With the weather window doing its part, it steadily improved as we closed in on Australia. The lures were out and we could taste that first fish! Early on the morning of the 30th June 2008, Melville Island came into sight. I called Jenna up on deck and soon she spotted land. Very excited about having spotted Australia first, she ran off to wake up Dan and tell him. The previous day I had issued a "captains command". The first one to see Australia got 60AUD! Dan and Jen came to the decision that if one of them saw it first, they would split it 30 / 30AUD between them. A good decision. They were stoked at the thought of having money to spend and excitingly went on to ask what kind of shops there were. Clearly they still had Indonesia in mind. B told them that awaiting us were shopping malls and a whole city of shops. There were other children, English speaking people, restaurants and so on. Daniel focused in on computer games and books, whilst Jenna looked forward to exploring the toy aisles in general!
With spirits now flying, we motor sailed down the NW coast of Melville Island, passing Bathurst Island to our port, and rounding the southern tip, now on a direct line into Darwin across the Beagle Gulf. Unfortunately the SE wind picked up and we had to motor into it. We would not reach Darwin before nightfall, but we were not stressed. We were almost there! As it slowly got dark we were greeted by an unbelievable sunset to our stern. We reached the channel markers at about 8pm and then proceeded down the main channel towards Darwin. Our intended anchorage was Fannie Bay, where we could anchor for the night before checking in with customs and immigration. Entering a foreign anchorage at night, can be a little tricky. Added to this there were many sand bars in the area and the tidal range was 6 meters! With our spot light we slowly made our way between the sand bars and headed in to where we imagined the Fanie Bay Yacht Club to be situated. Finally B picked out a few yacht masts ahead and we made our way towards them. Not taking any chances in the darkness, we finally dropped anchor in about 8 meters of water. Shayile was now secure on Australian ground! We had no idea where we were, but ashore we could see a lot of lights and activity. It looked good. "B cracked a bottle of white wine and we sat in the cockpit enjoying the evening breeze and the lights of Darwin!" (I wish!)
B: Actually, as good as that sounds; it was supposed to be a chilled bottle of red. Sadly I had terrible heartburn and Rob had a headache so the wine stayed in the very empty fridge. As Australia is an island it has very strict laws about what foodstuffs you can bring in. Basically any fresh fruit or vegetables are taboo, also eggs, honey and milk, so we had pancakes and scrambled the last, carefully hoarded eggs. We gobbled up all the remaining fruit except the vast pile of bananas that we had been given just before leaving Luang. We couldn't finish the garlic and onions and ginger as to overdose on these in a small airspace is suicidal! Although we never went hungry, we had all lost weight and had been living on high carbohydrate and virtually no protein for the last two months. Since we left Bali we had only had 3 chickens, 8 packets of bacon and ham and fish on about 4 occasions. Eggs were used for pancakes or French toast ie shared and the cheese that cost the same as gold per gram had been used more for a visual effect than for a nutritional one. The moral of the story is always to stock up for longer than you think necessary and if you have to pay expensive local prices for tinned tuna well then that's what you have to do. Plus you have to fish yourself if you can't embarrass your husband into doing it and at the end of the day; we were all looking healthy, never mind my bleeding gums and the rash around Jenna’s mouth. There was steak awaiting us in Darwin!
Check in time
At 8.30am the next morning, I called up customs. I was given instructions to proceed to Cullen Bay Marina at 10.30am where we would be met by the officials. Still apprehensive about checking in, we pulled up the anchor and motored across to Cullen Bay, about 2 miles away. We entered the break waters to where the marina lock was situated. With such big tidal ranges and the summer time threat of cyclones, each marina has locks. Just outside the Cullen Bay Marina lock, we pulled up alongside a jetty and tied up. We did a quick tidy up and waited for the officials to arrive. Daniel and Jenna could not resist the temptation to jump of Shayile and run around on the jetty. They needed terra firma! At 10.30 sharp, the entourage of customs, immigration and quarantine officials arrived. I was surprised at how young they were and half of them were women! It was great to see after having been through so many countries where the officials were older men; only! We welcomed them on board Shayile and everyone gathered in the cockpit. I've learned along the way that when you screw up, put your hands in the air and deal with it! I explained to them what had happened and that there were no excuses. We had no visas as I was under the false impression that we could get them on arrival. I had been on the internet and researched quarantine and customs controls. We knew what was allowed in the country and what was not. Everything, except visa requirements! Professionalism prevailed and immediately we could see that things were ok. We had been cut some slack and that there was the possibility of being granted a 1 month tourist visa. With Customs and immigration complete, Quarantine went about going through all our food on board. B had prepared all our food stuffs for inspection, separating them out as per the regulations. All the food not permitted to enter Australia were removed, placed in a large plastic bag and taken away. The quarantine official was a great guy and we spent half an hour discussing the Barra fishing and crab catching techniques. Once all the food goods was removed and all officials left, we remained tied up awaiting the immigration guy to return with our passports. B and I breathed a big sigh of relief. Although we did not have our passports back, complete with visas, it looked positive.
