Marina life (and portrait of a territorian)

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
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Trip End Nov 30, 2009


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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Thursday, July 21, 2005

You probably don't want to hear this but here I am, sitting in the sun out on the back of a large yacht at Cullen Bay Marina, can of Coke by my side and wirelessly connected to the net to upload this entry. Today is a rest day after some hard work on the boat earlier in the week (such as changing oil on the various engines aboard and scrubbing the hull), so whilst it isn't all beer and skittles I certainly can't complain - life is good!

Preparations for the race/rally have been going well and all is on track for an 11am start this Saturday, so I might take some time out to introduce the boat and the owners.

As mentioned before, the yacht is the Mi Gitana, a double masted 48 ft Hans Christian design registered in San Diego CA. The name means 'My Gypsy Girl' in Spanish apparently. She's actually 56 ft from the tip of the bowsprit (the pointy thing on the front) to the very back (or 'stern' in marine-speak - arrr). Here she is moored at Cullen Bay Marina, and I'm lounging in fishing seat behind the smaller mast, basking in the sun right now. Ha ha.

You're going over in that crate?

Just kidding - this is the very dodgy Boy Willie in the mooring directly opposite ours.

Here's the real Mi Gitana...

Mi Gitana from behind Mi Gitana from front

Being a little longer than the standard rental tub on Sydney Harbour it's quite a lot more spacious than usual below decks. That said, any boat is pretty cramped compared to typical accommodations so although I have a 'king sized' bed, I'm sharing it with a large first aid kit, a 'ditch' kit (handy stuff if we have to abandon ship), and a bunch of other stuff (not to mention my gear). All in all it's cosy and surprisingly comfortable.

Galley and lounge My cabin

The boat has most mod cons (TV, video, marble kitchen, lounge area, BBQ, 2 full bathrooms etc) and a vast array of navigation and safety technology. She's made both the Atlantic and Pacific crossings in the past and is now en route to western Malaysia or Thailand before attempting the lengthy and dangerous Indian Ocean crossing (ending up in the Egypt/Turkey area) next year.

She's captained by Joe, a retired US Navy Commander who has served on carriers and corvettes before commanding a Destroyer in his final years of duty. First mate (and wife) is Michele, also ex US Navy and qualified nurse. Should be pretty safe on this voyage huh?

We all seem to get along well so far. The food is great and is included in the $10 per day cost, so apart from a bit of bickering (which they warned me about before I signed up) things are great. Unfortunately I haven't had an appropriate chance to get a photo yet but no doubt I'll capture them for posterity soon.

Cullen Bay Marina is one of three marinas in Darwin and is a typical tropical boating facility. All sunshine and swaying palm trees, upscale shops and big glitzy boats. I've been aboard for 6 nights now and making quite a few friends in neighbouring boats. Had a great piss up last night on the boat two slips down from us that's also competing in the rally, so feeling a bit worse for wear now. Oooer.

Wide view from back of boat

When night descends the marina lights up and is quite lovely. Buzz Cafe (below left) is always busy and the place has a chilled ambience much like that of Cargo Bar early in the evening before the crowds build up. There's always a light breeze across the water which makes sleeping in the hot weather very pleasant indeed.

Buzz cafe - Cargo Bar style... Purple haze sunset

We ship out at 11 am on Saturday for the big Darwin to Bali adventure, so whilst I have time, regular sleeping patterns and landlubber's sense of balance I might as well talk a little about Darwin itself.

It has been interesting to visit a place that I was recently considering a relocation to for a career move. The weather is consistently hot, the people are generally mellow and there isn't the menacing resentment in the local aboriginals that seems to permeate the atmosphere in Alice Springs. There's a great multicultural feel due to Darwin's proximity to Asia and it's big enough to have a distinctive style and identity that will grow as the city grows. It's positioned well to be regional hub which will ensure this growth in the long term.

The locals are certainly unique however and have developed a sometimes disturbing collective psyche that is probably due to a combination of the always hot and humid weather, the immense amounts of alcohol consumed per head of population, and the fact that their city has been obliterated and rebuilt twice in the last 60 or so years (from Japanese bombings in WW2 and the cyclone in 1974). This bloody-minded mentality often manifests itself in strange ways.

Now that's how you sell guns (the field piece is actually the RSL club next door) Love the logic

Architecturally, Cyclone Tracy was probably the best thing that ever happened to the place. Most commercial and residential developments are below 8 stories, and very low rise 2 level developments are the norm. Building style is often highly creative with distinctly tropical character, featuring plenty of rounded planes that allows the building in question to blend into the environment around it. It's a major and often overlooked feature of the city.

NT parliament - typical bold design Nice building on point overlooking Mindil Beach

Whether I could live here or not however is a different thing. All in all I think it's one of those places that you either love or hate - and most people that hate it only hate it because of the weather. I'd certainly come back and enjoy it, but I'm not sure if I could live here permanently. Maybe one day I'll find out.

Palm trees typical in Darwin

Next entry -> Out to sea and uploaded at Kupang in about a week's time. Wish me luck!
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Where I stayed
Cullen Bay Marina

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