Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cyclone and weather watching

Although I have continued to be a weather watcher for sailing purposes it has been a while since I have been concerned about cyclones for our planning as we are normally outside the cyclone areas in the monsoonal seasons. However, this year being in Darwin it is a thing that concerns me greatly. The last time I monitored weather for cyclone activity for our own preservation was in Raiatea, French Polynesia when we sailed the Pacific Ocean as we were held up there for the cyclone season as French Polynesia is just outside the cyclone belt. They can still have some nasty storms and winds but they do not usually experience cyclones.
(Tropical cyclone Evan as it hits Fiji)

Cyclones are an evil necessity in Australia as it is usually the cyclones that bring water to the inland areas, last few years cyclone and storm activity brought water to Lake Eyre and the Murray River, many cyclones that hit around Broome area that cross the mainland and then forms a low depression carries the rain across the driest parts of the country which farmers in VIC, NSW and SA rely on for crops.

The cyclone belt appears to be active east of Africa across the top end of Australia and through to the Pacific to the west side of French Polynesia. One of the ingredients for forming a cyclone is sea temperature, cyclones can form in sea temperature above 26.5⁰C a website to monitor this for Australia is -

(As seen on the above website, it is possible to click on and area and it will give the lat/long and sea temp at that point)

One of the other sites I monitor is the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) rather than me trying to explain what this is and what it does there is a great web page that will do it better than I can and that is -

After understanding what you have read from this website on the MJO go to this website and it will provide the last 40 days MJO monitoring. This is only one of the tools that is used by the met as they use satellite and models to predict all weather.

(MJO monitoring as seen on the website indicating activity as it is out of the centre circle)

It is interesting to note that the MJO is split into 8 phases and Phase 1 is simultaneously east of Africa in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean around the Fijian area where a cyclone Evan has created havoc at this moment.

In monitoring the storms worldwide the following website is very good -

There are many weather websites that can be used for monitoring the weather and many sailors have their preferences, I personally use many websites and listen to weather reports on commercial radio , VHF radio and HF radio.

Other websites I use for weather:-

Whatever website you prefer to use make sure that it provides what you need there are many people that use in Australia and it is a very good site for coastal use only. This website is for wind surfers, surfers and boats that hang very close to the coastline. If you search the website you will note that it states yacht skippers should use another website. A few miles out to sea can be different than what is experienced along the coastline.






Friday, December 14, 2012

Darwin - Marina bound

(Birds in flight as a storm passes Darwin city)

The wet season is still coming we have had some storms with some great electrical displays but the wet is not in full swing as yet and comments have been made in the media that it will be late this year, or should I say it may happen in January.
(Reflections in the marina as sun sets)

We are using the time to carry out some work on the boat and helping friends with their boat. My main project at the moment is gel coat repairs, no not the scratches I put on Alana Rose when coming into the very narrow lock that will be done in time. I am practicing on areas that are hard to see first. I have dabbled before with doing this type of repair but I must say not with great success. However, I came up with the idea of researching and found some great sites on the net with Youtube  showing how it should be done and so far I am pleased with my efforts.

The areas that I am repairing at this stage is the area around where the trampolines are secured this area has taken a beating from people and the seas giving pressure on the tramps and this has caused hairline cracks in the gelcoat. I have had to grind the cracks and refill with new coatings.

Doing this work in the wet season build up is not fun with temperatures around 36 -36⁰C and high humidity and no breeze I have to have a few more drinks so I have something to sweat out.
(Working out of the dinghy repairing the gelcoat)

I have been helping Rob with his yacht removing the old keel and preparing to install the new keel, Rob is a keen racer and is getting the yacht in better condition for that purpose, plus the old keel was not working well, it is hydraulic operated so it can slide up and down but it was not performing well with this action. It is interesting in doing this type of work and it is always good to help other yachties as many helped us in the past. That's what it is all about with life on the water is helping each other. I made the comment way back in the other blog about our friend Leigh who helped us when we blew the mainsail out three days out of Galapagos, as soon as we were in the next port he was over with his sewing machine and restitched the whole sail, when I asked him what I owed him his reply was, "I have broken 6 needles and use a fair amount of thread $20 should replace that". I asked what about the time you have put into to this. He replied, "It's mates rates, a lot of people helped me along the way and this is how I pay them back, it is now up to you to do the same, you help other along the way". We have tried to do this and it is a great way to do business. The other thing is that you learn more about boats and you make some great friends.

