Saturday 17 May 2014

The Gasgoyne

Downtown Carnarvon
Carnarvon is not a big place, only 6,000 population. Its a banana plantation region with several other fruits too and is the hub of the Gascoyne, which is the name of the main river. It’s home to a satellite tracking dish which was used during the Apollo 11 moon landing. Buzz Aldrin even came here for the space museum opening 4 or 5 years ago. But Carnarvon is a much nicer looking town than when I was here 30 years ago. Royalties for Region’s $$ have has transformed the foreshore and there are nice places to sit on the main street for the numerous backpacker tourists and grey nomads (retirees driving camper vans). At night on the weekends you can hear live music wafting from the pubs. There’s something about North West towns, more relaxed, removed from the structured societies of the south, still every town has a sailing club, what’s not to like?

Murals in town

Nice foreshore park

One big difference here, from 30 years ago, is the race relations, here in the north Australia’s indigenous people are a much greater percentage of the population, in Carnarvon its maybe 30% (a guess, for Australia whole it’s 4 or 5%). Down south there appears to be angry young indigenous males around and we don’t see that kind of attitude here in Carnarvon. The locals are friendly & relaxed. Also many more of the indigenous are actually a part of the economy, which is a nice change from 30 years ago, when just about all of them were occupying the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Though, there are plenty of the less prosperous and many businesses close at 2pm as it isn’t all roses. The foreign backpackers are here in force and Spanish seems to be most heard language on the Fascine last week, French is it this week (they sit on the sidewalk talking facetime into their iPads, free wifi from the Target store…)

We were serenaded on Ashiki by this lot on the foreshore. Singing hymns on Good Friday. Not our thing really.


What we didnt see though, are the 200 to 300 backpacker Taiwanese, mostly women spending their GAP year, working the plantations and practising English, so I was told by one plantation owner at the yacht club "Couldn't do without them" he says. Taiwan TV (TBS) even came to Carnarvon to do a story. I lived in Taiwan for 9 years, but never would have thought of a Carnarvon-Taiwan link.

Park in town, no water in the pond. Water gets rarer in the north.

There’s a shopping centre near the foreshore with a Woolies, convenient for the intrepid sailor with a ship to provision. Further up the road there looks to be a large architectural marvel under construction.  Another shopping mall? It’s looking quite imposing, substantial from a distance, maybe something for the locals to behold…  a monument to their hard fought prosperity perhaps. By Thor this place is moving ahead! Getting closer we saw the sign on the chain link fence, “Carnarvon Police and Justice Complex - a State Government Project”. Umm…  ok.

Ashiki taking temporary residence at the Carnarvon Yacht Club, to take on water.

Cruiser in the Fascine, they built a pirate ship. Why not?!
"Hybrid Ark" is 60' LOD (length on deck), has a hydraulic keel which drops down, and in the shallows can actually lift the entire hull above the water! She can anchor in 80cm of water.

Another difference is the kind of boats the hard core cruisers use. Down south new production boats dominate and we are a clear minority of one, it seems. But here in the Fascine, of those doing either the whole coast (1,000s of miles), circling Australia or heading OS, older or home built boats rule (and one 40’er is even engineless). Interesting how things are in the cruising world.

Our neighbour is this smart Wharram cat with Bolger Nymph dinghy on the stern.

There is a cool bunch of cruiser’s who “summered” here, waiting for the end of the cyclone season (Nov-April) before moving north, they revitalised the local Yacht club during their stay. The club had a pile of derelict sailing dinghies and cats that no one was using. Every club we anchored near had kids flying around in racing dinghies on Sunday mornings, with adults coaching them from a RIB. Every coastal town is like this. Except, apparently, Carnarvon. The membership are quite old and the club wasn't doing much about it.  The facilities were there, but not the will. The live aboard cruisers repaired all the boats, canvassed the schools and started a sailing program on Sundays and changed the face of Carnarvon sailing. They charged a nominal fee for use of the boats and at the end of the season, spent the money on a booze up.. err BBQ. We were lucky, they invited us..  we hadn’t done any work so paid a small fee (a bargain) and got to enjoy the booze up and food. WHAT A NIGHT. Even became life members of “The Shark Bay Yacht Club”. Of course, most of them are heading the same direction as us, so it was a good opportunity to swap plans & ideas. Excellent. Carnarvon is easily our best port yet.

Fascine sunrise

Fascine sunset
Bike ride out to the jetty

At the jetty museum

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