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PostPosted: Oct 17th, '08, 12:23 
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The Following is a writeup for the 'Sonata Notes' Newsletter that was split over a couple of issues:

Following in the Wake of "Bosun"
(Bob and Anne Bower)


When we made the decision to buy our first Trailer Sailer a year ago, one of the compelling reasons was that my long service leave was nearly due. However, the thought was to do some extended local cruising. Just after we bought our boat I became aware of what Bob and Anne Bower were doing. I had never thought of travelling so far and to such remote places!

I devoured their "Bosun's Big Lap" reports and awaited each instalment to catch up on their travelling.
Co-incidentally it worked out that our first big cruise(i.e. more than a weekend) was at Port Lincoln, the first stop on Bob and Anne's travels.

This got me thinking that I should do something similar, but in smaller chunks, as I was not in a position to travel for a year, as I had only my long service leave available. In the end I settled on a plan to take 6 weeks and visit three locations, all to the west, as although I had been to Perth a few times I had never travelled further north, and the west seemed a less travelled destination and more of an adventure.

Well my three picks were among the next few destinations of Bob and Anne. The stopped in Perth, but I wanted to skip that, so my plan was to pick up their trail at Shark Bay, Coral Bay and Wyndham.
My first step was collecting info, and as he was now back, one of my first sources was to contact Bob via email. He queried our experience and the age of the kids, and then advised against the Kimberley's. His opinion that watching out for three kids, 10m tides and crocs as big as the boat was too much! He related a couple of their own near misses to highlight the dangers and suggested Lake Argyle as a third alternative.

I had read about them going to Lake Argyle, but once Bob uploaded his photos I was entranced! I felt sure this would end up being a real highlight, and it also meant that our route home would now be down the centre of Australia, taking us past Ayers Rock, which is one place I've always wanted to get to.

Bob and Anne were extremely helpful in sharing information in regard to questions I fired off to them and kindly loaned me some charts. They also put me in touch with one of their cruising friends from WA (Mike Thompson) who had spent a number of cruising holidays in his Noelex 25 in Shark Bay for many years. Mike was particularly helpful in supplying a pile of GPS co-ordinates for anchorages in Shark Bay.

As part of our holiday was a road trip down from the North of Australia, a close friend of mine who had done the trip only a year earlier in their caravan with his young family gave me plenty of help in discussing possible areas to camp along the way. He recommended the book "Camps Australia" (http://www.campsaustralia.com.au) which amongst other things lists all the roadside rest areas (good for planning morning tea/afternoon tea and lunch stops) as well as which ones you could legally spend the night in. This investment saved us many caravan park fees, which was really appreciated, because by the time we headed off, petrol had just skyrocketed to nearly $2.00 per L! (in fact it was over $2.00 per L in some remote places!). Suitably armed for such an undertaking we headed off!

Well nearly - after much preparation - including finding wiring faults in the trailer lights three times in the week leading up to leaving, then again in the morning just as we left! The trailer had some extra pieces of wire running down to bypass the problems by the time we left, so on the way out of town I bought ten metres of trailer wiring cable, to re-wire the lights one night when we camped along the way.
My father had assisted me my making up a fantastically neat bracket for the Auto tiller, which I had purchased for the trip and had run out of time to mount, so he took pity on me & came to my rescue.
I had spent my energies on a better ice-box solution for the sonata. I had purchased some poly-urethane foam, which is quite expensive, but an excellent insulator, and had lined the forward seat compartment with it and fibreglassed it to make it moisture proof. The polyurethane foam I stuck on with polyurethane based sealant (sikaflex) and sealed all the gaps and corners as well.

My car is a falcon station wagon, which does a very economical job of pulling the boat, however it requires the driver to be extremely aware and ready to react at all times. It means that you feel the boat the whole trip, which I wasn't looking forward to as part of such a long journey. My boss must have been really worried that I might like being an itinerant sailor up in the tropics so much that I may never return, so he loaned me his 100 series Land cruiser, which made the trip much more comfortable, but ensured I would have to return his car to him! The children all had a cup holder each - sheer luxury!
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Curved caravanning – alongside Pildappa Rock

It was fun to sleep in our boat for the first night 15km off the highway at place in South Australia called Pildappa Rock (a big granite monolith). We were trying to keep sightseeing while we drove to a minimum, as we were trying to maximise our 'on the water time' for the 6 weeks, however we tried to plan our lunch and overnight stops in interesting places. Once we had spent our first night on the road, we really felt like we were on holiday and so started to relax into holiday mode.

