The Monte Bello Islands form the northern most extremity of a group of islands running seaward from the coast between
Onslow and Dampier on the north-west coast of Western Australia. The Monte Bello Islands were the site of the atomic
bomb tests carried out between Britain and Australia in the mid 1950s. Before that, they were the occasional lonely
haven for shipwrecked sailors, such as those from the sinking of the Tryal more than a hundred years earlier.
I hoped my visits would be a trifle less traumatic and planned accordingly. The qualities of the ideal yacht will
no doubt be debated by yachtsmen for some time to come but for my purposes, a well fitted RL-28 trailer yacht provides
the speed, comfort and cruising ability for my needs.
This is a tale of two voyages to the Monte Bellos and their differences will now become apparent. Voyage One
consisted of towing the RL-28 400 kilometres to Exmouth, sailing 500 nautical miles to the Monte Bellos (and back)
returning to Carnarvon behind the Holden-powered Landrover again. My crew for this voyage was Joe McGrade, ex-navy
and a bit of a sea dog from way back. Voyage Two commenced with a tow of 700 kilometres each way to Dampier, a 300
nautical mile sail, with a crew comprising radiographer Nigel Davies and my three young children aged three to eight years.
These trips always seem to require an endless supply of `things to be done' lists, ranging from buying charts
to checking wheel bearings. There is not a lot of pleasure in driving along the relatively barren stretches of
road which seem to separate Carnarvon from the rest of Australia but at least the roads are flat and easy travelling
with 2½-3 tonnes on behind, be the prime mover be the Landrover or the trusty old V8 Leyland P76.