Friday 12 September 2014

Break in posting

Since we are presently cruising the Kimberley and there is zero internet access between here and Darwin, blog posting will stop for awhile. Could be a month or more before the next post.

Gary & Susie

Thursday 11 September 2014

Roebuck rumble

Our first night at the anchorage was a baptism of fire. 30 knots and 1 metre waves hitting us, don’t know how we got any sleep. I can see why many cruisers bypass Broome altogether. It was a little hard to bypass for us with so little facilities available in the Kimberley, Broome is the last out post of civilisation and we’d like to top up with water and provisions, just that Roebuck Bay is a terrible anchorage. The tides are big here too, a 9m tide was coming in a few days, so made sure we had 50m of anchor rode out. We rowed into Town beach the following morning, 1 Nautical mile took us 35 minutes. (If you notice in this blog, when I mention “mile”, I mean nautical mile.) Then walked the 1 mile to downtown to look around. 

Broome is a pearling town, always has been. In the 19th century it was the biggest mother of pearl producer in the world, with over 300 pearling ships based there. Huge. The industry weathered all kinds of disasters, two cyclone taking 180 lives both times. (The Broome cemetery began filling up!) But what finally killed the mother of pearl industry was a chemical company in the U.S., namely Dupont, inventing plastic in the 1930’s. The world’s citizens who up till then had relied on mother of pearl to keep their shirts on…  i.e. buttons, and Broome had 60% of the world’s market cornered. There were pearlers from all over Asia here, the Chinese and the Japanese with their 100’ pearling sampans and the Aussies using cheap ‘expendable’ aboriginal labour. Then the button makers found out about plastic and that was the end of that. By the late 1940’s Broome reverted to harvesting pearls instead, by comparison a much smaller industry.

Can’t post about Broome without mentioning everyone’s favourite pirate, namely William Dampier. His journals of his triple circumnavigations were the hottest sellers back in Britain. He landed around here, somewhere, in 1699 and shot an indigenous fella then scarped to Timor, just to get water, as they had no luck finding any in Australia. (Too bad, the Kimberley waterfalls are just a few days sail from here, all the fresh water he’d need). Thus we have “Dampier Creek” and this bay and the pub named after his ship the HMS Roebuck. 

I last visited this place in the 80’s and boy has it changed! Population explosion, at around 40,000 with all the tourists. The trendy cafes are hopeless for meals, over priced and under portioned but the kebabs in the Egyptian restaurant opposite Coles are excellent (Susie says its the best kebab she ever tasted). The local indigenous still speak with their ancient dialects, never hear that in the city. The traffic is surprising, be careful you aren’t run down, travellers everywhere in 4WD’s, this is the dry season and the place is packed. Too bad Broome does absolutely nothing for cruisers, there’s very little here to attract them. Pity, Broome is a great town and deserves its reputation as a paradise.

After a few days of being beaten up by the Roebuck anchorage another cruiser dinghied by and introduced himself, Brett on “Nikita”, a 36’ steel Pugh design sloop, let us know there’s room over in the Port area, just outside the port boundary which is a better protected anchorage. After the next row ashore, we came into a spot of bother coming back, a 2 knot current took hold of our dinghy and another cruiser came to our rescue, towing us back to Ashiki. That boat is too slow to row with a load, we’ll need to do something about that..

Sick of the lousy location we weighed anchor and motored the 2 miles to the port, anchoring only 600m from the shore this time, tucked in behind the big shipping pier, but a long trek into town. We have bicycles so this isn’t a problem. The anchorage was much nicer, but the dinghy we decided could be a problem, especially in the Kimberley because of crocodiles. We discussed it and with our dinghy being more a planing hull rather than a good rower and we couldn’t very well obtain another one here in Broome, we decided to order an outboard. Now we are the proud owners of a 3hp Zongshen 2 stroke. Not fast, but it works and weighs only 10kg. It was ordered over the phone and the courier delivered it to the boat ramp opposite Ashiki, we watched him drive his van right down to the water as we were rowing ashore. Fine service I say!

