Stolen Kiss

Stolen Kiss

October 1, 2003

Broome to Darwin June July 2003

Tuesday seems the preferred day of departure for whatever reason, so on Tuesday 17/6/03 we upped anchor and were off! Dolphins and turtles were sighted again. Change of plan! Cruise the Kimberley and depart Darwin for Indonesia.

Our first destination was Cape Bertholet, some 42 miles north, which was no more than a place to anchor for a sleep. We sailed through the Willie Creek ‘anchorage’ to take a look at the impounded Indonesian fishing boats that have been confiscated. Apparently only 1 in 10 vessels are caught in Australian waters. It seems a shame and a waste to burn the boats. Everyone is just trying to survive in this world.

A surprise for everyone – we were first into the anchorage! Stolen Kiss does well on a reach! We powered along and enjoyed a great sail, beam reaching in flat water. Leaving Cape Bethlolet, we could then sail in the mornings and motor in the afternoon as the wind died. Our next anchorage was Beagle Bay – a very quiet, interesting place. We anchored on the north side of the bay after some discussion concerning the nearby rocks on the chart. As it was high tide, this was a worry. Still, we could see sand under the boat. On sunset, the falling tide revealed the rocks close by, (sounds of a waterfall when we were resting had us leaping about rather quickly!) so we decided that a more restful sleep would happen if we anchored further out. The 10m tides could be interesting! We managed a walk ashore and a swim. The ‘kids’ in the Cat (Waitpinga) were anchored on the southern side opposite us near the pearl farms.

Peter and I had consulted the Australian Pilot, various charts and from our observations, thought we had the direction of the flood and ebb tides sorted. Wrong! It was opposite to the Pilot going through Lacepede Channel. Perhaps we had an eddy! Our next destination was Thomas Bay. Whether or not to take this anchorage rather than Cape Leveque caused some discussion. By all accounts, the anchorage at the Cape was quite rolly. Thomas Bay was quiet and peaceful, even though it made for a long day to Hidden Island.

For some reason, we envisaged a fast reach across King Sound on an easterly as we could fall off to the north-west a little as the flood tide pushed us south-east. Wrong again! Motoring the rhumb line was the best course as the wind came around on the nose. In the end we gave up on any sort of compass course and followed the rumb line on maxsea. Due to the tide, our course over the ground was 40 degrees different to that of our compass course! Parts of the bay had the flood tide moving in opposite directions! We are definitely going round Australia the wrong way! Still, this is the first time we have had strong-ish winds up the whole coast – so no complaints.

By many other accounts, the channel that was to be negotiated in order to get into Silica Bay, Hidden Island was a nightmare with rushing tides that can carry you anywhere. A tads disconcerting in unchartered waters! Although we had tide against us, it was coming around to slackwater and therefore a little less than observed by others. (Timing is everything!) We were also coming into a period of neap tides. Peter, the experienced tidal yachtie from good old days in the Mother Country, decided to go to the north side of the channel to get out of the tide. Soon we were doing 5 knots over the ground (speeding compared to earlier parts of the day) and looking for Silica Bay. Mahdi decided it did not look like a good anchorage and continued on.

The bay was not obvious, but we knew it was there (accounts from Di and Heather) and that it was pretty sensational. We turned at the appropriate time and headed across, still doing 5 knots across the ground and not making any leeway. Miss Conduct had elected to stay along the southern shore and plodded along at 2 knots, only ending up 5 minutes behind us. We anchored just inside the entrance in the required depth for tidal variation and what magic bay lay before us; a stunning white sandy beach, in a small bay with high cliffs. By 1700 hours it was in the dinghy for a swim! (Swim is a loose term here as we were on crocodile watch whilst we wallowed in the shallows.) Port and coffee was shared on Stolen Kiss after dinner and after our guests departed at 1900 hours we collapsed for a well-earned sleep. So quiet!

0845 (Saturday) it was up and off to Coppermine Creek! We followed the suggested track from the cruising guide, which was a little tricky, as we had to wend our way around reef. Although the tide was ebbing and with us, we had to cross it, go round one reef, and then around another. With some initial confusion and some shared words with Peter on the helm (my directions were not specific enough and maxsea was a little tardy in keeping up with our heading in the tide) we managed to miss the first reef and find the other, which was where the chart said it was! Depth jumped up to 1.5 m underneath us. A bit of a giveaway as to the edge of the reef! All was ok and we made Coppermine Creek with no fuss. A big day with 9 miles on the log!

