& photos by Jenny Maruff,
Over the last twenty-five years, Dud and
Dave have raced multihulls in and out of Moreton Bay, cruised
the Coral Coast and sailed in Indonesia. This year they investigated
the Gulf of Carpentaria from Karumba to Seisia.
Dave flew into Karumba on August 19th. We had a welcome coffee
and cake at the Sunset Caravan Park café, then later we
went to the Sunset Tavern to drink a light ale and to watch
sunset!. We had dinner at the Fish Café over the road
from the pub. It was cheap because the food came out wrapped
in paper parcels so there was no washing up but the place lacked
Next morning we motored around to a jetty on the Norman River
to see Roger, the fisherman on CAROLE ANNE who gave Dud and Dave
GPS co-ordinates for several rivers that emptied into the Gulf.
We managed to get away at 11.15am. The wind was light so we
motored most of the 20 odd miles to Smithbourne Creek but we
couldn't get in because of the sand banks so we anchored outside
and rolled around a bit.
The beaches in the Gulf are white and sandy but the terrain
is flat and low lying with scruffy trees. There are two lovely
times of day-- Sun-up at 7am and sunset at 6.30pm. I have lots
of photos of these.
We sailed away from our anchorage near Smithbourne Creek at
7.30am. It was blowing from the NE at 10 to 15kts. For a while
we are making 6 knots, then we had to motor as the wind petered
out. An afternoon SE came in so Dud and Dave put the spinnaker
up. We caught two tuna on the trawling lines. I curried one and
froze the other. The spinnaker came down at sunset and we motored
in to the mouth of the Nassau River. Again we couldn't get in
so we anchored just to the north of the mouth. We had done over
It was sunrise when we left. The wind was E 15 to 20kts early
but varied all morning. We scooted along quite nicely and by
1pm we were at the Mitchell River. They say third time lucky.
At 1.30 pm we were anchored in the river, thanks to Roger's
instructions and enough tide. We saw a 4m crocodile at the water's
edge. He hung around all day so Dud and Dave decided to fish
from the boat. No luck! They cautiously lowered the dinghy
and put in a couple of crab pots. No luck there either!
We left at 6.45 am. The breeze came in from the NE but then
became variable. We were doing speeds of 8, 10 and 12kts so
kept going all day. We anchored north of Cape Keerweer at 6.30pm
just as the sun was setting. We had done 82 miles.
It was another early start next day. We had a comfortable
sail to the Archer River which was easy to get into. We anchored
by12.30 pm and had lunch. The crab pots went in but returned
empty. I reckon that the bait was so smelly that no self-respecting
crab went near it. There were a few people about. They went
up and down in big tinnies but were not friendly. I wondered
if they regarded us as intruders. Around a bend was Aurukun.
We could see 4 wheel drives on the beach. When we motored out
next day we saw an Aboriginal camp at the river entrance. As
we sailed off into the breeze we saw a large motor cat coming
out of the river. Where had he been hiding?
We had just sailed past Boyd's Bay, when a big mackerel jumped
onto the trawling line. Dud pulled him in but the fish thrashed
about and got off the hook and back to the water. Damn! We
continued on to Weipa and anchored down from Evan's Landing.
We went ashore about 4 pm. Dud and Dave bought a thread-making
tap from the hardware store for a job they were doing on the
Everything is red in Weipa. We could see piles of red dirt
(bauxite ) behind the main wharf where the ships came and went
continuously. We could hear the conveyor belts loading them
up at all hours of the day and night. The beaches had red gravel
rather than white sand. We washed red dust off our feet and off
The shopping center is 4 kms. away. We started walking to
it after 8am. We were halfway there when we got a lift. Most
people do not pick up hitching yachties. Maybe this is because
they believe everybody has a car and if they are walking they
are doing it for exercise. At the shopping center, the Post
Office was closed as it was Saturday but we were able to get
scripts filled at the chemist. (In Karumba it takes a week.)
At the Fishing and Camping shop, we bought a gaff hook. There
is a great bakery in Weipa where we bought hot pies and cold
drinks before tackling the food shopping at Woolworths. We had
to wait ages for the mini cab taxi because it is the only taxi
and he had to go out to the airport and back. When he picked
us up, he had three more passengers for the airport. One man
was from Perth, one from Melbourne and one was from Brisbane.
They had been fishing together and had had a terrific time.
That afternoon, Dud filled containers with water from the jetty.
Dave did the washing at the Laundromat and I swept the carpets
and tidied up. We were looking forward to pizza for tea from
the café near the garage. Dud popped in to check it out
on his way back with the fuel. The boss said no one had turned
up for work. Pizza was off. That was a minus but we had a plus.
We were able to watch TV.
Weipa is pretty dead on a Sunday so we left before dawn and
followed the stern lights of a ship down the channel. It was
high tide which meant that we could cut across and head North.
The winds were annoyingly light. We anchored offshore for lunch
and a rest. At 3 pm, we set off again and in two hours we were
at the Pennefather River which was easy to get into. Dud and
Dave did some line fishing but only caught a remora. There was
a lovely sunset that night which compensated for the meager 30
The Pennefather is in an Aboriginal reserve but we saw no one.
There is a big house at the entrance which I photographed as
we motored out next morning. The shore line now had more shape
and undulation. We sailed past the Wenlock, the Skardon and
the McDonald Rivers but we couldn't get in because of the tide
so we continued on to the Doughboy where we anchored at 4 pm.
It had been a pleasant day with fresh breezes and flat seas
and we had done 42 miles.
We left before 8 am. There was sunshine and bird calls, herons
wading and sea hawks circling. The Coast Watch plane flew over
us as we sailed out. The SE wind increased to gusts of 30kts
but the seas were flat and the boat zipped along. After passing
Crab Island we headed into shore for lunch. We had done 35 miles
in 5 hours. At 6 pm, we motored out around some banks and across
the mouth of the Jardine River where we anchored for the night.
We woke to a thick pall of smoke. The Aborigines were burning
off in the hills beside us. We left for Seisia. By 8.45 am
, we were anchored beside two monos and a tri. We went ashore
to the Caravan Park and had long showers and washed our hair.
We ate hot pies at the café. Bliss! I love Seisia.
That day we put in an order at the Meat Processing Plant.
They would cryovac the meat and freeze it for us. Dave hitched
a ride to Bamaga while Dudley and I returned to the boat. He
spoke to the people from the monos. Don and Bev, June and David
seemed friendly so we asked them over for sunset drinks. Dud
and Dave gave them the GPS co-ordinates for the rivers between
Seisia and Weipa.
Our trip up the Gulf was over. Next morning, Dave picked up
the meat while Dud got the boat ready. Then we left for Thursday
Is. We were back in the hilly terrain of the end of the Great
I asked Dud and Dave what they thought
of the Gulf of Carpentaria:
Would they do it again? Dud said NO. Dave said YES from Seisia
to Weipa. The landscape was quite attractive and there are heaps
Was it a pleasant sailing experience? They said YES. The winds
were offshore and the seas were flat. Winds were mainly E SE
but wind strength and direction were never constant.
What about anchorages? It is possible to anchor anywhere offshore
because of the prevailing wind and shallow depth but it is not
always easy to get into the rivers because of the sandbanks.
There is always smoke from fires lit by unseen aborigines.
One is always cautious when walking on the beach because of crocodiles.
Alcohol restrictions apply in aboriginal communities
Few boats cruise the Gulf of Carpentaria. Unless one is a
keen fisherman, it is not attractive to the average boatie.
I found it a lonely experience.