Our Kimberley Quest April 2012
Well where do I start? Guess I'll step back to my return from the trip I did last year. Some of you would already know about this trip, it was a solo boat trip just me and a mate heading up into the Kimberley in my boat. Quite a daunting task the first time but I knew from that trip I was going to be doing it again sooner rather than later.
It didn't take me long to work out the dates. Quick look at the tides and the last two weeks of April were the go. Then check Jenella (wife) and I can get the time off work. Several reasons for April but two points made it easy. April has the best weather from a point of veiw that it's fairly predictable that there will be low winds. Leave it later and you can get caught out by screaming easterlies. There is a small risk that the trip could be spoilt by a late cyclone. Second contributing point was that it's the end of the wet season and if you want to see the Kimberley in it's full glory with waterfalls flowing, etc you don't want to leave it too late in the dry season.
I can not remember when but at some point a mate Michael was keen to come along so the planning started. He planned on bringing his dad along (Larry) and a mate of his Jason who had just returned from working in Nigeria. Like most trips there were a few others that wanted to come but didn't for one reason or another. When I plan trips like this I always rig up to go solo as you never know if the other party will actually show. I was 100% positive that Michael and crew would show as we had a daily chat for about the last couple of months leading up to this trip, never the less I still set up to go solo just in case the worst happened.
Its funny when you think about it really - here we are about to head off on a trip of a lifetime with a crew from all walks of life who we barely know......but yeah why not?
The plan was simple, launch from Derby on Monday 16th at high tide (9am) catching the run out and making our first nights camp in Strickland or Cone Bay. We planned to go as far as the Horizontal Waterfalls and no further. I think its important to put a limit on where you're going to go as it's real easy to want to just keep checking out the next bay. Another thing that I try not to do is make plans. As Malcom Douglas used to say "this is wait a while country" so you can have the best intentions but you are always waiting for the tide, weather, whatever. If you have a strict timeline it only puts pressure that you dont need. I think the best approch is to pull the chart out each morning, see how everyone's feeling and make a plan around the days stiuation including what the weather and tides are doing.
Anyway I'm getting side tracked so let's move along....
The logistics of this trip were easy for Jenella and me - just an 800km drive on Sunday to Derby, but for Michael and his crew it was another story. They packed the boat on Friday and left Perth about 8.30pm bound for Port Hedland with a plan to crash Saturday night at my place. After 20hrs non stop driving with next to no sleep they arrived about 4.30pm on Saturday. BBQ for dinner and a good nights sleep.
Day 1: (Well for me and Jenella anyway)
Up at gentlemans hour as was no need to get to Derby too early. Jenella knocked up some toasted sandwiches then we hit the road bound for Derby. It's at this point that I have split emotions. Glad to be on the road but apprehensive as these guys are banking on me for info as its their first trip. We had already discussed launching at Derby, my only stipulation was that if there were screaming easterly winds I wouldn't go until they died off. Even if that meant not lauching till another day. I know some guys from up that way and if you get the screaming easterlies against big currents it can be down right deadly.
The drive up to Derby is a relaxing 8-9hrs. Book in to the caravan park for the night then of to the newly opened Spinifix Hotel for a great feed before crashing out for the big day ahead.
Rigs at Willare Bridge Roadhouse:
You know you're in the Kimberley when the Boab trees start appearing:
Time to load some gear in the boats as we had loaded all the expensive gear into the car so it didn't dissappear while at the pub. Once everyone was showered and ready to go we headed for the Servo to top the tanks to the brim. Point to note here is due to the large temperature differences from night to day it pays not to fill the boat tanks to the brim the night before. As we were not laucnhing until around 9am the fuel will expand as the day heats up and will push fuel out of your breather. Fueling up is best left till just before launcing and yep I learnt this the hard way!!
We were lucky enough to have a mate of Michaels living in Derby that offered to store our trailers and cars plus drop us back off to the ramp. The other option which I did on the last trip is to pay the very small fee and leave them at the caravan park. There's always someone happy to drop you back to the ramp, normal currency is payment in beer.
