Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Episode 47 Sumba to Darwin

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

Welcome to Episode 47


At the end of Episode 46, we had nearly circumnavigated the remote southern Indonesian island of Sumba.
We had an awesome week surfing on the southern Sumba coastline and continued onto the main town of Waingapu (on the northern coastline) after the swell had dropped.
Despite being there for 2 days, we had yet to step ashore – but that was about to change……

Our location for this Episode of the Blog.

Our route for this Episode of the Blog.

By all reports, the Sumbanese are a little different from the rest of Indonesia.
They are in a remote area, have their own unique customs, beliefs, houses and language.
Considering the massive size of the island, for the relatively small population, there is a lot of stunning and uninhabited countryside.

Some say the people are a little weird but our experience was that they were mostly very friendly, smiling happy people and very accommodating to us which was great considering the very few tourists that visit annually.
Unlike most other parts of Indo, resident ex-pats are virtually non-existent, except for a few surf camp owners on the southern coast.
They are certainly not a wealthy group of people, but that appears not so important to them.

One thing we both commented on was the women were generally very attractive.
With their tall slim build, long straight hair, beautiful facial features and near perfect teeth, they are much more attractive than the other areas of Indo we have visited.
We named Sumba the Venezuela of Indonesia.

Considering Lorelei was anchored in a small commercial harbour, we felt she was safe there as many of the friendly local fisherman were keeping an eye on her whilst we were not on board.

We found a small beach lined with fishing boats that was a great place to leave the RIB and out of the way of the port area.

The main town of Waingapu is like most small regional ports – a little run down, dusty & dirty with small roadside stalls & stores selling fish and local produce.
Being summer, there was lots of it.

Like always, the school kids like to come and say hello and practice their English.
What do you say when an uninhibited group of 15 year old school girls flock around you, compete to hold your arms and hands and keep telling you you’re handsome….??

Like northern Indo and The Philippines, Sumba people like colour.
Their boats are brightly coloured and so are their buses.

The laws are a lot more relaxed.
Few bike riders wear helmets, people and kids travel on the back of trucks and buses have people hanging out the doors with more sitting on the roofs.

If your bike has no fuel – no worries, get your friend to push it….in thongs!!!

On the second day at Waingapu, a man named Amar came out to Lorelei to say hello. He said he was the local man who assists the few yachts that visit and proceeded to show us many photos of him with other yachts and crew, some of whom we knew of.
After doing research, we had seen that guided tours for westerners were expensive on the island given the distance to travel between things to see, so we asked him if he could organise a day tour for us to visit some traditional villages.

The next day he turned up 1 hour late with his cousin Erwan as a driver (and he had no fingers…) in a modest car with no fuel in the tank.
It was dodgy brother’s tours 101 but we didn’t want to pass judgement too early and we considered it a bit of an adventure so off we went.
As it turned out, Erwan was a careful and considerate driver so we were happy.

We travelled over 2 hours south east across the island and relatively close to the coast to get to the first village.

On the way Paul kept asking to stop regularly for photos.

We noticed the area had huge fields of corn growing. Paul searched for ages out the window of the car trying to find a good photo opportunity of an old house in the corn fields.

He found one but 10 minutes later, he spied a better one.

The house belonged to an old lady and Amar explained to her we had found a perfect photo opportunity after 60klm of searching.
She was so excited and happily posed for Pauls photos.

We also passed loads of goats.
Some were walking alone on the road and others were in large herds with their owners.

The traditional villages here are certainly unique. They have unusually large houses with high peaked roofs and megalithic style stone tombs scattered throughout the villages.
Some of the tombs are huge & centuries old with the houses being up to 100 years old.

The houses now have a mix of traditional grass roofs and the more modern iron roofs. The iron is not treated colourbond like our western options so after a while it rusts giving the house a more traditional rustic appeal.

The stone Tombs ranged vastly in size, shape and design.
The older ones are simply 4 legs and a large stone slab on top whilst others are massive structures with lots of intricate carved murals and designs in the stone.
How they got the large stone slabs up onto the supporting legs is anyone’s guess as some would weigh well over 100 tonnes.

