This blog is about my wife and I sailing our 13m sailing catamaran around Australia during 2012 2013 and 2014. We will sail from Brisbane at the end of April 2012 and slowly head north anticipating that we will arrive in Darwin for the cyclone season and head west when safe to do so and complete the circumnavigation.
No we are not sailing today we are off tomorrow. There is an
old seadog superstition regarding starting a transit on Fridays and my wife
won't sail on a Friday. We sailed once crossing the Pacific starting on a
Friday and we got hit pretty hard by a storm that was not predicted so it is
now banned. It's OK to go out for a day sail or a weekend starting on Friday
but not a large trip transit. So we go tomorrow on the outgoing tide at 1100
hours. Our first day will take us to Tapa Bay and then over the next two days
we will reach Port Keats. This is going to be all new to us so we do not know
what to expect.
We are not sure when or where we will be able to update the
blog or get any phone or internet service, it may be weeks before you hear from
us, there may be a few places in the next couple of days but there will be
nothing in the Kimberley's. Our outside communication will be the HF radio for
weather etc. I am still trying to carry out adjustment to get sailmail via the
HF radio so we can send out emails, no luck so far.
Well very busy yesterday and we will be sailing at 1100
hours today, next time I post on the blog we should have some great pictures.
The Fannie Bay anchorage is a very popular spot for locals
and visitors alike. Many locals have boats on moorings here throughout the dry
season and it is empty during the wet season. Some live aboard their boats on a
permanent basis in this location during the dry and either venture into a
marina or anchor up Sadgroves Creek during the wet.
This anchorage is ideal for the SE trade winds and is not
too bad during the N/NE sea breezes in the afternoon. The anchorage is no good
with any west side of the compass. The bottom is good holding in sand, yachts
with deep draft have to anchor out a fair way out from the beach so it is handy
if you have a small outboard for the dinghy or it is a very long row against
wind and tide at times.
When the spring tides are about there is a greater distance
to cart items at low tide so pick your tides for doing what you need to do.
The Darwin Sailing Club provides for visiting yachts with
temporary membership of $15 per person per week. This gives you access to the
club amenities, showers, toilets and laundry. In addition to garbage disposal
and water for topping up containers.
We do have 20 litre containers that are heavy, so we have
purchased some 10 litre containers and each morning I top the main tanks up and
take the couple of 10 litre containers ashore and top them up for next morning,
this keeps our main tanks topped up each day and teaches us to conservewater before heading out where water is
scarce after not having to worry about it so much being in a marina for six
months. We can monitor our usage and adjust to what is necessary.
(Sunset from our anchorage at Fannie Bay)
Just a short walk from the club is the bus stops and the
number 4 bus will take you to Darwin City one way or Casuarina the other way.
(On Thursday night we heard a call on VHF 16 from Darwin Harbour asking for any boat in the vicinity of 40Nms west of Darwin there was a passenger boat in trouble, 125 passengers no food no water, the next afternoon this asylum seeker boat was towed in by a patrol boat. The news stated that it was found 200kms NW of Darwin, I don't think the government wanted people to know how close the seeker boat came without detection).
Attached to the Darwin Sailing Club is a chandlery and
electronics repair and supply.
Next door to the DSC is the Trailer Boat Club
A short walk up the hill (turn left from DSC) Fannie Bay
Shopping Centre, very nice cafe, The Cool Spot, there is a small supermarket
and I believe a very good butcher a little more expensive that most
supermarkets but good quality meat.
A little further (good 20 minute walk) turn right outside the club drive then left go up to the 1934 Qantas Hanger where there is a walkway and you will come to the Parap Shopping Centre, where
they have markets on Saturday mornings where there is fresh produce as well as
Mindil Beach markets are on now the dry season is here this
is held on Thursday and Sunday nights it is possible to dinghy across to the beach
from the anchorage.
Looking at a bit of history there is the Old Fannie Bay Gaol
just up the road on the way to the Cool Spot Cafe, it is worth a visit the cost
is a gold coin donation.
(Fly over from two vintage aircraft from the Aircraft Museum)
('Kim B1' this was the last working pearler at Broome, it was purchased by Paspaley Pearls as part of the Pearl Company they purchased in Broome, it was then leased in Darwin by a tour operator we actually went on a sunset tour on it back in 1996).
Dry Season has started.
The dry season showed signs of starting around mid April,
locals stated that the dragon flies were around which is a sign of the dry
although the temperatures during the night hours did not drop until a few days
ago. Fannie Bay anchorage has started to fill up with yachts local and visitors
The other indication is the amount of burning off, for the
past two weeks the skies have been full of smoke, the smell of smoke and smoke
haze is an every day event the day after I washed the boat in the marina the
boat was covered in ash.
