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)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Darwin - our first days

Saturday - 03/11/2012

After arriving in the marina and Rob and Alison left to let us settle in and said we could go over to their place once we were settled and invited us for dinner.

We secured the docking lines and got the covers out and put those in place then we set up our portable air-conditioner and found that it is just not quite good enough to do the whole boat so we had to keep changing it from salon to cabin for night time. Once settled and showered we got ready to go out. Alison and Rob picked us up and we went to the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association Club for dinner and a few drinks. We had a good night.

The first week and a half as gone by like a blur it has gone that quick and I have not made notes to say all the things we have done we have been in company a lot with Alison and Rob and their family which has been great They have fed us so often I said we will have to pay board.

Sunday was a rest day we did not do much at all then on Monday we caught the bus into the city and was surprised that our pension card gives free bus travel and it is only $2 for anyone else. We had a walk around town and had a coffee before starting the shopping when the shopping was complete we caught a taxi back to the marina and unloaded everything and packed all away. The city has changed quite a lot since our last visit as I mentioned before but the city is still very nice and relaxed.

Alison had offered her car to us and I first declined as I do not particularly like using other peoples vehicles but on Tuesday (06/11/2012) I did change my mind and asked to use the car to go and pick up another air-conditioner so we have one in the salon and one in the cabin, I also bought a bit of timber to make a false door that I can put the exhaust hose from the portable air-conditioner. So that was the Wednesday's project to make the false door and get that air-conditioner up and working.  We had sundowners on Ted and Desley's boat that is on the end of our dock with another couple and their names escape me at the moment.

Friday we went into the city on the bus again to do a little shopping and in the afternoon we had organised a sundowners in the BBQ area of the marina and had about eight or nine people turn up which was good, after sundowners we headed to Alison and Rob's for dinner and organised the work for the weekend to get their yacht out of the water and on the hard.

Saturday we headed to the Dinah Beach Club and marked the ground out where we were going to put Rob' yacht 'Babe' on the hard, a crane arrived and we moved eight concrete blocks in place that 'Babe' would sit on. Then after a couple of thirst quenchers at the club we headed out to fill some sand bags to go on top of the concrete blocks.
(All blocks in place ready for 'Babe' The Pig on a Mission)
(Out bush we found a sand hill to fill the sand bags)

Sunday was a rest day and Monday was getting 'Babe' ready to be hauled out, Rob, Alison and I removed the mainsail, sail bag and headsail this would reduce windage now that we are entering the cyclone season as the boat will be out of the water for a while. Once all this was done it was time to run around and get necessary items like pick up the slings so that we could rig them before we got to Dinah Beach, get a pressure washer to clean the hull when we had her out. The slings were huge and we had a bit of fun handling them into place.
('Babe' with the slings in place at the dock at Alison and Rob's house)

At 1600 hours we went through the lock at the marina and it is a lot easier with a narrow boat. We motored to the club and Rob showed me the skills of 'Babe' with two propellers turning around in a narrow waterway just like a catamaran. 'Babe' originally had one outboard motor, Rob bought a diesel that drives a hydraulic pump and the props are driven by two hydraulic motors very effective.
(Just out of the lock gates, they still look very narrow)
(Going down Sadgroves Creek between the moored boats)
(Dinghy dock and sea entrance to Dinah Beach Club)
('Babe' going up)
('Babe' on the blocks)
The crane arrived just as we arrived then the trial and error started with finding how the crane could lift us without causing damage to the mast or stays, once that was sorted out 'Babe' was lifted out onto the blocks and then we cleaned her down with the pressure wash. It was a big and long hard day and I think we were both a bit done in at the end of the day I know I slept very well.
(This was the eclipse that we saw this morning, 14/11/2012)

Well that's the week that was.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Darwin, NT

These are a few scribbles of my experiences of Darwin over the years.

I have fond memories of Darwin with my first visit being the 31 December 1967, New Years Eve, we arrived on HMAS Attack one of the first Attack class Patrol Boats to be commissioned. We were the first warship to be stationed in Darwin since the second world war, so it was a big event in Darwin and for us crew.
(HMAS Attack underway on show before heading to Darwin)

The population of Darwin those days would have been somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 at most, there were no major supermarket outlets in fact the married men that had their wives in Darwin used to join syndicates to bring fresh vegetables in sharing the cost of freight as it was cheaper than getting it from suppliers in Darwin. There was a good number of the population to see us arrive in Darwin. The problem was that I think we arrived on a record low tide and we probably looked so small to those looking down from the wharf that they probably thought we were the escort.

