Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Broome to Port Hedland

Broome to Gourdon Bay

Sunday - 28/07/2013

Up at first light getting a cup of tea before getting things ready to sail. We hoisted the mainsail whilst on the mooring there was some wind but it had not kicked in to what is predicted yet. Letting go the mooring lines we motor sailed out of the anchorage and then set a course for south as we did we unfurled the headsail and shut the engine down.

As we crossed the Broome Port entrance HMAS Huon a mine hunter entered the port in front of us and there was also a large oil rig tug coming in on our starboard side but passed behind us. We had a good sail down, at times we were slow due to the wind dropping but we continued to sail until the wind dropped right away and we had to motor sail the last few miles.

(HMAS Huon cutting across in front of us as she heads into Broome)

Gourdon Bay has some pearl leasing area but it is marked and there is plenty of room to go around the inside and ends of the area. We anchored near the advised spot in the Fremantle Cruising Guide, I think we could have gone in a lot closer to shore as the wind kicked in 15-20 knots around 0130 hours and it made it a bumpy anchorage. We noticed another catamaran anchored in the bottom SW corner of the bay just off the beach and I think that this would have been the ideal anchorage.  But I think we are going to have a few of these on this WA coast. There appears to be a pattern in the weather that the wind comes around 0130 - 0200 hours and cuts out around 1400 hours to near calm conditions.

(Gourdon Bay anchorage, this is where we anchored but the other catamaran anchored in the corner near the 'l' in the word Saddle. The yellow dots are where the pearl strings were).

(We had a great sunset)

After anchoring we just relaxed and after dark I checked to see where the pearl farm markers as the corners had lights flashing, not bright but they did have lights, it indicated that there was a very wide area to go passed on the southern end when we sail out in the morning.


Gourdon Bay to Lagrange Bay

Monday - 29/07/2013

Up again at first light, winds from SE around 18 knots, we had a quick cup of tea and the weighed anchor, we first set the headsail as going out of the bay the wind was directly behind us. As we turned south and cleared the headland we furled the headsail turned into the wind and hoisted the mainsail with two reefs in it, the winds now are 20 - 29 knots, after setting course we unfurled a small section of the headsail and we were away at 8 - 9 knots. We kept as close to the coast as was safe to reduce the wind waves and it was a good sail with only 25 NMS to go we should be there quite early.

Nancy cooked breakfast and I ate mine at the helm keeping an eye out for whales, we saw whales yesterday and last night was treated to two visiting whales in the bay just before sunset. This morning was no different we saw some in the distance and one that dived off our port side you could see the tale slide down into the water they are incredible to watch I never get sick of seeing them but sometimes when they come so close to the boat without any warning it puts your heart in your mouth.

(Whale tail)

(I am not sure what this behaviour is but incredible to watch)
(This looks interesting)

We anchored at Lagrange Bay in 4 metres of water as close as I felt safe from the beach which is a fair way as the beach shoals out, with the winds still blowing the anchorage was still lumpy so we will probably have the same again tonight.
(Anchorage at Lagrange Bay, we found this spot better for the E and SE winds)
(The shore from our anchorage)
(Another nice sunset)
(Well I did work hard today, our backyard looks great)
We have about 200NMS to go to Port Hedland and the Eighty Mile Beach between us so we are hoping to make some good miles over the next two days as there is harsher weather coming on Friday and Saturday.

