How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Across the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf

The day begins
Monday 20th May 2013
Crossing the Gulf
MrJ and I had a fairly good sleep last night, only MrJ had this terrible itchy through and cough that kept him away to start with. Drink loads of water!
We were up at 0530 and underway at 0545, genoa sailing with the tide helping. We were heading for the Berkeley River on the other side of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf and the beginning of the Kimberley’s in W.A. By heading straight across the gulf we were saving 100n/m that would have been the extra mile if we had have decided to go further south towards the Cambridge Gulf, using more fuel. Another reason to go more direct was that there was to be a big change in the weather by the end of the week and we could be stuck down south when it would be better to be stuck in the Berkeley.
It took us nearly 20hours, working on CST (Central Standard Time) and 143n/m to get across to Reverley Island just at the mouth of the Berkeley. And it took us another couple of hours to get through the 2n/m into the river.
Sunrise leaving Anson Bay
As we headed out to sea I sat on the aft step to watch a glorious sunrise that was following. At 0630 MrJ starts up the HF radio for the first of the SICYC skeds. We can hear Andy very faintly in the background but I don’t think that he was receiving us. There was other traffic on the airways, a group of American boats all heading across the Pacific. MrJ logged our position with them. Then we heard a call from Swarree II, and Australian boat heading up the eastern coast of QLD, at Portland Roads, heading for Darwin to join the Indonesian Rally in July. I know that boat name, it’s a Shagger like us and I’m pretty sure it is Mark and Susan’s friends.
The tide changed and the winds dropped to 6knts, we were down to a sailing speed of 2.5kts. Doing a Nattape as MrJ says. Nattape was a boat that we had met on our Pacific crossing some years ago. Natalie and Hans Peter on Nattape were purist sailors, a bit like our dear friend Ginny, who wait for the wind to push them along. MrJ has a rest and I must remember to turn the sea water pump off after I wash up at night - getting used to and remembering how to and when to doing things again is catching up but I was getting back there once more. My new head pump has been playing up; the water is coming was coming in faster than it was getting pumped out. Goes onto the, to be fixed list!
Shower time
I run the PRT motor for half an hour to get us back on course, which wakes MrJ. He takes over the watch while I go inside to give the cabin, the galley, the saloon and the cockpit a bit of a clean out and then turn to my computer to upload and edit some photos.
Mid morning – the no wind thing was killing us! It felt like we are back in the Doldrums, back in the Pacific Cross. It took us 6hr to come 16n/m, to get out of Anson Bay. Yuk!! Sorry Nattape but we needed a motor or we would be left floundering around in the middle of the Gulf for days and then the bad weather would have hit. We had both sails up too.
The STB engine would not start! I had this dreadful sinking feeling in my stomach. Try as we may MrJ and I could not get the engine to turn over. It had to be something electrical. Only another thing for MrJ to fix - a very important one! On the topic of electrical faults, we were also having problems with the little Honda generator. The list is getting bigger!
Now let me tell of much better things ..................!
I watch the sun set across the Gulf
I made a salad wrap for lunch and then we take turns at a sea shower on the forward deck, finishing off with a rinse off in fresh water.  It was so refreshing to be able to stand under running water for as long as you wanted to, to wash all the sweat and grime away while under the warm sunray and a great window to the world. It was time for MrJ to get some rest while I took the watch one again. He was not having much luck with any sleep so came back on watch. I had premade some chilli beans and pasta for dinner and went back to studying the cruising guides and the charts. 2000h was bedtime for me, leaving MrJ on watch. It was going to be a long night and I needed some rest to be able to take over the watch later. Sometime during my rest the wind kicked in, I could feel and hear the change through the boat. I was definitely not used to sleeping with the extra boat noises and the slapping of the waves on the hull but I was able to doze off here and there with my head tucked under the pillow.
12 midnight MrJ called me up; my watch!
It was a moonlit night with some twinkling stars trying to sparkle through the dark clouds. The wind had settled making the sea not so angry. The night air had a coolish feel, cool enough for me to don a light t-shirt. MrJ had threaded a line around the cockpit and out forward for us to clip onto when moving around the boat at night. I was a good girl (for a change), I did remember to wear my safety harness and I didn’t go out of the cockpit!
Midnight in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf – S13-57-348 – E128-47-612

Tuesday 21th May 2013
Made it to the Berkeley River
During my midnight to dawn watch I snacked on a few biscuits and drank herbal tea; I was feeling a bit seedy. Haven’t got my sea legs as yet!
Sitting at the helm for hours on end with nothing but darkness could be a bit daunting for some but not to me. I find this to be a great quiet time in my day; a time for me, a time for me the boat and the elements. A time to enjoy the ride! I was reading another book, As Darkness Falls (how appropriate) which is a story about a young female detective in far western NSW. A large sea bird flew over the starboard side. Its wings caught a streak of light reflecting from the green STB light on the bow. The stars were twinkling between the dark looming cloud cover. How lovely!
0200 the wind dropped off and I was forced to start an engine. 0300 I spotted a glimmer of light over the horizon to the STB side. There were a couple of lights but could not make out what they were; might have been the oil rig platform and set up that I had been told to keep an eye out for. Standing on the side deck i could just make out one of the lights that seemed to be closer. I was pretty sure that this light belonged to a fishing trawler that we had see nearer the coast the day before but it was not heading near us.
Another day awakens
MrJ was up at 0430 to take over the watch again. I was feeling so weary that it did not take long for me to fall asleep. I was woken after two hours sleep, to the sounds of MrJ’s voice talking on the HF radio. He was talking to the American boaties again. I get up to meet the morning with shades of pink and blue across the sky; the Blue Hour of the day. As the golden sun creeps above the horizon I see a plane trail above a beautiful yellow and blue sunrise that is casting across the sea.

