Friday, July 26, 2013

Sheep Island, Rogers Strait to Kingfisher Island via Raft Point - Kimberley Coast

Sunday - 23/06/2013

Nancy got cold this morning with a cool wind blowing through the hatch so she grabbed the covers and pulled up over the both of us. This woke me looking at my watch it was 0415 hours. I got up and put the kettle on and started to roll the outside covers ready to sail, the full moon was still as bright as bright in the clear sky. With Nancy still laying in bed I thought it would be a good idea to head off to catch the last hour of the outgoing tide to get to High Bluff before turning south into the notorious Rogers Strait. The Australian Pilot states that this is a treacherous passage.  I knew Nancy had snuggled into the bed after pulling the covers up, so I just casually mentioned how nice the moon was shining on the water. She was up like a shot to take a photo, I just giggled to myself and suggested that we should set sail. Nancy said I was nice and warm in bed until you told me about the moon I was going back to bed. I laughed and we got going.

We had to motor sail up to High Bluff the wind was not quite there but as we turned into Rogers Strait and the wind picked up, we hoisted the mainsail and set the headsail again and shut down the engine, we had 20 - 25 knots apparent wind and we sailed between 8 and 10 knots across the ground with the help of wind and tide. We used the Fremantle Sailing Club Guide for the track through the passage and was very good, we have used this guide extensively on our journey through the Kimberley's and I have tried to better the information in these notes that I write giving waypoints etc.

It is the bottom half of Rogers Strait that has not been surveyed and this is the reason I assume that it is listed as notorious as it does have rocks here and there. In the charts I have noted our track which is similar to the guide as that's what we tried to follow, I have added waypoints and some depths that may be of use to anyone intending to visit the area. We found that the track taken there was depths from 11 to 37 metres at around half tide with an 8 metre tide difference.

We anchored at Sheep Island at 0900 hours in 12 metres of water at about an hour before high tide.

(Chart showing track through north Rogers Strait, there are pearl strings but not through a clear passage, this area is surveyed and the electronic charts were accurate.)
(Chart showing the southern part of Rogers Strait that is unsurveyed, it shows the track that we followed and the numbered waypoints with depths that we registered at around half tide going into the beginning of spring tide. We also experienced eddies between no's 2 and 4 waypoints, catching the tide we sailed at up to 10.2 knots across the ground and around 4 knots through the water).
(1) 15⁰ 23.946'S - 124⁰ 39.548'E                   (2) 15⁰ 24.838'S - 124⁰ 38.519'E
(3) 15⁰ 25.508'S - 124⁰ 37.989'E                   (4) 15⁰ 27.031'S - 124⁰ 37.170'E
(5) 15⁰ 28.083'S - 124⁰ 36.879'E                   (6) 15⁰ 28.927'S - 124⁰ 36.673'E
(7) 15⁰ 29.399'S - 124⁰ 36.644'E
Anchored : 15⁰ 29.615'S - 124⁰ 36.880'E
Anchorage is good for most winds and good holding in a grey sandy mud bottom.

(Anchorage at Sheep Island and the grave site of Mary Jane Pascoe, the first white woman to be buried in the Kimberley's. The poor woman died in child birth there is a headstone under the large boab tree).
After anchoring we went ashore to Sheep Island, this island has the burial site of Mary Jane Pascoe aged 30 who died on 4 June 1865, of fever and ague after childbirth of her daughter, her husband John originally made a headstone of wood and placed a wrought iron railing around it, this has been replaced with stone, her daughter died on the 11 August 1865, she was the first born child in the new settlement. Mary's grave is right next to a very large boab tree, Nancy looked around for any wild flowers without result so she made a small wreath from a vine and placed it on the grave.
(Mary's grave near this large boab tree)
(A note written to Mary that is a capsule near the grave)
(Small plaque on the tree in honour of a Police Constable Walter Gee who died September 1865 aged 29 from being speared by a native whilst on duty with the Scholl Expedition)