('Babe' went out the weekend with Kyle, Alison and Rob at the helm, they came by to say g'day on their way home).
(Mindil Beach Markets, we went there before the crowds arrived, these markets are held on Thursdays and Sundays the former being the bigger night)
Where to from here?
We will be anchored here for another week and a half, we are
awaiting a couple of items that we have ordered so it will be around the 18 May
before we sail. When we leave here we will be away from phone and internet
services. We are trying to set up the HF radio with sailmail where we can send
and receive short messages and that is one of the parts we are waiting for.
(The view of Darwin from our anchorage)
So we will enjoy a little more of Darwin and the new friends
we have met.
(Traveller's Walk, the wall with great info on it from times gone by)
We have twelve days left in the marina before we tackle the
lock gates to exit, we have 135mm each side clearance of the lock gate and have
to steer with the engines to go through as a yacht does not have steerage at
the slow speed required to enter the gate. Many monohull yachts can maintain
speed and steerage as they have plenty of clearance.
The last week has been spent researching more and more about
the places we are going and have not been to before and considering that many
of these places have not been officially surveyed and the rivers have no
I have been busy on Google Earth looking and saving
satellite pictures to get some idea but one has to remember the pictures were
taken in 2006, sands move over time. We have also visited new found friends Ron
and Barbara on 'Opal Shell' who have been running charters in the Kimberley's
for near 30 years. They have given us valuable information.
Today I did a test run with our dinghy with the Garmin 550s
chart plotter I purchased back in 2008, it came with a transom mount depth
sound which I have never used but at the time of purchasing it I thought it was
a good idea to have a spare unit just in case the main sounder failed. I have
rewired it with a plug in power socket and have used two 6 volt torch batteries
to power it. The test run with it was very successful today it has many modes
it can have a split screen showing the depths and the chart for navigation. We
can now anchor at unknown areas drop the dinghy plot the depth and course to
enter the river systems safely.
I also noted the water temperature in the marina today as
the depth sounder shows the temperature of the water, the temperature was
32.5⁰C, no wonder it is hard to keep the boat cool with that coming through the
hulls. The last couple of days has been around 35⁰C but the humidity is a lot
lower around 58%.
Although we have been here for nearly 6 months we have not
done all the work we intended, we wanted to work on some of the covers but it
has been too hot to take them down so it will be done another day. We have done
quite a bit so we can't complain.
As dry season is upon us the dry season events start, the
other night we went to the season opening of the Deckchair Picture Theatre
opening night and watched the Paul Kelly Story, if you like Paul Kelly's music
it is a must see.
Much, much later........
We have three days before leaving the marina and we have had
a very eventful time since trying to write notes for the blog above, we have
had a few socials with friends and continued to work towards getting ready for
the new adventure. I must admit that the voyage from here on is a little of a
challenge to us, we are entering waters that we have a lot of information but
lots of it has not been officially surveyed. It is a given with all sailors
that when we go to close waters (near land) navigation is by your eyes and the
depth sounder and this is the territory we are going to. Hence the work we have
done getting the portable depth sounder up and running for the dinghy to test
places before we take AR.
We have continually picked the brains of Ron and Barbara on
'Opal Shell' and they have been very helpful. This is what I love about this
life is that other boaties are willing to help as long as you have the attitude
where you are prepared to help others. Yachties work you out pretty quick.
We had a good night out at the Trailer Boat Club on Sunday
21 April for Barbara's birthday, there was a number of yachties from the marina
there and it was a good night, meals are very nice and reasonable prices.
There has been a few days that have been spent over charts
and planning and studying and the realisation of how far we have to sail before
we head south of Exmouth and the seas we have to tackle from there onwards. It is
not encouraging when you talk to other sailors that come from WA and you say
you are sailing their coastline and their comment is, "you poor
bastards". Well we are thinking positive,we are poor bastards already so what the heck.
Thursday 25 April, ANZAC Day, the day I remember mates and
celebrate what we have and the lives of mates we have lost, it's the time of
year that we find that old camaraderie that we love in the service, the rivalry
between branches of our service and other services. Only service or ex-service
men and women would understand it even brings the tear to one's eyes thinking
Having Anzac Day in Darwin was special so I found, there is
a great amount of service personnel stationed here therefore there is a large
contingent that march which included the US Marines this year, that I am sure
they are trained to look mean. Not that it's a good look, I rather the Aussie
approach looks friendly but don't cross him.
We started off the day by the dawn service which was
attended by more than 3,000 people, this kicked off at 0600 hours, beaut part
about this service no politics. The Brigadier did a wonderful speech which
covered the Anzacs right through to today's situation including the families
involved. The RAAF padre could have cut the prays down by more than half, but
that's me (and a few mates) opinion.
