Fri 29 Oct 04
0630: Nice outside with a light easterly breeze and calm water in the anchorage for a change. Lowana IV hasn’t moved during the night.
0700: Weather forecast tells me I’ll be here at least until next Monday with 20kt winds predicted on both sides of gulf.
AM: Hard wire the starboard solar panel. Put the dinghy over the side. Mick of Falmari comes over for a short visit. Type up some emails and save them to floppy disk to send later in town. Take a shower at the ablution block next to the public boat ramp then manage to catch a mini bus to town along with some aboriginal passengers. I only have to pay a share of the fare instead of the full amount but even so it still cost $7.10 to get to the supermarket.
Visit the hairdressers for my long awaited haircut but they can’t fit me in until late today, so make an appointment for 1:30 pm tomorrow. Taxi wants $11.00 to take me to the library so I skip that. Buy some lunch at a quick food place and eat it at a table in the centre aisle of the supermarket. It’s a greasy toasted bacon and egg sandwich that plays up with my stomach for the rest of the day, probably because I’m not used to big greasy meals.
Buy some loaves of bread for Always and Mimpy who had asked me to do so by radio earlier. They’re on their way to Evans Landing having left Duyfkin Point. Start hitch hiking out of town but end up walking almost half way before finally scoring a lift. Heaps of cars go by in the hot sun. Check in at the servo to ask about diesel injector services for Mimpi’s motor. They tell me there’s a place on Howard Road further in town that does injectors but anything complicated can’t be done there. Get a bit more success at a place next door called Weipa Mobile Repairs. The manager Warren tells me they’ll go out to boats to check motors. They can do certain injector and pump tests on board but if they require further work, the parts will have to be sent to Cairns.
I ask him about taking at look at my own motor. He says he has a reasonable supply of parts. He warns that on Monday mornings he nearly always has a line of tourists at his front gate wanting repairs, but he’ll send a mechanic out to Lowana IV after lunch on Monday. I’m to go ashore about midday and check with him.
Look in at a Suzuki boating repairs and workshop with a view to getting a smaller dinghy. It doesn’t have any small dinghies but offer a Quicksilver inflatable with a wooden floor. The agent says, “Mate, I can’t take your plastic dinghy for a trade because I don’t think I’d be able to sell it to anyone locally”. He adds with a smile, “I’d probably be able to sell it to another yachtie, but we don’t get many wind thieves through here”.
A sign on a fence nearby announces an auto and marine trimmers shop. Maybe they’ll be able to repair my headsail. Enquiries inside reveal that the couple who had run the shop disappeared about two months ago and nobody knows where they’ve gone. Nor do they know anyone in Weipa who has an industrial machine capable of stitching headsails.
Take the dinghy out to Falmari. Mick had been thinking about my motor problems and mentions he has a diesel mechanic mate who might have a look at the motor tomorrow at 2:00 pm. Thank him anyway but have to decline. I’ve got that 1:30 haircut appointment and besides, I’ve already made arrangements with Weipa Mobile Repairs.
1500: Always and Mimpi are anchored near Lowana IV. Visit each in turn and hand over the loaf of bread they’d requested earlier. They apparently hadn’t had any bread for a while. Paul says they’d arrived about half an hour ago. To my mind they’ve parked fairly close to me, maybe too close.
1700: Have a rest. Read a book. Strong westerly winds blow through the anchorage with boats swinging every which way. Go ashore and ring home but there’s no answer so leave a curt message on our answering machine. As I get off the phone I realise it was a bit churlish of me. There’s no excuse even if I am feeling uptight. Take a walk and find a place where I can get my gas bottle refilled.
Try calling Delma again and this time am successful. She’d been driving home when I’d called before and I apologised for my earlier remark. I tell her my biggest concern is to get the motor fixed before the next weather window opens across the Gulf of Carpentaria to Gove. The next one could be in three days. I want to try and get Lowana IV home across the Top End before the north-westerly monsoon winds and storms that are due to start early November.
