Moving On

map 5 pt essington
Map 5 Port Essington – Victoria Ruins to Black Boint

Fri 26 Sep 03

0700: Calm again this morning. Had rolled up the shade canopy last night as a precaution but not needed. Water slightly rippled and just a zephyr of a breeze.

0730: Radio sked useless again. Every frequency is too noisy and haven’t heard from BBR. Continuing to have problems with the refrigeration. Pull the port v-berth locker apart again to get the refrigeration gas bottle out. Put more gas into the fridges.  Still can’t get the low pressure setting right though both cold plates are properly icing up.  Adjust the cut-out switch to turn off at zero psi but it’s still not right. The suction line is still frosting up right to the compressor, but at least not on the compressor itself which is a no-no. As well, the sight glass still isn’t clearing but I don’t dare put any more gas into the system. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the sensor bulbs on the output side of the cold plates.

0930: Get underway for Caiman Creek again. Hot. By the time we reach Record Point we’ve unrolled the shade canopy,

1230 Leisurely motoring. Anchor up in 4 metres a bit further out than last time. Pete anchors off a good 200 metres away. Starting to blow from the east across the land. Having a cold drink.

37 motoringLeft: No wind and motoring slowly.

Afternoon: Pete busy fishing. Worked on a hoist system for lifting the outboard motor and other heavier objects e.g. a jerry can of water or fuel out of the dinghy.

Delma and I take a walk along the beach to a cliff face at the southern end of the bay. The cliff is mostly ironstone and crumbling sandstone. No evidence of oysters. Have learned that little sea life or marine growth occurs on or around ironstone. Pete tells me that ironstone will kill fishes in an aquarium. Lots of seashells litter the beach, most of them undamaged. Human visitors here would be limited. Lumps of beached coral probably tossed up here during storms. Thousands of small hermit crabs. Come across the decaying head of a large tuskfish literally covered with these crabs, which use a succession of empty shells for homes as they grow in size.

Back near the dinghy we find an empty pink plastic fishing hand reel. Useful for a roll of fishing line I’ve got on board. Wind has abated somewhat. Go over to Kajan for sundowners, coffee and olives in a small bowl. Chat until dusk before returning to Lowana IV.

Fridges working efficiently. Only needed half an hour before both the cold plates iced up. Tonight is the first time we haven’t had to eat food from the freezer in case it spoiled. Have ravioli for dinner. Usual wash up on deck in the breeze is a bit chilly. Still blowing but the water is relatively calm. Nights are black. No moon. In fact tonight is a new moon.

Sat 27 Sep 03

JASDIP – Just Another Shitty Day In Paradise. Water flat. Sea horizon blends seamlessly with the sky. Fish are back shoaling around the boat. A full-grown box-jellyfish swims by with its venomous tentacles streaming back about 30 centimetres, but they can extend for a long way when they are feeding. These are a dangerous sea creature with a poisonous, vicious sting alleged to feel like being burned by a thousand hot strands. Usually hard to see in the water and can potentially kill babies and scar people for life.

32 box jellyfishRight:  Box jellyfish for their size are among the most venomous creatures in the world.  Death from stings can occur between 2 to 5 minutes. Use of vinegar is a good first-aid method.

0730: Turn on the HF radio without much enthusiasm. Set it on the 8 Mb frequency to find Allan from BBR talking to another yacht and I can hear both quite clearly. Call BBR when they finish and get contact immediately. Reception of BBR is quite good at about strength 3 of 5 and the readability is good. He says my signal is low but quite clear. Pass our position report as Port Essington and tell him we’ll be staying here for a couple of days more before taking a few more days to return back home to Darwin. Thank Allan for his patience. He will not be available over the weekend since he’s taking his own boat from one end of Brunei to the other. Close down communications.

Pete wants to know what time we’re going fishing. We’ll have to have brekky first.

0900: Find a bait jig buried in the tackle box and make up a jig line using the recently found hand reel. Put this over the side and immediately pull in three small trevally but it makes a mess of the jig line in the process. Collect a dozen or so for breakfast. Delma puts them into a tray on the BBQ while I take a spare 20 litre jerry of diesel, a full water jerry and 5 litres of outboard fuel over to Pete who is running low on these items.
33 hull fishLeft: Fish sheltering under and around the hull of Lowana IV

1030: A little crab drifts by clinging to a stick which keeps rolling. Our little chap valiantly keeps trying to stay on top like a lumberjack rolling logs downriver. His attempts aren’t always successful and he’s often upside down before managing to get back on top momentarily.

