Circumnavigating Australia Part 8

Darwin, NT

These are a few scribbles of my experiences of Darwin over many 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 on those late 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.
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, it was not normal for a lowly sailor to get such transport. The driver was a little dis pleasured 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 I served on a survey ship HMAS Moresby and naturally went ashore for an ale or two, we went to the Green Room at Hotel Darwin amongst other places.

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 it 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 after hours, 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 4×4 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’s 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 here it had a great impact in my life.
Darwin City skyline has changed 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)

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’s 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.

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. 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)

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 completed 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.

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 – 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.

Darwin – Bombing of Darwin

0958 hours 19 February 1942

Aircraft were heard and seen in formation over Darwin and the air raid siren sounded, 188 Japanese Naval Aircraft had started bombing Darwin and lives were lost ships were sunk and there were more bombs dropped on Darwin than Pearl Harbour. The bombing continued for eighteen months. Most Australians were unaware of the additional attacks the government on the day placed everything in the 50 year Secrets Act, so it was not until that 50 years expired that Australians were allowed to tell their stories in book form. Probably with tourism in mind all these signs started to appear along the Stuart Highway between Darwin and Alice Springs indicating WWII Army Camps, Airstrips, Army Hospital, Ammunitions Bunkers, hidden fuel and oil tanks built inside of hills. The sad part of this is that many that served in the forces were not recognised as war service veterans because on record at the time indicated one only bombing on this day when it lasted for the eighteen month period.

(Three soldiers dressed as they would have dressed in 1942)For more information see websitebelow:
 0930 hours 19 February 2013
The ceremony started at the Darwin Cenotaph to commemorate the 71st Anniversary and at 0958 hours the sirens sounded the big guns fired and the jet did a flypasts.

(A young lady assisting a WWII veteran that served in Darwin during the bombings to his seat)
Nancy and I attended and whilst Nancy was busy taking photos a lovely lady sat next to me and we started a conversation, her name is Mary Lee and her ancestors were from the Philippines. We started to talk after introducing ourselves and I found her delightful and very sweet. She was born near the Old Police Paddock in 1931, she told me that was where all the migrants lived from other places like Italy and Greece,  she was 9 years old when she lost her Father in the bombing of Darwin, her Father was one of the wharf workers loading the merchant ship ‘Neptuna’ that was full of depth charges, his body was never found. They were moved to Katherine which was also bombed. Mary was one of nine children that her Mother had to bring up by herself, Mary told me her Mother was a wonderful woman and it was hard for her to find work to keep her children but she did find jobs and supported her family.
Mary also told me that her grandchildren were at the event today, one of her grandsons is a Police Officer and she said her granddaughter looks nothing like her she is blonde and has blue eyes. She is very proud of them. The Mayor of Darwin Katrina Fong Lim is a distant cousin. Mary has a lot of Darwin history and I only hope someone has documented it.  

0958 hours – Air raid siren sounds –

The siren sounds to simulate what occurred 71 years ago, then jet planes were heard approaching as a flypast of five F/A 18 Aircraft, as the planes arrive 8/12th Regiment, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery commence firing of M2A2 (105mm) Howitzer Guns (4 of them), a Navy Patrol Boat patrols out in the range of the guns making sure other vessels stay clear. The noise is tremendous even though we were all supplied ear plugs to save our hearing.
There was the laying of the reefs and I assisted Mary to stand as she requires assistance to get about with her walking stick, her friend helped her with the laying of the reef as she was returning she passed the Mayor (Katrina) and when Mary returned to her seat she said that the Mayor said hello Aunty and Mary chuckled and said I did not know what to do because Katrina was with all the important people the Chief Minister. She said that is what Katrina calls her is Aunty.

(Mary Lee assisted by friend and escorted by a young sailor after laying a reef)

(Mary Lee (left) in traditional dress but is an Aussie through and through, she asked me what I was doing and where I was from, I told her I was sailing around Australia and her reply was “Goodonya”)
There was the usual too long speeches by politicians which probably could have been shorter as a result two of the guards fainting near the end of their duty. It was a very hot and humid day for the guard to be standing at attention for an hour and twenty minutes, the only part of the body that can be moved is wiggling the toes to keep some circulation. I think the forces should change the guard at appropriate intervals.