The tombs at the first village weren’t so big but had excellent carvings.

Aside from the tombs, there were also other stone carvings scattered around the village.

The village is well known for Ikat Weaving which is traditional weaving using a back-strap or bamboo framed loom.

We have seen this type of weaving in many places, particularly in Yap (Micronesia) and also in Timor Leste which is only about 250nm from Sumba.
However what sets Sumba’s Ikat weaving apart is its intricacy and quality.
The finished result is much thicker than anything else we have seen and it was great to notice the finished product could be displayed from either side and it still looks fantastic. The Timor weaving was not like this.
We were astounded at the intricate designs that were on display for sale.
The price for them certainly was more expensive than anywhere else we have seen but it simply reflected the amount of time taken to produce and the outstanding quality.

The lady (below left) had made a unique design using only tiny shells she had found on the beach and local thread. Each shell was hand sewn onto the woven material. It was incredible and nothing like we have ever seen before.
The price was Rp10 000 000 (A$1000) which considering it took her 6 months to make is not that much.
The lady on the right is hand spinning the yarn.

Unlike the designs in Timor and Yap that take 1-5 days, the weaving time in Sumba takes 7 days to 1 month.

This lady kindly turned her loom around so we could see the half completed result on the other side.

This close up gives you an idea of the intricacy.

It was very interesting to see a man also weaving.
This is the first time we have seen men working on a loom.

Just as we were leaving, Paul spied a series of old canons under a house.
When we enquired as to where they came from, the locals told us they were centuries old from when the Indonesians had fought with the Dutch when they invaded. The canons were believed to be from a Dutch Warship.

By the time we left and headed towards the next village, it was getting really hot.
Even the Water Buffalo where trying to keep cool.
This one was covered head to toe (head to hoof actually J) in wet mud.

As we headed further along the coastline, we could see loads of horses roaming free. Horses are a big part of Sumba and the coat of arms has horses on it.

We didn’t think they were wild horses as some had brandings on their hind legs, but they were not fenced in and free to roam.

We headed inland away from the coast and at the base of the mountains we saw acres of rice fields. They weren’t the terraced paddies like we had seen in Bali, but instead they were huge lots on a single level.
In Bali we watched the harvest, but this time we were able to see the planting.
The fields were so large that 2 people held a tight string line across the field and the people planted along the line.

The second village had much bigger tombs and more houses.

The carvings were intricate both on the tombs and in other areas around the village.

The village had weaving but it was of a different style.

To get to the third village, we had to drive the 2 hours back to Waingapu, have lunch and then drive another 1 hour north west, firstly along the coastline then up into the mountains.

The views at the start along the coastline were amazing.

We passed a very long rock wall that we stopped and had a walk along.
We named it “The Great Wall of Sumba”

The roads started off fine along the coast but soon turned into a rough dirt road the further we went.

As we were admiring a great view into a lush valley, a friendly man riding bareback on a horse came and stopped for Lisa to take photos.

 Paul took this picture below of Lisa taking the photo above.

Looking ahead, the road wound its way along the countryside and passed some traditional houses.

Over the other side of the ridge was another fertile valley filled with rice and lush forest.

We spied a single women working in the fields.

The last village was very old & traditional and we could not see it until we got there.
It was tucked into the side of a hill and overlooked a stunning lush green valley.

The old man overseeing the village was not very nice.
He would not let us in unless we were in traditional dress but offered to clothe us properly for A$5 each. We baulked but Amar said that was all we had to pay so we agreed, got dressed and started walking around.

However the old man followed us like a hawk.
If we wanted to look inside a house it was another A$10, then certain photos more money, then more and more and more…..

In the end we came back to give the clothes back and he opened the guest book to sign and wanted more money as an entrance fee and another as a donation.
Then he had the hide to pull out small timber carvings and expected us to buy them.
We left with him still demanding money as we only ever paid the original $10 and that was it.
An interesting place, but not a nice experience.

