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.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Squatter's Arms Silver Gull Creek - The Original Grotty Yachties of the Kimberley

Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Round Koolan Island and into Yampi Sound

Yampi Sound, an Aboriginal word meaning deep water, contains many anchorages; it holds some of the highest grade iron ore deposits in the world. We spent five nights in Silvergull Creek, fueled up in Dog Leg Creek and then anchored for three nights in Coppermine Creek.

whirlpools in Talbot Bay
0615 MrJ and I were leaving the Horizontal Waterfall in Talbot Bay; after spending 20minutes to winch the anchor we were catching the tide out and the whirlpools were not as strong.
This might have been because the tides were now on neaps (low highs & high lows) instead of springs (high highs & low lows) resulting in a lesser tidal current; pushing less water over the same time frame through the narrow passageways.
AR was making great time motor sailing out of Talbot Bay. I was surprised to find a 20knt wind outside; we could not feel this inside the bay.
rough seas round Koolan Islands
 The stronger winds were making the seas choppy. MrJ and I had intended to take the narrow passage between Koolan Island and the mainland. The passage through the Gutter from the east of Koolan Island into the Canal is narrow but deep (25m) with much turbulence through the Gutter but can be negotiated at slack water. The ebb tide runs both ways, out of the Gutter as well as the west end of the Canal.
mining on Koolan Island
Luck was against us, we were approaching the Gutter too early so MrJ and I decided to sail around the outside of Koolan Island. On Koolan Island there was a huge iron ore mine operated by Mt Gibson Iron Ltd. We could see the massive stock piles of the waste materials out of the mines from our boat. The seas stayed fairly choppy till AR came round the western side of Koolan Island through the gap between Koolan and Cockatoo Island with a light marker in the middle of the passage and into the western end of the Canal. Cockatoo Island was also an active iron ore mine site, Henry Walker Mining (HWE). Access to the mining islands was prohibited. Only in the cases of a medical emergency the islands’ resources would be made available; including paramedics and the airstrip.
MrJ and I sailed on to Silvergull Creek to drop the anchor behind the big blue hulled schooner, Torba Queen, that we had seen travelling with Phase Two (Sandy) and another catamaran. First off we thought that the cat was Sandy’s but as AR came closer in we could see that it was not. The inlets, bays and headland of the islands and the mainland are starkly beautiful with high hills, red cliff faces of the high grade iron ore contrasting with the green vegetation. The unusual shale like rock formations that look like each rock is a splinter off the other, had me intrigued.
rock formations
Wednesday 3rd July 2013
Silvergull Creek and the Squatter’s Arms – Yampi Sound
the Squartter's Arms
This morning I was finding it very hard to keep my balance up on deck as I was doing my morning yoga. The wind was blowing and the waters were sloppy making AR move around on her anchor; a bit of wind against tide as well.
the living quarters

J's photo of the inside - relaxed and very friendly
Silvergull Creek is the home of Marion and Phil at the Squatter’s Arms. Marion and Phil in their yacht Exuma were the original grotty yachties who had sailed through the top end in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, making camps along the way, living of the land and sea, till they finally settled in Silvergull Creek nineteen years ago.
After lunch I give the Squatter’s Arms a call on the VHF radio (they operate CH16 & 14) to see if it was okay to come up for water and a visit. I was surprised to be answered by Sandy who tells me that it was all good to come up the creek. Motoring up Silvergull Creek we can see Phase Two anchored only ½ a mile downstream from what I believe to be Marion and Phil’s abode set above the next sharp bend in the creek. Around this bend was the head of the creek where BHP had once set up a watering point to fill a watering barge when the need arose. All that was left at the creek level was a couple of rusty old pylons, a few cement blocks and some bits of rusting pipe work. Further in were three large water tanks which were fill by a natural spring flow from the hills behind. Phil and Marion had set up their permanent camp at the watering tanks.
MrJ and I land out tinnie at the stony boat ramp; we walk up the boat ramp till we came to a set of rough made concrete steps that leveled off at a gravel path and through a planted tropical garden.