Launching this year was interesting as we got the tide that put us on a fairly flat part of the ramp. Normally I have trouble stopping my boat running off the trailer while I unhook the winch strap but this time it took some serious reverse throttle to budge the boats. Michaels looked like not comming off at one stage and no one wanted to see Jasons brand new Prado go for a swim, but with persistance it came off. As you can see in the photos there is two things going on here. 1: very heavy boats due to load, 2: boats not floating (check out the water level against the chines on mine).
Note: This is croc country - do not get in the water even while launching. There is proof of this by the croc trap next to the ramp. Just adds another element to launching.
Assessing the ramp before launching:
Anyway we pick up Jenella and Jason who had taken the cars and trailers back. Best place to pick them up is the set of stairs at the end of the wharf. Just to set the theme Jason plays a joke on us that something happened to Jenella but all's good when she appears. Jason will get this back ten fold but not this trip, sometime in the future when he least expects it. I'm glad to see these guys have a sense of humour like mine - great way to start the trip!
Smiles all round as we load up the throttle to settle in to a nice cruise speed (20-25 knots) in perfect weather condition. It's a good couple of hour run. We set a track to the west side of Rip Reef and enjoy the ride only stopping once when we can across a school of tuna. Throwing bibbed lures and stick bait with a few follows but no hookups. Back to cruising we go.
Upon reaching Rip Reef we change course and head towards Hells Gates with a detour to see if we can find Waterfall Beach. Was nice to jump off the boat for a stretch. Turns out to be a great spot where the Derby locals have set up a camp that all can use. We climb the rocks and have a rinse under our first waterfall this trip. Just a short stay before we head on.
One point to note here is that if you are travelling up this way you need to think of the tides all the times. When we pulled up I said that we need to keep an eye on the boats as it is so easy to get stuck with an out going tide and sure enough my boat needed 4 blokes to push it off. Guess if you think of it this way, tides are basically 6 hrs from high to low or vice versa. So if you have 10m of movement on a spring tide the water drops 1.6m every hour. Its not that exact science as there is more movement mid tide but you get the idea. Pull up in 2m of water and about one hour later you can be high and dry. If you're not in plain sight of the boat do not be off it on an out going tide. So many stories of boats lost this way.
Larry cools down:
As does Jenella:
We cruise up though Hells Gates which is tame due to the neap tides then head on in to Cone bay. We cruise around checking the place out and pull up on a beach with an extensive camp where the guys get fresh oysters off the rocks and we all have a general look around. Funny as we talk about crocs and say that this place does not look like it would have crocs around, only to find a fresh croc slide on the way back to the boats....
The day is closing to an end so we look for a place to anchor up and find a mooring which we hang off for the night. After a feed everyone settles in for a good nights sleep
6.1 engine hours -- 84.8L fuel burn for day one. I'll keep giving day updates as we go.
The guys live it up:
We head for Strickland Bay through an area you can only get over on a high tide near Sir Richard Island with the idea to fish a place nick-named "Truck Stop Reef". Named for the truck-like unstoppables that live there. Anticipation was high possibly due to my stories of the good fishing that I had the year before. Its at this point that I should point out that the Kimberley can be a hard place to fish, believe it or not. I guess most poeple have all seen the documentaries where the fish are just about jumping in the boat. Well you do get days like that but it's few and far between.
If you have spent your life fishing the Perth metro (as I had until a few years back) you can take most of what you know and throw it out the window. The Kimberley is all about tides, water movement, etc. It can be the most frustrating but also the most rewarding fishing of your life. This trip was particularly slow in the fishing department.
Anyway we arrive at Truck Stop, the guys start a troll pattern and I opt for a bit of jigging. Not five minutes have gone past before I hear over the radio that Jason hooked up on an unstoppable. We had so much blinged up gear on the two boats but this thing was heading for the horizon and nothing was going to stop it. Truck Stop lives up to its name!!!!! I see a heap of big GT's and lob a plastic their way and hook up for a decent battle only to find out that it was a good shark. Somehow the shark ended up in the boat. It's not a big one, but Jenella freaks out and jumps up on the seat for safety. First injury of the trip as her little toe heads in the wrong direction and she has to strap it up. We hope it's not broken. A change of spot by about 100m to lose the sharks and I convince Jenella to break in her new Marquesa 30. She drops a McArthy plastic and lands the the first fish of the trip - once again Jenella out fishes me (and forgets about her sore toe for a few minutes).