As we approached we could see Mahdi coming around the headland to join us. Coppermine Creek was a beautiful anchorage with an opportunity to explore the creek in the dinghies and to have a swim at the beach in front of us! Rod disturbed a large croc in the upper reaches in a small backwater. That was enough for me. We were out of there. If Peter wants such adventure, he will have to go with the ‘boys’. Everyone wants to see a croc, but after having lived in Wyndham and spent time in croc country, I do not share this desire, especially in a RIB! Funny that! I gave Peter the opportunity to develop his hairdressing technique in the afternoon and a planned ‘au natural’ swim was disturbed by the Mahdians.

An overnight stay at Coppermine Creek gave a welcomed opportunity for a rest. The last of the strong wind warnings had gone as a front had approached the SW of the state and the high moved on. At last! Next stop was Crocodile Creek! Although 5 miles away, we motor sailed in a fresh NE breeze over towards Cockatoo Island, then back towards the coast. Wind against tide proved to be a little lumpy at first. We wondered why we could see Mahdi driving up lots of spray in the distance. John called up Top Knot who were heading back to Broome. They had stayed in Crocodile Creek the day before and had the resident croc try to climb in their dinghy at night, just like Surreal John a few years earlier! They did not have an inflatable – unlike all of us! They were also chased from the waterfall by a large croc!

After the first half hour and away from the headland, the sea state and wind settled. We were some distance behind the others and could just make out Miss Conduct motoring along the cliffs. Joining the others at anchor at the entrance to Crocodile Creek, the ‘boys’ decided to investigate the creek and anchorage in the pond. They had a plan! Mahdi would come in first, whilst Miss Conduct and Stolen Kiss anchored in the creek, just outside the bar. Mahdi reversed towards the rock and John and Peter assisted in the tying up to the rope attached to the rock. John would go next, then us. All worked well and we were soon tied up with suitably, given the state of the tide. The huge ochre coloured overhanging cliffs were amazing, especially at first light. On completion, we scuttled up the ladder to look at the many plaques left by fellow yachties (a brown eye to the world from PJ on Highlander – good sketch!), many of which we knew. A welcomed swim in the fresh water pool, which was cold on top and warm underneath and drinks to finish of the day. MAGIC!

So here I sit in the early morning listening to the waterfall surrounded by beautiful red-ochre cliffs. Another shitty day in paradise, which slipped away at little when Oceanic brought in some tourists at 0845!

July 14 today and I thought I would add some more to this. We have since heard from Yo and Murray ‘Iluka’ that they were at Crocodile Creek two weeks before us in the spring tides and motored their dinghy into the first pool (where our waterfall was!) There could have easily been a croc still in the pool. Luckily for us we had ‘sports fan’ Rod in first! No sitting back for him!

On leaving Crocodile Creek (June 24) we made the short hop around to Silver Gull Creek. Phil and Marion usually live here but were on holiday, leaving Jenny and Julian there. Mahdi and Miss Conduct went to get water while we anchored in the creek. The ‘kids’ came in on Waitpinga and Red Sky at Night barged in to get water as well. We spent the afternoon in the water tank with a million dollar view with the Waitpinga crew. A few drinks and some R&R. The tank is fed by a natural spring. BHP initially installed the tank as a water supply for Koolan Island. Phil was eventually banned from Koolan Island as every time he went there he would bring some materials back for his ‘house’. The outside dunny is just that – a toilet bowl under a tree with a view to boot. Apart from the python that is often there at night – a quiet spot! I think I would draw the line at that and having snakes under the bed, as the ‘house’ has no walls. The garden is just stunning – very tropical with paths that wend their way around and have the odd seat placed strategically to get the best view. WOW!