Considering the other villages all had guest books which we signed and happily gave requested donations of between A$1 and A$3 we thought the old man was very unreasonable considering it was a small overgrown and run down old village with no other things like stone carvings, weaving, etc…

On the way home we stopped at a small creek for a swim.
It had been raining and the creek was brown so instead we took some time exposure photos in the failing 6pm light.

We got home at 7:30pm totally stuffed after a long, hot but fun day and over 6 hours in the car.

We knew the annual Pasola festival was only days away.
We contacted the tour companies via email but most only did 3 to 5 day package tours that cost a lot of money so we asked Amar the next day to come up with a planned tour to take us there.
The issues were the Pasola festival revolves around the spawning of the sea worms which signifies the start of the festival.
Therefore dates are not the same each year and exact times are often not known until only a few weeks prior.
Additionally there are multiple festivals held in different locations at different times. Some are big and others small.
The last and biggest issue is the location as they are held in the remote western area of Sumba which couldn’t be further from Waingapu & the airport and over 5 hours’ drive.

So Amar came back with a plan that would involve a whirlwind 2 day tour as we didn’t want to be away from Lorelei for any longer.
The dates didn’t line up with the dates from the tour companies email but he assured us his dates were correct.
Considering the tour companies were all in other parts of Indonesia (and they fly their guests in with a guide) and Amar was a local, we trusted his dates.
We were to leave at 9am and travel to the west coast and visit 2 villages on the way.
Then sleep in a hotel and wake up at midnight to travel to the beach for the 1am ceremony start and back to the main arena for the 6am highlight where the local men on horseback throw spears at each other jousting style in an effort to have blood spilled on the ground to promote a good years harvest.

We would leave the festival at 4pm and be home by 9pm on the second day.

So that was the plan and the price was OK so we kicked off the next day.
The cars fuel tank was empty again so we paid to fill it with fuel.

The drive into the centre of Sumba was a windy and slow one but the views from the roadside were awesome.

We saw loads of interesting things on the roads with some funny things like this trussed up pig on a bike - still very much alive and kicking.

The first village we visited had 2 rows of houses with the tombs in a strip down the centre.
We noticed the roofs were much taller in the west compared to the houses in eastern Sumba.

Even in the towns we passed though, you could see the stone tombs along the sides of the roads and even in the main street.

The second village had lots of animals roaming freely around the grassy areas.

We noticed many of the house had rows of pig jaws and teeth strung together under the eaves.

A nice local man came to us and asked if we wanted to have a look at a very old ceremonial area up in the hills which was a 1klm walk.

To get there we had to walk through a rice field before climbing up the rock stairs.

The view from the top allowed us to see a whole valley of rice fields.

There were some nice houses up the top and some very old tombs.

The traditional ceremony house was old and small but had some great history which was explained to us.

We headed to our hotel room at 5pm and crashed so we could be ready for our midnight start.

At 12:30am we left for our drive to the beach which Amar confirmed was a 20 minute drive.
After 1 hour we were still driving.
1 hour became 2 and we were getting testy.
After a few wrong turns we went from testy to angry and it soon became apparent Amar had no idea where he was going.
2 hours became 3 and eventually we arrived at a beach. It was the correct beach but there was no ceremony.
Amar asked a local fisherman only to be told the Pasola festival was not for another 3 days.
Amar told us it was cancelled and re-scheduled but Paul spoke to the fisherman in Indonesian and got the correct information.

Well to say Paul hit the roof was an understatement. We were livid!!!
Amar had trusted a single phone call to a friend who had told him the incorrect dates.
We very angrily told him to turn the car around and take us back to Waingapu.
He came up with all sorts of wild schemes to stay for the 3 days until the festival started but we were not interested in any of his dodgy suggestions.

