From THE SKIPPERS DESK
Kimberley Boat News Cronologically…
September 2006: We have now arrived back in Southport. The shake down cruises to Sydney and down to Moruya and return to Southport has proven the boat to be ready for the task ahead. Shorter trips up to Moreton Bay and surrounds have helped fine tune the facilities and various operations on board.
December 2006: We spent two weeks over the holiday period just cruising around the Moreton Bay and Broadwater testing the facilities and getting an idea what it will be like to live on board for an extended period.The water maker is proving to be the greatest asset we have fitted. It makes around 50 litres an hour even while we are cruising. Those long showers are still a reality on board. The onboard washing machine uses around 50 litres to do a load so it comes in very handy on wash day
January 2007: This month we will test the boat out as a game fishing platform. We have entered her in the two biggest game fishing competitions in Queensland, this friday on the Gold Coast and the following weekeng (Australia Day long weekend) at Redcliffe. The "Sport of Kings" as it is sometimes called is centered around catching, tagging and releasing Marlin for a tally of points. We hope to do well and take away one or more of the trophies. We will keep you posted and hopefully have some photos to display in a week or so.
January 26th 2007: Well, we fished the tournaments and I must say the boat performed beautifully. The weather was great for the most part and a few Marlin were tagged and released. we hooked up on one but the fish decided to spit the hook. We did however catch a nice Wahoo which weighed in at 12 kilos (see photos in "Tournament")
February 17th 2007: This is it...we sail tomorrow Northward on our first leg. I have filled all the tanks, water 400 litres and fuel 1250 litres. The boat seems to handle much better with full water. It must be a balance thing. It actually gives me an extra knot with full water.
February 24th. Annie used the washing machine this morning for the first time and a valve stuck open (I’m guessing at this time) and it used 250 litres of water to do a wash instead of about 50. I now have the water maker running to replenish the tanks. It’s great to be able to do that otherwise we would have to return to port. I am waiting for the 25 knot ESE to abate (we are anchored inside Fraser Island) so we can run out to Lady Musgrave which is in the ‘Bunker Group’. Catalina is running well, averaging 40 litres an hour all up at 16 knots, not bad considering our pay load.
February 25th. I put the new ‘AQUALUMA’ underwater lights on last night for the first time under anchor and WOW!!, you would not believe the fish that swarmed up around the boat. Then the big squid came in to eat the fish so we put out a couple of squid jigs and within 15 minutes had caught a kilo of beautiful fresh calamari. See photos in PHOTOS/Fishing Album. I cannot recommend these lights enough. Not only do they look great at night but for any one that fishes they are a must. For all the info on these wonderful new underwater lights go to www.aqualuma.com/ or email to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
February 28th. The wind is persistent from the S.E. at 20 plus each day so we have decided to cruise up to Wathumba Creek (inside North Fraser Isl.) We snuck in on the high with 18 inches to spare under the hull and are going to sit out the wind. Hooked a 15 kg plus tuna on the way up, he took a pink high speed lure. Great fighters these fish, took 30 minutes to land. The bream in Wathumba are right out of Jurasic Park, we hooked 3 yesterday over a kilo plus. No muddies unfortunately…yet.
March 3rd. We decided to go further north yesterday, we run up to Bustard Head and into Pancake Creek. It is an all weather creek should the low in the Coral Sea turn into a Cyclone and come down this way. Did the 100 nautical miles in a little over 6 hours with a 3 meter swell behind us. Should be in here for a few days at least. Still no mobile and only very slow and random wireless internet.
March 7th. We pulled into Yeppoon today in a 3 metre following sea. I gotta say it again, these damn Voyages just love these conditions. I plotted a course from Curtis island to Yeppoon (about 23 nautical miles) and punched it in to the auto pilot then sat back and read a book for an hour. (Before you say anything, I was looking out for other boats), anyway, one hardly notices that the seas were quite unfriendly and with the 25 knots of S.E. We should have been uncomfortable, but no…she just lopped along and held a perfect course and I never even spilt my diet coke. We had to pull out of Pacific Creek (top of Curtis Island) as the sandflies had inflicted almost mortal bites to my arms and legs. The red bight marks all over my body resemble a close up of a case of mutant chicken pox. I had an allergic reaction and needed a Dr. real quick before I personally amputated both my legs to stop the itching. A few prescriptions later (anti histamines, buckets of Cortisone cream and 2 bottles of Jim Beam (ok, the Dr didn’t prescribe the latter, but I’m sure they will help) and I’m on my way to recovery. Going out to Great Keppel tomorrow to find a western anchorage out of the wind to have 3 days of R and R and a spot of diving maybe. One last observation, the S.E. trade winds and following seas have given us an average of 36 litres and hour all up with a cruising speed of 16.3 knots average. Not bad for about 8 ton of boat. Compare that with a similar size mono if you would.
March 8th. We found a great little lagoon tucked away on the western side of Great Keppel, (23.10.06S – 150.57.20E), so we snuck in on high tide and anchored up for the night. Well the tide went out didn’t it? We were high and dry by 4.00pm. A good example of why the Voyager is ok to sit on the bottom with it’s protected props and rudders. It is going to take us a few weeks to get used to the big tides up this way. But no harm done, gave me a chance to clean the scum marks off the sides and check the running gear.