Lagrange Bay to the Eighty Mile Beach

Tuesday - 30/07/2013

Having 200NMS to go before we get to Port Hedland our original plan was to do an overnight sail along Eighty Mile Beach due to the fact that anchorages can only be made under certain conditions, very light conditions. However, after seeing the amount of whales in the area we are reluctant to sail at night for the fear of hitting one. Fortunately we have picked the weather for sailing down this section of the coast with SE winds being dominant. The unfortunate part about this wind is that it starts at around 0130 hours and dies around 1330 hours. During the night hours it is around 10 - 12 knots and because the shore shoals so far out that we get some wind waves slapping the hull and some swell combined does not make for a comfortable night.
We set sail under good winds from Lagrange Bay at first light and taking note of the marine farm zones headed out to sea to clear them to finding out that they are not actually there, these areas are only marked on the up to date charts. They cannot be ignored as the further south we went we found some very active.
When we weighed anchor we had already hoisted the mainsail with two reefs in as the winds predicted were over 25 knots and as I have said before it is easier to shake a reef out than put one in, so being basically lazy that's what I do on a regular basis. Once we cleared the marine farm area we set course on a close reach and we sailed well under the reefed conditions with the headsail also reefed sailing at a comfortable 8 to 9 knots, we could have taken a reef out and gone a little faster but it would not be comfortable, we are cruisers not racers, not unless there is another boat ahead then we may get a little competitive.
Our aim was to hug the coast to reduce wave effect with the strong winds and that is what we tried to do one thing though is that the WA coast shoals out quite a distance so you cannot get too close and the fact that the depths beneath do not equate to what the paper and electronic charts indicate it is safer to be a little further off the coast. We sailed in waters with depth of 5 to 6 metres and located some 6NMS off the coastline.
There are also unsurveyed waters along this coastline that you do not want to be sailing at good speeds with uncertain depths.
The wind died out mid afternoon and changed direction to being on the nose so a slight change in course and start one of the iron sails and motor sailed until near sunset having sailed 61NMS for the day it was time to drop the pick and have a beer.
We nosed into the coast with consideration of time of tide and what low tide would be tonight, I headed for an area that showed a datum of 2 metres this would give plenty below us at low tide, with a 3 metre tide difference we anchored at near high tide in 5.5 metres of water, at low tide we had a depth of 1.7 metres, so the datum is a little bit out or the chart is or both. We draw 1.4 metres so we had 300mm below us.
Considering we are actually at the edge of the Indian Ocean the seas were flat and calm when we anchored it was only the wind from the land that set up the wind waves and the fact that the anchorage was 2.7NMS off the shore because the depths we could not get closer that it became uncomfortable at 0130 hours in the morning.
(First anchorage off Eighty Mile Beach)
We soldiered on through the night trying to sleep without much success, I did toy with the idea of sailing then thought of the safety with all the whales around, by 0300 hours we got up and had a cup of tea and waited for first light so we could get underway. Nanna naps later in the day will be had.

Eighty Mile Beach - anchorage one to anchorage two

Wednesday - 31/07/2013

Getting underway at first light which is around 0540 hours (WST) we set the full mainsail as winds were around 15 knots, weighed anchor and set the headsail and headed out from the anchorage. To the south of us charts indicate a finger of sand around 1.6 metres at half tide that should not be a problem but again we have proved the charts wrong already, so I went out a little and skirted the contours and crossed the 1.6 metres at 12 metres deep. Does not give one faith in charts on this coast. Yesterday we sailed along for many hours in varying depths keeping as close to the shore as to be safe and the depth hardly varied from around 6 - 8 metres.
We had a very good sail up to 1330 hours and the wind just dropped to nothing and the iron sail came into play, we needed to get along this stretch of coast as Fridays wind are up around the 25-30 knots which we will be sailing in but hopefully just the last distance into Port Hedland.
With all these things I talk about the days have been magical with the whale sightings as they breach the water or roll over and play with their young many not being captured on camera, because as soon as you get the camera they stop doing what they were doing or they are now too far away. We have also had magical moments with dolphins and turtles.

This sea life does not appear to be used to sea traffic like us, today I passed four turtles close by floating on the surface and they look at you as though they are seeing this type of thing for the first time. On the east coast they look from a distance and dive.
(Calm afternoons means iron sail as well as the rag)
So the day has been good we have sailed another 61NMS as we did yesterday, we finished a little earlier today choosing the anchorage that is on the chart and was entertained by a couple of whales nearby, Tonight we are only 1.5NMS off the coast.


19⁰ 50.835' S - 120⁰ 19.381' E
(Our second anchorage  on Eighty Mile Beach)
(The blown sand hills on the beach)
We also saw quite a few cars on the beach today within about 14NMS either side of the Wallal Downs Caravan Park which is located approximately half way between Port Hedland and Broome not far off the beach. It appears to be a good stop for the grey nomads on the around Australia route.
It was another big day but a pleasant one with another big day tomorrow, we had our sundowners then dinner and early to bed.

Thursday - 01/08/2013

We were underway by 0600 hours and under sail until midday, the weather most days brings SE winds around 0130 hours and it drops away around midday then the SW sea breeze comes in around 1500 hours so it is motor sailing from midday on. The coastline looks basically the same long beach and small sand hills.
Again we saw many whales, dolphins, turtles and even sea snakes. The whales putting on a show at times breaching out of the water or waving a flipper out of the water but mostly too far away for a decent photo.