(The Catafalque Partywas made up of two female and two male service personnel, it was hot and humid and they had to stand in this one position for more than an hour)
At the end of the ceremony I helped Mary stand again and thanked her very much for her company, it was a pleasure talking to her and I probably have not remembered everything she told me.

Wednesday – 20/02/2013

Friends Graham and Fern have loaned us one of their cars and told us about the ceremony to be held today at Adelaide River so we left at 0730 hours and drove down there.
Adelaide River is village 125 kilometres south of Darwin and is where the dead from the bombing of Darwin were buried. Adelaide River was also a staging and area where stores and equipment was loaded onto trains. It was going to be the frontline if the Japanese invaded Darwin after the air raid.
Adelaide River also experienced the last bombing activity by the Japanese in November 1943 there was no further bombing in Australia after that.
The ceremony commenced at 1000 hours with the attendance of around 200 people, school children helped people with seating and made sure they had drinking water continually through the ceremony.
I thought the great thing was the involvement of the school children, the MC for the ceremony was Year 12 Student Tala Turner and she did a wonderful job. The start was by a Year 11 Student who sang and played guitar Saysha Ham, who sang ‘I am Australian’ beautiful voice.
It was another hot day and I take my hat off to the Catafalque Party and Flag Party that again stood in that one position for near the entire service.

(The official party at Adelaide River)
After the service I went over and spoke with Her Worship Lord Mayor of Darwin (Katrina) and told her that I had sat with Mary yesterday and was just thrilled to have her company and I took the opportunity to ask if someone had recorded the history she has and she assured me it had been done in fact Mary was in charge of all her side of the family history. I found Katrina was just as nice to talk to as Mary.

(Having a chat with the Lord Mayor of Darwin, Katrina Fong Lim)
Darwin Council do a very good job of looking after the WWII veterans and or relatives of the veterans from the bombing of Darwin times, there were two busloads of people that attended yesterday’s ceremony that came to Adelaide River ceremony.
On the way back to Darwin we called in to have a look at the historic railway from WWII at Adelaide River then stopped at the Noonamah Pub (which is now called Noonamah Tavern), and had lunch before driving home.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Darwin – sitting out the wet season.

(Darwin just before nightfall with a storm cell passing)
I have not written in the blog for some time which is due to the fact that there is not much exciting news to write about. Most of the week days have been spent working on the boat and weekends helping friend Rob with his boat.

(Mindil Beach sunset, during the dry season (April-October) they hold the famous Mindil Beach Markets, I believe it is so big now they hold it on two nights)

  Although I must say we had a very nice Christmas and New Year. We had Christmas Day with Rob and Alison  and their family which was a great day with lots of food, they are a really nice family and we enjoyed the day very much.
New Years Eve we went to the Darwin Waterfront Precent where the main celebrations were being held with live entertainment and a 2100 hour Fireworks Display you the children and us oldies that did not want to stay till midnight. It was an alcohol and glass free area. The place was packed but plenty of room to walk about or sit.

(Happy New Year, they held a great show on the Waterfront Precent with live music and the firework display)We have been out and about a few times for a look around and have lunches. We have found a few places that are value for money in the dining, The Cool Spot at Fannie Bay have hamburgers you can barely jump over, (slight exaggeration), but they are very filling. The Fox Ale House 85 Mitchell Street serve the good pub meals the plate is filled with food, the Dinah Beach Yacht Association Club open for evening meals and Saturday and Sunday lunches.
The weather has not changed much the wet has not properly set in so days are hot and humid at times with the occasional thunder storm at one stage they announced that the wet was arriving with the monsoonal trough moving down. However, this resulted in four days of rainy weather and lightening storms and then it went away. Most of the weather went towards Gove then formed a cyclone in the Gulf which the crossed land and brought all the nasty weather down the east coast. An earlier cyclone formed prior to this one and went down the west coast but stayed out to sea. We had cooler weather over the four days of rain periods to the extent that I had to adjust the air-conditioner during the night as it was too cold.
Nancy went away for ten days, she flew to NSW to see the grandchildren and when she came back my sister Jeanne and hubby John came to visit for a week so we had a good week with them here. A good friend of theirs drove them up here from the Alice because they had their new car stolen and wrecked just before Christmas. After their visit I then flew to Alice Springs to stay with them and visit my sweet Mother who is 91 in April, she cannot travel these days due to her knees, she has to use a walking frame when she walks, her body is letting her down but her mind is as sharp as a tack.