Our newly made icebox appeared to perform remarkably well at the beginning. Three days in and the crushed ice was still mostly solid. We had a couple of big plastic tubs that took a bag of ice each, so that as it melted the water was contained in the tubs, and could be used for drinking - well that was the plan. I had not fibreglassed much before, other than small surfboard repairs, but found it to be pretty straightforward. I didn't get it finished till just before we departed, and like an absolute newbie, I hadn't put any epoxy paint or sealer on the fibreglass! As a result, everything inside tasted like fibreglass! All our frozen meals were inedible. We tried to eat a couple but in the end threw the rest away. The ice water inside the tubs was even tainted by the smell of curing fibreglass and undrinkable. For the remainder of the trip it was only used to store cans of soft drink, which whilst the cans might have smelt funny, the contents were OK and were kept nice & cool.

Our trip across Western Australia was reasonably uneventful, we managed to call in to the head of the Bight to see some whales on the way out of South Australia, and also managed to stop at the HMAS Sydney memorial at Geraldton. On our 5th day after leaving home, we managed to arrive at Denham with enough time to get the boat on the water before dark. After 4 nights of sleeping on the hard, we were itching to have water under us and conditions were quite comfortable.

We spent the first day in Denham, resupplying, doing laundry in the "Princess Warriors Washhouse", which is billed as 'Australia's most Westerly Laundromat' and arranging for the secure storage of the car & rig. Here the liquid currency came into play, because for the princely sum of a carton of beer, the local RACV contractor would look after it for us & lock it in his yard.

I still hadn't got round to re-wiring the trailer lights yet, as once we had travelled close to 900km per day I had been pretty exhausted and lacked the time a re-wire would require. However further trailer light tragedy had struck in the form of one of the galvanised angle iron channels that hold on the light had cracked a weld, and actually dragged along the road (dragged by my now very bodgey-looking wiring harness) destroying a trailer light in the process. I had rigged a temporary solution with a bar clamp and new light, but the mechanic securing the car considered it would only take an hour to re-weld the light bar, and would take care of it while we enjoyed ourselves sailing.

The weather had become progressively windier throughout the day, and we were starting to encounter a bit of swell at the mooring. This did not stop the kids from swimming, they had waited 5 days of driving to get here and were not going to let the cool temperature spoil the beginnings of their holiday! The forecast was for the winds to worsen over the next few days, which left me in a bit of a quandary.
I knew that over the far side of the bay we would have shelter from the wind in very tranquil anchorages, but how would we fare getting there.

I spoke to one of the locals who was a member of the VMR, and they allocated one of their public moorings for us. He was a retiree who had just purchased a court 650 and was going to take it out for a trial to see how it performed reefed in. His comment was that although twenty five knots was forecast for tomorrow, the bay was sheltered such that you would be unlucky for anyone to receive the full twenty five knots. He estimated at worst it would probably be twenty knots. His comment was that as we were heading further into the protected waters of the bay, meant you could get at worst a very sharp chop, not a full swell.
I was also somewhat comforted by reading Bob's account of coming back from Dirk Hartog Island, where he was not within the bay, but over near the opening to the sea, and he rode the swells coming in from the ocean in twenty five knot conditions.

To go or not to go, that was the question. I was still undecided but after sleeping on it for what turned out to be a bit of a bumpy night ,I knew that staying where we were for a few days as the weather blew up would be unpleasant, but that the trip over could be unpleasant too. In the end I decided we should make a try for Boathaven Loop, an inlet on the far side of Shark Bay, about 20 Nautical Miles away, as a potentially uncomfortable crossing for a few hours seemed a better trade-off to an uncomfortable few days bouncing on a mooring.

Heading out in 25 knot winds often depends on whether you are cruising or racing , the area you are sailing (ie sheltered or open sea) and your experience. The worst we have been in to date is 20 knots, which was accompanied by a fair sized swell, and so we were unsure of our capabilities and limits, and the boat's in conditions greater than these either. Also when you have your family aboard, it tends to tone down the usual masculine gung-ho mentality of "she'll be right mate". I was the keen sailor, and I didn't want to spoil it for the rest of the family. My family is relatively young and inexperienced and untested, and that was the most pressing factor in my sense of caution, as they were all relying on my decision.

