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from Rob Legg Yachts

Adventures of Minstrel in the Kimberleys

by Pauline Fowler

Episode 2


The Berkley River

Wednesday 10 May

What a terrible night! I faced into the wind but was side-on to the waves and I rocked and rolled all night. No one got much sleep. We left at 5.30 am and, with following sea and 25 knot wind, sailed across the top of Cambridge Gulf and along the coast. It was very rough. I developed a leak and my cabin floor was wet. My dinghy rope broke twice (luckily it was tied on with two). Levanter’s dinghy lost her outboard motor (Jim had bought another old one as a spare). We arrived at the mouth of the Berkley River at 2 pm, dropped the sails and motored up the river in approx 10 meters of water. What a relief to be in calm water and so beautiful with high rock cliffs. Turned right at the first creek and came to an amphitheatre with a waterfall flowing over the cliff. We dropped anchor near the foot of the falls. P and D motored over in the dinghy and had a shower under the falls in the lovely fresh water. What a beautiful place to spend the night after such a rough, tiring day. We had sailed 40 nm today.

Thursday 11 May

I spent all day in front of the waterfall while P did the clothes washing taking advantage of the fresh water. D and Jim spent the morning putting an attachment onto my tiller arm because it looked weak and in danger of breaking. Jim had a 240 volt drill and angle grinder, bits of stainless steel plate and assorted nuts and bolts. D had the 240 volt generator, rope and piece of wood and between them they made a device to strengthen the tiller arm. I hope it works next time I get into rough seas. P and D also washed all the road dust off me and washed my cabin and cockpit carpets. It’s good to feel clean again.

The Berkley River

Jim found a grotto with a smaller waterfall about 500 metres away so the four of them spent a couple of hours showering under the falls and relaxing in the cool shade.

Friday 12 May

Another day relaxing in paradise in front of the waterfall on the Berkley River. P and D found I had water in my front seat bench so all of Dexter’s bed and all the contents of the bench had to come out as did the carpet and floor boards and everything dried out. D put Selleys sealer in all the corners and everywhere he thought water might come in. He also got the generator going to put some charge into my batteries. Then P and D, J and L went to the grotto for morning tea and a shower. They forgot to keep an eye on the tide and when they were ready to leave they found the tide had gone out so far the dinghies were high and dry on the rocks. They had to wait for 3 hours for the tide to come in enough to be able to float the dinghies again. D cut his leg quite badly when he slipped on a rock. In the afternoon Levanter took everyone 12 nm up the river .It was beautiful gorge with towering cliffs all the way and they saw two bat colonies in the fringing mangroves.

Saturday 13 May

I motored out of the Berkley River into really rough seas and 25 – 30 knot winds. Coming out of the river mouth over the shallow bank was horrendous but once committed there was no going back. After I turned north with the wind and waves behind me and my jib up it wasn’t so bad. I got worried when the dinghy kept surfing down the waves and going past me. We had intended to go into Atlantis Bay but the waves were too dangerously large to get in so we had no option than to sail another 9 nm where we were able to get into Seaplane Bay. My self-furler played up, I lost a solar light and I am still taking in water but as long as P & D pump out my bilge every now and then I am in pretty good shape. I sailed 20 nm today.

Sunday 14 May

I woke up this morning and found my batteries were dead flat. The Engel fridge is drawing too much power and my solar panel can’t keep up. D borrowed Jim’s battery pack to start the motor and with my mainsail up I motor sailed to Koolama Bay, 20 nm away. The wind got stronger and stronger, I am guessing to 35 knots, and the sea got rougher with huge following waves. It was a real relief to get into Koolama Bay and anchor. D & P went ashore in the dinghy to light a fire and burn all their rubbish while the generator ran to put some charge into my batteries. P made some bread .It is cooking in the oven now and smells delicious.


Waterfall - Casurina Creek Berkley River

Monday 15 May

We pulled anchor at 6.30 am in order to negotiate the sandbanks at the mouth of the King George River at high tide, then motored 6 nm up the river through a gorge with spectacular high towering cliffs on both sides. The gorge ended with two thundering 100 metre high waterfalls. We dropped anchor about 300 metres from the falls next to a grotto with a smaller waterfall which looked like a good place to wash and shower. No sooner had I got settled in when along came a huge tourist boat, then another and another until there were five in all. Just as well I was anchored well back as the area in front of the falls was very crowded with all these huge “ships” and their dinghies. P & D got in to my dinghy and motored around the sides of the gorge and as close to the falls as they dared. It really is a breathtakingly beautiful sight. After lunch we all relaxed. P & D read books for a while then went to the private grotto waterfall to have a wash.

Now it is getting dark. All the tourist boats have left and we have this beautiful place all to ourselves.

Tuesday 16 May

My batteries are flat again. D ran the generator again while D & P, Jim & Liz climbed the track up the cliff to the top of the falls. They took lots of photos of the magnificent gorge and had a swim in the pool at the top. By the time they struggled down to the bottom of the gorge again, three tourist boats had arrived and the area immediately in front of the falls was crowded with zodiacs and dinghies ferrying passengers to the foot of the goat track up the cliff. The cruise ship “Orion” had anchored in Koolama Bay and was ferrying their passengers up the gorge in the ships launches.

P & D, J& L even got invited on board one of the smaller tourist boats for a cup of coffee which was gratefully accepted.

After lunch D noticed my back stay rope was starting to fray so he spliced a new piece of rope over the frayed spot. I hope it holds. P cooked a loaf of bread and roast beef and veges and shared it with Jim and Liz. Yum !

Wednesday 17 May

I motored 5 nm downstream to a tributary where D & P left me on anchor and motored in the dinghy up the creek to another gorge that ended in a waterfall. Jim and Liz decided it was too windy to go out into the ocean or in their dinghy so Levanter motored back to the main waterfall. After P & D came back to me, we motored up stream again to the main anchorage and on the way stopped for a while and did some fishing, without success, and a bit more exploring in the dinghy.

P & D, J & L got invited on board “Arritaii”, a double masted Warrum catamaran owned by Brett and Angela, that had anchored near me, for Sundowner drinks.

to be continued....


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