March 10th. Back to Yeppoon for a night to have dinner with friends, (Ginny and Graham and their partners) Graham actually has an 1100 Voyager on order and is getting quite excited. We went back to Keppel next morning to anchor on the South side now as the wind has swung around to the North and Graham turned up on Sunday on Tony’s sail boat to show us a spot of reef fishing. Well show us he did, I am sworn to secrecy but the spot he took us too was HOT. Within 30 minutes we had caught 50 kilo of good reef fish. I was busted off three times until I grabbed the ‘ugly’ stick with it’s15kg mono on a Shimano 30- 2 speed and in quick succession landed a 10 kg slimey Cod (Estury Cod) and a whopping 12 kilo (72cm.) Coral trout …photos in ‘Fishing Album’. Eat your heart out David (Gavan). We could have caught a dozen more but we had a great feed so we went back to our anchorage to celebrate with a Chardy and a cold beer.
March 12th Left the Keppels to cruise to Port Clinton 22.29.30 S - 150.45.29 E in a 25 knot Northerly headwind. Not very comfortable. Big Port but only stayed overnight.
March 13th Continued up to Island Head Creek in the morning, 22.21 33S –150.38.55 looks like we will stay here for a few days as there is a gale wind warning for today for the Coral Coast. They say that this place has fish,crabs and oysters…we will let you know.
March 16th. No crabs, fish or oysters…terrible bloody hole actually. Today we decided to head off to the “Percy’s” some 40 odd nautical miles to the North. They say that they are a must visit on the way to the whitsundays.
March 17th. Arrived at North East Island (the Percy group) 21.39.12S – 150.20.03E and anchored in Blunt Bay where they all say is the best in a big S.E.blow. As we had 25 knts plus from the S.E. we tried it. We had the worst nights sleep yet because of the rolling and buffeting from the wind and sea, not to mention constant anchor watch all night. My advice is forget it in a S.E. blow and keep going if you can.
March 18th We moved over to West Bay on Middle Percy Island this morning to seek shelter from 30 knotts. 21.39.10S – 150.14.55E.We went ashore and did the tourist thing at the visitors hut and hung a memento of our cruise (as tradition demands) and explored the island. A beautiful bay with a magnificent beach but again the weather wouldn’t let us be comfortable. We had 30 knots all night and rolled and rocked till we were ready to abandon ship (almost). Who said cats don’t rock??? So without any radio communications (my HF still doesn’t work) we decided to get the hell outa there and head for Airlie . What we didn’t know was there was a gale warning current for the local area and by the time we had gone 10 miles it was too late to turn back. The seas were 6 meters plus and the wind was gusting to 40 knots. Toss in some storms and blinding rain and you have a trip to hell. I have to thank 40 years of boating experience and a good blue water cruising boat like the Voyager for being anchored safely at Able Point tonight (The Whitsundays). It was a trip to remember. We went from 8 knots to 24 knots with fixed revs of 3200 rpm which normally cruises us at 15 knots. On some big waves we slowed to 8 knots and the following wave (some 6 meters) started to break on to the dingy which is fixed to the swim platform at 90% to the deck on davits and this would propel the boat forward like being in a tunnel, then the boat would accelerate up onto these huge swells and gain speeds up to 22 knots and scream down the face like an 8 ton surfboard. It was like being on a rollercoaster ride for 7 hours. A handy tip for any one wanting to do this in a Voyager is calibrate your auto pilot for lots of rudder and heaps of response and let him (George, or who ever you want to call him) do the steering. You do not want to try to handle the steering manually in this type of sea, you will not be quick enough. Anyway, we are here and I am about to go have a cold beer.
March 26th: I have a new name for the Whitsundays, I rename them the WindySundays. For those who think that it is all swaying palm trees, beautiful Sunsets and gorgeous girls in hula skirts I am about to burst your bubble. It is a fact of life that the trade winds blow form March to October up here at an average of 20 knots every day from the South East, and it rains constantly almost every day through March to May. The locals seem to be oblivious to the foul weather but from a South Queenslander’s perspective it is absolute ratshit. The name of the boating game up here is to find an island (and there are hundreds of them) and hide behind it to get out of the infernal 2 meter chop and 20 to 25 knot winds that blow 24 hours a day. Now that I have ruined your idea of a tropical holiday up north let me say that the area really IS beautiful and you can have a great time providing you are prepared to suffer a little rough weather to find your favourite hideaway or reef and do your thing.
We did just that last weekend with friends from Brisbane flying up to Hamilton and spending the three days fishing, oystering, swimming and just watching the sunsets. It was just like out of the travel brochures.
March 27th: Today was sent getting our windscreen fixed. We had a deck hatch that was faulty fly open last week and break our main windscreen to the saloon. It is still raining and the new fitted screen leaks like a sieve. I will get him back tomorrow for a refit. We plan on heading off about Thursday to Townville. They say the winds will drop to 20 knots by then (30 knots at the moment).
I will be uploading some photos tomorrow in a collection of the first leg, they will be in the cruising log from now on.
March 31st. From Airlie I decided to run the boat at 9 knots on our daily runs. The boat is just off the plane at this speed (it starts to lift and go on the plane at 10 knots) At this speed we are using only 10 litres an hour all up. The great economy at this speed more than compensates for the extra time it takes to get to our destination. It lifts the boats range to over 1000 miles on a tank. Any way, it allows us to move around the boat doing things and dining at the galley table at lunch time, we even watch movies now while we travel so it passes the time very easy.
