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: