|Sun 3/6/0/010820 hours: A bit slow getting out of bed. Both of us slept well last night. Go to check the tide tables but find they aren’t applicable for this particular area, but it’s obviously High tide at present.Cruising Notes: Engine hours 959. Total fuel usage 42 litres. Log reading 226.9 miles. Chart distance 245 miles.
1000 hours: Do some calculations. Have used the motor roughly for 29 hours of the trip. The 42 litres of fuel includes the 2 trips to Doctors Gully and running the refrigeration system for 2 days plus the 29 hours on the trip. Not too bad on fuel consumption. Good in fact.
The stuffing box is leaking a bit more than it should and the bilges have to be pumped fairly regularly. Fill the grease gun and pump more grease into the stuffing box. Yucky job. Delma is doing some washing so I’ve rigged up a drying line.
Lovely morning. Feeling the sun bite already. Wind starting to pick up but the day is glorious if you can keep in some shade. Delma’s got the busy bug – cleaning the galley stove and washing the saloon floor. Hate it when she gets like this ‘cause I tend to get caught up too!
1030 hours: Delma helps to put a patch on a small leak in the floor of inflatable. Have lost one of the wooden seat supports somehow yesterday whilst going ashore so we’ll just have to sit on the pontoon sides from here on.
Sally Lightfoot comes around the bend and anchors near us. She’d come out of the river last night, and being a catamaran was able to anchor in the shallower waters near the sandbar. Got the correct tidal information from them when they came over to have a chat with us and Tasha. They leave for the Berkeley River about midday.
Spend the rest of the day reading books, sort through food stores, do some small clean up jobs, some more washing, napping, reading books again …
1803 hours: Listen to the weather forecast. Receive it quite clearly on the 4 MHz frequency.
1815 hours: Tasha calls on the radio and invites us over for sundowners. Finally get to meet with owners Des and Marilyn, Des’s brother Andrew and his wife Mary. Spend a good couple of hours having a sociable chat and drinkies.
2110 hours: Return to Lowana IV for dinner after which we enjoy a hot chocolate drink before going to bed.
Into the River
0530 hours: Wake up. Something wrong. Noises? Boat movement? Something … go outside. Canopy is catching the wind and pulling the boat side on to the wind. This sort of thing has occasionally caused the anchor to drag before so I start rolling it up. Delma comes out to help. With this done the boat lays properly to the wind and we can get back into bed.
1000 hours: Had planned on getting out fairly early in a dinghy to take soundings of the sandbar across the entrance to the river this morning. Was going to be looking for a deep enough channel to try and take Lowana IV across into the river proper. Delma had let me sleep in because it’s been fairly blowy.
Check engine oils. The gearbox oil still seems to be running into the main engine sump, and it’s supposed to be a separate sump. Puzzling.
Have a quick brekkie and a cuppa. Decide to take Lowana IV closer to the sandbar, which is about a mile away. Maybe we can spot a channel by a change in the water colour without having to use a dinghy. Move back and forth across the entrance but can’t find any obvious channel. Unfortunately the water is consistently murky having been whipped up by wind and waves earlier this morning.
Anchor up in 3m of water. It’s still quite blowy and the bay is quite choppy but I’m going to have to get out there in the dinghy and take soundings. Be nice to have one of those portable depth sounders but I don’t. Will just have to use a basic lead line, try to identify some useable landmarks and take compass bearings.
I know there should be another channel on the western side of the bay so if I can’t find anything here I can always go over there to search. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
Glad we’ve got the inflatable for this work as the old fibreglass dinghy would easily get swamped. As I motor away in the dinghy I notice Delma signalling frantically in a rowing motion. I’d forgotten to take the oars and with this the outboard motor inconveniently coughs and stops. It usually starts on the first tug of the starter rope but not this time. It takes a few minutes but by the time I get the outboard started again I’vebeen swept about half a mile past Lowana IV out to sea. Good one stupid …
Retrieve the oars and set out again. After much to and fro-ing finally locate what seems to be a shallow channel and am able to take marks off the sandy shoreline against the backdrop of cliffs. The shallowest area over the sandbar is close to where we’re anchored and it’s about 50m wide to get across. During this process I’m totally soaked and obliged to regularly bail the water out of the inflatable because of the choppy sea. It’s something I have to do to stop the fuel container from floating away.
The lead line shows a depth of 2m but since Lowana IV draws 1.2m we should be right … theoretically, Not an easy ask to keep an 8 tonne boat that’s being pushed by wind and waves inside a narrow channel. I’m confident it’s workable but if not, then we’ll just to wait it out for the next high tide.
