Friday, October 26, 2012

Gove to Wessel Islands - Through The Hole In The Wall

Up early again this morning and did some scribbles for the blog but unfortunately could not upload it because we are on slow time as we have used our monthly amount so have to wait a couple of days. As soon as it became light we started to get going putting the covers away warming the engines, closing hatches  etc. A large yacht 'Ocean Pearl' left just ahead of us they are also heading to Darwin but they are motoring at 8 knots so they will leave us behind. There are three blokes aboard we met a few times ashore we informed them about the tides at the 'Hole in the Wall', they were going to go through it at the wrong time. 'The Hole in the Wall' is a narrow waterway between Guluwuru Island and Raragala Island named Gugari Rip, but is known as the hole in the wall.

Gugari  Rip tide flow can reach speeds of 8 knots plus and the direction of flow is it floods to the east and ebbs to the west and the best times to go through heading west is the first or last hour after high tide, the first hour being the better. The confusing part is when approaching Gugari Rip from the east the tide up to the rip floods to the west. This is good in the sense that you time your arrival for high tide and you have the tide with you all the way.

Before we left this morning we had to wash the decks with sea water as the decks were covered in red dirt and with the morning dew it made quite a mess after cleaning up we weighed anchor and motored out of Gove Harbour, a ship was loading at the jetty and we had to go through a heavy dust haze that was coming from the conveyor belt. No wind to sail by and we had to motor so when we were clear of the harbour I shut one engine down. After a couple of miles a little wind kicked in but not enough to sail alone but enough to motor sail. Having the last ebb of tide coming out of the harbour gave us some extra speed and by the time we cleared the harbour and the tide change we had the flood tide with us all the way to the hole in the wall.
(A ship loading as we leave the harbour. You can see the cloud of dust at the front of the ship coming from the conveyor)
(Gove behind us with an interesting sky)

Our original plan was to go to Margaret Bay the other side of Cape Wilberforce but we left a little earlier than planned and we were doing a good speed we realised we could get to the hole in the wall by the change of tide.

After we left the harbour I put the trolling fishing line out and I noticed on the chart that there was a small area ahead that showed a contour line where the depths went from 28 metres to 17 metres so I headed straight through the centre of that patch and sure enough we caught a good size Spanish Mackerel enough for four meals for the two of us.
(One Spanish Mackerel and a good size)

The other yacht 'Ocean Pearl' disappeared over the horizon and as we started to calculate the time for our arrival at the hole in the wall I said to Nancy they are going to get there too early if they are going to the same place. It is a little dangerous to try going through the hole in full flow unless you have a very powerful motor boat, the information given on the Gove Boat Club website states that The Hole in the Wall is a major topic in the bar of experiences had from people who did not get the time quite right. On the way to 'The Hole in the Wall' takes you through two other passages, one just after Cape Wilberforce between Point William and Bromby Island and the other between Cotton and Wigram Island 6NMS further on both of these flood to the west so we had the tide with us.  Both of these passages are quite beautiful with the islands and rock formations.
(Cape Wilberforce)
(Chart showing the passages and 'Alana Rose' postion at Cape Wilberforce)

An interesting point is that we had internet coverage all the way to Cotton and Wigram Islands, this is Telstra coverage like or hate them they give the better coverage around the coast and off the coast, as I mentioned before most Aboriginal settlements have Wi-Fi  towers, we do have an external  short black antenna on the stern of the boat mounted on the dinghy davits which helps get a better signal.
When we passed through the second passage we got NE winds which was not predicted and we had a beam on swell which made things a little uncomfortable, it is just over 15NMS to the hole in the wall from the second passage and it was a rollie ride all the way.

As we neared the hole in the wall we were a little early so I slowed the boat to get there around the right time, ahead we could see 'Ocean Pearl'  then as we got closer I called them on the radio, the skipper said they got there 2 hours too early so they were trying a bit of fishing without any luck. I said to him that he can go through the passage first as he is faster than us.

They headed off to go through a few minutes early and I followed at a great distance and watched as they entered, I could see that as they entered the tide was flowing against them so I backed off a little, they called us on the radio and told us that it was still flowing strong and to wait a while which we did. 1400 hours was the tide change time and we started to enter then. I think we caught it at near still tide as I was able to go through at what speed I wanted to the tide was not pushing us one way or the other, there were a few rips that moved us side to side but that was all. Again it is something to see the landscape and the different rock formations. The land is Aboriginal Land and we are not allowed to step on the land other than in case of emergency. However, it looks like in earlier times some people have painted their names on some of the rocks in the passage including two naval ships HMAS Ardent 1978 and HMAS Wollongong in 1988 not a good example boys and girls.
(Entering the hole in the wall)
(The passge through the hole in the wall begins)
(Looking back)
(Chart of Gugari Rip or 'The Hole In The Wall with AR's position)
(One of the stated anchorages for those that get the timing wrong the can if possible sneak in here and anchor and wait for the tidal flow to settle)
(The passage is now behind us)
(Sorry the video is a little unsteady at palces as Nancy tried to walk around the decks taking the film clip)

 After going through the passage we had a slow sail down to the Gurulilya Bay, it is the third bay south on the island. It is a good anchorage we did get as close as possible to the northern side as there was a little swell coming in with the NE winds but other than a little rocking with the tide change which was mild it was very comfortable night. It is a shame we cannot go ashore on these islands, well in truth we are allowed to go ashore up to the high tide mark but no further. These islands have caves and Aboriginal paintings in the caves that were painted way before white man inhabited this country.
(Guruliya Bay anchorage, very good holding, with NE winds small swell that is why we kept close to northern end there are rocks closer to shore)

It had been a big day and getting up early and staying at the helm all day I was very tired so after a good feed of that Spanish Mackerel and a couple of drinks I was in bed by 2030 hours.