Half an hour later, the immigration official returned with our passports and visa's. We had been granted a 1 month tourist visa, and should we wish to stay longer, we would need to apply for it via the local office. Further to this we were given a letter, stating that we had contravened immigration regulations but thank goodness we weren't fined. Apparently the fact that we were honest and embarrassed about our screw-up and that we had followed all the other entry regulations showed that we were at least partly informed. All I could see was the visas and permission to remain in Australia! We motored out of Cullen Bay marina and headed back to Fannie Bay Yacht Club. Within 2 hours we had re-anchored and legally in Australia! It was great to be here!!
Rob with Customs officials on Shayile
B: The Customs Officials were so pleasant and efficient that they covered a lot of paperwork and information in a fairly short space of time, plus it was so nice not to have to travel to find some dingy office somewhere. The guy who searched the boat, opening drawers and peering into bilges also teased the kids into a fresh frenzy of tidying their room. When it was over he asked if they liked fireworks....of course we love fireworks! For once our timing was excellent. It was Northern Territory Day and the only day of the year when fireworks are legal, sadly not well timed as it was also the driest time with a very high fire hazard but tonight the skies would light up. There were pontoons and a huge barge moored off Mindil Beach in Fanny Bay. That evening, as we dingied across we saw that they were loaded with firework. Just then a large water police rubber duck with flashing lights came racing over to head us off. We thought we were in huge trouble but the lady(!) driving and her male colleague couldn't have been more helpful, estimating walking times, better places to go ashore etc and wished us a great evening and left. We motored over to the yacht club beach where we had tried to get lunch earlier in the day, nothing after 2pm, and had settled for the most expensive beers and packets of chips we had ever had but they tasted great. The beach was full of families and kids, fireworks being set up everywhere and people drinking and ordering food with abandon. We settled in and Rob plumped for the T-bone steak at A$ 30 (R240), not cheap but amazing and I had a chicken schnitzel with avocado and mozzarella cheese.....rich but amazing and served with big fries and a big starchy salad bar. We piled our plates with fresh green lettuce and red but tasteless tomatoes tossed with dressing, red onions olives and feta cheese!!! But we passed on the potato salad, corn and beetroot salad...too much like tinned food. We ate like Kings and felt stuffed afterwards and realised why so many people around us looked a little overfed. In fact a lot were downright fat but we are in the Land of Plenty. Dan and Jens were so excited by the fireworks and children that they could barely be dragged away for food and decided on bangers and mash, again a very large portion for children but they put it all away. The fireworks were spectacular and people set off huge expensive ones all around. Only once did one fire up into the diners, sending them running for cover but no one was injured that we heard about. What a great evening and a very warm welcome to Darwin, thank you so much. The only downside was that 3 times we had to wander down the beach and drag the dingy further out as the tide plummeted by at least 6 meter's and went out by about 75m. Some of the small yachts anchored close in sat down and rolled onto their side, amazing to see and good exercise to work off our huge meal.
With great food and a full fireworks display greeting Shayile and her crew into Darwin, we knew we were going to enjoy out stay in Australia!!
The Family in Darwin
August 2008 :
Darwin – Australia
With Shayile safely anchored off Fannie Bay Yacht Club, we began to settle into the Australian way of life and begin plans for the next few months!
We had arrived in the country which was earmarked as our final destination.
Darwin, the capital of the , was to be our base for at least 3 months. Should we decide to sail around to Northern Territories Cairns, we would have to wait for the weather to change and this meant only leaving in late September or early October. Darwin
Speaking to other yachties before getting to Australia, we got mixed views on Darwin and the Northern Territory. It really is very isolated, way up to the north of
. The state of the Australia Northern Territory only has about 200 000 people in total, with ’s population some 110 000 people! We could not believe how few people lived up here! With so fewer people there seemed to be less of an impact on the environment and everything around Darwin . Perhaps this is relevant to most of Darwin but it came as a surprise as we had never experienced a “city” with so few people! I also got the feeling that people were treading a lot lighter on the environment, and life seemed a lot more organised. We had heard about how regulated Australia was with laws governing every part of daily life but first impressions of life in Darwin told me that this regulated society really has it’s advantages and we immediately felt extremely safe, both on Shayile and ashore whilst walking the streets. With that secure feeling, one immediately relaxes and priorities are changed from preservation of family, property and self to one of freedom to go explore without being threatened, and do what can be done in this wonderful city. Australia
We soon began to enjoy the small city of Darwin and aspects of life in Darwin really began to appeal to us!
