A bit of a shock when I emerged onto the deck once the tide had gone out, to see how close we were to a very exposed reef. We probably should've pulled the anchor up and sought out somewhere safer, but conditions were gentle and we didn't seem to be moving, so a good sleep was had by all.
We were in position for a midday approach to the famed Gugari Rip, or The Hole-in-the-Wall, the tiny passage that separates Raragala Island from Guluwuru Island, both of which are aboriginal land and part of the Wessel Islands group.
The Rip is renowned for the strength of the current that runs through there, and timing the run through to go with the tide, or at slack water, is absolutely critical. So we arrived a little earlier than necessary, tooled around a bit, and it looked pretty calm. Then we headed through maybe 20 minutes before the optimum time, against the tide. Which made it pretty easy, despite the boat slowing to just 2 knots at one point, but at least we had steerage, and the wind was calm.
Once we emerged on the other side, the wind picked up to over 20 knots....which wouldn't have been much fun in the Rip.... and we sailed south to Guruliya Bay.
A pristine, sandy beach, and we left the only human footprints. Didn't see any crocodile tracks so felt comfortable enough to swim in the shallows in warm, crystal clear water. Lots of little fish, rays, cone shells, crabs.....totally alone, we really had the sense of being Out There, an amazing feeling. No other boats, no cars, no houses, just pure unspoilt isolation.
After a couple of idyllic days in Guruliya, it was across Brown Strait and south west to Refuge Bay, on Elcho Island. A broad, open bay which wasn't as cosy or inviting as Guruliya but a safe and comfortable anchorage anyway. And still with a magnificent feeling of isolation.
A family, with kids, mums and aunties passed our boat in a big tinnie, and not long after they'd passed, their motor died. With the strong offshore wind, they were steadily blowing out to sea. As we were in the process of launching our dinghy anyway, we though we'd go over to them to see if we could help.
Which proved a little more difficult than we'd thought. Firstly, nobody on the tinnie could speak English, or if they did, they were too shy to speak out. And secondly, our asthmatic little 2HP outboard has enough trouble pushing the dinghy along.
After throwing them a towline, we soon realised that we were still blowing out to sea and that we weren't capable of towing anybody anywhere. They all had a good laugh about that, and we released the line and let them drift while we headed into the beach. There were a few kids dragging another tinnie to the water's edge, and they were off to rescue their friends. Nobody was in a big hurry.
Once ashore, we had a wander through the streets to the "Bottom Shop", a very small, dusty Chinese-run supermarket that sold a bit of everything, and there's a greasy fast-food outlet next door. We bought some groceries, a cup of chips and some cold soft drinks, upon which we dined sitting at the dilapidated outdoor basketball court.
Galiwinku is pretty down-at-heel and the streets are strewn with rubbish, and every second house seems to have a trashed Toyota Landcruiser or two dumped somewhere around it. But we felt welcome enough, and friendly healthy-looking kids voluntarily directed us around town. I felt uncomfortable with the idea of photographing either the people or the houses, so the camera never came off the boat. I did shoot a pic of the boat at anchor in the beautiful, broad bay in front of the settlement, but that was the only pic I took during the visit.