Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kimberley's here we come.

Friday 17/05/2013


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.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fannie Bay, Darwin - Anchorage at Sailing Club


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 conserve  water 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).

Other places

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 food stalls.

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 like us.

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.





Sunday, May 5, 2013

Darwin - getting ready to leave

(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 charts.

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 about it.
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 RSL  which 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 to  Don 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 you  for 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 Zoƫ.

Wednesday, 01/05/2013.

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 tomorrow.

Thursday, 02/05/2013

Up at 0520 hours and I started dismantling the temporary door that we had the air-conditioner  installed 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 fuel  and 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.

Friday, 03/05/2013

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.