April 1st. Some might say “April fools day” to the odd person on this day so I am going to say it to myself. I am a big April fool, because I should have taken a trip like this years ago. We are anchored in ‘Horseshoe Bay’ on the North side of Magnetic Island (19.06.850S – 146.51.200E) and the view is right out of the travel brochures. We will stay here for 3 days, I am taking time to do a few repairs and set up my fishing gear. From here on the fishing gets serious so the gear has to get the once over and the lures sorted out.
April 4th. Reluctantly we leave Magnetic Island bound for a look at the Palm group of Islands some 35 miles North West. We still have 25 knots but at least it is behind us. Decided to anchor behind ‘Yank’s Jetty” on Orphious Island (18.38.53S – 146.29.15E) to beat the swell, it is a lovely spot surrounded by coral patches and adjacent to a little sandy beach (for Ralf’s daily saunter)
April 7th.After 2 days we decide after hearing the weather report (30 knots over Easter) to head off to Zoe Bay on Hinchinbrook Island and sneak into the creek in the northern corner at high tide (18.23.02S – 146.19.22E) The creek has a small bar and is very shallow, we just got in with 1 foot to spare under the boat, we later realized that the tides were very low highs. We anchored about a kilometer up the creek in 4 meters and started to fish. The first fish was a queenfish (in 3 minutes) weighing in at 10 kilo, unfortunately we forgot to take a photo until I had cleaned and filleted it so all we have is a frozen bag of fillet to show. The next two catches were bronze whaler sharks about 3 foot long. They put up a huge fight until we cut them off. This was followed by a massive stingray about a meter across and a shovel nose shark that would have topped the scales at 15 kgs. We finished the afternoons fishing with a nice golden travelly. The creek is a fishermans dream.
April 8th.Today we have a diurnal tide. For the uninitiated that means the moon and sun are in such a position that we only have one high and one low tide today. The tide has been slowly going out for the last 15 hours and not one bight all day. We will pull some lures in the dinghy this afternoon to see if we can snavel a few Mangrove Jacks.
April 9th. Pulled lures for miles yesterday…zilch fish. I figured it out though, the diurnal tides must put them off the bite. However, last night when we put the ‘Aqualuma’ lites on we attracted (as usual) swarms of bait fish which started to get stalked and picked off by a mob of huge Barramundi. We could see them circling the bait fish on the perimeter and lunging totally out of the water with huge mouth open and landing with a massive splash and obviously a mouth full of hardy heads. Well, we threw live bait at them, we threw dead baits, we tried everything except dynamite. We could not get a hook up so we went to bed tied and disappointed.
April 10th. Wind still blowing at 25 knots plus and constant rain. We have a magnificent view of the spectacular mountains on Hinchinbrook. They are so high they generate their own weather, hence it seems to rain constantly whilst the clowds and mist waft across the hills. We explore the creek during the day but don’t fish until late afternoon when we started to pull a few golden travelly as the sun sets. Then we put on the lights again and yes…there were the Barra back in force. We tried some live gar that I caught in the baitnet earlier to no avail. To digress a little, with the ‘Aqualuma’ lights I can throw a bait net any time and get literally dozens of livies anytime, they are a must have for any fishing boat. Anyway back to the Barra. About this time Annie was getting frustrated that the big Barras wouldn’t touch her livies so she started to cast it right out and winding it in as fast as she could. Well bugger me, she gets a hook up and he’s a beauty. 3 minutes of acrobatics and thrashing about and we have a 10 kilo barra in the boat. So not to let a woman outfish me I quickly fitted a poppa lure onto the double and flicked it right out past the lights. I had hardly started to retrieve it when all hell broke loose and I was fishing. These Barra can jump 6 feet out of the water when they get angry, and he was angry. They are a spectactular fighting fish and give an angler a great challenge on light gear. With another one on board we decided that was enough fresh fish for us but I had to catch a couple more while they were on and I would release them after wards. I did catch a couple more but unfortunately one of them swallowed the lure and upon extracting it he was mortally wounded so he became an addition to the freezer supplies. All fish weighed in around 9 kilo each, that’s 20 lbs in the old scale, not bad for a nights effort…60 lbs of Barra!! No prizes for guessing what I’m having for dinner tonight, and tomorrow night , and the night after.
April 11th. We steamed out of the creek at 6.30 am this morning to catch the tide and headed up to Dunk Island for the day. (17.56.01S – 146.08.14E ) We are anchored off the resort at the moment just watching the dolphins play around the boat. Tomorrow we should continue on to Cairns (80 miles away) if the wind drops a little.
April 12th. Headed up to Cairns as predicted in 20 knots (getting used to this wind now) and decided enroute to bypass Cairns for a friendlier port of call…Yorkeys Knobb Boat Club (16.48.08S. – 145.43.01 E) which is 8 mile further north but away from the hussle and bussle of Cairns and it’s tourist enviorment. We spent a lovely few days here regrouping and re stocking befor heading off to the Low isles.
April 17th. Travelled through to the low isles, did some snorkeling but was disappointed as the water was dirty. Continued on to the Hope Isles for a day but didn’t get excited as the anchorage was very rolley all night so decided to head for Cooktown and top off the fuel and steam out to Lizard Island (14.13.35S –145.26.53E) Well, Lizard is a Paradise. Best snorkeling I have ever done. The biggest clams you could imagine , some as wide as a meter and a half under water with their mouths open just sucking water. You could look right down their throut and see what they had for breakfast. Man you don’t wanna get your foot caught in these suckers cause you couldn’t open them like an oyster.
