Browse Island Dxpedition VK6BM
Dxpedition members - Wally VK6YS,Terry VK8TM, Dan VK8AN, Len VK8DK, Curly, and Tearaway Skipper, Kevin.
A close look at Browse Island
operating location was top right corner of this pic
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Officially this was not a West Oz Dx group dxpedition, but as Dan and I (Wally VK6YS) were expedition members, I have put together some pics and a short story of the event.Click on the thumb nails below to see the larger size picture
A great start to the DXpedition, with the port side hull taking water overnight through the shower outflow port, because with the load of gear and personnel on board sitting off Darwin ready to head out at first light, the outflow port was just on the waterline, and the wave action during the night meant that we took in water. Plugging the port and shifting gear to give a better water line was the first order of the day. The first photo shows Kevin, the owner and skipper of "Tearaway", standing and pondering what needed to be done to get the electrical system up and working, and the second is Len rewiring the main switch board to see if all equipment could be made to work. (nothing to do with the water, just lack of maintenance and not working. Only things like lights, autopilot, etc etc). The last pic in this group is Terry having a snooze during the four days sailing from Darwin to Browse Island.
These photos above show us passing an Indonesian fishing boat the day before reaching Browse Island, then the initial landing with Dan and Curly doing the honors. Next pics are the camp and operating tent, Dan and Terry putting the beam together, Len bringing equipment from the boat, and the last are of the operating from inside the tent.
Dan, Terry, Len, and Wally at the mike of the IC706 MkII
Then came the first night on the island, and around midnight, the wind got up a bit and shifted to the south, effectively meaning the boat was now in the lee of the island, so the waves were wrapping around and blasted us up the beach in the night, right on the high tide. I forgot mention, there is an 6 metre tide here!. I was actually on board having a spell in my bunk when all hell started to break loose. Tearaway was thrown up by successive waves slapping together and there was nothing we could do but hang on for the ride. In the morning, there we were about 2 metres above high tide mark and burieed in the sand that had washed around the hulls with the wave action. Tearaway is 40 foot long, and weighs about 6 tonnes for the record.
So, what to do? Well after the initial shock of finding ourselves high and dry on a remote island in the Timor Sea, we decided to make the best of it, keep operating whenever propagation was ok, meanwhile, we unloaded all the gear and supplies out of the boat, notified the authorities back in Canberra and lo and behold the HMAS Geraldton, an Australian Navy Patrol boat came over the horizon and parked off the reef, sending a couple of boats in to check on us. They were on a mission to somewhere to do something so could not stay but let us know there was another patrol boat in the area who may call in.
We set about cutting the skeg keels off the bottom both hulls, digging the sand out using saucepans (Kevin did not have shovels on board for some reason?, maybe he did not see too much call for digging normally!), and removed the propellors to both lighten the boat, and to give her a smooth set of keels that hopefully would mean she could be turned on the next high tide, which was only about 10 days away. But then along came HMAS Launceston, and the Exo ordered us into the boats. Kevin was allowed to stay behind with his boat, but initially the Exo even said none of our gear was to be loaded aboard the Launceston. Luckily she relented and allowed us to load our gear though, otherwise we would have lost it all. The last pic in this series is of the Commander of the HMAS Launceston talking to Curly with Terry and Dan to the side, as we were on the three day run back to Darwin. On the run back, the Launceston apprehended an illegal fishing vessel and that meant we had to escort that boat to Darwin.
I cant let this end without showing how Kevin got Tearaway off the beach and limped back to Darwin. The Indonesian fishermen who had been anchored off the reef just after we arrived, but disappeared very quickly in all different directions when the navy appeared, came ashore after we had left, and in exchange for kevin's outboard, dinghy, all his cash, anything else that could be removed, helped him off the beach. The first pic is the fishermen winding a "Spanish Windlass" - two ropes to two anchors and twist to effectively shorten the rope with a mechanical advantage. Extremely dangerous though, as if the length of wood comes clear, it will tear you apart. The next pic shows the boys digging all the sand away from the hulls, and the third is the final push to turn to the water. The last shot is a sunset from Browse Island.
An adventure! Wally VK6YS
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