August – Sept 2020
What do we all do in the Marina while waiting for travel clearances to be approved (or the correct weather window for some of us) … maintain and upgrade our boats of course.
What started as a little idea about getting some new display screens that didn’t flash to orange at inconvenient times, became a ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ project, involving a cast of tens and many man/woman/cat hours. (This project is discussed in detail in Tech Talk 3, I’m just sharing photos that didn’t make it to that blog).
Much masking tape was sacrificed in the making of this
movie project. This photo is the before – the after is so neat and tidy you could fit a cat in there (believe me, we know this to be true).
Neon had fun helping Peter cut out pieces of coloured card for each unit and arranging them on new console panels to come up with the best configuration.
My mother asked what it all does, I think she was just being polite, but she got a full reply.
The screen on the right displays the image from our new radar (what is out there, although unfortunately not whales or sea containers as they are below the surface of the water). The screen on the left displays a chart (map) that shows our track and where the GPS thinks we are. We can also show multiple feeds on the screens eg. depth sounder image and the camera feeds from the engine room and out the back (for when Peter is fishing while we are under way). The orange glowing box further left is the AIS (shows us where and who other boats are, and shows us to them, it would also show Peter’s overboard beacon). The boxes further left are the VHF radio (for talking to coastguard/Australian Border Patrol and other boats) and HF radio (for weather forecasts and talking to boats far away). The panel above has the spare VHF radio. Also on the left panel, are the auto pilots (to steer the boat to a course). The auto pilots are now within a Susan arm length so I don’t have to lean precariously out of the chair to correct the course (a pet hate in ‘bouncy’ seas). On the right panel is the depth sounder (to show how much water is under the keel, and the fish that Peter doesn’t catch). Also on the right, is the GPS unit (it uses satellites to work out where we are, there are in fact quite a few GPS units on the boat). The monitor for the solar and batteries, and the sound system unit are also on the right-side panel. Theoretically we should always know where we are, where we are going, letting everyone else know as well, and together with the sat phone lets us communicate with everyone from most everywhere. There is a small area on the far left that is out of frame where the ports for connecting the boat computer (then we also have where we plan to go) and the weather station. That is the electronics on the bridge. The actual on /off and steering for the boat/winch/engines are on the lower centre panel (the steering wheel gives it away) and on the head panel above.
On our bucket list before we left Darwin was a visit to the The Tiwi Islands which had just reopened for tourists. With Jackie and I on a sewing bent we took ourselves over there for some fabric shopping with Peter along to carry important stuff. (We actually took the ferry as poor ‘Opal Lady’ was still a spider’s web of wiring). The Tiwi Islands is famous for its stunning fabrics; all hand silk screened (reflected in the price). The designs are very distinctive to this area.
As part of the ferry package we participated in a ‘Welcome to Country’ and history presentation and tour of the church and museum. The museum was really interesting and has a whole area dedicated to football (Aussie rules) – it is like a second religion here and no wonder with the many stars it has produced.
After lunch we got to screen print a Tiwi design to take home. I bought some fabric in each of the three weights on offer; heavy drill for cushion covers, regular cotton drill for shirts for the boys and a double length of silk intended for an evening dress. I don’t know when I’ll get around to making up the silk, as I think I will need to do a lot of practice sewing first so I don’t spoil it.
Peter’s way of recovering from the shock of seeing the bill for the fabrics I bought at the Tiwis; Sweet and Sour fish at Cathy’s Place (Chinese restaurant near the ferry terminal at Cullen Bay – not much to look at from the outside but Cathy is hysterical and they really know how to cook seafood).
Visiting Jackie’s place regularly, her birdfeeder had 30 of these little dudes arguing and making a seedy mess, until two doves muscled in (not a term you usually associate with doves). These Double Barred finches are like having tiny pixies partying through the garden – they are very cute.
As a break from boat jobs, Peter booked us in for a Government House Open Day (they usually do not require booking, but these are the COVID times). It is a lovely old building, set in the most wonderful gardens, with a spectacular view across the harbour.
Mind you because of its location the building was bombed during WWII and was partially destroyed in Cyclone Tracy (1974).
The topography of the site tends to make the gardens a lesson in the use and variety of walls.
There was a display of shiny vintage cars (one even had a protest sticker on its spare tyre – I’m not sure that was part of the official display), a cooling walk around the gardens and then into the house where each room has been setup to show different aspects of the history and purpose of the house. One of the stories on display was that of Neighbor (an aboriginal man from Roper River) who in 1912, became the first non-European to be presented with an award at Government House. He won the Albert Medal for Bravery for saving a constable from drowning; he was the constable’s prisoner at the time!