Wednesday - 24/10/2012

Got up around 0445 hours and put the kettle on, need that cup of tea to start the day, had breakfast whilst I knocked out a few scribbles before getting ready to sail. The air was still and seas very calm looks like iron sails today. As we left the anchorage we got a little wind just enough to put a sail up and motor sail which added an extra three quarters of a knot to our speed. It sounds very little until you multiply it by 10 hours and you have covered a lot more distance. Our plan today is to get to an Unnamed bay south end of Elcho Island near Ganawa  Point which is about 52NMS. We motor sailed around to the top of Stevens Island and down to Drysdale Island before the wind kicked in we then hoisted the mainsail and reset the headsail and we were off under sail alone. It is nice to cut the engine and just hear the boat cutting through the water. Since heading to Cape York and on to where we are now the country is on fire in different places the burn offs are continuous.
(Sails up with the headsail reefed as to stop the mainsail shadowing the wind that was near behind us)

I found the seas around this island group to be a little different to the charts in regards to depths and one should be aware of this for example before reaching Stevens Island there are a few contours on the charts showing the different depths, as we went through a patch that indicated 16 metres on the chart the depth sounder showed 30 metres, the 30 metre patch on the chart was actually nearly one mile to the south. At the top of Stevens Island it had a 50 metre hole not marked on the chart. This areas paper charts have a note that the sources of information were from the RAN Hydro geographical Office in 1993 and the upright figures on the chart are from previous unsuitable survey. There are many reporting's of information relating to depths written on the chart that date back many years so one must be very aware. Electronic charts do not provide that information. These areas are not used by regular shipping other than the barges that deliver good to the different communities and yachties and boat owners doing to Darwin run. The track I took I had no problems as far as going or finding any shallows the waters were all deeper than what was on the charts.

The islands we pass appear to be so different from each other with different rock formations and different vegetation. Drysdale Island has a pearl farm located there and apparently many of the islands up here have pearl farm leases.

The days sail was good and we covered the miles and anchored by 1540 hours, the day was very sunny and around 35C so the wind was nice to have to keep us cool as well as sail.

The anchorage here is good a little swell creeping in from a NE wind but not uncomfortable, Refuge Bay to the north would be a better anchorage however, we wanted to get the extra miles so we have less tomorrow, we have a 60NM sail tomorrow we hope we have some wind because the rest of the week looks hopeless and we have to use the iron sails (engines). Normally we would wait for wind but time is getting on and the cyclone season is coming upon us and I would prefer to be behind the locks of the marina than out here if an early one comes to play.
(Southern bay anchorage at Elcho Island, there are some rocky areas closer in, we found that this position was good for the NE winds)
(Yes another sunset)

Just for information again there is internet service here and was available for the 10NMS before we anchored which is great to get weather information. I do get the weather through the HF radio but the internet provides the seven day forecast and all the charts and radar.

Below is information from the internet on Elcho Island:

The island is home to the largest Aboriginal community in northeast Arnhem Land, with approximately 2,000 residents living in the main settlement of Galiwin'ku and across many outstations including Inglis Island on the namesake island and Matamata, Maparru, and Gariyak on the mainland. The island has a base population of 2,200 people, including 70 non-Aboriginal people. It is the home of the Aboriginal folk musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. The population of Galiwin'ku varies during the seasons, with many outstation residents migrating to the community during the wet season due to inaccessibility. The community also serves approximately 25 outstations with a total population of approx. 450 people, with 12 of the outstations on Elcho Island, which are listed from north to south:

  1. Nanyingburra
  2. Gawa (Gäwa)
  3. Banthula (Gampura)
  4. Djurranalpi (Djanalpi)
  5. Dharawa
  6. Gitan
  7. Gulmarri
  8. Watdagawuy
  9. Dhayirri
  10. Ngayawilli (First Creek)
  11. Dhudupu
  12. Galawarra

Forty-eight per cent of the population is under 20 years of age, with 7% over 50.

Galiwin'ku is a traditional Aboriginal community with restricted access; permission to visit is required by law and can be made through the Northern Land Council directly or via the Galiwin'ku Council. Total alcohol restrictions apply and there is no gasoline available on the island; all gasoline-powered vehicles use the low-aromatic petrol 'Opal' as a fuel substitute.

The settlement was originally established as a Methodist mission in 1942, with the arrival of Harold Shepherdson, a lay associate of the Methodist Overseas Mission from Milingimbi It remained under Church direction until 1974 when it became self-managed. Eighteen connected clan groups within the Elcho Island locale have close cultural ties with mainland Arnhem Land clans and language groups. The most commonly spoken languages are Djambarrpuyngu and Gupapuyngu (both Yolngu Matha languages). However, there are at least twelve more languages in use in the region.


Well tomorrow is an early start we are not sure whether we will get wind or if it will stay north of us.



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