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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Motorhome Travels - May 2011


The Vitara with the tinnie (Tintanic) on the roof, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Vitara with the tinnie
(Tintanic) on the roof, WA

As you can see the boat fits on the roof ok. I do think that it looks a little strange (a bit like the horse riding the jockey) - but it works. The roof loader is very good and it only takes one person to get the boat off or onto the roof. I was not happy with the strength of the Rhino roof rack and have added some additional steel brackets and reinforced the rails with angle steel.

I am now satisfied that the boat will remain on the roof regardless of the road or track conditions.

I have had a few emails asking about the reasons why we elected to a-frame rather than use a car trailer. A lot of thought went into this decision - but it was influenced considerably by the availability of a second-hand a-frame, roof-loader, boat and all accessories. It was an ideal package for us and I did not like the idea of trying to build a trailer that was robust enough that we could continue to go anywhere.




Here is the pros and conns list that we put together when considering the a-frame vs a trailer

The Vitara showing the A-frame - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Vitara showing the A-frame



In my opinion – if money was not part of the equation (and it always is) I would prefer a very robustly constructed– bullet-proof trailer. However, having seen a number of car trailers that have either broken or been severely damaged on bad roads, I am very happy with our choice.

I will post some detailed photos of the a-frame hitch next time we have it hooked up.


So now having gone through all the hassle of getting the boat, 4WD a-frame etc, I am sure you can guess that we were very keen to try it all out.

When we got to Cliff Head we decided to put some crayfish pots (traps) into the water as it is still too murky for diving. To our delight, the 3.75m "Tintanic" was fine with three people and two large cray pots onboard. Pulling the post over the side of the boat takes a little coordination - but is fine. Our efforts were rewarded with a few nice crayfish on the first day.

Camping on a remote beach, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Camping on a remote beach, WA

The next thing to try is camping from the Vitara. The plan is to explore remote areas using just the 4WD. We have set the Vitara up to allow us to "rough-it" for 4 or 5 days. There is an 85w solar panel under the boat (yes I know it will not work with the boat on top of it) and a large AGM battery that supplies the small refrigerator with enough power to keep the beer cold (and stop the milk from going off). Our double swag fits nicely in the back (the back seats have been removed) or on the rood under the boat if we need additional space. With the addition of a few simple bits of cooking gear - we were ready to go.

The first camping trip was not very ambitious - just an over-nighter on a remote beach a few kilometers from Cliff Head. We were very surprised at how well the little Vitara did in deep sand and mud. We were able to get it up and over a large sand hill to allow us to camp right on the beach. You can see the double swag in the photo - just in front of the vehicle. The swag is very comfortable and very simple to setup ... roll it out, peg it down and ya done. (in case you are wondering ... yes we did take Tivoli the cat - she was very happy to sleep with us in the swag).

All of the camping gear is portable - this allows us to transfer it and the swag to the boat and do overnight trips to islands or very remote beaches inaccessible by road.

The nights are starting to get a little cold now - it must be time to head north!



Plans ... who needs em? We should be quite some distance north of Cliff Head by now ... but we are still here eating crayfish and looking at the slowly clearing water. The reason for the change?

The Islands from the air, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Islands from the air, WA

Well we may have a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to get over to the Abrolhos Islands for a few days of some of Australia's best diving and fishing. The Abrolhos Islands are about 80km off shore from Geraldton and home to a small fleet of cray-fishing boats. Access to the islands and the surrounding waters is tightly regulated so it can be quite difficult to experience. We hope to find out today if and when we can get a lift over to the islands - finger crossed!

While we wait here at Cliff Head we have both been busy perfecting the camping setup in the Vitara and stocking the freezer with crayfish. The water here is still too dirty to venture below the surface, but our crayfish pots have been doing a fine job over the last week.

A few days ago Ian (local cray fisherman and friend) received a call from a mate who owns a sheep farm a little way inland from Dongara. Lambing is due to start very soon and the property has a major fox problem. In past years when foxes are present in numbers the lamb survival rate has dropped below 50%, so experienced fox shooters are a welcome sight on sheep farms - especially around lambing time. We managed to get ourselves invited along on a fox eradication expedition last night. If you have not seen an expert shooter in action with a high-powered rifle you would simply not believe how effective they can be. We were utterly amazed to see Ian shooting the pests from almost a kilometer away. A small noise maker (sounding a bit like a chook in distress) makes the foxes look and the high-powered spot lights return a brilliant reflection from their eyes. Less than a second later the fox is dead and the lamb survival rate goes up a little more. (Please don't send me an email about fox hunting - this is not sport hunting, it is about controlling an introduced pest that kills thousands of lambs and threatens the livelihood of the families that farm the land. I can not imagine a more humane way to dispatch a fox than a high-powered bullet fired by an expert shooter.)

We had a very interesting night and the experience was a great insight into the problems of sheep farming in Australia.



The Abrolhos Islands is a very unique place and we were very pleased to have been given the opportunity to see them first hand. Thanks to the generosity of Ashley and his family we were able to catch a lift and stay on Burnett Island for 3 wonderful days.

The Ocean Rower, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Ocean Rower, WA

Keith, the Ocean Rower comes aboard Centerpoint, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Keith, the Ocean Rower
comes aboard
Centerpoint, WA

We boarded the large crafishing boat in Geraldton at 7am and headed for the island at good 16 knots. When about half way to the island the skipper received a call from the Geraldton marine radio operator requesting that he provide assistance to another vessel. The vessel requiring assistance turned out to be a little unusual ... it was an ocean rowing boat making at attempt to cross the Indian Ocean. The solo rower (young Irishman, Keith Whelan - www.thenakedadventurer.com ) had been blown seriously off course and was requesting a tow before the strong westerly winds brought him close to the danger of the reefs around the Abrolhos Islands. The boat was many kilometers west of the Islands and it took quite a detour to reach the rower. Keith came aboard and we towed his row-boat back to the Abrolhos Islands. Keith is a very interesting determined guy, and we wish him all the best in his attempt to row the 6000km across the Indian Ocean.

As you can imagine, our first priority upon reaching the Islands was to check out the underwater life. Baldchin groper (also known as blue-bone) are fairly rare in most parts of the west cost. This is probably due to them being considered one of the best eating fish available anywhere. Baldchin are in incredible abundance at the Abrolhos! Within about 5 minutes we were able to spear two nice specimens just 50 meters from the front door of the shack! We saw hundreds and hundreds of fish (some massive) in every direction.This place is a spearfishermans dream come true (with the possible exception of the numerous reports of a number very large tiger sharks that also enjoy the abundance of fish available at the islands).

The following day we saw large coral trout, parrot fish and a very nice Dhufish. The coral was in very good condition although we were told that the recent massive spawn had caused considerable damage. We returned from the Islands yesterday with an ample supply of fish and some wonderful memories. Many thanks to Ash and his family for a fantastic time.

The shack at the Abrolhos Islands, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The shack at the Abrolhos Islands,

Calm at the Abrolhos Islands, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Calm at the Abrolhos Islands, WA

Two nice groper at the Abrolhos Islands, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Two nice groper at the
Abrolhos Islands, WA


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