Well we headed off in quite a breeze and with a small chop. The breeze was such that we unfurled the tiniest scrap of headsail, and we were doing 4 knots. We left it at that, as the boat was quite upright and moving over the chop easily, as we were sailing on a beam reach. About an hour into the five hour trip I checked with all my crew to ensure they were all ok, and if there was any thought that we should go back. By now everyone had grown accustomed to the movement of the boat over the swell, and it was felt we should continue.

It was when we were nearly halfway across that it hit us. We had the tiniest scrap of sail, yet the boat was screaming along at 5.5 knots against waves that were occasionally breaking over the bow of the boat! We were all sitting in the cockpit, with parkas and jackets on, I had the motor idling in case we had to power out of trouble, and kept trying to pick the best line across the waves at an angle, but keeping the most direct route to our destination. I also tried to anticipate which waves were likely to break, and turn the boat to meet these more directly.

A good deal of sailing is accumulating a variety of experiences in different conditions. We were not scared as much as knowing this just had to be endured, and my concern was if my crew could handle this for another three hours. My son took over logging our position every hour so that I didn't have to leaved the tiller, and I started a calling out the estimated time to reaching our destination in 10 minute increments, so that everyone knew how long they had to pace out their endurance of the conditions.

Two things are fairly vivid in my memory. One is how well the boat handled the conditions, there was no hint of it struggling against the waves, even the breaking ones that I did not meet as directly as I meant to, just resulted in getting us wet, rather than unstabilising the boat in any way. The motor was coming out of the water a little on some waves, it was just in idle as an emergency measure, but I felt I could have relied on it if I needed to. The second thing is that when the wind is stronger, you really look forward to the gaps in the gusts. We found ourselves waiting for and appreciating the very short lulls (when it drops down to about 20 knots!) between each big wind gust.

Later chatting to my wife she said it was the one time in her life when she flashed back to being in labour - that feeling that you are in a situation that you cannot get out of, you just have to endure. However, whilst there may have been some initial alarm at the sudden change in conditions, everyone got used to the motion of the boat, and soon felt secure about the boats capability.

Three quarters of the way there the wind and waves started to drop, and we were escorted the rest of the way by a very playful dolphin. The dolphin was such delightful company, that once the sun came out and the seas calmed a little, suddenly none of us minded what we had just been through. It was still windy, but sunshine instead of grey threatening clouds makes so much difference in your mental attitude and perception of the conditions! Cheering and clapping a dolphin makes everyone happy, including the dolphin as it played around the boat for nearly an hour. When we arrived into the outer anchorage of Boathaven loop, it was so calm and tranquil compared to what we had been through, it was like passing into another realm.

I have thought about my decision to cross, and whether given a chance would do the same again. The answer is most likely yes. We certainly enjoyed the next few tranquil days untouched by the weather that blew straight over our heads, whereas the alternative of starting the sailing part of the holiday by spending a few days bouncing on a mooring in Denham doesn't appeal. I'm much more confident in the capabilities of the boat and the endurance of my crew now, but the fact that I didn't rush off into it (though I was eager to get started with cruising) I considered it carefully, sought local advice weighed the options and then decided to go, means I probably would do the same again. However I probably won't be venturing across the Gulf here in SA if 25 knots were forecast, so don't get too worried I might get a bit gung ho now as a result of our good fortune in a different location and conditions.

Boathaven Loop was as the name suggests a real haven. We spent the first night in the outer anchorage, and the next day motored right down near Carrang homestead. We spent an enjoyable time playing in the dinghy, fishing and walking along the beaches. We even swam briefly and enjoyed the nice sunshine while we were tucked in out of the wind.
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Tranquil Anchorage – Boathaven Loop

After a tranquil couple of days, the wind was forecast to start dropping and we motor sailed along to Ant Island, near the useless loop saltworks. The main excitement I enjoyed here was a cold swim before breakfast the next morning. I was going ashore to empty the porta-pot, but the dinghy rope slipped from my grasp and it drifted ashore, so I followed after reducing to my underwear.