After dawn service we headed for the RSL for breakfast and
then back to the Esplanade for the march. However, after breakfast I thought I
might go and see if we could grab another program, as I had left the one I had
back on board, I grabbed one from the desk and for some reason looked around
and saw an old mate off the 'Attack' Ronald 'Beach- ball' Quinn. Beaches was my
leading hand on the patrol boat HMAS Attack, I had seen Beaches over the years
when I lived in Alice Spring and visited Darwin I would look him up but that
was more than 20 years ago. As soon as we went through the recognition and
shook hands the bloke next to him stood up and it was another old mate, Ray
'Squizzey' Taylor and his lovely wife Lou. After Squizzey left the navy he
became a police officer, yeah copper, and he was in Alice Springs and I
actually worked for the same company as his wife Lou. We also met a few more
old mates on the day which makes it a great day.
(Ray (Squizzy) Taylor and yours truly before the Anzac Day March)
(Ronald (Beaches) Quinn and I day after Anzac Day)
There was something else that made the day special, being an
old fart I marched up front with the RSL group mainly because there was not a
special group I belonged to, there are many groups in the march, ex-naval,
ex-Viet Vets which way do you go? I would rather we march as a full group.
Anyway when we neared the end of the march in Cavenagh Street which has a
dividing strip down the centre of the road, we marched past the RSLwhich everyone had a thirst that could suck
the Sydney Harbour dry at that point in time, we continued down to the
intersection at Bennet Street and right wheeled around the medium strip back
towards the RSL Club (Where's there's beer mate?).Naturally as we marched back on the other
side of the street back where we had come the others were march passed us. When
we levelled with the current service men and women there was a spontaneous
applause from our group towards today's service personnel and it was loud, you
could see it took them by surprise by the look they had. Many of those men and
women wore medals identifying that they had served in the current conflicts and
I think that is what triggered us all in our actions. Talking toDon RSL President the next night word had
come back from the service men and women of the day, they said they were quite
surprised that we had done that and felt that it was the old handing over to
the young. Maybe it was God Bless them. You won't hear me say that often.
(These ladies look so young and yet the have served in current conflicts, the one on the right is a leading hand and has served more than 8 years as identified by the two stripes which are awarded every 4 years for good conduct, they both wear their medals proudly and so they should)
We had a great day at the RSL telling stories, lies and what
have you that ex-service people do, most of all you remember the mates from
days gone by and there is nothing wrong in that.
Showings ones age we were home by mid afternoon just in time
for an afternoon nap, but was up for sundowners.
Friday we were heading into town to pick up some charts when
mate Rob rang and asked where we were, we were just about to catch the bus into
town. He said I will be there in a minute take my car. Rob arrived and said
take the car, I wanted to see youfor
this and presented me with an Ipad, he said I wanted you to get into year 2013,
he said this is for the work you did on my boat. To say the least I was
gob-smacked, I was a little embarrassed and humbled at the same time. What does
one say, I did what I did because I wanted to help as we do in this sailing
world. All I can say is thank you Rob and Alison you are both wonderful people
and very good friends.
Friday evening it was back to the RSL for an evening's
entertainment from ex- Viet vet and pop star of the sixties Normie Rowe, he
still has the voice and puts on a very good show. We had a great night there
with our old new found friends of Squizzy and Lou.
(Normie Rowe was great entertainment)
Also on Friday Desley came over and said that she wanted to
host a farewell get together on board their boat Sunday lunchtime, for us to
invite who we wanted, bring a plate and your own drinks, so we had another
great social, thanks again to wonderful people Desley and Ted.
Today being Monday it was time to get serious about leaving,
I had left the servicing of the engines until we are about to leave ensuring
that filters and oil is brand new when we set sail, I have run all machinery
regularly but oils have a time life as well as miles or hours .
Today Tuesday 30 April, Rob came over with his hooker, no
not a female person, a piece of diving equipment. He dived on our boat and
cleaned the barnacles of the propellers. I asked him to check the anodes on the
props he came up with the screws that hold them in place there were no anodes
left. Makes you wonder what is happening to the yachts in the marina that do
not get any attention month after month year after year. They say there are
more boats sink in marina's and moorings than at sea.
Then this afternoon I went up the mast, one job I am not
fond of, I think as you get older you do not feel that comfortable going 21.5
metres above the water dangling on a rope with your wife in control of it
below. It pays to stay friends at moments like this, you could either come down
too fast or they can leave you up there. Thanks to Ted again for his assistance.
One problem we had was the anchor winch it would not work properly when we
tried to use it to hoist me up the mast so Nancy and Ted had to hand winch me
up. A problem for tomorrow.
(Hanging ten on the spar, relocating the radar reflector)
(It's a long way to the top, checking all up top and had to cut out some frayed areas on the main halyard, on the way down lubricated the mains car slide)
At the end of the day we ended up on another catamaran
'Second Inning' for an impromptu sundowners with Pete and Zoë.