At 3:30am we left and drove back through the mountains in darkness.
The car had no de-mister and no heater and the fog was so heavy the visibility was down to less than 50m.
They had to leave the front windows open and Amar was constantly having to wipe the windshield to stop the fogging.
In the back we were freezing as we only had shorts and T-Shirts each.
We wrapped our bath towels around our body and put our picnic blanket over our legs in an effort to keep warm.

We stopped at 3am to get a coffee and Paul took some photos of the fog and the lights of a truck coming over a bridge.

We arrived back at Waingapu tired and hungry at 9am.
We couldn’t believe it when they drove into the Petrol/Gas station and filled up and asked us to pay for the fuel.
We blatantly refused as we hadn’t yet used the fuel we paid for the day before.
They both had no money and had to leave their mobile phones behind as security to come back later to pay for it.
Paul was still so angry and barely able to even talk to Amar.
Fortunately we had only paid for fuel, food and the hotel rooms for us all (which was only about A$80 total), so we refused to pay for anything else including the car hire.
 Back at the harbour beach, we loaded our RIB with our gear and paddled back to Lorelei with Amar standing on the beach still saying sorry but expecting to get paid.

We didn’t want to tempt fate by staying in the harbour in case of any continuing issues with Amar so as soon as we were on board we started the engine, lifted the anchor and sailed out of Waingapu.

The closet we ever got to the Pasola rituals were 2 statues we passed in the car.

With no wind and no seas we motored 20nm around to a long white sandy beach that we had anchored at the day before we arrived in Waingapu.
We downloaded a weather forecast to see when it would be suitable to tackle the 200nm crossing from Sumba to Kupang but there was no wind forecast for at least 3 days.
So we hung out and spring cleaned Lorelei in preparation for clearing out of Indonesia in Kupang.
We couldn’t believe how much unwanted/unused stuff we could accumulate in 5 years of international sailing.
A lot of stuff we had kept as a “just in case we need it scenario” but now we were going to Darwin in Australia we could do a much needed restock and update on spares and supplies.
We had the v-berth area stacked full of garbage bags.

When Paul went into the engine room he noticed water on the engine room floor.
It was dirty fresh water and we just couldn’t work out where it had come from.
That was until we went to drain the kitchen sinks and found a split in the pump diaphragm. It took Paul a few hours to dissemble the pots and pans cupboard, remove and service the pump.

We still had loads of fireworks on board and we knew these had to be gone before clearing out, so one calm afternoon we went into the beach, had a drink and waited until dark.

We played with the cameras on tripods to get the long exposure photos.
We realised that a single firework always shot up in the same direction making for a single and boring photo.
So we set both tripods up with a spirit level so the cameras were level and we could slowly rotate the cameras around after each shot was fired from the firework. It made for better photos with some unusual results.

The first few were still a bit light in the background so we waited another 20 minutes for it to be darker.

We played with the smaller ones first as we had lots more of those.

We quickly worked out that 2 or 3 let off at the same time from different locations and different angles created some interesting photos.
Getting the last one lit safely before the first one started to go off was the challenge.

We then changed to wide angle and fish eye lenses and let off the bigger ones which were called roman candles.

We had 2 boxes of mortars and we did not know what they would do.
They let of a tremendous glow and a huge bang that reverberated right along the beach.
We were a bit worried about the excess noise they created so we only let off one box and gave the second to a family of local fisherman and their kids.

In the photo below we let two mortars off at once.
They only had short fuses and the blue glow at the bottom is Lisa diving for cover with the torch…..

We found the best combination was one roman candle and one or two of the smaller ones at angles.

Towards the end the fishing boats were sitting off the beach watching which created some extra blue lights in the background.

The next day with a bit more wind we set sail for the overnight passage to Kupang.
The passage was your typical Indo passage with a little bit of everything.
We started with light winds and flat seas but with current assistance we slowly sailed which was great.

But by night fall we were motoring under the full moon was pleasant.
We coped one hell of a storm at 1am with not much wind but lots of lightning and rain.
We were able to stop Lorelei under a rain cloud and fill the water tanks.
It was a pretty funny scene – stopped mid ocean, lightning all around, pitch black with the clouds covering the moon and us running around the deck naked scooping up buckets of water and funnelling them into the main tank.