(The large boab tree)
Three men are credited with the energy and forethought to spark the first attempt at European settlement in the western Kimberley at Camden Harbour. The W.A. Governor, John William Hampton, contributed men and money to a settlement scheme promoted by a slick Melbourne agent, William Harvey, based on glowing reports of Explorer George Grey.
It makes you wonder what governments knew about this country when they decided to spend a fortune setting up these settlements, they state beautiful country with plenty of water, yes in the wet season but not in the dry season. They did the same at Port Essington . Explorer George Grey must have visited the area near the end of the wet season .
This settlement was started by the arrival of three ships from Melbourne in December 1864, the STAG, the HELVETIA and the CALLIANCE, by 5 January 1865, the CALLIANCE was wrecked losing large numbers of sheep ,horses and stores many of the settlers returned south. By the 29 October 1865 the last of the settlers and government staff left the abandoned settlement.
Anchored at this site really brought home the thought of large tides, when we went ashore to a beach which is made from broken shells and coral and we went by dinghy in a straight line, later that beach was hidden by the rocks between us and the beach the tide difference over the next couple of days is 10 metres.
  (Sheep Island at near high tide, Mary's grave is near the beach on the left when you land)

(Sheep Island at near low tide, the rocks almost hide the beach which at this point is quite high out of the water)
(This is the view from near Mary's grave, this whole area is quite beautiful)
(Sunset from our anchorage at Sheep Island, it is interesting to note that Granite Island centre foreground could not be seen at high tide in the morning the only thing visible was the top of the tree)
Monday - 24/06/2013
We waited for the near end of the flooding tide before weighing anchor as they say that one has to time the tides right to get through South Entrance passed Kuri Bay. As we motored along slowly following the guide of Fremantle Yacht Club looking for the markers of the pearl strings I noticed a motor vessel coming towards us when it was about a quarter mile in front of us it stopped and then I saw a large inflatable boat launch from it and head towards us. As I got closer I could see it was a Fisheries Authority vessel. The inflatable came near us and called us on the radio and said they would come along our starboard side motoring slowly if they could have a chat. They came along side and there was a young lady and a male at the helm, both very polite and just asked if we knew the fishing laws in WA, we told them that we had got all the information from them when we applied for our fishing licenses, so they explained a little to us then we just had a friendly chat with them. They told us that the pearling industry here had closed down and there were no pearl strings in the area. They wished us a happy safe voyage before they left. After they left we unfurled the headsail and shut the engine down and we sailed the rest of the way now knowing there aren't any pearl strings to worry about. We went through South Entrance about one hour before high tide and we had no problems, they say that you have to get the tide right to go through this passage and I would imagine in high winds it could be a problem, we had 17 knots of wind from behind.
(Chart showing exit from Sheep Island through South Entrance via Kuri Bay also identifies the other anchorages)
(1) 15⁰ 29.610'S - 124⁰ 36.326'E                   (2) 15⁰ 28.904'S - 124⁰ 33.799'E
(3) 15⁰ 27.857'S - 124⁰ 31.050'E                   (4) 15⁰ 28.005'S - 124⁰ 29.637'E
Rogers Strait in general is a very attractive place with islands and good scenery, although there are radar markers for the corners of the pearl strings all strings have been removed within Rogers Strait, they may appear sometime in the future but word has it that Paspaley Pearls have closed the area down for the time being. Kuri Bay is also closed down. Kuri Bay was a major depot for the pearling industry, the guide book indicates that one should notify the pearl farm at Kuri Bay when in the area but there is no person there today.
As we went by Kuri Bay it was amazing to see how much infrastructure is there a large number of buildings and even a boat remains on the hard. Not sure why the pearling industry has reduced in size, maybe it was the economic downturn  that has reduced the demand for pearls?
The bay itself is empty other than a couple of pontoons on moorings so it is possible to anchor closer in during high E to SW winds, I noticed when preparing the photo below that there is a set of leads on the buildings, I have highlighted these in the photo.

  (Some of the buildings at Kuri Bay, I noticed whilst working on this photo that there are a set of leads to enter the bay itself. The bay is empty now other than a couple of pontoons so it may be possible to get closer in using these leads during high winds.)

