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Adventures of Minstrel in the Kimberleys

by Pauline Fowler

Episode 7

Thursday 15 June

This morning we waited for the tide to turn then motored up the Hunter River with the incoming tide. It is very beautiful with high rock cliffs fringed with mangroves. After 4 nm I came to a T junction where Levanter and I got left at anchor while P&D, J&L got in their dinghies and motored a further mile into a narrowing mangrove lined gorge until they found a freshwater stream trickling through mud caked rocks. They anchored the dinghies and slipped and crawled over the rocks to clear fresh water where they filled their containers and washed clothes and bodies. By that time the tide had come in, covering all the rocks making them feel very exposed to the possibility of crocodile attack so they wasted no time in getting back to their dinghies and motoring back to Levanter and I. P hung the washing on my rigging and had lunch. While having a siesta P noticed a 10 foot crocodile go gliding passed me.

With the turn of the tide it was time to motor downstream to an anchorage at Naturalist Island just out of the mouth of the river. I had motored 15 nm today.

Friday 16 June

My anchor was pulled at 4 am. It was dark but the half moon was shining and most importantly the tide was going in the right direction, with a light breeze. I had to leave at this early hour to take advantage of the outgoing tide.

It was quite beautiful motor sailing along with a light breeze under a canopy of stars, and then being able to see the spectacular red, then pink then gold of dawn. I reached my anchorage in the sheltered bay on Boongaree Island, 13 nm away, just as the tide changed at 8 am. P&D spent the rest of the day resting, reading, burning rubbish on the beach and as it was quite hot, having a swim, keeping a sharp eye out for crocodiles.

Saturday 17 June

Left Boongaree Island anchorage at 6 am with tide and wind in the right direction. With all my sails up I made good time as the easterly wind gradually freshened to 20 knots arriving at Ivy Cove on Glauert Island 15.5 nm away by 10.30 am.

P&D went ashore in the dinghy and found a very old, very large boab tree on which had been carved “Ivy 18.10.1891”. The Ivy was a pearling schooner working the area under Captain Biddles at that time.


Sunday 18 June

Waited for the tide to turn before we left Ivy Cove at 9.30 am to motor-sail in a light easterly breeze to Careening Bay 6.5 nm away. P&D went ashore and discovered a very large old boab tree with the carving “Mermaid 1820”. They looked for fresh water without success and had a quick swim, as the weather was hot and calm.

The Coral Princess came in and anchored next to me then took a tender load of passengers to the beach to look at the boab trees. Jim motored over in his dinghy and spoke to the captain and managed to buy 60 litre of petrol, which he shared with me.

Monday 19 June

At 6 am I motored close to the beach and P&D set me up with a stern anchor holding my rear to the beach and a bow anchor keeping me pointing out to sea, and then waited for the tide to go out. By 9 am I was high and dry and what a sorry sight I was. My bottom was covered in barnacles and weed – I looked like a reef. For the next 2 ½ hours until the tide came back in P&D rubbed and scrubbed and scraped frantically. They found the best way to get the weed off was to rub my hull with sand and the barnacles came off by scraping with a piece of wood. They couldn’t get right under me but they cleaned up a good 90%. It feels so good to be clean again; I’m sure I will sail faster now. P&D are complaining of sore arms and cut fingers but I am feeling wonderful


Careening Bay

Tuesday 20 June

Had to wait until 11 am for the incoming tide before we could leave Careening Bay. The wind was a howling southerly in the morning but by the time I was ready to leave it had turned easterly and moderated slightly – just what I wanted. I motor-sailed at approximately 4 knots with help from the tide passed Capes Brewster and Wellington and finally anchored in a bay near Whirlpool Point 18.1 nm away at 3.30 pm having used 8 litres of fuel. The scenery all the way was magnificent with cliffs, green trees and blue sea.

Wednesday 21 June

The tides seem to be flowing the wrong way to get into the Prince Regent River.

This morning we started at sunrise (6 am) to get as far as possible on the incoming tide before it turned. By 7 am I had managed to motor 4 nm before I had to anchor in a bay and wait out the ebb tide. At 1.30 pm I was able to go again with a strong flood tide. The wind had calmed so I motored with the tide which at times had me speeding along at 6 knots passed Strong Tide Point and through King George Basin to anchor near the mouth of the Prince Regent River 13 nm away.

Thursday 22 June

Up and away at sunrise (6am) to catch the last few hours of flood tide to get us into the Prince Regent and anchored in Purulba Creek before the tide turned at 9 am. There are rocks and sandbars in the river so it was essential to have daylight to see the hazards.