We have purchased a second hand tinnie with outboard motor for the Kimberly's, something light and will be able to withstand the oysters on the rocks where our inflatable might not. We got that through a website 'Gumleaf' not a bad site if you are looking for something or you want to sell something.

Other items that we have had fixed was our Autopilot control head screen was bleeding (going black so you could not see the numbers), so that has been fitted with a new screen, not cheap $660. So George the autopilot has had a facelift. Whilst dealing with the Raymarine agent I decided to get a new transducer for our log (the thing that monitors boat speed), it has not worked for a few years now, we have just relied on the GPS to give our speed across the ground,  but we thought it may be handy when we start going into the fast running tides. Obviously when this was a charter boat it had been replaced before, but they did not want to run the wires all the way back to the control panel so they did a cut and rejoin job, you have to see the photo to believe what they did. See below.
(Now that is how you do not do repairs, you can see one wire that has broken out and the sea air blackened it)

We have also had some good socialising with people around and about we have joined the Dinah Beach Sailing Association Club, this also gives us the benefits of using the clubs facilities which will include beaching our catamaran there before we leave to clean the bottom touch up antifouling  paint  and cleaning props. It is a great club nothing flash in fact it is a taste of the old Darwin, cold beer and good not expensive food.

So that's all the news.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Darwin - In and around Darwin

(Looks like the wet season has started although slow at this stage, lightening and thunder one strike above)
(Nancy between a couple of ant hills)

Military Museum

The Darwin Military Museum out at East Point is well worth a visit in the last few years about $10m has been spent on this museum that now has touch screens that give great detail from the different people that had part to play in the air raids in Darwin. One area closes off every 20 minutes and inside this area you can experience what it was like to be in the centre of the bombing raid in Darwin at the time. It also has many outside exhibits which includes one of the two 9.2 inch gun placements.
(Display cabinets inside the 9.2 inch gun placement)
(A dummy gun, these were made and put in place to make the enemy think we had more arms than we had when they flew over surveying the area)

Aircraft Museum

Darwin's Air Museum is located on the Stuart Highway just past the RAAF Base, this is another must see having a lot of history along with aircraft which includes a B52 Bomber that spans the whole building and makes the other aircraft look quite small in comparison. The aircraft range from the large for mentioned to a Tiger Moth, Spitfire, Mirage and many others also a Wessex and Huey helicopter. They are soon to take charge of an F111.
(The B52 Bomber engines and displays inside the Air Museum)
(Sabre Jet)
(Remains of a Mirage aircarft, this crashed after pilot ejected due to faulty landing gear)

Some facts:

Darwin was bombed by 188 aircraft at 0958 hours on 19 February 1942

Darwin and around the Top End was bombed 64 times during WWII.

251 people were killed in the two attacks on the first day.

Darwin was attacked by submarines in the month before the first air attack.

Darwin Museum

The main Darwin Museum is located at Fannie Bay and is a must see, it consists of many different exhibits which range from animal life, art works, Aboriginal works and a section on the Darwin's major cyclone, Cyclone Tracey. If you wonder what it sounds like to be in the dark during a cyclone they have a room there that you can experience the noises made by the horrific winds with buildings being ripped apart.

Fannie Bay Gaol

The Fannie Bay Gaol naturally located at Fannie Bay, Palmerston Gaol came first in 1872 to 1883 when it was realised that it was too close to the community so Fannie Bay Gaol was constructed and  was in use in its first years of 1884, operations were interrupted by the bombing of Darwin where prisoners were released during the bombing and told to fend for themselves. The Gaol was then taken over by the Air Force until they vacated the place in 1946. The Fannie Bay Gaol continued to operate until 1974 when Cyclone Tracey ended it and prisoners were transferred to Berrimah Gaol.

In 1952 the first and the last white men were executed by hanging in the Fannie Bay Gaol they were Jerry Koci , 20 and  John Novotny 19, for the murder of taxi driver  George Grantham. The hanging was carried out at 0800 hours on 7 August 1952.
(Photo shows one section of the gaol and the gallows, hanging beam and drop door)

Parap Markets

The best markets in Darwin would be Mindil Beach Markets but they only operate in the dry season, I believe these markets are so big now that they operate on two nights. However, the Parap Markets are all year round although it is only a small market it has plenty to offer including lots of eateries.

Kakadu - Cooinda - Yellow Water Billabong.

 (They say for every croc you see there is twelve you don't. There are genearally more females to males and this is due to the temperature, the temperature affects the sexes of the hatchings, cannot remember what the temperatures are, however, the temperature is critical to whether the eggs hatch or not. There is a very narrow range for males to result. After all that around 1% of the hatchlings will survive to become adults as they are on the food chain whilst small)
(When you see the head of a croc above water you are seeing one eighth of its length, the photo below shows this if you look closely you can see the outline of the croc underwater.)
(Spot the croc below)
(This croc, near the bank centre, has made a nest just up the bank which is rather early and could get flooded out when the wet settles in.)

We were fortunate enough to get a trip out with friend Raighne on his Greyhound Bus run to Cooinda travelling via The Old Bark Hut and Jabiru having short stops at each. There would be many places to visit in Kakadu and all are probably glorious, Cooinda and Yellow Water Billabong are well worth the visit. Although being the end of the dry season and some of the waterways are drying up or have less water than normal I think it favoured us at Yellow Water as there were lots of bird life around the water and a good number of crocodiles to view. We had a perfect guide on the water cruise that took us around the waterways and talked on the crocs, bird life and snakes and other creatures. The cruise is around 90 minutes or a little longer and cost is $68 per person.
(Something more delecate, a Comb Crested Jacana also known as the Jesus Bird because it looks like it walks on water)
(A Brolga, this bird is used as NT's emblem)
(Ducks in flight)
(Magpie Geese, one male with two female)
(Plumed whistling ducks)

For information follow this website:






Sunday, November 25, 2012

Darwin - Looking around

Friday - 16/11/2012

Alison loaned her car to us so we could get around and have a look at a few places whilst she is away over the weekend which was very nice of her. So today we had to go shopping so we headed to town and before the shopping we went to the WWII Underground Oil Storage. The oil storage tanks were commenced after the first bombing of Darwin in February 1942, the work commenced in May 1942 and was an incredible task. The work was carried out by a private company and most of the workers were in their 50's and 60's due to the younger persons being engaged in the war effort. These tunnels were excavated by pick and shovel and the total storage was over 4 million litres, after the tunnels were dug out they were lined with concrete and then steel plating. Although they were built for the war as safe tanks that could not be bombed the war finished before the tanks were finished ready for use. Later Golden Fleece fuel company used them for aviation fuel storage but this proved unsuccessful due to the amount of water seepage into the tanks.
(Entrance to the oil storage tunnels, the cost for self tour is $6 and it is here you sit for a talk about the tunnels before entering, well worth the tour)
(This is the entrance tunnel)
(This tunnel storage appears to have a lot of water seepage)
(The main oil storage tunnel)
(There are many photos of WWII and the Darwin bombing, Nancy looks on thinking about her father that was stationed here in the Air Force and was here in the bombing, interesting point is that because of the secrets act Australians were led to believe that Darwin was only bombed the once in February 1942 when it was bombed over an 18 month period as this was the case Darwin was not considered a war zone for the purpose of entitlements of the service personnel, therefore no war service pension).

After that visit we went around the waterfront  along the Esplanade and onto Fannie Bay and then to East Point where they had gun placements during the war (WWII), it was interesting to note the erosion of the cliffs one of the machine gun bunkers has partially eroded away from the sea, salt and wind, in one area they have closed a small roadway because the road has collapsed  from this erosion.
(East Point Gun Placements that were installed for WWII, over on the right in the background is the large gun placement and bunker, naturally the large gun was taken away many years ago.Other building are to roofed magazines, explosives were stored in these below ground level.)
(This photo shows the cliff erosion on the right you can see nearly half a concrete machine gun post eroded away there was a second one of these that has totally gone)

After our tour we went back to town to do some shopping and then returned back on board.

Saturday - 17/11/2012

Our anniversary today, 12 years Nancy and  I have been married to each other and together for 17 years, she tells me there is no parole period. So today we went to the Wildlife Park which is out by of town down the track (Stuart Highway), we spent the whole day out there as it is quite a long walk around the park and lots to see. They do have a motorised train that runs every 30 minutes where you can do the faster trek by hoping on and off the different displays but we chose to walk and then catch the train from the last display back to the main station.

