Back at Coral Bay on one engine

After an overnight stop and a walk to look at the old light house (which was too fast – we just looked at it from afar from the top of a sand dune), we went back to the boat to start our journey back to Coral Bay. Firing up the engines, the port engine started then stopped as soon as we got the anchor up and wouldn’t start again. Bummer.

Ducking into the engine room we located a leak in the engine exhaust, where the salt water that is mixed in with the exhaust had leaked all over the now quite hot starter motor. Hence why the starter motor wouldn’t start the motor.

With our spare motor – catamarans have a spare everything – we set off on the 25nm trip back to Maud’s landing. The wind was on the nose and there were quite a few shallow areas to contend with but we’d gone up on the outside of the reef and now we wanted to explore the calm inside reef passage. We tried to keep to the green bits but there were a few time where we had to go over darker weeds and at one stage we were zipping over coral in 4m of water. But we made it – the lowest the water got was 3.5m and after a few tacks we got back to Maude’s just after 5. A long tiring day with lots of concentration, pushing into a light southerly with all the dramas of the engine problem.

The other strange problem we were having seemed to correct itself. Our battery capacity was showing 358AH, which is 55%, however the voltage was 12.7, which indicates 100%. And when we tried to charge them with the genset, the charge would quickly move from bulk to absorption to float – again indicating they were full. We’ve got a lot of charging capacity on board – 3 solar panels and a wind gen plus we’ve been running the genset a lot. Spoke to peter from maritime electronics and he thought like us that the AH capacity meter was not right. Anyway motoring back today the Ah suddenly jumped to 620 (100%) as itvhas done a couple of times before. Mmm.

At Maud’s we caught up with tony and rudi who were there on rudi’s Lagoon 38. They came over for drinks and dinner and it was good to catch up.

Yardey Creek

After getting to Yardey Creek (or Boat Harbour to be more precise – about 2nm south of Yardey Creek), it was time to hop in the dingy for a rather long ride to Yardey Creek proper. We pulled the dingy up the closed river mouth and headed for the walk up the top of the gorge. It said 2 hours return, but like all these signs it took much, much less than this.

Having finished the walk, we were still unsure how or when to get the DEC boat trip up the gorge. There’s a camp ground at Yardey Creek so off I went to talk to some campers. They pointed us off towards the campground caretaker, who had us booked on for the next day in no time at all. We had the choice of an 11am or a 12.30pm trip (they last about an hour) for $25 a head. For all you guys following in our boat steps you need to note that they only run Tuesday to Saturday (no Sunday or Monday trips).

Then it was back to Camelot. As this was the last time we’d see Smiley until maybe Darwin we had them over for drinks (NO RUM) and dinner. They also brought over Sundancer of Bunbury’s cruising notes which I copied – thanks guys. We ate a lovely meal of squid and mackerel but there was no dancing of any sort to report.

Next morning it was up early for the walk into town. We pulled up our dingy at the nearest beach and walked over a few dunes to find the Yardey-Ningaloo 4WD track. On the way we saw some kangaroos and emus. We made it to Yardey Creek at 10.30am so it was a fair sort of walk.

The boat trip was both spectacular and informative. The gorge itself is only 1.5km long and is the only permanent creek in Cape Range National Park. The wildlife was a highlight, especially the rare black footed wallaby, which are only found in 4 places in Australia – mandu-mandu gorge (further up the Cape), Barrow Island (near the Monty’s), some islands off Esperance and Yardey Creek. They live on the sides of the gorge, high up in the crevesses and come out at night, climbing to the top of the gorge to feed. They are really cute with their really long bushy tail and their black and white faces.

Peter, the guy that took us on the tour was realy helpful. He suggested we were parked in a really good fishing spot and told us exactly how to catch the spangled emporers that were there. So off we trotted one and a half hours back to the boat and out came the fishing line. True to his word, we’d soon hauled in 4 emporers and a couple of squid. The back of Camelot was starting to look like the back of Indigo – a bit of a factory boat.

After cleaning up, on the BBQ went one of the smaller fish, which tasted beautiful. Dishes done we were absolutely nackered and we all slept soundly – ready to head south towards Coral Bay in the morning where we would pick up gorgeous Cas in a couple of days time.