Our first real outing was a ride into town by bus, where we walked the city of
, seeing just what was on offer. Having spent 5 months traveling Darwin , this really was a huge culture shock! That morning, we found a coffee shop and ordered our first cup of coffee and a small bite to eat. Again, the price of goods shocked us. We were paying the equilivant of R24 a cup of coffee. 2 cups of coffee, 2 milkshakes and a small bite to eat amounted to R200!! All of a sudden “wallet constipation” set in and remained with us for many months to come! Sitting alongside us, a couple had just completed their full house breakfast. As they got up to leave I noticed huge quantities of untouched bacon and a few slices of toast were still on their plates! B had to literally hold me back as I launched myself bodily at the plate of leftovers! What a waste and here I was starved of such tasteful foods! We did find Mc Donald’s and there 50c (R3.50) ice creams. These were to be our “special treats” over the coming months. Indonesia
Each year, around August, the Indonesian yacht rally leaves Darwin, traveling up through Indo into Malaysia and then on to Thailand. Whilst we were anchored in Fannie Bay, more and more yachts arrived, most of them joining the rally. These yacht rallies are a popular form of cruising. Organisers put together a route, itinerary and then handle all visas and cruising permits. Those yachties wishing to join the rally pay their money and sign up for the experience. With up to 150 yachts setting off together, it is a great adventure for those participating and enjoying the company and security of other yachts. Certainly the social events organised along the way make it a popular experience for all but for cruisers commencing their cruising life, or new to sailing, it is a great confidence builder where experiences and advice can be shared amongst the yachties.
Soon there were 120 yachts all anchored up in Fannie Bay, doing last minute provisioning and repair work and awaiting departure date. The yacht club really became a social gathering point each evening.
At Fannie Bay Yacht Club, new friends were being made. All short term of course as most were on the rally, due to leave later in August! Jenna and Daniel had teamed up with an Australian family who were traveling with their 2 kids. Belinda and Pedro owned Yacht Bonnie and their kids, Moses (Mosey) and Archie their able crew!! Daniel and Jenna forged a friendship with Mosey and Archie and they spent many hours together playing at the yacht club.
One afternoon, B got a call on the radio asking for her assistance on another yacht where someone was injured. We grabbed the first aid kit and shot across in the ducky to where the injured guy was waiting. As I climbed on board the mono hull yacht, the whole cockpit was covered in blood, with a trail leading down through the companionway. Down below, a guy was lying on the floor, with his hand heavily bandaged. Apparently he was hauling up the anchor when it got stuck. On trying to rectify the problem, he jammed a few fingers in the winch! Not a pretty sight and 2 of his fingers were in a bad way. As B began work, he confidently told B to do whatever it takes to sort his fingers out and that he “was not American”, implying there would be no pending law suits! B sorted him out as best she could but the guy needed serious attention, perhaps even surgery. (We later learned that he did infact have major surgery to his fingers and hand with pins and plastic surgery.)
