Relatively few pleasure craft clear out of Australia at Dampier—we didn’t know of any that had. For us, it worked out well—our exit was smooth and efficient. John Lally, commodore of the local Hampton Harbour Boat and Sailing Club (HHBSC), was very welcoming and helpful in answering our questions prior to arrival. The HHBSC has a fuel dock that serves the local small-boat commercial fleet, with good-quality fuel and a high-speed pump. The club has a dinghy pontoon, showering and laundry facilities available at no charge, and we’d be given a one-month honorary membership on arrival. We were planning to visit their restaurant, but ended up being in town for too short a period to go ashore.
We spent two peaceful nights anchored in Hampton Harbour just south of the HHBSC dock while making final preparations for the Indian Ocean crossing. Shortly after 7am on our third morning there, we moved to the HHBSC fuel dock and took on 1,884 gallons (7,132 liters) of diesel. The fuel dock also is the customs clearance dock—Australia Customs arrived just as we were finishing fueling. HHSBC couldn’t sell us GST-free fuel, but Dampier Customs submitted GST (10%) and fuel excise tax (39 cents/ltr) refund requests for us. We also had a slightly more complicated exit than the typical cruiser in that we had export paperwork for Spitfire (required to take any live animal out of Australia) and for the four temporary imports we did. But Dampier Customs processed everything smoothly and efficiently, and had us on our way by 10:30am.
Trip highlights from Aug 23rd through 27th follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps
Large expanses of glass are great for views, but may not be strong enough for survival conditions. Storm plates fit over large windows to protect them. Rugged storm-capable boats really have only two options: very small, very thick windows, or larger windows that need protection at sea. Smaller windows make the boat less liveable, and given the frequeuncy of being at sea and the ease in which storm plates can be installed, the latter approach used by Nordhavn works quite well. We only install ours on longer runs when the weather is less predictable. Here James is installing the storm plates on the starboard windows.
The three windows on the starboard side are easy because we have a walkway there. For the port side, we either have to use a dock or install them from the dinghy. Using the dinghy is about as quick as working on a dock with only a small increased risk of dropping something. Today the water was a little rough, making the job more challenging.
The HHBSC dock is the only small craft dock in the area and is heavily-used for commercial activities. A constant stream of commercial vessels came and left while we were there. This boat is taking crew out to a nearby ship for a four-week stint.
Filling the two 300-gallon aft bladders. After filling all the bladders, we were carrying 2,587 gallons. With a 200-gallon reserve, we need to make 1.26 nm/gallon to travel the 3,005 miles from here to Rodrigues, Mauritus.
The HHBSC dock also is the customs clearance dock. Customs arrived just as we were finishing up the fueling and we were cleared out a half-hour later. At some Australian ports such as Darwin and Broome, you can clear out a day or so before actually departing. In Dampier, you have to leave once you’ve cleared. That was our plan anyway, so not an issue for us.
Several anchor-handling tugs and offshore supply vessels like the Nor Australis were anchored in Mermaid Strait as we passed. The Dampier area servers the fairly substantial oil and gas industry in this region of Australia.
The Australia Customs and Border protection patrol boat Cape Sorrel came up astern of us soon after we’d cleared the Dampier Archipelago. They radiod us and asked for vessel details and our last and next port of call. Once satisfied, they returned back towards Dampier. Australia sure does protect it’s border carefully.
As we round North West Island, at the northern end of the Montebello Islands, we’ll make our final scheduled course change for three weeks until we reach Rodrigues. And it will be our last sighting of land until then as well. It’s night, so we can’t actually see the island, just the navigations lights on it. Offshore gas platforms ring the Montebello Islands. We can see their bright lights way in the distance and are picking up several AIS targets, likely support vessels, moored among the islands.
Spitfire badly wanted outside, so we let him out on a supervised walk. As he passed a scupper on his way from the pilot house to the cockpit, a wave came through and soaked his paw. He let out a howl of indignation and spent about a half-hour cleaning himself up after he came back inside. He’s likely less eager to get outside now.
Far Shogun was at anchor in the Port of Dampier when we arrived. The ship was holding position just north of our course this morning, frequently emitting big puffs of black smoke as the dynamic positioning system held the ship in place. We radioed several times to make sure we wouldn’t be too close for whatever operations they had underway, but never received a response. The ship didn’t show up on AIS until we were quite close, but we continued to receive their AIS signal several miles after we’d passed, so likely they turned it on when they saw us.
Jennifer frying tortillas for a taco dinner. We don’t actually have a taco night, although we used to have a pizza night. A longstanding tradition in the Hamilton household, dating back to our Toronto days in the late 1980s, was a pizza while watching Monday Night Football.
The only problem with the current conditions is we’re often fighting a wicked counter-current. Since we’re running to fuel economy, we have to slow down to reduce fuel burn. We need to attain 1.26 gallons per hour, but nothing makes you nervous about fuel economy like 1,500 miles to the closest shore. So we continue to aim for a little bit better than that and consequently are giving up more speed than needed.
As unlikely as it sounds, just as we set off on a 3,005nm trip with all mechanical systems in top operating condition, the wing engine cooling pump water seal failed as we were maneuvering off the fuel dock at Dampier. The wing only is used for anchoring, close-quarters maneuvering and in emergency operations. But in the short run with the leak it had sprayed saltwater everywhere. Even with the motor shut off, it dribbled water. So today James spent a couple of hours to install the spare. The water pump change on these engines and generators is remarkably easy. This one is made a little more challenging in that the hydraulic power take-off (PTO) pump interferes with the removal of the cooling pump. The hydraulic pump driven by the engine PTO extends from the center of the front of the engine in the middle of the photo and the cooling pump mounting position is also at the front of the engine between the hydraulic pump and the batteries further outboard. (Click photo for larger view).
Taking down our Australian courtesy flag as we leave Australian territorial waters. That’s sure been up for a long time. Well, not that particular flag–we went through three others before it. We buy ours from J&S Surplus where a 2ftx3ft flag is only $13. The flags aren’t very durable, but usually will last a couple of months. We also bought one high-quality one in Australia that lasted well.
Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.
On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.