April 21st. We decided to conquer the mountain. Lizard Island has a hill that Captain Cook climbed in 1770 to check out the fringing reefs to see where he might get the Endeavour out to open seas. So we took the challenge and did the climb. The walk (more like a climb) was tough and dangerous but the view of the island and surrounding reefs were well worth it.
April 24th After 4 pleasant days on Lizard we bid farewell to some new yachtey friends, Rudi and Lynette, and continued on northward along the shipping channel passing hundreds of reefs and islands. One could pull up at most of these islands and go ashore to explore, pick coconuts or just swim in the aqua blue lagoons but we mostly wanted to reach the top now, it was like climbing mount Everest to us to get to the Cape. We did stop at Morris Island overnight and checked out the lone pearl diver gravesite under the only coconut tree on the island. We bought 3 kilo plus of big gulf prawns off a trawler that was sharing the anchorage with us. $20 got us almost a bucket full.
April 28th. Today we stood on the furthermost point north of Australia…Cape York. We rounded the Cape early this morning from the Escape River and after anchoring in the first bay we launched the dinghy and headed ashore to make the final walk to the Cape. Ralf came with us and was delighted to have a crap at the top of Australia.
April 29th. We are anchored off Seisa jetty ,near Bamaga, (10.50.50E -142.21.53E) contemplating our travel plans. Today we discovered a quantity of oil in the bilge. Upon inspection it was revealed that the oil had somehow found it’s way into the fresh water cooling system and the Starboard engine is showing similer symtoms with oil in the coolant system as well. It seems extraordinary that both cooling systems seemed to be suffering the same fate at the same time. We have rang Volvo and are confident that they will solve the problem. We will keep everyone posted.
May 1st. I have some good news. I rang Volvo’s resident engineer Clive on his Sunday off and explained to him what was happening with the motors. He immediately got the ball rolling by contacting his colleagues at home and by Monday they had the problem diagnosed and the parts on the way to a mechanic in Port Douglas. It appears the oil coolers have suffered some sort of failure which has caused the oil to enter the cooling system. We expect the mechanic here by Saturday and should be continuing on our way by the following Monday.
May 2nd. Where we are anchored is Seisia. It is a small outpost that acts as a terminal for the weekly cargo ship from Cairns that delivers and picks up all the commerce that runs through the top end. It has a large jetty, a service station, a general store and a resort. The town of Bamaga is about 10 K’s south and employs and houses most of the local residences who are Thursday Islanders. We keep our selves active during the day by fishing and crabbing. We have caught some nice big Travally and a few Sand crabs, but nothing to brag about at this stage. We befriended the local charter boat owner Greg who owns and runs “Tropic Paradise” out of Seisia. A really nice guy, he arranged to get us diesel down to the jetty using his tanker. Everyone in Seisia and Bamaga are friendly and seem to want to help. I walked up to a total stranger who was working on the jetty loading a freighter and asked him could I hitch a ride into Bamaga with one of his trucks and he just threw me the keys to a $40,000 4 wheel drive and said be back with it in 2 hours so he could knock off.
May 4th. Greg introduces me to the local pig hunter and I am invited out to a pig hunt. We didn’t see any pigs but they chased down and shot two ‘wild’ cows. They (his whole family and several neighbours) gutted and quartered the steers in the blink of an eye and everyone carried a part back through the jungle to the trucks. They use dogs to track the cows and herd them into a corner. They had over 20 dogs on one truck. The big night out in Seisia is Friday night at the Fish Club. The whole town turns up and they have a native band. We had a great time and met all the local elders and such. (see cruising log for photos)
May 5th. With great anticipation we await the arrival of the mechanic from Port Douglas (Volvo dealers) The lousy airlines would not allow him to carry oils and a large tool box so he has had to drive the 1000 kilometers by 4 wheel drive to carry out the repairs. He arrived mid afternoon and immediately started on the motors. You cannot imagine the mess in the engine rooms with oil everywhere. He worked tirelessly until dark and was back on Sunday and worked all day to finish. The motors had to be flushed out several times to rid the cooling system with oil. We still have some in the system but it’s the best he can do considering the circumstances. I must say Volvo were absolutely great with their backup and assistance in getting everything organized as quickly as possible. Thankyou to Auke Brinsma (Volvo GM) for his personal attention.
May 8th. After a few hours of test running around Seisa to get our confidence restored we set out to conquer the gulf of Carpentaria. It is 350 nm (almost 400 miles) from Seisa to Gove with nothing in between. If one was to break down half way it would be a 200 mile tow, not a pleasant thought. We traveled non stop for 36 hours at 10 knots taking shifts at the helm. The boat and motors performed faultlessly and we arrived safely but very tired at Gove (12.11.45s – 136.42.22e) on Thursday morning. Gove is an industrial outpost with a huge bauxite processing operation that employes almost all of the town. We are anchored just off the Yacht club which strangly enough doesn’t have a marina, everyone just anchors in the bay where you can.
May 14th. This morning we take on the Arafura Sea and head off to Darwin. A nice 420 Nautical mile run that we plan to stretch over 8 to 10 days and do a little fishing on the way. Unfortunately I won’t be able to update the log until we reach Darwin so for the next 2 weeks we will keep you in suspense.
