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Adventures of Minstrel in the Kimberleys

by Pauline Fowler

Episode 6


Wednesday 7 June

Sailed on jib only, 22 nm, to Prudhoe Island with a howling wind and angry sea behind me. As I got closer to the Island the wind dropped a fraction so I motor sailed the last few miles. I even had a pod of dolphins playing around my bow for a while. I am now in a nice protected anchorage while P&D are exploring in the dinghy. They saw a log floating in the sea nearby, which turned into a 10 foot long crocodile.

Thursday 8 June

Wind is still strong. The general pattern is that it is strong easterly in the morning, dies down in the afternoon and is calm at night until 4 am when it starts up again. It is at its most ferocious at 8 am when I am ready to get going.

Today I sailed to Wary Bay on Bigge Island. P&D went ashore and discovered a large and impressive gallery of ancient aboriginal paintings. The bay is very picturesque with huge rock formations and clear blue water.

Friday 9 June

Left anchorage at 6 am to take advantage of the incoming tide and had a good fast sail under main and jib for half the distance to Boomerang Bay 8.5 nm away. Once I turned into the bay I had to motor straight into the wind to find a place to anchor. The wind dropped and the day turned calm and glorious. D&P went exploring the beaches in the dinghy. In the after noon, P tried to brush off the algae and barnacles that are growing on my hull. It was hard work but she managed to clear about 6 inches along my waterline.

Saturday 10 June

Today was the roughest day of my whole trip so far and at times I feared for my safety.

While my anchor was being raised at 6 am I noted that my little anchor line buoy had been bitten in half during the night. I suspect that a crocodile had taken a disliking to it.

I sailed out of Boomerang Bay with all sails up at that early hour to take advantage of the outgoing tide but as the morning progressed the wind got stronger and stronger. My main was reduced to the second reef and my jib was furled in. The waves got bigger and bigger and the wind howled from the south. I had to battle straight into it with my motor going at three quarter strength. The dinghy did a miraculous balancing act threatening to capsize numerous times but just managing to hold on at the last moment. I bounded over huge waves and sometimes my motor was completely out of the water. Then to make matters worse the tide turned against me and even though I had my motor going flat out I was only making 1 ˝ knots. We made for the lee side of Tiungkurakutangari Island and dropped anchor to wait 3 hours for the tide to turn and hopefully for the wind to moderate and change direction. D took the opportunity to refill my empty fuel tank and have lunch.

We got going again by 3 pm and motored another 6 nm to a much nicer anchorage at Kartja Island having battled for 26 nm today.

For the 33 days I have sailed so far the wind has been from the east and the one day I want to go south the wind changed to a southerly. That’s called “Murphy’s Law”.


Sunday 11 June

By 3 am the wind had come in and built up to a howling 30 knot plus gale coming from the east. I was anchored in the wrong place with no protection what so ever. The wind built up big waves and threw them at me so I rocked and rolled, dived and dipped so fiercely that I worried my anchor or my anchor rope wouldn’t hold. No one got any sleep and P&D were ready with spare anchor and rope and motor ready to go in case something gave away. By 8 am the wind was just as bad and they realised that sailing to the next destination was out of the question and there was an urgent priority to find shelter. We motored 3nm and found a protected bay to wait out the wind and the tide.

During the afternoon the wind calmed down but by then the tide was going the wrong way so P&D got in the dinghy and went exploring around the fantastic rocks and cliffs. P made some bread and washed clothes and sheets in seawater.

Monday 12 June

Left anchorage at 6 am with the intention of sailing to the mouth of the Hunter River with the incoming tide but by 8 am the wind had once again built up to a howling gale. It got too strong for me and I feared that something would break as I tried to head into 12 foot waves as the wind fought against the tide. When a couple of really big waves laid me on my side and everything in the cabin fell out of shelves D decided to change course and run for the shelter of a bay on Boongaree Island. Once anchored P had quite a clean up job but luckily nothing got broken. Tomorrow we will try a different tactic.

I had an Angelfish hovering around my ladder all afternoon. Maybe it is feeding on all the weed and barnacles that are growing on my hull. I am becoming a floating reef.

Tuesday 13 June

Woke up to the usual howling gale from the south east but by midday it had calmed so my anchor was pulled and I motor sailed into Prince Frederick Harbour towards the mouth of the Hunter River. The tide was against me and it took a long time to get anywhere. I felt as though I was going backwards but I persevered and used a lot of fuel and finally got to a nice anchorage off Naturalist Island at 5 pm having battled against the tide for 14 nm. I dropped anchor next to a large tour boat, Odyssey Expeditions.

Wednesday 14 June

Woke to the welcome sound of birds singing in the calm morning air. I was anchored near the shore of Naturalist Island which is mountainous and covered with tropical rain forest vegetation. We watched in amazement as two helicopters flew in and landed on the beach then later took off again with passengers from the Odyssey Expedition tour boat. D&P went to the tour boat and asked the captain if he could spare us any fuel but no luck.

My anchor was pulled 10 am and I motored with the incoming tide into the Hunter River. I did a left turn and motored into Porosus Creek as far as I could, about 3 nm, before anchoring and resting while P&D explored another 2 nm in the dinghy. Very picturesque with high rock cliffs and fringing mangroves. Perfect habitat for crocodiles, which made D very nervous in his little dinghy. He took his shotgun along for security. I took up anchorage for the night at the mouth of the creek. Saw red crocodile eyes when P shone the spotlight after dark. Definitely not the spot to go swimming.

to be continued....


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