Back to Shark Bay 2

Our camping arrangements were looking rather inadequate for the sky that was forming over us. I had a rather flimsy tent and Paul just had a swag which he set up under our lean-to tarp shelter. The wind was increasing and the clouds looking more menacing as we turned in for the night. Shortly after midnight the rain started and as the early morning progressed the squalls became more and more violent. My little tent seemed to be holding out, more or less, and I hoped that Paul was faring OK in his swag. However, we had seen nothing yet, at dawn the skies erupted. We were pounded, it was as if we were camping under a waterfall. For some reason, I don’t know why, I had my laminated chart of Shark Bay in my tent. This proved to be an excellent decision, laminated charts are very handy for helping you stay dry inside a cheap tent. With myself and my possessions huddling under the chart I amused myself by pressing channels into the sand under the floor to create a drainage system towards a sump area that I created near the door. Every now and then I would sponge it out with a T-shirt that I had sacrificed as a mop. Meanwhile Paul had eventually abandoned his swag and taken refuge, of sorts, on his boat with its lightweight tent. There he occupied himself by bailing out copious quantities of rainwater and recording video of the downpour.

Finally the rain abated and we emerged to construct some kind of soggy breakfast and gradually get our damp possessions in order. Every now and then a shower would sweep though frustrating our recovery efforts but slowly as the day progressed the sky returned to blue. We later learned that 60mm of rain had been recorded at Denham airport. When I finally got out to my boat it was filled two thirds up the sides of the tanks with rainwater.

Climbing to the top of our telecommunications centre we managed to get the forecast for the next few days. I also sent a text through to Wende letting her know we were fine, if a bit damp. She suggesting that what we needed was a hot spa bath with a 180 degree view. Yes, that would have been nice, given that all we had were sporadic cold showers with a 180 degree view. This good natured banter would continue on the infrequent times on the rest of our trip when we had the reception to log in.

It looked like we were going to have some moderate northerlies and occasional showers for the next few days, and that there was going to be another storm coming on Sunday, this time from the southwest. Not brilliant, but this gave us a nominal plan for what we should do for the rest of the week, cruise southwards down the east coast of Dirk Hartog Island, find somewhere sheltered from the north to camp and then on Saturday relocate to Shelter Bay to sit out the southwesterly. Shelter Bay is on the mainland just across from the southern tip of the island.

Thursday we packed ourselves up and headed south. It was great to be sailing again and we trundled happily down a coastline which alternated between low sandstone cliffs and sparkling white beaches. We were making excellent time and it was not long before we cruised past the old homestead, now an eco-tourist resort, and continued along a coast that was now mostly low cliff. The wind was building and we had a brief pause to put in a reef, it is easy to get caught out delaying a reef too long when you are running with the wind. We mostly had the world to ourselves on this remote coast, all we encountered was a runabout with a couple of fishermen and an unresponsive yacht at anchor.

The chart showed two potential bays for us to camp in. The first of these was Long Tom Bay. It had a very enticing protected shape so we tacked in to investigate. However, it proved to have a rather shallow stony bottom, even too shallow for us in places and we both copped some rather unpleasant groundings. When we got to the beach there was nowhere to camp because it backed onto low lying marshy ground behind. The day was starting to get on, hopefully Sunday Island Bay, which was just little further south, would be better. With the sun starting to get a bit lower in the sky than we would really like we entered the bay to see a sturdy little motor sailer anchored alone in the middle and a good looking beach beyond it, perfect. No-one was at home on the motor sailer but then we spied a lone paddler on a stand-up board over near the shore. Sailing across we encountered Don and his fine beard. After a brief chat we carried on into the beach and set to work establishing our camp. Don reappeared, this time in his dinghy, whereupon he thrust cold beers into our hands! Yes, we had earned that! Standing around grinning we could not help but feel like we were extras in some beer commercial.

The beach presented a bit of a challenge. It was not sand, but rather a fine mix of shell grit. Our tent pegs just would not hold, we might as well have been pushing them into porridge. Paul found a couple of old fence pickets to use as ‘maxi pegs’, and by employing our water containers and my spare anchor as anchors we managed to keep our campsite from collapsing.