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Adventures of Minstrel in the Kimberleys

by Pauline Fowler

Episode 10


Low Tide in Crocodile Creek

Wednesday 12 July

The weather has turned nasty with strong NW winds, overcast and threatening to rain. We pulled anchor at 9.30 and motored against the wind, the tide and rough seas for 4 nm out of Silver Gull and into Crocodile Creek. Once in the creek it was better and I motored with the incoming tide another 2 nm to a basin and waterfall at the head of the creek .The instructions in the Fremantle book were to put a bow anchor on the sandbar at the entrance of the basin then run a stern anchor to tie off on the cliff which is what we did with no problems. Levanter charged straight in and tried to tie up alongside the cliff and got herself into all sorts of trouble. Jim didn’t want any advice or help so all my crew and I could do was wait and watch for him to sort Levanter out. Then along came Wathara with Peter and Carol. After about one and a half hours of manoeuvring with ropes we finally ended up with Wathara, Levanter and myself rafted up in the small basin .After lunch P&D climbed a ladder, bolted onto the cliff, up to the first pool where there is a shelter built by the workers of Cockatoo and Koolan Islands. All the passing yachts have hung plaques so D hung the one he had made out of driftwood and burned the words “Minstrel Shark Bay 2006 Pauline and Dexter Fowler” .Then they climbed to the top of the second fall and had a swim in the lovely fresh water.

When the tide went out the creek dried out leaving only the basin that the boats were in with water. With the weather so wild it is the best place to be at the moment.

Thursday 13 July

Quite an experience being rafted up to two other yachts in a pond with a dry sandbar and rocks in front and high cliffs on three sides at low tide. Then the tide rose 9.5 metres and one could motor a dinghy into the pool at the top of the first waterfall. D got up early and climbed the cliff to take photos at low tide. After breakfast they both climbed above the waterfall for a freshwater swim. P cooked a cake and shared it with everyone for morning tea. By 11 am the tide had risen sufficiently so the rafting ropes were untied and Levanter, Wathara and myself all motored out of the basin and into the creek. Once out in the open ocean a cold fresh southerly wind hit right on the nose so I had to motor 5 nm to Coppermine Creek then another 5 nm up the creek through a pearl farm to a not very exciting anchorage. The Fremantle book gave it a glowing report but I am wondering if it was worth the effort. On the way I passed Cockatoo Island with its iron ore mining in progress and a big ship being loaded.

Friday 14 July

Woke up to cold and strong SE wind. P&D had coats and tracksuits on all day.

Following Wathara I left anchorage at 10 am and let the strong wind blow me against the tide out of the creek. Then motoring sometimes with but mostly against the incoming tide and the wind I went past numerous islands and rocks. I got to Whirlpool Passage, a narrow passage between an island and the mainland which is notorious for its strong tidal flow, eddies and whirlpools, just in time to get through with the tide. Then across Strickland Bay and finally anchored in a creek on the Gerald Peninsula at 5 pm. It was a hard day of motoring and I used a whole tank of fuel (12 Litres) to go 26 nm. Whirlpool passage was a bit scary with its strong current, eddies and whirlpools even though I did tackle it at slack high tide. Any other time it would have been far too dangerous.

Saturday 15 July

Had some really strong winds with gale force gusts last night. The trouble was a very strong tide was blowing one way and the wind was blowing the other way. I didn’t know where to point .I tried to point into the tide but the strong wind gust would slam into my stern and force me sideways. Even though I was in a protected bay I was dancing on my anchor all over the place. P&D were up in the middle of the night checking my anchor to make sure it hadn’t moved. We decided to stay put until the weather improved so this morning P did some fishing and caught a shark, which she let go. At midday a plane flew over and made radio contact with P telling her about another creek system which would be worth checking out. Wathara, Levanter and I all motored about 2 nm to another anchorage into a very extensive and very pretty creek system much better than the last. P&D went exploring up the creek in the dinghy with their fishing lure out but didn’t catch anything.

Sunday 16 July

Pulled anchor at 8 am and motor sailed to “The Graveyard” at the eastern end of Strickland Bay. It was so named because of all the early pearl divers who lost their lives there. To get into the bay I had to negotiate a narrow channel between two islands through which the tide was racing. I tried to get there on the slack tide but unfortunately I was too early and the tide was still going the wrong way. Dexter had to really gun my motor and negotiate eddies and whirlpools, which threw me around, to get through. We found an anchorage with 10 metres of water and waited for Levanter who had got grounded in the creek we anchored in last night and had to wait for the tide to come in. As it turned out she was better off than I was because Jim was able to scrub some of the weed off of her bottom while she was high and dry and when she got to the entrance channel she was able to shoot through with the tide in her favour.

P&D got in the dinghy and did some exploring around an island that was reported to have some pearl divers graves. They couldn’t find them.

Monday 17 July

A fresh strong SE wind blew all night and morning making the temperature plummet .It feels like being down south in winter. At low tide I was surrounded by mud banks and shallow water so I couldn’t go anywhere until the tide came in. D put out a fishing line with a small fish as bait on it when something really big grabbed it and took off .The line eventually snapped, thank goodness, I didn’t want anything that big on board. It would be good to land a small fish though as P&D are getting very tired of eating tinned and packet food.

By lunch time the wind had eased and the tide risen enough for me to move camp 2 nm away close to the mouth of the Jinunga River in the NE corner of the Graveyard where Peter and Carol in Wathara were anchored. Everyone got in their dinghys and motored up the river past mangroves and spectacular rugged rocks and the odd crocodile until they could go no further then they motored back.

Tuesday 18 July

Left the Graveyard anchorage at 6 am and motor sailed through the chute with the outgoing tide. There were whirlpools and eddies which threw me around a bit but nothing I couldn’t handle. Motor-sailing around the tip of Gerald Peninsula, I met more fierce tidal currents and used a heap of fuel with motor going flat out to get around. Then the tide turned and I had an easy run into Cone Bay looking for an abandoned Hippie Community that Jason had told P&D about. We found a pearl farm with their headquarters on the spot so we kept on going to an anchorage in Crawford bay. I had used 10 litre of fuel to go 24 nm. My friend Arritaii was anchored there and Brett and Angela invited everyone on board for Sundowners. Brett gave very sound advice on how we should tackle the big trip to Cape Levique, “Leave on an incoming tide to get to the middle of King George Sound then catch the outgoing tide to take us to Cape Levique". It depends on getting the right tide combinations, which won’t, happen until Friday at the earliest. It looks like I am going to have a couple of days rest.

to be continued....


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