Thursday, May 17, 2012

NT. Gotta love it!


Mall snake

NT is a place like no other. Backpackers are streaming in with the start of what is called "The Dry", but there is still room to ride your bike around the city streets without fear. There is often something that will take you by surprise, like the python in the city mall that you can drape around your neck for $5.
The Dry means, no rain of course, but the humidity has dropped and the evenings and mornings are blessedly cool. The "cold" word has been mentioned once or twice during the night so the customary sheet is sometimes supplemented with a cotton blanket. It is still in the low 30s during the day, but all the shops are displaying winter woollies and jackets. I don't know who will wear them here, though we did see a little kid wearing black jeans and checked flannel shirt, and his dad said "You can tell he's a local. He's cold!", even in a balmy 30 degrees.

My birthday was a good excuse to lash out and hire a car to drive to Lichfield National Park which is about 100kms out of Darwin. Not used to any speed above walking pace, the speed limits in NT were terrifying. We had a great day though, getting totally water logged in the many ponds and water falls along the river. Swimming is something we really miss here in the top end. With the crocs and box jelly fish in the murky green waters, swimming is a definite no go. Being so hot and humid it makes it really tough for us west coasters, brought up within cooee of the white sands of the Indian Ocean.
Check out the speed limit, on the bend.
Birthday treat at Lichfield National Park

Birthday girl having fun

We have made good progress on The Doctor, readying her for her first overseas trip. The new 3G radar has been fitted. Rob was tested to the limit of his endurance by spending the best part of the day in searing heat attaching the mast platform and radar unit.  We chose this radar as it picks up small targets such as small fishing boats, which I hear are quite an issue through SE Asia. Installed too are an AIS unit which tracks nearby shipping and a MFS to display it all on. That was my part of the refit complete. Rob has organized having the injectors serviced, a large additional alternator and smart regulator for charging the batteries plus other engine stuff.
Rob doing some mast hugging

Next on the agenda was the final lift of the boat at Cullen Bay Slipway, where we had the cutlass bearing replaced, not without some drama. This bearing lies between the propeller and where the prop shaft enters the boat and the engine. Of course, it wasn't a standard size, which wasn't such a great problem, but the bend in the prop shaft was. It was bent because the bronze bracket holding it in position was off centre. "No probs" said the marine engineer. "We'll just heat it up and bend it into position." Well bronze is quite a brittle metal... say no more. It cracked right across the bracket with the second heating. "We'll weld it up" says the engineer. The welding machine wasn't up to the job. We now have two welders on the job, plus the engineer and the slipway manager. At about his stage all I could hear was the gentle whoosh as money left our account at an alarming rate. Feeling a little faint and out of sorts I asked the slipway manager, Jeff how much this was going to cost. He saved the day and said that we wouldn't be charged for the welding as it was their problem. Colour returned to my cheeks immediately and the smile that had been missing returned. I must say, (not only because the slipway picked up the welding bill), it was one of the better boat yards that we have been in. Jeff and his wife run a clean, organized and friendly operation.
Cullen Bay Slipway

Haven't seen this problem before.

Doing business in Darwin has had its challenges. The saying, "NT...Not today, not tomorrow, not Tuesday, not Thursday" just about sums it up. The feeling here is either very laid back, or if you do find a  really good trady, they are so flat out that to even get an audience is a privilege. Well as a friend said, it's good practice for Indonesia.

At time of writing we have left the marina and the slipway and are anchored off the Darwin Sailing club in Fanny Bay. We are without a motor as the fuel pump, now working hard with the serviced injectors started leaking fuel. We have been waiting nine days for the fuel pump to be serviced. Luckily we have had some good wind  for the wind generator and sun charging the solar panels. Otherwise without the motor to charge the batteries, we would be in trouble. It's coming tomorrow I hear, or maybe not tomorrow. We will see.

It is great out on anchor with space around us and the wind blowing through the boat. Due to the big tides here (7-8 metres) we have to anchor almost a mile out from the shore, so our trusty dinghy and out board are our best buddies. We have a couple of friends anchored nearby and the Mindle Markets are only a dinghy ride away. It is less than eight weeks before we depart for East Timor and it is getting exciting. Soon we will be anchored off a whole new country.

Fanny Bay anchorage

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