Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Closing in on the Kimberley

It feels like we have shot up the west coast really quickly this year. We are currently in Broome for a few days catching up with people and doing final preparations for a few months in the remote Kimberley region.

Family fun at Warroora, Ningaloo Reef

Going back a month we were anchored about 50m off the beach at Sandy Point, Warroora Station inside Ningaloo Reef and Tom, Sarana and the four girls were camped on the beach right next to Upstart. The whole scene was absolutely ideal, exactly what we had hoped for and we all felt very grateful that the weather gods and the booking system for the much prized camping spots all came together for us. The weather was perfect, warm sunny days with light winds and just enough swell for the surfers but not enough to make the anchorage uncomfortable. We played board games with the girls, filled them up with hot chocolates and Jenni made cakes (very popular!). We snorkeled on the reef, paddle boarded, swam every day including Isbel and Ivy swimming out to the boat and back, and played on the beach. We all stayed for two weeks before heading off in our respective directions by land and sea.


Idyllic anchorage

Family camp

Isbel and Ivy swim out to the boat

Snorkeling expedition

Board not bored games

Great times with these lovely crew at Warroora

Once again we motored up inside the reef to Coral Bay for a night before setting off northwards the next day, also inside the reef. Last time we came through this area we took the beautiful shallow passage around Point Cloates inside the reef and said that next time we would stop and walk up to check out the old lighthouse. This time we did that and what we thought might be an hours walk there and back turned into a major boot camp walk of about 3 hours. Well worth it - the viewswere stunning, the buildings interesting and we enjoyed it very much. There are a collection of very nicely built stone houses and of course the lighthouse tower which is now crumbling a bit and is home to several families of Ospreys and Sea Eagles. The lighthouse overlooks the old homestead which is still occupied and in a gorgeous spot on the coast. 

The old Point Cloates Lighthouse, just a few kms from the beach


getting closer


Magnificent views from the lighthouse keepers homes

Next day we drifted and slowly made our way just a few miles north to Norwegian Bay where there were thousands of jelly fish and lots of turtles. We did a bit of exploring in Pipsqueak around Edgar Point and towards Lefroy Bay in the evening. Very nice. 

Dawn saw us heading outside the reef into the Indian Ocean for the first time in a while. Very much like last year we had a beautiful day sailing to Tantabiddy near North West Cape with gentle winds off shore, warmth, schools of fish jumping to escape bigger fish, and lots of flying fish and shearwaters. We had been missing the lovely shearwaters on our sail north this year. No whales yet this year but lots of other action in and above the ocean. 

We ended up spending 3 days at Tantabiddy doing a few jobs on the boat, getting Pipsqueak sailing and doing a bit of resting after what seemed like a busy month or so. We were also waiting for a bit of wind to take us around the North West Cape. In the end we settled for a light southerly and set the spinnaker and a course for Serrurier Island. We only stayed there one night as there was strong wind coming from the south east and we needed to keep moving. Next day it was off to dirty old Dampier for us with a nice breeze pushing us along most of the day which built to 30kts by the time we arrived the next morning.

Sailing Pipsqueak

We enjoyed being back in town, the yacht club is great for visitors offering hot showers, laundry and even the use of a car to go the 20kms into Karratha for shopping. We spent a week there generally getting ready to go remote, filling up with water, fuel and food and doing a few small boat jobs. 

A dinghy load of groceries -  about 3 months worth

The next leg was quite a big one for us, 380 miles [750kms] to Broome and really nowhere very sheltered to stop along the way. We left in a very light wind which lasted most of the day before the expected south easterly came in gently towards sunset and built to a solid 30kts by dawn the following day. The new day saw us picking our way through about 50 huge iron ore ships anchored off the coast at Port Headland, close hauled in a strong wind. The good ship Upstart was heeled over under greatly reduced sail, [staysail and double reefed main] hammering along quite happily at 7 or 8 knots in a cloud of spray. The crew were dressed for the conditions and as usual taking turns of a few hours at a time to watch and rest. The watching consisted of hiding behind the shelter of the dodger and poking a head up from time to time between waves.

Leaving Dampier Archipelago through Flying Foam Passage
The breeze is getting up and its a bit wet!
About 20 miles offshore a tiny exhausted finch battled its way through the gusts and landed on Upstart for a rest. A little while later a second one joined it after getting a harrowing dunking in a wave. The little birds clung on in the wet and rough conditions and even had a nap. They attempted to fly away a few times, realised their mistake in the strong gusty wind and battled back to the boat. Sadly we were unable to persuade them to stay safe with us and eventually they took off into the strong wind not to be seen again. Hopefully they made it to an island somewhere.
Exhausted passenger

The wind kept going until around noon when it eased off a bit and we were able to make some progress east once we had passed the DeGrey River mouth and the shallows around there. We motor sailed for quite a few hours going east up into the bay which is the Eighty Mile Beach. Jenni had been feeling a bit unwell in the confused seas we had been through and we were keen to get closer to the coast before the strong wind came back at midnight. All in all a good voyage, a bit rougher and the wind a bit further forward of the beam than we really like but sometime we need to do that, not often but occasionally.

Relaxed stowaway

We pulled in to Gantheaume Point Broome anchorage in the dark at around 10pm and fell into a deep sleep. We were both feeling a bit second hand by the time we got in, as usual the boat loves it but the old crew get tired. 377 miles, 60 hours.

Once again we are hanging out with Tom, Sarana and the girls who are at the caravan park at Cable Beach. 

Camp hairdresser!

In the next day or so we will disappear into the remote Kimberley region of northwest W.A. for a few months and be out of range and contact until we get to Darwin in mid August. No phone signal or internet at all.

We have a satellite phone with a tracker and you can see where we are on this website:


Broome's famous Cable Beach sunset

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