May 21st. We are in Darwin at last. The plan was to cruise along the coast from Gove and explore the top end rivers, but in reality the coast is strewn with dangerous reef and hidden coral heads everywhere. The colour of the water up here is like blue milk and has no underwater visibility So in the interest of safety and sanity we stayed out in the main stream and island hopped from Inglis Island (first night) 12.02.20s – 136.09.50e to Grant Island after an all night cruise 11.09.46s – 132.52.12.We stayed here for two days enjoying some great fishing and walking on the deserted island. Every morning we would have 2 to 3 big crocodiles swimming around the boat. It seems they are in plague proportions up here. Ever day now we have sightings. I am keeping Ralf off the back swim platform from now on. We eventually move to the mainland and stay in a nice little bay called ‘Black Point’ 11.08.58s – 132.08.33e. The next day takes us over to Popham Bay 11.16.25s – 131.50.29e where a creek actually runs right through to Van Diemens Gulf. We explored it but was driven back by thick over growth so we decided to head for Darwin that night on the tide. We weighed anchor at 2.00am and headed around Point Don and down the 90 odd mile to Darwin. This section was the most boreing of our trip so far. The scenery is very ordinary and the water is an awful colour. We have forgotten what crystal clear water looks like. And of course the bloody trade winds, i.e. south easters at 20 knots never stop. We are staying at Cullen Bay Marina 12.27.06s – 130.49.11e. It is a beautiful marina and has all the facilities one would need. We will be here for a few weeks to look around and unwind and do some small repairs. All the marinas in Darwin are accessed via locks as the average tide rises and falls around 24 feet each day.
June 2nd. Mark arrives from the USA and Annie flys home for a fortnight to settle her daughter in who has moved back from the USA to live here permanently. I am still waiting for thermostats from Volvo to rectify an overheating problem so Mark and I decide to head off to Bathurst Island at 8 knots (the engine does not overheat at this speed) . The Island is 60 miles off the coast North of Darwin (11.38.000S – 130.20.000E) and was supposed to be crawling with Barramundi. As it turned out the only thing it was crawling with was bloody crocodiles. They were everywhere we went in plague proportions. We circumnavigated the island and came back down the Apsley straights separating Bathurst Island from Melville Island. We found out that you cannot catch fish in these regions during the spring tides as the currents are so strong that the water becomes like mud. Everywhere we went the water was the colour of chocolate and the current sometimes reached 6 knots. I guess one lives and learns.
It was decided to explore a section of Bathurst Island this morning so Mark, I and Ralf took the dinghy up stream to what looked like a small sandy beach. On the way up we startled at least 3 big crocs from their ʻslidesʼ with them slithering almost silently down the mud banks into the water. Mark nursed the 357 Magnum just in case one of them decided to try and board the dinghy. The next hour will turn out to be the most terrifying event of the trip. I navigated the dinghy into a little cove and headed for the beach. As the boat touched the shore Mark jumped out to bury the anchor and suddenly found himself up to his thighs in soft mud. At first he didnʼt realize his predicament, and that was to find out he could not extricate himself no matter how hard he tried. Before either of us realized how bad this mud was I had stepped out as well and Ralf jumped ashore to do his thing. Because Ralf was so light he didnʼt sink at all, he just ran up to the edge of the mangroves and started exploring. It was probably a couple of minutes later when Mark said he was unable to move. I managed to pull one leg up only to have it sink down in another spot. We looked at each other and didnʼt know whether to laugh or panic. We were stuck up to our waists in mud, the tide was coming in and the creek was full of crocodiles. To add to my fears, Ralf was
wandering around the mangroves and would become croc bait any minute. He just wouldnʼt come when called. I said to Mark that we had better start working on Plan B. We couldnʼt believe that we were all in such a dangerous situation so quickly. I continued to call Ralf and finally he came running down to the boat. I threw him into the dinghy and then said to Mark that I believe the best chance we had was for me to get out of the mud and then try and pull him out. I began to pull myself across the dinghy, at the same time trying to loosen my legs from this terrible mud. Little by little I felt my legs coming free and after 10 minutes, almost exhausted I was able to pull myself into the dinghy. The tide had come in about half a metre by now and the water was up to Markʼs chest. I said “We will have to get you out soon, big fella, or you are really in trouble”. Mark weighs about 130 kilo and it wasnʼt going to be easy. The plan was to start the engine and try and pull him out as he tried to haul himself up at the same time. It was just then that we spotted this huge croc swimming towards us. I picked up the Magnum with my muddy hands and fired a shot across its nose, possibly somewhere between its eyes and its protruding snout some 5 metres away. I either hit it or it got the message and turned around in a flurry of white water and disappeared. By this stage Mark was starting to panic, not to mention how terrified I felt. Mark kept saying “Donʼt let the bastards eat me alive, will you?” I remember saying to him “what do you want me to do?…shoot you?.” I said “ they might be protected, but not right here right now ther’re not”I started the outboard and revved it as hard as I could. It worked; Mark slowly started to slip out of the mud and was able to scramble aboard with my pulling him as well. We sat there in that dinghy, covered in filthy smelling brown mud, and I remember laughing almost till we cried. It was then that Mark realized the mud had swallowed his $150 pair of Nike runners.
