Paul's Around Australia Trip 2011

Leg 9 Exmouth to Freemantle


Peter Doyle

John Clarke

Jim Clarke

Hello landlubbers! Here is an overdue blog update. We are waiting for our

longest serving female crewmember to finish the blog update to Exmouth. This

is the longest serving crewmember elect Peter reporting on the first stage

of our Exmouth to Fremantle leg. It would appear the downwind legs that

Guinevere has had since leaving Sydney are coming to an abrupt halt as we

round NW Cape and head pretty well due South for a few weeks. Exmouth saw us

enjoying 3 days with a Getz on steroids, being an upgrade to an Outlander as

all the cheapies were out. Oh well same cost so we enjoyed touring Cape

Range, and bushwalking in the Yardi Creek Gorge. We also sampled the

bodysurfing available near the old lighthouse. Our first night on the NW

Cape saw us at anchor at Tandabiddi for a couple of nights. We had a

"secure" anchorage there with our anchor wedged under a rock. We did not

realise this til time to depart after the second night with winds up to 25

knots during our stay. Departure was delayed by Paul diving down the three

metres to determine why we could not raise the anchor. The outcome after

much power from the engine was a raised but bent anchor (bends to shaft and

one of the flutes).  Farewells were made to Christine Clarke and Richard

Urquhart as they left the yacht at Exmouth. There was more than a hint of

sadness for all as they departed. Now Paul's cousins Jim and John have

joined us for the leg Exmouth to Freemantle. As this leg will require

several night's of night sailing we have elected to have the motor ticking

over whilst travelling in the dark. Advice appears to be that this is an

improvement in the notice whales receive of our presence. For the 120

nautical miles from Exmouth to Coral Bay we departed 4.30pm in a light SW

wind, going around NW Cape (for the third time) this time inside the NW Reef

as the swell had subsided over the last few days. Now at Coral Bay where we

have spent a beaut day ashore. Yesterday we saw the first clouds in 18 days,

since I joined Guinevere in Broome. But today has been cloudless - good, as

this is to what we have become accustomed. Strange, we have not caught a

fish in 48 hours. We are on a mooring at Coral Bay - this is a sanctuary

zone so we just look at 2 to 3kg spangled emperors swimming around the boat

in sensationally clear coral reef conditions. This place is special. Today

has included long walks on the beach and snorkelling, as well as an ice

cream and coffee from the bakery. Dinner of roast lamb and vegies last night

is about to be followed by corn beef vegies and white sauce. Desert of

strawberries and custard will be repeated. As well we shall prepare a bread

for baking in the morning, and cook a John Clarke special one pot spaghetti

brew for tomorrow night's dinner when we shall be underway. So after dinner

tonight we shall commence the 190 nautical mile leg to Denham, which is near

Monkey Mia due south of here. Our estimated time to arrive at Denham is by

midday Friday. We plan to spend at least one night there before proceeding

to Steep Point before venturing again into the open ocean to reach Houtman

Abrolhos Islands. Books about Abrolhos include" Islands of Angry Coasts" by

Hugh Edwards, and "Batavia" by Peter Fitzsimons. We have both on board.

Reading either or both of these whilst we are at anchor at Turtle Bay, with

wind whistling eerily through the rigging may be a source of sleepless



"A Night's Sail"

(not to be confused with "A Knight's Tale")

"Gather round lads" said Captain Paulie, his moustache bristling with

anticipation, "we've got a tough night's sail in front of us."  It was 4pm

and we'd just crossed the tropic  of Capricorn and passed the  Cape Cuvier

salt mines at about latitude 24 degrees.  The "Guinevere" was scooting along

at 7 knots with its spinnaker grabbing a good hold of a 10 knot westerly.

The crew was a fine blend of youth (Jim "cabin boy" Clarke), experience

(Peter "Sir Francis Chichester" Doyle) and brash versatility (John "piece of

cake" Clarke).  "Get your night gear ready" barked Captain Paulie. "Shark

Bay is a treacherous bit of water. We have to clear the Fitzroy Reef, the

Darwin Reefs, the Bejaling Shoals, shallow water and those goddam whales.

And we need to reach Denham before the southerly comes in tomorrow morning."

Pete decided he'd take an immediate 40 minute kip. Jim went below to find

his life jacket. John needed to take a pee in the milk carton (an ingenious

system designed to avoid pissing into the wind from a height.)

Two hours later the spinnaker was furled, the foresail was unfurled and the

headsail let out. Or had we furled the foresail, filled the headsail and

headed the spinnaker? A couple of hours earlier Pete had been at the helm.

He'd held it with one hand, and with his other hand holding the spinnaker,

had sailed the vessel in "champagne" fashion, parallel to the coast, winning

the  admiration of a bus load of tourists at the Quobba blowholes.

