Friday, July 12, 2013

King George River - Kimberley's

Berkeley River to King George River- The Kimberley's

Tuesday - 28/05/2013

Up as usual before sunrise, (life is too short to sleep in), watched the sun come up as we got things ready to sail, the ketch that we saw up the river was doing the same. I take my hat off to him he uses sails only, he appears to be a sole sailor and does very well similar to my ole mate Leigh on 'Mi Querida'. We are a little too heavy and we do not have the light sails to do the same, we have to get out in some wind to achieve the same results, 3 knots of wind will not work for us.

He also knew the short route out of the Berkeley River as he took a different route to us. I may be a little too careful but I followed the guide book track and which followed part of our track in which waypoints were given to us by friends Ron and Barbara of 'Opal Shell'. I went with what I knew to be safe it was a little longer track but we got there. When we got out in the deeper water and some decent wind we hoisted the mainsail and unfurled the headsail and we were off. We had around 18 knots of wind on a very broad reach to do this we had to head out to sea a little then as we passed Elsie Island we changed course for a rhumb line to King George River , this put the wind directly behind us so we trimmed the mainsail and furled the headsail is it was shadowed by the mainsail.

The ketch was a little in front of us and closer to the coast we appeared to be doing the same speed as our positions between each other did not change our speeds ranged from 6.5 to 7.5 knots waves were around a 1 metre. I noticed as we neared Seaplane Bay that he changed course to enter the bay, we had thought of doing this but decided that we would go through to King George River. A little later on we felt that he was the wise one and we weren't. The tide change and although it is not big tides they run fast. we went from 6.5 knots down to 4 knots to start with although we had the same 15-20 knots winds.

Just north west of Wells Patches there is a section of land that sticks out like a finger, 5NMS before Cape Rulheires as I approached at a safe distance I noticed that the water was stirred up around the point and a fair way out to sea, our mate George (autopilot) was having a little trouble staying on course as the seas tried to take us closer to shore, this continued although I kept adding a few degrees to starboard. In the end I gave George a rest and steered by hand. When we got closer the seas became confused and the waves were standing up and coming from a few directions our speed had dropped to 1.7 knots. This brings the situation under such seas that one can lose steerage. I started an engine to assist we still had the same wind speeds and with one engine we still did not go more than 1.9 - 2.1 knots, I started the other engine and it made little difference and the seas were still confused with around 2 metre waves coming in different directions and making things a little uncomfortable, this lasted for near 1NM and then the waves settled down but we still had the tide against us we continued to motor sail the last 4NMS to the King George River anchorage. With both engines we still only achieved 4.5 knots. So lesson learnt work better with the tides. We had expected to work with the tides after King George River as the tides start to get rather large but here we have tides of around 2 metres difference.

We anchored in the bay at the mouth of King Georges River and after tidying the sails and covers we sat down for a nice cold beer and then watched a brilliant sky during and after sunset.

King George River

Wednesday 29/05/2013

(Another of 'Topaz' crews good work who visited this area 2001 and 2003, please note that the entrance has changed a little since these times I have given details ahead. The anchorages here are still good I have added the third and forth anchorages after you enter which is good during stronger winds, there are many other anchorages in these rivers these are ones)


Up again before the sun was awake, we had a mission this morning to lower the dinghy a act like Captain Cook and survey the track into the river mouth over the sandbars. We originally thought that we would follow the waypoints provided by the guide book Kimberley Cruising. My trick was to enter the waypoints given and then follow them in the dinghy with a chart plotter/depth sonar to see if the sandbars had moved since the guide referred to 2006. I was entering the waypoints into the chart plotter and noticed that the waypoint outside the sandbar and the one inside had the same coordinates, obviously a misprint. So we took the first one and as we started our survey we noticed a commercial tourist boat leaving an anchorage in another bay. We had got to the sandbar  and found a track across but quite shallow. When we realised that the other vessel 'Great Escape' was going in we called him up on the radio and followed his track in with the dinghy this placed a track on our chart plotter so we then returned to the boat and followed that track in.

On entering we kept to the right hand side of the river as we have been advised through information that we have that it is shallow on the mangrove areas on the left, staying on that side for about a mile and then the water is deeper. Once across the sandbar entrance which the shallowest water was 2.1 metres (we have 1.4 metre draft), the water ranges from 4 to 11.5 metres to where we anchored.

Details of waypoints under Sunday 02/06/2013 heading.