New Years Eve and I copped first night duty, but it was not all that bad other ships (non-naval) at Stokes Hill Wharf had parties going on and some young ladies attending would wonder over with a drink or two and keep me company a few New Years kisses here and there, I was enjoying myself so much I did not wake my mate to take over the watch at 0200 hours in the morning I went right through to 0600 hours, my mate cursed me the next morning.

These earlier days in Darwin were a lot of fun of course socialising was centred around pubs, BBQ's, or smokies (parties), basically it all had to do with drinking. Hotels had the normal opening hours of 1000 to 2200 hours Monday through Saturday not open Sundays. A number of Hotels had a late night which was shared, Darwin Hotel Wednesday, Fannie Bay Hotel on Thursday, Parap and Dolphin Hotels  Friday and the Sea Breeze Hotel on Saturday. Late night meant they stayed open until midnight and they had a band to dance to those nights and naturally everyone would converge on that late night hotel. Those days the general population were government workers and essential services and many worker lived in hostel type accommodation. The Bank of NSW (now Westpac) staff lived in the upper floor of the bank. The main shopping area was in and around the main streets of Darwin, Nightcliff was just starting to grow with the opening of the Dolphin Hotel out there

I left the Attack later in 1968 with a medical problem with my left ear I was crash drafted, the first day I saw the new doctor he flew me out to HMAS Penguin  the Naval Hospital in Sydney. I had to do the milk run flying Darwin, Adelaide, Melbourne then Sydney arriving in Sydney at 2330 hours where a WRAN Driver was there to pick me up to my surprise and the drivers at the time, it was not normal for a lowly sailor to get such transport. The driver was a little displeasured on this our first meeting but we have stayed long life friends since our meetings later.

I had a return visit to Darwin in 1970 and 1971 when on a survey ship HMAS Moresby and naturally went ashore for an ale or two, we went to the Green Room at Hotel Darwin and I can remember this bloke coming up to me and asking if I remembered him, Chris Powell, we went to school together when I was 11 years of age in England. Darwin had changed in 1971, they had television and that buggered the place people had stopped socialising and stayed home to watch the box the place became civilised.

The place grew over the years and by 1974 there was a population of around the 43,000. 1974 saw me back for a visit as I had just left the Navy and had near three months leave before I could start work at Alice Springs where my wife then Sandy and I had decided to give a try. I had friends off the Attack in Darwin that had paid off before me and we thought it would be good to catch up. They tried to talk us into staying, I even had a job offer on the spot if I stayed. It was a blessing that we did not as in that 1974 Christmas Day cyclone Tracy hit and destroyed more than 70% of Darwin. HMAS Attack was driven ashore still chained to a hurricane buoy weighing some 75 tons and cracked the hull but another patrol boat HMAS Arrow was sunk after the storm had ripped the anchor winch and chain from the deck that was secured to one of the other hurricane buoys she hit the wharf and two good crew were lost.
(Cyclone Tray damage around Darwin 1974)
(HMAS Attack was dragged ashore still attached to the hurricane 75 ton mooring)
(The damaged HMAS Arrow after it was salvaged from near Stokes Hill Wharf and dragged to Francis Bay)
I was in Alice Springs and the first I had heard of the cyclone was at 2300 hours Christmas Eve, my wife then Sandy wanted to go to late church, not that either of us were religious so I agreed to go, we had been working hard helping a friend get a new shop up and running and for some days I left my normal job to go and work on the friends shop so we had not heard any news. It was not until the Padre said lets us pray for our friends in Darwin and hope the cyclone passes them without damage.

I don't know why I did not sleep that well that night and I remember turning the radio on early in the morning and heard that all communications to Darwin had ceased no one knew what was going on no contact could be made. I don't recall why but I got my portable radio that had shortwave frequencies and connected it to the whip antenna on my old Toyota 4x4 and started going through the frequencies and actually picked up the first communications out of Darwin which was transmitted from a merchant vessel, after this broadcast they stated that they would transmit the same broadcast in 15 minutes if anyone was listening and had a tape recorder to record it and play it to others that may have friends and relatives in Darwin which we did . I sold the reel to reel tape recorder to a friend in 1987 when I left the Alice and not thinking that recording went with it.

