Drew the diver, did Esprit’s bio-security check on the Friday afternoon we arrived in Darwin. He squirted some pink mussel poison into all the sea water intakes of Esprit, in case there were some killer mussels hiding there. This we had to pump through the toilets and run through the engine and then wait for 10 hours overnight at the fuel wharf for this stuff to do its job. Saturday morning the 15th July, we entered the Tipperary Waters Marina through their lock and tied up in our allocated berth. Comfort at last! In the afternoon we washed down the salt encrusted Esprit with fresh water and filled the water tanks. We had our neighbours on “Nauti Buoy”, Barry and Wayne from the UK, over for sundowners, which carried on until 1:30am – quite a welcome to Darwin.
The foldup bikes were put back into service on Sunday, when we cycled into the city to stock up at Woolworths. This is Barramundi country and we bought some lovely fresh fish at the fish market. John, from the rally organisers visited us on Monday morning to welcome us and supply us with the latest rally information, name tags and T-shirts for the rally. Annie visited the Indonesian consulate to submit our visa applications, while Jack Warren our friendly American neighbour, ran me out to Darwin Galvanisers with our anchor chain to have it re-galvanised. Jack and his partner Janice Holmes have twice crossed the Pacific. We enjoyed their company over sundowners.
As an aside, the Coral Sea and the islands in it, have lots of coral heads (bommies) which snare your anchor chain and literally strip the galvanising off it, allowing the rust to set in. The advice we were given by Yogi our lockmaster, was to spray the anchor chain with lanolin after re-galvanising, to inhibit rusting. We bought 5 litres of lanolin for this and other rust prevention. Lanolin is a by-product from sheep wool and has many uses other than an aftershave lotion and deodorant for Kiwi blokes. We also had to visit the doctor for medication scripts for the next six months, Bunnings for tools, bolts and gas and Annie had her hair cut, plus had the usual manicure and pedicure done.
The following Saturday we attended a welcoming BBQ at the Darwin Yacht Club for the 22 yachts in the rally, to meet the Indonesian consul, his staff and the other yachties. The crowd was treated to a graceful Balinese welcome dance performed by three ladies. The evening was a huge success with fantastic food and unlimited booze sponsored by the consul – yachty heaven!
I was reduced to reading the weekend papers on the Sunday, while Annie polished all the stainless steel work. On Monday we ran into Northern Territory grog laws when we tried to order 120 litres of cask wine for the next three months sailing in a Muslim country. The aboriginals are a thirsty lot, so you are limited to 1 x 2 litre cask of wine per person per day – after 4pm! We were allowed to order unlimited bottled wine, so we settled on 120 litres of Hardy’s Stamp varieties – though not ideal with so much glass weight.
Darwin was on our itinerary 25 years ago, when we first visited Australia. It was a much smaller town then, but has grown to a modern city with tower blocks and all modern amenities. The presence of the Australian and US armed forces bases around the outskirts, must have stimulated this growth. The Northern Territory is also making a pitch for building a new rocket and satellite launching facility outside Gove to attract NASA, SpaceX and Ariane to launch their vehicles only 12 degrees south of the equator, with the potential to reduce launching fuel costs by 50%. Gove can certainly do with this plan, after the closure three years ago of the aluminium smelter, we sailed past just recently.
Darwin has two seasons: the wet and the dry. The current dry season at around 30 deg C and humidity at 40% is quite pleasant. We hear that the wet season with higher temperatures, constant rain and 90 – 95% humidity can be very challenging to acclimatise to. The rally technical briefing was held at the Darwin Yacht Club on the Tuesday arvo, with presentations by Customs, Border Force and Indonesian officials. On the way back, we detoured and cycled to an engineering shop about 10 km out of town. A 15-minute wait and Nick the owner cut and machined a new 8mm solid stainless steel rod for the rudder feedback arm to replace the original 5mm threaded rod – for only $25!
I took the opportunity to strip and service the four winches and the anchor winch the following day. Two joker valves for the toilets arrived from Brisbane on the same day, so I installed these in the toilet pumps to stop the back syphoning of the old valves. Wednesday evening saw us at the Dinah Bay Cruising Yacht Club with Jack and Jan to listen to some blues and have dinner. Lovely food,music and company.
Paul from the galvanisers called to say our anchor chain was ready on the Thursday, so Jack and Jan kindly ran us out to collect this and then took Annie and I to Coles to buy our food supplies for the trip.
Friday, before the start of the rally, Customs did a mass clearing of all the yachts and their crews at the Darwin Yacht Club. Our duty free whisky, gin and wine arrived just in time on Friday arvo, so these were carefully stored as everything was in glass bottles – not ideal on a yacht. Saturday the 29th July at 10:00 the Sail Indonesia Rally started off Fannie Bay in Darwin.
We will report again from Indonesia.