We ventured back in the dinghies early evening after not having spied the resident croc. Early next morning we went into Dog Leg Creek to get some fuel. The young guys are building their own ‘house’ and like living there. Modern day squatters. Soon we were on our way through the ‘Gutter’ – a passage between Koolan Island and the coast. We had heard about the uncharted rock in the middle and were advised against this passage. A strong tidal flow was evident, but no rock. We flew through there! We were off to the Horizontal Waterfalls in Talbot Bay, whilst Mahdi elected to meet us later at Kingfisher Island. We had some fast tidal passages, one from which Peter almost took the wrong turn into the never-never. Thank goodness for electronic charts! It was a long journey, but well worth it. We went through both waterfalls in the dinghy, aghast at how Didy had taken ‘Shibumi’ through! Best of all was the creek to the south of the falls. The beautiful high cliffs provided an excellent cyclone anchorage with moorings. The entry is small and hidden. There was quite a tidal race in the middle, up stream.

Back to Kingfisher Island, and then off to Raft Point. John was a bit foggy on where the location of the walk track was and we could not find the ‘beach’. Rod, Peter, John and I decided to take a walk in from the corner of the bay. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Needless to say that we did not find the track, the tide had receded a great deal and there we were having to pull the dinghy through mud! We kept sinking in up to our knees. I don’t do mud!! John got his leg stuck and after pulling free had found that his sandal was still buried in the mud! I kept a weary eye out for the crocodiles! A quick chat to the ‘kids’ the next day revealed all – the beach was around the corner. The Aboriginal paintings we finally found were well worth the visit (but not for Rod).

Leaving Raft Point on the correct tide saw us make the best time ever! It’s great when you get it right! Hooning along at 8 knots saw us complete the 40 NM journey to Sampson Inlet with ease. A beautiful place – but no waterfall! After two very dry wet seasons, we missed all the great waterfalls. Moving on swiftly enabled us to use the tides in our favour, passing through some fantastic scenery in Brecknock Harbour (Kuri Bay). Sydney Harbour eat your heart out! Coastwatch did a pass over and caught Becky topless on the foredeck. They came over for a second look! Unbeknown to Denise, she asked them if they enjoyed their job and the scenery! They said they did! Seems a little hypocritical that they dobbed some Paspaley Pearl guys in for doing a brown-eye at them, when they happily catch us naked! Whilst we were being buzzed nearly every day, a boat of asylum seekers made it to within 30 miles off the coast of Port Hedland! Hmm.

We stopped a night at Careening Bay to see King’s inscription in the boab tree (Mermaid, 1820). Hunter River was our next stop which was an eerie place, but well worth the visit. The magnificent entrance which towered over us was very spiritual in terms of an Aboriginal presence. Peter and I played Yothu Yindi at top volume which we thought the Aboriginal Spirits would have enjoyed. We saw our first croc but we were also sure that more saw us. Someone was watching us! An extra rest day prepared us for the haul up to Bigge Island, 47 NM away. Some fishermen called us on the VHF and warned of the rock they just found and advised us to stay to stay to the west. It took ages to get past Cape Pond. Mahdi elected to go the full 55 NM or so via Scott Strait to meet Bill on Time Out at Prudhoe Island for July 4 celebrations. We joined them the next morning. It was great to see Bill with a huge smile on his face! He had departed Fremantle before us and we had passed him when he was hiding out in Shark Bay. As usual, he had got hammered all the way up the coast whilst we swanned it! There is a wonderful little beach on Prudhoe Island that has crystal clear water. We all went for a swim whilst Bill was ‘croc spotting’ with his stick. Oh protector of all!!! The croc we saw the next morning hopefully was not watching us swim! Bill must have frightened him away! Gave someone a big scare though as after a few rums the night before, there was swimming off the boat!

Mahdi by now was getting itchy feet and wanting to be in Darwin. They chose to do a hard slog (as they do!) against wind and current all the way around to Parry Harbour, then on to Honeymoon Bay. Two 60 NM days! We were heading in the same direction, but in smaller hops. After 3 weeks of motoring, the easterlies had now kicked in. We managed to get around Cape Bougainville without too much of a problem and into Freshwater Bay. What a stunning anchorage. We traipsed through the mangroves to find the waterfall and pools. There was not a lot of water flowing, but enough to do the washing. Honeymoon Bay, via Middle Rock was our next anchorage.