At 4am Lisa had to try to divert around an unlit fishing boat (that she missed by less than 50m….) and miles of unlit and unmarked nets that they had laid out on the surface.

By daybreak, we only had 50nm to go but it was wind against tide making it like being in a washing machine.
The closer we got to land, the more and more fishing rafts we had to dodge.

Along with the rafts came the tonnes of junk in the water.
It was everything from trees to old rafts and loads of plastic and rubber.
At one stage we went through a large amount of debris and it looked like a ship had recently sunk as there was a lot of unusual things that were still clean and all centred in one spot.
We kept a sharp lookout but didn’t see anything or anyone alive – or dead.

We arrived at Kupang at 3pm but the normal trade wind anchorage off the front of the town was exposed in the NW monsoon winds, so we motored another 4nm south and tucked into a calm bay behind an island not far off the mainland and opposite the main shipping port.
The boat was covered in salt but not long after arriving Mother Nature obliged with a great rainstorm which washed the boat.

We completed the 200nm crossing in 29 hours so overall we were happy.

We have been to Kupung 3 or 4 times now as we had cleared in here after visiting Timor Leste and we also used it as a provisioning base when we spent months last year surfing at Rote which is 50nm south of Kupung.

We know the local agent for yachts, Napa and his assistant Max well as we have used their services a few times andhave done day tours and other things with them.

We had a meeting with Napa one afternoon and fortunately he was able to take care of most of the clearing out without needing us to go to the official offices.
The only exception was Customs, which Paul went to one morning with Napa.

The day before we left we refuelled.
We also brought 3 new 35 litre jerry cans (for A$6 each) so we could carry an extra 105 litres of fuel home.
We had over 1200 litres of diesel and nearly 200 litres of unleaded as the price in Kupung was less than half what we would have to pay to refuel again in Darwin.
Bobby the local fuel man was nice enough to bring the fuel out in his boat and pump it into Lorelei’s tanks.

In the afternoon Paul let his homemade toy sailing boat sail away from Lorelei.
He had it since we first arrived in Indonesia but it was made from a palm frond, bamboo and old wood and we very much doubted whether Australian Quarantine would let him keep it.

That night we enjoyed our last Indo sunset with a drink on the front deck.

On Friday the 4th March we cleared out of Indonesia.
Lorelei had been in Indo for 17 months (and 14 months for us) which is the longest time we have ever been in another country outside Australia.
It was certainly a day of mixed emotions.
Sad to leave Indo but happy to be going to Australia. It was a Friday and we had Bananas on board (both bad omens for sailors) and it was Paul’s late brother Scott’s birthday.

The passage started slow but considering Friday was supposed to be the day with the least wind, we were excited to be sailing by 9am.
It wasn’t very strong and we were going directly downwind but we were able to pole out the headsail, gull wing the sails (put one out each side) and crawl our way towards Australia.
We were only going 3 knots but it was for free…

The day was ridiculously hot and we found it difficult to keep cool.
Lisa found a great spot in the arvo hiding in the shade from the sails.

It was nice to watch the sun setting over Timor.

We were still able to sail until midnight but there was no moon and it was very dark.
Paul took this photo which was a 30 second exposure and he used a torch to illuminate Lisa, the cockpit and the sails.

By 1am the wind had gone.
It was dead flat so we simply dropped the sails and one of us went to bed while the other watched a movie or read in the cockpit.
We tried to sail again at daybreak but it was a futile effort and by 11am we reluctantly had to kick the motor on.
It was supposed to come in stronger in the afternoon and fortunately it did.

The sunset put a warm glow onto the sails which looked great.


Fortunately the wind held all night and we slowly ghosted along through the dark night.

Unlike Day 2, Day 3 was anything but boring.

