Kimberley 2011

Darwin to the Berkeley River
After packing stores away from our purchases over the past few days, we weighed anchor from our Stokes Hill anchorage on the 30th June and took the last of the outgoing tide to Charles Point as the tide was turning, we too turned and headed south into the Boyne Harbour, destination Crab Claw Island.

Crab Claw Island is not actually an island but at the very top of the large tides it does separate from the mainland briefly. Here we spent a few days fishing and knocking a few odd jobs off the list. It doesn’t appear to be getting shorter!!

We were awaiting the arrival of friends, Alan and Jeanette from Moama, they were meant to be at Honeymoon Bay, in the Kimberley but due to the road being inaccessible their plans were squashed and they came to spend time with us here. Due to a lack of available camping here they proceeded onto Dundee Beach. This trip took us 2 days to complete as we had to work the tides out of the Boyne Harbour, south of Fish Reef and picked our way down the eastern shore of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf through the numerous reefs.

Dundee Beach is a small community situated 110klm west from the main road heading north to Darwin, much of which is corrugated gravel! There is a service station, pub, caravan park, all one building!! Plus a substanstial boat launching ramp where a tractor launches and retrieves the boats for a small fee of $20.

We had to anchor 1.70nm from shore to enable us a comfortable nights sleep with our flopper stoppers deployed. The tidal range here was 4-5m and the flopper Stoppers require 5 mtrs of water under us!

We covered up in our long clothes and went ashore for Happy Hour, boy did we look a long way out once we stood on shore! As soon as our feet hit the sand the midgees pounced on us and began to feast! 

Next day we loaded Alan and Jeanette aboard with friends Bob and Gayle for a fishing trip 10nm down the coast to the Daly River. Once anchored the boys took off to fish the Daly, but the tide had already gone out and blocked the entrance so they returned to get the waypoints for Blaze Reef and Point Jenny at the southern end of Fog Bay. Whilst they were gone the Ladies had a few glasses of Champagne and enjoyed a laugh over a Creole Salmon Salad and fresh bread rolls before the wind and swell got up and then the sea sickness took over from the laughter and then I decided to up anchor in search of the boys. A few mile on, I managed radio contact with them and I turned around to head back to Dundee with the boys trailing and trolling halfway back before they caught up. Saturated and laughing they downed a few cold ones on the return trip.

Next day I had to borrow Bob’s car to drive into Darwin to exchange our fish finder/Gps for the tinny as it had blown up, only 3 months old!!! The ladies came with me and we had a shopping day as I gave them a whistle stop tour of Darwin. More laughter as we visited Casurina Shopping Centre, BCF and the surrounding shops and then we went and enjoyed a beautiful lunch on the deck at Cullen Bay Marina cafe Jazz. By now it was 4pm and we still had groceries and grog to get. It ws a long day as we had left at 9am and didn’t return until 8pm. Our return to the camp to a relieved 3 husbands who by now were all well lubricated. Getting to the tinny was the next challenge as the tide had well and truly gone out leaving the tinny high and dry, perched on the rock wall of the launching ramp. So 3 sozzled husbands laughed, huff and puffed to lift it down and back into the water. Once back on board we had the most amazing experience, lots of dolphins feeding on garfish around us. It was if they were all in slow motion! Never seen anything like this before!!

Our 5 days here came to an end as did the internet and phone coverage, we took off for the Peron Islands, 43nms south. We anchored in 5ms at South Peron Island. The evening sunset was magic and during the night the wind against tide made this anchorage untenable and we decided to go early and make the passage across the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, 150nm south west to Reveley Island at the mouth of the Berkeley River. At  13 48.42S 129.00.00E we entered Western Australian waters and had to turn back all instruments and watches by 1.5 hrs from NT time. It was an overnight passage and all was well until early hours of the next morning when 35nm from our destination the swell increased and then a rouge wave picked up the tinny and tossed it upside down, it wasn’t long before the 25mm rope gave up and we parted company. We turned around but the seas were too large and if we did find it, it may have been very dangerous to retrieve it!! So sadly we continued without it!! As the sun rose we could see Reveley Island and made our way to the southern end and crept in to take shelter in the lee of the island and await the 2 hours for the high tide.. With still an hour to go we saw a charter vessel entering so called him on Ch 16 and asked him what water he had beneath him, and he gave us a few tips, I called Still Waters, the power cat with Coleen and Ian Donaldson on board from Lake Macquarie and Ian jumped into the tender and made his way out to us with his Surf Rescue shirt on and gave us a welcoming wave and directions in.

Safely anchored inside the river entrance with no sign of reef or white water we had a few hours sleep before calling Still Waters and going over for Happy Hour and debrief. Coleen and Ian welcomed our invitation of a night up the river to show us the sights upstream as well as some R&R as they had been travelling with Still Waters since April and they welcomed some light relief.

Next morning we gave Opal Lady a nice freshwater shower, Coleen and Ian were delivered to Opal Lady with overnight bags in hand and promptly deposited on the swim platform before Len whizzed back to Still Waters. Ian helped Alan finish washing the boat and then we started heading through the most magnificent scenery 14nm up to the the head of the river. The gorge walls closed in,  in several places and you could see the remnants of other falls that would have been gushing over in the wet. We anchored near a few other yachts adjacent to the falls and enjoyed a salmon salad lunch with fresh bread rolls. The boys pumped the inflatable tender up while we prepared lunch and we set off for a fish and look at the falls afterwards. The 3hp motor had not been started in 2 years but spluttered to life after 2 pulls. A few hundred metres away from the boat we realised we had no oars so we made a quick dash back to find them. No swimming with the crocs here!! 4 people and two fishing rods but we didn’t catch any fish, although Ian was devastated when Alan turned back just before we arrived at his X marked the spot fishing hole!! Not enough fuel, said Alan!! 