Every day is a new adventure! Bill made an early start to catch the tide, which was crucial to the passage through Middle Rock! We were not far behind and could see Bill’s approach. The chart did not match up what we were seeing so we made a quick guess as to where the rock actually was. We came flying through the channel at 9 knots, keeping in the ‘bumpy’ bits which indicated the deepest water. Somehow in the midst of all of this we remembered ‘still waters run deep’ should we be here??? Too Late! We had around 26m of water so we figured that was deep enough! Our ships' master of course, did an excellent job at the helm, which at times was a bit of a struggle to keep the boat on a straight course.
Hardly having a second to figure out our course and working out where John was going (or not!), we shot past him. Unfortunately for John he did not realise the extent to which the charts were out until it was too late. After some conversation on the VHF, we stood by about two miles down the track and after a while continued on. There was nothing we could do and we had to catch the tide down to Honeymoon Bay. We called up a launch that was passing by, but by the time they got to John to offer assistance, John and Denise had got themselves off the bank. Good for them! The rum was flowing on their arrival to Honeymoon Bay! A swim at the beach to cool off before collapsing into our bunks!

Honeymoon Bay is a great place to chill out. A caravan park is located there and is run by a local aboriginal family. There were so many happy campers! Yachts included Time Out, Miss Conduct, Mahdi, Stolen Kiss, Iluka (Murry and Yo), She (Tony) and SoJo. (Gunther and Beverley). Anna (Aboriginal lady whose father ran the caravan park and who was head of the Land Council) took us to ‘town’ (Kalumburu) so we could get any supplies we could (not a lot of fresh food) and ice cream! What a treat! Bill ended up buying a 2 litre tub of ice-cream. Peter, Bill and I sat on a seat amongst the local aboriginal people with a plastic spoon and did what one does with ice cream! Yum! Lesley Anne (Anna’s daughter) thought it was good as well when she got to eat some on the way back. Lesley Anne decided to come and take a look at our boat to see how we lived, then had a swim with us, reassuring us that it was really ok because the crocodile stayed at the other end of the bay! What a beautiful child! Anna told us the story of how during the war, local aboriginal people would find the Japanese planes when they crashed and kill the pilots if they survived the crash. Most were women pilots. There were many bombing raids on the Kimberley.

After a bit of a party on Time Out, we found out the next morning (listing on the HF!) the night almost ended in disaster for Bill as his dinghy was attacked just after he got out of it after midnight (on his return trip from dropping Margurita off on Iluka.) A croc grabbed the rear pontoon and death rolled it! Bill managed to lean over the side of his boat to rescue the outboard and pull the dinghy out of the water. Of course over time, the story has evolved into Bill rescuing a damsel in distress with one arm whilst beating the croc off with an oar with his other arm.

So after spending three days at Honeymoon Bay, here we sit at Cape Talbot waiting for some good weather to round the Cape Londonderry. SoJo has joined us. (We last passed SoJo heading towards Broome when we were heading north.) Everyone we have spoken to has been hammered rounding Cape Londonderry!

Some of our time en route has been spent baking bread (Peter), picking out the weevils (Cheryl) and sorting out the bean sprouts. Peter’s idea today was to teach the weevils how to swim! They are very good at playing dead in the flour! At anchor we have the opportunity to socialize if we want; story telling, sharing ridiculous but fun conversations and laughter. Every night since we have left Broome the wind has died, allowing a peaceful sleep!

The dreaded passage around Cape Londonderry was made on July 15 after waiting two days. We sat with the others at Cape Talbot waiting for favourable winds to round Cape Londonderry. As we did not want to be one of the boats to be whacked on the other side of the cape by the 2 – 3 metre waves and howling SE winds, we continually downloaded weather faxes. The decision was not to make a decision, and as we had to decide something, we decided to have some more wine and port on Stolen Kiss.
Eventually the weather fax was showing a break in the highs. Preferring a day passage to a night one, we finally took the plunge! When we set out, wind was south at 8 knots. This of course changed after rounding Cape Talbot to a 15 – 20 knot easterly. This was ok, at least the waves were only 1 – 1.5 metres at the most. We could actually sail! Had the yankee and two reefs in main, sailing 45 degrees to wind doing 6.5 knots. Not bad for an old girl! A lot more comfortable than sailing in a sea breeze heading to Bunbury! From all the tidal advice we had been given, we were sailing towards King George on an ebb tide and should have current against us. We were pleasantly surprised to find a 1.5 knot current with us all the way, which was stronger as you went in closer to the coast. We did not even try to work that one out! We had a great day sailing, arriving at Koolama Bay at 2030 in absolute darkness. As we anchored, the moon rose and Mahdi (in hiding) left for Darwin! Strange things happen at sea. More space! Sojo had left for King George River with us and when I awoke at 0300, I knew they were anchored nearby as I could hear their wind generator!

