat fish came swarming in. The trick is to get a tourist to hold a handful of soggy bread while one of the crew plucks a fish out of the water which then eats the bread from the hand of the stunned punter. 3 guys live on this floating shed and it’s  pretty close living. There is a female backpacker from Germany working there as well and she lives on the houseboat near the falls. The houseboat was moving to Broome as part of their end of season pack up and she was moving onto the shed with the 3 guys. Her main concern was the open air shower they have set up on the shed. The boys assured her she had nothing to worry about. She assured them she would be showering fully clothed. We packed up camp the next morning and caught the ebb tide north on our way to Red Cone Inlet.    
there's no place like home........

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Montgomery Reef

2nd October 2011
Raft Point
Leaving Raft Point

It was an early start from Raft Point. We had to be at the reef at or just before low tide. Being only 9NM away it wasn’t that hard to work out timing though we were catching the west flowing ebb which gave us 10 knots going through the gap just outside the anchorage at Raft Point. It is a nasty little area when the spring tide is at its most ferocious. The gaps between Raft Point, Steep Island and some big chunks of rock create swirling seething water currents that pick up The Doc and want to suck her towards the rocks. Leaving at 5am, the tide was in full flight and did its best to set us onto the fringing reef, but the 68hp Volvo thwarted its intent.
Montgomery Reef emerges from the ocean

Slowly the reef, which looks like a small continent on the chart, rose out of the water in the distance. It was a bit tricky navigation wise as you had to round a long sand spit and then head up a narrow channel between it and the reef. On first impressions the reef looks man made, smooth and rounded. A sea wall perhaps or a dyke. If it was a dyke though it had serious structural problems as in regular intervals water was gushing down the side in drain like torrents. Once into the narrow channel the water was a respectable 10 metres deep and we could take in the show. We anchored and I sat on the deck in the shade eating breakfast and watching as the waterfalls on each side of the boat emptied the contents of the pools laying on the flat topped reef.
The water falls off the flat topped reef
The Doc in the narrow channel inside the reef

Kokomo was with us and they launched their dinghy to check out suitable landing spots for a reef walk. They reported that the reef was in fact not rock as it looked from afar, but all coral. We clambered into our trusty dinghy and scrambled ashore. It was coral all right, crunchy and jagged under foot. We were ankle deep in water as the water rushed from the top of the reef towards the channel. We had hoped to see all kinds of sea life trapped in the rock pools, but none was evident.
Rob ankle deep on top of the reef

After a bit of a wander around and a short dinghy ride up the channel, where at least we saw some shy turtles we got back on board, pulled anchor and followed Kokomo back out and “home” to Raft Point. It was amazing to see this massive reef and water gushing down, but it wasn’t beautiful by any means. I am glad we hadn’t travelled any more than the 9 miles there and back. If we had have travelled say 40 miles to see the spectacle I would have been disappointed.

The water tumbles over the coral
A living reef

The most exciting part of the excursion was in fact the re-entry into the anchorage at Raft Point. As we had left Montgomery on a rising tide, we hit the narrow bit outside the anchorage at full spring tide flow. It churned and heaved and picked up The Doc and tried to suck her this time into some big gnarly rocks. No sooner had Rob said “Look at how the water is gushing around those rocks” We were suddenly way too close. We were moving sideways towards the torrent. Rob gunned the motor and we got out of there as quickly as we could. We should have guessed there was something going on in this spot as we saw Kokomo skidding sideways as if on ice. Karen caught our performance on video tape and the true picture came to life. The Doc was moving fast, very fast, but crabbing sideways. We were happy to be back and safely anchored.
We had thought of catching the next ebbing tide up the coast towards Sampson Inlet, but we were buggered. Enough excitement for one day, so we decided to stay put for another day to rest. We are yearning for a safe, secure and picturesque anchorage to put down anchor for a few days. We feel like we have been going, going , going. Always up anchor to the next spot. This isn’t cruising. It is sightseeing. We just want to stop for a while. We are not in a tour group. We can stop somewhere and take time to smell the roses. We had high hope for Red Cone Inlet, but the tides were too ferocious and it wasn’t that pretty. Maybe Sampson will be our rest bay.

