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, 11 September 2013

Four Nights in Talbot Bay and a Wild Ride Down the Horizontal Waterfall - the Kimberley

Friday 28th June – Monday 1st July 2013
Four Nights in Talbot Bay and a Wild Ride Down the Horizontal Waterfall
Heading for Talbot Bay - crossing the Caesar Channel
0715 saw MrJ and me leaving Kingfisher Islands. It had rained for most of the night and was still raining when I woke. Before setting off we had collected 70litres of fresh rain water via the sailbag and bimini; the water had collected through the many folds of the huge mainsail and by using small buckets we were able to drain most out then transfer the water to our spare water bottles. With both sails set AR was away. It took us two hours to sail across the Caesar Channel through patches of rain and patches of seaweed and into Talbot Bay.
turbulent water going into Talbot Bay
Talbot Bay, within the Buccaneer Archipelago, lies about 10nm southeast of Koolan Island in Yampi Sound. The bay is uncharted; the guide books say that the waters are deep except where marked in blue on the AUS chart. Approach is shown to be clear either side of the unnamed islands whose heights are 97m and 53m. MrJ and I pull the sails down to motor through the entrance and passed the high rocky islands. The tide is rushing in causing large whirlpool around the narrow passage and headlands of the island. We continue west of Molema Island (Molema Island is joined to the mainland by the marine province of Turtle Reef, one of the largest reefs on the Kimberley coast)  then go south of another unnamed island which then took us south of Slug Island a (height of 12Im and unnamed on some charts) and into the inner part of Talbot Bay.
sunset behind Slug Island
Ahead of us I could see other boats anchored in the eastern part of the bay and a large marine platform with what looked like to me, two houseboat type structures and several docking pontoons. This was the famous Horizontal Hotel right next to the infamous Horizontal Waterfalls at the head of the bay. It is the massive tides and currents that surge through the Horizontal Waterfalls causing a white wash in overflows that attract thousands of visitors each year. Large areas of Talbot Bay behind the Horizontal Waterfalls dry at low tide and then high tide covers many jagged reefs and rock bars. The tide flows through two very narrow gorges, one on each side of the sandstone ridgelines, resulting in a tumbling torrent. Between each of the gorges there are natural reservoirs between six and eight kilometres long which fill and empty with seawater through the gorge openings. The flow of this water through these gaps just cannot keep up with the rate of the tide rising or falling. This in turn creates an amazing waterfall effect as the water rushes through and then down to the lower levels on the other side of the ridgelines. Not long after the process is reversed and it is repeated again in the opposite direction. The inner gorge is also partly fed by fresh water from Poulton Creek.
aerial view of the falls - took a couple of shots of pictures in a travel brochure  
MrJ having a chat with Adrian

Transit by dinghy through the gaps in the outer arms is possible at slack water, but not for me with our not so powerful 8h motor. I had heard terrible stories of people getting caught and stranded inside the reservoirs. During our stay in Talbot Bay MrJ and I ended up hopping a ride on the tourist fast Jetboat. What a ride!

plane & boat pontoons

MrJ and I dropped our anchor alongside a big catamaran, Penrod II and a big tourist motor boat Lady Jane. Before I had even set the anchor, Adrian from the Horizontal Hotel was over in his dinghy. I thought that we were in trouble or something, but no. Adrian had come over to say G’day giving us the heads up on the rules and regulation of the area. That’s when we book a ride through the falls for a price of course.
Once settled MrJ and I hopped in the tinnie and motored over to the hotel. The pontoons were not just there for boats they were used for the light sea planes that herded the multitude of tourist back and forth from Derby or Broome each day. We had to secure out tinnie around the back and out of the way. Adrian led the way while handing out the life vests, to the 600hp Jetboat that was to take us along with other tourists for the ride of our lives. I have never been on one of these fast boats before and have never wanted to but was sure glad of the mighty power of those engines and the experience of the driver, Adrian, at the end of the day. Most Jetboat joy rides that I have seen seem to scream all over the place, circling and bouncing of their own wake at terrific speeds.
heading into the outer falls

The Horizontal Waterfalls is definitely something that should be on your Must To-Do/See or even Bucket List, but if you come out there expecting the buzz to be about the Jetboat ride well then forget it. This white water ride is all about water tidal flow, a natural phenomenon of the fast-moving tidal flow through two of the narrow, closely aligned gorges of the McLarty Range of Talbot Bay. The direction of the flow reverses with each change of tide and as tides can reach 10 metres, a peak tide or spring tide gives rise to a significant difference in the sea level on either side of each gorge. It is believed that many billions of years ago there may have been only a small crack between the ridgelines that over the years became larger and larger due to erosion.
taking a look at the inner falls

The Jetboat charged on through the first fall (about 20mts wide) while the huge wash of water was flooding in. Once through the first fall there was a natural formed canyon with calm on water both sides and patch of mangroves to the right. The second fall (about 12mts wide) was a different kettle of fish with its much narrower gap and wild flowing water. The power of the water flowing through was immense, I would akin the flow to a canal lock or worse.