Up Ningaloo Reef

Manta Ray

Big Mack

Sunday 13th May

After the excitement of seeing Whale Sharks, the focus shifted to Manta Rays. A bit of research suggested that the Manta Rays hung out 1nm north of the old jetty at Maud’s Landing so off we went in Camelot to the spot in question. We could see two charter boats in the same spot so knew we were on the money. We anchored a little way off the charter boats who had people in the water with the manta rays and took off in the dingy to find them – without success. Meanwhile Smiley had followed us down and they had spotted a couple from the decks of their cat.

So we decided to do the same. We pulled up anchor and managed to pull up beside a small one and a really big one. After following them around for a while, we decided to anchor where they were and go for a snorkel with them. That was easier said than done. I don’t think they liked the sound of the dingy engine because we couldn’t really get in front of them – they kept veering away. Elaine and Michael tried to swim over to them whilst I stayed in the dingy but they kept veering away. Oh well, we gave it a try. Then it was back to Maud’s Landing where Smiley had invited us over for sunset drinks and dinner. Pulling up the anchor, the anchor chain stripper on the anchor winch broke (AGAIN!!!).

This one was new just before we left Perth. (I’ve ordered two this time – Cas is bringing them up next week). Had a great time on Smiley – after a champagne, bottle of white and a red, Stuart and Magda broke out a bottle of Captain Morgans. Now I’m not in the habit of drinking rum straight but after the first few shots I got into the swing of things. Talking about getting into the swing of things, I have observed over the last couple of weeks that a combination of a not insubstantial amount alcohol and dance music has an interesting effect on Elaine. In no time at all both Magda and Elaine were dancing on the back deck to Magda’s Gym music track. It turned out to be a great night and there were a few sore heads on Camelot the next morning. (Note that we also had to fill Elaine in on a few details – like how she got back to Camelot!)

Monday morning was a slow start as we pulled up the sails and headed for Norwegian Bay. We were crawling along so up went the spinnaker. For the first couple of hours there was barely enough wind to keep it up but then as the day progressed it started to blow at 12-15kts and we flew along doing 8’s and 9’s. Whilst all this was going on Michael managed to pull in a huge Spanish mackerel, enough to feed us for 8 meals we worked out. Half an hour out of Norwegian Bay, we needed to drop the spinnaker as the wind was approaching 20kts. Then in through the breakers, turn left and anchor right next to the old Whaling Station. Tuesday, we did some exploring around what’s left of the Whaling Station which shut down in 1959. There was a lot of old boilers and steam driven winches lying around, together with some concrete pads but that was about it. Looked like 20-30 people worked there. Once again there was nobody else in the bay. It seems like Smiley and ourselves are the only yachts going up the coast, which is a bit disappointing. One of the joys of cruising is meeting other yachties and swapping stories over a beer or two.

Wednesday saw us heading to Yardie Creek. We were up early after a good nights sleep and headed outside the reef. It was one of those sails you really enjoy. We started off at a brisk pace witha nice 10-15kt breeze off our back quarter. Then it died away to 5kts and we meandered along at hardly any pace as Michael cooked bread and muffins and we read and fished (and wrote blog entries).

We got into Yardie Creek at lunchtime and the entry was quite okay. We couldn’t work out why the cruising guide said catamarans only as we had 4m of water under us at low tide. Mmmm.

Snorkelling with the Whale Sharks – F*********** AWESOME !!!

Saturday was bucket list time – a dive with the Whale Sharks of Ningaloo Reef.

Up early and Michael dropped me off at 7.30am on Skeleton Beach, which meant the hour walk into the settlement was reduced to half an hour. It was a really still morning with fog engulfing the windless windmills on the sand dunes. And the tide was out meaning the walk along the beach was a walk along the beach.

I got to the dive shop at 7.45am as requested and from there we hopped on a bus to Monck Head where the dive boat left from.  The first stop was a introductory snorkel to make sure everyone’s gear etc was okay. It was nothing to write home about as the reef sharks who were supposed to be visiting a cleaning station turned out not to need a clean that day. However the Spangled Emporer underneath the dive boat on the way back looked big and juicy but the dive leaders mentioned something about them being their pets. And besides it was well inside the sanctuary zone.

