Sunday, July 31, 2022


[Kyle]Well, we finally made it to Broome, which is to be our last stop on the Australian continent. It is here that we need to check out with Customs (but not Immigration) before sailing to the Cocos Islands. The sail was pretty uneventful, apart from having to crab up to forty degrees either way to counteract the currents in King Sound. We spent half of the time close hauled and going slightly backwards and the other half with strong tailwinds and going sideways on what would have been a lovely beam reach the whole time in other parts of the world.

On the overnight sail to Broome we spotted plenty of whales - mostly too far away, but sometimes way too close. We did our best to alter course whenever we spotted them, but some of them didn't understand the rules and just wanted to pop over and say hi! And they can certaily swim way faster than we can sail or motor. One friendly giant circled and swam under the boat for our entertainment

We arrived at the outskirts of Broome in a dying wind after an unusually choppy night sailing down the coast. Gantheaume point, which bisects Broome’s two main anchoring areas, first appeared as a shimmering mirage. Then it resolved and expanded into a wide bay. Broome is a popular spot for tourists, mostly because of its immense beach and also as a stepping off point for tours of the Kimberley.

For us yachties, as they call us here, it is much more problematic, but it is the only place for several hundred miles in either direction to top up on any of boating’s necessities.

This is firstly because of the aforementioned beach. It is both long and wide, like the one in Blackpool, UK, but has the added appeal of not being in Blackpool, which means it can be strolled in the sunshine while wearing shorts. Since the tide range here can be as high as eleven meters, the high tide line and the low tide line are about 1/3 of a mile apart. If leaving the dinghy for more than a couple of hours, you will likely find it floating in deep water (if you remembered to anchor it) or way up on the sand a long drag from the sea. The only time you can really get around this is at neap tides, which are lowest midday. Then it is possible to ground the dinghy on the falling tide in the morning and plan to return in the afternoon when the water rises again to the same level.

This is except for the fact that there is nowhere safe to leave a dinghy unattended for very long, as petty theft and vandalism are not unheard of here. There are a lot of vehicles on the beach with either trailers or racks for carrying boats. It would be a pretty simple thing to shop for something nicer than what you have and trade up, so to speak.Thirdly, even if you can get to the beach, town is a long way away on a dusty, shadeless road with no sidewalks.

The only marine infrastructure available to us at Gantheaume Point was the use of a mooring ball. These come with a long list of things that aren’t included, like launch service, access to a laundry or shower block, fuel pump, water hose, electricity or a shuttle into town. What you do get is the authentic boating experience of watching loads of your money disappear to no effect. The price we were quoted for a week was one and a half times more than we paid for an actual marina slip in Darwin with most of the above-mentioned amenities. Uh, that’ll be a hard no, thank you. Anchoring is not that difficult.

Broome has a sunset cruise industry, and some lovely coastline and beaches

The picture shows us "helping" load up Nutshell's dinghy onto a trailer for the day (at low tide the beach turns into a parking lot

That being said, Broome also seems to have no shortage of really nice people. The first of these were Magnus and Wendy from Nutshell (whom we first met in Silver Gull Creek). They had arrived a few days before we did for what was not their first time through. Magnus explained that the only sensible option for going ashore was to get dropped off and picked up by someone who stays with the dinghy as the tide goes up and down. He then told us he would be happy to deliver and fetch us anytime we liked, so Maryanne and I could go together. We accepted on the provision that the agreement would be reciprocal, but for some reason, we never got to take them ashore in the pudgy.

Instead, when they wanted to go, they went through this huge kerfuffle of going to town while the other waits behind to borrow a truck with a trailer. Then they loaded their tender onto it with lots of heavy lifting and dragging. Then taking us to town with and the tender until it was time to return at a different tide state, where they undid the whole process. This seems to be par for the course here. Even biggish tour boats like Odyssey and Kimberley Pearl do the exact same thing every time they need to go to town. It was kinda fun the first time, but going through that every time you wanted to get to your boat would get pretty old pretty fast.

Magnus and Wendy dropped us off in town, where we rented a 4WD for the rest of the week. That way, Maryanne (mostly) could run around doing errands ashore while I (mostly) stayed aboard doing passage preparations. The next day, Maryanne met a local sailor, Ben, who offered us the use of both his car and his mooring in exchange for an Aussie cruising guide we would no longer need, and which Maryanne had already offered for free. He acted like lending us his stuff was the most fun he’d had all week and he seems like a particularly fun guy. Now we could return our rental a day early so we don’t have to worry about it being parked in the dark lot by the beach overnight.

Fist bit of sightseeing - and a meal out at Matso's!