Return to Lowana IV. Tasha has come up and now anchored nearby so I motor over to show Des my landmarks. Des has a 2m draught so decides to stand by while I make the attempt, and if I do get stuck then maybe he can help pull me back off the sandbar. That’s Plan B. Plan C is to use the dinghy to drop the anchor back into deeper water and winch myself off so set about preparing the big 60 lb danforth anchor up on the bow ready to quickly throw over the side should we get into difficulties
1300 hours: Give a wave to Tasha as we pass by and commit ourselves to crossing the bar. Line up my landmarks and almost immediately run into shallower than expected water. The depth sounder starts alarming at just 1m. The sounder is offset to the keel by 1m so it means the keel will be touching bottom. Watch the sounder anxiously. We’re sitting still so give the throttle a small boost and we again move slowly forwards. Sounder seems to be stuck on 1m forever but finally hovers between 1.0m and 1.2m for a few minutes then shows deeper readings.
I knew that provided I kept my marks ashore lined up we would get into progressively deeper water, but am surprised to find we start crossing another shallow bank. This causes no problems though and we soon find deeper water as we approach a sand spit marking the eastern side of the narrow entrance.
We’re through! Once inside the entrance to the river the strength of the wind increases and the current is really surging. The depth shallows again down to 3.0m as we cross a series of underwater sand ridges over the next half a mile but we’re at least moving forward even if it is a slow headway.
Left: Just inside the entrance. Area to the left is shallow so following a deeper channel to the right near the cliffs. The slanting object in the foreground is one of the mast backstays. The hat might look a bit dorky but it keeps the sun off.
Call Tasha on the radio to tell Des what we’d found. He replies he’d been watching us like a hawk anyway. My opinion is that with his deeper draught I don’t think he’d make it where I went through. Maybe he could try the western side. Moe likely he’ll probably wait for the high tide tomorrow morning. That will give him more depth and hopefully some flatter water to get inside.
Right: The river gets narrower and the cliffs start to hem-in closer as you go further in. At places the cliffs drop sheer straight into the water. There is some excellent fishing right at the base of them. Good oysters too.
The King George River is about 6 miles long and ends abruptly at 2 waterfalls. It’s beautiful scenery with majestic cliffs that often plunge vertically 60m or more directly into the water. A white breasted sea eagle soars above the cliffs keeping pace with us for a while checking us out.
Afternoon: Slowly make our way up the river admiring the view. It’s Delma’s first time here but although I’ve seen it twice before it still strikes me as a spectacular river. On arriving at the end we find we’re the only boat there. Depth sound around to find a spot out of the direct line of the falls where it’s noise is more muted. Anchor in 7m of water. Square the boat away of no longer needed sailing gear.
Due to the presence of crocodiles we won’t be using the inflatable so decide to bring it onboard and deflate it. We’ll use the red fibreglass dinghy instead. Climb down into the inflatable to start passing stuff up to Delma such as oars, water etc. Suddenly feel something whipping against my left ankle. Glance down and see something like a light brown piece of rope flicking violently around. Doesn’t make sense at first then am startled to see it’s alive. In the space of a heartbeat I jump back onto Lowana IV and glance down to glimpse a rather long snake in the dinghy. It’s about 2m long, fawn coloured with a burnt orange section at its head, and it dashes over the stern of the dinghy to start swimming furiously for the nearest rocks on shore.
This hasn’t done much for my heart rate. Am concerned about potential bite marks but hadn’t felt a bite and there doesn’t appear to be any marks. Delma decides it’s hilarious and starts laughing – much to my disgust. I ask her tartly whether she thinks she could take the boat back out over the entrance by herself. She smugly tells me she thinks she can. Yet underneath the comedy we both know the need for her to know what to do if there actually is an emergency. It’s important that she could do something positive for me or even just herself, if something happens to me. There’s no ambulances or quick treatment here.
After my heart stops yammering we finish getting the inflatable onboard and drop the red dinghy from the stern targa rails. Head off to make a closer inspection of the two waterfalls. They’re not running as hard as I’ve seen on other occasions but they’re still impressive nonetheless. About 100m further downstream we find a place where we can take a fresh water shower. It takes a bit of effort getting over the large boulders and rocks but against the cliff wall is a natural stone ledge, with a small waterfall sprinkling down the cliff face. The water is cold but feels marvellous. Good to be free of salty skin.
Right: The black vertical section of the cliff wall just right of centre marks a small waterfall. a rock ledge at the base provides a handy place to take a shower. The rocks on the foreshore make it a tad difficult to get in there and some climbing is required.
Return back to Lowana IV for some nibblies of olives, camembert cheese, rice biscuits, asparagus spears and soft drinks.
2000 hours: Dinner is over and the washing up done. Kettle is on for a hot chocolate drink.
2030 hours: Am sitting in the cockpit admiring the gorge being lit up by bright moonlight. Stars are thick and bright in the narrow corridor of sky showing beyond the cliff walls. The muted but constant noise of the waterfalls is being reflected around the corner off the gorge walls. Fish jump along the edges of the river. The setting is simply beautiful in the calm night air. Scan the river with a high powered torch but don’t spot the pink eyes of any crocodiles reflected in the light. The thing is with these animals however is that you can never really be certain where they are. It’s always best to assume they’re nearby somewhere.
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