Butterfly Bay Retreat

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map4 butterfly bay

Thurs 7/6/01

0730 hours: Sun not yet coming up over the rim of cliffs on the other side. Faint breeze. Scattered clouds. Going to be a nice day I think.

0830 hours: Anchor up and on our way under motor to the river mouth. Lovely day still.

0910 hours: Clear of sandbar across the river mouth and out in Koolama Bay. Set “George” the tillerpilot to steer us towards the western side of the bay. Want to check out a couple of small coves or inlets over there.

The two small inlets on the western side of Koolama Bay are lovely looking sites but unfortunately exposed to any weather from NE to SE. The southern one is a small cove with a nice little sandy beach at its head. There is a small waterfall maybe 20m high. It’s only a thin stream with what looks like freshwater pools at its base, going by the foliage in there. If we had more time I’d definitely go in there to check it out.

The northern one is bigger. It also has a sandy beach at its head but with mangroves behind it, and is guarded by reefs at the entrance. It would need careful sounding before entry could be gained, and probably only accessible by dinghy.

0935 hours: Have finished squaring away ready for for sea. Canopy has been taken down and everything secured. Ammeter needle is stuck off the scale on the right hand side of the gauge. Check the batteries with a hydrometer but they’re charged up okay, so it’s the gauge that’s giving problems. Give it a tap and it bounces into its proper place.

1040 hours: Reach a point 7 miles NNW of the King George river entrance. Still motor sailing and heading for Butterfly Bay. This bay is in an unsurveyed area of the marine chart so extra care is going to be needed getting in there. There’s some dispute in the information provided by three different pilot books on board as to its actual location. One has the position as 8 miles SW of Cape Londonderry and the other two have it 6 miles SE of the cape. The rough drawings in one of the books appear to be the same as on the chart but the description of features around the area differ. Will just have to go and see for myself.

Currently doing around 6 kts with tailwinds but not much of it. Get the headsail out but it flaps most of the time. Can see other large bays to the west of Koolama Bay. I assume the closest and smallest of them would be Faraway Bay. The area definitely looks promising and invites more exploration but not for us this time.

Cloudless sky. Seas with just a slight swell and still calm with a light green colour. Batteries almost fully charged. Staying motor sailing until sure I’ve got time to check another bay further up towards Cape Londonderry. This one is 4 miles north of Butterfly Bay and lined with cliffs. Can’t see Leseuer Island yet.

1120 hours: Motor is off. Try goosewinging the sails but the wind has died. Still getting about 3.5 to 4 kts under sail though.

1200 hours: Still under sail. We are 4.8 miles from our Butterfly Bay waypoint. Koolama Bay is just a smudge on the horizon to our rear. Harry Bellafonte cassette tape adding to a jolly atmosphere. Wind has come up lifting small whitecaps on the sea. Doing 6 to 6.5 kts using a goosewing rig. Wind maybe 15 kts from dead astern. Light green seas with swells. Really enjoying this sailing, simply great. Would like to keep going around the cape and head for Napier Broome Bay. However it’s not prudent to navigate unsurveyed waters at night, or to arrive at unfamiliar anchorages at night and try to close with the shore.

1230 hours: Wind springs up from nowhere catching us by surprise. Head up into the wind and furl the headsail in a bit, then put 2 reefs into the mainsail. Decide against checking the northernmost bay now and start heading directly for Butterfly Bay. Seas choppy on 1m swells. Whitecaps everywhere. Rocky and rolly. Down to a more sedate 4 kts for a while.

1300 hours: Mainsail down and reef the headsail. Change course to port and heads towards Butterfly Bay at around 3.5 kts.

1400 hours: Slowly creep into the bay under motor, keeping a watchful eye on the depth sounder for shoals and reef. Manage to work our way into the SE corner and drop the anchor in a spot out of the worst of the swells, but which is still affected by them. Unfortunately the winds are easterly and fresh, sending the swells directly into the bay. So much for the accuracy of weather forecasts. Position is 13 degrees 48.4’S, 127 degrees 02.2’E anchored in 4m of water.

1415 hours: Finish setting the anchor. Delma is a bit white faced and shows me her right foot. Her big toe is bent upwards at a funny angle and looks broken. She’d slipped on a small patch of deck which didn’t have non-skid on it, and has cracked her toe on the starboard dorade box. I’m impressed with her bravery to wait until we’re safely anchored, but now we have to determine whether the toe is broken or not. A tentative tug on the toe results in a small crunch and the toe is back in place. Thankfully it had been dislocated and not broken but even so, Delma is not a happy chapette just now.

1430 hours: A plane flies over us heading towards Cape Londonderry. It’s quite blowy outside and the boat is constantly rocking to the 1m swells in the bay. Despite the discomfort we’re in a better place than if we’d pushed on around the cape further north.

1800 hours: Have a read and a sleep during the afternoon. Was going to put the inflatable dinghy into the water for a spin around to explore this place, but the wind has stayed too strong. Listen to the weather forecast which predicts 10 to 15 kts easterly winds.  That’s the same as forecast we’d got for today, so who knows what we’ll get tomorrow.

Winds are easing but it’s getting too late to take out the inflatable. Delma says her toe is feeling a bit better after having been rubbed with emu oil – magic stuff that. Try to find why the ammeter is playing up. It goes weird at times but the batteries seem to be okay. After checking behind the gauge I find a loose connection which is probably the reason.

Resecure the automatic bilge pump hose which takes excess water from the bilges out to one of the drains in the cockpit.  It had fallen off the bilge pump. Nearly stand on Delma’s toe while turning the gas bottle off and get the evil eye.

027 butterfly bay sunsetLeft: Butterfly Bay sunset. A good jump off point for the run around the potentially nasty Cape Londonderry to the north.

1900 hours: Just getting dark outside and we’re getting dinner ready. Wind is persisting but much reduced in strength. We’ve been sitting in the cockpit enjoying the quiet with a UDL and a coke respectively. Actually getting a bit nippy outside. Inside the boat is 26 degrees celsius.

Swells still coming through but not too bad. Not brave enough for a saltwater bucket bath tonight. Just using wipes from a box of disposable wet cloths on the face and smelly bits. A couple of birds fly overhead arguing furiously between themselves. Perhaps they were scolding us. Gathering gloom.

2030 hours: Turn the motor on to run fridges. Ammeter working properly. Very nice outside in the yellow moonlight. Been sitting outside in cockpit having hot chocky drink. Will be washing up then early bed I think.

2130 hours: Lovely cool light breeze, but very rolly due to swells that still keep coming into the bay and curling around the southern headland. This looks like lasting all night. Hope we can sleep ok.

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