(Entering King George Falls)
(Ron's anchorage 180 degree view)
We anchored at what we call Ron's anchorage, information we obtained from friends Ron and Barbara, this anchorage is a little further along the river than the one that is marked on most guides, it does not get as much wind as the other anchorage it just means that one has to travel a little further in the dinghy to the falls which is located in the east arm that is around 2NMS from the mouth of the river. The falls are slightly hidden from the main arm and as you near the end you turn to starboard through a passage in the mangroves and the falls are near the end of that. They say there is a 3 metre croc that resides here but we did not spy it. Near the falls there is a rope ladder and a thick rope for those daring people that wish to climb a vertical rock wall. Nancy was not that keen in trying and I must say these days I don't think I was upset about that decision. It is a pity as it would have been nice to see the attractions that are at the top that has rock pools and Bradshaw Art. (Bradshaw rock art is ancient artworks on the rocks that were before the Australian Aboriginal times, it is thought to be art made by people of like African or Egyptian  types it has also been thought that it was painting of spacemen. There is a lot of these painting around the NW Australian area).
(The East Arm Falls, they say there is a croc that lives in the area so don't fall in, again we did not see it not saying it did not see us)
  (As you can see the rope climb is alright until just over half way then it is straight up with very little foot hold, I don't think my knees would take it these days)

We returned to the boat after assessing if we could get water from these falls, we considered it difficult but not impossible but we thought we would look at the main King George Falls before we decided where to get water before we leave. These falls are not flowing as strong as what we have seen in photos of past times which is naturally due to the poor wet season this year.
It was indicated in material we had researched that near our anchorage on the shores edge it was good fishing at low tide, as always with my fishing skills I proved this to be incorrect, never caught a bloody thing.
We had a quiet night with all the lovely insects that liked our light, these gnats ignore repellent, we use Bushman's because it is very strong, if you need a nail polish remover this stuff will do it. The gnats or midges as they are known love it. We have not had many mossies or sand flies. In the day we have the occasional bush fly visit, I spray them with repellent, it drives them mad trying to get away from themselves. (Joking).

Thursday - 30/05/2013

This morning we decided to head up river as we were getting ready our single handed sailor came by, this is the one that left the Berkeley River the same time as us and anchored at Seaplane Bay. We said g'day to him as he passed and he was heading the same place as us. He had a motor running that I could not hear, which is not unusual for me without my hearing aids. He was going quite slow.
We lifted the anchor and got underway on one engine at slow ahead which with the tide going with us we were at 3.6 knots and we passed our friend on his ketch named 'Dharma'. I found there is plenty of depth in this river I kept to the centre of the river although where there were mangroves I tended to move a little away from them and found the deepest water. We had depths from 5.5 to 18.6 metres. Just before the King George Falls there is a stretch of river around 6 to 8 metres depth which is a good anchorage. The information from 'Topaz' shows an anchorage closer to the falls of around 6 metres, we could not locate this, it may still be there but it may not. 'Topaz' notes refer to their visit in 2001 and 2003. Things do change as we have seen so far in the Berkeley where rocks have taken out a place where yachties used to BBQ. However, I must point out that these works of 'Topaz' and others still have great information that is still relevant but all information is a guide just like our modern chart plotters.

(Arriving at King George Falls, the green slope to the right is where the climb starts, dinghy to the far end of the green and there is a wooden stake standing up, that's where the climb begins)
(Our anchorage at King George Falls. 14⁰02.308'S-127⁰19.511'E good holding in 6 metre with sand and some mud bottom)

After anchoring we had breakfast and got organised, I topped the water tanks up with the spare containers and put the empties in the dinghy ready to see where and if we could get water.
 When we got to the falls they were spectacular but again not flowing as they probably should be for this time of year. The water was thundering down and without filling the dinghy it was not possible to fill our containers. However, on the eastern falls along its eastern wall there was another small waterfall that was basically trickling water so after trying other places we went to this place and filled our containers.

(King George Falls)
(King George Falls, East Falls)
(King George Falls - West Falls)
(A trickling falls near the East Falls where we were able to fill the water containers without flooding the tinnie)
(We wedged the front of the tinnie in a crevice and had an oar wedged in another slit in the rock wall, I held the tinnie in place whilst Nancy collected the water)
(The watery gardens on trickle falls)

On our return we noticed that our friend off the ketch was heading over to the climb for the walk which we intend to do tomorrow. We returned on board and unloaded the water, by this time it was lunch time. After lunch I did a couple of jobs and sat and read a book, Nancy went out on the tramps to lay in the sun, she has not learnt, she has always been a sun lover, she only spend 30 minutes each side. She takes a top with her just in case someone comes along and I am usually the early warning system with such matters. But today a helicopter suddenly appeared without warning, I yelled out to Nancy whilst laughing, "Did you get caught" she answered that she was laying on her stomach.
A little later our solo sailor came by returning from his hike, we asked how it was and he said good. We had a chat and he was telling us he does not carry any fuel, he uses his sails 99.9% of the time, he has converted a 3hp outboard replacing the engine power head with an electric motor from a starter motor and that is what he uses when coming into places like this where you cannot sail. He has come from Cairns and is sailing around the NW area before heading back. He told us that the helicopter that we saw was conducting incendiary drops burning off the wet season growth. Later on we could smell the smoke from the fires.
We had another nice day in the Kimberley's but have yet to catch a fish.

