Darwin: been there, done that.

Sat 24 Jul 2010 07:26
Saturday, 25 July
Position  Beagle Gulf 12:17.8S 130:36.7E
Recent address, Fannie Bay, Darwin 12:25.96 130:49.2E
Well, no blogs for ten days, what have we been up to? You left us off the New Year Islands; on the map just a stone's throw from Darwin. In reality an interstesting but rather hard 36 hours work. Rounding Cape Don at 02.00 hrs we came on to a beat to the SE, and this was quite a bumpy ride. I was quite tired, and sort of settled the boat down until dawn, when we were able to fine tune things a bit, and get going down the Gulf of Van Diemen in good fashion. During the day the wind eased, and by dusk it was clear that we would not be able to carry the tide through the Clarence Strait. A stream of about four knots, so not a trifle, and we anchored up under the lee of Cape Hotham: low and featureless, but good holdoing and calm, and enjoyed a good supper, although we abandoned the cockpit to the mossies! ). 01.00, and my funny internal clock woke me up to get going with the flood tide. We were soon motoring along at more than 9 kts, and by breakfast we were at anchor in Fannie Bay, among 40 or so other entrants in the Sail Indonesia rally.
Generally sheltered from swell the Bay is unfortunately very shallow. We were about a mile offshore: a very long way in our little dinghy, and very wet whenever there was any wind. We learned that this is really the best spot however, the marina beths are expensive, and very airless and hot.On shore in Fannie Bay is the excellent Darwin Sailing Club: a nice mix of efficiency and laid back Oz, and the hub of the Sail indonesia activity. We had arrived just in time for the Saturday Night BBQ, and Hannah was thrilled to make some friends: in particular, Stephanie (Finale), parents Barbara and Mike, who are going with us to Banda, and Indigo (Suspense), parents Natalie and Jeremy, who are going to Kupang. Most of the entrants had been in Darwin for several weeks, and felt that we would be pressed to complete our arrangements in time for the start. Next day, Sunday, we couldn't do a great deal of 'office work', and Hannah spent the day with her new friends by the Sailing Club Pool, whilst I checked the boat over and found that the engine water pump had been leaking again (last a problem in Fiji). My poor mood and temper were lifted by our decisioin to visit Lindil Beach Markets for supper: advertised as a must do, and actually great fun, and with excellent food stalls. Hannah had chicken satay skewars and rice, I sampled fish and shellfish in many different Asian and Indian stalls, but I did baulk at the Aussie Roadkill Burger Bar! We bought a nice ethnic Aboriginal style Tee shirt, made in China! Free entertainment, music and fire stick jugglers, hard work for them, we put money in their hat!
Downntown Monday to Customs and the Indonesian Embassy: the start of paperwork to come. We also had a great lunch on Stokes Hill Wharf: a modern version of the wharf that featured in the film 'Australia' Afternoon relaxation at the sea front Wave Pool: excellent, but bizzarre recreation of a beach with surfing waves. No box jellyfish, of course! By this time we realised that we would not get everything done without our own wheels, and we rented a little white Datsun from Thrifty. Tuesday Morning I had the water pump out and did a round of the engineering shops looking for a spare spindle, or someone who could fly in a spindle by Saturday. The usual confabulation, just like in the mobile phone shops, and you realise that there is no single truth about even simple matters like water pump spindles! Hannah spent the morning on Indigo's boat, and I had a Bromsgrove Deja vue moment: 'Dad, you should see the size of their boat / bedrooms / fridges and deep freezers etc etc'. In the Afternoon the 'Technical Briefing' at a local hotel. The kids played in the Foyer, and had a much better time than the grown ups. Dinner at the SC (excellent kitchen) with Natalie, Jeremy, and the crew of Red Boomer.
Wednesday, and our big R and R day. A 'Jumping Croc' cruise on the Adelaide River may not have seemed in the best of taste, but actually very well done, and we certainly saw some crocs, We also visited Fog Dam, a wetlands bird sanctuary, and then made our way, via a solid white line ( A nice policeman explained that you are supposed to stop at them), to Litchfield Park: not the grandeur of the Kakadu Escarpments, but an attractive area, and a quiet day for the principle sights: the Buley Rockholes: deep swimming pools on a tiny stream, and the Impressive Wangi Falls (but no swimming here, not cleared of crocs. after the wet season yet!) We also drove through a controlled bush fire, with flames leaping along the roadside verges, stopped off at the magnetic termite mounds, and finally hiked up to Tajaetaba falls: again a small stream, but a perfect swimming pool at the top of the falls giving an infinity pool with a difference. We had the place to ourselves, lucky, I think.
Thursday and Fiday were hard work, shopping and stocking the boat: everything: 80 litres of water, 40 litres of diesel, outboard petrol, food and drinking water had to be transported in our diminutive new Avon dinghy. She is to be called 'Fleckmate' but no time to paint on a name just now. But some good news: a new water pump materialised at considerable cost, my replacement chartplotter showed up in Tipperrary Waters Marina, and my charts arrived as well. Friday evening we returned the rent car and had dinner at the SC.
Saturday, and the start of the rally at 11.00 hours: up with the dawn to fix the chart plotter, but vowed not to try it out until we were well and truly underway. Ashore for a celebration breakfast (all food gone!!), and just back to the boat in time to lift the anchor at 10.50 hrs. And you never saw such sticky mud!!! It took for ever to half clean it from the chain and anchor, and we finally crossed the start line, all sails set, at 11.30. Since then we have been blessed with rather variable winds, currently from the north, at about 10 kts. We are reaching accross Beagle Gulf, and will round Cape Fourcroy during the night. We then reach northwards towards the Banda Islands with the wind in our beam for the whole trip: it may be quite bouncy, once we get out on the open sea, which is why I'm writing all this now, in calm water!
Sorry about this blog: so many things to record, and no time for musings. We both had a great time in Darwin, full of interest and nice people. More of a city than Cairns: which is really just a tourist trap. So a great finale to our stay in Australia, and now its on the pastures new.