around the yard - picnic area, boat club and souvenir shop
 At the end of the path were the main buildings of the camp, a large single room shack made from pipe, tin and fly wire, a smaller shack that was used as a shop for Marion’s wares, a picnic area and the Boat Club shelter. This was the Squatter’s Arms, Marion and Phil’s home. Inside the big shack was where Marion and Phil lived and it was inside here that we found Sandy with Marion and Phil, also seated around a central long table was Jo and Todd off Torba Queen, the big schooner, their son and Deb, crew with Sandy. The penny dropped! We had met Todd and Jo in Darwin at Dinah Beach and their son had been going to school with Alison’s Kyle.  And here they were mates with Sandy and Jo was family to Marion. Small world!
a family affair 


Big hugs all the way round especially for Marion, dear lady had fallen foul of lung cancer; Marion had been very ill for some time. This we had heard all along the grapevine! Marion came across as a very strong woman who does not suffer fool very lightly and was very straight forward to tell them so. A very strong woman who was no longer strong in physical strength; all her strength had been zapped leaving Marion a frail slight whip of a woman with a very sharp mind and tongue. Marion wouldn't just call a spade a spade it was a fu**ing spade! Phil was like a white beard Santa Clause character, carefree and whimsical but also had a very colourful way of speaking.
clean-up time
Even though Marion and Phil live a wilderness life, which will come to an end in the later part of September this year 2013 when they will be moved to live in Derby WA, to swap houses with some friend in Derby  where Marion will live out the rest of her days. Phil and Marion’s camp is set up with a satellite dish, Wi-Fi, Optus mobile phone service from the mines on Koolan and Cockatoo Islands, a continuous supply of fresh spring water, their own veggie garden, regular deliveries from the barge which they can also utilise for transport to and from Derby when needed and they are visited daily by the multitude of boats that pass going north or south. A must stop in for all yachties.
the view from the top
MrJ helps with the clean-up

At the Boating Club shelter yachties are encouraged to enjoy their own BYO BBQ. A must is to see the view from the famous outside dunny or to have a swim in the tank. MrJ and I didn’t do any of those thing but we did enjoy the company of Marion and Phil and the others who were close enough to be considered family by Marion and Phil. The boys, including MrJ were helping Phil clean out some old metal scraps from atop of one of the tanks, (there are three water tanks, one is used for swimming in) while Jo was cleaning out some cupboards for Marion. Jo was packing thing up to be taken into Broome to the Vinnie or Salvos shop while Marion and I were having a great old yarn.

fisherman's bunk
Some local fellas from Broome were camped out at the Squatters Arms too. They had come out on a fishing holiday and had put their swags in the bush behind the main building; they were away on the boat nearly all day but would us the Boat Club facilities at morning and evening meal times.
It was time for MrJ and I to leave, Sandy and the other were leaving too, they would be sailing out tomorrow for Broome. MrJ and I said our fond farewell before going down to the tinnie and then we take the tinnie over to the old jetty pylon to fill our containers with the fresh spring water. On the way back to AR Sandy gives our tinnie a tow with his cat Phase Two. We wave goodbye and unload our precious cargo of spring water and then I turned to making a pasta sauce with the sliced tomato that I had been given by Keesha at the Horizontal Hotel. Another yacht comes in and so it goes..........................................!!!