King George Falls

Friday 31/05/2013

(King George Falls in the early light of the sun)

This morning as the sun was appearing our friend on 'Dharma' pulled anchor by hand and set a headsail to go down river with the tide although I think he had to use the motor as well as the wind just flapped his sail. We had breakfast then prepared to head off to the falls walk and climb.

('Dharma' setting sail in the early sun)
I had the backpack with a bottle of water, VHF handheld radio, handheld GPS, first aid kit, some food, small towel, sun screen lotion and camera. We took the tinnie over to the rock climb this rock climb like others are the result of rocks falling in earlier times causing a partial slope they refer to as a rock scree. The one at Casuarina Falls in the Berkeley was made up of small type rocks, this one is a mixture of large rocks and small rocks. The climb is steep but not too taxing. However, it's always nice to see the climb behind you. The best place to start the climb is at the falls end of the rock scree, there is a wooded stake marking the spot which is made of an old tree branch. The track up is quite obvious and where it has some choices there are cairn markers to show the way.

(Nancy on the climb up)
Once at the top the views are fantastic, there are cairn markers to show you the way, with the vegetation they are hard to see and in some areas there are worn paths in the soil bed between some of the rocks. This makes things easier although I did use the GPS to track us just in case some of the cairns had been destroyed as the case at Casuarina, we replace and add new ones as we go or repair ones that are hard to see.

(Cairn markers on the way to the top of the falls)
(Some of the flowers)
(King George western falls from the top)
(The landscape at the top of the falls)
(Nancy stepping across the rocks crossing one of the ponds)

(Nancy having a drink from the flowing waters)
(More of the rock pools)
(No she has not fallen over, she is just a crazy lady with a camera that sees things normal people do not see and she gets in these different positions to get the photo she wants. Yes that edge behind her goes right down to the bottom of the falls. She does very well with her camera)
('Alana Rose' from the top of the falls)
(Some of the small woody plants at the top of the falls)

  (Looking down from the top of the west falls, the low green near the water is where the climb starts)
As I have said before that the falls are suffering badly from the poor wet season the falls that are flowing are not what they should be this early in the year going on photos that have been taken in other years.
The top of the falls is very pretty with some floral vegetation and the different trees, the rock pools are flowing well but not deep. We only covered the west falls walking upstream for a fair distance before turning back. We followed our track back to the where we had to climb down, the climb down is a little tougher in places than going up as you have to slide on your bum on some large sloping rocks.
(Long way down to the bottom)

When we arrived at the bottom we retrieved the tinnie the tide had come in and it had floated on the anchor rope but was fully secure. That is another important factor when choosing times to go on walks is the tides, not so bad here but when we get further west the tides are a lot larger.
After getting in the tinnie we headed over to the trickling falls on the east falls area where it is easier although slower to top up the water containers that we had brought with us. We are conscious of water availability taking into consideration that some falls are dry we are not sure what lies ahead so we keep the tanks and containers full as it may be Broome before we get a water supply.
With all the water topped up we returned to the boat and unloaded everything and by that time it was time for lunch and a rest. Nancy went out on the tramps again daring any chopper to fly over and catch her topless I stayed in the shade of the cockpit and read my book. So we had a quiet afternoon looking and preparing the photos for the blog when we get some service.
Later we had beer o'clock and listened to the weather on the HF radio and then we discussed what other rivers we would do and don't do. We have decided we will not attempt the Drysdale River, it is classed as for catamarans only and not keel boats, well the cats they are talking about have about an 800 mm draft, we have normally a 1.4 metre draft but with all the food, extra water and fuel we are carrying we could be around 1.5 metres or a little more. Leopard cats have mini keels which gives them the deeper draft. 'Topaz' notes indicate that he had 1.5 metres water depth at the beginning of the Drysdale River that goes for quite away.
As sunset upon us we decided to close the doors to the saloon to stop the multitudes of night insects getting in, we also just had one of the insect candles burning and no light on in the cockpit, this reduced the numbers bombing us and they just stayed around where the candle was.
The night was clear and we went out and looked at the sky and with no lights around the sky was lit up with bright stars it was quite something. after a cup of tea we turned into bed and had a good night sleep.

