Apr 032018
 
easter-37

coming across malay roads

easter is usually crap weather regardless of location – whether you are camping in tassie, fishing in esperance, hiking in the daintree or boating in arnhem land, it typically pisses down for most of the 4 days. this easter though held a different promise, the dregs of cyclone bloody nora had slipped away, and with it the thunder storms and rain. the forecast was exceptional – clear weather with very light variable winds.

we had planned a trip away in the boat before discovering how good the weather was going to be, dave had his 4 days off exactly lining up with the easter break and so it was going to be the four of us heading off – but unfortunately the weekend before easter, sal’s dad finally succumbed to his battle with mesothelioma and so she had to fly down to the gold coast. so it was left to dave, kai & I to make the most of the promising conditions!

we headed up to the wessel islands friday morning, we left the boat club about 9:30 and by midday we were anchored in an unnamed bay south of raragala bay on raragala island, its one of our favourite anchorages. the trip was uneventful with the promised calm conditions allowing us to make good time up to cape wilberforce and then across to the passage between wigram and cotton island before crossing donington sound to the wessel islands.

we spent our days exploring the beaches and bays along the southern side of raragala island, fishing the open waters for tuna and mackerel and the rocky shelves of raragala bay for mangrove jack. we climbed up waterfalls to discover spring fed streams at the top and amazing views across the water, we swam in waterholes – including our favourite one at the base of a waterfall that is large, deep and shaded by trees. kai was in first when we arrived and yelled out to dave that there was a big water monitor in the pool, before climbing up the waterfall. dave went to get in to the pool and discovered the “water monitor” was a 1.5m salt water croc!! kai had actually nearly landed on top of it when he jumped in!

 

we tried to get it to ‘move on’ but it just moved into the deepest part of the pool and lay there quietly so we decided to share the pool with it and hope that it didnt get agitated and nip us!! it must have decided the company was unwanted because every other time we went there for a swim there was no sign of the croc!

of course there was some cold beers, good wine and yummy food eaten over the 4 days, we watched sunsets, moon rises and gazed at the tapestry of stars. i took the vintage atomic coffee machine so the mornings were started with decent coffee which makes everything better! kai had a ball, caught some good fish, used his new snorkelling gear for the first time and enjoyed the calm weather! we missed sal, but there will be many other trips with her.

we also came across an amazing scene in raragala bay, we were attracted by obvious activity with heavy splashing on the surface of the water, expecting a school of tuna we headed over in the tinny to discover a school of bait being rounded up and chomped by a huge school of sharks varying in length up to about 3m! there were also some tuna and GT’s amongst the carnage! we hooked a couple of nice GTs off the edge of the school on our light barra gear.

the same activity was happening the next day whe we went back and I got some video footage, the bait fish decided to try to hide underneath the tinny and as we motored off the school of sharks followed us like the pied piper!

another unlucky fish was spotted floating between the big boat and the tinny tied up alongside, we thought it was a trevally at first, but as it moved we realised it was a big sea mullet. i grapped a spear out of the tinny and had the easiest shot ever to get a fish that size! as you can see from the photo he had been attacked by a shark or something so thats probably why he was lazing around the boat.

we headed home on monday and if possible it was even flatter than the previous 3 days! i took photos off the side of the boat and the reflection looks like a mirror the water was so flat – and we were travelling at 16kts! all in all a fabulous and relaxing trip.

a video perspective of the reflections and the flat ocean,

 

we did 7.5hrs and 100nm, used 225l of diesel, so 30l per hour and 2.25l per nm.