We discuss whether Delma might be able to find someone willing to go to Gove at short notice to help me bring Lowana IV home quickly. If I can get another set of hands and eyes I should be able to do it in 4 days from Gove if I push straight through, but I’ll need someone to keep watch while I’m asleep. Even if I take it a bit easy and just do a couple of overnighters, weather permitting I could still be home inside a week from Gove. I give her some names to start checking with and she says she’ll see what she can do.
Dusk: Back onboard and heat up a can of steak and vegetables for supper. Put on some easy-listening CDs and light the citronella oil lamps which give a soft glow inside the boat.
Evening: Paul and Kathy come over for hot drinks in cockpit. Full moon rises and bathes the anchorage in a soft light at first, then in full light as the moon rises. Pleasant chat. Lowana IV hardly rocking. Sometimes its nice here.
2130: Guests go home and I go to bed to read for a little bit.
0700: Weather forecast continues to cast doom and gloom on my plans. Can’t move from here now until Tuesday because of those high winds both sides of gulf. Make up some Crew Wanted notices to put up on the notice board at the shopping centre and also at the workers camp here at Evans Landing.
AM: On the way to shore check in at Falmari. Meet Mick’s mate Shaun who’d arrived from Gladstone late yesterday. Big chap. Seems friendly enough. Go for a walk to stretch my legs once ashore and ring Delma for a chat. She tells me an old friend Fred Sims may be interested in coming to Gove to help to bring Lowana IV home and will get back to me with more later.
Wander down to a cultural centre at the wharf area. There isn’t much there except for some information on saltwater crocodiles and an interesting exhibit of a meeting between Europeans and aboriginals in the early 1600s.
|Map at the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney showing the routes of early explorers including Willem Jansz off the West Coast of Cape York in 1606. Much of the Western Australian coast was mapped by early explorers during the 1600s.|
In 1606 the aboriginals at the Pennefather River watched the Dutch ship Duyfkin, skippered by Willem Jansz sail south to Cape Keerweer. It later returned to the East Indies. The cultural centre has another large map on display of the route taken, showing Ceram and Aru Islands of Indonesia and Papua of New Guinea, quite accurately showing the coastal areas of Port Musgrave, Pennefather River, Weipa and Cape Keerweer.
|Left: Duyfkin replica berthed
at the Sydney Maritime Museum.
Bottom Left: Main deck looking
Bottom Right: Main deck looking forward.
There is an oral history by local aboriginals of the visit by the Duyfkin at Cape Keerweer relating to a clash with the local Wik-Ngatharr tribe. The Dutch had kidnapped several aboriginals, some or all of whom may have been aboriginal women. The tribe responded by spearing some of the Dutch from behind trees. The Dutch then went to the south of the river mouth and shot some aboriginals there as they lay sleeping though these were not the ones responsible for the spearing.
Other Dutch visitors are recorded to have visited this area including Carstenz on the Pera in 1623, Abel Tasman in 1644 and Jean Golzal in 1756.
Notice a dinghy hanging off Just Roamin as I’m returning to Lowana IV so call in. Kevin and Sharon are both aboard and keen to hear my story. They commiserate with me after I’d told them my tale. Sharon says tears had been streaming down her face on the day everyone had left since she and Kevin weren’t going along too.
1130: Leave Just Roamin and dinghy over to Falmari to find Mick and Shaun almost ready to go to town and they offer me a lift. Visit the Mitre 10 hardware store at the shopping centre first then have some lunch. Browse through the shelves at the newsagency and put up my “Crew Wanted” notice on the notice board.
1300: Sit outside the hairdressers reading a magazine waiting for my appointment. One of the staff comes out early and invites me inside to get my haircut. Seems the 1:00 pm appointment hadn’t turned up. A friendly, pleasant and curious lass cut my hair at a price commensurate with my usual barber shop price. Leave the supermarket and reach the road leading out to Evans Landing. Almost immediately catch a lift from a chap who says he’d been picked up in the same spot last night after having walked for two hours.