Later that morning we returned to Denham as I had re-calculated my fuel requirements for the remainder of the cruise and wished to get the spare Jerrycan out of the car, as well as grab a few supplies in town. I had slightly underestimated how far we would be travelling and using fuel, as although the other side of the bay is visible from shore, we were travelling on the diagonal to many of our destinations. Also once we got to a destination, we might be motoring another 5 or 6 nautical miles into and then again out of each 'loop'. I wanted fuel to be one of the things I didn't have to worry about or play close to the limits of, and because I had an additional Jerrycan (made of plastic - so as not to scratch the boat) which I had bought for the remote cruising in Lake Argyle, I figured for peace of mind I might as well fill it now.

During our brief stop at Denham, to collect the fuel can I visited the car and found the mechanic had already welded the trailer light bracket but had also inspected and was concerned about the trailer bearings and showed me how sloppy they were. This was a bit of a surprise as the trailer had been serviced only 18 months earlier according to the records that came with the boat. As we had many thousands of kilometres ahead of us I asked him to replace them all. He was absolutely crazily flat out busy with work the whole time I was there (lots of blown up campervans kept getting towed in -he is the NRMA locally), but still he promised to have it done by the time we had finished our cruise which was less than a week away. How's that for service! Have a nice time afloat while someone else fixes your trailer for you!

After leaving Denham, instead of crossing back over the bay, we headed further north up the peninsula. The plan being to head to Cape Peron over a couple of days, and then cross to Dirk Hartog Island, before heading back. The afternoon was tranquil and sunny. There was no breeze and the sea was like glass. I was able to get close to 6.5 knots under motor at top speed, which gave me hope that we might be able to make Big Lagoon before dark, or at least get in far enough that we could anchor in moonlight.

We reached the entrance to Big Lagoon, as dusk was approaching, and as we had a reasonably good set of waypoints I decided to continue in. My thinking was that it was a sheltered area, and it was low tide, so if we got stranded on the way in, we would just anchor till daylight and sort things out then.
Well it got darker and darker, until soon there was a sky full of stars, yet the moon had not risen.
The channel into Big lagoon is quite deep, starting at 2m and becoming 5-7m in places, its width varies (maybe 60m wide on average?) and the edges of the channel are very sudden, the water being only a few hundred mm deep over the surrounding sandbanks at low tide.
The channel is formed by the waters of Big Lagoon rushing out at low tide, and whilst it does wind around, there are reasonably straight legs that can be followed using direct co-ordinate headings.

Because we were travelling so slowly, the GPS kept jumping around in its heading, as our lack of headway meant at times the GPS could not work out direction we were travelling, and so where correspondingly it should tell us to head. It was now completely dark and I cold not see landmarks on shore, and whilst I can steer by compass, I'm much better with a landmark. To further compound the situation, heading down the channel there was not much room for error. I managed solve this problem by when we were underway, looking for a star to line up with the mast, that corresponded with the bearing, and kept heading for that. The only time this didn't work too well was when I accidently picked a star to follow that moved - turned out it was an aeroplane.

The sheer drop-off into the channel from the sandy sides meant that if we ran aground on the sandbanks either side it was immediately apparent. The keel was wound right up, and the motor was set to shallow, which all made steering harder, but we were only in trouble a few times on the journey into the anchorage, and were able to back off each time. The boys looked over the rail each side of the boat, and in the ambient light from the cabin windows, looking into the water would call out "Port" or "Starboard", depending which way we had to correct our course when they saw the sides of the channel approaching.
I had a spotlight, but we used it sparingly to conserve our night vision.

When we ran out of GPS co-ordinates to guide us, we were about 2 nautical miles in, and there was about 2 nautical miles to go, of deeper channel in a pretty straight line, which would have been easy in daylight. I fired up Google earth on my laptop, and using the cached image of Big lagoon, plotted a couple more course points from the satellite map, entered them into the GPS, and we continued on. I was unworried about continuing, as there were no rocks or navigation hazards, other than the large sandbanks we were navigating through.
It was nice to say the "shore should be just ahead there" and turn on the spotlight in time to hit the beach with a soft 'bump'.
After we had anchored the moon rose and flooded everything with a soft silver light, as we sat and enjoyed a very late meal as those last few nautical miles had taken a good couple of hours or so of cautious cruising in the darkness.
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Looking at hermit crabs – Big Lagoon

Big lagoon is actually a complete sanctuary, and the next day we went for quite a long walk to the sand hills, enjoying all the wildlife along the way. There were scores of hermit crabs, fish, and small rays.
We also saw kangaroos as we climbed from the white beach up the contrasting red sand hills.
On our return to the boat, after a swim and wash, we headed back out into the bay just around lunchtime, with the boys calling out the course corrections from the foredeck, spotting turtles swimming in the channel as well. The journey back out through the channel in broad daylight took less than an hour.