Pete goes ashore. I’ve got a couple of small jobs to do here. Fill the grease gun, fix a switch on the water pressure pump, clean out the anchor chain locker and finally grease the anchor winch. Decide to stay on board for the time being. High tide will be late this afternoon anyway. Have lunch.

1600: Wind abates a little. Short waves are coming through but not choppy. Delma and I load up our fishing gear and head over to Caiman Creek. Sandbars at the entrance are now covered so we’re able to go directly into the creek. Plenty of fish activity. There’s schools of pike, a long silvery round fish with formidable teeth in the fashion of barracuda but much smaller at around 40 to 50 centimetres. Schools of baby mullet plop around.

34 goin fishinRight: Setting up to go fishing in the dinghy.

Anchor in mid-stream. The tide has risen up into the mangroves. Use some of the fish caught this morning as crab-bait. Tie them into pots and set them against a likely spot near the mangroves. Do some trolling first upstream then back towards the mouth. On the return journey we get a strike on a faithful old lure I’ve owned for many years, an old pale blue minnow with many a battle scar from previous fishy tricking trips. There’s some weight on the line so we move out into the centre of the creek to try and keep the line clear of the mangroves. The line starts peeling out against the drag of the clutch.  Tighten the clutch a little but although the line is strong enough, the old reel isn’t up to it and the clutch releases suddenly. Lucky for the fish, unlucky for us since he would have been dinner.

Check the crab-pots. Nothing. Move them further up the creek to another spot. Do some more trolling but no more strikes although there’s plenty of fishy activity. We really should have been here when the tide was just beginning to lap the bottom edges of the mangroves. Shadows getting longer. Check the pots again but the bait hasn’t been touched. Clear the pots and stow them away. Refuel the outboard but the fuel is too full of oil mix. Blue smoke erupts everywhere and the engine keeps conking out.

Contemplate rowing home but finally get the motor running cleanly enough to start heading back. Beautiful sunset. Red and orange glow of the big sun sinking into the horizon. Kajan is a black outline against a red, orange and purple sky with streaks of wispy white and orange clouds makes for a picture perfect postcard scene as we motor along.

The water has calmed down to gentle short swells. Reach Lowana IV just as the sun sinks below the horizon. A bare sliver of orange moon peeks up over the horizon to the east. Put the anchor light on and open cold cans of drink. Sit in the cockpit enjoying these when Pete calls to ask about the fishing and if everything is okay. Assure him everything’s okay and exchange mutual goodnights.

Evening: Stir ourselves into a bit of activity. Delma cooks tea while I check the boat, bilges and the lashing down of gear on deck. Stow unnecessary items away and then run the fridges.

Have our dinner in the cockpit. Do the washing up. Put long cushions in the cockpit and read our books together under the cockpit light. Pitch black outside despite the rising moon.

Sun 28 Sep 03

0400: Mossies buzzing furiously around my ears. We’d left a citronella oil lamp burning last night in the saloon but that area seems to be thickest with them. There’s at least a dozen or so on the wall near the lamp itself. Pull out some mozzie spray and give them all a blast. Dig out some mozzie coils and holders, and set one in the saloon and one in the wheelhouse near Delma. Go back to bed but the mozzies still furious. Spray around the boat again then close the windows and hatches to allow the coils to work properly. No more problems.

0800: Dead mozzies everywhere laying thick on top of the wheelhouse and decks around the portholes.

Casual breakfast. Delma does some tidying up and re-arranging of small lockers in the galley. I quickly check the anchor well and see that I am going to have to do some more work in there soon.

1000: Anchor up. Breeze blowing. Anchor comes in clean with only a little mud. Turn to deeper water. Breeze about 8 kts. Still got about an hour of outgoing tide which is good. Reach the deeper water then turn north towards Black Point.

1110: Breeze picking up. Coming abreast of Reef Point at the northern end of Berkeley Bay. Black Point about 2 miles ahead. Water ruffled. Cloudy day. Cumulus but nothing ominous about them. Plenty of sunny patches.

1120: Wind blowing heartily at around 20kts. Roll up shade canopy.

1150: Pass close by Pete’s boat and exchange greetings whilst approaching anchorage near Black Point. We pick a spot closer to the point itself but about 50 metres from Kajan and in about 2 metres of water since it’s now low tide. Anchor takes a little while to settle with the wind blowing Lowana IV against the force of the tide. The wind wins and she slowly comes around. Dig the anchor into the bottom using reverse gear.