As we moved into August there was some fallout from the return of the humid weather; condensation in the chart drawer, due to the cool area created by the aircon above it – soggy and manky smelling charts. They were sprayed with vinegar, dried and ironed, and are kind of ok. The WA charts had been traded to ‘Next Chapter’ (the lovely Kaye and Craig were half way through their circumnavigation of Australia when COVID gave them an extended stay in Darwin). But we had just stocked up on new NT and Qld charts – so a bit miffed about the possibility of losing them. Fonny brought over a moisture absorbing tub for the drawer, which worked a treat to keep the charts dry. I now have the tubs all over the boat (anywhere we don’t want sogginess; medicines cabinet, winter woolies drawer etc.)
As part of the ongoing projects Peter modified the PowerDive unit so that it could plug directly into the 12v circuit as well as run off a 12v battery (making it more portable) but nearly had to give up on the job as while in the middle of putting everything together he lost a small but essential piece. Poor Peter thought he was going insane trying to find it – then Neon got up to check out his food bowl again and lo and behold there it was, a miracle!
Jackie insisted we visit Berry Springs before we left (47km south of Darwin). We headed out for what we thought would be a few hours soaking in a natural pool, but ended up getting home in the early evening. As well as a lovely swimming spring, there is (a bit further down the road) the Nature Park. The Nature Park is set in a large bush area (four different types of bushland according to the park ‘bus-train’ driver). There was a good variety of animals, knowledgeable keepers, entertaining and informative set show pieces (the raptors were excellent), a café for lunch and some really creative art in the most unexpected places. This place is a definite must see if you go to Darwin. It was mid-afternoon before we left the park so by the time we stopped for a swim at the springs which was lovely and lots of fish it made for a very full day.
August was all-go at the marina. After months of waiting, the new pontoons and fingers were going in (and not before time as everything was getting very wobbly and splintery). We spent a few days helping to move all the boats around – we all needed to move/cram in down the front. The boats with no owners here had to be towed to their new spots, three weeks being very polite to each other and then moved all the boats back again. Needless to say, when we were all crowded together in the front half it made for a lot of socialising, not that that was ever a problem in Darwin.
As it was very hot, with no wind, some rejigging of the electricity supply was called for so that everyone could run their aircons. Peter acted as TA to Dave as he “fixed broken fittings and stuff” to provide power to all the boats that were now crowded together.
Diners at Frying Nemo’s which is a very popular fish and chip café in Darwin and located right by the marina, got a very close view of boats for the three weeks we were all down there.
The three at the front are rafted together, fortunately everyone gets on well. [Rafting is where a boat is tied alongside another boat, which means that you have to walk across someone else’s boat to get to yours]. We are tucked in behind.
The whole upgrading of the marina was a fascinating process. They literally just cut the ends off the fingers and floated them over to the other side of the marina where a huge crane could lift them out and then the new ones were floated back and bolted into place. It wasn’t quite as smooth as that, but it all worked out in the end and Geoff (owner of the marina) threw a bbq for us all for being so accommodating.
The new pontoons and we are all back in our happy spots. The electrical posts haven’t been completed in this photo, hence the witches’ hats.
After taking 3 attempts to get an entry permit to return to WA, ‘Fonster’ finally got permission to enter WA and headed home. Dave and Fonny have become good friends over our time at the marina and we will miss their company.
We were one of the last non-Darwinites to leave the marina. But after a quick run in the harbour to calibrate the new sensors and radar (we must have looked confusing to the people at Stokes Wharf, doing slow 360s in the early hours of the morning) it was finally time for ‘Opal Lady’ to keep heading east – yay.
We were over a month early for the ‘crossing the Gulf’ weather window, but as we intended taking our time seeing the northern coast, before tackling that expanse of water, that wasn’t going to be a problem. We were looking forward to anchoring up in quiet little coves for a few days at a time.
Final thoughts on Darwin:
Darwin was very different to what we expected. We knew about the build-up to the wet being uncomfortable, but it was more so than we had thought. On the other hand, we could not believe how good and comfortable the dry season is.
Darwin in 2020 is very multi-cultural which is really enjoyable, especially if you like food as we do.
Also we were surprised about how much there was to see and do in and around Darwin, especially when you consider the population is only 140,000 people. For Peter, riding every second day 15kms up to the La Plage café for sunrise and coffee was just delightful, with always something to see on the way. For me the walks with Jackie through the Botanical Gardens were a real pleasure.
The museums were varied and interesting and the ability to access so many national parks relatively close by was a bonus.
One thing that struck us overall was the friendliness of the Darwinites. It was amazing how many times we would go to a store to get something and if they didn’t have it, they would either tell you where to go or actually ring around to find someone that did. That combined with the directness and humour of the locals and the friends we have made, means that Peter and I will definitely be going back to Darwin in the future.
Upgraded the electronics (part 2); new display screens, new radar
Replaced anchor light with brighter LED version
Replaced the hot water heater (the original finally rusted through).
There are times it’s annoying being the one who can fit into tight spaces, especially when Peter has a camera.