Dampier to Derby

I am writing from Quondong Point on the Dampier Peninsula North of Broome. Our last Hinchy.org update seems like an eternity ago, we have covered so much ground and done so much.
One leaving Shark Bay, we were headed to Exmouth to await the arrival of the repaired main sail and to sail the idyllic coral waters of Exmouth Gulf. The sail did arrive but the expected trip didn’t eventuate. After days of frustration, caused mainly by the failure of Toll Transport to deliver the sail at the address in Perth, we finally got it back. Rigging the main halyard down through the inside of the mast proved to be a cow of a job. It took 6 hours, most of which consisted of inventing different ways of getting a fine leader down through the mast to draw the big one through. Once up and running, we sat for another couple of days, looking forward to the promised abatement of the ever-present fresh Easterly winds. Every day or so, the bureau of meteorology would add another couple of days to the current run of winds. Finally, getting worried about the amount of time we had left before we needed to be in Derby for work, we left Exmouth, bound for Dampier.
Dampier was experiencing a different weather pattern. One that included rain. The fresh water was welcome as it gave the car and boat a much needed rinse. After a day of provisioning and preparation, we launched at the public ramp in Hampton Harbour and left the car and trailer at the Dampier Transit Caravan Park for safe keeping.
Sundown at Enderby IslandWe spent 6 nights in the Dampier Archipelago, visiting a myriad of islands and secluded coves. The Archipelago is extensive and we really only explored the Western half, sailing out as far as Rosemary Island to the North. We experienced dead calms, fresh breezes and all points in between. Only one day was overall too windy to sail much and even that was spent in a wonderful bay that saw us catch plenty of fish and squid. The beauty of the area is somewhat spoilt by the profusion of ships in the area. A great many of the vessels are strange looking beasts, straight out of some futuristic movie. They no doubt service some aspect of the off-shore oil and gas fields but we could only speculate on the exact purpose they serve.
Terry with a spangled emperor - Karratha BayThere are many wonderful bays out amongst the islands. Some of these harbour “beach shacks”, elaborate affairs with lots of rubber matting pathways, incredibly creative out-houses and decorated with lots of seashells, floats and bits of old rope. We got to see some of these get-ways in action because we were sailing over the June long weekend and the Karratha locals came out in force to frolic on the clear sands, consume the amounts of alcohol that the Pilbara demands of people and show off the sort of boats only mine workers can afford. It was heartening to see so many people having so much fun that was inclusive of the whole family unit.
By the time we pulled Sandpiper out of the water, we had honed up our sailing skills, gained a lot of confidence in dealing with all sorts of weather and tides and lost a healthy amount of weight through good diet and lots of exercise. We felt that maybe we had “done Dampier” but in hindsight, I feel that there may well be another Dampier trip in us yet.
From Dampier, we headed to Derby, stopping only at 80 Mile Beach for 2 nights to fish for threadfin salmon. The fish were uncooperative but the beauty and peace of the place worked its usual magic and we had a thoroughly relaxing time.
Once at Derby, we caught up with our friends the Thorsbys, whose hospitality we were going to heavily rely on over the next three weeks. We had a weekend before commencing work at Derby District High School so Chris Thorsby and I went out to the May River on Meeda Station to try our hand for a barra or salmon. Shortly after turning off the Gibb River Road, we came across a mud crab walking down the middle of the track, still some 5 kms off the river. We could only suppose he escaped from a bucket on the back of a ute. We put it in our bucket for later consumption; not his lucky day. On reaching the river, we tackled the mud flats with cast nets until we had enough mullet for bait. No sooner had we started fishing, than a croc showed up and exhibited none of the shy behaviour that many do. This fellow was a baby, only around a metre and a half long. It didn’t represent a huge danger to us but it was still a wake up call that we had not sighted it while we were bait collecting on the edge of the water.
As the afternoon progressed, the little croc became more and more brazen and got closer and closer to us. At one stage, Dean Thorsby dragged a mullet bait across 20 metres of mud flats. The croc launched itself from the water and covered the ground across the flats at around twice the speed that a human could. I was amazed at just how fast it could move. The croc took a huge dislike to the feel of a 6/0 hook in its mouth and thrashed, rolled and shook its head until the hook dislodged. I imagined it would go away and sulk but it immediately resumed its stalking behaviour. The fishing did not look up much although I did take home food in the form of a small barra. The next day we learnt that a family camping further upstream from us had lost a family dog to a 3 metre croc on the same day. It came out of the river and took the Labrador only metres from where the children were playing.
rig_at_pilbara_river.jpgWe spent 3 weeks working at Derby District High School. I was a fill-in administrator because they were going through a period with numerous absences from the administration team. I took on responsibility for overseeing the Primary School Reporting process, despite the fact that it was only last December that I swore to myself that I would never again have to do reporting. Christine worked as a paid teacher about half the time. The other half, we worked together on our “2 for the price of one” deal. Christine found herself out at Birdwood Downs station on a couple of Thursdays with a group of senior high school boys who are doing a TAFE course on horse management and general cattle station duties. It seemed to be hard work but she enjoyed the experience. I got to drive a bus load of Year 2,3 and 4 students to Broome to tour Malcolm Douglas’s Croc Farm. The speed and power of the huge beasts he looks after is awesome and very scary. They seem to delight in chewing up the large black plastic floats the workers throw at them.
A highlight of the time in Derby was the Theatre Restaurant. As a fund raiser for the Derby District High schools Miss Boab Quest entrant, the staff planned and ran a huge theatre restaurant with the theme “The Sound of Musicals”. Together, the staff produced 3 hours of music, dance and comedy to entertain and feed a crowd of around 350. Fortunately, we arrived on the scene too late to get a performing part but we both spent the night as “wait persons”. The performances were an excellent standard, especially a group of blokes doing a scene from “Cats”. I never did hear the final figure on fund raising but it would have been well over $20,000.
The final week of school is being spent up on the Dampier Peninsular, North of Broome. We will return to Derby from here to rejoin the Thorsby family for a 4WD trek into some seriously remote country around Walcott Inlet. I already find myself slipping out of work mode and back into travel mode.