(A croc named ‘Wendel’ at the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, this place is right in twon in Mitchell Street)

(For those that want to get up close and personal with a croc and be safe, for two people it is $110 per person for one person it is more, I think it is a little expensive)

(One of two storm cells that we flew between just before landing in Darwin last night.)

Darwin – What wet season ??? Changing a Keel

We have not had a wet season other than a few days rain. The first sign of the monsoon season this year was around the 20 January when we had four days rain, however, when the low pressure intensified in the Gulf of Carpentaria and formed into a cyclone it took the rain with it and dropped it on Queensland and NSW. The fact is that when we researched the weather through weather sites I have previously listed in an effort to decide whether we came to Darwin for the cyclone season, many indicated that the activity would be in the east and it has really shown that in the past couple of months.
There have been three cyclones on the Australian coast so far this season two in the west one that stayed off the coast and one that is crossing the coast as I punch the keyboard and the one that formed in the Gulf causing the flooding all down the east coast.
We had seen some rain and drop of temperatures so the monsoons have returned but that low pressure off WA that is now a cyclone ‘Rusty’ has dragged the monsoons with it away from Darwin.
There have been many storms around the top end but it often moves away from Darwin City itself, I have watched it on the met radar heading towards Darwin City and Harbour area and split into two and go around us. I have a theory why some storms do this and that is the new topography of Darwin. Darwin has a lot more tar and cement these days including high rise buildings, the heat that these surfaces generate may well affect air flow, tall buildings like hillsides also affect air flow and this may affect changes to the norm in the past. Well it’s a theory.

What have we been doing???

We have really had an easy time most days as it has been too hot to really get into anything outside, Nancy has been doing her photography as you may have all seen through her blog site, I have been doing a few repairs to the boat and assisting Rob when he needs a hand on ‘Babe’, his yacht that we have been changing the keel and all its surrounding parts. A very big job but it is nearly complete, we actually put the new keel in for that last time today. I must say it has been an experience and I have learnt a fair bit about cutting large holes in yachts and  fibre glass work.

(‘Babe’ on the hard at Dinah Beach Club, photo by Dale the welder)

(Left – Old keel casing, right New keel casing)

(Left top – Old keel, Left Bottom- Keel bulb waiting for new foil)(Right from top- Keel hole after keel casing removed, Keel hole from inside with string lines to ensure new casing bed is perfectly square, keel hole cleared of bad materials ready to rebuild.)

(Over the last few months Dale has been fabricating the new keel foil in his workshop as you can see it is quite a fabrication)

(Note the wedges made to lift the inner structure hard against the outer casing before welding)