Michaels colour coded lure and reel:
We move on from Truck Stop to head for a nice beach for swim - yep a swim. There are a few places that are safe to swim due to their location, clearwater, etc. If you head up this way and don't know where its safe to swim DON'T!! This beach has some graves from the 1800's and some bizzare rock formations. A refreshing swim was well received by all.
We head off from the beach in search of some more fish in different directions. I went in search of some goldies, jack, etc on a rockbar but it only produced some small fish and the guys ended up having a good session on queenies.
As the day goes on we do some general looking around before deciding to pick up a mooring towards the east end of the bay. Guess now is as good a time as any to talk about mooring up for the night. There is one thing I do before picking up any mooring around here. First thing I do is sound around the mooring, not just close to the mooring but an area within 100m of the mooring. Most of the water around these island is 20-40m deep but most have a near vertical rise to about 2-3m then a slow taper to the shore. These vertical rises are rock and reef that then turns to mud as you approch shore with a sand beach. Basiclly on a spring low you can not access the islands.
As it happens one mooring in Silvergull Creek has been dragged within meters off a vertical rises. As it was we thought it would be a great place to camp up in 3ish meters of water at low tide. I did my normal sound of the area only for the shallow alarm to go off and I realise its only 0.8m deep. Could have been a nasty surprise in the middle of the night as the boats swung around on the change of the tide. Now most of these moorings are years old and never been serviced so its a must to set an anchor alarm as the intergrity just can't be trusted.
Anyway we settle in for another good nights sleep.
The plan today is head up to a small waterfall as the tide rises then head up to a bigger falls a couple of hours before high. We idle our way around to a small creek that is not much wider the the boats to check out the small falls. Its a good opportunity to top up water containers and have a shower. Being April the temp is still a bit on the warm side so the fresh rise is nice.
Heading into the falls:
We all enjoy a fresh water shower. Note the fender on the anchor. Just leave the motor in gear and kick back:
Larry and Jason mountain goat it to the top:
As we motor out we see our first croc for the trip:
With the tide up enough we scoot up the river to check out the falls. It takes a bit of planning to organise the boats so they don't end up on the rocks but we manage to come up with a plan. This fall is a short walk up the river bed. As we can not see the boats we plan to be back on the top of the tide. Remember the rule "never off the boat on a falling tide"
Boats and rocks make it hard to anchor:
Jenella hard at work and me just chill'in:
After a great time chilling at the falls we motor for the east entrance to an area called the Graveyards. On the way the guys find another school of queenies and get into a serious session with fish taking anything that was thrown at them. I find an eddie to fish and get smashed by an unstoppable that buries me in the reef. We spend the rest of the day cruising around enjoying the scenery and having a fish with little luck.
The guys hard at it:
School of Queenies
Our plan is to head towards Yampi Sound tomorrow so we head to the west end of Strickland Bay to find an anchorage. We choose a small island that has a nice beach and as luck would have it another mooring. I should confess that we have charts that a mate Jim filled out for me the year before. He knows this area like the back of his hand and he had marked this area as a good anchorage and right he was.
This is an interesting photo, I'll let you guys work out what is going on.
Most nights we raft up together and tonight is no different. The guys have a nightly ritual of having a fish for sharks while kicking back and having a laugh. Tonight is a little different as we are payed a visit by a croc that's keen on taking a carcus off the fish we are using for bait. These crocs are not shy as you can see from the photos.
6.1hrs 39.2 L
Today plan is to head to Croc Creek, spend the day there. Gotta say I'm looking forward to spending a fair bit of time ashore as I'm starting to get cabin fever.
When I brought this boat from the guys at Chivers Marine I was after a boat that I could chase barra in shallow creeks one day then head way offshore the next. Doing trips like this was not part of my thoughts at all. Its proved its self time and time again but the limiting factor is its size. 5.8m of boat only has so much deck space and as this trip was planned to be up to 11 days we found something to cover most of it. Sitting here writing this I now know that there is a heap of stuff that will not go on the next trip. As we unloaded the boat we did a list of must haves - nice to have and don't bothers. Heaps of gear made it on the don't bother list.