  (Needle Rock is on the left as you pass through South Entrance)

(Heading into Sampson Inlet port side of the headsail furler)

(Looking back after we had entered)
We had a short sail today from Sheep Island to Sampson Inlet and it was very pleasant not a great deal of wind once clear of the Rogers Strait but we ambled along at 4.5 knots. When we got to the entrance of the inlet we furled the headsail and motored into the inlet. Our plan for visiting was to get some fresh water and do some washing. There are two noted anchorages in the guide book the first about 1NM into the inlet in the mouth of a creek and the other is 2NMS further in we chose the latter as we wanted to get the fresh water from the end of the inlet.
(Chart showing Sampson Inlet and anchorages, the track in is easy stay centre of the inlet with the exception of the entrance a little to right of centre to clear the reef on the northern point.)
Waypoints Sampson Inlet:
(1) 15⁰ 30.859'S - 124⁰ 27.078'E  (2) 15⁰ 30.581'S - 124⁰ 27.643'E  (3) 15⁰ 29.964'S - 124⁰ 28.613'E
Waypoints of anchorages: (1) 15⁰30.440'S - 124⁰28.330'E  (2) 15⁰ 30.053'S - 124⁰ 29.582'E
Note. There is plenty of anchorage space where the 7.4 metre datum depth indicates of the chart.
After anchoring we set off to get the fresh water, it was 2NMS to the end of the creek we finally got there and unloaded the containers. It was going to be a little difficult because the water was flowing over rocks quite a way in and not at a falls to easily fill containers. We got organised and I started to fill the containers, as I was filling the second container I looked back to check the dinghy to see it well high and dry. I asked Nancy if she had dragged it up on the rocks she said she hadn't. I said we best get out of here before we have to stay the night. We got back to the dinghy and had to get it back to water then paddle it for a good distance before we had enough depth to use the motor. Again we have to remind ourselves about the tidal behaviour, tide difference of 9 metres in 6 hours means that the water drops or rises 1.5 metres per hour.
All the way up the creek and back we were keeping a careful eye open for the big water lizards, they say that there are a number of crocs that frequent this creek, we saw movements in the water but we did not see any crocs.
We found out later that 'Topaz' notes indicate fresh water at the creek at the first anchorage which may be easier to get to and get water from but we decided that we have enough water in all our containers to do the washing.
Some days later......

After looking back at our close to getting caught by the drop in tide Nancy found some more information. As we were on spring tides we had actually taken the dinghy past the rock wall which is where you are supposed to leave the dinghy, we had gone passed that and that is why the water had drained so fast. However, in stating this care still needs to be taken because if caught below this point the inlet can dry as far back as the bend after the moorings. We have also found out that if you want fresh water it is easier to get from the creek at the first anchorage 1NM from the entrance of the Sampson Inlet.
(Heading up the creek to get the fresh water, the rock ledge where we should have waited for the tide to drop is between those two hills)
(We went this far and parked the dinghy at the rocks)
Tuesday - 25/06/2013
Today is washing day so that is what is happening, other than that I will punch out a few notes and get some photos organised for the blog. Relax day lay back read a book.
(I do the washing Nancy does the hanging out, the 20l containers are a little heavy for Nancy)
Today is also a very sad day, yes I am afraid that I am down to my last beer, yes I know what you are thinking but I'm tough I'll get through it. I thought I had bought enough to get me to Broome but I did not count on Nancy getting the taste for a couple of beers in the afternoon as well, she had equipped herself with her gin and tonic. Well I have a couple of bottle of white and red left but I don't think they will get me to Broome either.  Bugger!!!
There was also another setback the anchor winch motor has officially died, so I have to manually wind the anchor up and of course we are on spring tides and deep anchorages, hauling in 70 metres of 10mm chain along with a large Rocna anchor on the end is a good mornings exercise. Double bugger.
We will sail again tomorrow unfortunately we will miss some place we wanted to see and that is Montgomery Reef, this place has a very narrow passage to enter and it is not advisable to anchor overnight, they say it is wise to visit the 3 to 4 hours of low tide as it can cause problems with rips and eddies in the flooding tides. Unfortunately the low tide times fall into the dark hours and I am not chancing entry or exit in the dark of such a narrow passage.