Once I was safely anchored P&D got in the dinghy and motored up Purulba Creek 4 nm to find some aboriginal paintings. They found lots of rocky outcrops, mangroves, 2 crocodiles beautiful scenery but no paintings. They spent the rest of the afternoon resting, reading and watching a DVD while the tide rushed out.

Friday 23 June

Up anchor at 6 am and motored with the incoming tide 4 nm to an anchorage in the Prince Regent River opposite Camp Creek to find a tour boat “Kimberley Explorer” already there .I was left at anchor in an amazingly strong rushing tide while P&D got in the dinghy and motored 3 nm up Camp Creek to the head of the creek where the fresh water enters the tidal zone. They tied the dinghy up to a rock and walked and climbed along the creek for an hour before coming to two waterfalls with a deep pool between. They were lucky to be able to follow the trail left by the Kimberley Explorer people or they might not have found the falls. They spent some time swimming in the deep pool and talking to the other tourists before making the climb back down to the dinghy and then back to me. They had seen 4 crocodiles.

Saturday 24 June

What a day. I have had a very full day today. Up and away by 6.30 am motoring up the Prince Regent River with the incoming tide, racing along at 5 knots. After 2 hours of negotiating rocks and sandbanks I got to the Kings Cascades. What a beautiful sight. Unfortunately the Kimberley Explorer came along and anchored right in front of the falls, which spoiled my enjoyment of them. P&D got in the dinghy with every available water container and filled them with lovely fresh water. They loaded me up with 120 litres of water. Then they climbed the cliff hoping to get to the pool at the top of the falls but after they an hour of climbing and clambering over rocks they gave up, very disappointed that they didn’t get there. They had missed the “path”. Levanter and I had been visited by a 6 ft crocodile, just checking us out. P did the clothes washing and by 12 .30 it was time to leave with the ebb tide. Motoring along with the strong outgoing tide took me all the way to the mouth of the river having gone 25 nm for the day.

Sunday 25 June

By 8.30 a fresh easterly breeze had sprung up so P&D decided not to wait for the outgoing tide and to try and sail, with the help of the wind, against the incoming tide. My anchor was pulled and with all sails up I left the Prince Regent River mouth with the wind behind me but the tide against me. The wind won and I managed a speed of 2.5 knots for 10 miles. Then the tide turned and even though the wind had dropped by then, I flew through the eddies and whirlpools of Strong Tide Point and Whirlpool Point at 6 knots and even got up to 8 knots in one place. I needed to motor the last 4 nm when the wind died and coming into an anchorage on the west side of Uwins Island. P&D went ashore to light a fire and burn their rubbish. I had gone 22.5 nm today.


Monday 26 June

Up and away by 7 am with a fresh breeze and the tide going in the right direction I sailed 4 nm into One Tree Island Gorge where I anchored while P&D went exploring in the dinghy. It was only a small gorge, about 2 nm long, but very picturesque with high cliffs. At the end they came face to face with a large crocodile, so they decided to turn back and come back to me. When the tide turned at midday I sailed with the ebb tide out of the bay and another 7.5 nm to a bay near High Bluff. It was a beautiful afternoon sail passed high cliffs on a smooth azure sea with a steady breeze behind me.

Once at anchor P&D went ashore in the dinghy for a walk. The beach had an army of little crabs running around in platoons and Pauline got carried away photographing them. When they wanted to leave they found that the tide had gone way out leaving the dinghy high and dry. They had to pull, push, heave and drag the dinghy about 200 metres through the soft mud, sinking to their knees with each step. D was very cranky by the time he got back to me and both were covered in mud.

Tuesday 27 June

Anchor was lifted 6 am to take advantage of the incoming tide to get us to Sheep Island 17 nm away. Wind was fresh with strong gusts and I made good speed through Port George 1V and flew through the Rogers Straight with its strong tidal eddies and whirlpools, sometimes reaching 8.5 knots. I anchored off Sheep Island and P&D went off exploring in the dinghy. They discovered a tiny little island with a shell beach and a very large boab tree with carvings on it. Behind the tree were 8 graves one of which had a headstone. “Mary ---- died 1865 aged 30”. A bottle with a paper in it gave information on all the people who had been buried there ranging from boat crews to men women and children who had been part of a failed farming venture on the mainland 1865 to 1895. P&D thought they could see the ruins of the settlement on the nearby mainland but they couldn’t find a landing place and didn’t want to go through the crocodile infested mangroves.

By lunch time the tide had turned in the right direction and the wind was still with me so I sailed off through Breknock Harbour and then came to a minefield of black buoys as far as the eye could see. We had come to Kuri Bay Pearl Farm, reputed to be the largest pearl farm in the world. The wind had died by then so I motored very carefully through and around the pearl lines and finally anchored just west of Kuri Bay. I had sailed 24.6 nm today.

to be continued....


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