June 9th. We arrive back in Darwin via Woods inlet where there has been a sighting of a big croc. The rangers had put out a trap to try and catch him. We tracked him down the next day, lying in the sun on the river bank. He was 14 foot long (4.3 meters) and as round as a 44 gallon drum. Unknown to us we had anchored 50 meters from him the night before. Mark and I looked at each other in horror as we had both used the “outside” loo the night before. In summary about the far north…I guess I would never be hired by the Darwin Tourist Association as my general opinion of the area is not very complimentary. The wind never stops blowing day and night, the water is a filthy blue/green milky colour when its not muddy. The humidity is only just bearable and the local fishing could do with some improvement. The place is lousy with crocodiles because the bloody greenies want them protected. (that is until one of their children gets eaten alive on a beach by one of them) The cost of most things up here is about 30% dearer than Queensland. The saving grace is the people are very laid back and congenial and we have made some great friends. There is only 120,000 people in Darwin and it has hardly any traffic problems. The pubs and restaurants are excellent value compared to other states we have eaten in.
June 22nd. Annie arrived back in Darwin yesterday and Ralf and I enjoyed her company over dinner last night and caught up with all the gossip from down south. We have decided to stay in Darwin for a three more weeks as we have the use of a friends car for that time. We will visit the local tourist things like Kakado and Litchfield Park.
July 10th. Our friends from Brisbane, Lee and Dee arrived to do the first part of the Kimberley trip with us. They were to meet up with us from Broome on the last part of our Kimberley trip but changed their mind. They will now do the first part down to the Berkley and back to Cambridge Gulf.
July 11th. We all set off for the Kimberley today ( at last) on the next leg of our journey. We go via the Peron Island group 13.08.020S 130.03 000E and the famous Daly river 13.19.450S 130.18.000E The Daly river turns out to be the colour of chocolate and the banks are crawling with big crocs. We set some crab pots with fresh catfish bait and by next morning we have 6 of the biggest muddies you could ever want. No decent fish only big catfish so we head off to the Cambridge Gulf. After exploring some of the gulf we head on over to the Berkley River 14.20.500S 127.47.000E where we had good tide so we went over the bar and into the river before dark. The next day we cruised up about 12 miles between magnificent cliff escarpments and spectacular waterfalls. The river was a little like Pitt Street as there were many tourist and visitor boats heading in both directions. We head up the river and anchor near a little creek for the night taking care to have at least 30 feet under us as the regions 6 meter tides can leave you high and dry if you are not careful. The next morning we explored the top of the river and had a lovely dip in one of the many fresh water pools (free of crocs). We headed back to the mouth to do a spot of fishing hoping to land one of the famous Berkley GT travallys. After a couple of great days in the Berkley we head further west another 40 miles and go into the King George River We had heard about the great falls up this river and wanted to see them for ourselves. The next day we made our way up to the end surrounded by massive cliffs only to find the falls had almost dried. As it was well into the dry season I guess it was to be expected. We camped in the river for a few days doing some great walks and the fishing was reasonable but not up to expectations. We reluctantly headed back to Cambridge Gulf and down to Wyndham to drop our friends off so they could continue on their way. We had decided not to go any further into the Kimberley as we had run out of time and we were not going on down to Perth now because of the weather on the west coast.
July 25th. We arrive back in Darwin after exploring the Cambridge Gulf and the incredible coast line along the top end. We will be staying in Darwin for a few weeks to prepare the boat for the return trip to the Gold Coast. We have decided not to attempt the circumnavigation due to the incredible bad weather on the west coast of Australia over the last few months. The swells have been constantly up around the 5 to 7 meters range and the winds a are constantly blowing from the South east. It has been the roughest seas on the coast for years. So we will go home a different way and see a lot of new places on the way.
August 13th. I can tell this story now that we are leaving Darwin tomorrow. As you know we are moored in Cullen Bay Marina and the Marina is full of huge Barramundi that have come through the lock at some stage and have not found their way out at. Every night we put our underwater lights on and within an hour these huge Barra start circling under the boat. Well there is a big sign up that says “No Fishing” so up till now these critters have been safe. Anyway, I can’t stand it any longer so the last night I put on a “rattler” lure (barra love them) and flick it out past this big fellow and wind like crazy. All of a sudden hell breaks loose behind the boat and I’m hooked up. I reckon you could hear the reel screaming up at the marina office but not to be put off I start playing this big, juicy, illegal barra. About 5 minutes go by and lots of giving and taking and finally …man one, barra zero. Of course I released him back to the wild (you all believe that don’t you???)
August 15th. We finally leave Darwin and head across the top of Ahnhem Land towards Gove. To avoid as much open sea as possible (the trade winds blow 20 knots from the east every day) we decide to run the gauntlet of keeping close to the coast line so we can duck into headlands and creeks at night to find comfort and protection from the winds. It was not an easy choice as most of the top end has not been adequately surveyed, especially the headlands and creeks. The constant worry of hidden klonkers and bombies just under the water is with you every moment. Our charts are pretty much useless as far as depths and hazards are concerned. But with constant care and a lot of ‘slowly does it’ we managed to escape damage. We discover some great bays and beaches and find some fabulous fishing spots, in some cases possibly where no white man has ever trodden I would guess.
