Darwin to Dampier

After leaving Darwin, we ran 1,000nm south to Dampier, where we planned to exit Australia for the 3,000-mile Indian Ocean crossing to Rodrigues, Mauritius. En route to Dampier, we stopped off for a few days in the southernmost portion of the Kimberley coast that we’d missed on our previous trip. We chose Dampier because it was a convenient place to fuel and exit from, and the second closest customs exit point to Rodrigues. Carnarvon is actually the closest point of exit to Rodrigues, at 2,800 miles away. But the entry is excessively shallow with no reasonable anchorage nearby, and it is another 350 miles further south.

The standard route for crossing the Indian Ocean from Darwin is via Cocos Keeling, either by running the 2,000 miles directly from Darwin, or by running 500 miles south to Broome and then 1,500 miles to Cocos Keeling. Rodrigues is then 2,000 miles from Cocos Keeling. We’re covering basically the same distance, but in 1,000 and 3,000-mile legs. The reason we are doing this is partly for experience in covering longer distances, but also because fueling in Cocos Keeling would be incredibly expensive. Diesel is $2/liter there, with no GST rebate. And we couldn’t reach the fuel dock due to shallow water, so we’d need to be supplied via barge. The cost of hiring the barge would make the effective price about $5/L or nearly $20 per gallon. When you’re taking on many thousands of liters, that can really add up. :)

Trip highlights from Aug 14th through 23rd follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

Whipped cream
Spitfire getting a bit of whipped cream from our breakfast of strawberries and whipped cream over waffles. We’re now underway on a 1,000-mile run to Dampier, about halfway down the western Australia coast. When we leave Dampier, it will be on a straight-shot 3,000 mile run across the Indian Ocean to Rodrigues, Mauritius. This is the longest passage we’ve done, so on the runto Dampier we’ll probably take it easy and make a few stops.
We had a nice run most of the way across the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, with winds below 10 knots and calm seas. As we neared the western side of the gulf, the winds picked up to a steady 25-30 against the current, producing tightly-packed 8 ft seas on the beam. In the center row of the screen shot, you can see the wind increase on the far right and the corresponding roll increase in the center of the row. Conditions have been improving as we round the Cape Londonerry and exit the gulf.
Conditions have been wonderfully calm since exiting the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, sometimes referred to locally as “Blown-Apart” Gulf.
Fresh fruit in the morning. The raspberries we got in Darwin were particularly fresh and are lasting well.
Several humpback whales were putting on quite the show as we passed north of Augustus Island. We’re not sure the last time we saw whales, it might have been in Alaska or British Columbia.
Claret Islands
We tried to find an anchorage along the south side of Hall Point, but the water was 70ft until quite close to shore and then a cliff to drying shoals. So we anchored just north of the Claret Island instead. The anchorage is exposed to the west, but conditions are extremely calm right now.
The big one
Spitfire with his largest catch ever.
Koolan Island
A major iron ore mine once operated on Koolan Island. This is part of the massive pit, visible in the satellite imagry, that takes up most of the island. Sixty-eight million tons of ore were extracted from the site during the half century of mining operations.
Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island still is actively mined for iron. Just below the buildling in the photot are a row of eight of those huge mining trucks that have multi-floor staircases up to the cab. (Click image to enlarge). The biggest mining truck is now the Cat 797F, powered by a 4,000HP V20 diesel engine. That’s just over 6,400 cubic inches. And fully loaded it weights 1.37 million pounds.
Coppermine Creek
Anchored for the night off the south tip of Conilurus Island at the mouth of Coppermine Creek.
Cattlest, that we last saw at Tipperary Waters Marina, is one of four other pleasure craft in the anchorage with us. Except for Darwin, we’ve not shared an anchorage with that many pleasure craft since Lizard Island.
On a dinghy tour of Coppermine Creek we saw this shed ashore with what looked like a fence around it. We’re not sure its original purpose.
Well inside the mangrove forest at high tide.
Coppermine Creek had some excellent scenery along the various small creeks that fed into the main waterway.
Kurrajong Tree
Along one of the creeks were several Kurrajong trees, their red flower clusters quite prominent against the bare brancehs. We’ve not noticed these trees anywhere else in the Kimberley–they’re quite striking.
Jenny Roots
And speaking of Lizard Island, one of the other boats at anchor with us was Lu Ali, that we’d last seen there. Jenny Roots came over to say hello–it was great to see her again and catch up.
Beautiful sunset over the anchorage.
Dawn looking east through the drying channel south of Conilurus Island. We’re on a low spring tide now, and could see lots of land where we’d toured through by dinghy yesterday.
The 42m (137ft) superyacht Anda was heading across Yampi Sound as we exited the anchorage, towing a tender nearly as big as Dirona.
Goose Channel
Dramatic rocky islets along the south side of Goose Channel.
Dickenson Ridge
The area of Dickenson Ridge that we passed over is charted at 29ft, but with 25ft of tide, we saw a minimum depth of 35ft. So depths here appear to be closer to 10ft at zero tide. You can see from our track the impact of current. Normally Nav Mode keeps us right on our intended course (the red-dashed line). But the several-knot current from a 27ft exchange is really pushing the boat sideways off course.
Silica Bay
The white sand beach at Silica Bay on the northern tip of Hidden Island.
Cape Leveque
We anchored for the night off Hunter Creek at Cape Leveque, in front of striking red sand dunes. The anchorage is exposed to the north and west, but conditions are very calm right now, with swell less than a meter and little wind.
An amazing sunset over Cape Leveque.
Conditions are expected to remain calm for the next few days, so we’ll likely stay another night.
A pair of dolphins cruised by, showing a little tail.
The waters are so clear here we can see our chain snaking away on the bottom 25ft down. We haven’t seen water this clear for a while.
Pressure washer
We tried using the pressure washer to clean the decks and it did a great job in a just over a half-hour.
A turtle coming up for air near the boat. We haven’t seen a turtle for a while–feels like we’re getting in a part of the country similar to the Queensland north coast.
We left before sunrise this morning. On lifting anchor we found the chain had lassoed a heavy piece of coral, more than likely the product of the reversing strong currents. The coral was surprisingly difficult to release. We tried lifting the chain off with the snubber and also pulling the chain away using the trip hook. Eventually we got the coral off off by lowering it into the water and backing the boat down to put tension on the anchor chain.
James having a nap in the offwatch berth while Spitfire looks for attention.
Port Hedland
Port Hedland is a major iron ore loading port. Several large ships were anchored off the port, with more underway, as we passed.
Chicken schnitzel with fresh corn for dinner underway. Spitfire just gets kibbles.
Southern Ocean
The multipurpose offshore vessel Southern Ocean showed up on AIS about 12 miles to our north.
Alternator regulator
The start alternator regulator went to 29.6V in absorption mode. James checked the programming and the absorption was set to 35.5V but all else was fine. When he tried to change the absorption level the system locked up. We think memory corruption led to an illegal value and the regulator is not capable of editing this illegal value. James installed the spare and is programming it in this picture.
This screenshot shows our roll gauge for the past 48 hours (center row of squares, third from right). The winds picked up to a steady 20 knots in the past 24 hours or so and we’ve been running into tight head seas and pitching a fair bit. We’re also now coated in saltwater.
LPG bulker
An LPG bulker just off Dampier. We’re starting to see a lot of large ships as we near the port.
Cape Legendre
The light on Cape Legendre shortly before we enter Dampier Port limits. We checked in with Dampier Vessel Traffic Service, who advised us to keep out of the shipping lanes, but otherwise didn’t require any further contact from us.
Karratha Gas Plant
Dampier is the major port for the city of Karratha whose export industries include iron ore, sea-salt mining, ammonia, and natural gas. It’s a busy port with large numbers of ships in motion. Pictured is the Karratha Gas Plant to our east.
Far Shogun
A half-dozen offshore supply and anchor-handling vessels such as Far Shogun were moored in the port as we passed.
Hampton Harbour
Hampton Harbour, off the town of Dampier, is the small craft mooring for the Port of Dampier. We spent two peaceful nights anchored there amongst pleasure craft and small commercial vessels while we made final preparations for the Indian Ocean crossing.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.

