The First 500 Nautical Miles – Fremantle to Carnarvon. April 2003.
It has now been 2 weeks since we departed Fremantle. It seems like a lifetime! It was wonderful to have time to spend with family and friends and have so many people drop by D Jetty to wish us Bon Voyage. Lady Jane’s escort for a few miles was very special and of course there was no film in our cameras! A few chocolate eggs on the end of streamers only lasted until the evening.
Di and Gorbar were on board Lady Jane. Di was looking at us whimsically, wanting to be with us. Peter sent her a text saying ‘this is your last chance, jump!’ Unfortunately he had her old mobile number and the unknown recipient was not amused! They felt, understandably, threatened.
Until Denham, Shark Bay, we would be three. Jules had come along for the first part of our journey. We were happy to have her on board and I guess she wanted to see us on our way. Any excuse to be at sea!
We were mentally prepared for this part of our trip being the worst, however we actually motor sailed as much as we sailed! It took us forever to get around the Beagles (and said ‘hello’ to them from Di) then motored the last 65 miles into Geraldton on the strength of a forecast of northerly winds. After 15 Geraldton races I have many memories of some of the horrid sea conditions, however, I have to get into cruising mode and remember that one does not need to go out in 45 plus knots! Full moon and a calm sea gave way to very enjoyable night watches. We had one reef in the main and no headsail, cruising along at 5.5 knots.
On our way in past Fairway, Geraldton, a charter boat skipper came over and asked us to take some keys to his girlfriend in exchange for us having the use of his pen in the marina. Had to be happy with that! We got weather information delivered as well with an offer of anything else we needed. The charter vessel would soon be heading to Broome, so hopefully we will see them again. The new museum overlooking the marina was well worth the visit. As the marina near the yacht club had been closed off we felt that it was worth a walk to have a look. No more pens or jetties where we all used to tie up after ‘The Race’!
On leaving Geraldton a little before first light we picked up our first pot just before the channel. We decided to lift the centreboard up to see if it would clear it. After 15 minutes of pulling, it was obvious that we had jammed it in the centreboard! Finally we were off again to the Abrolhos, to give us a better angle to Steep point. After a great sail, master mariner Jules suggested we go into Big Pigeon and anchor in a spot that she found. It was getting a little late and unnerving (for me) that we were between reefs that we could not see. Fortunately we saw some red and green markers and entertained a few launches on our anchoring tactics. We went a little too close to the reef and found a bit. It looked rather pretty sitting underneath us, however the world changes when you draw 1.2 m. By this time a SE breeze had come in at 20 knots, as it does. The only other yacht there was the old ‘Fremantle Doctor’ now called ‘The Shady Doctor’. Robbie has left a legacy of ‘Doctors’ as the most recent ‘Doctor’ was in a pen in the marina in Geraldton. We chatted to Meridian Passage who was tucked up behind Post Office IS to the south.
Setting off at 0830 to Steep Point – its easier leaving when you know where you are going. A fresh SE breeze had us moving along a good cruising speed until 1330 when we started motoring. This was the case for the next 100 miles to Steep Point. Many pods of dolphins came to see us – as has been the case every day. Had our first buzz by Coastwatch and gave the required info. After all the horror stories of Steep Point, apart from turbulence on the hull as we rounded the cape, our entry was benign. Flat water, dolphins and turtles and very little tide, to welcome us. We anchored in Shelter Bay with all the happy campers scattered along the beach. A new house has been built by the Cloughs (on their salt lease) just to the east of the ranger station. Not a bad holiday shack!
After two days at Shelter Bay we had to get Jules off to Denham to catch the bus. Once again we motored most of the way. We found a mooring in Denham with 0.9mm under the keel at low tide. Being a mile out from the beach made for some interesting rides with a 20 knot southerly.
On leaving Denham and venturing north up Cape Peron we found the flats that we had wanted to avoid. We had 1 metre underneath us, about 7 miles out from Cape
Lesueur – a nice weed bank. Very few of the shoals corresponded to the charts. On our afternoon approach to our anchorage at Broadhurst Bight, a small sail came out from the southern headland. Knowing it was very shallow in there, we assumed a trailer sailer. On anchoring, the small yacht came directly for us and asked if they could tie up to us. Thinking ‘you have to be kidding’ and making polite excuses for him not to, the lone sailor with dog poised on foredeck, sailed past our stern, went to shore and came back at us, for what I thought would be another go. The wind had come up to 20 knots again and we were parallel to the shore in a bit of a swell.
The next thing we knew was that our lone sailor yelled something about Denham and the black dog was swimming towards our boat. Peter rescued the dog and dragged him into the dinghy. By the time we had re-mounted the outboard on the dinghy to take the dog ashore, the dog had eyed the mother ship thinking it looked more like a possibility, and had leapt on board. Our plan was to drop the dog off so the happy campers on the beach could take it back to Denham, if indeed it came from Denham. It was a well cared for pooch, last seen with a grin bounding for the happy campers. The ‘hair of the dog’ the next morning took on a new meaning. On weighing anchor the next morning, we had a rather large piece of black carpet that had secured itself around our anchor. Peter just pointed to the carpet and said ‘dog!
Our sail to Carnarvon was without incident and very peaceful. Many trawlers to observe and some rather large fish surfing our stern wave! It was amazing to be out of sight of land for so long when you knew you were almost enclosed in the bay. Having still to work out our electronic tide computer, we thought we would be entering Teggs Channel on high tide. Wrong! After some confusion with the dredge in the channel, we turned into the Fascine and came into the yacht club under the advice of Toby. The shallowest spot was 300mm under the keel on almost low tide! The channel is easy to see on low tide. One step to port and I would be on land! Now having the tide computer sorted, we can go in confidence of at least the tide. (Having lived in Carnarvon for three years and having entered Tegg's Channel on serveral occasions on other yachts helped ease any confusion of getting in.)
Familiar surrounds bring me back to the mid 80’s. Nothing much has changed. The well was still in the park where we used to hide the remains of the wine cask when we went to the pub to have a good night out with the juke box!! This is our fist stop where we can relax, swim and just vege out. It is a short walk over the sand to the club for a swim, showers and a chat with Bill and Ray who are building the marina. I used to cruise with Bill out from Carnarvon on his 20foot Windrush in my younger days. Good to renew old acquaintances. These guys are retired and build the marina in their own time. They have lots of stories to share and have that well lived-in look.
We have a pen at CYC and will leave the boat here to return to Perth for a week in anticipation of the arrival of the new grandchild.