Dampier to Broome. June-July 2003
The anchorage at Hampton Harbour was one of the best – but perhaps that was because there was no wind! The million-dollar view of the yacht club and friendly staff contributed to the pleasurable visit. The first day there we did a tour of the facilities (which took about 20 minutes!) in order for Rod to find some cigars. He had run out at the ‘Monties’ and now being in port was too much. However, a Sunday and no cigars it was. Bugger!
Our original plan was to stay for a few days and go to Karratha to shop on Tuesday. Even though Monday was a public holiday, Karratha shopping centre was open for a few hours. Luckily for us Bill and Carolyn from ‘Perriwinkle’ were at the anchorage and had access to a vehicle that could carry 7 people! So eventually we all went mad and purchased whatever, as we had not really been shopping since Carnarvon. Having to pick up the actual owner of the vehicle on the way back, we had a total of 8 people and a load of shopping in the 4-wheel drive. Some disparaging remarks were made concerning my posterior fitting between the seats on a carton of cans. Perhaps Rod was worried about sitting on the floor in the back and the possibility of what would happen if the cans split. John, who had made the initial comment looked sheepishly and asked if he had said the wrong thing!
The old saying of ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’ overcame us Monday night (2/6/2003) as the ‘weather gods’ forecast two more days of this weather then a high ridging in and strong easterlies developing. We were off!! It was over to the rusty barge for a hose down and then straight for Flying Foam passage. We had planned our departure for 1000 hours Tuesday morning to coincide with slack water to transit the passage. The passage was beautiful, calm and except for a few whirlpools, uneventful. We did see turtles and dolphins, which have become daily occurrences. We did have a few minutes of silence as we remembered what we had read about the massacre of the Aboriginals in Flying Foam Passage. Such a dark history in more ways than one!
The 120 NM to Port Hedland was uneventful – motor sailing all the way. A 15-20 knot easterly piped up at around 0500 on Wednesday morning as we were coming in. We were a bit slack calling the Port Authority and they had us nailed as ‘the blue hulled yacht entering the Channel at pylon 20 do you copy’. We apologised profusely and gave our details and called them when requested – after we had anchored.
The anchorage at Hedland along the spit in the designated area was satisfactory, albeit a bit rolly and a bit of a ride in the dinghy. On high tide we could negotiate the channel into the yacht club. We stayed for a week to let the strong winds die down. With our course now easterly, we felt it was more gentlemanly to wait for the easterlies to pass. The days were filled with essentials like getting fuel, going to the races, (at least Peter found his way into a private function and got us free drinks to compensate for the $22 entry fee!), checking e-mail, a visit to the Emporium, (which stocks anything and everything) and to customs. For some reason only known to Rod and Peter, they decided that a jerry can was an essential purchase (Rod unfortunately had a new one stolen at the yacht club in Hedland) and paid $50 for one, only to find them for $15 in Broome. Hmm!
On one shore visit we decided to tie the dinghy at the customs jetty – the landing, which we embarked, was underwater – knee high! By the time we got back it was a step down into the dinghy. Good timing. Next day, with much discussion as to how we were going to get all the shopping and 6 people back to the boats in the ute (6 people trying to make a decision can be quite painful!) and much activity of loading and unloading the shopping whilst changes were made (Becky won the ‘how many times can you move all the shopping competition’). The boat ramp won out in the end (tide was too low to get dinghies into yacht club where shopping was unloaded first!)- Becky pointed out the ‘no swimming sign due to crocodiles’ – but the most recent one visiting the area was high and dry (and stuffed!) in the yacht club bar.
By now Customs and Coastwatch know all about us! The word is that we cannot ‘do’ the Kimberlies after clearing at Broome. Darwin is our only option. Plans were made so that they can be changed! Neither Peter nor I had been to Darwin for some time, so we were quite excited at the prospect. At worse, it means an extra two or three days sail to Kupang – but were we not out here to sail? We could have tried to get away with it but were told that if we were found up a river, we would be up the creek! The interrogation apparently is not a pleasurable experience!
Having watched the weather carefully, another window opened up, so the following Tuesday (10/6/03) was time to up anchor and sail to Broome.
Sail is perhaps the wrong word as we had given up pretending we were in fact a yacht. The first part of the 260 miles saw us motoring. By 0300 the next day we could finally sail for a while on the light easterly. But as easterlies finally die (which we were generally thankful for down the track) we were motoring again by 0800. We needed to motor sail back towards the coast so as to create a better angle for the stronger easterlies the next day. By this stage we had just over 100 NM to go.
Late morning Rod announced that he had caught a large Spanish Mackerel, followed shortly by another! Another fish curry coming on! We had our lines out and crossing the same area (some few hours later!) we had caught one as well. Miss Conduct followed suit! I was wondering what I could do to fill in the time. This was the very first fish to be ‘dealt with’ on board Stolen Kiss. This time we had the gaff. Peter (after a few prayers and request for foregiveness) clubbed it over the head with the double-handed winch handle and all was done with very little blood on the deck. Phew! The books say that a fish should be cleaned, filleted and on ice 15 minutes after landing. A little quick for me!
1530 hours still had us motor sailing. The autopilot was doing a great job. We thought that we would take the opportunity of enjoying the sunshine and light winds. We had a shower on deck and lazed around, exposing those parts that never get to see the sun! Of course Coastwatch have such impeccable timing and flew at mast height (as they do) approaching from our stern. Looking up at the last minute and realising that they were there, Peter waved to them in all his glory! I am sure they get to see some fun things!
Our last night into Broome was quiet, except for some Indonesian fishermen talking on 72! Thought we were still in Australian waters. Some Russians followed this. Strange. At 0300 hours we could almost sail again as the wind came in SSE, 15-20 knots. We made Broome at slack HW (how is that for timing!) and anchored at Gantheaum Point at 0815 hours. Sleep!!
With the high ridging in we were to have strong wind warnings for the next 9 days. We had made it to Broome in time.
Broome is just fabulous and we have it in mind to go back one day and stay for a few months. Lawson very kindly lent us a car and it was great to spend some time with him. We could phone family again and catch up with Di and Gordon who had flown up to ‘do’ the Kimberlies by land (with 4 friends) this time. All 12 of us went to see ‘Stairway to the Moon’ although the next night it would have been better.
We managed to coordinate the dinghies so that we did not have 3 dinghies to carry up and down Cable beach. On our first landing, Lawson had us drag the dinghy almost halfway to the high tide mark. We insisted that the tide was still falling and it would be ok, but Lawson somehow thought that we could not have worked the tides out! On our return Lawson helped Peter drag the dinghy all the way back down the beach, stopping to admire the ‘view’ (topless woman). It was great to see Lawson again and enjoy his company. Much shopping was done over the next few days; our outboard fixed ($200), then it was time to continue north. Even though the strong wind warnings were current, we were in the lee of the land. At least we can sail!