We passed the red cliffs of Cape Peron in the warm afternoon sun, and enjoyed another tranquil motoring in the still conditions, with dolphins and dugongs visible as we travelled.
We anchored in a small anchorage at the northern end of the cliffs, and enjoyed a peaceful night.
Early in the morning we headed off to Dirk Hartog Island.
Conditions were ideal, with sunshine, a little wind and only a slight swell, making a very enjoyable passage.
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Beginners Luck!

A couple of days earlier, on our previous crossing back to Denham, my youngest son caught a couple of snook while trolling from the back of the boat. This looked like such fun, that he persuaded his mother to give it a try. Leesa has never bothered with fishing before, but the excitement of a big fish on the line (a snook) even though it got away, left her keen to try again. So crossing the bay again a couple of days later was the opportunity to give it a try. First up was a nice - sized flathead (don't ask me how you catch one of these with a trolling lure - I'm still amazed!), but the second catch was nearly enough to put her off - a very large poisonous green blowfish, with two large incisors like bolt cutters. We managed to extract a very chewed lure and she tried again. This time she struck gold in the form of a Spanish Mackerel.

Once we arrived at Dirk Hartog Island, Whilst we enjoyed lunch, we also enjoyed some fishing, using some mackerel scraps for bait. First up was a blue swimmer crab, then about 8 yellowfin whiting and another flathead. In the end we had to stop fishing as we had more than enough to eat. Everyone went ashore whilst the captain hung back to fillet all the fish. An hour or so later we all went for an evening walk up the sand hills, looking for Dutchmen, but found only sheep.
After a splendid meal of char-grilled vegetables and fish we had a great family evening playing cards together, and spent a pleasant night in the anchorage at notch point.

The forecast was for reasonable winds, but predominately from the direction we would be headed , SE. The morning was very grey and overcast, we had a leisurely breakfast hoping the weather would improve, but it didn't. After breakfast we discovered the dinghy hadn't been tied on properly, and had drifted away. It cant have gone far as it was there before we went below for breakfast. A scan of the horizon in the low visibility revealed a dark shape out to sea, so it was up-anchor & full throttle, but as we got closer we could see that it was just a large tern having a peaceful float.
We headed back to shore & slowly headed round into the next bay, where it was spotted beached among the rocks. My eldest son drew the short straw to wade ashore & retrieve it.

Our trip back to Denham was grey and damp. We were heading into the wind, so we used the motor to assist us. The swell was such that if it was a sunny day with blue sea it would have been great fun, but being cold and grey and wet, it just added to the general unpleasantness of the crossing. Its amazing the difference a sunny day can make to everyone's spirits.
The prospect of a cold night after a cold damp crossing, was looming large, when the suggestion was made to stay at the caravan park. The glowing thought of a warm shower then loomed large and sustained us all in a cold and damp crossing.

While the men & boys de-rigged, the ladies walked to the caravan Park on the foreshore, organised a site where we did not have to unhitch the boat and scoped out the laundry and the camp kitchen. After a good sleep, before departing we enjoyed the luxury of a morning shower and breakfast in the camp kitchen - with an electric toaster! Toast in a jiffy, without waiting for a metho grill to warm up!

Coral Bay is the main tourist resort town on Australia's Largest fringing Reef , the Ningaloo Reef. I use the word "resort" loosely, as in it has a relaxed backpacker feel to it, even though it is largely caravan park and holiday accommodation. A large scale resort complex was fiercely opposed and battled by huge crowds in the Western Australian Capital a number of years ago, such that it was dropped from consideration and received no planning approval. The town didn't even have a proper boat ramp until this year, so When Bob and Anne Bower visited, they had to pay for a tractor to beach launch their boat.