Then it was off to find some whale sharks. The spotter plane was in the air at 10am looking in a search area 50kms by 10kms. As we travelled we were briefed about the whales sharks and how to approach them. Evidently female whale shales have a production line going on with a whole series of fetuses in verious stages of development from single cell embryos right through to when they are born live after 18 months or so of gestation.

The sea was like glass – what a day to pick – and we saw heaps of wild life along the way – sea snakes, turtles, squid, minky whales, schools of tuna jumping out of the water and someone even saw a hammerhead shark.

Then the roar of the engines signified that a whale shark had been spotted. 3 Boats were in pursuit. In the end, they had spotted two. We got to one first with 7 snorkellers on the manta board ready to jump in quickly. We had 20 snorkellers on board and we were split into 2 groups of 10. The boat got 50m in front of the whale shark and then there was a call of “go, go’ go” with everyone scrambling into the water following a dive leader. You then swam either side of the whale shark keeping 3 m away and then followed it keeping 4m away from the tail. You did this for a couple of minutes until you were called away to let the next group take a look.

We ended up doing this 6-7 times with three different sharks, ranging from 4 to 6 metres long. Huge fish but very gentle and graceful swimming slowly through the water as it filter fed.

After swimming with the last shark, we thought that was finally it for the day but instead it swam right up to the back of the boat. It obviously wanted to play some more.

We were pretty exhausted – hadn’t done that much exercise in a while – and lunch was welcome as we sped back to Coral Bay. After lunch, we stopped off at Point Maud just up from where Camelot was anchored and went for a snorkel across some nice coral. we were looking for some resident tiger sharks – yep you heard it right – tiger sharks – who according to the dive masters are not a problem. Having 20 other snorkellers in the water at the same time felt like the ideal scenario to see a tiger and I must admit I was a little disappointed not to see one. They evidently see them all the time on their manta ray snorkels.

But we did see lots of turtles, puffer fish and a large variety of brightly coloured reef fish including a couple of spangled emporer and some large cod.

Then it was back to the boat ramp where we unloaded and saw Merv, the gaint cod. And Merv was a gaint – he looked like he weighed in a lot more than even Merv the ex-cricketer.No moustache though (By the way, I’ve had to ditch my two week beard – the one I grow when Cas is not around – because it made my mask leak – oh well).

Finally back to the dive shop to order the video – after a day like that it was kinda obligitory.

Then the bakery and the walk back, which luckily turned into a drive back as I ran into someone that was going fishing at Maud’s Landing.

What a day !!!!

Check out the photo album from today’s adventures at https://plus.google.com/photos/102682012477798724273/albums/5741585518880607489

Check out Smiley’s photos at:

http://www.roundthetop.com/i-did-it/

They are awesome – much better than my GoPro photos.

Coral Bay

Friday’s anchorage

(Wednesday – no Tuesday)

Its been a while since I’ve been to Coral Bay – the last time I was here was in 1992 just before the Eagles won their first GF. Before that I came here with Mum, Dad and Brad as a kid where we had fun on surf cats with the Hawke Brothers.

This time I came by sea on a slightly bigger cat. We set off from Gnarloo at 8.30am after dislodging a gaint piece of coral from our anchor chain – the legacy of swinging off two anchors. We got a nice SE to push us up the coast. We thought about going in the Southern entrance (Yalobia Passage),  but were put off by the warnings even though Royce (sans me) took Camelot through on his way down to Perth.

As we neared Coral Bay we started to get mobile and internet access back. Very exciting. Interesting how you get dependent on it after a while to stay connected.

So it was off to the northern entrance (Cardabia Passage) and then down to Maud’s Landing. The wind had increased to over 20kts at this stage so our choice was to reef or to motor the last couple of miles in. We took the lazy option. It made quite a long day by the time we anchored at 5.30pm.

Next morning we took the dingy into the beach and headed into town. We took the beach route (there’s a dirt road as well) and it took us an hour to get around to the settlement. It was just past high tide so a lot of the beach was under water and we had to wade our way around bushes and over rocks at times. Its a bit of a pain that you can’t even get a dingy within one a half kilometres of the settlement. There’s an exclusion zone for non-authorised vessels right around Coral Bay, and the nearest moorings/anchorages are at Maud’s Landing and Monck Head. And then there is only one suitable mooring and no anchorage at Monck’s Head and Smiley had that.