I volunteered to return to Darwin if I could help but it was not to be, I worked with a volunteer group escorting the Darwin refugees from the outskirts of the Alice to the registry office and made sure they were looked after. My wife then and I would finish work have some dinner and go out and work as a volunteer till early hours in the morning then go to work the next day. One afternoon just as we started the escort duty a car pulled up and a familiar head yelled out to me, it was Danny the charge engineer off HMAS Arrow that sank in the cyclone he had some of the crew with him. I made sure they were OK and asked to be excused for the night from volunteer duties, I found out where they were billeted and went and got two cases of beer and we sat drank and talked, they had been through an horrific ordeal not just the sinking and having to abandon ship but when all settled they went home to see the house was no longer there and did not know what had happened to their families. They did find that some sailor had been driving around during the cyclone saving families and taking them to a safe place. I believe the same sailor lost his own wife during this storm.

I finally got to Darwin in 1975 and it was eerie with all the trees that were now without branches but had new growth which made for skinny trees. Whilst I lived in the Alice I was to return to Darwin socially and for work and after the cyclone Darwin just kept growing. My last visit was 1996 and there is some incredible changes since that visit and now. The Vic Hotel is still there although modified a little but still has the same stone walls. Hotel Darwin is a new hotel, the original Darwin Hotel bought by Paspaley  that had a heritage listing suddenly disappeared over night, obviously had an accident with a dozer. The Paspaley family was the rich people when I first came to Darwin and I would imagine that the original Paspaley then is probably no longer with us but the family business has grown, Paspaley Pearls is a big thing here now with a number of Pearl Farms the family own let alone the real-estate they have done very well over the years.
(The Victoria Hotel Darwin, known as the Vic Hotel, I met some characters in this place in the old days, Johnny the Ringer comes to mind, he used to get barred from different hotels from time to time but was a harmless bloke worked on a station to earn money then come to town a blow it)

Darwin is still a lovely place and it is still laid back probably not as much as in the 60' and 70's no place is, but it is still a relaxed place. I guess I classed myself as a Territorian once when I lived in the NT and I don't really think that ever left me because I always felt more at home in the NT not saying I would return for good but after the years I lived hereit had a great impact in my life.

Darwin City skyline ahs change over the past few years with multi story buildings and they appear to be growing in numbers. We are still finding our way around but I am amazed how the place has grown down towards Humpty Doo areas. Helping Rob yesterday setting up to haul his yacht out at the Dinah Beach Yachting Association Club and also having diner there on out first night ashore I have to agree with what Rob said, this club is the old Darwin, very laid back nothing really flash but good to be there. The yachties would suffer badly if it weren't for this club.
(Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Club)
(A sign on the gate to the dock at the club)





Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Darwin and Bayview Marina

Saturday - 03/11/2012

After talking to Rob and Alison last night on the phone we made the plan that I ring Jo the lockmaster at the marina at 0600 hours and organise the lock opening at 0800 hours then pick Alison and Rob up near the sailing club to assist us with local knowledge and to get through the lock. This plan failed because to have the lock opened prior to 0900 hours you have to phone before 1800 hours the day before. Rob suggested we head off before 0800 hours and contact Jo at 0800 hours when she is available to answer the phone and book for 0900 hours this we did but there was still a hold up as I was not expected to arrive until tomorrow and they had to move a boat out of the berth so it was a little later that we got in.

I picked Alison and Rob up in the dinghy from the boat ramp near the yacht club at Fannie Bay, this was our first time meeting them and it was a pleasure, very nice people. When we arrived on board Nancy had engines going and we were ready to head off after the introductions. We did not have to rush as we had plenty of time after contacting Jo and finding that we could not get in until 1000 hours. This gave us time to chat and get to know each other, the incredible part is that Rob and I had possibly met before in 1986 when we both worked in Alice Springs not that we could remember but highly possible.