Jan 052018
 

 

 

heading north

heading north

sal & i have just spent 5 days on our boat at the wessel islands, ‘bliss’ is the word that popped in my head when i thought of one word to describe the 5 days. i guess the dream of owning our own boat that we could live aboard for extended periods and continue to explore the paradise we live in, had long been in our minds, and we had begun to have some sense of the potential from our few previous tips on the new boat.

this was truly what we had envisaged though, exploring new bays, beaches, islands, creeks, fishing spots, swimming holes, while wining and dining on the water! we had decided that the week between xmas and new year was perfect for an extended trip, we were both off work and the weather was looking perfect. kai announced his intention to stay at home as 5 days stuck on a boat with his ‘rents was more than a teenager could bear – we were torn between knowing what he would miss out on, and the thrill of having 5 days to ourselves, on the water!

we decided to leave on the wednesday after boxing day, giving us time to recover from xmas excess and prepare the boat, we left mind morning and headed north, our last human contact was a short radio converstion with dave who was out on his boat with his family and we chatted as we passed near bonner rocks, we pressed on north in flat seas towards cape wilberforce and then thru the passage between cotton and wigram island and across the donington sound to raragala island in the wessel islands.

the day just got calmer and calmer as it went on and it completely glassed off by midday, with the flooding tide under us we made good time and dropped anchor in our chosen anchorage on raragala island for a late lunch.

we chose to anchor in this unamed bay on the south side of raragala island to allow us to explore the southern end of the island in the tinny, while having close access to one of our favourite fresh water swimming spots on the island, and the fishing in raragala bay itself. we were forced to eat a non-fish dinner as we didnt catch anything in the afternoon we spent exporing the local beaches and bays.

after a pleasant night i woke up early and made us a coffee with my ‘glamping’ caravel, a 60 year old, manual lever machine that i have converted to non-electric service, and then jumped in the tinny and headed round to raragala bay to fish the rocky headlands and managed to drag a couple of nice mangrove jacks out of the rocks for dinner.

we spent time at a spring fed freshwater swimming spot that we had visited in a previous trip to the wessels on a charter, it has a waterfall that falls into a large, tree shaded pool and is just behind the beach, so its easy to get to in the boat and a very refreshing spot to visit. we also explored the coast down to the southern end of raragala island, beach combing along the way and then investigating whether it was possible to pass between raragala island and jirrgarri island to get round to the north side of raragala island.

the chart suggested there might be a narrow passage that was navigable, and on arriving there we were able to find a very narrow passage between jirrgarri island and a small unnamed island to its north, it was probably 30m wide but quite deep, reef and sand shoals extended north with a narrow but deep passage between them. we were there right on low tide so we figured if we could get the tinny through and find a safe passage then it ought to be possible to get the big boat through safely at high tide.

i knew i would have to time it right with the tide only just turned because otherwise it was obvious the current would rage through the narrow passage. after returning to the anchorage we decided to have lunch and then weigh anchor and have a crack at getting through what I named the “eye of the needle”! in the end it went pretty smoothly, there was about 4 kts of tide against us and we got through safely and then headed up to a new anchorage at guruliya bay.

we spent the next couple of days at guruliya bay, there was plenty of exlploring of the beaches, bays and creeks either side of the anchorage and also plenty of good spots for fishing. in particular the head of the bay has a system of small mangrove creeks and rocky headlands that suggested plenty of barra and jack action. while it wasnt exactly going off, I manged to get a couple of nice barra and some more jack to keep the plates filled with fish! the weather continued to be fantastic, enough breeze to keep us cool enough to sleep at night, but no storms or rain.

on our seond last day we weighed anchor and headed for the hole in the wall, or gugari rip, to travel back to the southern side of raragala island, into raragala bay for a night before heading home. one again conditions were perfect and I timed the run through the hole in the wall for an hour or so below low tide so we would have some current against us, there was a bit more run than i expected, we had about 4 knots against us in the middle of the hole in the wall, but it presented no issue.

in her 15 years in arnhem land, sal has caught most fish species, but one that had eluded her to date was a mangrove jack, so i made sure that while we were in raragala bay she came and had a fish with me to get her first jack. in the end it was a decent fish and she was pleased to tick it off her list! the second one she caught was hilarious and i wish i had caught it on video, she flicked her lure perfectly and enticed a small rock cod to rush out and grab the lure, as she got it close to the boat, 4 jacks stormed out from under a rock shelf, the biggest one grabbed the rock cod and tore it off the lure – then one of the smaller jacks grabbed her lure!

