“I’m looking for work on boats, trying to gain experience,” I said as I stopped my bike beside the owner of a grey-hulled catalyst-sloop at the Dinah Cruising Yacht Association.

“Aw yea’,” replied the bearded skipper. “I gotta couple of hours tomorrow morning if you wanna swing by. Pay ya $20 an hour.”

Sweet! “Yeah, sounds good,” I replied, keeping down the excitement rising inside of me like a Darwin tide (7 meters!).

“I’m Rowan,” he stuck his hand out.

I shook it back, giving him my name when I noticed John, who runs the bar (and I reckon he manages the Dinah Cruising Yacht Association), next to his Harley Davidson

“I’m not giving up,” I grinned as I rode up to him.

“On life or something more specific?” he toked from his rolled up cigarette.

“On looking for work for passage,” I couldn’t stop smiling from scoring with Rowan.

“Come back in a couple of hours. I’ve got some work for ya. Need to sand out some rust and repaint the hull on my boat (hull = bottom of the boat visible above the water). Pay ya $15 an hour.”

Finally, after almost two weeks in Darwin getting no where with the boats, I scored two jobs in one day.

“See ya in a couple of hours,” I grinned, noticing the number plate on his motorbike – ‘Nomad’. Meant to be, I thought as I rode into the city for breakfast with a smile.

From where I ‘m staying with friends, it’s a 10-K ride to the Dinah Cruising Yacht Association. To the Darwin Sailing Club it’s 16 K’s. From Dinah to the sailing club it’s 3 K’s. From Dinah to Bayview Marina it’s 2 K’s and from Dinah to Tipperay Waters Marina it’s just up the road.

For the last two weeks, besides gaining calf muscles the size of crocodiles (and losing my weight in sweat), I had been riding twice a day to the marinas in search of work – morning and afternoon. I figured it’d be easier – and more respectful to the boat owners – that I come with some skill rather than none and to show that I’m willing to work hard and do my share.

NanyaI returned to Dinah after breakfast and moseyed on down to the poles where John’s boat was tied. The tide was out so the entire boat was on land.

“Bought her in Bali,” John reflected. “Sailed her down here. Now just fixing her up before I head out on me own adventures.”

“Reckon she’ll be ready for the Dilly race?” I fished around to see where and when he might be sailing.

“Nah, she’ll never be ready by then.”

And with that he gave me a pair of ear plugs, a dust mask and wrap-around shades that had seen better days. He taught me how to take the rust off the hull without taking the off hull.

“Just use the lead on the wire brush.” He explained why I was sanding her down after, “Gotta create what’s known as a ‘key’ for the paint to bond to.” He looked at my legs. “Want some bug spray?” he asked.

“Nah,” I replied firing up the wire brush. “That shit doesn’t work.”

John neglected to mention that there was indeed, an abundance of mosquitoes hanging around. Last time I was feasted on this much was when I camped by Jim Jim billabong in Kakadu National Park. Three hours later, with the clock ticking past three, John paid me for a good day’s work.

“You play bass guitar?” I had overheard him mention it last week when I came in looking for work.

“Yeah, you play anything?”


“You any good?”

“I’m not a shredder but I can play a tune.”

“We’ve got open mic night on Friday’s here. You should come down and play.”

Another strategy point to meet potential Indo-going skippers. If my music doesn’t scare them off first.

I enjoyed a beer at the bar and then Skye came by for a few drinks before we headed our separate ways. I hopped on the bike that Isabel had kindly let me use and pushed off tiredly along the road.

I enjoy biking around Darwin. For one thing, it’s flat. There are bike paths everywhere which are safely off the road. You only have to watch out for pedestrians who seem to possess the ability to actually move when a bike appears before them.

Unlike the ‘freeze mid-stride in the middle of the path’ city dwellers who are kind enough to let you, the rider, be the decider of how many curses to use (in as many languages as you know) as you fly off the path to avoid hitting them.

And there’s hardly any traffic in Darwin.

The only downside to riding a bike in Darwin is the extreme heat at 09:00 in the morning. And the humidity. And the scorching sun. There’s also the mozzies that presume you’re the free delivery dinner when riding at dusk.

And if you’re paranoid like me, then the parts of the path that have dense tropical plants growing beside (and over) them seem to be most fitting if I were a deadly snake-spider-dragon-sized lizard waiting to surprise a cyclist – even if it’s just for shits ‘n’ giggles.

The next day I rode back out to Dinah to work on Rowen’s boat.

“We need to buff her up with this,” he brought out a bottle of Q-Cut, a product that takes off everything that isn’t paint on the hull of a boat. “Then we’ll wax her with this,” Rowen brought out a bottle of wax – that was identical to the bottle of Q-Cut.

Seeing what would probably happen if I wasn’t paying attention, I separated the two and began work with the Q-Cut, starting from the stern and doing the whole port-side (port = left) while Rowan began the starboard-side (starboard = right).

Within an hour of work my upper body felt heavier, as though my shirt were stuck to my body. I looked down and noticed that it was completely drenched from my sweat. I guess holding a buffer weighing roughly 5-8 kilos over your head for a prolonged period of time will make you evaporate in 30 degree heat.

As the sun hit it’s peak just past noon (and Rowan had gone for his pre-appointed massage), I had waxed and polished the entire port-side.

By the time Rowan was back (at around 13:00) I had already begun the wax-on-wax-off process on the starboard side. My arms felt like rubber but by 15:00 I had finished the entire hull of what would soon be christened, ‘Thunderchild’.

“From the H.G. Wells novel, ‘War of the Worlds’,” explained Rowan, a 5-week-on-5-week-off commercial ship worker. “‘Thunderchild’ was the planet’s last hope in the story,” he grinned as he stared up at his pride and joy.

He’d been working on the boat for 7 years, yet to be put in the water.

“Where’s her maiden voyage too?” I asked, hoping he’d reply with Indonesia rather than,

“Me Mrs is pregnant so I’m gonna sail her down to Victoria where we’ll have the baby. After that hit the Pacific.”

Damn it. Still, I was working in the sun (which I haven’t done since 2004 – agriculture), gaining new skills on boats. And mingling with the right people.

“Help yourself to a cider, mate,” Rowan gestured to the ice box. “Done good work today.”

I grinned as I sipped from the Tasmanian-brewed ‘Mercury’ cider. Finishing up, I thanked Rowan and rode over to Skye’s place (she lives just behind the club). I had a shower at hers in preparation for that night’s trivia night at her workplace. But as soon as I sat down after the change of clothes, my body signalled to me that trivia night wasn’t going to happen.

“You alright?” Skye asked as I limped forward across the table.

“I thi I’m z-oh-ssed,” I mumbled.

“What?” she asked.

“Ex-haus-ted,” I managed to articulate with the same amount of energy it takes the sun to release a solar flare. “Don’t think trivia will happen for me tonight.”

She suggested I go home and get some rest and although she was kind enough to offer me a ride home, I insisted (for reasons unexplained) to ride the 10 K’s in my worn-down state.

I reached home at about 20:00 and was knocked-out in bed by 20:33.

I’m glad crocodiles don’t ride bikes, I thought as my eyes closed.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Australia, Northern Territory, Sailing, The Timor Sea | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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