Further up Cable Beach tourists have the option of a camel ride at sunset (we went to watch)

After repositioning Begonia to Ben’s mooring, Magnus and Wendy took us ashore again, all while acting like they couldn’t be more happy to do so. Since Maryanne had managed to get almost everything we needed on her solo day, she insisted we see just a few of the sights the tourists are enjoying.

We ate at pubs and strolled both along both the waterfront and through Broome’s surprisingly big Chinatown district (the Chinese were very involved in Broome’s early pearling industry). We skipped the seaplane flight to Horizontal Falls, but we did head to Cable Beach, just north of Begonia, to see the camels.

Yep, they do camel rides on the beach here. It’s a pretty big draw. The industry was set up by a woman who crossed Australia by camel before settling down in Broome. We didn’t sign up because we could never be sure we would be ashore then. After seeing the lines of camels plodding across the sunset in front of us, we both agreed that it looked like a lot more fun to watch than to do. Going 1mph on a long and uniform beach for half an hour could get a little tedious by the end.

Before we returned the car - we did a loop of the coast road scenic stops.
The area is famed for its miles of dinosaur tracks to be found on much of the coastline - but we didn't spy any

The town has plenty of nods to its Aboriginal and Asian history and pearl diving industry. And there are little touches everywhere to make it very pleasant to hang about in

Finishing our shore list early left us with a much-needed day using the last of our cellular data. Emails to officials had to be sent, charts had to be updated and podcasts had to be downloaded. I did a trip up the mast to scrutinize our rigging, which looks good, if a little dusty. The last big item is to go ashore the day before we leave to meet Customs, who said they would come out to the beach for us. After that, I’ll put the dinghy in lifeboat mode and we will be ready to go.

{Maryanne: We are now provisioned with fresh veggies, a fancy new stove top toaster (that actually seems to work - thanks Wendy!), we had our 2nd COVID booster shot and think/hope we are all set with the formalities for our planned route ahead.}

Our track around Australia - Courtesy of Following Sea

We have now been in Australia for just over thirty-three months and 20,000 nautical miles. Most of it, we have loved, including many of the friendly characters we have met along the way. It is a vast and beautiful country and the people who live here really are some of the world’s luckiest. I don’t think we could have spent the last almost three years in a better place.

Australia is so varied that it is hard to pick our favorite parts of it. On our short list would be Lord Howe Island, Tasmania, the Recherche Archipelago (on the southern WA coast) and, of course, the Kimberley region. To be fair, most of Australia is pretty amazing in one way or another. It would be pretty hard to go wrong picking places to visit here with a dartboard and a map. We have been so fortunate to see so much of the continent’s outline from our own floating home - except for the Tweed Head bar; we are happy to never see that place again.

[Maryanne]Australia - We’ve had an amazing time. Thanks for the memories!!!

We depart on Tuesday to start crossing the Indian Ocean - THANK YOU to all the many people we met along the way and the MANY kindnesses you have gifted us. It's tough to leave.

Wineries, whales, wombats, and lots of other wildlife. Snorkelling, sunsets, caves, cities, beaches, its all been marvelous. What a wonderful place!

Begonia has spent 2 years and 9 months in Australia, we circumnavigated with the boat and the boat has seen JBT, Lord Howe Island, NSW, NT, QLD, South Australia, Tasmania (3 times), Victoria, and WA (including the Kimberley).

That’s 213 separate anchorages, 2 careenings (both times in NT), 2 paid wall/dock, 6 free docks, 15 Marinas, 4 paid mooring balls, 39 free moorings, 2 private mooring balls (many thanks!) and 2 different boat yards (both in QLD).

Additionally we took a few side trips by car to see the ACT, and numerous national parks.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Crawford Bay (exiting The Kimberley)

[Kyle]From Hidden Island, we had just a little more time in King Sound before we had to make the two-day jump to Broome. We decided to sail a few miles south to Crawford Bay to have a last relaxing few days in the Kimberley before we say goodbye to it all.

Well, I say ‘sail’, but it never really happened. We had a forecast for ten-knot winds out of the north, which would have been perfect for the spinnaker, but they never materialized. The most we saw all day was two-and-a-half, which will barely lift the sail under its own weight.

Beautiful flat seas for the passage to Crawford Bay

We left on the end of the ebb, which put the current against us. The sea was flat from a distance, but up close it was a boiling miasma of eddies and whirlpools. Just before low tide, all of that stopped within about five minutes, leaving us gliding over a pane of glass. There was just enough haze in the air that it was impossible to make out the actual horizon. All of the land in the distance looked like they were floating in midair, as if some kid had colored in cumulous clouds with earth tones and drab greens.