Well after our travel across SA to the west, and our sailing sojourn in Shark Bay, it was back on the trailer again and up the coast to Coral Bay.
Its only a short distance between them, less than a days travel, but because we had been luxuriating in all the mod cons at the caravan park on the day of our departure, and then re-provisioning, including buying de-salinated water from the local water dept offices, we did not get underway till the early afternoon. As we were breaking the trip by stopping overnight, we also did a small amount of sight seeing along the way.

One good stop was Carnarvon, where at a hardware store my wife spotted some likely looking rubber doormats, and after measuring them, and our boat, we bought their entire floorstock (4) to act as matting in the cabin walkway, to save sweeping and mopping all the time.
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Tropical boat ramp – Coral Bay

Our arrival at Coral bay was on a weekend, so there was no Conservation and Land Management staff manning their booth for us to book a mooring. We went to the nice new boat ramp and upon launching chatted about our options with a couple of helpful tour boat operators who were finishing up for the day. We ended up tied to a mooring at Moncks head, just south of the boat ramp, which is actually inside the sanctuary zone, and all anchoring is strictly forbidden in this area.

We tied up on a public mooring, and as evening was falling we were pretty sure that no-one else had booked it by now. Reading through all the leaflets I had picked up in town I came across a mobile number and thought I'd better give it a call. The C.A.L.M employee was very friendly, but pointed out a few things. Firstly he confirmed there was no anchoring anywhere in the sanctuary zone. The Mooring I was on was now decommissioned and was soon to be removed. He was not going to ask me to move now, but I would need to book a mooring & move in the morning.

The moorings in the Coral Bay township area were not for overnight use, and were really only there to cater for commercial interests. This left us with a choice of only 4 public moorings (assuming they were all available) Two were at Moncks head, near where we were, but further out toward the reef, and there were two the other side (North) of Coral bay, that were designed for keel boats who could not come in any closer to coral Bay.

We spent a very rolly night on the mooring at Moncks head, as the swell was up & coming through the gap in the reef. The next morning we went into town and booked a mooring at Point Maude.
There are about three Government departments that overlap and are all visible and busy in Coral Bay, that's the department of Fisheries, C.A.L.M and the Department of Environment and Conservation.

We motored round to Point Maude, using the marked channel, at the exit over the reef we made sure the keel was wound up, because at low tide this is less than a metre clearance.
We tied up at our allocated mooring, but because it is a fair distance out from shore, we were still in the swell that was running, and we were exposed to the southerly wind. The clear blue water enticed our children in for a swim, but shortly afterwards We let go of the mooring, and anchored close inshore, just around the point in Bateman Bay. This meant we were sheltering from the wind behind the sandhills, and so enjoyed a couple of days swimming and snorkelling in the clear blue sea.

The plan was to wait for the swell to ease and then sail inside the reef to the anchorage that Bob and Anne called "Bosun Bay" at Point Cloates, just near Ningaloo Homestead.
We set off later in the morning, an impromptu dip was the reason for the delay, having to dive for some parts to the deck BBQ that fell overboard whilst cleaning it.

The sail inside the reef was very pleasant, we passed over some spectacularly blue water when the bottom was sandy and shallow. My caution in waiting a couple of days was justified, as when we sailed past the large gaps in the reef, the sideways swell was still reasonably significant , so I was glad we had not attempted the trip any earlier.
Along the way Leesa tried her hand at trolling again and managed to catch a couple of spotted mackerel for tea.

We anchored in 'Bosun Bay' and watched the sun set as the lighthouse started to shine, and a large yacht sailed by on the outside of the reef. The next morning we went for a long walk ashore, over to the ruins of the old lighthouse tower, and back past the new lighthouse, which is very unspectacular compared to the old one - just a light on a pole and a solar panel. The large birds nest that Bob and Anne saw a year ago is still there, so I don't think the light gets many regular maintenance visits, so it must work reliably, for all its lack of aura.
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Starfish and Lighthouse ruins Point Cloates
(Bosun Bay)


When we got back to the boat, the water temperature showed at 26deg C as the shallow water had been warmed by the sun all morning. This meant the kids immediately had to swim, as they said it was the warmest water they have ever swum in (for some reason they always check the water temperature before they swim, but always go swimming anyway!). The water being so warm meant they swam & snorkelled all day, only pausing for a brief lunch.

