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Adventures of Minstrel in the Kimberleys

by Pauline Fowler

Episode 9


Aboriginal Art at Raft Point

Wednesday 5 July

By 5 am this morning the wind was blowing a howling gale from the east and there was a strong swell hitting me side-on. I was rocking and rolling so violently that books were being thrown off the shelves and the cabin was a mess. By 6 am it was light enough to make a move so P&D pulled up my anchor and I motored further into the bay where it was more protected from the swells but a lot shallower. They decided not to go anywhere today so the day was spent exploring the bay by dinghy, burning rubbish on the beach, walking on the shore and reading. By midday the wind had calmed completely leaving the water clear and silky smooth.

Thursday 6 July

Easterly wind blowing a gale from 3 am but by midday it had eased off. My anchor was raised and I motor sailed 3.5 nm to the west side of Melomys Island and anchored in Mangrove Bay. As its name suggests the bay is ringed by mangroves with red cliffs and one small sandy beach that is only accessible when the tide is high enough to cover the mud. P is not going to go wading in mud again. The rash on her legs, which has caused her so much pain since walking in mud 10 days ago, is only now just starting to go away. On the way here D put the fishing line and lure out and something really big took it. While D fought with the line, P pulled down the sails. After fighting for 15 minutes the line finally snapped. I didn’t really want a fish that big pulled on board.

D rang Jason on the satellite phone who said he had organised 100 litres of fuel to be bought to the Horizontal Waterfalls on “The Great Escape” due to arrive there on Sunday afternoon. Now we will have to get moving to arrive there on time for the rendezvous.

Friday 7 July

Left Melomys Island being pushed along by an outgoing tide and a strong easterly wind. With just my jib up for half the distance I managed 2.5 knots then with my main up as well I raced along at 3.5 knots .The tide turned and the wind dropped just as I turned in a South East direction to help me get into Talbot Bay towards the Horizontal Falls. There are islands everywhere making navigation by sight impossible. Thank goodness for the GPS. I anchored in a small bay just out of the strong tidal flow having taken 7 hours to sail 18.8 nm.

Saturday 8 July

Left anchorage at 6 am and motored with the incoming tide but against a fresh east wind. I passed Slug Island, which looks like its namesake, then dropped anchor in the inlet for the Horizontal Falls, having gone 8.5 nm. I looked around to find two commercial boats with jet boats tethered behind. Also anchored nearby was a 2 masted 40 tonne commercial yacht.

P&D were anxious to make arrangements to go on a jet boat up the falls as they looked far too dangerous to take me anywhere near them. First they went to the yacht, whose name was Opal Shell, where the skipper invited them on board for a coffee. He gave them valuable information on how to get to Cape Leveque. Then they went to “Discovery Oz” and booked a place on the jet boat for the afternoon. At 2 pm the jet boat picked them up and took them for a half hour fast and furious ride up the first fall, nosed up to the second fall but not through it, did a few 360 degree turns and generally had fun. The skipper said his motor was not working properly and would take them for another run tomorrow after he had a chance to make repairs. Then he would collect payment of $25 each from them. After that P&D got in the dinghy and motored up a nearby creek which is used as a cyclone mooring for the pearl farmers .It was a gorge with high cliffs and very scenic. I was entertained all day watching float planes landing and taking off bringing passengers for the jet boat. He certainly was doing a thriving business.


Sunday 9 July

Another tour boat, “True North”, complete with helicopter on top arrived this morning so I was thoroughly entertained all day watching all the boats, jet boats, float planes and helicopter coming and going. The jet boat called for P&D and J&L and took them for a ride up the gorge and into Cyclone Creek and into the mangroves at the height of the incoming tide. They even watched a 10 foot crocodile for a while. Then another spin through the falls and some more 360 degree turns just for fun. They were away for 45 minutes and thought it very good value for $25 each. The rest of the day was spent reading. P made some bread and pizza, washed the sheets and towels and scrubbed as much of my hull as she could reach. The weed is growing back on my bottom again. P&D and J&L made friends with Peter and Carol on another yacht “Wathara 1V”. While everyone was having sundowner drinks on board Wathara, the tour boat “The Great Escape” arrived and delivered 5 x 20 litre jerry cans of fuel that Jason had put on board in Broome. It was gratefully received. Jim took 60 litres and P&D kept 40 litres. Now I should have enough fuel to get me through to Broome.

Monday 10 July

Left Horizontal Falls with the outgoing tide at 10 am .It was glassy calm so I motored past a large pearl farm near Slug Island, with thousands of black buoys and through channels between islands towards Koolan Island. Then, because I still had the tide helping me, I kept going through the narrow channel between Koolan island and the mainland with its tidal eddies and whirlpools and finally anchored, at 3.30 pm, in Silver Gull Creek, having motored 25 nm using 8 litres of fuel. I was surprised to find “Wathara” anchored nearby. Going past Koolan Island I could see an extensive area that had been blasted and mined for iron ore. At the waters edge were vehicles, a crane, barge and tugboat all working with lights flashing. It looked to me like they were constructing a wharf in preparation for resuming mining activities.

Tuesday 11 July

Pulled anchor at 9.am and motored 1.5 nm to the head of Silver Gull Creek with the incoming tide and anchored.

Years ago when BHP was mining at Koolan Island they put in a water tank that was continuously fed by a freshwater spring. A barge with a water tank would take water across to the island for use by the workers. When the company stopped mining all equipment was taken off the island but the water tank at Silver Gull Creek was left. Now yachties, tour boats, fishermen and anyone who requires fresh water use the facility. When I got there a fishing boat was filling up so while I was waiting my turn P&D motored ashore in the dinghy and met Marian and Phil who have set up camp there. Phil only wears underpants – even on his wedding day. He showed P&D the photos. Marian was fully dressed in Bali style clothes. P&D and J&L all had a swim in a tank especially cut down for that purpose. When it was my turn I motored over to the rusty remains of an old jetty and P&D used the hose to fill all my water tanks. P washed some clothes in the fresh water .By 2.30 the tide was half out so we had to leave before the creek got too shallow .I anchored near the mouth of the creek where I was last night.

to be continued....


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