Going along the waterfront we could see the enormous changes to Darwin with a lot of new high-rise buildings. The waterfront itself has also changed with the industrial and fuel installations moved away from the city waterfront and new wharfs also in the industrial area. The last time we visited Darwin in 1996 the only marina was Cullen Bay now they have Tipperary marina, Bayview marina and one they call the Duck Pond which is mainly used by the fishing boats. We actually chose Bayview through default as it was the only marina that could take us and secondly we could fit through the lock gates. Cullen Bay we could fit but they do not have permanent live a boards. However, this marina appears to be the better marina for protection in case of cyclone and they also have cleaner water in the marina through the flush through water system. As an added bonus the marina is very clean and has great views of beautiful homes and gardens all around it.
(Stoke Hill Wharf)
(Stokes Hill Wharf used to be a working wharf in the days before the 1975 Darwin disasterrous cyclone Tracey on the other side we used to have the pontoons where we used to dock the Patrol Boats now it is a place of eateries and coffee shops)
(As we passed the Fishermans wharf and Paspaley Shipyard with the high-rise buildings of Darwin in the background and there are more being built)
(Going up Sadgroves Creek between the moored and anchored boats)
(Bayview Marina showing the track in)

Bayview Marina is located up Sadgroves Creek at Francis Bay, after passing Stokes Hill Wharf and along passed the other marinas we came to the mouth of Sadgroves  Creek and Rob suggested we pick up his mates mooring and wait the time out there which we did and had a cup of tea and a chat.

At around 15 minutes before we were due in we slipped the mooring and motored up the creek, this creek all but dries out at low tides so we needed to go now or we would miss our chance as it was we were later than we wanted to be because now the tide had started to rush out and we were hoping for the entry to be at the top of the tide when it is still. The creek is full of moored boats and is a little bit like an obstacle course to weave through them, they say it will be worse at the end of the month when the yachts anchored at Fannie Bay head to the creek for the cyclone season.

As we neared the lock gates we had to wait for a boat to come out, the lock gate looked so small and I must admit I was a little nervous as we approached. The lock will take boats up to 7.25 metres wide and we are 6.93 metres wide. Normal fenders are to wide to fit between the gate and the boats sides, we had purchased some flat lengths of rubber to act as fenders. We neared the gate and I lined up the boat to go in and just as we started to enter the tidal flow swung the stern  putting us on an angle, I could not go astern and retry because of rocks to the side and the danger of the tide pushing the stern towards them and damaging the rudder so I had to try and correct it by using the engines and still go forward. Rob, Alison and Nancy worked hard fending the boat away from the gate but we did make contact and put a few scratches on the port side which I will have to repair. After getting through the gate and in the lock proper we secured to the wall and Jo closed the gate and filled the lock lifting us about one metre. I had to sign paperwork whilst we were there and I think my signature may have been a little rough. Once to the right level the inside lock gate opened and we had to go through that but there is no tidal influence so it was not too bad.
 (Bayview Marina lock gates, yes thos narrow grey doors, they are a little scewed from the track in which can cause problems, the tide going out pulls to the left.)
(Some hours after we arrived in the marina Sadgroves Creek and the marina entrance at low tide)
(This is when we were in and up against the lock wall, I called this phot 'bloody narrow')
(The gates closed behind us)
(After securing to the lock wall we start going up as the water is pumped in)
(Rob who helped us greatly, thanks mate.)
(Sorting out the paperwork with Jo the Lockmaster)
(The lovely lady Alison what a great couple Alison and Rob are, thanks Alison for your kindness)
(Inside the marina, the heart rate has slowed and the hands have nearly stopped shaking)

Now that we are in we have had some tips on the way others bring wide boats in, many get a few crew on the side of the lock with ropes and they walk the boat in, they also use timber planks over the side of the boat so if anything hits it's the planks that take the damage.

Jo the Lockmaster she was very helpful and a nice person with it, she helped us get this berth when we made the enquiries.

Once inside the marina it was quite nice and we went on a tour around the waterways whilst we waited for the other person to vacate the berth, once he had left we went and settled into our berth, met a few locals and Rob and Alison walked home as they have a house on the waterfront in the marina. Later they picked us up and we went to the Dinah Beach Club for dinner and a few drinks. Our new found friends are very nice people and very helpful, Rob is doing some work on his yacht soon so I can return the favour by giving him help where I can after all that's what this yachting/boating community is all about is helping one another.

Well we are now at the end of the first leg of our circumnavigation and will be here in Darwin for 5 - 6 months for the cyclone season, I will endeavour to keep the site alive with some information about Darwin what we see and what we do, I may also do a summary of the voyage so far and include a little more about anchorages.