Lake Argyle

Lake Argyle

Near Kununurra is Lake Argyle, Australia’s second largest freshwater man-made reservoir. It was on our list of ‘must-see’ from the beginning of our trip.

Although it is huge it’s very underdeveloped and under used. There are very few boats that use the lake and it has a difficult steep access road down to a none existent boat ramp (a large patch of gravel). It is also very difficult to anchor. We tried for 30 mins to find a place to anchor in less than 15m of water that didn’t show trees still standing upright on the depth sounder.

Visiting with a large boat like ours and anchoring overnight like we did should only be done with utmost caution and confidence in your boat handing abilities as well as being prepared to take the risk of losing an anchor. We nearly lost ours as it took us over 30mins of motoring in circles this way and then the other to untwist our anchor chain from around a tree or rock outcrop under the water.

We wouldn’t, however, hesitate to recommend that anyone travelling around Australia book into the caravan park and take a sunset cruise on this special lake.

Despite the difficulties, we wouldn’t have missed the chance to see this majestic lake with the vast array of changing colours on the hills that surround the lake at sunset and sunrise.

 

Dampier Archipelago

Dampier Archipelago

While in Carnarvon we were given a very good tip to visit the Dampier Archipelago on our way up to Broome. We had never heard of this group of 42 islands off the mining ports of Dampier and Port Headland servicing the petrochemical, salt, iron ore and natural gas export industries.

All we knew of the area was that it was the industrial base of the mining industry. Certainly the industries were very prominent in and around the town but once we launched Tatui and made our way to the other side of the first line of islands it opened up to an area of pretty islands, with lovely sandy beaches, clear water, lots of coral and great fishing. It was amazing that virtually no one was sharing this boating playground with us.

 

We had picture perfect weather and it was as close to the Whitsundays area as we had seen on our whole trip around Australia.

A boating secret that we are pleased we were told about before we had passed it by.

 

Ningaloo Reef

Ningaloo Reef

We had heard so much about Ningaloo Reef where you could snorkel among the coral right off the beach that it was on our ‘must do’ list. We were advised to either launch the boat at Coral Bay or Tantabiddi further up the coast. We checked out Coral Bay.

Very pretty but very crowded due to the school holidays so we headed up to Exmouth and around the lighthouse to Tantabiddi. It was a very good boat ramp but very crowded as this is where all the boats leave from for the Whale Shark tours. We decided against doing the Whale Shark tour due to cost ($400 each) and we had already ticked off an item on my bucket list, swimming with dolphins. Instead Russ and our friends Kevin and Judy went out fishing for the day while I relaxed on shore. They went out beyond the reef into the deeper water and Jude very kindly caught two lovely large cod which we thoroughly enjoyed over lunch the following day. Although it was easy to launch at Tantabiddi the holding was not good. We had to anchor in any patch of sand we could find well off shore just to get the anchor to set due to the coral rubble further inshore. After 2 nights we therefore decided to take Tatui out of the water and leave her at the Discovery Centre inside Cape Range National Park and drive down to Turquoise Bay to do our snorkelling over the reef.

There was lots of healthy looking coral although not much colour with most of the coral green or brown but there were lots of lovely tropical fish and best of all the water was swimming pool clear.

 

Bullara Station

Bullara Station

Just before we left Carnarvon we received a call from friends from Airlie Beach to say they were travelling down the Western Australian Coast (we were heading up ) and were only a few days away from us so we arranged to meet at Coral Bay. As it was school holidays the caravan parks were full but Bullara Station, a working cattle station who cater also for caravaners were taking in anyone who turned up. They had so much land they just let us all park in the cattle yards. They put on a camp fire, and cooked hamburgers on a huge BBQ for 150 guests outside the shearing shed. As well as morning tea and scones at the Homestead in the mornings.

 

 

They were able to provide hot showers and toilets for everyone. You could even try their outdoor shower heated by a ‘donkey’ burner behind.

I loved the quirky touches they had around the station which included their unique sculptures

bottle tree

 

and tv lounge in the shearing shed.

As you can imagine we caused quite a stir turning up with our boat instead of a caravan.

 

Carnarvon

Carnarvon

We decided to take a break from travelling to do some work for 1-2 months. We picked Carnavon in WA as they have a small yacht club marina that made us very welcome with our boat. The timing was very fortuitous as 70km outside Carnarvon we lost 5th gear on the Landrover. When we arrived at the marina and went to reverse the car to put the boat in the water down the ramp we found we also didn’t have reverse. A member of the yacht club kindly hitched our trailer up to his ute and launched our boat for us. An old friend of Russ’s lives in Carnarvon and kindly lent us a car while we waited a week for a new gearbox to arrive. Although it wasn’t good news that we need a new gearbox we were so thankful that we were able to get to Carnarvon first. It would have been a nightmare if we had broken down somewhere remote like Shark Bay. Even better was that we found Carnarvon to be a neat little town with a lovely estuary foreshore and pretty cafes with a few old historic buildings.