1210: Motor off. Put the small cockpit shade up and sit down to enjoy a coffee latte.

1530: Pete already ashore and waiting for us. Store is closed on Sundays so we have a chat under the shade of the trees and make some phone calls home. Our friend Marg Hines tells me that Dave got an email from Allan of BBR this morning with our details. Good to know the contact system works. However BBR hasn’t put anything about us on the Yotreps website so far since I haven’t been able to communicate to him that well.

Take a walk along the beach before returning to Lowana IV. Pete follows and comes aboard for sundowners but leaves soon after dark.

Delma and I cook up a mince stew for tea. Usual washing and cleaning up chores. Have a saltwater tub on deck followed by a cup of hot chocky. Put the cushions in the cockpit to do a little reading before going to bed.

Mozzies hardly noticeable tonight. Too much wind for them to fly out from the land I suppose. Delma says she’ll try to sleep in the saloon berth tonight but in the morning is back out in the cockpit. I’d made her bed up out there just in case anyway.

Mon 29 Sep 03

0730: Contact Allen at BBR. Nil change to Posrep – Position Report. He’ll be unavailable for the next few days since he’s running a yacht-master’s course. Tell him we’ll be heading back towards Darwin tomorrow, taking about a week and stopping at places of interest along the way.

While Delma does the washing I fill the main water tanks with 130 litres of water from jerry cans. The diesel fuel tanks take 60 litres. The grease gun has developed an air pocket and isn’t working properly and requires repacking with grease.  Always a dirty job. Re-grease the stuffing box which is dripping a bit too much. Get out the water hose and pressure pump then pull out the remaining chain in the anchor locker. Give it a good hosing then wash down the decks while Delma prepares some deserts for tonight.

1030: Back ashore to meet Pete who tells us he’d seen a big fish in a rock pool and that he’d dived in and wrestled it. Shows us a nice turrum about 60 cm long.

“Dinner for tonight,” he exclaims.

When asked for the real story he confesses he’d gone over to another dinghy for a chat and been given the fish. Pete had been along the rocks at low tide and tells us where an oyster colony is. We agree that tomorrow we’d leave Port Essington in the morning with the ebb tide and go to Trepang Bay, which is the next bay along the coast westwards towards home.

Set out on an oyster expedition. Walk a couple of kilometres and reach the spot. Loads of oysters. Rocks exposed well to seaward. Sit down and feast on them. Isn’t necessary to hunt for them. Just sit in the one spot and chip the tops off. Delicious.

35 oyster beds 36 oyster hunt
Oyster beds exposed by the low tide Delma prising an oyster loose

Return to the Ranger’s Station and visit the museum to get some photos.  Ring my sister Vicki about my Dad who’s been having some health issues. All okay so far with Dad. He’s got a specialist appointment today and tomorrow.

The tide has gone out by the time we return to the dinghy so the outboard has to be taken off and the dinghy dragged several metres down to the water. It’s then necessary to paddle carefully through the rocky shallows until the leg of the outboard motor can be put down and start the motor.  Pretty blowy.

1315: Cold drink before some lunch back onboard Lowana IV.

1530: Finish a second book. A white motor-cruiser yacht was coming in while we were going ashore earlier and is now anchored about 150 metres away. Has an extended pilothouse from the mid-section almost to the stern. Estimate the length at about 40 ft with a hard covered foredeck and a rubber inflatable on the roof of the pilothouse. Her name is Ariel. Doesn’t look like anyone is onboard now. From previous radio transmissions I assume they’ll probably be ashore with some children at the museum. Boat looks set up for charter work and probably some diving as well.

Two dinghies are powering across the port towards us from the direction of Kennedy Bay, which is directly across the other side of this port. Spray from their bows is rearing up in a “v” either side when viewed head on so they look like they’re moving pretty quick. They politely slow down near our anchored yachts and pass within 100 metres or so.

Wind coming from the east at about 15 kts. Short seas but not choppy. Pete is on his way over to take us ashore to the store later on. We need some eggs and dry cell batteries for a torch and Pete wants to make a phone call. This is probably the only phone box within 200 miles. Settle in for hot cuppas and nibbles.

1630: Suddenly Delma urgently says that Pete’s dinghy is adrift. I barrel topsides. Delma is already in our dinghy and turning on the fuel tap and opening the air vent. We chase after the other boat which by now is about 150 metres away. Catch up with it to find the painter – a rope attached to the bow had snapped. Grab the anchor rope and secure it to a cleat on my dinghy and return under tow to Lowana IV. Ariel motors past and a big well-tanned guy at the stern gives a friendly wave.