Until next time

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Red Cone Creek

Red Cone Inlet

30th September 2011
This story is jumping all over the place, but I just have to tell you about the day we had yesterday. A typical Kimberley day. I love the Kimberley. It has a tinge of danger around every corner. You just can’t let your guard down or you might just stuff up big time. We are anchored in Red Cone Creek just nine miles from Raft Point. We came over here because we got this badly photocopied information from a web site saying it was one of the top spots in the Kimberley. We were a bit disappointed as we motored into this wide muddy creek with low lying mangroves on either side. I guess we had it built up in our mind as being more picturesque place we could put the anchor down for a while to have a bit of a rest. We had been pretty well going for it, moving and up anchor every day or two. We were dreaming of a place, preferably near water (fresh) to chill out, write, paint etc. We had high hopes for Red Cone Creek, with the promise of a water fall and swimming holes. We dropped anchor and within half an hour the tide started to race through at unbelievable speeds. It reached nearly two knots on the log, standing still. We were right in the middle of the spring tide with 12.8 metre highs and 0.2 metre lows. The guide said “ A pleasant anchorage..... The inlet is short and tidal streams are therefore moderate.” We couldn’t get to where they said the anchorage was because although we were in 14 metres, the tide was dropping more than 12, so we anchored where the charter boats go. Anyway the tide ripped past the boat at 2 knots, but it only seemed to last for about half an hour and then it settled down to something more reasonable. A big charter boat Discovery 1 anchored not far away. I tried to hitch a ride to the falls, which we realized were 3.5 miles away, but they were full up, but they radioed us up to say that the trip was well worth it and the falls were flowing.
Washing day
The morning saw us doing the washing. As usual a huge pile had mounted up. It is so hot now that I can’t face wearing a shirt for more than two days, if that. It gets so sweaty. Using the manual washing machine, me winding and washing and Rob hanging out we got four loads done. The washing machine is great. It takes and out 2.5 kgs of wash and you only have to wind it for 2-3 minutes, rinse it for 30 seconds and Bob’s your uncle. It comes out clean as a whistle. Whites have never been whiter.... and coloureds......well you know how it goes. Washing done we waited to catch the incoming tide to take us up the creek to the falls. It should be simple really. Just follow the river up. Ha! We were both a bit worried about this little adventure. The tides were ferocious and then there were the crocs.  Rob thought he saw the charter tender go up a tributary to the right, so going against my better judgement we tootled up to the right. The tide was with us all right and we were being whisked along at a great rate of knots. The tributary got narrower and the mangroves pushed in closer. Really good croc territory. We saw a little croc that was so interested in looking at us that the tide pushed it sideways into some branches, but it was just a little reminder that we were in their territory. We had a hatchet that we had found at mums and also a lump of timber as croc waddies. Narrower and narrower with branches off to left and right. I said to Rob we could get lost in here. Finally there was a rocky landing on the right, but no water. We pushed on further but it got so narrow that there were branches hanging into the water barring the way. This was obviously a no go so we went back to the rock landing. Maybe we had to climb up to see the falls. Rob let me off to do some exploring. As I scrambled up the rocks, I thought of Rob sitting in the little dinghy with overhanging mangroves and crocs lurking and called back to suggest that he go ashore and sit further up the rocks. On climbing up, it obviously was a water fall at some stage, but not now. I tried to climb a ridge to get our bearings but all I could see was acres of mangroves with Red Cone Hill and Raft Point in the distance. We were in the wrong spot.
The little dinghy with its 3.5 HP motor did well against the current and back into the main river. We saw a huge croc disguised as a floating log just lying there looking at us. We were pretty spooked. Back in the main river we still had an hour of flooding tide to get us up to the falls, if we could find them. Round and round countless bends. It seemed endless. At last the river narrowed into a narrow gorge with high rock faces and then at last around the next bend there it was, the water fall cascading into a deep green pool. Next problem was where to leave the dinghy where we could retrieve it and not have it either high and dry stranded on the rocks or floating out of reach in the middle. Rob slung the loop of the painter loosely over a tree branch. That worried us and we had to check that it was still there frequently. We clambered up the rock face. We didn’t want to tarry too long in the croc’s reach. The charter skipper said “Be very careful near the lower pool.” Yep got it.
Paddling our way towards the falls

It was quite a climb but my little legs coped and Rob did well considering things are getting pretty hard for him now in the walking department. The next pool up looked a bit fierce but the next too were just right. The top pool was small but up to our chins if we crouched. It had a shady pandanas palm overhanging the cool pool and water lilies and green water weed decorating the water. What bliss. We sat in the pool and let the cool water caress us as it made its journey to the falls further down.