We spent two months in Carnarvon working. It was a great choice. It was wonderful to get to know the locals both at the sailing club and others through Russ’s friend Terry.

 

Terry introduced Russ to Ian who owns the local metal fabrication workshop so between Terry, Ian and a few of the yacht owners at the marina they kept Russ very busy with work while I worked on a short term contact online.

I also got the chance to meet some of the local ladies through volunteering at the ladies Mother’s Day morning tea that the yacht club hosted.

Russ also got to know many of the local sailors. The yacht club provided off the beach sail boats for anyone in the town to come down and sail free of charge each Sunday. Russ I think never missed a Sunday sail the whole time we were there.

Carnarvon is a very small and dry town but the council had made a huge effort to make the foreshore of the estuary as attractive as possible even if it meant using artificial grass.

 

The river is dry for most of the year but while we were there it went from dry to a ranging flooded torrent, rain that was very welcome to the locals and the horticultural industry. Although it is a dry river there is a large horticultural industry due to the artesian water under the river bed which is pumped to irrigate the farms. This meant lots of fruit and vegetables and we enjoyed delicacies such as sapote ice cream. Goat farming is always popular in the area and we loved the organic Moroccan goat pies.

Carnarvon is also well known internationally for its Space and Technology Museum as this Space Centre was central to the relaying of the broadcast during the landing on the Moon and Nasa’s space programme in the 1960s and 1970s as well as instrumental in broadcasting satellite tv in Australia for the first time.

At the end of our stay we took the chance to tour the surrounding are visiting the blowholes, not enough to blow on the day we were there, but the terraced rock formations were worth seeing.

The local snorkelling spot known locally as the aquarium was picture perfect

and the quirky campground at Red Bluff offered glamping in their fixed tents if you didn’t want to bring your own tent or caravan.

 

It was sad to say goodbye to everyone who had befriended us during our stay in Carnarvon but we hope some will make it over to see us on Magnetic Island one day. They gave us a delicious send off with Josh (who works on the local trawlers) donating and cooking huge tiger prawns on the barbie for us and his mum making the lovely salad and pasta to go with them.

 

Shark Bay home to dolphins, dugongs, turtles, manta rays and stromatolites

Shark Bay home to dolphins, dugongs, turtles, manta rays and stromatolites

Shark Bay was a chance for us to get out on the water again. A world marine heritage area of low lying bays and islands with pristine white sandy beaches and red low hills. Famous for its dolphins and dugongs as well as turtles, manta rays and stromatolites, similar to the thrombolites we had seen near Mandurah.

One of the more unique beaches is Shell Beach home to 4,000 cockles in one square metre.

The shells of dead cockles make up the beach many metres deep.

Russ confirmed this when he had a go at digging in a small section of the beach.

We launched at the public boat ramp at Monkey Mia. You don’t have to pay to use or park at the boat ramp only if you want to go in to the conservation park adjacent to see the feeding of the wild dolphins by the park rangers each morning. They only get fed a few small fish so they are not dependent on the rangers to feed them and it’s a great opportunity for people without a boat to see them up close. Fortunately as we had a boat the dolphins came to see us several times while we were in the area including 5 of them rounding up fish around the boat late one night. While on the water we also saw a couple of turtles, what we thought might have been a dugong and the sail training tall ship Leeuwin II, a three-masted 1850’s style barquentine that was anchored in the bay with us.

We did a long cruise while we were at Shark Bay cruising for over 20 nautical miles up the peninsula to Herald Bight below Cape Peron. We stayed there over night but with 20knot winds forecast the following day and as the bays are so wide you can’t see the other side of them it meant the waves could get quite choppy. We therefore headed back to the sheltered waters of Monkey Mia and were treated to a magnificent sunset.

If however you have a long weather window for light breezes there would be lots of places to sail to in this area. Steve Campbell of the Macregor/Tattoo Facebook group kindly sent us through a link to a great website written by sailors who have sailed the Shark Bay area for many years. They have created a very detailed log which would be invaluable to anyone else thinking of sailing this area in a trailer sailer. Click the link to read their log https://sites.google.com/a/hinchy.org/sandpiper/locations/shark-bay-area

 

 

Vineyards to Cityscape

Vineyards to Cityscape

We were lucky again to receive excellent local knowledge that made our cruise on the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia an easy and very enjoyable trip. With local knowledge you find out about the essential things that boaties are keen to know: where to launch, where to safely leave the car and trailer, where to anchor, if there are public mooring buoys, closest shops and laundry. Perth provided it all and more making it an excellent place to river cruise.