The two heavist components were fuel and water. We had 180L fuel in our tank, 150L fuel in jerry cans and about 150L of water. Caculating fuel is always hard but I work on 1L per kilometer. I normally burn close to 1L per nautical mile so reducing it from 1nm to 1km allows for load, weather and still gives a big safety margin.
Well we head off through Whirlpool Pass and head up towards Yampi Sound. Whirlpool Pass is an "S" shaped passage that is renowned for current and a whirlpool. On the day we go through its not at its most powerful but to give you some idea at one point while Jenella was getting a few photos I noticed that the GPS showed 0 knots and the motor gauges which work on water flow showed 8 knots.
We have another day of glassed out weather which makes for an enjoyable cruise. Once again it shows that April is the right time of year to be up North as long as you can handle the possiblity of some hot weather. The tempratures were mild compared to where I'm used to fishing during a Pilbara summer but I must admit there were some dead still nights that made it uncomfortable to sleep but hey better that than it howling and cold!!
We get in to Croc Creek and then go about tying up the boats. It's always interesting to work out how to tie them up, allow for the tides and not let them bump against the rocks. Add to that I get a bit pedantic about the paintwork on my boat. Michael brought along a coil of rope for such an ocassion and I have a spare anchor set up in a crate on board my boat. We come up with the idea of a rope to the ladder and a long rope attached to a rope that someone has left attached to the rocks on the opposite side. This works OK but does not keep the boat away from the rocks near the ladder so we then add some weight in the form of my spare anchor to the stern line. This weight basic sinks and as such pulls the boat away from the ladder but is still light enough for us to pull the boat towards the ladder for boarding. Mission accomplished!!
Where we raft up our boats it holds water at all tides due to a deep hole but the creek dries out so at low you're stuck.
Croc creek towards the top end of the tide:
We all go for a swim to cool off. Now word of warning - spring tides flood the lower pool which can allow crocs to enter so having a swim as we did you need to be sure the lower pool is croc free. There were some other people in the pool before us so we figured it would be fine. After a swim we all head up to the top for some photo shots. I'm sure the three guys are part mountain goat and can climb just about anywhere but Jenella and myself are not as sure footed and are always last to arrive, especially since Jenella's toe is still a bit sore. The view from up top is awesome.
Jason turns mountain goat again and tackles the spinifix to get a photo from another angle. Thanks Jason as this is one of my favourite photos of the trip. As you can see its low tide. This photo shows everything I like about the Kimberley. Waterfalls - Big tides - Swag - Red Rocks - Swimming Holes - Adventure, you get the idea!!
The guys decide to head out and see if they can get into some fishing while Jenella and myself just chill in the water for the arvo. The guys have a good session on tuna and bring back some for tea, add to this they also come across a large school of shark. After the sunset we light up a wood fired BBQ that has been built there. Iron Chef Jason goes about filliting the Tuna (a first for us all). Then Iron Chef Michael goes about cooking us up a feed. Out comes the secret spices....mmm that tuna was beautiful and we all go back for more. I've never bothered keeping tuna but I will now.
At some point during the night, can't remember when, Larry heads down to the boat to get something and on the way back up the ladder loses this footing and cuts his shin quite bad on some oysters. Jason has completed a lot of first aid training and goes about cleaning the wound and dressing it. If this was on the mainland it would have required quite a few stiches. Now this was a good reminder to us all, it could have been anyone of us as the ladder is extremely slippery. I think we all had thoughts about the possibility of someone slipping, knocking their head and falling into the water. Over the noise of the fall we would be none the wiser. Looking back on this it gives good reason not to do anything on your own, always have some else at hand.
1.5hrs -- 39.2L
What else is there to do in wait a while country?
Once we have enough water in the creek we head for Dogleg Creek with a quick stop on a beach on the way there. Dogleg Creek is where we have organised to have 3 x 200L drums of fuel waiting for us. Both boats have burnt enough to take on 200L each and we leave the 3rd drum there for our return leg.