We enjoyed the watching the sun setting over the waterfalls, much earlier as the cliffs where towering over us! Dinner of Chilli Mud Crab with a real treat for ice cream lover Ian, as Alan served dessert of Eskimo Pies!

Next morning Alan and Ian set off for the rock climbing adventure to the top of the waterfalls. Not 20m of climbing and Alan had injured his big toe! A stick had sliced open between the nail and the quick! Ouch!! He quickly pulled out his hanky and ripped in in half and made a bandage to stop the bleeding. They did make it to the top and took some beautiful photos(photo above)! And made it safely back down.

It was then time to explore the upper reaches a mile further up the river we came to a series of rock pools and waterfalls where we enjoyed some frolicking whilst Alan flicked his lure around.

Not content with this mornings attention, we took the dinghy upstream to Ians’ X marks the fishing spot, shown to him by Beaver and Jay off Zigzag to catch one of the large Queenfish, 5 Queenies later all fun came to an end whilst Alan was trying to release a Queenie that was jumping around, the hook embedded itself in his finger. So we hurriedly went back to the boat to get some tools to release the fish, Alan and the hook!!

We left the Berkeley River the 14th July to pursue our journey west. Following our chartplotter track back across the reef to the open sea we turned north and continued up the coast to Koolama Bay. 
Extra Berkeley Photos below!!

The King George River

The seas were picking up as the day wore on. 47nm and 7hrs as we rounded Cape Rulhieres and entered Koolama Bay, we anchored in the most easterly part of the bay to wait for tomorrow mornings high tide.

At 5.30am on the 15th we started our passage through the sand bars and following the waypoints given, plus the chartplotter we made our way into the King George River with the magnificent high burnt orange cliffs to starboard and a low sandy beach spotted with mangroves to our port. The sunrise shone on the high cliffs intensifying the colours! With good depths under us we made our way up the river until we came to the magnificent gorge that split into two sections with a waterfall cascading down each side over 100’ high. We anchored a few hundred metres from the falls and enjoyed our breakfast with the sound of the falls and the early morning bird calls. To get a little closer we put the dinghy in and went right into the falls and decided that we could take Opal Lady in and get some photos, Alan would climb the rocks on the right of the easterly and largest waterfall with the camera and I would drive around at the base of the falls. As we returned downstream we took a photo of the crew from Lazybones in their tinny and they had just caught a barracouda. Lazybones was a one off design power boat, twin hull! Roger and Barbara we met up with further west in the Kimberley.


We anchored a couple of mile from the entrance and relaxed for the weekend as Alan watched his footy, all games. One happy man! Two sailing cats came in, Phar Lap(Mackay) and Storm Trooper, traveling independently but both heading to Darwin.  Storm Trooper left a few hours later. Phar Lap filled their water tanks from the falls and enjoyed doing their washing and showers, even the dog had a bath, they then came downstream and anchored near us. Paul, Pamela and son David joined us for Happy Hour. They were eager to get a weather forecast off us! With only the inflatable tender and 3hp outboard we were severely restricted with the distance we could go from Opal Lady! So we decided to move on to see more west.

The chartplotter track showed us our path across the sand bar entrance to the King George River just after half tide and before the sun rose. Later in the day we arrived at Cape Talbot and as advised we gave it a wide berth due to the currents that steep up the waves. The anchor went down, it was a beautiful sunset whilst enjoying a rum!
We left Cape Talbot at 5.30am on a westward passage to the north of Sir Graham Moore Islands and Napier Broome Bay. We then stopped on the north western corner of the island to drop a few baits off the stern and had an awesome time, although caught nothing we hooked a few HUGE fish who peeled the line and took off, line, hooks and bait/lure!! We then turned south to navigate through the Eclipse Archipelago. We followed the chartplotter through the narrow passage between Mary Island and Middle Rock with the assistance of 2 knts of current and entered Vansittart Bay. Good depths were found all the way.

From here we steered 10nm south to the anchorage where we went ashore to view the WW2 Wreck of a DC3 that had crashed just on the other side of a salt pan behind the sand dunes. We enjoyed the walk as this was the first time since Dundee Beach that we have had a decent walk!! It was amazing to see the plane in such good condition, no rusty parts, and one could clearly imagine how it crashed along through the bushes, with the tree indentations on the wings with nobody killed.

To the west was Jar Island and our anchorage for the evening. We followed the various guide books through the unsurveyed section of waterway to the South western side of the very rocky or maybe I should call it boulder island, passing the Pearl Farm on our starboard and missing the rocks that were marked but didn’t show themselves until low tide. There were a few small beaches amongst all the bolder and rocky out crops on the shore. At the southern end of the island at low water the island actually joined the mainland and the sand/rocks all came out.

It was a peaceful night and a very protected anchorage although no fish!! On Jar Island some Bradshaw Art can be found, so we set off early with walking attire and water, cameras etc to find them. Sadly after several hours we did find only one!! Alan did all the climbing as I sat and waited for him, looking around, one just appeared out of the rock near me! Not easy to see!