We launched Tatui at a boat ramp with a large parking area in Marylands, opposite the Police Training Academy so with police cars going by regularly it was a very safe place indeed to leave the car and trailer for a few days. The ramp had 2 pontoons and a public mooring buoy near the ramp that we could stay on over-night. We could see the city lights and skyscrapers for the comfort of our quiet location bobbing around on the river.

View from our cockpit at the public mooring buoys Maylands Foreshore Reserve

Our first excursion the following day was to cruise up the river as far as we could go until it got narrow and shallow. It was a lovely cruise leaving the urban landscape quite soon after we had left our mooring. After cruising past Ascort Racecourse and riverside homes the river banks became open bush and parkland areas before giving way to vineyards. We were able to glimpse the renaissance terraced gardens, four storey waterfall and statues of Caversham House

Renaissance terraced gardens of Caversham House

as well as their private launch MV Karen Sue built 1957 that was moored at their jetty. Caversham House is a popular wedding venue.

While we were in Perth the Swan River was currently closed to river traffic south of where we were moored while a footbridge was being constructed. So, the following day after a lunch cruising the river again with friends we towed Tatui to the public ramp which is located between the Royal Perth Yacht Club and the University of Western Australia. Although you have to pay for parking Russ found the carpark further back was free at weekends. We also found in the bay 5 public mooring buoys. You can stay on these for 4 hours at a time 7am – 7pm which meant if you picked up a mooring after 3pm you could stay on it overnight. What we didn’t know was that these buoys are very popular at weekends for small commercial sunset drink cruise boats. There was also a wedding taking place in a marquee on the foreshore. We therefore were entertained by competing music from the wedding and the different sunset cruise boats that turned up. Fortunately, it was all quiet by midnight.

From our new location it was a short cruise in front of the botanical gardens of Kings Park to Elizabeth Quay. The quay amazingly provides 24 public berths that you can use for 3 hours. The quay is located right in the heart of the city.

Elizabeth Quay with Tatui in the first berth in the centre of the photo

I enjoyed a morning of visiting the sights of Perth including finding some lovely historic buildings amongst the skyscrapers.

Supreme Court of Western Australia

Government House Western Australia

His Majesty’s Theatre

As Russ isn’t a lover of cities, historical buildings or shopping he opted to relax onboard people watching from the comfort of the cockpit.

What we didn’t expect to see was a huge Buddha statue, erected for the Buddha’s Birthday & Multicultural Festival

and even more surprising a gondola!

Our final day cruising was to cruise south, out of the river mouth, into the Indian Ocean and around into Freemantle. The stretch of river down to the mouth was lined with luxury homes one or two of which were huge.

Luxury home of the Swan River – yes this appears to be all one home
As does this one, another luxury home of the Swan River

In Freemantle we dodged the ships in the port

Freemantle Port

and saw the multi-level boat parks in Challenger Harbour

Challenger Harbour Boat Parking

and on the way back dodged the hundreds of yachts racing in the river. It seemed like everyone was out sailing. There are 9 different yacht clubs on the river and from where we were we counted 4 different races happening in the river at once from children’s small sailboat fleets to 40-foot yachts. Each race organised by a different yacht club on the river.

Weekend yacht racing on the Swan River

Our overall impression was that Perth and the Swan River was a boating paradise for locals and visitors and is a must on any tour around Australia.

 

 

City of canals with rocks that aren’t rocks

City of canals with rocks that aren’t rocks

Mandurah is the second largest city in Western Australia with a population of 83,000. It was originally a sleepy area of holiday communities but in a decade has grown into a city of modern residential canal developments popular with families and retirees with a great freeway and direct rail line to the centre of Perth, the state capital.

Source: www.mandurah.wa.gov.au

City marina development in the centre of Mandurah

The shallow waters of the estuary, inlet and rivers are ideal for off-the-beach sailboats and shallow draft power boats. The estuary is nearly twice the size of Sydney harbour and every day we spotted pods or individual dolphins, and a large group of 70 or more black swans.

It is also an area of natural wetlands with a huge array of birdlife that we saw while walking

as well as on the water when we cruised the two rivers: The Serpentine River and the River Murray.

The River Murray

The Serpentine River

One of the unique things we saw while in the area was to visit the Thrombolites at Lake Clifton. Don’t worry we didn’t know what they were either and they aren’t rocks.

‘Thrombolites are ancient forms of microbial communities that photosynthesize…..They are now only found in a few places in the world….The ancestors of thrombolites and stromatolites are thought to have contributed to the increase in oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.’ (source: Wikipedia).

The ones we saw at lake Clifton are 2,000 years old!

