Saturday 28 June 2014

Of oil, gas, midges, A-bombs and Irishmen

Ashiki at anchor in Beadon Bay, Onlsow.

Not being able to identify anything about Onslow business on google maps, we went ashore and the first street corner we came to had a supermarket and over the road was a servo/fishing store. Everything we need. The big supermarket had one downfall. The prices! It’s an oil and gas town after all and being the only supermarket in town, what a rip off it was!  We noticed another big difference from Carnarvon too. Carnarvon would have small turbo prop planes flying low over the Fascine to land. This place had full size passenger jets zoom in, at least 4 times a day. A clear indicator of the economic activities of the two towns and the reason of the Onslow’s price inflation. They would be ferrying in what Aussies know as “FIFO” workers (FIFO = Fly in Fly out), a feature of this country’s booming resource economy.

Onslow was the town which the government moved, originally gazetted in 1885. After seeing the Ashburton River silt up too often and two cyclones levelling the place, they moved it 20km up the coast in 1923, on to Beadon Creek, only to be levelled another two times by cyclones, (130 knots - wonder how fast we could broad reach in that...). Also, it is Australia's southern most town to be bombed by the Japanese in WWII, by one bomb landing on the airfield (nobody hurt). On a happier note, three nuclear devices were detonated nearby on the Montebello Islands (by the British), in 1952 and '56, to much celebration and mirth at the Beadon Creek Hotel. Phew. 

Hanging on the wall in the pub. Have a read.
Picture of pom bomb, in the pub. Other towns up the
coast didn't exist back then, so Onslow was the nearest
"civilisation" to the bomb site, which would be the
Montebello Islands, which would be our next destination by the way..

Down the street was the only pub and we headed there on a quest for both beer and fish and chips. Well, the beers were good, if the selection was small, the dinner menu was too pricey so didn’t indulge. The Eagles football game was on the big screen and the locals, 95% men, were loud. They were losing to Collingwood and weren’t they bummed! Also, no backpackers in sight. Onslow must have missed out in the backpacking guide book. There was very good fast food to be had across the road and very nice it was too, I had chicken and chips, Susie had a burger. Can’t knock fast food, if had only once in a blue moon it tastes great, just what an intrepid sailor on an infrequent foray into civilisation needs, all the time might be different though..

While there we were mistaken for another cruising couple because of a story in the local newspaper, a couple whom we knew from Mandurah. They had built their catamaran in Onslow several years ago, took it south to Mandurah and recently we happened upon them in the Fascine in Carnarvon, they were finally on the cruise they had built the boat for. They left Carnarvon 30 minutes before us (with Calm Horizon) and had a tough time of it that night (when we were sailing bare poles in the gale), they sustained damage to both dagger boards and ripped a sail. They continued on to anchor off Onslow for a week for repairs, where the local reporter caught up with them. Having left a couple days before we arrived, we had to explain we weren’t the cat couple several times around town. I was quite funny actually.

The second night we were attacked by what appeared to be bed bugs. Scratching everywhere. Then we suspected it was midges that bit us, they're all over the beach where we land and launch the dinghy. We asked a local, who said when they first came they were itchy as hell and thought is was bed bugs. Then they discovered it were the midgies. They urinate on your skin, which makes you scratch like a madman. Life has these little discomforts in the North.. 

On a visit to the pub the next day, I started hearing Irish accents. Later at the dinghy, where the tide had left it high and dry, a couple who were walking along the beach offered to help us lift it over the rocks, speaking in their musical Irish accent. They’re here for work and said there were lots of Irish in Onslow. I suggested he picked the right place to make money and he grinned.

Nice foreshore area of Onslow

Beadon Bay pub, the only pub in town. Its a nice town actually,
they make an effort with trees etc. Just a little pricey.

Typical Onslow residence

Salt mine jetty and a quite pleasant swimming beach, replete 
with BBQ area. The beach at the anchorage in front of town 
is not for swimming, too many rocks.

Church in Onslow, this is Sunday. No takers apparently. 

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