The crew donned their night gear. Pete wore boxer shorts, tracky dacks,

heavy duty wet weather pants, shirt, jumper, heavy duty coat, beanie and

Dunlop Volley shoes. (He did sail round the Cape in '78 you know.) Jim was

in his best dairy clothes. John put on his boardies and a clean tee shirt.

Captain Paulie donned his Helly Hansen designer clobber from Sydney. John

then heated up the "sailors' spaghetti", a stodgy brew cooked up the night

before in anticipation of a big night. Plenty of carbs for energy and no

need to spend too much time over the galley stove at a 30 degree angle in

bouncing seas.

At 8pm the first night shift started. Pete and Jim took control while Paul

and John hit the hay.  It wasn't hard to fall asleep. Paul was in the

stateroom. John took one of the lounge bunks  with protective barrier

clipped in place to avoid falling on the floor in high seas.

Safety was paramount. The two sailors on duty wore life jackets fitted with

inflatable cylinder, strobe light, whistle and crutch strap appropriately

tightened. The life jacket was then connected by a 1.5m heavy duty nylon

strap, using quick-fix sliding carabenas, to similarly heavy duty straps

strategically connected from one end of the boat to the other. In addition,

the crew was drilled in man overboard procedures. In short, this means

hitting the MOB button on the GPS unit, tossing over the Dan buoy, yelling

out to the sleeping  sailors to wake up, slowing or stopping the boat, and

having one person watch the person in the water like a hawk.

At about 10pm Paul and John's body clocks somehow made them wake from their

slumber and a shift change took place.  "Guinevere" had travelled 14

nautical miles in two hours under a fresh WNW wind. That's hiking.  Pete and

Jim had done well.  With safety gear on, Paul and John seamlessly took

control and the vessel continued on its planned course towards Shark Bay and

Denham. Pete and Jim were asleep within two minutes.

As "Guinevere" sailed directly southwards, Captain Paulie noted the position

of the Southern Cross and pointed out the location of the South Celestial

Pole. The stars were bright in the sky, but there was no moon. Apart from

the Point Quobba light, which had been passed some time ago, the only

visible lights were two fishing boats well to the east, and a small weak

flash every 2.5 seconds from the Bernier Island light away to the WSW.

Basically Paul and John couldn't see a thing in front of the boat.  It was

all black. The sky was as black as a new tyre. The sea was as black as a

squid's ink, with just a small change in blackness at the horizon.  They

were relying on the "Guinevere's" considerable instrumentation.  That

included a "Raymarine" system which provided continuous latitude, longitude,

true wind speed, apparent wind speed, direction of wind and current,

position of boat on chart and distance travelled.  All this was provided on

several brightly coloured computer screens between the twin helms at back

(sorry, aft) of the boat, as well as on the laptop computer inside.

Every hour, on the hour, the ship's log was completed - a hand written

record of weather conditions and the boat's progress. These details were

plotted meticulously by Paul on his charts.

The Captain was happy. The wind continued to blow favourably and progress

was better than expected as we sailed into Shark Bay. This moved him to

reach into a pocket and produce a harmonica. After some soulful renditions

of old Aussie ballads including Botany Bay, Waltzing Matilda and The Dying

Stockman, Paul and John then talked about home projects like woodwork and

vegie gardening.  We didn't see or hear the squall.

At about a quarter before midnight the wind suddenly jumped from 12-14 knots

to about 25 knots. That's level 6 on the Beaufort scale, close to gale

force. The boat lurched forward like a racehorse on steroids, leaning to

port alarmingly. Rain whipped our cheeks. "Pull the yellow rope!" yelled

Paul as  he switched from auto steer to manual.  John unclenched his hands

from railings and lurched towards the ropes. Which was the yellow one? In

the gloom the red, black, yellow, black and white and blue ropes, and a few

others, all looked the same.  Captain Paulie was cool under pressure.  He

pulled a rope or two, the sails flapped madly and noisily, the boat spun

around...  we were tethered like cattle dogs. We couldn't fall in.  The

melee woke Pete and Jim. They appeared wide eyed at the hatch.  "What the

f....'s going on?" enquired Pete.  "I think we've just done a 180" replied

Paul. "I think the lighthouse has changed sides" added John usefully. Pete's

initial query was followed by: "What's the wind speed; what's its direction;

which way's north; where's my beanie?"