I spotted a black lizard about half a meter long, watching up from the water edge. As we sat with our feet in the water eating left over BBQed chicken and potato it swam across the pool towards us. It had a determination about as it headed straight for Rob. I thought Rob was going to sit on my lap in his attempt to back away from the lizard. We realized that lizzy was used to being fed and it waited patiently while we swam but now it wanted lunch too. We threw it some potato slices which it seemed to like, but had real trouble getting it down its throat. With no teeth it had to just gulp it down as best it could and we could watch the progress of the potato lump.
Water Monitor lizard snacks on our BBQ potato
We weren’t really relaxed up there. Rather than a leisurely day by the water we only had a couple of hours as we got there so late. We watched carefully first the flooding of the lower pool and then the gradual reappearance of ringing the pool. Timing was everything. Leave it too late and we would be wading and pushing the dingy through the mud. No thank you. Our timing was pretty good really. We clambered back down the rocks and in to the dinghy, ready to catch the outgoing tide. We thought we were home and hosed and started to congratulate ourselves, but then I remember the fat lady and the singing thing. The tide sped us back down the river, we turned a corner and there was white water. The wind had come up while we were up stream and with the tide pushing one way and the wind the other there were waves in the river. The boat was a mere small dot in the distance. At least it was still there. That was one good thing I guess. Up and down over these metre and a half waves. Rob was in the front copping most of the spray, but even his big back didn’t shield me from the odd wave. The dinghy was filling up with water. It was only spray at this stage and I was hoping we didn’t cop a full on wave. At last The Doc was within striking distance. Rob said. She looks like she is moving, and that she did. The tide was ripping past her hull so fast that it looked like she was steaming ahead. It couldn’t be of course but the taut anchor chain said it all. We had to get back on to the boat with the tide streaming past at two knots and 1.5 metre waves coming up from behind. I manoeuvred the dinghy to the stern and Rob was able to make a lunge for the back of the boat. He held it fast while I took a huge leap at the boarding platform taking the dingy painter with me. It wasn’t graceful but it was good enough. I secured the davit lines while Rob valiantly held the dingy up against the stern of The Doc. With the boat secured we hauled the dinghy up and away from the marauding tide. We were soaking wet all that beautiful fresh spring water replaced by salt, and we collapsed in a heap exhausted. The Doc continued to buck and sway with the ongoing fight between tide and wind, but we were just happy to have a cuppa safely back on board. Just another day in the Kimberley.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kimberley Stories

Hidden Island

I’m sitting in the air conditioned comfort of The Doc’s saloon and outside the air is soup thick with grey black clouds stretched tight overhead. Now and then you hear the odd rumble of thunder but it seems a fair way off. Well, here we are then, “safely” tied up in Tipperary Waters Marina enjoying the delights of civilisation (take away, Laundromats, coffee shops, internet, wireless access for my new Kindle and 240 volt power on tap........ahhhhhhh. “This is living!” as the camping store ad tries to suggest. I know we said not to expect any blogs for 3 months as we hardy adventurers battled tides and crocs in the constant search for interesting experiences but............hang on while I just turn this air con down, enough is enough dear reader. Seriously, it was getting time to head for shelter and while there are hidey holes a plenty in the Kimberley, we both felt it was time to put the Doc into her pre-booked pen and avoid a direct lightening strike while still 250 miles from the nearest port. We are a little way into “the build up”, the months of November and December up here in Darwin when clouds start building in the sky by 9 o’clock and by 1 they are black and bruised and groaning with angry bursts of thunder. And that’s all. It builds up to what should be a total piss down but nothing comes, just a thick and heavy humidity and air that crackles. Any job you do outside immediately coats you in sweat so profuse you need to wring out shirts. So, what better time to sit down below and muse back over the last 6 weeks and try and share with you our sail through the Kimberley.
We left Broome on the tail end of some strong winds and I have got to say, it was a pretty tidy departure. We motored our way through a half dozen cruising yachts who were anchored towards the Cable Beach end of Gantheume Point and brought The Doc into the wind to hoist our brand new main sail for the first time. We put in a first reef as the wind was still up and with the reef in, Diana eased her bow around to head north while I gently unfurled the jib. The wind was on the beam and The Doc caught it in both hands and she was off. We looked back as the anchorage quickly disappeared and imagined the yachties all oohing and aahhing saying, wow, those guys know what they are doing or wasn’t that nicely done, Truth  is nobody notices when you get it right, its only when the main halyard snaps or you accidently jibe that people are usually watching. It was pretty uneventful up to Cape Leveque apart from our 6 hour motor sail from Beagle Bay to the Cape and it was eventful for the sole reason that we made 300 litres of fresh water and filled our tanks. The water-maker has been a work in progress since we left Fremantle and we could never seem to get the air out of the system for it to work as it should. Well, it seems we must have finally done something right and it purred away for six hours turning salt water in fresh and has since been filling our tanks regularly.  At last!
Hidden Island
Big tides!