On the 28th August, the Indonesian rally set sail from
Darwin destined for . What a sight to see some 120 yachts sailing out of Kupang, Indonesia . With them gone, the yacht club seemed quite deserted! It was sad to see many of the friends we had made, sail off into the sunset. Usually we would be out there with them! Fannie Bay
Kicking around in
With the rally now gone, Fannie Bay looked quite deserted! Besides a few other yachts waiting to sail east, it was quite empty. However we had work to do and the most important one was to get Shayile sorted out and listed with yacht brokers. However we first needed “wheels.” I took Daniel and my bicycles off Shayile and started to kick some life into them. Daniel’s we managed to resuscitate but mine went straight into the bin! Totally seized up! We all then headed into town looking for a few second hand bikes. We found B and I some decent mountain bikes but Jenna had to wait a while. However it was a week later when I walked into one of the Salvo Stores (Charity Shop) and found one for Jenna. 8 Aussie dollars later, some minor repairs and Jens had wheels! It was great as we were all now able to cycle around
, using the cycle tracks where ever possible. The family was mobile! Darwin
Yes, another wonderful thing about Darwin is its cycle paths. Virtually every road as a cycle path running alongside it; completely safe and away from all traffic. It’s wonderful to have such facilities and with that, we were able to ride the area as a family, checking out the sights and scenes of
Not long after we arrived in
, we were all out walking the neighbourhood. (No bikes as yet!) Close to the yacht club, we came across an enclosed area where a family in a camper van was braai-ing. (Called a “barbi” in Darwin !) First impressions were, a fire set up and facilities to braai. On closer inspection, we got to see what kind of facilities is really available to the Australian public and tourists passing through. It was a barbi kiosk! All you do is pull up; hit the switch under the cooker and on comes the gas. Soon the plates are heated and within minutes, you are cooking up a storm. Better still, it is all for free and the cherry on the top – they are cleaned and serviced by the local municipality! Both B and I went into a temporary state of shock! They worked, it was for free, and it was not abused and never stolen! How was that!! It was not long before we had a good few meals at one of the many braai facilities in and around Australia . Darwin
Preparing Shayile for sale
With the kids now booked back into school in South Africa in January 2009, we could enjoy up to 6 months seeing and experiencing Australia. Unfortunately this did mean now parting with our beloved Yacht Shayile! We needed to put her on the market and hopefully sell her to a couple, or family, that would appreciate her karma and presence! We always felt she was “alive” and now part of the family. Our home, our protector and sanctuary for the past 3 years. It would be a sad day when we finally parted company! However I needed to get cracking with listing her and preparing her for a sale.
Between socialising and exploring
, we began our final maintenance chores on Shayile, preparing her for the sale. Fortunately there was nothing too major that needed repairing, for a change! Each day I ticked off another task as I worked my way through the jobs. B was kept busy with school work, boat chores and preparing meals for the family. As soon as I had completed the majority of the tasks, I listed Shayile, both through agents and directly, by means of the internet. It was either sell Shayile in Darwin , or sail the 3000 miles around to the East Coast of Australia. B was not at all keen and rightly so! It would be a 4 to 6 week slog, pounding into the now strong SE trade winds again! B had set her mind on selling Shayile in Darwin and the family over landing to Cairns or Brisbane. Darwin
Tim and Sandy
With Shayile now listed and officially “For Sale”, we received our first phone call from an agent telling us that a guy in Darwin was interested in looking at Shayile. I made contact with the potential buyer, Tim Baldwin, and we teed up an appointment for him and his wife Sandy, to come see Shayile. Being our first potential buyer, we gave Shayile a good cleaning. Once done, she looked her best in 3 ½ years! Sparkling and proud as ever!
When Tim arrived at the yacht club, I went ashore on the rubber duck to pick him up. Waiting for me on the beach were Tim and Sandy, laden with goodies! An introduction and soon we were back on Shayile, about to show our first potential buyers around Shayile.
had done a bit of “research” and had googled our home page. She was able to get quite a bit of info on Shayile, her adventures and our family! Part of the goodies she had brought along was sweets for the kids and a few local newspapers for us to read! Having spent an hour on Shayile, checking her out and asking all the relevant questions associated with buying a boat, we settled in with an afternoon drink and caught up socially. Tim was an ex politician who had spent 9 years as a minister in the local Northern Territory government. Having retired from politics Tim, a qualified electrician, joined a good mate of his, Milan, in an electrical business in Darwin. Sandy Sandy worked with Tim and and “held the fort”, handling administrative tasks for the business. We immediately took to Tim and Sandy and a friendship was forged from day one. Their generosity was evident from day one. When Milan Sandy asked as to whether we had seen much of , and Belinda replied no, she kindly offered us her car there and then! We had only just met and already we had a car on offer! Darwin
A few days later Tim returned to Shayile for a second visit. Accompanying him was his partner
and his son Warrick. Tim really took a fancy to Shayile and I could see he really wanted her. Unfortunately they had to sell their house before a deal could be done and so, pending a sale, Shayile remained on the market. Milan
This did not deter Tim from joining me on Shayile from time to time and assisting me with minor repairs. Being an electrician and overall great handyman, he fixed a number of issues I had that needed fixing, and all for nothing! It was at this time that Tim lent us his bakkie. They had a company bakkie (Ute) that was not being used and kindly offered it to us to use. We must have had that bakkie for 2 months in total! What a bonus for us as we could now get around
, sight seeing and picking up parts for Shayile when required. “Murphy” struck on the first week of us having the vehicle. One night a window was broken and, although we feared the radio stolen, everything was still there, minus one window of course. Nothing to Tim. He arranged a new one and even fitted it for me. Further to this I never even paid him! Darwin
We were invited into their home where Daniel and Jenna experienced their first taste of “home life” and pets. They fell in love with their pool, dogs, bird and home on terra firma and could not wait for the next visit to Tim and Sandy’s home!