The wind picked up early and so did the swell.
It was off the wind but not directly down wind and we were able to break out the largest spinnaker.
The rising sun in the east looked great though the illuminated spinnaker.

At 10am we sailed across the imaginary borderline that separates Indonesia & Timor from Australia.
Only a few miles inside the Australian border lies a series a shallow shoals that come up to less than 10m depth. They are packed with fish life and under the coral lies some of the richest gas and oil deposits in the world.
Needless to say security in the area is high and the Australian border protection agency has a big job to keep it secure.
Additionally it is also the most popular route for asylum seekers to enter Australia via foreign vessels.

However we do feel sorry for the local Indonesian fisherman.
How is it that of a 440nm wide passage, Australia controls 350nm of it with all the goodies and Indonesia gets less than 100nm with pretty much all of it being super deep water (more than 1000m depth) with no reefs to fish?

So naturally the Indonesians travel from Timor to the shallow shoals just inside the Australian Waters to fish.
They are not commercial fisherman with super high tech rigs scooping up and targeting huge quantities and large fish. Instead are just modest small timer boats targeting small reef fish.

We saw a few boats fishing then we saw an Australian patrol boat come screaming over the horizon at about 25 knots boat speed.

They pulled up to the fishing boats, had the RIB’s in and were boarding them within minutes.

They must have called for backup because 10 minutes later a huge border protection vessel (which looked awesome) came screaming in from another direction.

Within 2 hours we had also been flown over by the Australian border patrol aircraft. They did a few passes from different angles and called us up on the radio.
We were a little shocked when they called us by our name.
They must have some pretty high tech zoom lenses to get the name off the side of the boat from an aeroplane.

Just before the wind picked up, Paul went up onto the bow with a 10mm fisheye lens to get some fun photos of Lorelei sailing along under spinnaker.

That arvo we were flying along at a constant 7.5 knots and surfing into the 9’s.

There is something a little unnerving about leaving the big spinnaker up going into the night, particularly when there are storm clouds in front and lightning going off everywhere. But we did and we were chewing up the miles with a 24 hour run of over 170nm.

On the morning of day 4 we were only 40nm out from Darwin and we could see land out to our side.

On the other side was a huge Cruise Ship called the Celebrity Solstice from Malta.
It was going to Bali, but with all the heightened security alerts, they diverted and went to Darwin for 2 days instead.

We had a very active pod of small dolphins playing in the bow wave for a long time.
They were pushing each other out of the way and jumping & rolling over each other which was pretty unusual.

The closer we got the flatter it got. The wind died and the water went from blue to a bright green colour.

We could also see the city of Darwin as we headed into the shipping channel.

Border protection instructed us to hoist the quarantine flag.

We arrived at the Quarantine Dock at Cullen Bay at 3pm and Customs arrived 5 minutes later followed by Quarantine.
There has been a lot of things posted on the net about clearing into Australia and a fair bit of negativity about clearing in the top end of Australia.

Well we have nothing but high praise to say about the officials that boarded Lorelei.
They were all so nice and extremely helpful with our additional questions about Darwin, where to slip, marinas and even where to get a decent meal that night.
Quarantine did take a bit of food which was expected but they were very reasonable with many things including our carvings and trinkets that we had accumulated over the years.

Within 2 hours the formalities were complete and we were allowed to walk on Australian soil once again.

However we didn’t walk too far and it was a takeaway pizza and in bed by 8pm.

The next morning was our last bit of formalities and this time it was for Lorelei.
We had commercial divers come and inspect Lorelei’s hull for marine growth and at the same time they put a solution into our seacocks, toilet, engine and saltwater lines that had to remain in for 10 hours.
This had to be done before we could enter any locks within the Darwin area.
As the area has huge tides (up to 10 meters), all the Marinas are secured by locks the keep the water inside at more manageable levels (and also protect the area from cyclones, crocodiles, bad weather, etc…)

 Once again the divers and crew were fantastic and very helpful.
We were able to sit in their boats cabin, watch the monitor & listen to the diver’s comments as he inspected our hull.
Best of all it was a free service supplied by the Department of Fisheries.