Tides, tides and tides
We’d been working with tides from Carnarvon onwards but in the Kimberley they become even more critical. Leaving Leveque to sail to the Buccaneer Archipelago was a matter of catching the ebb first and then at the right moment picking up the flood into Silica Bay, our first anchorage. We managed to get it right apart from an hour or so and were feeling pretty chuffed as we dropped anchor in this tiny bay along with the beautiful charter yacht Starsand. We dinghied ashore and decided a beach barby was on so back we raced to get sorted before we ran out of light. Frank and Karen from Kokomo joined us and we enjoyed the first of many beach barbies. There we were, sitting back with a glass of red in hand admiring the softly fading sunset and glow of the whiter than white sand completely oblivious to what was happening out in the bay. It was drying out big time. As the fire crackled and the joy of finally reaching the Kimberley took over, we seemed to forget about tides for the moment.
Silica Beach High Tide
Silica Beach Low Tide

Frank took a stroll down to the dinghies with torch in hand and he seemed to be gone a while. He came back an announced that no one was going anywhere for at least 2 hours, or until the tide had returned to cover what looked like a moonscape that stretched from the dinghies to the yachts. This was one shallow bay and that smug complacency we had earlier was short lived. The only solution was to get more wood and fill our glasses. What a shame we forgot to bring the aeroguard!!!!
Nothing to do but wait for the tide.

The Doc sitting very close to the bank.

Darwin and thoughts on the Kimberley

On 1st November at 5am in the morning we sailed into a big red rising sun over Darwin. We had just sailed 238 nautical miles across the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, taking us just under 48 hours. All together about 2,500 nautical miles from Fremantle.Tired little bunnies, we were very happy to drop anchor outside the Darwin Sailing Club in Fanny Bay.

How to sum up the six weeks we spent in the Kimberley? For each of us it is probably a little different. There are extreme highs and low lows, times of terror and anxiety, and times of boredom. The high lights for me are probably not so much the grand scenery of the gorges and islands, though the scenery is magnificent, but more the little things that will stay with me.
The weather became so hot that we took to sleeping outside in the cockpit. Picture this. The heat of the day has at last dissipated, you close your eyes and drift off to sleep on a balmy night, covered only in a sheet. The last thing that you are conscious of are a million bright stars in an impossibly black sky, twinkling, reflecting  and competing with the glow of phosphorescence in the water. The only sounds are of  fish or other creatures splashing around the boat, or the last night call of a bird. One night we had a dolphin lazily whooshing around the boat, stirring up the phosphorescence. The gently breeze brushes your skin like a down feather and you drift off to sleep. Magic.
King George River
The second favourite thing is packing up our BBQ plate, food and chairs and having a meal off the boat on a little, isolated beach somewhere. There is often loads of drift wood for the fire, the heat of the day has gone and we eat our simple meal and drink a few wines as the sun sets on another Kimberly night. It is rejuvenating to have time away from the confines of the boat and feel solid earth under foot and staring into a real campfire is just one of the best things.

Sailing the Kimberly is not altogether a relaxing experience. It is at times challenging and terrifying and you must always be on guard and aware of the dangers. The tides can go up to 12 metres and that is a lot of water moving in and out and around the island, headlands and rivers. Tides have to always be the first consideration when anchoring or making passages, especially around headlands and narrow channels. Get it wrong and at best you go slowly or nowhere. The worst can be catastrophic. There are tidal over falls where water hits shallows or bends around headlands, the sea boils and froths, kicking up waves in the middle of nowhere.  If you get it right you can have exhilarating sleigh rides reaching improbably speeds (11knots coming away from Cape Levique), and good miles can be made with the tide with you.

The Canal, Koolan Island
Being late in the season and at the end of the long dry, there were very few other cruising boats around apart from us and Kokomo. There was the odd late charter boat, but their schedule didn't  allow more than the odd chat on the radio as we passed each other. The lateness of the season brought not only isolation and the heat, but also the first thunderstorms. We were caught on anchor, two days in a row,  by colossal thunder heads that towered over us bringing with them strong winds from unpredictable directions, lightening cracking into the water and heavy downpours of rain. It is exhilarating and terrifying  in equal measure and in a couple of hours it is all gone. After the storm we thank our lucky stars that the boat is in tack and hasn't been hit by lightening. The air seems cleansed and as it wafts over us it brings the sweet smell of the earth that has drunk of the rain. The birds resume their chorus after having become ominously quiet and the boat has been washed clean. All is good again and our nerves are a bit jangled, but  nothing that a glass of wine won't fix.
I love the Kimberley and even though not all the rivers and water falls were flowing and it was hot and a bit lonely sometimes it is an experience that thrills and surprises you one moment and challenges and terrifies you the next. It makes you know that you are alive.

Scary thunderstorm approaches, Osborne Islands

In the days to come we will send through more stories of our trip through the Kimberley, but for the moment we are safely tucked away in Tipperary Marina, within spitting distance from a cafe, a small super market and laundromat...all the comforts of civilisation. We have had two meals out, that were not prepared by us and on day two here in the marina we got a lift to The Good Guys and invested in an air conditioner. The Kimberley was fantastic, but being here is mighty fine too.
Til next time..