sitting backwards
 The Jetboat was not able to transit through but Adrian backed the Jetboat down into the top of the flooding crazy water flow, dipping its stern deep into the water flow, holding the Jetboat steady with its powerful engines; the pull was tremendous. Then back up the fall, revving those engines to the max against the flow and onward out through the first fall. I’m so glad this boat didn’t have engine failure but I was also glad to have experienced this incredible tidal power firsthand.
whitewater rush
The only access to Talbot Bay and the Horizontal Waterfalls is either by boat, helicopter or floatplane such as Cessna Caravan KLP. The floatplanes and helicopters (run but the same company as the hotel) fly up from Derby and Broome, landing on the bay just outside the Horizontal Waterfalls while the hotel has a helipad on one of the pontoons. In peak times there are other fixed wing planes that fly by and some of the big tourists boats, like Great Escape have their own chopper that all boats circle over the falls during the peak of the tidal run. It is certainly one busy place out in the wilderness.
the pilot and Keesha

After our little joy-ride MrJ and I stayed around at the hotel to meet some more of the great staff/crew.  Keesha, the hostess with the mostess, gave me a couple of bags of apples to take home which I stewed up for our breakfast meals. MrJ was able to get an order for two slabs of beer to be brought in the next day on one of the floatplanes. Adrian had also invited us back for drinks that evening but when we saw how many paying passenger were still at the hotel we thought best to stay home.

helping hands when the plane are moving

Saturday 29th June
Saturday morning brought in some warm sunshine, enough to get me up on deck exercising before breakfast. I then watched three floatplanes fly over and land. More planes were in and out throughout the day and with each one landing or taking off the surrounding calm water would be churned up sending wash across to the anchored boats which would then rock our socks off. Just part of what happens!
Horizontal Hotel

After breakfast and clean Ken off Penrod II popped in to say hello and then we got a call on the VHF radio from Keesha; our beer had landed. MrJ and I jumped in the tinnie to go pick up out delivery and also had time to chat with Keecha and the other crew. Many of the tourist were moving in and out of the planes and Jetboats; everyone was kept moving to a tight scheduler. We made our apologies for turning up the night before and were told it would not have matter with them or their guests; the invite was put to MrJ and I again and this time we accepted.
heading into Cyclone Bay
Cyclone Bay

rock formations in Cyclone Creek

MrJ and I decides to do some exploring in out tinnie so drooping the supplies off first we then took off up towards what everyone calls the Cyclone Bay. East of the Horizontal Waterfalls is a bay with cyclone moorings that were used by pearl producers in the pearling seasons. The creek beyond the moorings is scenic and can be navigated by dinghy but might be tricky at a spring low tide. I was very impressed with the dramatic, vertiginous cliffs of Cyclone Creek.

The rock formations were amazing, as if the earth had been pushed up by a huge explosion and it probably had many thousands or millions of years ago.


That evening MrJ motored over to the hotel, tying our tinnie up to the back of one of the walkways. Keesha greeted us with a lovely warm cheerio and told us that we would be able to stay for dinner as well; she had grabbed a couple of pieces of extra fish out just for us. How wonderful. MrJ were able to meet more of the great crew/staff as we as meet quite a number of very friendly paying guests. There was only one narky lady, a big snob that queried why we were allowed there. Simple explanation – we were asked! I did notice that this particular lady was knocking back a hell of a lot of booze and not many people were engaging in conversation with her. What comes around.............! Some of the guests were, as MrJ puts it, not short of a quid, but were extremely friendly and very interested in what we were doing.

Sunday 30th June
our mates the Gummy Sharks, which are
sometimes called Lemon Sharks because of their colour
I couldn't raise ABC radio, Macca All Over for MrJ but we still had our cooked Sunday breakfast. With no papers to read it was a morning of catch up on the computer. It was a rest day all round with the predicted strong wind that had come in we were not going anywhere. The afternoon spent relaxing in the cockpit admiring the view and we had our regular afternoon visitor, the local gummy sharks looking for a free hand out of bread. These gummy sharks have become pet like because of the number of people that they get to interact with but are very protect by the staff at the Horizontal Hotel.
Monday 1st August
while waiitng for the plane to dock
I began my day with my yoga in the fresh morning air then while having breakfast I tried to catch up with my writing. I am getting so far behind. Oh well! No time to rest today; MrJ and I were over to the hotel to collect some fresh water in our containers. The hotel does not have a lot of water to give out; they have to make all their own water with a couple of large desalinators. I just think we were lucky. This was the staff’s last day before being flown out for a three day leave. Keesha said she would give us a call a bit late so that we could come over to say good bye. Adrian and his boys were busy getting this away while the last of the tourists were still getting their tour rides. Adrian is the complex manager, his brother in Broome owns the company and their father owns the float plane company; a big family concern.
morning light caught on Slug Island
When MrJ and I went across to the hotel that afternoon Keesha had several packs of fresh fruit, vegies and bread boxed up for us. All this stuff would have been thrown out, thrown overboard to the fish before the staff’s departure. Looks like the Gummy’s miss out this time! We waved good bye as the planes took off dipping low past AR. Only one person was left on the floating complex; a young fella flown in from Broome to care take and do a few maintenance jobs around the pontoons. During the late afternoon this caretaker popped over to say G’day and have a bit of a chit-chat. He left us before dark came in and then MrJ and I were all alone. The other boats had left either that morning or the day before. Early the next morning we left too.
sunset over Talbot Bay

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