new years eve we weighed anchor in the wessel islands for the final time and pointed the old girl south, towards home, we had an uneventful run across donnington strait and into malay roads before rounding cape wilberforce and lined up gove harbour.

we stopped for a troll on a favourite shoal on the way and sal pulled up a stonker of a mackerel to finish the trip on a high note!

all in all a magical 5 days, absolutely what we envisaged doing when we bought this boat, to be able to do it as just the two of us with no other people seen or talked to for 5 days was extra special, no phones, internet, tv, computers etc was also a pleasant change! we are truly lucky to have such an incredible landscape and environment right on our doorstep – and to have the means to immerse ourselves in it and explore the magical coastline.

We ended up using 305L of fuel (which means either the tank is bigger than the 300L i was told, or BP’s bowser is a ripoff!), we did 11.2hrs motoring, so 27L per hour, and about 140nm so 2.2L per nm

Mar 172017
 

march-7

my old mate, brian livingstone (livo), used to live here and relocated his family to yepoon in queensland some years ago. he pops back every couple of years for some fishing and to inflict serious and lasting damage on our livers. this time he brought his daughter caitie and settled in for 2 weeks. they stayed with my mate dave ‘butts’ butterworth – which helped prevent early onset cirrosis in my case.

brian also brought a wonderful present for me up on the plane, it was a total surprise, but i suspect dave was also involved! I was actually overwhelmed a bit, its a magnificent gift and will take pride of place at rick’s bar & grill.

march-51

our original plan had been to charter a boat for a few days and do a barra fishing trip, but it proved to be so expensive that we bought a small mercedes each instead and decided to spend 6 days camped down at paradise, a.k.a bawaka, we took both dave’s and my boats down and sal drove the troopy down.

we asked timmy to come down too, so we could get him out on the boats and also have him create a cultural education experience for our visitors. he came down on the friday and spent the weekend with us, also bringing djakapurra and yarrangu as well as djaka’s son russell who is a year older than kai.

march

caitie, sal, brian & dave

we had a few days in town before heading out, and brian, dave and I actually did a run down to bawaka to take some of the gear down and make sure all was ready for our visit. as usual the days were started at rick’s bar & grill with coffees and usually ended there with dinner!

friday morning we launched the boats at yirrkala and set off for bawaka while sal headed down by road, it was a perfect morning with glass off conditions and flat seas, i only stopped for about 45 seconds to catch a large mackeral for dinner!

the most exciting thing on the first night was the appearance of wititj, or the olive python as he frightened the life out of russell by slithering across the sand towards him as he sat beside the camp fire after dinner! it was well over 3m long and one of the biggest I have seen, after a bit of fumbling in the dark I managed to pick him up and relocate him into the swamp – well away from our beds!

as you can see our effort at camping more properly falls into the category of glamping – proven by the fact that we lugged dave’s espresso machine out there so we could have a proper start to the day with freshly roasted coffee from arnhem roastery!

saturday we decided the weather was perfect for a run down the coast towards the group of islands known as the three hummocks. timmy was very keen to visit an island which he is named after, he told me it was deadly island – which I couldnt find on the map, but as it turned out i had misheard him and it was actually dudley island! the yolngu name of the island is murrmurrgu, and timmy had never been there so it was a very emotional trip for him.

we followed the coast down and trolled around any likely looking islands or rocks and got a nice range of fish, and some unwanted ones like sal’s shark!

we stopped at one of the three hummocks for lunch, it was actually 2 islands joined by an amazing sand spit, and it wouldn’t have been hard to stop there for the rest of the day! it was totally protected by the other islands around it in every direction, the water was crystal clear and the sand was soft and clean.

when we arrived at murrmurrgu we discovered an even better beach if possible, it plunged straight down into deep water and was just an idyllic location, it was beautiful to see how emotionally affected timmy was by the chance to visit his island – and that alone made the whole week worthwhile just to be able to take him there. I dont think any of us will forget the experience for a long time.