Larry hard at work pumping fuel:
After refueling we start the journey to Talbot Bay via the inside of Koolan Island. Prior to this trip I spent many nights looking at charts and google earth and noticed that there appeared to be a short cut through a mangrove lined creek but was unsure if we could pass as it showed no water in the creek on google earth. We thought we would have a go and it payed off. I spend a heap of time in creeks when fishing at home so felt comfortable about taking the short cut. During the transit Michael commented that via the plotter we were now traveling over land!!
Mining on Koolan Island:
Talbot Bay for me was about a few places but the main one was the Horizontal Waterfalls. As such this was our first destination. When we arrived we traversed the first falls with ease but soon got off the throttle at the second one and reassessed. I wasn't going to have a go and neither did the guys. I'm sure it would not have been an issue but it was not worth the risk this far from home. We watched a guide boat with 600hp have a go so that was good to see.
600hp of fun:
Now over the years I've seen some interesting things but what I saw next was too close for comfort. The guide came over and told the guys about a float plane about to land and told them to stay where they were. As you will see from the photos it was a very close call....
After the Horizontal falls we headed up through some creeks for a look and then headed around to Dugong Bay to have a look at some more falls before choosing an anchorage for the night. We decide not to raft up togther tonight but stay within sight of each other. We were only relying on our anchors as there was no moorings and the current was going to be pretty strong. It was an interesting nights sleep due to the large currents where we anchored. For us it was the noise of the water flowing past the hull. In the dark of night it sounded like it was flowing at 10+knots. For the guys it was the boat moving and making the anchor chain/rope slip from side to side in the anchor holder. This was fixed by tilting the motor back into the water which in turn steadied the boat.
7.4hrs - 91.9L
Up early as per normal and we pull anchor and go around the back of an island so Jenella can have a shower in private. To our surprise a cruise ship slides on by, but we noticed just in time so Jenella didn't provide them any entertainment! Due to limitations on how much we can carry I had set up a valve system that allows us to direct the deck wash pump to draw water from a hose. We did this so we can collect fresh water from waterfalls in a 10L tub we brought up empty. Its a very simple and cheap system. Basically you drop 19mm hose into the container and turn two valves so the deck wash draws fresh water from the container rather than seawater. We removed the standard deckwash nozzle and replaced it with a garden hose type that has about 6 patterns from a jet to a shower. Its amazing how something so simple can make someones trip (Jenellas) much more civilised. Just stand on the transom and shower away.
We decide to check out some creeks and waterfalls that Jim has marked up on our charts for us. We sneak up these creeks at low tide and throw some lures around while we wait for enough water to get to the falls. Creeks are such a beautiful place at low tide. I feel right at home sneaking around these creeks. If you ever get up this way head into a creek at low tide and shut the engine off and drift in with the tide.
Its amazing how much life these places hold. There's something spiritual about these places. I can kick back and soak up the serenity for hours. Add to that most creeks fish best before the water breaks the banks and flood the mangroves, there's much to observe at low tide. Something as small as a drain can be a fish magnet that can't be seen at high tide but this is the sort of place that a fish will sit in to get out the current. Accurate lure placment can produce some nice fish.
We spend the day checking out a heap of different creeks including motoring through a mangrove forest at high water. I'd love to get back to this area on a lower tide when the trunks and roots of these old mangroves are exposed to take some photos.
We have a flick of some lures and manage a mangrove jack for dinner. The guys fillet the jack and throw the carcuss over the side. Within minutes Jenella (eagle eyes) spots a croc coming over to devour the carcuss. It goes to show that these buggers are everywhere but never to be seen unless dinner is on the menu.
Once the tide starts to run out we head for Turtle Reef. The reef is a large flat area that becomes exposed as the tide drops. Once exposed we motor up a channel in the reef and see all sorts. The name Turtle reef is a fair description as we lose count of the number of turtles we see. The plan is to make anchorage around here but after some discussion we decide to head back around to Talbot Bay. Its another glassed off day so head for Talbot Bay and we are heading direct into the sun. Now this area is uncharted and its low tide so we take the long way around through the charted area. What a glorious ride and a view to die for as the sun getting low lights up the islands to give them a glow.