Thursday 4th July 2013
What Do I Do With My Days?  Silvergull Creek – Yampi Sound
There was no exercise this morning I stayed in bed snuggled down under my warm blanket it was too cool with a chilly wind blowing. I was not able to lie there for too long; I get too restless and have to be up and moving. I quickly had a warm wash and got dressed in leggings and long shirt, with a short singlet underneath. The sun had already peaked over the hilltops and would soon be warming the day.It was breakfast time on A R. We were having natural muesli, home stewed apples, four prunes and some yoghurt followed by a second cup of tea. Straight after breakfast I made the bed, tidied the cabins and cleaned my teeth and then did some writing for my blog while I waited for the boat batteries to be charged (we used the 240volt Honda 1KVA generator for this). I waited for MrJ to heat the water (using the 110volt Honda generator). Now it was time for me to have a nice hot shower and wash my hair; we had plenty of water on board after filling the containers the day before. After my lovely shower which made my hair feel great, (smooth as silk from using all the natural spring water) I hung out my smalls that I had washed in the shower water, made a cup of coffee and then proceeded to make a lemon and Greek yoghurt pudding/cake in the Shuttle Chef thermal cooker.
on a hillside
The lemons and yoghurt were another treat given to me by the crew at Horizontal and I could not see it going to waste. With the leftover Greek yoghurt I had made a kind of Indian sauce by adding finely chopped cucumber, fresh garlic and some of the spicy tomato pasta sauce. This was to go with the large Mediterranean style marinated veal cutlets that I had taken out of the freezer for our dinner.
The cooking all done I was left with a big mess in my galley and no galley slave, but myself to clean up. I also had to compact same more plastics to be stored.
more rock formations
(all I seemed to have done was take photos of rocks)
Glad to get out of the galley I then went up on deck to help MrJ with some repairs to the old rubber dinghy. Because we had stored the dinghy upside down on the bow tramp it was exposed to the weather and sea element more so than being on the davit. Most of the clue on the cover had come unstuck and was in need of repairing. MrJ had nearly finished by the time I got out there and then all I had to do was help put the dinghy back in place and tiring it down securely. Now it was lunch time!
After lunch MrJ and I lower the tinnie to go up the creek. On the way up to the Squatter’s Arms we take a little detour into a narrow gorge inlet. The tide is way down but there is still plenty of water under the tinnie although the passage has been narrowed even further by the slope of the hug rock walls, just enough room for us to get through to the first solid wall rock bar. I felt a little creepy and I was expecting some giant croc monster to jump out at us at any time! ;o))))))
low tide rock bar                               high tide rock bar                                         we crossed over the rock bar at high tide                                

low tide                                                                      high tide
MrJ and I didn't try to climb up over the rock bar but instead turned the tinnie around (only just being able to) to continue on our way Marion and Phil’s. We were not the only people to drop in on Marion and Phil that day. There went my one-on-one chit-chat with Marion.
Shortly after MrJ and I arrived a small runabout came up the creek with the owner of a large private motor cruiser, Phoenix, one crew member and four guests who were from Korea. The skipper of the motorboat was an entrepreneur butcher, owing meat works in WA and in Korea. One of the Korean fellas was the young manger of the meat works in Seoul, he was travelling with one young male and two young female companions. The other visitors arrived in a very small catamaran; they had anchored up the creek in front of the Squatter’s Arms before the sharp bend. These people were sail around Australia but only doing six weeks or so at one time then returning to Victoria to work for a while and then returning to their boat to do some more sailing. It was to end up quite a gathering so Marion and Phil ushered us all out to the picnic area near the Boat Club shelter. 

The young Korean girls went for a swim in the tank pool and bough loads of stuff from the shop, the boys tried one of Marion’s menthol rollies (cigarette) and then rest of us older folk just sat around and told yarns of days gone by and of the people that we have met. Marion sits and chats while Phil tends to the shop and drinks his home brew. I had noticed that the Phoenix shipper did hand over a bottle of Gin to Phil. Phil was later to confide in me that they, him and Marion, do fairly well out of the passing boats either by buying from the shop or deposits of liquor. Good luck to ‘em!

old matey in the shop
It was getting late; the sun was nearly setting over the yardarm when MrJ and I got up to leave. The visitor off the Phoenix left at the same time. We stopped to fill up our water container again this time the tide hard receded even further than the day before and it was a struggle to get in close to the old rusting jetty and water hose. The midges had begun their afternoon/dusk dance and had descended upon MrJ and I as we lingered by the rusting jetty base with the muddy banks exposed. Even MrJ could feel their bites. I was so pleased to get out of there and to be back on AR where I helped unload the water containers but left MrJ to lift the tinnie. It was now time to get our evening meal; Mediterranean veal cutlets, gravy, yoghurt dressing, potatoes, sweet potatoes and cabbage.
After dinner I washed up, uploaded the day’s photos and read some of my book before I was to clean my teeth and snuggled down into my comfy warm bed a little after 2200 (10pm).

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