I arrived in the Cullen Bay Lock on 27-10-2016 & left the lock (temporarily) on 03-05-2017 – 5 months in the lock at $595/month. This lock is very good with great shelter, restaurants & bus service, but very hot & humid. Not much wind in the marina due to the private houses surrounding the marina. The last week of May & 1st week of June has been cooler due to a high pressure system over Victoria bring SE winds all the way up the east coast to Darwin. The humidity has been around 30% instead of the +80%. Nights see temperatures around 22 deg. instead of 26+ deg.
The major shopping centres – Casuarina & Palmerston are a 1/2hr bus trip away – $3 for 3hr – or $1 if you hold a seniors card – not too bad. As with Townsville CBD, Darwin CBD has no department stores & seems very few people around during the day. Night time is a different story with most restaurants full. There are a lot of Aborigines wondering about, seemingly homeless – some young men ‘talk’ with very loud voices, but I don’t know what they are saying – they seem angry. There seems to be a lot of backpackers – especially with Queens English accent. I see many Aborigine women slapping & telling men off – quite funny really. I was approached by an Aborigine man to call the cops, because his woman was holding a weapon (stick) & he felt for his safety. I said no & reminded him he was probably doing something wrong. Most young Aborigines sit at the back of the bus & are very noisy, while the older generation sit near the front, perhaps discarding those noisy blighters.
One cannot go to Darwin without visiting the Mindil Beach markets on a Thursday night & Sunday arvo/night.
Darwin has a great wave pool & lap pool. The lap pool was hot February to April, although fed from the Darwin Harbour.
I found out, in the CBD one can only purchase 2l wine casks & only 1 per customer/day. However, if there was a different person serving later in the day one could purchase a second cask.
I did quite a lot of maintenance on the yacht – replaced the rigging chain plate bolts, replaced engine mounts & seating angles with s/s ones, antifouled, checked rudder in case it was loose (was good), repainted cockpit & engine oil change to name a few. I did not check the alternator but did replace some wiring in the area.
I flew to Melbourne early November 2016 & returned early February 2017 (via Sydney) & worked on board with an air conditioner – unfortunately I did not have much work so relied on my superannuation. In Sydney I attended the Compass Yacht regatta & was awarded the Jim Brown trophy (by last years winners) for the longest journey in a Compass during 2016 – 2160NM.
Early April, I made a date to leave the marina & head west on 03-05-2017 with a friend John McDonald from Melbourne – he arrived on 01-05-2017, the same day I returned from 2 weeks holiday with my wife in Thailand & Singapore. So after purchasing supplies we went through the marina lock on 03-05-2017 at 10am & anchored near the marina for the night.
A client was hopeful to get a job, so I intended to call into Truscott airbase, hopefully catch a vehicle 30km into a town to call my client. Truscott was about 1/2 between Darwin & Broome & a place I could re-fuel. So it meant I could start on the job once I got to Broome 3 weeks later. That never eventuated.
There were 3 cyclones – all passing Darwin with category 1 or 2 intensity – all about 80NM north of Darwin battering the Tiwi Is. (Melville & Bathurst Is.). For a second cyclone season I missed them.
The Cullen Bay Marina beach is a great place to sit while watching the sun set, but cannot swim in the wet season due to stingers – never mind the crocs as I saw only one at 0530hr one morning.
The 3m to 6.5m tidal variation is not a problem around Darwin. The Cullen Bay lock opens (when required) on the hour from 0600hr to 2200hr & has been designed to hold enough water. It sits about 5m on the Darwin tide charts. The water level varies up to 350mm maximum between tide changes.
TIME TO LEAVE DARWIN & HEAD WEST
On 04-05-2017 we left Darwin at 1000hr with spinnaker for the 36NM sail/motor to Bynoe
Harbour catching the ebb tide from Darwin & flood tide around the corner into Bynoe Harbour, arriving at 1830hr & a wonderful sunset. Not a good place to go walkabout as no beaches. At 0700hr on 05-05-2017 we left for the 50NM journey to Fog Bay anchoring at 1800hr 2NM offshore due to very shallow water. We caught a Spanish Mackerel along the way.
There was no internet here & I had to complete some work so next day backtracked some 13NM to Dundee Beach (famous for it’s fishing) anchoring in thick grey mud 300m from shore. This place has a pub next to the boat ramp – perfect place for a week, except in westerlies. We left next day for the 65NM sail/motor to Cape Ford – a wonderful sheltered area from the SE breezes. I even had internet from the mast head aerial but no cell phone reception. No reception according to the Telstra coverage map.
On the 4th day at 0700hr on 08-05-17 we left for the 48NM sail to Wadeye (or Port Keats) arriving at 1400hr, where according to the Telstra coverage there was 4GX internet & they were correct. I had to complete some more work here before losing internet into the Kimberley’s. Again, not a good place to spend time as no beach – all mangroves. Our intention was to cross the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf from Wadeye to the Berkeley River – a distance of 110NM. That never happened.
While at Dundee Beach I noticed the alternator didn’t seem to be charging the batteries & the solar panel regulators didn’t seem to be working properly. By the time we arrived at Wadeye I could not fix the problems so we decided to return to Darwin a.s.a.p. to get them fixed. That was 2 very long days to get back – 160NM from Darwin. However, I received 6wks work from my client (who I was going to call from Truscott) so decided to stay in Darwin. After a week in Darwin, having a 120A alternator installed (‘The Beast’ I call it) & new solar panel regs (all for $2,400 installed), we did go 35NM north to the Vernon Is. for the weekend. It was rather horrible as there are no beaches & anchored in 15m water 30m from a 1.2m deep reef at low tide.
We did not catch any fish. More engine problems with the engine overheating. After limping back to Darwin & contacting Bukh in Sydney (Ophelia has a 10HP Bukh engine) it was decided air was entering the raw water filter bowl causing pulsating & low water levels – I fixed that & then the syphon started leaking salt water all over part of the engine. I have been waiting for eight working days for a new one to be delivered from Brisbane. I found one in Darwin so installed that today (03-06-2017) – motor now fixed with a spare syphon.
Perhaps I was not meant to travel through the Kimberley’s this time.
Unfortunately, John had to go back to Melbourne three weeks into the six week holiday. I now intend to leave Darwin mid August but will have to bypass The Kimberley’s to get to Perth by mid December. Darwin – no beaches so not a cruiser’s holiday area.
The map above shows our track from Darwin at top of map to Bynoe, to Fog Bay, north to Dundee Beach, south to Cape Ford & then further south to Wadeye.
When I came into Darwin (October 2016) from Cape Don, 100NM north, I got the tides wrong & now realise why (see map below) :-
– An ebb tide in Beagle Gulf – north of Darwin Harbour – sucks the water from Van Diemen Gulf west through the Vernon Is. thus creating the appearance of a flood tide in Van Diemen Gulf.
– Conversely a flood tide in Beagle Gulf creates the appearance of an ebb tide in Van Diemen Gulf by pushing water east through the Vernon Is.
This is the reason why one can leave Cape Don 4hr before a Beagle Gulf ebb tide, reach the Vernon Is. in 8hr & pick up the change in tides to get a flood tide to Darwin – 12-14hr travelling at approx. 8kn, instead of 20+hr travelling at 5kn against the tides as I did..
Here are some videos of my journey :-
- Lazy Sailing Day Darwin Harbour – https://youtu.be/c4CP9ut5TMM