Walk over to the Dining Hall in the workers camp at Evans Landing. Find an aboriginal mal who is one of the staff and ask permission to put up a notice. He makes room on the board for me saying he’d be interested but can’t get away.
Afternoon: Having a read and a rest onboard when there’s a series of short horn blasts. Think I’d better get up and take a look, just in time to see the stern of Always sweeping past about 5 metres away. No sign of Paul. Call him on the radio to get him up topsides but no answer. Both boats are wandering to the conflicting winds and tides. There’s a moderate easterly blowing on an outgoing tide and the boats don’t know which way to go. Am so sick of this place! Awful bloody anchorage. Just can’t relax here and on top of that Paul has to go and anchor right next to me.
1630: Big ore carrying ship Fitzroy River passes by in the main shipping channel about 100m away, leaving behind a flattened surface of discoloured water.
It’s hard waiting for this weather to clear. So boring. Hours stretch and I’m always looking for something to do. Lethargy sets in. Uncertainty about the anchor continuing to hold. Uncertainty whether your neighbour is going to bang into you. Keeping batteries charged is a challenge. Running the small generator gets exhaust fumes down inside occasionally. I can’t receive the local TV channel either on the TV or on the laptop USB capture card – whinge, whinge, whinge.
1830: Go ashore to the phone box for a chat with Delma again. She confirms Fred is happy to join me either here in Weipa or in Gove. Will now have to find the money to pay his air fare. Not sure yet whether to meet him here or at Gove. Delma’s having family friends for dinner tonight. Mick and Shaun come ashore and I join them to buy some supper. They can’t cook onboard because their kerosene burner is leaking and they need a new seal. Mick offers to take me to town on Monday if I need anything.
Evening: Watch rest of movie. Early to bed.
0330: Lots of creaking and clunking from the anchor rope. Starts to give me the irrits so go up to the bow to see what’s going on. Find the anchor rope pulling back against the hull and rubbing on the dolphin striker. Try moving the boat around but it refuses to stay in any other position. Like I said – awful bloody anchorage with strange tidal currents running through it.
0700: Weather forecast looks like a break may be coming up next Wednesday. Should have a better idea tomorrow. Paul is already ashore taking Davit for his walk. Tide is turning and Lowana IV is finally laying properly to her anchor. The owners of the nearby stink boat Dauntless have arrived over there but haven’t moved it. Must just be checking up on it.
0845: Paul has moved closer inshore to re-anchor between Lowana IV and Falmari but ended up closer to Falmari. He’s now moving further along the anchorage. Apparently it’s not just me having anchoring problems here.
Pull the outer case off the small generator to see if I can attach some battery charging leads. It has a plug socket for the purpose but unfortunately I don’t have a plug to fit. In any case it isn’t going to work. And I don’t want to take the little cover off the electrics box inside since there are 240v AC connections in there too. Put it all back together. That’s a bugger because I can only get about 2 amps charging through the battery charger instead of being able to charge directly into the batteries.
Paul finally returns and re-anchors between Falmari and Lowana IV again. This time he manages to position himself more in the centre at what should be a reasonable distance.
0930: A long and dreary day stretches ahead. Everything ashore is closed. Even the service station is closed today. Paul and Kathy head ashore to do some washing. Windy from the east otherwise a nice looking day.
1130: Ring Delma who says that Fred will do the trip either from Weipa or Gove. Sit for a while on the embankment of the foreshore overlooking the harbour and the anchorage. Quite pleasant sitting in the sun. Move to a shady spot later.
Back onboard the wind gets gusty and the boat starts rocking. Mick on Falmari is in the water cleaning the propeller with Shaun standing guard for crocodiles and any other difficulties that might arise.