(Some of the antics the whales get up to, for the distance the photos turned out better than expected)
We had to burn a bit of diesel towards the end of the day because we needed to get to the anchorage before the dark set in so mid afternoon we ran both engines to get there and we dropped anchor with very little light left and even then we anchored short of our targeted spot. We did manage to get fairly close to land around 1.5NMS, so we knew when the wind kicked in at around 0130 hours we would get some wind waves slapping on the hull.
(Larrey Point anchorage, good holding in mud sand bottom)
So today we had a late sundowners before dinner and after dinner I went out of the cockpit to see if we could see the glow in the sky from Port Hedland and I was totally surprised as when I looked in the southerly direction I could see the lights very clear and I could also see the lights of the ships anchored out from the port. I called Nancy and she was as surprised as I was, our anchorage is 32NMS in a straight line to Port Hedland it was as though the port was only a few miles away showing the clear orange lights of the port docks and streets..
I went inside and looked at the charts to see if there is another town closer to us, nothing showed so I got the road atlas out and again there was no place other than Port Hedland. Then two hours later all you could see was the glow in the sky the lights we had seen were no longer there. This had us totally confused. No I had not had too much to drink I had only had two beers.
Some days later after meeting Glen and Nigel on 'Banyandah' in Port Hedland I mentioned our experience with the lights and they were anchored  in the same bay but a couple of miles closer to the port than us and they had the same experience.
The only thing that we could put it down to is that at that time the sea was mirror flat and the air was very damp with a heavy dew dropping in, this combined with the dust from the loading ships could have caused mirrored images which is very similar to the min min lights.

Port Hedland

Friday - 02/08/2013

Up early and underway before first light, the wind had kicked in as we thought it would during the night and now around 20-25 knots from the SE. It was a 42NM sail to Port Hedland needless to say we were reefed down and sailing at around 8 knots in a lumpy sea. It was quite a distance before we saw the anchored ships and the port structures which made it more confusing about the lights we had seen the night before.
As we neared the port I brought up the live ships website, (AIS), and checked what ships were nearby and what was moving, it identified a ship entering port for loading and it was steaming at 4 knots we were at 8 knots and we were entering the channel just outside the shallow waters so I had to change course so I did not go in front of the cargo ship. We called up the port authority on the radio and they gave permission for us to enter, they did request that we stay on the left hand edge of the channel as there was another ship coming in behind us, we did this although we were out of the channel prior to the ship getting near to us.
(She is a little chilly but with the rough seas it is better outside, knitting a beanie)
Nancy had contacted the Yacht Club caretaker to ask for local information regarding anchoring as the guide book suggest local knowledge would benefit. He said we could pick up a mooring, when Nancy asked which one he said to contact the port authority. Well we just headed for a suitable mooring picked it up and then called the port authority to say that we were out of the channel and had picked up a mooring. The lady asked Nancy to ring her on the phone which she did, she said that the moorings belonged to people not the yacht club and if the person came in we would have to vacate, she was very nice about it and we found out later that she is a yacht club member. I said to Nancy with the amount of growth on the mooring line which I washed off I don't think that mooring has been used for a long time.
(Ships in the channel are close to the anchorage)
(These are the outer loading docks they continue for about another 6 to 8 ships in the port.)
(They did give us a great sunset maybe due to the dust)
Port Hedland is one of the busiest ports on the coast it is not unusual to have ten large ship movements in one day in daylight hours and they also do movements through the night, this with the four tugs going out to bring a ship in or coming back after taking a ship out is a lot of movements and a lot of wash, this wash carries right through the anchorage so there is a bit of rolling from time to time. Reminded me of being moored at Balboa Yacht Club at the Pacific side inlet to the Panama Canal.
(The arrow points to where we picked up a mooring anchorage is to the right)
Later in the day we thought we may head ashore and visit the yacht club but just before we was to head off I noticed a yacht that was anchored had people returning on board, I had seen the yacht in Broome 'Banyandah' from Tasmania. We went over in the dinghy to have a chat and get any information about the place that they had. Glen introduced himself and told us that they had gone to the club the night before and that it is not that easy to get to. The beach is a gritty soft sand and is hard to pull the dinghy up even with wheels they dig in, also there are four wheel motor bikes that race up and down the beach after dark. We asked about getting fuel and water as we believed there was a dock in the port that you could get both items from. Well the port authority tries to discourage that because of the busy port. Glen said don't let me spoil it for you give it a go and see what you reckon. He said that they had booked with the port authority to leave at at 0600 hours and was told that they would not be able to leave after this time as they have ten ship movements and the channel will be closed for those movements.
Nancy and I left and went and had a look at getting ashore, Glen was right and the other thing was that the club looked as though it was on the beachfront from the boat but it is not, it is a fair distance and actually over the other side of the roadway. The motorbikes had already started going up and down the beach so we gave it a miss. We got back on board and phoned the port authority and asked if we could leave behind 'Banyandah' in the morning, they thanked us for calling and seemed quite pleased with our decision.
We had dinner on board rather than the club had a couple of drinks before heading to bed.






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