Their generosity was astounding and we will never be able to repay Tim and Sandy for inviting us into their lives and their kind generosity.
Over the next few weeks we had quite a few potential buyers visiting Shayile and giving her the once over. With no takers, we went about our lives in Darwin, seeing and experiencing the sights and at the same time being on standby for a potential buyer!
Cruising in and around
Whilst Shayile was now on the market, we could not really leave
for an extended period, however we did venture out on quite a few fishing trips! Anchored in Darwin were Cameron and Julie on the yacht Dreamweaver. We got to know them and soon we were planning a trip cruising west of Darwin down to some islands and a bay situated about 40 miles away. Darwin
Our first trip out was for 2 weeks or so. We left Darwin and spent the day sailing down to a bay called …………. The area west of Darwin is littered with bays, rivers and islands. It is a fisherman’s dream with virtually every outing, a fish is guaranteed!
That afternoon, we anchored up and I went off flyfishing, looking for that ever elusive mythical fish called a Baramundi! No luck but a stunning afternoon, trawling and flyfishing the reefs and sand banks.
Next day was a short hop down to ……. Where we joined Cam and Julie. For the next week we travelled together, socializing on each others boat and exploring the inlets and swamp areas around B…. Bay. Each night, we put outr the crab pots but success was only in the form of small mud crabs. Nothing worthwhile for the pot.
The highlight of the trip was Bare Sands, an island used many years ago as a target range for aircraft and battle ships. Entering the anchorage proved tricky with a very shallow sand bar at the entrance. We even had to wait for the tride to rise before we made our way into the anchorage, avoiding banks and reefs. As we entered a swirl in the water caught my attention and I told B to drop a lure over the side. No sooner had she released the lure, the line went tight and B was on to a big fish! Whilst I steered us into the anchorage, B fought, and landed, a huge Queenfish! Back in business for a dinner of fresh fish. We spend 3 days exploring the island and the surrounding area. I fished when ever possible whilst B and the kids either went ashore to play or kept themselves busy on Shayile.
A key attraction on Bare Sands islands is the turtles which come ashore during the season and lay their eggs. Our objective was to see the display in person.
We went ashore each night looking for the turtles but no luck. In the morning, we found the tracks. Frustrated, we returned the following night. Finally we got it right and we were rewarded with the sight of 3 or 4 turtles coming out of the sea and making teir way up to the dunes to lay their eggs. It was a long process and we all sat around the turtle as she got busy digging a hole in which to lay her eggs. We were all impressed with the amount of sand she removed with each “shovel” of her front and back legs! Once the hole was dug, she laid about 40 eggs and then got busy covering them up. With that, back to the ocean and out to sea. Apparently each female will return 3 or 4 times and lay a batch of eggs over a week or 2.
It was very special to be able to witness this ritual and especially rewarding for Daniel nd Jenna. One night whilst out looking for turtles, I felt a crab run over my foot! Shinin down with my torch I discovered a baby turtle was waddling its way down towards the ocean! A real brave heart who continued his waddling motion even whilst in our hands. We placed him back down and he immediately set off towards the ocean. (I think it was a he!)
After turtle watching, fishing and socializing with Cam and Julie, we sailed back to Darwin.
Our territory Tour
Although doing quite a bit on Shayile to ensure she was all ready for a possible sale, we spend time in and around Darwin. Tim lent us his pick-up and again, we had wheels with which to explore Darwin and pick up parts for Shayile.
Keen to explore a bit of the Dawins surrounding areas, we visited ………….. and later spend an enjoyable day with Tims dad on his smallholding situated close to Kakadoo National Park and the Queen Mary river. He was an interesting chap who had lived a full life in the Australian outbacks, hunting buffalo and crocodiles. His outlook on life and philosopies were extraordinary. Here was a 28 year old man caught in an 81 year old body. What amazed me was he was still planning his future for the next 20 years, telling me about how he was going to “change things out here”, and other strange cultural cross religious gaherings he had planned for the solar equinoxes! Truly incredible and a personalty one gets to meet all too infrequently!
Shayile up for sale
With most of the running repairs now completed, and Shayile looking really good, we officially put her on the market. I contacted a few brokers and listed her myself on the net. With the Indonesian rally over and having done quite a bit of cruising in and around Darwin, it was time to “test the waters”.