As quickly as it hit us, the squall abated, although it was quite amazing

how a clear black sky with stars turned into a black soup of nothing. The

boat's instruments don't tell lies and within a couple of minutes we were

again heading south on our planned course with sails reset. Half an hour

later, with eyes squinting and tired bodies, Paul and John fell onto their


At about 3.30 am another shift change took place. The wind was still a very

fresh 18-20 knots from the west. Once again Paul and John donned their coats

and life jackets, climbed the hatch stairs and tethered themselves to the

safety straps as Pete and Jim took their next well earned rest.

The Southern Cross had long before disappeared below the south west horizon,

but the milky way stretched majestically overhead and Saturn shone brightly.

Conditions were again excellent for sailing.  "Guinevere" continued to belt

along at a very healthy 6-7 knots and once again Captain Paulie pulled out

his harmonica. "Oh Suzanna..", "When the Saints..." ...  Then, oh dear, we

were hit by another squall out of nowhere. It must have been the top end of

a cold front down south. This time we had just the one sail up, the

foresail, or was it the headsail, or the forehead.  Whatever, despite John

letting go the foreskin, sorry foresail rope, a bit quick, resulting in more

mad sail flapping, there was no great drama or holdup. The weather was

however definitely turning for the worse with the wind having shifted from

WNW through west to WSW.  By the time Pete and Jim had clambered out of

their cots to relieve themselves, then Paul and John, there was a hint of a

glow to the east and Denham beckoned.  Paul and John once again collapsed

onto their bunks and slept like dead men. The night's sail was almost over.


An afternoon at Abrohlos.....

We arrived here at Midnight on Monday 5th September 2011. It was at this very place where the horrific events associated with the Batavia occurred 382 years ago, in 1629. This is nearly 150 years before Captain Cook sailed into Botany Bay. Our mooring is secure as the 25 to 40 knot winds continue unabated. We are expecting better weather for our planned sail south on Saturday. There would be few who would have read Islands of Angry Ghosts by Hugh Edwards, and/or the more recent Batavia by Peter Fitzsimons, whilst at East Wallabi Is . As we wait for better sailing conditions, we four may be among those.

Now I shall recount my yesterday “Afternoon at Abrohlos....”, as penned on the beach.

“The world is an amazing place. I just climbed a hill above Turtle Bay on East Wallabi Island in the Houtman Abrohlos group of islands. The highest hill in this whole group of Islands, (covering a 50 mile stretch of the Indian Ocean, 200 to 250 nautical miles north of Perth WA), is 15 metres. So here I stood 40 miles off the coat of WA with one bar on my Telstra i Phone. I was able to do some banking, finalise some Christmas holiday booking matters back at Forresters Beach on the East Coast, check the stock market, speak with wife Lorraine (message only), son Tim, mother Joan, brother in law Graham, brother Bob etc etc.

From that viewpoint, where the wind was howling across a cloudless sky at around 35 knots (force 8 for those familiar with the beaufort scale), I walked the 50metres down to the shore of Turtle Bay where I sat in my bathers writing this account.

I sit on pure white sand in a U shaped amphitheatre of about 20 metres width. There is no noise. The amphitheatre consists of pitted limestone walls 2 to 3 metres high. The tide is low and there is barely a ripple on the water for the first 20 metres of the bay in front of me. The water’s edge is about 8 metres from where I sit. The only noise is from the crested terns (in full breeding plumage with vivid black crest and beautiful lemon yellow bill – quite a large tern characterised also by forked tail). They used their own language to let their mates know of something a little different in their environment – I am on their beach! The other 3 crew of our yacht Guinevere are doing a walk circumnavigating this island – about 4 miles circumference. They will look less than one mile across the reef to West Wallabi Island where the non mutineers of the Batavia fought battles with the mutineers. More the 100 Dutch lives were lost in the events of Winter and early Spring 1629 – right here – within a Tiger Woods tee shot of where I sit! I did most of that walk yesterday and am very content to sit here and write a few notes before kicking back and reading “Islands of Angry Ghosts” by Hugh Edwards (a pre Peter Fitzimons account of what went around here in 1629 – in short mutiny, murder, rape and torture). And as I pen I am accompanied by an Osprey soaring above his 40 year old nest lying within 100 metres, a pair of pied oyster catchers beachcombing to my right – they look like a happy married couple of the grey nomad variety. And then there is always the red capped dotterels (sometimes called red capped plovers). They examine the sand for snacks. These dotterels walk between morsels of interest with feet movements that are so fast their number of steps is impossible to count – just a blur, then stop.

In the bay there is Guinevere and the 62 foot long steel work boat “Abrohlos Enterprises”. No other boats have been seen since our arrival here a few days ago. We are both sheltering from the gales around the corner and beyond.

And I have just heard a coo-ee indicating the boys have completed their round island walk...”

And now back to Hugh Edwards book, and a fresh loaf of bread and baked prunes and apples out of the oven...