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6 comments on “Darwin to Dampier
  1. Allan B Rasmussen says:

    Yes we have some pretty nice weather headed right for us tomorrow. 36 m/s wind speeds, but that something the locals are well prepared for and for that reason it´s really not that big a problem up here.


  2. Allan B Rasmussen says:

    Dear James & Jennifer,

    I can´t believe that you actually been to my home town of Thyborøn, i really hope that you enjoyed the short stay, I am of cause a bit sad that I where unable to welcome you in my hometown/port as I am now building a Power Station in the Faroe Islands, (also and extremely beautiful place)

    We wish you safe travels in Denmark and hope that you will both enjoy our beautiful little kingdom.

    The very best regards,
    Allan & Jenna

    • From all we have read about the Faroe Islands, you are indeed in a beautiful location. We hope to visit the Faroes on our way back to North America. But it’s hard to know when we will decide to return with all the fun we are having on this side of the pond. You’re a long way north so I’m guessing you’ll be seeing some big weather this time of year.

      We very much enjoyed visiting your home town of Thyboron. If you find yourself flying through Schiphol on one of your trips over the winter and you have some time, let us know. We’ll be staying at the Amsterdam City Marina over the winter.

  3. Allan Rasmussen says:

    Dear James & Jennifer,

    I have been following your travels around the world for quite sometime now and really enjoy reading and seeing your posts, i were hoping that you at some point would go to Mauritius and a specially Rodrigues. I have been very lucky and working in Mauritius for 4 years building Diesel Power stations for a danish company and really enjoyed the very nice country and its very friendly people, you really have something to look forward too. I actually found my big love in Mauritius she is actually from Rodrigues, and we got married back in Denmark in 2011. After we completed the power stations in Mauritius i had the very big pleasure of building a new Power Station on Rodrigues island and i can only say that together with my wife i fell even more in love with that place, and it was actually while building the Power station in Rodrigues that i start following your posts, we would often see boats coming from Australia with Rodrigues as their first land in a long time. I know that you will enjoy Rodrigues very much and all it friendly people. Make sure you go to “Mega´s” restaurant in English bay (5 min.) from the dock and give him all the best from Allan & Jenna, if he don’t remember then just mention BWSC the danish company then i will guarantee he will remember.

    I wish you all the best and safe travels,

    Best regards,


    • Thanks for the feedback and suggestions Allan. We’ve heard good things about the friendliness of the people in Mauritius and how beautiful the country is and are really looking forward to our visit. And maybe we’ll be able to check out that power stations you built. :)

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