1700: Bought two dozen eggs and two ice-creams on a stick at the store which cost $18.00. Ice-creams are eaten slowly with great concentration so that it can be savoured the more. Leave the batteries on the shelf. Pete makes his phone call.

Delma meets up with a man named Paddy Bade, a surgeon she knows at Royal Darwin Hospital. He’s a friendly chap and stops for a chat. Both he and his son have just been fishing and are staying at the Black Point rental huts. His son had speared a couple of painted lobsters in the shallows earlier in the day.

1830: Wind has calmed but the sea is still a little bit bumpy on the return back to Lowana IV. Pete pushes off immediately we climb aboard.  It’s at this point I notice that I’d put my black shorts on backwards before going ashore and hadn’t noticed. I’d been wandering around Black Point oystering and sporting a dirty patch from sitting down on both sides of my shorts on the green slimy rocks.

Bacon and egg on pancakes for dinner.

Tues 30 Sep 03

0700: Weather report is good.

0730: Pete calls. Has changed his mind about going west to Trepang Bay and is heading east to Palm Bay on the northwest side of Croker Island. Doesn’t want to go back without achieving something worthwhile – not having a good look around.

I can only agree. I’d like to check out Bowen Strait and Malay Bay and inspect the ruins at Raffles Bay. Decide to go too. Will leave tomorrow just before ebb tide at 0630 hrs. Checking this later find that the ebb tides actually flow westerly so we’ll be going directly against the tide.

With that decision made, jump onto the HF radio to advise Allan at BBR. Contact him almost immediately on the 8Mb frequency and tell him of our change in plans. Give him the latitude and longitude of Palm Bay and he reads it back correctly. He advises he won’t be available until the Friday morning sked now because of that training course he’s running. Close off comms.

Spend the next half hour studying charts and planning alternatives in event of the weather turning or unforeseen problems. Black Point to Palm Bay will be about 30 miles. The trip to Trepang Bay would have been 20 miles. If we do need to seek shelter early we should be able to anchor behind Danger Point which is 18 miles away.

0830: The wind blows up. Quite gusty at times. Doesn’t bode well for tomorrow. Decide to leave a bit earlier at around 0530 hrs on the slackening tide when it should be calm. Should also give us a bit more distance during daylight.

1030: Delma has been busy doing the washing and hanging it out. They were just a few things from yesterday but she likes to keep on top of it. She’s now pulling stuff out from the first aid lockers in the head – all six of them and is combing through the items in there. She’s finding lots of stuff I’d forgotten including a sealed pack with morphine in it to be used in event of serious injury and pain. A  short pile of excess old bandages, ointments and other out of date medicines is put together to be kept in one place for emergencies, but which need to be replaced when we return home. It’s worthwhile to go through these stores from time to time so you know exactly what’s in there when you need something immediately.

Pete comes over for a visit. Heaps of activity around Black Point boat ramp. Lots of dinghies over there. Must be 8 or 9 of them plus other boats heading out to do some fishing. Some are charter boats. A catamaran comes in and anchors just off Black Point itself but about 300 metres away from us. Has kept radio silence and flying one of those aboriginal flags.

Afternoon: Go ashore once more to the store for an ice-cream. A government catamaran Gunyanah belonging to Department of Primary Industries arrives and refuels at the beach.

1800: Back on Lowana IV and raise the dinghy on the stern davits. Deflate the inflatable. Prepare the boat for sea tomorrow. It’s been quite blowy all day and only just starting to ease a bit now.

The wind drops right down at dusk. Sunset has some streaky clouds in the west with just some occasional cumulus in the darkening east. Perhaps we’ve seen the tail edge of the higher winds now. Hope so. In any case tell Delma that if it gets too hard tomorrow we can always come back here. That doesn’t mean if it’s comfortable, just that if it gets too hard to bash into the winds or if we cannot make reasonable time.

1900: Listen to the weather forecast. Nil warnings. Forecast is one metre seas with variable winds at 10 kts and inshore afternoon sea breezes to 15 kts. Sounds good enough.

After dinner place some cushions around the cockpit and read our books. Sea now calm and even hearing the odd fish plopping around the boat. Waxing moon provides a little bit of light, enough to have a saltwater bucket bath. Normally the water is fairly warm but the breeze makes it a quick affair due to the chill, but tonight the water is colder.

Some last minute preparations before bed. Check engine oils. Takes a long time to get to sleep. Fireworks being let off from one of the Ranger’s houses.



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