1400: Try to rest but can’t. Something starts banging outside. The dinghy is pushing up towards the bow so pull it back and lash the stern alongside as well.
Falmira starts moving out into the harbour for what I think is their first trial run. Dauntless the problem stink boat left earlier this morning but has now returned to create an even bigger nuisance of itself by anchoring closer than before. Work on the small gene again because the choke lever isn’t working properly.
Big gusts come through making the water choppy with whitecaps all around. Manage to pull in the anchor rope by hand down to where the chains starts and connect a second rope to the anchor chain. There had been quite a bit of tension on the first rope so am feeling a bit better about it now.
Really hard to keep a charge up to the batteries just using the 12v fridge system. It draws a lot of power. Wash salt and red dirt off all the solar panels. Take the little cockpit canopy down for fear it will catch the wind and help drag the anchor. Dauntless is laying back between Always and me so I suspect there might be more problems tonight with it.
Afternoon: Blows windy for the rest of the day. Try to sleep but can’t as usual. Read a book but can’t get into it being unable to concentrate. Ring Delma in the late afternoon. She tells me that Fred can be on a plane to arrive in Weipa at Thursday lunchtime but she hasn’t booked the flight yet. Will wait until I can get another forecast tomorrow morning to confirm if there’s a weather window there or not.
1800: Back onboard fire up the weather fax software on the laptop and hook up the HF radio. It’s my first success at getting a readable weather fax. Unfortunately I can’t see what’s coming up off Western Australia as the chart doesn’t extend that far. Need a different chart but will have to find out the times they broadcast them.
1930: Listen to the weather forecast again. Definitely seems to be a weather window coming up Wednesday. Torres Strait is presently getting 1.5m seas running on top of 2m swells. Yuk. Probably be a good idea to wait until Thursday anyway to let those seas settle down a bit.
Cook up a steak, egg and veges but the meal is too big and gives me indigestion. Am not used to large meals. Wind dies down to a constant cool breeze. Wavelets are coming through but at least the boat is facing them and it’s not all that noticeable inside.
0715: Lowana IV sits awkwardly across the wind as usual with an incoming tide and easterly opposing winds.
0730: Weather forecast definitely shows a break coming up on Wednesday and Thursday. Set up the weather fax software on the laptop and connect it to the HF radio to see if I can find a chart showing the Indian Ocean off Western Australia. Find one chart which isn’t all that helpful but there does appear to be a break in the Highs off the Western Australia coast though.
1030: Ring Delma to arrange for Fred to come Thursday. Take some washing to the laundrette and put a load through. Walk down to Evans Landing Wharf where the ablution block is and have a shower. A huge ship dwarfs the relatively tiny Evans Landing Wharf where it is probably delivering fuel. By the time I walk back to the laundrette the washing is on its final spin cycle.
It’s blowing hard as I work my way back to Lowana IV with constant waves coming through. Hang out the washing and have a lay down. Actually manage to sleep for a couple of hours.
1230: Grab a light lunch and go ashore to Weipa Mobile Repairs. Talk to Warren who says his mechanic hasn’t returned from the airport. He’d taken someone out there and is also sending the injector pump from Mimpy to Cairns for checking.
Eventually the mechanic turns up. His name is Murray who tells me he’d stopped at the hotel for a lunch, but the service had taken a long time. Judging by the beery odour emanating from Murray I suspect they weren’t too slow in serving the beer.
In short order Murray collects a small supply of tools and off we go to Lowana IV. Once on board I show him all the places around the motor where the oil has been leaking out of the block, as well as the oil splatters and oil splash in the engine bay. His first impression is that the whole thing will have to be pulled apart to fix the leaks.