When catching the train back the driver gave a running commentary on the park, he mentioned about the dangers of crocodiles and that they had removed 266 crocs from Darwin Harbour so far this year. When we got off the train I went and asked what happens to the crocs that they remove from places like the harbour. He said, "Unfortunately the male crocs are culled and the females are used for breeding for the purpose of getting the young that are used for their leather production which most products go overseas." I thought that this was very sensible for the fact that I have said before that the crocs being protected have no predator at least by doing this some of the numbers are being controlled, I personally believe there should be more culling as the crocs are fighting for space and this is making them go further south and further out to sea seeking other lands like some islands where they can cause other problems. Crocs are territorial a young male tries to find a place to call its own territory if he cannot beat another male croc to take their territory he has to keep moving . When in Seisia  a young croc tried twice to beat the old resident croc and the old croc won and sent the young croc on his way. The fact of the matter is that there are a few species in this world that the only predator that they have ever had is man and once we protect them they no longer have a predator and then they become a problem. There has to be a balance somewhere because food sources for these dangerous protected species run low man becomes a food source hence attacks are more prevalent.
(The Black Cockatoo, they used to be plentiful down around the southern part of NT but numbers have been reduced due to the land clearing for housing and other projects)
(Most Australians call this bird a Jabiru, it is actually a Blacked Necked Stork, the Jabiru family is located in the Americas around Mexico and Argentina. I always thought that Jabiru was an Aboriginal name for the bird but it is not).
(A young hawk, one of their favourite foods are Emu eggs that are very tough to break here the young hawk uses a rock to break the egg or at least crack it so that he can get into it. This method is a natural act that is born into the bird. This young bird had a little trouble hitting the egg at first but eventually got it.)
(A young Sea Eagle very proud and very alert and is very independant and in the wild stay alone other than mating, it was brought to the centre after being injured and will be released back to the wild)
(A Wedge Tailed Eagle, although a large powerful bird they are often seen in groups sharing a bit of road kill such as a dead kangaroo on the side of the road where they can come to grief as this one did being hit by a car when taking off. These birds will stay with their catch or food claim and will only fly away when it is totally necessary. This fine bird had a broken wing and cannot be let loose as it would not survive. Unlike the Sea Eagle this one is enjoying a scratch from the ranger and is falling asleep.)
(If you are out bush and there is road kill on the side of the road such as a dead roo by stopping and dragging it well off the side of the road you may save the life of a bird such as this)

After a great day at the park we headed back towards town and called in to see friends on the way arriving back on board around 1900 hours rather tired.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Darwin - looking around

Thursday - 15/11/2012

Today we caught the bus into the city to have a look around the waterfront and wharf areas there has been some significant changes over the years. Stokes Hill Wharf used to be the merchant ship unloading and loading wharf and was used by the Navy Patrol Boats, fishing boats and some small tourist boats  vessels. Today it is used by tourist boats, customs patrol boats and the wharf is filled with eateries, small cafes  and restaurants. On the shores inside Stokes Hill Wharf is the waterfront precinct with wave pool and small protected beach area, the convention centre and high rise accommodation buildings with shops at ground level. Here are a few pictures of our walks.

(Darwin Waterfront Precinct, taken from the lift to the city walkway, small protected beach swimming area a breakwater between it and Stoke Hill Wharf)
(The protected beach and swimming area with gardens and BBQ areas around it)
(The Wave Pool above and below)
(Darwin Waterfront Precinct, taken from the breakwater looking back to the protected beach, Convention Centre on the right, the wave pool is to the left of the convention centre)
(Stokes Hill Wharf taken from the breakwater with Fort Hill Wharf far right that has Customs ship 'Ocean Protector' and HMAS Sydney alongside. We were not allowed on that wharf to have a look)
(Fort Hill Wharf, taken from Stokes Hill Wharf)
(This photo taken from the internet to shop 'Ocean Protector')
(Customs Patrol Boats, 'Hervey Bay' and 'Arnhem Bay' at Stokes Hill Wharf)
(The old pump house is now a Steak and Seafood Restaurant at Stokes Hill Wharf)
(Inside area of Stokes Hill Wharf as we were leaving it is a new moon low tide)
(Above and below the rememberance of the bombing of Darwin 1942, Darwin and northern Australia was bombed over an 18 month period after the first bombing of Darwin, there were more bombs dropped on Darwin than Pearl Harbour)