9 WEEKS OF SAILING THE KIMBERLEY COAST
Ahoy from Tangaroa crew
Ahoy from the Aqua Tangaroa crew! We just spent 9 weeks sailing through the insane Kimberley region. We are completely self sufficient on our little Wharram catamaran and live an off grid ocean life. The Kimberley has been one of the best sailing seasons we have ever had and in an extremely remote part of Australia. Here’s a little taste of what we got up to!
Follow us, James and Hannah, as we continue our sailing journey @sailing_tangaroa.
SAILING INTO THE KIMBERLEY
The colours of the Kimberley. This was one of the things I was excited about. To see and watch the natural Australian bush & ocean colour palette every day from our floating home. Crazy how different it was in the different regions.
The colours of the ocean, from the murkier sea greens to the dazzling bright aqua to the muddy brown waters of the rivers. And then the land. Lush green pandanus, white beaches and clear flowing fresh water from springs.
The big old beach boabs, God only knows how old they are. They look dead, just the branches making art. The red sheer abstract cliffs and the natural evergreen trees and bush at the bottom. Even the rocks have a thousand different colours in them, earth tones, too many to note.
The Kimberley! Wow. Surreal. Wondrous. Breathtaking. Mountains. Gorges. Waterfalls. Rivers. Fresh water pools. Bird life. Deadly lizards. The best temperature ever. Flat water sailing. Beautiful sea breezes. Caves. Aboriginal art. History. Mangroves. Midgies.
These are the words that spring to my mind. I didn’t know what to expect sailing into the deep Kimberley. I left my heart open to a totally new experience and man did it swell like a balloon.
Spinnaker runs. Man oh man were these my favourite. Living on a boat, you’re a lot more in tune with your surroundings. Being one with the land and sea. Different areas had different localised weather. It was cool trying to figure it out, roughly what time will the sea breeze come in here, will it be from the south west or the North west, or it’s been too strong from the east today so it might not come in at all. Time’s a funny thing in the ‘wait awhile country’. When the breeze rolls in, then it’s time to hoist those sails.
Crocodile Creek. This has got to be one of my favourite anchorages in the Kimberley. Up a creek past jagged rocks, sand bars and mangroves brings you to a deep hole underneath a waterfall only accessible on high tide. You chuck a stern anchor out and tie off to the rocks. You are surrounded by big red cliffs and 2 fresh water swimming holes. Once the tide drops (a whole 9 metres of water when we were there) you are land locked and floating in the deep hole.
Montgomery Reef is off the Kimberley coast in the Camden sound and surrounds the Yawajaba (Montgomery) Islands. It’s Australia’s largest inshore reef (length is about 80km). So cool and super unusual when the tide is out. Lagoons, sandstone islets, and a central mangrove island are revealed. With the movement from the outgoing tide it forms a torrent of water, creating a river cutting through the reef and hundreds of cascading waterfalls with the reef totally exposed. There were amazing migratory birds, turtles and jumping mackerel around us!
It was an early rise & Hanski hand pulled the anchor in 17 metres of water. We left Raft Point at 4:30am to sail to the outer reef for the dead low tide that was due just after sunrise. The groin in the reef is totally different than anything we have ever seen. Water cascading over the drying reef, its powerful sounds were delightful whilst sipping our morning cuppa!
Own private sand island anyone? Tangaroa nudged up to an island in the middle of the Kimberley. You have to have an adventurous soul to be out sailing this rugged coast!
FIRE UNDERNEATH THE TWIN FALLS, KING GEORGE RIVER
Have you ever seen a fire on a boat? Well now you have. This is Monkey Me, another Wharram Catamaran. We sipped red wine next to the fire burning, in awe looking up at the twin falls in the King George River.
This was an interesting night beached at an island offshore. We had heard there were huge crocodiles that lived around these offshore islands. It was our last resort to clean the bottom of the hull of the boat before commencing around the notorious Cape Londonderry. With the low tide late in the afternoon and a crocodile watching us from the rocks we scrubbed frantically while there was still light. We got it done and we are still alive! We celebrated with a fire on the beach and we cooked freshly caught fish.
Check out this guy sun baking!!! The ultimate hunting beast! We sailed past this croc in the Berkeley River where we had the most croc action.
The Tangaroa dried out in the West Kimberley. Tides were huge at this point in time. We found a nice patch of beach & tucked into the end of a big crevasse.
The Tanga. A different landscape than she’s usually used to. Sitting pretty at the King Cascade up the Prince Regent River. What a hike to get up here. Closer to 40 nautical miles in from the open ocean we sailed into the wind all the way up and sailed into the wind all the way out. Definitely the more frustrating sailing conditions we experienced. But the end of it was worth it – with the waterfall flowing, we filled our water jerries and spent a few days climbing up and down the waterfall to the big beautiful oasis where we could swim. In the 80’s, the American tourist Ginger Meadows was attacked and killed by a croc here when she tried to swim from the waterfall to the boat.
That smoky haze. Sometimes it’s bush fires, sometimes it’s the sea breeze. The fading light of the sun sets off some brilliant tones, changing every minute from the bright to soft pastel to shimmering silvers.
Sailing into a new anchorage with radical deep maroon and orange cliffs and a fading purple sky as the sun sets. My love at the helm. Us. Smiling at each other thoughts passing silently. Is this even real?
Up in the Berkeley River was this waterfall. Only accessible with a high tide we anchored in the hole underneath with our own private natural shower! There is an amazing walk up and around the cliffs to find delicate and beautiful Aboriginal art.
THE ROPE LADDER
See the tinny? See the rope ladder up the waterfall? What a climb! We had to scale up the cliff, which was not that easy, up to the top of the fall and onto the best deep fresh water swimming hole ever! Loved this place. Home amongst the sheer cliffs.
The Apartments. This is what a crazy set of caves were called. By far one of my favourite places to visit. Just think of The Flintstones; a few entries, overhangs, huge rooms, numerous hallways, big pillars, rock art under the verandah and – the best thing – a roof top bar overlooking mangroves and a big bay to the West.
This is a DC-3 or C-53. The Americans built 212 of these guys for the Australian war effort during WW2. They were moving personnel out of Indonesia after the Japanese invasion. This plane crash landed in 1942 after it got lost and was low on fuel. With only the crew on board, they tried putting it down on a salt lake but over ran into the scrub, losing a wing to a boab tree. All the crew survived and were eventually rescued by a Qantas sea plane. The remote Kimberley is no joke, and this was just one of many amazing survival stories that we came across during our time in this beautiful and remote part of our country.
5 MAN CANOE
We went bush-bashing through spinifex to find a cave with a painting in it we had heard about. One of the earliest known paintings of a boat! After getting lost and nearly giving up, we came across the ‘5 man canoe’ painting and it was beautiful and well worth the trek!
When bush walking through the Kimberley, always make sure to take the lead, because if you disturb one of these green ant nests the person behind you will cop it. You will then likely get to watch while they dance around and get undressed at the same time, very funny! Be sure to check yourself for any little green demons that may have found their way onto yourself and you should be right to regroup and move on.
Our time in the Kimberley. Mesmerising, soulful, whole. We took the time to adventure & explore. Explore is the right word for this place as we are explorers and this is the rugged raw Australian land & sea, who can pass up this opportunity to do everything we possibly can.