(Sunset at Sampson Inlet)
Raft Point

Wednesday - 26/06/2013

I was up before light and checked the radio sched but could not hear anyone, I made a cup of tea and took one down to Nancy who lay in bed a little longer. Looking out the back of the boat I could see an anchor light of a boat that must have come in after we went to bed last night, it turned out to be 'Great Escape' a tourist vessel after we weighed anchor we called them on the radio to say hello and Nancy thanked them for the guidance when we entered King George River, we followed them in to find the track.
It was a very low tide this morning being spring tides but still plenty of water to enter or leave Sampson Inlet, we caught the last 30 minutes of the outgoing tide and then picked up on the flooding tide south when we left the inlet. Winds were light but we managed to sail at a good speed of around 6 knots with the tide with us.
(This is the reason we have trouble fishing as we sail, since Cape Londonderry we get seaweed all the time, I got fed up from hauling in the line to get the seaweed off every 15 or so minutes that we gave it away)
(Steep Island and Raft Point in the distance)
(Steep Island)
We had planned to sail to Langgi where there are natures natural sculptures out of the rock formations. However, when we arrived at the anchorage the swell from the west mixed with a NE wind made it a little unsafe to leave the boat and also deploy the dinghy and also retrieve it so after dropping all sails we left the anchorage and hoisted the sails once again. We then sailed to Doubtful Bay and took the anchorage around the corner SE of Raft Point.

(Raft Point, it is so named after what the Aboriginal people used to make rafts out of the mangroves and use the outgoing tide to take them to Montgomery Reef to catch Dugong and then use the incoming tide to take them back to raft point.)

The area is beautiful and the anchorage we selected is quite good but we did have a little problem, Nancy said she would got out and release the anchor (remember we have to do this manually which is no problem you just release the clutch and away it goes), well Nancy had a bit of a problem as the anchor would not release so I got out there and started it for her and she released the anchor by the time I got back to the helm I realised that it the time it took to get things going with the anchor tide and wind had shifted us back a couple of boat lengths, not a great problem only it lined us up with the wind bullets off the hill which I had tried to get away from. I decided very quickly that we would stay with the alternative was for me to manually haul the anchor and then reset it again. We did suffer early in the morning with the tide change and wind change we got some swell and wind waves because we were not tucked in far enough.

The night was pleasant but clouds formed and we got rain through the night.

Kingfisher Island - Thursday - 27/06/2013

Up at first light and got underway when there was a break in the weather as we had rain squalls. As soon as we got the anchor up, my first manual exercise for the day we headed out in the bay the sea was a little sloppy then I did my next exercise and hoisted the mainsail. Again catching the tail end of the ebbing tide to leave Doubtful Bay it spat us out between Raft Point and Steep Island at 8.5 knots with mainsail alone. Once out in the open we unfurled the headsail and set a course west to Kingfisher Islands, to get the best sail we had to follow the bottom of Montgomery  Reef then tack south for a while and then tack again into the swirling inlet between Kingfisher Island and Melomys Island. Nancy was a little nervous about going this way but it is about 13NMS shorter than going around and in the deeper wider entrance on the west side. I probably would not attempt it at low tide as the entrance shows a depth of 1.4 to 2 metres datum, we were about half flooding tide on a 10 metre tide difference. We used the waypoints provided in the Fremantle Yacht Club guide shown below to get through the strong swirling waters they were very valuable to us for the sole reason as we approached the islands another storm hit us and we had heavy rain. I still had good vision although rain dripping from face and glasses and could see the track through the eddies, there was one very large swirling mass of water to the north just inside the entrance, the shallowest point we noticed was 6.2 metres approximately half way across the shallow section.

Waypoints for east entrance:

(1) 16⁰ 07.902'S - 124⁰ 06.143'E                   (2) 16⁰ 07.855'S - 124⁰ 05.887'E

Anchorage :

Waypoint -  16⁰ 07.460'S  -  124⁰ 05.830'E

I found that when anchoring that the anchorage given in the guide is alright but the water depths around it drops away to different depths, trying to anchor closer in I found that it shallowed very quickly. We dropped the anchor in a depth of 8.5 metres and by the time we had run out 65 metres of anchor chain we sat in 14.5 metres of water, later when we turned slightly do to wind direction we were in 24 metre depth. The anchorage was calm even with 15 - 20 knots of wind and the tidal current there was not fast running like out a little further.








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