Coral Bay has changed quite a bit since I’ve been there. One caravan park is now two caravan parks. And holiday units – one and two storey everywhere. One shop has become two – one of which is called a supermarket. The prices however haven’t changed. 95c for a potato! So one mocha, one pie and sauce, one apple turnover, one gaint sandwich and one iced coffee later suggested my sweet tooth had kicked back into action.

Next stop was the Dive Shop where I booked a whale shark dive with Stuat and Magda from Smiley for Saturday (tomorrow). Looking forward to that. If the spotter plane doesn’t find one then we get another trip for free.

Thursday was designated a boat job and snorkelling day. We re-attached the ceiling that had parted ways with the velco that was holding it up and came crashing down, narrowly missing a bottle of champagne. Disaster averted by mere millimetres. In order to ensure our champagne would be safe in the future, we added 5 screws to make sure it definitely stayed there in the future. John would be pleased – he thought we should have done this last time rather than adding extra velcro.

The afternoon snorkel was very exciting. We took the dingy out to an interesting bit of channel and off we went. The coral initially looked very disappointing with much of it dead but then we swam out to a point and the fish life was incredible. Heaps of snapper, emporors, parrot fish and a shark. Michael saw a second but Elaine and I both missed it. Great place to fish except it was a sanctuary zone so dinner wasn’t coming from here.

Today (Friday).

Time for a bit of exploring, snorkelling and fishing so off we went North to Stanley Pool. What a beautiful place. A deep (15m) pool surrounded by shallower sandy bits. And really clear water. Beautiful to swim in (we jumped in as As I write, Elaine and Michael have taken the dingy off to the reef (about 1nm away) and I’m hoping they will come back with a dingy load full of snapper and emporer.

I know some people who will love this sign

Gnarloo – Just like in the Brochure

The night sail to Gnarloo was pretty uneventful. However, we did manage a Sea Witch Tribute night when Elaine cooked a roast. The wind soon shifted South and we had to jibe our way up the coast. The 3 hour shifts between the 3 of us seemed to work well. By the time I relieved Michael at 7am we were flying along at between 7 and 9 knots and we were due to cover the 70NM by 9am.

Which we did. We got some excellent advice on how to get into Gnarloo from Paul (as he had been on numerous fishing trips there) and we used his waypoints to make our way safely through the breakers and into the bay.

And what a bay it was. Pristine wide sandy beach, coral reef at the back and lovely clear water. There were however a couple of problems. One was that the fishermen had staked out the bay with temporary moorings everywhere. And the second problem was that the bottom was largely sand over rock, which didn’t make for easy anchoring. After a couple of tries we found a place amongst the moorings and after snorkelling over the anchor we decided we should pick up a mooring attached to a large concrete block as insurance.

After some lunch and a snorkel it was off for a walk. Returning along the beach a heap of small boats started returning from their day’s fishing and one of them asked for their mooring back. Bummer. It was 4.30pm and we had to pull up anchor and move.

We ended up moving closer to the beach where we dropped our second anchor as well. We snorkelled over both and they were both buried. All this snorkelling and walking – it made for a good night’s sleep.

One thing we were learning was that up here with the larger tides the wind didn’t always dictate which way you swung on anchor – it is quite often the current. We could hear the anchor chain dragging across the coral as we shifted from our primary anchor to the secondary anchor during the night – just as well we had put out the second anchor – otherwise we would have ended up on another fishing boat.

After a bit of a lazy morning, the next afternoon was full of activity. We started off with a bit of stand-up and kayaking and a swim on the beach. Then we took the dingy off to some really nice coral and had one of the best snorkels I’ve had in a long time. Colourful tropical fish everywhere, starfish, clams and the odd stingray. Huge schools of all sorts of fish swam by. Then finally a walk along the beach – this time in the opposite direction. The beach is so long here we didn’t make the end in either direction. At the end of our walk we stopped and talked to some fishermen and they told us a bit about the camp at Gnarloo.  It’s nothing to write home about – run by a guy who is going to be on “Farmer Wants a Wife” later in the year so there’s one to look out for. The surfing camp is evidently 3 miles south of that.

It’s a pity we couldn’t spend another couple of days at Gnarloo but there was a big swell coming and we needed to move on.