 

Home of the Dawn Service

Home of the Dawn Service

We didn’t know anything about Albany before we arrived except for its largely enclosed bays which we thought might be quite sheltered to do some boating. We also knew there was a Department of Transport marina as the weather forecast was for very windy weather. We checked out the marina and booked in for the week. It had everything we needed. A berth alongside a walkway so we didn’t have to use the wires as we had had to do in Esperance. It was a fairly new marina with great hot showers, washing machine and dryer and it was within a short walk of the town centre.

 

 

Again, Russ got to know some of the other boat owners and was invited out for a short sail a few days after we arrived. The marina walls also yielded some good food in the form of excellent oysters and mussels.

 

 

On our first visit into town we found out that Albany was in fact a historic town with some beautiful old architecture.

 

 

As it was cold and very windy so we decided to spend the day seeing the historic sights of the town including Patrick Taylor’s Cottage, the oldest surviving dwelling in Western Australia built in 1832.

 

 

 

 

We also walked up the gangplank onto the replica of the brig ‘Amity’ which was the ship that brought the original inhabitants to Albany in 1826.

 

 

 

Once the wind had subsided we had a window of opportunity to take Tatui out for a look around Shoal Bay, Frenchman Bay and Oyster Bay.

 

Including the old whaling Station.

 

 

We had lunch at Emu Point where there are 3 free courtesy Department of Transport mooring buoys. You can stay on these for 72 hours so long as you don’t leave the boat for more than 4 hours. If the weather is good this is a good option instead of the marina as you can launch the boat nearby.

 

 

When the weather closed in again we headed up Mount Clarence into the Albany Heritage Park above Albany to take in the view of the bays and islands we had cruised the day before.

 

 

Up here we wandered around the Princess Royal Fortress, one of Australia’s best outdoor military museums which is also the location of the award-winning National Anzac Centre. We thought of the Anzac soldiers as we viewed the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial as well as the Padre White Lookout. The lookout is the site of the very first dawn service on the 25 April 1932 in memory of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand) soldiers who never returned. It took place on Mount Clarence where many watched to see the first and largest convoy of naval ships to leave Australia waters in 1914 with 30,000 troops onboard. The dawn service is a tradition which is still kept each year around Australia and we go to one as often as we can.

 

Magnificent, stupendous, fabulous!

Magnificent, stupendous, fabulous!

We had heard of Esperance but didn’t know why. When we arrived it seemed a nice typical Aussie seaside town. It didn’t have many historical buildings, it did have a beach with very white sand but a lots of seaweed.

We had found out that many of the boat harbours in Western Australia are provided and operated by the Department of Transport. They would also be cheaper for us to stay in than caravan parks if we weren’t able to anchor in any protected bays. We enquired about a berth at the boat harbour but they were full but they suggested we tried the yacht club. The yacht club made us very welcome and managed to squeeze us on to their marina arm. I call it a marina but in fact to was a pier and concrete arm with wires out from the arm which you hooked on to with ropes forward and aft of your boat.

It took a little while for me to get used to them. As the wind was strong you had to pull the boat towards the walkway with a rope tied to the bow and wrap it around the ladder post. You then had to hold it tight to stop the boat moving backwards along the wires and step over the gap onto the ladder up to the walkway.  I didn’t dare try and do it myself without Russ to help for the whole week we were there otherwise I was sure I was going to end up in the water.

After we had launched the boat and secured Tatui in her pen we went to explore the town. Even after our walk our minds hadn’t been changed. We still couldn’t figure out why the town was so popular with tourists. It was the next day we discovered why.

We set off in the car on the what the locals called The Great Ocean Drive which started at the headland at one end of the town. We climbed higher, went to the lookout for a good view of the town and the coast and then came around the corner and found this, West Beach.

Click the photo to view the video of West Beach

Now we knew why the tourists flocked to the town. West Beach was not just one but the first of 8 magnificent beaches. Each had its own unique features.

Lagoon Beach

The most famous being Twilight Beach.

Twilight Beach

After being mesmerised by the beaches we were keen to get out on the water so took Tatui out for a day around some of the islands of the Archipelago of the Recherche, or Bay of Isles off Esperance. We anchored for lunch at Cape Le Grande which showed us the incredibly clear waters of the Southern Ocean and yielded fish for tea. On the cruise back we were fortunate to have the beautiful experience of being joined by three dolphins who thought it was great fun to frolic in the bow waves of our boat.

Cape Le Grande

Being a small marina arm we quickly met some of the boat owners and Russ was invited to join them for their Saturday racing. I opted to stay on shore as it was too windy for me (25knots plus).

However, before we left Esperance we had another day of sunshine so headed off to the other side of Esperance to Cape Le Grande National Park.  We couldn’t believe it. Here we found yet more beautiful beaches including: Cape Le Grande, Thistle Cove, Hellfire Bay and Lucky Bay.

Cape Le Grande Beach

Now we know why a small Aussie seaside town called Esperance has such a big reputation, it undoubtedly has some of the whitest and most beautiful beaches in Australia.