King George River - Darwin Stress Busters 'Bar-b-q Beach'

Saturday - 01/06/2013

(180⁰ view of Bar-b-q Beach anchorage, the beach is behind these mangroves, there are two small gaps in the mangroves where a dinghy can beach, care must be taken as there is a croc that patrols this area but is not known to bother anyone, we did not see it)

(What we do with plastic items, Nancy saves the plastic contains such as these soda water bottles she the cuts up anything that is plastic and forces it into the bottle, this includes other plastic containers, glad rap, plastic food wraps etc. We then store the bottles until we get to a port where we can dispose of them. We have two rubbish small wheelie bins on board that cater for other types of solid rubbish)

(Rubbish control, we made a fireplace in the rocks to cook a little meat which is one way of burning any paper and cardboard rubbish which accumulates from tissues, paper towel, food containers, empty beer containers etc.)
(In the bay the other side of the mangroves looking back at AR with a great backdrop)
(Nearby are these structures that look like building blocks, it is like someone has just stacked them)
We got up had a cup of tea and then weighed anchor and motored down the river to where there is a sharp bend and opposite is mangroves with a waterway and there is a beach which has been named Bar-b-q Beach. We no sooner dropped the anchor when we heard motors it was four very large inflatable dinghies filled with tourists heading up to the falls. Then soon after that two more arrived and went into the beach where we were going, and there's more. Four other headed up to the falls and then a motor boat . They are off the 'Orion' tourist ship. The 'Orion's' draft would not permit it to enter the river mouth I guess and it is probably anchored out in the bay. Well this continued all day with the boats going to and from so we decided to just have a lazy day on board.

Sunday - 02/06/2013

We have been enjoying ourselves that much that we have not been concentrating on the new area of sailing, maybe it is due to being in a marina for six months makes the brain go dead. The fact is that it is very different sailing here due to the crazy tide system. We basically have tow tides a day but in actual fact we have a low tide and a mini low tide and the same with the high tides. Depth of tides and time of tides are very important to getting in and out of rivers. I started looking at the tides this morning to decide when we should leave, long story short if we don't get out today we might not get out for another week. I did the quick calculation and decided if we weighed anchor straight away we could get to the sandbar by high tide which was at 2.06 metres at Lesueur Island which is less at the sandbar. As we were coming out and passed our first anchorage spot we saw a yacht  'Tryphena'  was just about to anchor, Nancy called them up to see if they had just crossed the sandbar they said they had and had a depth of 1.6 metres they also stated they came the usual track which could be the one in the guide. We headed out thinking 1.6 metres we are normally 1.4 metres but with all the extras on board we could be 1.5 metres at least. I had studied the Google Earth satellite picture and the track 'Great Escape' showed us the other day and found that they were lined up quite well so we followed that track and the shallowest point was 1.9 metres and to give this some reference according to the tide chart at that point in time it was 2.01 at Lesueur Island. I have listed the waypoints and showed the basic track on the chart below.

Chart and waypoints.

Waypoints for entering and leaving King George River, please note that all sandbars move from time to time however looking at Google Earth this sandbar has not changed much since 2011.
(1) 13⁰ 56.775'S - 127⁰ 19.033'E
(2) 13⁰ 57.166'S - 127⁰ 19.472'E
(3) 13⁰ 57.270'S - 127⁰ 19.574'E
(4) 13⁰ 57.481'S - 127⁰ 19.674'E
(5) 13⁰ 57.585'S - 127⁰ 19.807'E
Once at the No. (5) waypoint stay on the right hand side of the river for around 1NM as the left hand side where the beach and mangroves are it is very shallow. Travelling in the river we found depths between 3.5 and 18 metres. For large keel boats you would need to plan your visit around spring tides.
(The track that we took on leaving)
(Courtesy of Google Earth I have copied this for the safety of other boats that may read this before attempting to enter the crossing, it shows the sand bar in 2011 and it is much the same today, comparing these two pictures above identifies the present channel)
Note! At this point in time the directions given from the Darwin Sailing Club website gives two waypoints and there is typing error that states both waypoints are the same, it also states that you can enter through these waypoints with the lining up of the light on Lesueur Island and staying on a course of 160⁰ true. This will get you in on a good tide however, it shallower than the above track given by 300 mm which can make a difference with some boats.
Some guides like the Fremantle Yacht Club guide does not give any suggestions as far as tracks in, they have one comment that one skipper sat outside for a week trying to find the way in using dinghy and depth gauge before giving up and at times of very low tides there would be a problem finding a way in.
The King George River is a worth seeing spot we enjoyed our visit.





















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