Darwin In the Dry

June – July 2020

“Poor You Stuck In Darwin”; we regularly had friends phoning to sympathise that we had been stuck in Darwin for ages and must be getting very bored in such a small, remote place (some of our friends have obviously forgotten that we lived almost our entire married life ‘out bush’, on mine sites).

Let me assure you that Darwin in the Dry Season is wonderful.  It was still hot during the day, but cool at night and there is NO HUMIDITY (yes, I am using a shouty font).  There were some locals wearing jackets and jumpers, but let’s not get too carried away, long trousers and a light shawl (I believe the fashion term is a ‘pashmina’) in the evening is perfectly adequate to cope with the change in temperature.  I cannot overstate how much difference the reduced humidity makes to overall comfort.

“I don’t know how it happened, I must have fallen off the boat”

An unexpected consequence of the new and improved (medicated) Neon, is that he discovered that he could jump off the boat!  And here we have been assuring people that our cat doesn’t wander.

June saw ‘Opal Lady’ and ‘Fonster’ head out for a week to Bynoe Harbour, west of Darwin.  Both our boats needed to get out for a run.  [‘Fonster’ is a 60’ steel, Bering that Dave and Fonny keep in immaculate condition.  She is an ocean-crossing, passagemaker like ‘Opal Lady’]

The view of ‘Opal Lady’ at Bare Sand Island from the flybridge on ‘Fonster’

We anchored off a place called Bare Sand Island which is about 5 hours West of Darwin, and set about exploring, fishing and chatting with the owners of a group of yachts that were parked in the channel between the islands (where we had been hoping to park, as it was a bit blowy out where we were). The wind died down in the evening and we had a lot of fun catching squid from the back of Fonster as well as enjoying a few drinks.  There is so much life in the waters here; bright blue garfish, squadrons of squid and small crabs swimming in the spotlight.

We never knew how much Neon likes squid

The wind picked up again so we moved further South East down into Bynoe Harbour to anchor off the Crab Claw Resort.  The anchorage was very comfortable, and evening drinks and the occasional meal in at the resort made a nice change to being on the boats.

Look carefully for the ‘log with legs’

The ‘log’ that can be seen casually moving past our tenders parked out the front of the resort is the local 3m croc.  Now is a good time to mention how we launch our tender off the beach – it involves dragging the dinghy into the water, turning it’s rear to the sea so that when Peter starts the engine it is running with the prop in the water, while I hold the front and then I jump in.  I’m putting in for danger pay!  There was lots of scanning the beach and hasty launching that night.

The social life back at the marina is a killer (to the waistline) and quite damaging to the ego for two boaters (Peter hastened to add not us!) who had a few too many drinkies and did a topple off the pontoons into the marina on their way home (lots of disinfectant required when they got out).

You have to have a sense of humour

Peter found a set of water wings that he gifted to one of the fallees – he (doesn’t want his name mentioned) accepted with good grace.

Tracy and John from ‘Mad Macs’ and Peter

We quite often played cards over soup with the ‘Mad Mac’s’ (that is the name of their boat).  John and Tracy are very familiar with Nordhavns as they used to deliver them around the world; very experienced boaters and a lovely couple to spent time with. The cards sessions also seemed to included reasonable quantities of rum and were a lot of fun. This photo was taken at the Ski Club, one of our favourite spots for an evening meal and famous for the truly amazing sunsets.

The fuzziness of the photo probably accurately reflects the night

Barefoot bowls, after a good Korean meal at the local bowls club is a great way to spend a hot evening.  Peter’s theory that a few drinkies would improve his form proved to be very far from true – ‘Opal Lady’ and ‘Fonster’ lost badly to the ‘ShindigN’ and ‘Next Chapter’ crews.

Wednesdays became ‘going out for tea’ night.  We shared ourselves around, supporting a range of restaurants with the Tipperary mob.

Rob of ‘Kismet’, Dave, Fonny and Peter

‘Oka’ Teppanyaki became a favourite just for the floor show – be prepared to catch your bowl of rice!  Darwin’s cultural complexity is truly represented in the range of cuisines on offer.  It was lovely going out with ‘the family’ each week and we never had to worry about wasting food if the meals were too big; what Troy (Dani and Michael’s son-in-law) didn’t finish, Cooper and Cookie (Dani and Michael’s teenagers) would take home in a doggie bag for their school lunch the next day.

There were also a lot of impromptu get togethers at the marina, usually started by someone coming back from a day of crabbing or fishing.

Peter whipping up a batch of Buk Choy to support Fonny’s Chilli Crab

I do desserts, I’m not sure which one went down quicker the Lemon Meringue Pie at the snapper night, or the Pear Frangipane after the crab meal.

Taking advantage of the cooler weather we took ourselves off for a weekend at Katherine (3 hour drive south) to see the Edith Falls area in the Dry and float around in the thermal springs at Mataranka.

In 1998 the river rose by 20.4m and flooded Katherine. The water was above this bridge!

On the walk (I’d call it a hike) up to Sweetwater Pool (8.6km from Edith Falls), Peter was channeling his inner mountain goat.  There was a lovely swim at the top (well out of crocodile terrain) with delightful glimpses of water for most of the walk up.

Peter playing King of the Castle
The photo he was taking from up there

I much preferred the thermal springs.  A set of goggles and a pool noodle would have been most useful, but we managed without (I’m naturally buoyant anyway).  At Bitter Springs you are carried down stream in the most crystal clear warm water with an easy climb out and a short return walk; my favourite.  Mataranka has more facilities (pub, café, accommodation) but has been developed more like a plunge pool.  Both were really enjoyable and relaxing (especially as there was a distinct lack of people at both sites due to the Territory being closed to other states at this time).

Floating warm at Bitter Springs

With the weather cooling down (and a growing concern about my waistline) I started walking with Jackie most afternoons.  The Botanic Gardens and Mindil Beach made for a relatively Susan friendly hour walk (and general goss session).  We also enrolled in some glass working classes and dug out the sewing machines for something to do on weekends.

Jackie in front of the fountains at the Botanic Gardens

Neon Notes:

Mum keeps mentioning something called an intervention, but I don’t think there is a problem.

Nothing to see here

Boat Works: (Discussed in more detail in Peter’s Technical Talk 3)

Cleaning barnacles off the waterline of the boat

Peter finally put mesh screens over the fans in the engine room so my hair won’t get caught in them (doesn’t stop him from constantly hitting his head on them though)

Cleaning rust off various guards in the engine room and repainting to shiny white (which only highlights the bits that haven’t been repainted)

Drilling out and reinstalling some corroded studs for the window blinds

Repairing our little spare dinghy

Having chaps made for the tender

Polishing the boat

Banner photo – Sunset over Bynoe Harbour from Crab Claw Resort

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. You’re an inspiration. What a wonderful time you guys are having. I have just finished my reports! Do you miss writing reports Suz? No thought not.

    1. Greetings Jim, We are having a wonderful time (although not always in the way we had expected) and are happy sharing it with you through the blog. You are right, I do not miss report writing time and remember how good it felt to finally hand them in – well done. Now you can have fun just teaching your class. Suz

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