Without being able to move Lorelei until the next day, we decided to explore town and find out our options for a berth at a marina.
We must have walked 15km’s that day around the foreshore and though the city looking at the shops, hardware stores, chandleries and marinas.
By 10pm we had caught a taxi home with it half full with groceries and a much better idea of where we were going for a marina berth.

However the biggest issue was we needed to tackle the rust on Lorelei’s decks that was slowly getting worse.
All the Marinas in Darwin (and most around Australia) have a no grinding policy due to the noise, mess it makes and damage the sparks cause to other boats.
We didn’t want to go through the lock, stay for only a few days and leave again to treat the rust.

So we motored around to a small inlet called the West Arm and tucked into there for a week to tackle the grinding of the rust.

It proved to be an endurance test as we had wind against spring tides, rain squalls, extremely hot days and mess everywhere from grinding dust.

To top it all off, Pauls grinder died 2 hours into the first day and we had to pack up, take the RIB 6nm over to the city and catch a bus to Bunnings to get a new one. That was a 6 hour mission….

While Paul ground the rust, Lisa sanded it and prepared for the primer paint.

One afternoon our friend Chris came over with his daughter Grace and friend Clint.
We had a great arvo catching up and a few drinks.
It was a welcome relief from all the hard work.

One good thing was being able to have a decent Aussie BBQ in the evenings.
It was great to have access to a large supermarket with lots of yummy goodies and some decent salad vegies.

We had some crazy afternoon storms and nice sunrises looking towards Darwin.

With all the grinding done and the primer on, we were able to leave the west arm and enter a Marina.
With 3 choices we chose Tipperary Waters Marina.
The marina came highly recommended from many people and Keith the manager was very helpful to us (unlike the office staff at the other larger marina in town….).

To get to the marina we had to motor past the large Strokes Hill Wharf just near the city.

The pearling industry is huge in the Top End and Paspaley Pearls is the biggest pearl company.
They have a fleet of massive vessels.

Coming into the lock at Tipperary Water was certainly a new experience for both us and Lorelei.
Whilst we had a bit of room to the side, we only had about 50cm both bow and stern once we were inside the lock with the lock doors closed.

As Keith flooded the lock, Paul was able to dash up into the control room to take some photos.

Finally we were in!

Looking back from our berth to the lock and the low water outside

An aerial view of Tipperary Waters Marina.
Our berth is marked with a red X in the middle of the photo

The Marina in the bottom of the photo and the city in the background

Once secured we were able to get stuck into ordering bits for Lorelei, exploring town and getting into the sanding, painting and some much needed TLC for Lorelei.
Inside she received a bit of a makeover with a new washing machine, microwave oven, epirb, safety gear, sheets and linen, toilet, engine blowers, electrics, inverters, and the list goes on.
It wasn’t cheap but certainly needed to be done and was long overdue.
Chris was nice enough to help us for the day and we had his Troop Carrier packed by days end.

The washing machine saga was a crazy one that took most of one day.
No matter how had we tried, we couldn’t get the old one out of the hatch.
So Paul fix the issue by getting out the angle grinder and cutting it up into 4 pieces.
The new one was an updated model and slightly larger.
It didn’t fit down though the hatch as it was just 25mm too wide.
Not matter how much we pushed and squeezed the machine casing, it just wasn’t going through.
So in the end Paul had to completely dismantle the entire machine (including all the wiring) and reassemble it inside the laundry.
Soldering all the wires back together in the small confines and the 37 degree heat proved a real challenge

The next morning Paul took some sunrise shots looking over the marina before getting stuck into the day’s activities.

The one big thing we purchased and were really excited about was a new tender.
Whilst we still plan to keep our RIB which we think is fantastic for diving and spearing, it is not suitable for Australia’s top end where the crocodiles are a very big presence.
So we lashed out and brought a brand new Tinny from a dealer in Darwin.
We did a lot of research with Paul’s parents George & Chez back at Christmas time and even went and looked at many before deciding on a model.
We actually brought it 2 months ago whilst we were in Indo and Chris was kind enough to pick it up for us from the boat dealer and store it at his house until we arrived and were ready to fit it out.