We head around to Silvergull Creek and drop the pick and raft up for the night.The guys have a bit of fun hooking up on some sharks before we turn in for the night.
6.8hrs -- 59.3L
We head to Dogleg first up and add 100L (1/2 drum) of fuel each. Our plan today is to go and catch up with Phil and Marion at Squatters Arms, their place in Silver Gull Creek. We give them a call on VHF16 and ask if we can come up for a visit. Alls good so we go in. They have created a little paradise up on a hill overlooking Silvergull Creek. There is a large freshwater spring that flows into a water tank that is used as a pool. Also there is a hose in the creek that we use to fill our fresh water supply.
Once again Phil and Marion show us great hospitality. We spend a few hours having a laugh and enjoying their home. If you head up this way it is a must to visit but please remember it is their home so do the right thing and call up before going in.
Can you see their place? It's behind all the lush green gardens:
Not a bad view from Sqatters Arms!!
Theres not much more to report from today other than we are heading home tomorrow which gives me mixed emotions as I know that our journey is coming to an end but I'm getting a bit excited about a long shower and a cooked feed at the pub. Jenella and myself did this trip without an esky or fridge to reduce the load so we have been living on packet food. The stuff will keep you alive but the sound of a nice steak does seem soooooooo good :)
We finish the day with a decent cruise back to Cone Bay. Along the way we stop at Truck Stop reef and the guys catch a Barracuda that becomes bait for tonights shark session.
We then head on to Cone Bay and pick a mooring in the same bay as our first night. Well the shark session was interesting - we get some runs that are more like Black Jew than sharks but never get any in to see what they were. We do get some sharks and I even join in for the fun. As you can see in the below pics these fish are brutal and put man and gear through their paces.
4.6hrs -- 60.3L
Michael getting punished:
Shark comes around for the fish carcuss we have tied off the boat:
Very little to explain today, we head toward Water Fall beach with a plan to catch the incoming tide to Derby. All goes to plan with an uneventful trip. Today is the windest day blowing at least 10 knots after 7 days of glassed off weather this seemed a bit unusual. We get back to the ramp in good time and organise the cars etc. We drive up the trailer and shut our engines off for the last time.
It's a simple plan from here. We stay the night in Derby then to my place were the guys can get a good nights sleep before the big drive home. We come across guys at the Sandfire road house who are flying around Australia. Not something you see everyday filling up at the servo.
Well there is a couple of people I would like to thank for a great trip.
First and foremost my lovely wife. Not just for coming along but for the encouragement to pursue my dreams. I dreamed of doing trips in the northwest when I was younger with the hope of one day seeing the Kimberley by boat. Never did I think I would do it twice in 12 months.
Then there's Michael, Larry and Jason. I've done trips with all sorts over the years but I can say that you couldn't do a trip with a better bunch of guys. It was just all too easy. I hope I get to do another trip with them soon.
Also thanks to Jim for all his local info and secret spots.
For a wrap up of the trip this is how it looked:
- Fishing was quite.....who cares at a place like this
- Trip was fantastic
- Company was great - new friends made!!
- We drove about 1600km. The guys drove about 5000km
- We did around 450nm by boat
- Burnt 478.8L and put 42.4 hours on the engine in 8 days
All without a hitch........well there was a wheel bearing drama around Carnarvon on the way home for the guys but hey they got home unscaved. Goes to show with all the servicing and preparation things can still go wrong. A couple of minor first aid incidents (1 shin and 1 toe) on the trip but we were well prepared so they weren't show stoppers. There was one other incident that I know if I dont put it on here it will show up anyway. I'm sure the guys won't let me get way with it. The picture explains it all
Below are some links to other trips I have done. Now it's you turn - share what you are doing. Dont worry about what or where, just share. We all enjoy reading trip or fishing reports big or small.
PS - Photos were taken on our camera and Jason camera by all.
Last years Kimberley Trip http://fishwrecked.com/forum/dream-comes-true-now-pics
Perth Trip http://fishwrecked.com/forum/reverse-trip
Coral Bay Trip http://fishwrecked.com/forum/coral-bay-3-day-adventure