He takes off the gear select levers in order to replace the seal at the top where I think oil might be coming out of the gear box. He then places the unit assembly into his bag to take ashore and plugs a rag into the hole on the top of the gearbox. He also takes off the oil filler cap and the air filters and puts them into his bag as well. His idea is that the rubber seal on the oil filler cap is not sealing properly and that’s why oil has blown into the air filters. He maintains this is the most likely place where the oil splatters have come from. Not being a mechanic I can only accept this with some relief.
Whilst working on the engine I hear, “Ahoy Lowana”. Kevin of Just Roamin is urgently telling me the anchor is dragging. Indeed it does look that way but it’s no different to what happened this time yesterday. I’ve got 58m of anchor rope and chain out there which allows Lowana IV to skid around a little, but the stink boat Dauntless is also galloping around making it look worse than it is.
Even so, the wind gusts are higher than usual. I have my washing hanging out and the heavy dinghy is helping to tug Lowana IVs nose around. Pull the washing down which is dry now and lash the dinghy alongside. This stabilises the boat a bit and although we’re coming close to Dauntless, I don’t think there’s any danger of collision. Thank Kevin who turns away just as Dauntless decides I’m no longer any fun to play with and barrels across towards Always again.
Back ashore Murray starts looking at the gear select lever assembly. He tells me he doesn’t have a seal that will fit and will have to order the part from Cairns. I don’t really want to be delayed any further and tell him I need to leave Weipa no later than Thursday. He says that even if the oil is leaking from the gearbox it won’t be any worry and to just to keep the oil up to the gearbox as before. He makes a new seal for the oil filler cap and a rubber tube to replace the damaged one connecting the cap to the air filter. After washing the air filters we return back to the boat.
Back onboard he replaces the gear select lever assembly with some difficulty, making two attempts to get it back correctly into place. I find myself holding my breath in case a particular spring-loaded part falls into the gearbox, but thankfully it doesn’t. It would have meant a complete gearbox strip down otherwise.
Murray notices a couple of other small jobs that need to be done, but I tell him I’ll attend to them tomorrow. Despite his explanation about the cause of the oil splashes I’m still concerned there might be a broken piston ring in the first cylinder. I ask him if he will do a compression test on the motor. He says he can’t because a young lad had apparently borrowed the gauges and is away on holidays. Nobody knows where the gauges are. However he reckons the motor will get me back to Darwin but not to flog it. If I just nurse it along and it should be okay.
Warren only charges me for about two hours work which is quite decent of him. He says that until recently Weipa had been strictly a mining town. Single women were just not available to come here to work. He said there’d been the highest suicide rate in Australia if not elsewhere because of an over-abundance of men and a shortage of women. The rules have since been changed and more single women are coming into the town to take up work here. According to Warren the suicide rate has dropped but is still fairly high. I guess that tells us something about the human psyche.
Return back to the boat feeling somewhat relieved about the motor, if not completely satisfied. Tidy up a bit. Replace a couple of rusted bolts holding down the gear shift cable. Reconnect the feed tube to the stuffing box which has been knocked out of place. The nut securing the tube to the box has split lengthways and won’t do up properly, so tighten it as much as possible for tonight. Another job for tomorrow.
1730: Delma hasn’t booked Fred’s flight because she’d got a call from a lady named Rebecca. I don’t have pen and paper so memorize the mobile phone number. Delma says she’s 34, has some sailing experience and is happy to sail to Gove or Darwin. Ring Rebecca but only get an answering service. Ring her again at little later and get through this time. Make arrangements to meet at Evans Landing at 9 am tomorrow morning.
Evening: Conditions calm tonight after what has probably been the blowiest day so far. Cook up a couple of chops. Have to throw out a small packet of mince which smells a bit off. Add some eggs, asparagus and green peas. Enjoy the meal out in the cockpit. There’s only frozen mince left now and after that’s gone will only use the fridge as a fridge instead of a freezer. That’ll reduce the workload on the 12v motor to keep stuff frozen. It’s simply taking too much power out of the batteries and I’m finding it hard to put the power back in.
MORE TO FOLLOW