Bumming Around Carnarvon

Staying at Fishing Boat Harbour for the night allowed us to give Camelot a good wash, fill the water tanks and go around to the fuel jetty first thing in the morning. It also provided us with a great dolphin show for about an hour and a half as a pack of dolphins went hunting around our boat. At one stage they started throwing fish 10m at a time then racing off to catch them again. An unexpected show for the evening.

With full tanks of fuel and water, we set off early to catch the high tide. The Facine is a body of water (a creek or estuary I suppose) that runs out the front of Carnarvon. It is notoriously difficult to enter and we were on our wits to get in. We had a few tight turns – sticking close to the starboard marker with the water getting down to 2.1m (we draw 1.15m) at one stage. We had a keel boat follow us in with a guy in a dingy with a long stick immediately in front of him helping him pick the deep spots.

Safely in, we sailed past the yacht club and anchored up right in front of down town Carnarvon. We had a car booked for the time we were in Carnarvon and it was time to do a bit of exploring.

Our first destination was the food trail that is referred to as the Fruit Loop – basically up South River Road and back along North River Road. We stopped off at Bumbak’s where the smoothies were to die for – Cas had a banana one and Michael and Elaine had a Mango one. Carnarvon supplies 70% of Perth’s winter fruit and vegies and we bought a few things, leaving the main shop until just before we left.

We then had a choice of going to the blow holes or inland along the Gascoyne River to Rocky Pool, about 55kms away. Given we were spending a lot of time on the coast we chose to go inland and see some of the outback.

Must of the Gascoyne flows underground – its often referred to as an upside-down river, something that makes it rather unique in the world. Rocky Pool is a small stretch where it does return to normality and flows on the surface. With the temperature hitting 37 degrees, we headed for some river gums and had a lovely picnic by the river.

We found a rope further down the river which you could swing up and drop into the river but I gave the letting go bit a miss as you couldn’t see what snags were under the water. Instead Cas and I went for a swim off the bank – that was so, so refreshing.

Back in the car, it was back to town to have a look at the kilometre long jetty, which we did over a coffee.

Then back to the boat and off to town as it was Cas’ last night before flying home for a couple of weeks. We had booked a night in a unit on the water front and the guy that ran it suggested we go to the Gascoyne Pub for dinner and pool. Carnarvon is full of pubs – there’s just about one on every corner so we had quite a choice.

After a nice meal, where we taught a barmaid how to make a Margareta (she nailed the second one),  we took on the locals at pool and managed to take a game off them. The Corona’s were going down well and we had a great chat to a whole group of guys who had just finished a fishing trip aboard Top Gun, as well as some back backers who were working in town.

We ended up all getting kicked out at closing time – Cas was now wearing a different top to the one she started the night in. I think we got to sleep about 3pm although I can’t be sure. What I’m pretty sure about is that we both managed to reach our limit that night.

Friday morning was a slow and steady affair. Bacon and Eggs at the local café was our first attempt at curbing a hangover. Then it was off to the bank, the post office and the fishing tackle shop to stock up on lures and heavy duty tackle.

What was left of the day was spent lounging around on Camelot eating yet more fresh prawns. Then it was off to the airport to drop Cas off after what had been a magic 3 weeks.

After watching Cas get on the plane, it was off to the Yacht Club for their Friday night meal and drinks. I managed one beer and ate their salmon dish then it was back to the boat for some desperately needed shut eye. The whole boat was asleep by 8pm.

Saturday morning it was up early and off shopping and laundymatting. Another whip around the fruit loop saw us with some lovely fresh fruit and vegies and then off to Woolies. Gas and dingy fuel were also procured along the way.

Freo were playing on Saturday afternoon and I ventured back to the pub to watch this as for some reason we could only get SBS on the boat. Three lemon, lime and bitters and NO beers – was quite proud of myself.

Back to the boat at half time and then time to get ready to sail with half an ear on the footy. As soon as the footy finished we were off (well – it was close!!!). It was low tide but we needed to go then to get out before dark and to get to Gnarloo in the day.

We were doing well getting out – passing another cat that had taken a wrong turn and was now parked on the bottom. We were passing through the really narrow bit with 2.1 m still under our keel – that was good but unfortunately the depth transducer is under our starboard keel and at the same time there was 0m under our port keel. The current had pushed us over and we were aground. Into reverse and a bit of throttle saw us back into the channel and out of trouble. We were off on our way to Gnarloo.