When the whirlpools started to return, we got excited. We had been fighting currents between two and five knots while making four-and-a-half through the water. Our ETA sometimes said tomorrow, sometimes disappeared altogether. Now that was all going to change. The ebb died down to less than a knot at slack water, swirled around a bit and then the flood arrived from the exact same direction. What the hell? Now we’re going slow again. Perhaps we were in some kind of a back eddy. Oceanography can be a real mystery sometimes.

We decided to have dinner underway instead of waiting until we were anchored. After I finished the dishes, I emerged from the cabin to find Maryanne with a smug smile on her face. We were finally going seven knots, which meant we would definitely be anchored by nightfall. Whew!

Crawford Bay is big, ringed with steep hills plunging down to the water. There are few inlets or coves to explore and what there is requires a pretty long ride in the dinghy. The views of the islands in the distance are spectacular, particularly at sunset, and we enjoyed having the chance to relax and reflect on our time in this special region: The Kimberley. We are so glad we finally were able to visit the Kimberley.

[Maryanne]Our time in The Kimberley has now ended. What an amazing trip we've had. We know we skipped a number of areas that others class as 'must see' - so there is plenty more to it than we have been able to share through the blog. Our minds now switch to planning our exit from Australia and all the formalies and triple checking that entails. We did manage to finally setup and test our water maker at Crawford Bay - thankfully that works just fine (Slow but steady).

[Maryanne]Thinking of visiting the Kimberley with your own boat? – Check out our Cruising the Kimberley Tips

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Silica Beach on Hidden Island (The Kimberley)

[Kyle]Our next westbound stop was at Silica Beach on Hidden Island. We found it just fine. The shoreline here is studded with boulders and canted spires between small sandy beaches.

At the next low tide, we took the dinghy out to see more of it. As we approached the small bay to the west, we could see through the clear water that the bottom was almost 100% live coral until it gave way to rocks and sand barely deep enough to float our dinghy. We dropped the anchor at the water’s edge and got out for a little walk.

This many-fingered bay almost completely dries out at low tide, leaving large areas of sand to explore, which are punctuated by boulders and separated by rivulets. As Maryanne was trying to get a photo of an Osprey that our arrival had annoyed, she noticed that the boulder she was standing next to was opaque. Once we started seeing it, we noticed that most of them were. This whole end of the island is primarily made up of really pure quartz, The rough rock surface is opaque, but in places where the crystals were protected from erosion, we could see that they were almost as clear as glass.

We left the bay before the tide marooned us and headed around the corner to the next. We were just eying up potential landing spots on the beach when a big croc surfaced between us and it. It submerged again. We reversed course far enough away that we were hoping it would see chasing us as not worth the trouble. We didn’t see any suspicious wakes or underwater shadows sneaking up behind us.

Exploring at Silica Bay beaches and inlets at low tide

We then decided to land at Silica Beach, the one right next to Begonia. For some reason that we can’t figure out because we found the same quartz boulders all along the shoreline, Silica Beach seems to be the only one in the area with sand that is made up of hexagonal quartz crystals. The others seem to be the usual tan, crushed rock and seashell sand, but Silica Beach stands out even from Begonia as being much whiter than the ones adjacent. It has all of the other characteristics as well, like squeaky sand that can be formed into balls. That’s always fun.

[Maryanne]Thinking of visiting the Kimberley with your own boat? – Check out our Cruising the Kimberley Tips

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Coppermine Creek (The Kimberley)

[Kyle]After topping up at Silver Gull and Dog Leg Creeks, we had a slow downwind run to Coppermine Creek. For the first time in what seemed like ages, we dug out the spinnaker and enjoyed the peace and quiet as we slid along the coast. Since I can already hear those familiar with the Kimberley asking the question in my head, I will explain that we didn’t stop at the amazing, wonderful and highly recommended Crocodile Creek along the way because it only has space for a very few boats to raft up and we already knew of at least that many who were already there.

Coppermine Creek - we were greeted by a flock of cockatoos on arrival

Coppermine Creek is much larger and wider than Silver Gull. We entered and then anchored way at the back when it started to get too shallow to go much further and not ground at low tide. We were the only boat there.

Apart from the general scenery, there isn’t a whole lot in the way of diversions here, particularly because it is Aboriginal land and we are not allowed above the high tide line. We settled for two days of putting our electric motor to the test as we explored the entire coastline upstream of Begonia in the dinghy. We found lots of birds, some amazing geology and one big croc deep in the mangroves that served as the perfect opportunity to call it quits for the day and go home.

We explored in the dinghy and found a few birds to stayed in the frame long enough for a photograph

[Maryanne]Thinking of visiting the Kimberley with your own boat? – Check out our Cruising the Kimberley Tips