Exmouth May 2009

Alas, our Exmouth log is a tale of disappointment. We arrived full of hope for a wait of 2 days ashore at the Ningaloo Tourist Park before the weather was forecast as ideal. Unfortunately, the main sail that had been sent to Perth for repairs had not arrived on time. When we tracked it, we found that Toll Transport had picked it up from Overlander Roadhouse (it having been delivered from Denham, Shark Bay) on Monday night and arrived in Perth on Tuesday. No attempt was made to deliver to our sail maker until Wednesday but the driver was too busy so he put it off until Thursday. Thursday also didn't seem auspicious so it was finally delivered just before noon on Friday.

Meanwhile, we were confidently planning our moves, based on the delivery of our repaired sail and the forecast supplied by BoM and seabreeze.com.au. We dealt with the consequences of overnight rain that BoM assured us would not happen. We pulled on winter woollies to deal with temperatures that BoM assured us were 5 degrees higher. In short, the whole thing proved to be a disaster.

On Tuesday, we tackled the awesome task of getting the main halyard wire down through the mast. We tried wire, fishing line and sinkers, pulling it part way through with an existing jib halyard. In the end, the result was positive but I'd hate to have to tell someone else how to do it. Suffice it to say, the whole job took nearly 6 hours. We were wrecked.

With the mast re-rigged and the weather promising 10/15 knot Easterlies, we decamped and headed for the Exmouth marina. The next door neighbours, a delightful family of 4 in a 5th wheeler from the Sunshine Coast, had agreed to mind the car and trailer so we were all organised. However, the sight that greeted us at the marina was one of uninterrupted whitecaps across Exmouth Gulf. There was even spray coming across the rock wall. The wind was more like 20/25 knots. After much debate we climbed up into Sandpiper, turned on the Internet and consulted our gurus. I re-read Bosun Bob's stories of launches at Coral Bay and Tantabiddy. What worried me about putting in on the inside of Ningaloo Reef was that the tides were currently very high and that previous experience had shown that in spring tides, the inside of the reef can get very rolly-polly at night, with water spilling over the reef. The final straw came when Christine rang the sail maker to find that work would not commence until Monday. After much deliberation, we decided to cut our losses and use the next few days driving to Dampier and to give Exmouth a miss this time. The disappointment was at least tempered by the knowledge that we had had explored the Gulf in Cape Rose, some 9 years earlier whereas our previous visit to the Dampier Archipelago was cut short by similar bad weather. We decided to head for Dampier.

After stopping back at the caravan park to farewell our new-found friends, we drove South then across the Birkett Road, to spend the night at the old Barradale Roadhouse site (now burnt out and made into a 24 hour stop). We felt confident that we had done the right thing, allocating our limited time to a good sail through the Dampier Archipelago rather than trying to do a bit of everything. Only time will tell.

The next morning, we proceeded on to Dampier. We were delighted at securing a spot at the Dampier Transit Caravan Park, a small but very cheap, friendly and well equipped park that allows people to stay for up to 3 days.