We see some huge crocs as well, usually when we are trolling lures in our rubber tender, which makes us a little nervous to say the least. We run a little short of fuel due to some bad weather running at cruise speed so we call into the Aboriginal settlement at Galiwinku (12.03.20S – 135.33.48E) on Elcho Island and buy 200 litres of diesel and cart it out to the boat in jerry cans. This was mainly as a precaution in case we struck bad weather again. The Cadell Straights along this island are extremely beautiful and provided some great fishing.
28th August. We finally arrive at Gove. After re supplying the fruit and veg and of course the beer we decide to wait the wind out around the corner tucked into a nice little bay opposite Bremer Island. We get a break in the wind two days later and head off to Groote Island in the Gulf (14.00.00S –136.35.00E) We have decided not to attempt the 380 miles across the gulf to Cape York non stop. We would be running directly into 20 – 30 knots of east south east winds for 40 hours and waves of around 3 meters. The safer (and more comfortable ) option is to go around the Gulf via Groote, down to the Pellow group, on to Mornington Island and down to Karumba. From there we will refuel and head up the inside coast via Weipa to the Cape. Total miles 900 but that’s the price of safety.
4rd September. We arrive in Groote Island. We had a bad trip. The wind came from nowhere not long after we started and forced us eventually to seek shelter in a bay (unsurveyed) just befor dark. When we turned into the bay we were horrified as it was strewn with reef outcrops sticking out of the bay everywhere. There were bombies left, right and centre and a total depth of only 10 feet in the whole bay. We were faced with the decision to go back out into 3 meters and 30 knots or find a small reef free spot and drop the anchor for the night. We elected to drop the anchor. The wind and rollers came through all night while we took turns at anchor watch in case it slipped. It was possibly the worst nights sleep I haven’t had this trip. First light saw us weighing anchor and picking our way out of the mine field of reefs to open sea and on to Groote, still another 50 miles to go. It was at this stage we asked ourselves were we “really having fun”. It drains the spirit from you on these occasions and you start to question the reasons for the whole trip. But after anchoring up in a beautiful little bay in Groote and opening a cold beer I seem to have forgotten the dramas of the previous night…mmmm now where’s my fishing rod!.
6th September. Groote Island is mainly a mining community, with vast deposits of manganese in the ground. Almost all the island’s community works in the mining and production of this valuable metal. Apart from a pub and general store there was nothing for us to see or explore. We fished for 3 days and met up with Bruce and Juanita, owners of “Wild Card’, a 65 foot mackerel fishing boat. They were fabulous people to talk to and helped us out with fuel from their own tanks as Groote had no fueling facilities. We had originally planned to cruise down to Karumba via Vanderlin Island and Mornington where we could buy fuel but Bruce suggested that he give us some diesel and we could head straight across to Weipa and save 500 miles and a lot of travel time.. We graciously accepted his generous offer and did just that, as the weather looked like it was giving us a window we headed off to Weipa, some 350 miles straight across the gulf. One of the highlights of the trip across the gulf was passing longtitude 138 degrees about one third the way which meant we had entered Queensland waters once more and this felt good for some reason.
9th September. Weipa never looked so good to us. We had traveled for almost 20 hours at 14 knots across the gulf of Carpentaria when we were hit by a violent thunder storm some 70 miles befor Weipa. I could see it coming on the radar but there was nothing we could do but batten down. Up till then we had a good sea with only about 10 knots on the port quarter and about half a meter of sea, during and after the storm we ended up with 25 knots and 2.5 meters of sea for the rest of the trip. I had to tack south to put about 40 degrees on the waves for safety and comfort and ended up down near Cape Keirwere some 80 miles off course down from Weipa. We worked our way up to Weipa under the protection of the shore from there. Weipa also has very little for the tourist so we refueled the next day and headed north via an overnighter at Port Musgrave and onto Seisia. Now we were only 30 miles from the cape and the east coast. The next day the whole town turned out to see the huge croc they had trapped about 200 meters from the boat ramp. He had taken at least 3 dogs off the beach over the last month. Kids play on the beach every day, it makes a great argument for bringing back croc shooting. Just think how cheap womens hand bags & shoes would become if they did. One thing we did do at Seisia that I won’t miss was we were given some turtle eggs to eat. Well, we cooked ‘em according to the native recipe and one taste and I almost threw up. They were vile. I can understand why mother turtle crawls up the beach late at night and buries them, they should stay there if you ask my opinion.
15th September. Aloha Seisia sadly for the last time. We love the place with it’s friendly people and beautiful beaches, and the coconut palms swaying in the breeze, but we gotta move on. We did however ‘do’ the fishing club night again with the native band and great atmosphere, not to mention the tasty hamburgers. We took advantage of a good weather window (a weather window to us is NO BLOODY WIND) and ran virtually non stop down the east coast traveling day and night to reach Cairns 3 days later. We limped into Cairns with the smell of an oily rag for fuel but we didn’t run out. We had unpacked our 400 litre fuel bladder for the trip across the Gulf the week before (see CruisingLog for photos) and it came in mighty handy. A well earned rest in Cairns saw us hire a car for 3 days and do some site seeing. We then fueled up and decided to head down to Hinchinbrook Island and sneak into Zoe Creek for some Barra fishing. (we caught a heap there on the way up)
22nd September. Zoe Creek (18.22.50 S – 146.19.30 E) and anchored up about a kilometer up the creek. Getting into this creek requires a degree of insanity and a lot of nerve, not to mention a lot of experience. The entrance is protected by a wall of coral that spans out from the headland and only stops about 8 meters from the breaking surf on the left side. To get in without either hitting the coral and destroying the hull or hitting the sand and grounding in the surf one has to first wait for a high tide, then line up the channel and surf in on a wave and at the last minute turn across the surf and head into the narrow channel making sure not to venture too far right as the coral is only about 3 feet under the hull. We have done this twice now so I can say that it does get easier with experience. The reason one does these exciting things is of course to catch great fish, or at least we had hoped to. The first time we came in to this creek on our way up in April we had diurnal tides and the Barramundi were on the bite like no ones business, this time we had spring tides and massive current flow…you guessed it, no Barramundi. We did however get a nice feed of Grunter Bream and golden Trevally.