Started by trying to find out what was wrong with the winch,
I had tested it a couple of weeks ago when doing repairs to the chain rollers
and all was well. First of all do the simple things clean all the connectors.
Then I started testing with the multi-meter and I found that when Nancy
operated the down button full voltage went to both up and down leads to the
winch hence opposing each other. I checked with friend Ted an ex-RAAF aircraft
technician, he came over and thought the same as I that the controller was
faulty. He loaned me his car and gave me a few places that may supply same or
similar item to get us out of trouble. The second place we tried said they
could air freight one up by the next morning at a cost. We ordered the part and
as I was driving back to the boat I said to Nancy, there is one test I haven't
done which I probably should to prove that this unit is at fault.
(The suspect winch controller that proved to be OK)
When we got back on board by using a jumper lead from the
direct supply to the controller by-passing the controller and attaching it to
one directional lead of the winch I flicked the switch which should make the
winch work. I did not. I went back to Ted and asked his thoughts. He suggested
we take the motor off the winch and then he opened the end cover and it was
full of carbon from the brushes wearing. Naturally being a good conductor it
was shorting out through the motor poles. We cleaned it out flushed it with
WD40 and Ted used some electro cleaner on it after that, we then put it all
back together and it worked fine.
So the day that we were supposed to be out shopping to store
ship was now a day behind and we are due out of the marina at 1100 hours
Up at 0520 hours and I started dismantling the temporary
door that we had the air-conditionerinstalled and the false panel through the cabin hatch for the other one
then removed the air-conditioners that are up for sale. Then we went in the dinghy
down to Rob and Alison's, Rob loaned us the ute to go shopping, 0630 hours at Woollies
and $1200 later we had two large trolleys overflowing, it totally filled the
back of Rob's ute. It took 2 hours to complete the shopping. Then came the fun
part getting the goods to the boat and loading it aboard. By this time it is
0930 hours and I have to do a fueland
gas run, I returned onboard a little after 1000 hours, I then took Rob's ute
back to his place with the air-conditioners loaded aboard, got to Rob's
unloaded the air-conditioners in his garage and then returned back to the boat
in the dinghy close to 1030 hours with most our helpers already for us to be at
the lock at 1100 hours.
Nancy had been taking covers down and getting most things
ready, we hoisted the dinghy, put our homemade fenders in place , the lead ones
on each side are planks of timber with rubber pads, the others a doubled
swimming noodles we bought at the cheap shop.
(Getting ready to leave the dock)
At 1050 hours we head for the lock, as soon as we were in
sight of the lock they started to open the gate, they say it is easier going
out of the lock than coming in and that is true. I got Nancy to stand centre of
the boat and keep me lined up with the centre of the outer lock gates and we
very slowly entered the lock without any problems. I had picked a time of still
high tide to go through the lock , there was hardly any difference in the
levels of water in or out of the marina, so no swirling water as the outer
gates open. We got through the outer gates without any problems.
We headed for Dinah Beach Club where dear Desley was going
to meet us and pick up the helpers, Ted, Rob and Matt, we had a little fun in
entering turning around and getting alongside to get them ashore as the wind
was blowing me off the dock but finally managed it.
(Approaching Stokes Hill Wharf from Sadgrove Creek)
French warship 'Jacques Cartier', has served in New Caledonia and is now heading back to France for decommissioning)
Once they were ashore we headed out to Fannie Bay passing
Stokes Hill Wharf Nancy radioed Darwin Harbour Control on our approach as a
courtesy and find out shipping movements, they said no shipping movements and
thanked us for calling in. We passed a French warship,' Jacques Cartier',
apparently it has served many years in New Caledonia and is returning to France
for decommissioning.Also a small cruise
ship 'Oceanic Discovery' and a large dredge ship 'Athena' that has been working
a new area of the harbour.
We anchored at midday and started cleaning some of the gear
away then we had a nanna nap in the cockpit. We then sat up forward deck with a
coldie or two and watched the sun set.
(What can one say)
Having being spoilt with air-conditioning it was rather a
hot night last night even though we had a large fan going all night.
The early morning was very still and a great sunrise was to
be had. At around 0830 hours we went ashore in the dinghy to the Darwin Sailing
Club and paid for two weeks temporary membership so that we may use their
facilities, $15 per head per week. We are the first official temporary members
for the dry season, many yachts will be heading this way between now and July
for the Ambon race and rally.
We then caught the bus into town to get Nancy's new glasses
and get mine repaired after a small hatch fell on me yesterday knocking the
lens out and tried to drive the frames through my nose. Then had coffee and did
a little more shopping before catching the bus back to the sailing club.
We are still waiting on a bit of gear to arrive so we may be
here until the 18 May before heading out.