Anchorages and Notes on cruising the Kimberley, Western Australia, June to August 2003.
The following notes are from our observations and anchorages we chose. Most of the time we were in the Kimberley, BOM were issuing Strong Wind Warnings for the region. As we were in sheltered waters most of the time, this was not a concern to us. We used fax and voice weather information to assist us with the times when we were in open water as we were fighting against the easterlies. In between the ridging Highs across Australia there is enough time to make a dash!
The Western Australian Cruising Guide is a valuable guide to this region. The 3rd edition is about to be published. Contact Fremantle Sailing Club.
Although some people are daunted about cruising in an area with around a 10m tidal range, with careful planning, problems are minimized. It is possible to get from one anchorage to another with the right tide. We were careful which areas we negotiated during spring tides and tried to avoid moving during such times, especially through areas where the tidal race was significant.
We found one uncharted rock (courtesy of a fisherman) and one rock that is charted incorrectly. Reference is made to these. As we did not fish from the boat or cook meat on board, we had no problems with excited crocodiles hanging around the boat or trying to mount the the dinghy, as they do! We lounged in the water where there was a sandy beach without any problems.
All sailing was day sailing until Seaplane Bay when we departed for Darwin. Unfortunately we did not have time to explore the Berkley River, which others have said was magnificent and better than the King George River – so it must be amazing! The Berkley would provide an even better place to depart for Darwin in the case of strong easterly winds.
Having lived in Wyndham for a period of time in a previous life, the Cambridge Gulf held no interest to us. As the saying goes ‘the Cambridge Gulf is the arse end of the world and Wyndham is 60 miles up it.’ That was my welcome to the town!
I did not record anchorage depths due to the tidal range. We never found depth to be a problem – either too much or too little.
Anchorages Broome to Darwin:
Broome, Cable Beach Gantheum Point
17 57.703 S 122 11.486 E
Sand. Good holding. Protected from SE
17 15.68 S 122 09.59 E
16 53 649 S 122 32.948 E
Calm. Watch out for rocks nearby. They are on the chart.
16 28.954 S 122 53 046 E
5 nm south of Cape Leveque, which is an alternative anchorage. (But less protected)
16 12 618 S 123 27 394 E
16 12 959 S 123 25 746 E
16 12.71 S 123 27.30 E
Sand! Stunning little bay out of the tidal race. White silica beach. Depth jumps up quickly at entrance, Anchor just inside. We anchored in 8m. The entrance to Silica Bay is difficult to see. We had a 5 knot tidal race in between the islands to get there. On heading north to Coppermine Creek, the suggested track takes you around a few reefs, which are noted on the chart.
16 09.620 S 123 34 705 E
Crocodile Creek Entrance
16 09.2 S 123 39.9 E
Surveyed the creek in the dinghy to anchor up in the basin. Moved into the basin 2 hours before high tide. Bar will be exposed at low tide (we were not there in neaps or springs). Anchor and tie off to cliffs near ladder. Creek flows into pool during neaps/ springs, so beware of crocodiles! Another fresh water pool higher up. We had three yachts and a catamaran rafted together in basin. Lots of yachtie memorabilia.
Silver Gull Creek
16 10.799 S123 42.158 E
Phil and Marian live there. Go for a visit. Good water tank to sit in and have a drink. The most scenic toilet in the world!
Dog Leg Creek
‘Next door’ to Silver Gull. Could buy diesel there.
From Dog Leg Creek we went through ‘The Gutter’ which was not a problem. Deep and fast!
16 21.836S 123 57.323 E
Took the dinghy through just before slack water. Sensational. Lots of exploring around here. A friend of ours took their yacht through. We chose not to. Explored the cyclone anchorage nearby at 16 22.98 S 123 59.59 E.
Betweem Kingfisher and Melomys Is.
16 07.492 S 124 05.860 E
Calm anchorage, great fishing spot!
16 04 584 S 124 27.497 E
Aboriginal Paintings around the cliffs – on the east side there is a little pebble beach. Walk up to the cliffs to view ‘gallery’. There are many anchorages around here and places to explore like Sale River. Can also do a day trip out to Montgomery Reef from here. Many places to anchor between here and Sampson Inlet.
15 29.443 S 124 29.354 E
Deep, calm anchorage. Cyclone moorings. Dugongs.
Anchored in Bay near High Bluff.
15 16.072 S 124 41.553 E
Camden Sound and Brecknock Harbour are stunning and worth exploring. Came through Quentin Channel, HW slack. Most shallow was 10m at NW entrance into Roger’s Strait. Min depth in Quentin Channel, 18m Kept to LHS of channel. Tide flooded north into Brecknock Harbour. Many anchorages around to choose from. We decided not to go up the Prince Regent River. Many other yachts have. We were on a time frame to get up to Singapore via Indonesia.
15 06.127 S 125 0.249 E
Good sticky mud! Visited King’s tree!
15 00.588 S 125 27.002 E
Hunter River, Porosus Creek
15 01.56 S 125 24.99 E
Magnificent Entrance. From memory, there were some shallowish spots, but no problem. Lots to explore in the dinghy. Apparently there is a great waterfall up the RH arm of the river. We were there in an incredibly dry period so no waterfalls!
Uncharted rock between Thais Is and Murrarn Is. Keep well west.
Bigge Island, Bomerang Bay
14 32.642 S 125 07.136 E
Some yachts have gone through Scott Strait without any problems but after reading the pilot, we decided not to! Bigge Island is well worth exploring with some good walks. There are aboriginal paintings that are worth a look, but we could not find them!
14 25.357 S 125 15.124 E
We came in the north entrance at LW with no problems. Look out for the rocky extension as you come around. Perhaps the other entrance has less hazards?? Many beaches around the island in clear water. We sat in the water on one beach on the north side of Prudhoe Is. There was a resident croc who came around one of the yachts we were with – they had cooked meat the night before and had just done the dishes! Stunning anchorage.
14 14.758 S 125 36.032 E
We found that the ebb from Shelter Bay becomes the flood to Cape Voltaire. Near Krait Bay the tide appears to change and flood south???? Anchored in 15m mid tide. Lots of walks and exploring ashore.
14 01.720 S 126 01.325 E
Departed for Parry Harbour, Voltaire Passage, on ½ tide ebb. North through Lavolaler (Lavoisier?) Island, min depth 26m. Tide with us.
14 00.783 S 126 10.941 E
Getting around Hat Point and Cape Bougainville a bit tedious with our first (and only) tidal overfalls we have found in the Kimberlies. Passed Eyre Reef to port. Not as bad as expected. Watch out for pearl farms around Freshwater Bay entrance. Freshwater Bay is stunning, protected and calm. Waterfalls and fresh water for laundry! Deep anchorage – anchored in 10m close in.
14 05.938 S 126 41.035 E
Although we went through to Honeymoon Bay, there are many anchorages around Vansittart Bay and Geranium Harbour to explore. There is an old landing ground in Vansittart Bay to explore. Planning the next passage is VERY important as AUS 318 chart we used (and electronic chart) has Middle Rock charted incorrectly. There is somewhat of a tidal race through here, so beware! I made the note that the correct position of Middle Rock is approximately 0.337nm on a bearing of 117 degrees from its chartered position; 13 58.1365 S 126 21.0059 E. At mid tide we followed the most turbulent water and had no less than 26m depth. Caravan Park here. Resident croc in the bay but an aboriginal girl took us swimming! Possible to get a lift into Kalumburu Mission for supplies (limited) and icecream! This area is alcohol free for obvious reasons, so please be responsible and not sell your beer to the locals! More depth in bay than shown on chart. Anchorage was in 5-6m of water.
13 48.664 S 126 45.344 E
Cape Londonderry is perhaps one of the most challenging of all capes in the Kimberley. One side has 4 tides per day and the other two! We waited this small bay just south of Cape Talbot for reasonable conditions as many other yachts had been absolutely hammered rounding Cape Londonderry.
Entrance to King George River, Koolama Bay
13 56.090 S 127 19.382 E
Waypoints we used, which may not necessarily be correct due to shifting bar. On coming out, deeper water approx 50m to the west of our track.
1. 13 57 01 S 127 19 71 E
2. 13 57 74 S 127 19 74 E
3. 13 57 82 S 127 19.8 E
Anchorage up at the falls:
14 02.301 S 127 19.656 E
We rounded Cape Londonderry before the high (in central Aus) ridged. We had 15-20 knot easterlies at the top of the Cape which was ok and we sailed around and down to King George River. There are other anchorages before King George River but as we were sailing, we continued on. We anchored 2200 hours. Could have anchored closer to cliffs but we came in with no moon and radar. No problems. Moon rose just as we anchored! The channel over the sand bar changes. There are many charter boats around to ask advice. A seaplane also lands just the other side of the sandbar. Our minimum depth was 3m. Made a note that the channel we used just happened to coincide with what was shown on the electronic charts. Enter near HW slack. Many anchorages in the river. Potentially great waterfalls that you can climb up but alas none for us due to the previous dry wet seasons.
14 06.155 S 127 32.324 E
From King George River we went to Seaplane Bay to try to get a better angle on the strong easterlies to cross ‘Joseph Blownapart Gulf’ (as it is so affectionately called – with good reason as strong easterlies produce nasty seas here!) to Darwin. Seaplane Bay was quite rolly. Berkley River would be an excellent choice as an alternative! If it is possible to make eastings on your way up the gulf, there are some good anchorages on the way to Darwin.
Fannie Bay, Darwin
12 25 665 S 130 49 288 E
Although very shallow, it is possible to get a lot closer! It was very crowded when we were there and we were used to open spaces with no neighbours!