One of the biggest jobs I have had to do on our boat besides the gel coat repairs around the area of the trampolines that I have already covered was the removing of the fuel tank for repair. I have found that the Leopard 42 Catamaran was designed with easy access to most areas engines are easy to pull in and out, same with water tanks. The fuel tanks are easy to remove with the exception that you need to get to the filler hose behind the aft bulkhead of the forward head/shower to pull the hose clear to lift the tank out. To get behind the bulkhead you have to remove the vanity cabinet and its surround the deck head and then struggle with a tight fitting section of bulkhead. I have now fixed that problem by cutting the bulkhead section just below the area of the vanity surround, shaving the sides so it is a loose fit. If I need to get to the filler hose or the hoses for the head I can now do it by removing four screws.
I have a list of jobs to be completed over the next few weeks and usually work from early morning until around midday when it gets too hot.
I have had to replace the engine start batteries as the one on the starboard engine failed so I figured it won’t be too long before the port engine battery throws the towel in so replaced both. I also learned that the smart marine electricians in the Abel Point Marina complex that did some work for me at a very high hourly rate also supplied these batteries (AGM) and told me they were good start batteries but now I find out they do not have the ratings for start (crank) batteries and that is why they have failed. Most start batteries (good ones) should last 3 to 5 years if you look after them, these lasted 2 years. What is ironic is this company 6 months after I had used their services sent me an email stating that people had complained about their hourly rate and have now dropped it to $80 per hour. If I have to use someone’s service I do not mind paying if it is good service and they supply good items. But I would say even $80 per hour for the speed these guys worked is too much. Well there’s my gripe for the day.
The big problem yachties have is that boats normally relate to being wealthy and in a lot of cases this can be correct, but there is a lot of us out here sailing that definitely do not fall into that group. I went into a marine electronics place the other day a sign on the wall stated the hourly rate was $120 per hour it did say that they charge in 6 minute increments and we wonder why we live in a throw away world. You really have to look at what you want repaired or replaced.
Much later….
I am finding it hard to write things when we are marina bound, the jobs on our boat are not interesting enough to write about and when we finish ‘Babe’ I will put a few pictures and a little movie together about it.

(When reshaping the keel hole we found some bad construction work so had to do further modifications to ensure a strong and sturdy structure for the new keel casing and keel)

(Left – New keel hole, Rob checking all secure, Right – Rob relaxes after another milestone completed with me using the test timber for a perfect rectangle hole to the correct size)

(No, not a glass bottom boat. The Perspex is a template for drilling the holes in the stainless steel keel casing securing plates, time for a beer)

(New keel casing put in place, Centre top, Dale has welded stays inside the casing when they are broken off the casing will spring tight against the sides and the sealant oozes out from it, Rob ensures the sealant is around the bolts, later we glass over the whole area sand and the form the keel hole again)

(Checking the operation of the hydraulic keel, the keel in place)Monday 11 March 2013
The big day when ‘Babe’ hits the water. As we got everything ready and waited for the crane to arrive Rob happened to say. “Last time we did this it poured rain”. Well it happened again the crane arrived and the sky opened up and it poured. I must give it to the crane operators crew they just kept on working and we all ended up drown rats. The good part about it is the rain is warm and it probably kept our temperatures to a good level.

(Top left – ‘Babe’ is lifted off the blocks, top right- Rob and I looking the part, bottom left- touching up the antifouling, bottom right- ready to splash)

(‘Babe’ (The Pig on a Mission) going back in the water.)
Once in the water Rob and Dale checked for any leaks before the crane removed the slings and then we were off we had a tight schedule to get to the marina lock no later than 1715 hours because after that the high tide goes above 7 metres and there is a safety limit where the lock gates do not operate above a 7 metre tide, too much pressure on the inner drop gate.
We went through the lock and got alongside at Rob’s dock at his house once all secure we had  a beer in our dripping wet garb. Alison had to shuffle the crew back to their respective places so I walked back to the marina and got showered and changed. We then all went to the Dinah Beach Club for dinner and a few more drinks. Well we had to wet the ‘Babe’.
Rob was saying it would be good to go in Sunday’s Wet Season Race there are only two races left in the season, there was still a fair amount of work to do to ‘Babe’ before that could happen. Later…..
The next job was to get ‘Babe’ ready for the second last wet season race which was at 1330 hours on Sunday 17th. Well Saturday and Sunday morning was very busy we worked till death knock. This was the shake down for the new keel. Some of the tasks were the sail bag and sails had to be put back on and all lines, sheets and halyards plus some hardware that Rob still had to shape and fit..
Rob had booked the lock opening for 1100 hours Sunday come Sunday that was put back to 1200 hours with a questionable tide depth. We could not wire up the new depth gauge so it was going to be navigation by brail. The new keel is 200mm deeper than the old one ‘Babe’ now has a draft of 1.8 metres. We got out without touching the bottom. I had mentioned to Rob that I had checked the wind charts or should that be no wind charts it was going to be 0 – 5 knots from the SW.
When we got into Darwin Harbour near the start line the wind was absent all the yachts had the sails up and some of us were going backwards with the tidal flow, fortunately the tide was about to change in favour of the race direction at least on the way out but not coming back.
Five minutes before we start and no wind an occasional light breeze, it took ages to get over the start line but then once we crossed the afternoon sea breeze kicked in and we got away. One of the problems we had at the start was one yacht that should have given way to us did not and we were about to ‘T’ Bone it and we had to take evasive action to avoid it and that took us off the wind then we had no steerage, then another yacht was heading towards us that we had to fend off. Nearly everyone had trouble getting over that start line.
It was very hot out there and we all looked for the shade once we finished sail movements. Rob was pleased with the new keel, he felt that he is pointing better into the wind and we actually gained on quite a few yachts and passed them once we had the wind the only problem we had was the downwind return we had not loaded the spinnaker and it was really needed, we lost some ground on the return but still we went well.
After the race we returned to “Babe’s’ berth and then we went to the club for dinner and a few drinks, or was that a few more.

