Our trips to the Gascoynes and Pilbara so often prove to be a battle with the weather. This year, we have endured both rain and wind, with very few days when the winds have dropped to pleasant levels. We seem to spend much of the day huddled inside the yacht, outside being too bleak to soak up any sunshine. Neither it is just us. Everywhere we go, the locals are also complaining about the temperatures and the radio reports things like frost in Newman and 6 degrees in Broome.The plus side is that the country is green. In the case of the Shark Bay area, I don’t think I have ever seen it better. Despite this, we drove all the way from the Murchison River to Exmouth and didn’t see ANY livestock until a flock of sheep near Learmonth. I guess the stations were so dry before this year they had de-stocked and haven’t got back up to speed yet.
We managed a 9 day sail out of Denham, going North to Cape Lesueur then across Denham Sound to Dirk Hartog Island. After a couple of lovely days, we had to hole up in a sheltered anchorage to hide from the wind and rain. This was followed by more strong winds. We managed to inch our way along the island and eventually work our way back to Denham. In typical fashion, the weather had turned idyllic as we hauled the boat out of the water but after 9 days we needed to restock on a few supplies anyway.
I can’t say we went hungry out in the boat. The fish turned it on as usual, we found some lovely fresh oysters along the way and even managed a little bit of crab. Christine has perfected the art of bread making on board, using a Coleman stove-top oven. The good thing is that the physical work involved with sailing uses up all the calories and a few more.
From Denham, we stopped in a Hamelin Telegraph Station for a night. Having not been there since 1979 when it was still a working Post Office, I was thrilled to see the way in which the old buildings have been preserved. It is hard to believe the place dates from 1884 and I suspect that the high calcium levels in the surrounds have somehow preserved the timbers. We found the old water-cooled shade-house that we sat in on a hot February day with John Sellanger and Derek Blackman. It had walls made of two layers of chicken wire, filled with tamarisk tree needles, and drip fed with bore water. The whole effect was amazing. It still existed, although it needed some more tamarisk needle packing to restore it. We explained to the maintenance guy how it worked and he appeared keen to take it on as a project. We had a wonderful tour of the old telegraph station itself and even went and said “hello” to the stromatolites. They seemed to accept us as living fossils.
At Exmouth, we gave up on the weather, there being no apparent end to the howling Easterlies. We had exactly the same experience in 2009 and found the same solution. We left and drove East (into the wind) to Point Samson and set up in the delightful Cove Caravan Park. This is relatively new and is very well appointed.At Point Samson, we did managed a 3 day sail, exploring Delambre Island, Port Robinson, Port Walcott and Dixon Island. The seas around here can be much bigger than we are used to, the huge tidal surges pushing up some large swells and generating some ugly waters at times. At other times, when the tide is lower and in the lee of an island, the corals and life in the water makes it worthwhile.
Delambre is a beautiful place, full of nesting turtles, corals, oysters and fish. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset in glassy calm conditions, later drying out totally as the tide fell. We even talked about staying for 3 or 4 days in paradise. By 11pm, the tide was in, all 5 metres of it, and the tidal flow held us broadside to the swell. We rolled terribly. Sleep was impossible. Even moving around the boat was a chore. This lasted about 4 hours until the tide had fallen again so at least by morning, we were calm again, if not tired. Another couple in a similar sized yacht had elected to anchor out on a mooring so they just rolled all night. We stayed around for the morning fishing before sailing back to the mainland and the shelter of Port Robinson for a much better night’s sleep. With yet another strong wind warning in sight, we headed in early. The sail back was comfortable, although keeping well clear of the shipping around Cape Lambert kept us vigilant. The work boats and tugs in this part of the World seem to delight in running down recreational vessels and the bow wave from an ocean going tug is not to be laughed at.
From here, it is on to Broome to store Sandpiper for a while and a spot of work (there’s that word) in One Arm Point.