that will do for part 1, i will try to put together a part 2 post later this weekend.

i did record a little video of timmy talking about his experience in visiting his namesake island for the first time,

Oct 042014
 

oct 5

ancient cycads scattered amongst ancient rocks, after the fires. classic end of the dry season scene in arnhem land, i just love the contrast of the charcoal black with the luminescent green new growth. the cycads date from the jurassic era – about 200m years ago, the rocks are some of the oldest in the world – formed in the precambrian era over 400 million years ago!

i have been busy out and about again, with trips to bawaka, bukudal and gan gan in the last couple of weeks, i had a great time at gan gan chatting to the old man, Dr Garrawin Gumuna, he is the only surviving Yirrkala Church Panel artist and despite his age his mind is as sharp as a knife and the wit is nicely honed too!

we have had our old mate phil obrien staying again while he helps out with a few tours, always a pleasure to have around and one of the last real gentlemen larrikins, they broke the mould with phil!

sal has also had a friend from sydney, helen, stay for a week or so, they hadnt seen each other since sal and i met so it was lovely for sal to catch up and spend time with her.

vic has also been hanging around for a few weeks, vic bought my old boat and used to be a teacher at yirrkala, he had an epiphany and he and his family left so he could do medicine and after 3 years he has come back to do a 6 week placement, melissa and the kids also came up for about a week so it was fantastic to catch up for both families.

we also met peter and alissa who are friends of our friends steve & bridget, peter & alissa are living in new york where steve and bridget are currently based and had popped back to australia to watch the bunnies in their first grand final in 42 years, they decided on a whirlwind tour of arnhem land this week.

i only have a couple more weeks work and sal finishes up at the end of the month and then our gap year starts on november the 17th when we head to tassie, so its really getting a tangible reality now!

so here are a few photos of the last few weeks,

sal, helen, kai and i spent 3 days earlier this week camping at bawaka, here are a few images,

finally a gallery of the visitors!

 

Dec 292013
 

bawaka (3)

 

today was one of those superb wet season days, no rain, light breeze, flat water and hot! so we loaded up the tinny and headed off for a run down to bawaka, we caught a nice mix of fish on the way down and had planned to drop most of the catch off to the community when we got there. everyone must have been off hunting as there was no one there so we took the fish home and dropped it off to family in Yirrkala.

(click on the “i ” in the top left corner for photo caption)

tonites dinner is barramundi cod, not a fish i normally keep as they mate for life, but I caught about 5 in a row and got sick of throwing them back! for some reason i didnt take any pics of the fish!

Mar 172013
 

march (6)….and better the next!

saturday was a beautiful day, i went barra fishing with mark in the morning, we had no success but it was a lovely windless, tropical day.

today promised to be even better so sal, kai & i headed off north to a spot off cape wilberforce to try our luck, i expected this spot to fish well at about 10:30am on wards until the tide stopped running just before lunch. we had a great run up the coast with flat water, a very light breeze and bright sunshine.

marchwe pulled up on the spot and set the electric trolling motor to ‘anchor’ us on the spot, this saves having to drop and pull anchor and is really helpful with small isolated ground such as this reef. the motor has its own GPS and holds you aver the mark allowing for wind and tide.

the bite was on straight away and we caught some nice small mouth nannygai, a beautiful coral trout (above) and a couple of pan sized golden snapper.

march (3)after the bite went off, we motored round into elizabeth bay and stopped for a beer and lunch, the water stayed flat and the light breeze gave just enough relief from the heat. so after a leisurely lunch and a refreshing swim we headed home along the coast, kai had a great day and helped with driving the boat, pulling up the anchor, cutting up bait for us when we were fishing and it made for a lovely family sunday.

we dont get many days as good as this when we are all off work and school and we are able to enjoy it together so it was a bonus to be able to make the most of it and catch some nice fish!

march (4)first mate, kai, at the helm!

 

 

 

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