Around Darwin

(Darwin City skyline from the sea)

(Afternoon wet season storm approaches the marina)

(The sunsets in the west and the storm lights up in the east)
We have not done a great deal in the last week or so after finishing the work on Rob’s yacht ‘Babe’. We had to lift ‘Babe’ out of the water last Monday afternoon at Spot On Marine as we had a small problem with the depth gauge. Since putting in the new keel we found that the new keel is around 80mm further forward and the depth gauge was indicating the depth of the keel rather than the depth of the sea.

Monday at 1730 hours we lifted out on the travel lift and stayed in the slings with ground supports for 24 hours this allowed Rob to drill a new hole further forward and fit a new transducer so Nancy and I helped Rob take the yacht around to Spot On Marine and bring her back the next day.

(Larrakeyah Point, the waterfront cliffs are eroding away as they are soft rock)

(Nancy on ‘Babe’ as we head back towards Darwin Harbour)

(‘Octopus’ visits Darwin, it is one of the worlds 13 largest super yachts, owned by Paul Allen co-founder of Microsoft, more information at This yacht has 2 choppers, 2 submarines, it has a 19m tender inside the transom) I have had work to do aboard our boat with the job list that never ends, as one job is complete some other item shows up. The other day the galley 12 volt fan decided to stop working so I got another fan and replaced it but it still did not work in the end I had to run a new cable and re-wire the fan. Other uninteresting work was to replace one of the anchor chain rollers and repair the channel where the chain slides from the winch to the roller it had worn a groove in the wear plates. They say you never finish a job list on a boat, one American thought he had finished all the jobs on his list and two weeks later his yacht sank, so it is not wise to say all the jobs are done one has to keep looking for more items to stay afloat.

I have made some planks up with rubber on the one side to assist us to get out of this marina lock. We were going to test them this Easter weekend but the weather deterred us from going out for the weekend. I went and measured the inner lock gate as that is the narrowest gate and it is 7.2 metres, we are 6.93 metres wide giving us a clearance of 135mm on each side, the boards with the rubber foam are 65mm wide which leaves a gap of 70mm each side, it will be fun, I put a few scratches on each side the boat coming in I am trying to prevent that happening again.

Yesterday (Easter Sunday) we went into town for lunch and had a walk around, we were so looking forward to get out for the weekend but the weather was not the best and we did not know what that low pressure system was going to do. So we had a nice lunch and I think Nancy was very pleased to get off the boat and out of the marina.

(How to cast a bait net)

(Double Barred Finch, we have a few around the marina)

(This is Henry the cod that resides near Rob and Alison’s dock)
We have one month left before we head out of the marina, we probably will not leave Darwin straight away as we want to get out on the water and make sure all is well, I need to beach the boat so I can change anodes and check the bottom and we need to plan our voyage which we have not done in detail at this point. We probably will not go down the west coast until spring, it is not good to go before this time and I am not that eager to head down for a winter. At least when we get underway I will have more to write about.

Well that is all for Darwin, we also spent some time away, Nancy went to New South Wales to see her daughters for a couple of weeks and I went to Alice Springs to see my Mother and Sister. It is now time to continue the circumnavigation.