Being far too excited to sleep, the wee hours of the morning are just right for a milo and sending e-mails. At first light the cliffs were magnificent and of course we were anchored further out than what we thought we were in the darkness the night before. At 0645 the VHF was alive with Iluka giving Miss Conduct waypoints to cross the bar and into King George River. High tide was 0830, so no time to waste in up anchor and move! As Stolen Kiss was in ‘shallow mode’ we would take the lead over the bar. Peter had the hand held VHF and called depths. No problems! What an amazing journey that unfolded before us with 200 – 300 metre cliffs surrounding us. Breathtaking and spectacular, it was right up there with the ‘wow’ factor. There had been a few recent rockfalls as a lot of the cliff faces looked very old and weathered. Unfortunately there were no water falls due to the last two very dry wet seasons. We took the dinghy and just sat underneath the overhangs. Amazing! There were 6 boats in total in the anchorage. Opal Shell – a charter ketch was there as was She. All those interested in walking up the cliff did so the next day and went exploring the river bed for some kilometres. Only one small water hole that was toe deep! Next day the 4 of us were off down river to anchor with Iluka, near the sand bar. We had to get over the sand bar before the tides decreased and Iluka were awaiting some visitors who would arrive by seaplane. Bill appears to attract the crocs (looking for another dinghy?) as he has seen one every day in King George River. Murray (Iluka) radioed us and said that he took an excellent video of a croc this morning sunning itself on a rock. He tried to entice it into the water by hooking it with a lure (he is very brave – but has a tin dinghy!), but it would not move! It just glared at him! If they were not so far away, we would go and visit him to watch it. As we anchored under the cliff in Koolama Bay, we saw a dugong – second in two days.

As predicted, the easterlies were piping up to 25-30 knots, so another wait for about three days before we head for Darwin.

We very sadly departed the awesome King George River and the Kimberley at 0245 on Sunday July 20, with to make our way to Darwin. (Wind dies off at night!) We had another plan! If we make our way down to Seaplane Bay, then the distance across Joseph Bonaparte Gulf (aka Blown Apart Gulf) will be less; hence we can get into the lee of the land early in case of strong easterlies. We arrived at Seaplane at 0730 and rested until 1630, then up anchor and off north! The swell rolled into Seaplane Bay – so not a good anchorage to stay long. As it worked out, we were so accurate at picking the weather window; we had to motor all the way! No sight of land for 36 hours as it was too flat and we were 30 miles out. The only wind we did get was due east, 17 knots as we rounded Cox Peninsula and into Darwin. We did manage to sail the last 8 miles, which was delightful.

Our first anchorage was Fannie Bay to enjoy the hospitality of Darwin Yacht Club. The view was to die for – as was the shower, QLD (quiet little drink) and fresh food! We had been in the Kimberley for 9 very short weeks. We then moved off to Tipperary marina and my first lock experience. Peter (who runs the marina) was excellent in helping us find our way. Of course once we were tied up, we were invited over to Time Out for a celebration drink. Why were we not surprised when we saw this apparition sitting on Bill’s boat drinking wine? The lovely luscious Lisa – every marina must have one! Blonde and a body to die for, sitting there in a bikini!! Bill’s eyes were out on stalks permanently! Lisa was fabulous company had some good stories; the most memorable was about her white rabbit!! Needless to say that Lisa was a good encouragement for men to do their own laundry when she was there doing hers!

There are many international boats that are heading off to Indonesia in two rallies. Peter and I plan to leave after these boats are well and truly on their way. The Kimberley was an awesome experience. In 2003 there were only 3 charter boats. In 2007, this number has grown to about 30! However, they all go to the same spots and there are many anchorages left for those who wish to venture there. In the right season with favourable weather patterns, the west coast is an amazing place. It can also be your worst nightmare and if you read the pilot, you would not even contemplate cruising this coast. The West Australian Cruising Guide has just been updated and the new edition is available (2007). It is an excellent guide and a must for the Kimberley.

The kindness of people we have met has been humbling. Some great friendships have been made and lost. One morning it dawned on Bill that he had been on our boat years before in Fiji with the previous owner. Such a small world and a new adventure awaits us.

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