The next day proved to be the most exciting morning of our trip so far. We discovered that because of the higher tide, our sanctuary behind the reef was disturbed by the swell now coming over the reef. So we woke to a rolling boat, and initially tried to move to a more sheltered spot, but could not find one. Breakfast was characterised by everyone holding at least one other item to stop them sliding back and forth across the table, and periodically lunging to catch other items from sliding to the floor when a particularly large swell sent everything sliding.

After breakfast was disposed of and everything secured, it was decided to try moving into deeper water as this may ease the rocking somewhat. When my sons went forward to haul up the anchor, as they passed the stays, one snapped right off, and the mast began to sway violently.
My immediate course of action was to lower the mast to the bow roller and as the boys gave assistance, at that instant we noticed the dinghy had come loose and sailed away. My wife gallantly reduced down to her underwear dove in and swam after the ever receding dinghy, reaching it after a longer & longer swim.
At the same time my daughter noticed one of the towels that was drying on the lifelines went overboard, so she too dived in to retrieve it.

From a picture of calm serenity, - well not too calm as there was still quite a swell running - to chaos with everyone going every which way to sort out various issues in a matter of moments! For those keeping count, yes, this is about the fourth time the dinghy floated free so far. It resulted in the clear statement of a rule, that it was prohibited to secure the dinghy using anything less than a bowline. After this was clearly stated (and adhered to) we never lost the dinghy again for the rest of our trip.

The mast stability issue was temporarily resolved by using a piece of rope and some truckie hitches to tension it as the mast was raised again. This got us back to Coral Bay as planned, and we repaired it with a temporary swage and bottle screw once we reached Exmouth.

Once we had gotten everything sorted out and had calmed down ( a cup of coffee helps get over the excitement.) we had another sunny day to swim, walk the beach and wonder at the carpet of starfish in the sand and the odd whalebone lying here & there.

Our return trip to Coral Bay was a little uncomfortable as the wind and swell had picked up, but what was most frustrating was that the wind started out as southerly ( the direction we were heading) and as we reached the curve in the bay and started to head in a westerly direction, the wind (and waves )increased and also swing to the west, so we motored into a head wind the whole way! However, we did spot a whale nearby, out a bit further at one of the gaps in the reef, and the autotiller which my father went to great lengths to mount for us before our departure, finally was put to use, as I had spent one of our idyllic afternoons wiring it up. This made the trip somewhat easier, even though we were just motoring.

We spent the night back behind the sandhills at Point Maude, just out of the sanctuary and nosed in behind a small bit of reef on the point, that really cut down any swell. In the morning, which was nice and sunny, after scrubbing the hull, we went back through the marked channel to the boat ramp at Moncks Head and retrieved the boat. I was not sure how secure leaving the car and trailer at a public ramp would be for such a length of time, but the fisheries inspector who I queried on arrival assured me there had been no reported incidents of vehicles interfered with, and I parked my trailer in an area where there would have been boaties coming & going & parking their trailers alongside. It was nice to see everything as I'd left it, and now with a bit of practice, everyone pitched in (yes that is the point of the boats name!) and we were on the trailer & packed to go after about an hour.

Coral Bay was certainly a lovely tropical interlude, but does require good weather to enjoy to the fullest.
I had tentatively thought that the ideal trip would be to sail from Coral Bay to Exmouth on the outside of the reef, and catch a bus back to get the trailer, but this would require a window of really smooth weather. The C.A.L.M employee I spoke to on the night of our arrival had some friends who sailed the entire length of the reef on the inside, but they did so in a 16ft Hobie Cat.

Our next plan was to spend a night in Cape Range National Park, just sleeping in our boat, however on arriving at Exmouth, all the sites in the National Park were booked out as of that morning. We spent the afternoon getting supplies and the rigging attended to, and after a welcome meal of Pizza, we drove round to Tantabiddy and spent the night in the car-park. Here's where being in a boat has distinct advantages, as I'm sure if we stopped in a caravan we would have been moved on, they're pretty strict about camping over there as they get so many. It was good to see that the boat ramp which Bob and Anne used was getting a bit of maintenance, there was a large excavator digging out the sand to make it more suitable for launching across a larger range of tide conditions.