25th September. The plan was to stay up Zoe Creek for a week but due to no Barra we decided to exit on the high tide today and head down to Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. Getting out of the creek is also “heart in the mouth stuff” but we manage again and decide as the sea conditions outside are almost glassy that we would troll some mackerel lures the 60 mile to Magnetic. At 8 knots we took a little over 7 hours in what was a very pleasant sea. Unfortunately the mackerel didn’t show but we still have plenty of fish in the freezer anyway.
26th September. Sitting in Horseshoe Bay updating this web site. The sun is shining, there is not a cloud in the sky and the wind is a gentle 5 knots from the North. We will head off to the Whitsundays tomorrow to spend a week cruising around the many islands they offer and maybe do some snorkeling on some of the reefs down there. Hey, some ones gotta do it eh?
27th September. With the help of a slight northerly breeze we cruised into Port Denison which is just off Bowen .We anchored up for the night and phoned a local prawn fisherman that we were told would sell us some prawns at wholesale (Thank you Ray and Liz on Blue magic for the phone number). The next morning we picked up 5 kilo of fabulous prawns for $60. and headed across the bay to the Gloucester passage. I put out a lure (a deep diving pilchard) and within minutes had landed a spotty Mackeral around 6 kilo. The passage separates Gloucester Island from Cape Glocester and has a beautiful anchorage on either side. It officially is the start of the Whitsundays area. There is an ‘Eco” resort on the Cape where one can get a meal and a drink. We continued on however to a little island called Armit ( 20.05.800S – 148.38.800E ) where we anchored up for 3 days and explored the area and just relaxed.
2nd October. After reloading the stores and liquor cabinet at Airlie Beach We then picked up my daughter Tracey from Hamilton. She flew up for 4 days R & R spent cruising around the many islands. I am sure she had a good time, she even caught a couple of good Red Emperor. After the weekend we dropped her at the airport and headed off to the Percy Islands via St Bees Island where we stayed the night.
10th October. The next day we arrived at middle Percy Island. The winds picked up from the north and blew 25 to 35 knots for 3 days. We anchored in Whites Bay and spent the 3 days exploring the island and surrounding reef. Graham Scott from Yepoon (another Voyager owner) gave us a secret fishing spot not far from the anchorage and we caught a great feed off it on the second day. We got 2 Red Emperor, a huge Estury cod, 4 big Stripies and a heap of big Parrot. Thanks Graham, I’m sworn to secrecy.
14th October. The wind refused to abate so we decided to leave and head down to the Keppel group. With 25 knots behind us we surfed down to Rosslyn Bay and pulled into the Marina for the night. After topping off the fuel we ventured out the next day to Great Keppel Island where we stayed for 3 days fishing and walking over the island. We fished the same reef that we went to on our way up and it was firing again. Annie caught a 5 kilo Coral Trout and I got a good feed of Stripies. With the wind threatening again we took off for Yellow Patch on the tip of Curtis Island. (23.29.480S – 151.13.925E) We stayed here for 3 days. The place gets it’s name from the huge yellow sand hills that cover the inner peninsula of Cape Capricorn.
18th October. Again the wind never let up so we decided to head across to the ‘Narrows”. They are the 30 miles of inland waterways that separate Curtis Island from the mainland and allows one to safely cruise down to Gladstone in any weather. We spent one night in Pacific Creek then on to Grahams Creek and finally we shot across to Pancake creek to escape the damned S.Easters that were still blowing at 20 knots.
22nd October. We started to think that since the wind was never going to stop we may as well just head straight down to Urangun, top off the fuel and spend a couple of days in the Great sandy Straights. Which is what we did. When we headed off in the morning the wind dropped off and we had a dream run down past Fraser Island to Urangun. We did the 100 nautical miles in 6 and a half hours.
24th October. We were starting to think about home by now as we eased ourselves over the Wide Bay Bar and headed down to Mooloolabah for a quick stop off to see some friends, Ron and Gloria (another happy Voyager owner). We stayed the night and cruised down to Redcliffe the next day to see Family and friends before doing the final leg of our 7000 mile adventure.
28th October. 2007 The final leg to the Gold Coast went without incident and we tied up at Hope Island Marina after being away for 9 month. We had travelled 7000 nautical miles to the Kimberley and back and had an adventure of a lifetime. We have met some great people, some of which will remain friends forever, saw some beautiful places and experienced the splendour and ruggedness of this great country. I hope that all the people that followed our adventures on this web site enjoyed the log. You can read the full details of the trip in 10 monthly installments in the “Fisherman and Boatowner”. First issue next month.