Recently transferred to the Bom in Katherine, Kenn Batt re-visits Darwin and likes what he finds.
I visited Darwin recently after some 35 years absence. What a difference. Darwin has long shrugged off its “frontier town” tag and has become a very exciting and vibrant multi-cultural haven of the tropical north. For example, it has more restaurants per head of population than any other city in Australia.
Apart from the food bit, one of my biggest surprises was the huge change to the Top End’s senior boating club, the Darwin Sailing Club, located on the shores of the very pretty Fannie Bay at Vestey’s Beach. From quite humble beginnings - a very small hut - to a comfortable and very tasteful clubhouse that would rival many yacht clubs further south.
Recently, the club has been given the go ahead to expand and modify the building which will include air conditioning. Visiting sailors can register as temporary members and can then avail themselves of the facilities, including the Waterfront Bistro, the showers and the laundry. Tenders can be left on the beach in front of the club and any rubbish can be left in the large bins near the launching ramp.
Darwin is the last Australian port of call for many circumnavigators before sailing into the Indian Ocean and north to Indonesia and other places north. On the other hand, it may be the first Australian port of call for those sailors who have sailed in from the west and from the north. Whichever way, Darwin as a port, has all the facilities to berth, replenish, repair or prepare your yacht for a voyage. There are also a number of marinas very close to the Darwin CBD that offer short- to long-term berthing as well as excellent facilities. Pre-booking of marina berths is essential during the Dry Season as they are much sought after.
As the Darwin coastline is subject to tidal ranges up to 8 metres at certain times of the month and year, marinas need a lock to maintain the water level. As each marina has its own special requirements in relation to these locks, it’s absolutely imperative that you contact them to clarify the correct procedures and make arrangements for your stay.
Some of the marina facilities available around Darwin are as follows:
Tipperary Waters - an excellent marina check out their website at www.tipperarywatersmarina.com/index.html for further information.
Cullen Bay - www.cullenbaymarina.com.au/ This top class marina not only offers berthing but also a wide range of restaurants and cafes and many other businesses. It’s about 2km from the CBD.
Bayview Marina – www.bayviewmarina.com.au/about.html This marina is very much sought after and is located about 3km from the CBD. It offers long term live aboard berthing.
One of the better anchorages in Darwin is located directly west of the Darwin Sailing Club in Fannie Bay. The prevailing offshore SE Trade winds during the Dry Season (May to October) make this a very pleasant anchorage. But please check the tides and water depth before anchoring as the tidal range in Darwin can exceed 7 metres. The anchorage is good holding in mud.
Another popular anchorage is located east of the Darwin wharf area. This area is available to the public and as such you can use set moorings or you can lower your pick free of charge.
There aren’t any facilities in this anchorage area and it’s also exposed to the SE Trade winds during the Dry. There is however a tender pontoon on a nearby wharf and it’s close to the CBD.
Please take note that Darwin is free of most marine pests such as Black Striped Mussel, Asian Green Mussel, Asian Bag Mussel and Aquarium Caulerpa. If you wish to enter a marina in Darwin you must be inspected before you can enter by a Government-appointed fisheries inspector or diver. This service is free. Check out this link for further information www.nt.gov.au/d/Fisheries/index.cfm?header=Vessel%20Inspections&newscat1=&newscat2=
As far as active boating is concerned, Darwin comes into its own during the Dry Season. This runs from May to October. Until this time, the boating scene is fairly quiet, apart from some Wet Season (November to April) inshore racing conducted by the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association. However the onshore social activities roll on.
Off-the-beach craft feature prominently up this way, but there is still a sizeable fleet of monohull keelboats and ocean going multihulls that regularly race inshore and offshore.
The Darwin Sailing Club is closely associated with the Cruising Yacht Association of the NT. Between the two, they conduct the Darwin to Dili and Bali Rallies. The Sail Indonesia Rally also leaves from Darwin.
At the sailing club, apart from excellent meals and beverages, one has access (next door) to The Yacht Shop, which is a very friendly and modern ships chandlery. This business has a wide range of marine goods and specializes in marine electronics and rigging.
Within a one minute walk of the sailing club is the Trailer Boat Club. This club has some excellent facilities and is well worth a visit. A longer walk, say 10 minutes, will get you to the historic Fannie Bay Gaol and Museum complex. A longer walk, say 15-20 minutes, from the DSC, will get you to the East Point Military Museum on East Point. This facility is well worth the effort.
Away from the Sailing Club and located at Dinah Beach on the western side of the Darwin CBD is Nautical Supplies. They offer sail loft and rigging facilities as well as liferaft servicing, RIB repairs and also a chandlery. The wide variety of restaurants and cafes that Darwin CBD has to offer are also within walking distance or a short taxi ride.
Further away in the suburb of Winnellie is Seafleet Marine. This firm houses Layline sailmakers and is also the local agent for Doyle Sails. They have a Chandlery and can also look after your rigging and electronic requirements.
If you require a haul-out facility, then there are a few available in the Darwin area.
The first is Pearl Marine Engineering located on Frances Bay Drive in Darwin. They operate a Syncrolift facility which can handle up to 2250 tonnes. They also offer hardstanding and a full vessel repair and maintenance facility. Contact them directly.
Another is operated by Spot On Marine situated on Ludmilla Creek. They have a 50 tonne Marine Straddle Carrier, capable of lifting up to a maximum length of 15metres.
They also offer water blasting, anti fouling and hard standing for either short or longer term. You can also DIY repairs and live onboard at the same time.
The Perkins Shipping Slipway also on Frances Bay Drive is one of Darwin’s oldest businesses. It operates an inclined rail slipway. Their lifting capacity is vessels up to 50metres. They offer a full range of mechanical, welding, blasting and painting facilities.
If you get sick and tired of boating type stuff then why not hire a car and check out greater Darwin. You could even venture further afield to Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks and go barramundi fishing (watch out for crocs though) or just sight-see. The beautiful Katherine Gorge is only a comfortable 3.5 hour drive from Darwin. You could even take a fishing charter on the lovely Darwin Harbour or venture out to the Tiwi Islands. Check out local tourism web-sites for further information.
The Top End is well worth a visit.