For its length it is the widest, has the deepest V and highest sides of any brand.
We hadn’t actually even seen one in that size until Chris pulled up with it on the trailer at the Marina.
It was a lot larger than we expected and much bigger than our RIB but we were very happy with it.

First stop was off to the Alloy fabricators to have a flat floor, lifting eyelets, fuel racks, bigger drain outlets, auxiliary outboard bracket fitted, transducer mount, rear step and a ladder added.

Whilst the alloy boys pimped our tinny, we went berserk in the boating shop and brought a battery system, electrics, canopy, safety gear, marine carpet and some new rods & reels to target Barramundi.

The next day at lunchtime there was a hummer of a storm in the Marina which peaked at 46 knots, and that measurement was from within the protected confines of the well sheltered marina basin!
Elsewhere through the city it uprooted large trees and caused minor damage.

With Lorelei being safely berthed at the Marina, we felt we could leave her for a few days.
So for our first weekend away we were invited to Chris and Cynthia’s property which is about 20 minutes out of Darwin.

Paul first met Chris through Adreno (the spearfishing shop where Paul worked) and for a long time they regularly talked over the phone.
Chris, Cyn and their daughter Grace came to Brisbane to visit the store and we all went out dinner, hit it off and we’ve been friends ever since.

Like many people from Darwin, they regularly visit Bali and we were fortunate to catch up with them for a week in 2015 along with their other friends Casey and Jackson.

Us in Bali with Chris, Cynthia, Casey and Jackson in 2015

 Jackson is an insurance agent and we were so thankful for his help during the first week in Darwin securing a new insurance policy for Lorelei.

For dinner on the Saturday night, Jackson also came over and so did their friend Paul who owns Outback Helicopters.

Chris and Cvn’s house is one of the most amazing places we have seen and fell in love with it and the unusual concept as soon as we saw it.

Paul couldn’t resist getting up early the next morning to get some sunrise shots around the property.

Sunday afternoon Jackson kindly took us out to his family’s smaller property (they also have a much larger one further out of town) so we could borrow one of their cars which was currently not being used.

It was cool to see all the farm machinery that is used around the property.
You know the properties are big up here when they have a helicopter in the shed!!

The property has been in the family for many generations and Jackson’s late grandfather was instrumental in developing a lot of the Darwin infrastructure.
He even has a bridge named after him.
Subsequently, there is a section on the property where all the excess equipment from each project was stored.
A lot of it has been there for a long time and made for some interesting photo opportunities.

Hooning thru the rivers & marshlands on an Air Boat is on the top of Paul’s wish list of things to do in the Top End.

They breed the cattle big up here too.

 Now we were back in Australia, one very novel thing we experienced was TV.
Whilst we have been able to enjoy movies whilst overseas, there has been no free to air TV. There simply is none in the remote pacific islands and in Asia a digital set top box is required to receive TV.

We have never been big TV watchers but we did find a fantastic NT Tourism Channel which highlighted all the tourism options in the state.
We were enthralled as we were getting so excited about exploring the areas they promoted.

Well the one thing so far we can say about Darwin is that we received a super friendly reception.
From the Customs and Quarantine officials, to Keith the Marina manager, the retail outlets staff and just about everyone else.
A super thanks goes to Chris, Cynthia and Grace who have been so helpful in so many ways and to Jackson and other members of the Walker family we have met so far and the gracious loan of the car.
We have been made so welcome - Thankyou!!!

So that’s it for another roller coaster month with Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures.
Some good times and some bad, but that’s the way it goes.

We have a very exciting year ahead with some plans to explore the remote areas of the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

So stay tuned for some Aussie adventures next month from our travel blog.

Paul Hogger
Lisa Hogger
Yacht Lorelei

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