In the morning we entered the park and drove down to Sandy Bay. This is one bay past the famous Turquoise Bay, which is renowned for snorkelling. The conditions were quite blowy, with all the boat tours being cancelled for that day. Sandy Bay happens to be closer to the reef than Turquoise Bay, and has slightly less current, so on a day when the current could be too strong for some, it was a bit safer.
Image
Crew - underwater

We all went snorkelling, even Leesa somewhat reluctantly, as it was a blowy day, but all having wetsuits helped, and the amazing amount of fish soon distracted everyone. The current meant we had to be careful, but the highlight was swimming with a number of turtles. At the conclusion of the holiday, everyone consistently rated this day as one of their highlights.

After snorkelling we had to get going by lunchtime as we had arranged to be with friends in Karratha for our dinner, and spend the next day with them. After this short but noisy catch-up (they have children of similar age to ours), we headed off for the three day journey to Lake Argyle, stopping at Roebuck Plains (just outside Broome) and Mary Pool (near Halls Creek) along the way.
At Mary Pool we spotted our first crocodile (freshwater) and had our first campfire of the trip.
This was quite a turning point in our holiday, because after this we saw freshwater crocodiles every single day, and had campfires every night, until we left for home.

Lake Argyle is the second largest reservoir in Australia by volume, and with a surface area of 1,000 square km it is about 18 times the size of Sydney Harbour. It is not the size that makes Lake Argyle unique, but the geography, being made by creating an earth wall in one small gorge of the Ord River, means that the rising water has created many unique rocky islands, within a spectacular outback vista.

When we launched from the dirt track that doubles as a boat ramp, we soon discovered that the water gets surprisingly deep very quickly just a small distance off shore. Having arrived in the late afternoon, we anchored just across the bay in fading daylight, and saved exploring until the morning. After getting some last minute supplies from the caravan park and chatting to the friendly tour boat operators we headed to our first lunchtime stop of Barbeque Island.

I won't give you a blow, by blow description of every anchorage, but the trip across the lake was characterised by some very pleasant island hopping, where we would stop at one island for lunch and then the next one we would stop at for tea. This gave plenty of scope for the children to act as explorers, and terrify the timid freshwater crocs that were in abundance. We started off collecting firewood, but soon realised that there was an abundance of driftwood on every island, and so enjoyed a campfire every evening.
Image
Island hopping across Lake Argyle

The weather was very balmy with consistent (head) winds as we made our way down the lake to the Ord River, and having details of all the stops made by Bob and Anne on their travels made for a very easy journey.
One side excursion of note, was to the "Hole in the Wall' that Bob had marked on the map, and as we headed toward the edge of the lake, Leesa was sure we were going to crash , but once we were really close inshore a very small gap was visible at the side of the lake. The gap was not much wider than the boat, yet it was surprisingly more than 10m deep. Once inside it opened up into a little inlet from a creek, where we ate lunch, and watched a crocodile (fresh) that was obviously used to humans, and not scared in the slightest.
Image
[i]Inside “Hole in the Wallâ€

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Last edited by porridgepots on Oct 20th, '08, 15:01, edited 3 times in total.


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PostPosted: Oct 17th, '08, 12:27 
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Here are all the photos if you're interested (guess you must be if you read this far :) !)

http://picasaweb.google.com/pitcher.id. ... IPDgUesvY#

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Wonderful trip report Ben. Very interesting and thoughtfully described.

Thanks for sharing.

Regards,

Sam.

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Ben,

EXCELLENT!

nothing else to say ..........



:D

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Ben
Great narrative of a great trip, we have such a fantastic country with thousands of great trips but a very limited lifetime to experience them all.
Fantastic that you have (started to) done it instead of just thinking about it.
Hope you have many more trips and they are all better than the last one.
It's also fantastic that the wife and billy lids can handle a little rough stuff which takes a lot of pressure off and creates much more enjoyment.
Hopefully we will see a few more here doing a few of these trips and maybe together, as that can make it much more enjoyable and we have the perfect vehicle's for it on water or land the hardest part is making the decision to do it as even the most remote locations just take a little more planning but then they are far more rewarding.
Bob


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WOW ! Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

Cheers
Vic

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What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

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Wonderful report Ben. Brought back happy memories. Will spend some more time looking at your album.
Thanks for taking the time to write it up.
-Bob

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Just a link to another sailing report in the area.

http://www.rlyachts.net/cruise3.asp

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