Eighty miles of Beach

After another pleasant sail – I keep using that word – but what I should really be saying is “a pleasant motor with the sails up”. We had whales in the distance all the way up to sunset, but so far just the one close encounter.

Once again the moon made a late appearance – 11pm this time – so I had a really stary night for my 7-10pm watch. I got up again at 4am and there was the moon, along with a very bright Venus and Jupiter. I watched the sun come up over the calm sea as the wind dropped below a couple of knots.

We’d been travelling a bit away from the coast, following the advice of the FSC Cruising Guide, that suggested sticking to the 35-40m depth contours to avoid the pearling and fishing leases. We considered using Sundancer of Bunbury’s waypoints that we got via Smiley, but didn’t like the idea of going over all that shallow water at night, so we gave these a miss on our way to Eighty Mile beach.

Eighty miles of beach – and you can’t get to any of it by boat!

But boy did we try. First attempt saw us park nearly 3nm off the beach in 6m of water at high tide – not close enough and besides the anchor was dragging. Second attempt was to head north to part of a beach that said “”Landing” on the chart. But time was not on our side so we dropped anchor 5nm away as it began to get dark. After waying up to a thick fog, we had a leisurely morning and then made our third attempt by motoring the 5nm and then seeing how close to the beach we actually could get. And the answer was:- 1.5nm from the beach on a rising tide – we stopped and anchored when we got down to just 2m of water, as the engines started to kick up the mud from the bottom. But 1.5nm was do-able in the dingy; we just needed to wait until the tide came in so we could get across the mud flats and onto the beach. We had lunch and then waited until we had over 3m of water and off we set in the dingy.

All the way in we couldn’t see the bottom – it had the consistency of Fijian kava – that grey muddy look. About 150m from the shore, the waves started to break and we started to surf our way in. This was a touch disconcerting, so far from shore and with no idea how deep it was. So once more we handed discretion a win over valour, and turned around (getting really wet in the process) and headed back to Camelot. Time to make a move To Broome – 100nm away with lots more whales to see (already spotted a couple of pods). We will have a week there to explore, whilst we wait for Cas, Dale and Kaz to join us.

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Barb and Jake’s Port Hedland Grand Tour

We are up to day 100 of our excellent adventure, with 175 left until we get to Sydney.

We are sailing out of Port Hedland en route to Broome via Eighty Mile Beach. Sailing may be too strong a word to use – a lack of wind being the problem. So here we are motoring across a mill pond, sometimes referred to as the might Indian Ocean.

Port Hedland turned out to be really interesting. We got a real inside view of what a mining town is thanks to barb and young Jake’s grand tour and then catching up over a beautiful home cooked curry at Barb and Grant’s place. Another friend of michael’s – mick – turned up later and proved very entertaining. barb, Grant and Mick are all electricians working for Transfield and Downer EDI.

Our tour took in the beach, two shopping centres, the main street of port Hedland, the visitor’s centre, South Hedland, the port operations at both Nelson’s Point and Finucane Island, the boat ramp and Dampier Salt’s operations as well as driving past Jake’s school (Jake is 7) and the hospital.

The trip up from Dampier was one of our best. Gentle breezes and flat seas. We left via Flying Foam passage and managed to get up to 7.5 knots as we got the current right and got a nice boost. The scenery through this narrow channel was quite spectacular as we passed fish farms and islands of iron ore.

Everyone enjoyed their night watch. My first watch was to 10pm and the moon didn’t make an appearance until my watch had just ended. So I got a spectacular display of stars – millions and millions of them brought out by the dark night.

My morning shift -4am to 7am – saw a brilliant sun rise to 31 ships hanging off the top end of the channel into Port Hedland. The AIS was lit up with a sea of triangles. Each ship takes about 34 hours to be loaded and they need to come out on the high tides (now running at 6-7m as we get further north). There are no pilot boats here (sorry Adrian!) – all the pilots fly out to the boats by helicopter – time is of the essence. Besides all the BHP berths, FMG have a couple and the Port Authority run a couple for the likes of Atlas iron, who truck all their iron ore in.

To get into port hedland by the channel, you actually have to call up on the VHF and get authority – and a slot. Then when you get in they want to know your name, rank and serial number. Then you get a call from customs wanting to know where you came from and where you are going. And then the tower keeps tabs on you whilst you are there.

We parked Camelot in front of the yacht club (which wasn’t open on a Monday) and then had to pull the dingy right up the beach as it was low tide. Luckily the beach was Harding and the really useless wheels I had bought were actually a little bit useful.

After a good nights sleep, we were up at 6.30am to catch the tide out and beat the rush. Then we pointed the boat NE and started knocking off the 280nm to Broome.

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