Whenever the wind and sea picked up I began to feel a little seedy; still getting used to being at sea, I suppose. I was fitting back a bad headache as well so this morning decided to take a Travel Calm and some paracetamol. Ok, it fixed the problem but the down side was that I became very lethargic and wanting to rest all the time but much better then feeling sick. The Travel Calm also gave me an awful dry taste, a bit metallic, even making whatever I drink or eat seems tasteless. Yuk!
There was very little wind again; the sea was as flat as a mill pond. Wind 4.4kts, speed 5.3kn with the PRT engine running. Doldrum fever again! After breakfast I had to go and lie down again. I think that the medication had kicked in and I was feeling all doped up. I slept for another two hours before getting up to help roll in the genoa.
MrJ went down into the STB engine room to tinker away. I was at the helm trying to kick that engine over when given the “hey-ho” from MrJ below. Our engines are under the aft bunks; you can easily access an engine by lifting up the mattress and board, for a small job or for a bigger job, taking them out altogether. I may have mentioned this fact in my notes from last year. This was a big job that turned into a little job. It didn’t take MrJ very long to find what the problem was; a small wire junction had come loose. Easy to fixed, except that this particular junction was at the back of the motor. We did need to have the bunk out, big job setup.
I fussed around with a bit of a clean up while MrJ puts the waypoints in for the Berkeley River bar entrance that we had been giver from dear friends Ron and Barbara Chester off Opal Shell. Opal Shell had cruised the Kimberley coast as a tour charter boat for the past 14years.
Every time I was to sit down I would be nearly falling asleep again. It was no good fighting the effects of the tablets I just had to go back to bed again. I know that it is better than feeling sick but it sure did tick me off not being up and about or being able to take my watch. MrJ is a good skipper! I wake up to find that we are 20n/m off the Berkeley. Getting up to wash my face, feeling much more refreshed. Now I was able to enjoy the last of the ride in.
MrJ steered AR to the southern side of Reveley Island, skirting past Uncle and Aunty Islands to motor close up the western side of Reveley to where Ron had marked a good anchorage to wait out the tide.
Reveley Island – S14-21-734 – E127-48-211, we only had 2.5mtsof water under us. As we had a conflict of way-points from two different sources and not wanting to get caught out again like at Peron Islands, MrJ took the dinghy out with the Garmin chart plotter and out new little portable depth sounder attached to the back of the dinghy. I watched MrJ like it was for miles (not really) as he and the dinghy disappeared into a speck on the water. Then I had to grab the binoculars to be able to see him. MrJ weaved a path through the low shoaling sandbars and proved that Ron’s advice had been correct.
The tide had been on the rise; we hauled the dinghy up and prepared to do the river bar crossing. Just for a split second I had butterflies in my tummy either from nerves with the knowledge of the shallow crossing and a chance of running aground or the excitement of going in to the first and one of the better Kimberley river’s, the Berkeley River. At least I was sure that the tide was still on the rise.
Up came the anchor, both AR’s motor were humming nicely as we make the approach to the river mouth.
Heading into the Berkeley
From the south the mouth of the Berkeley is hidden somewhat behind Reveley Island. It is not until you get to the top of the island and turn into the mouth at you get a better vision of the inside. To the south of the entrance there were great red rock cliffs with some low lying mangrove bushes. To the north were great white sand hills dotted with scrub. On top of one of these sand hills were the buildings of a wilderness resort. Just inside the river mouth I could see the resort’s small flat-bottomed boat on a mooring just off a great sandy beach. MrJ follows his track over the sand bar with plenty of water under our hulls and then we are in........!!!
Some distance to the south is still the high red cliffs with a large area of scrub between the mangroves at the water’s edge. The northern side sandy beach area ends in more low lying mangroves and smaller red cliffs behind. Inside the mouth of the Berkeley River – S14-21-616 – E127-27-948 in 7/8mts good holding This was where we anchor for our first night in the river; it was 1450 CST (Darwin N.T. time) or 1220 WST (Perth W.A. time). Whichever time it was lunchtime on board AR!
The mouth of the Berkeley
I did put our clocks back to WST now that we were officially in W.A. and then MrJ had a little nanna nap on the comfort of the cockpit cushions and I stretched out on the side deck to read my book. We both were to enjoy a bit of a lazy afternoon in the calm waters of the Berkeley River with only one noisy interruption to the quietness was when the UHF radio squawked with the voices of the resort and helicopter people keying up a meeting and then the helicopter buzzing overhead as it flew up the river with a load of people from the resort. I waved, the chopper pilot tooted his siren and tried to get their photo but they went by too fast. Back to the still and quietness and the heat and humidity!
Later in the afternoon a sloop motors down the river and anchors across the way from us, most probably to be ready to leave the river on the next tide. I didn’t recognize the boat as someone that we might know. You see, we don’t know all boats out there only about half of them!
Sunset on the Berkeley

It was early to bed for the both of us that night to fall into a deep sleep. This made me wonder - How much sleep does a person need?



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