Sunday 7 September 2014

Final reach to Broome

80 Mile Beach

Our reach along 80 mile beach, which is over 100 miles actually, did take a few days. The next leg leaving Wallal Downs yielded only 20 miles, from midday till sunset when the wind died, when we simply cruised to a mile off the beach and dropped anchor. Anywhere on this coast is a calm anchorage. Four more day sails we were anchoring in Roebuck Bay off Broome, covering 40 miles each of the next two days, then plagued by calms the final two. Opposite Lagrange Bay, which we decided not to enter because we were sailing so well, we were iPadded. A fishing dinghy motored up to us and our photo taken by tablet. Same day we saw a humpback whale at 1/2 a mile away, next day we saw another at 200m, both much larger than Ashiki.

The final day an excellent wind sprung from the south and we wing and wonged Ashiki past the tall pier and into Broome’s anchorage at speed, averaging 5 knots that day. Though arriving mid afternoon we couldn’t get ashore, it was a mile away and conditions were getting a little boisterous for dinghy rowing. 

80 Mile Sunset
Shark stole my nice lure!

Almost becalmed opposite Lagrange Bay


Broome with clouds (water spout material?)

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Amphinome blues

Sunset at the Spit anchorage

This was to be a big day, 60 miles upwind to the next anchorage was a big ask. We weighed anchor at 4:45am and flew at 5.8 knots behind the spit for the first hour. Can’t say the same about the rest of the passage. When the tide went against us, the wind swung on the nose and waves picked up and progress ceased to exist. This became an overnight’er, 35 hours and Ashiki sailed 90 miles, zig zagging against wind and tide, 30 miles more than the planned route.  The wind did moderate and unlike the rest of the coast, the waves didn’t moderate with it. I thought that must be against the rules, downright unfair at least. These shoals fetched up large waves at us with very little wind to give us drive. It was miserable. Out to sea to clear the Amphinome shoals, waves did die down eventually and as we weren’t making much progress we hove to. Then I decided to drop sails which wasnt a great idea because we started drifting backwards with the ebb. The only remedy for that was either anchor in 12m or motor, we chose the latter for an hour at which time the tide turned and we could drift forwards. In a calmer conditions we took the opportunity to have dinner. The wind did pick up again and we were soon racing to the anchorage through the night, not our favourite time as we were both getting sleepy. Sailing the great arc around the shoals left us almost 20 miles offshore where the waves weren’t small, but Ashiki ploughed on at 4 knots through the moonless gloom and despite being in the tropics, the temperature was down to 13C. Freezing compared to the daytime temperature.

We did two hour shifts at the helm, during Susie’s stint she heard a low murmuring coo noise behind her, turning around she saw a large bird perched on the solar panel an arm’s length away, Susie let out a high peached squeal, and the bird took flight.

At dawn I decided to take the shortest route to the coast where we could anchor, it was a hard uncomfortable night and thought we could do with a safe anchorage, for dinner and sleep. By 3pm we were dropping anchor in 8m off Mt Blaze, a mile offshore, not very protected but the winds were light and it wasn’t rolly.  The plan was to sleep till 10pm then take off, as the winds lately have been good overnight.

Mt Blaze marked the end of the dusty central Pilbara, the water was no longer grey, here it was a beautiful tourquoise, such a contrast.

Tranquility off Mt Blaze

On the shore was one of those campervan sites. I wonder if we’ll get ourselves reported here too, but I think Customs have our number by now.. A little further up the coast we could see the beginnings of a long stretch of white beach, the western edge of the the spectacle known as “80 Mile Beach”. This we would be following to make the Kimberley town of Broome.

Mt Blaze camping ground

The alarm went off at 10pm and there was no wind, so we slept through to dawn. Then there seemed to be light, but enough wind to sail so we weighed anchor and Ashiki made 1 mile in one hour. We couldn’t follow the coast from here, as before us was a 10 mile wide uncharted area to detour around and didnt want to be drifting out there, its far nicer sleeping secure at anchor, so we decided to drop anchor again, opposite aforementioned campervan town. Several hours later, at 11am, a South Easterly did fill in and we started off again. We sailed out to sea 10 miles offshore with a plan to sail as far as the winds hold. But by morning we were having second thoughts and headed for the coast again at around 4am and spent the morning anchored opposite Wallal Downs homestead. 53 miles sailed in 17 hours, all to windward… of course.