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Our neighbors in Port Lincon's commercial marina

Port Lincoln has one of Austraila's best natural harbors

Christmas concert on the foreshore. Note grain loading dock in distance.

Boston Marine's rail system worked but we were relieved to be back in the water.

Jeannie counts the days until the cast comes off.

Ross Haldane on Tacoma,a floating museum .

Miles Stevens and Jim with squid ink painted faces.

December 4, 2014

Port Lincoln South Australia

34°44S 135°52E

Port Lincoln grabbed us and is not letting go. This was our first port after crossing the Bight last March and was to be a week’s stop before heading to Adelaide where Onora would spend six months while we returned to Chicago. A car rental from ‘Sparks and Spanners’ lead to a dinner invitation which opened the door to this friendly town of 14,000 which is steeped in maritime history and, as home to Australia’s largest fishing fleet, lives off of the sea that surrounds it on three sides.

Miles Stevens, proprietor of Sparks and several other ventures, convinced us to leave Onora under his watch and as promised, kept a close eye on her and ran her systems once a month while we were back in Chicago. We returned to find her in good health and after two weeks of the regular jobs of rerigging, bending on the sails and installing the replacement parts that we had carried from Chicago, she was hauled out for a fresh coat of bottom paint.

As we worked a constant stream of visitors stopped by to welcome us back and tell us about the winter storms for which they had adjusted our lines to make sure all was safe. This is a working port and our neighbors are fishing boats and work tenders that service the fish farms along with a few ‘projects’ whose owners are in the process of reclaiming to former glory. Our immediate neighbors on either side are a boat of young divers that serve the tuna farms and a prawn boat with twenty to-a-side high vapor arch lamps.

Miles was our guest for dinner last Thursday. He had just returned from Adelaide with a clean health checkup and was reminiscing about his father who died of a heart attack in his late 30’s in White Cliff in the ‘Outback’ where he had moved the family from Port Lincoln in search of opals. The family lived twenty feet underground which was cooler in the summer heat and warmer in the winter but always dark. When his father, who was also the man to fix motors in town, died, Miles took over this part of the business at age nine. Besides Miles and his brother, now a Port Lincoln prawn fisherman, there were ten other students in the grade school. Miles was back recently to White Cliff which has mushroomed to 103 and spoke to the now forty school children, some still live underground and visitors can stay in a subterranean hotel. It was a wonderful place to grow up where at nine, Miles had a motorbike that he could fix himself and by ten his classmates were driving themselves in from the stations where they lived to school.

We are becoming regulars at the Friday evening yacht club social hour where members drift in after work for one beer (‘drink driving’ is strictly enforced) before heading home. Here I met Jim who had also lived ‘underground’ and through his unfamiliar accent I pieced together his stories of neighbors who would add bedrooms in search of opals. More than one followed a vane from his bedroom into the neighbor's.

Ross Haldane, a local burgher, stopped by for a morning coffee bearing two bottles of home-made shiraz as welcome back gifts. He gave us background. Port Lincoln is known as being the old grain terminal for the ships that sailed form Great Britain by the Cape of Good Hope to return around Cape Horn. Four million tons of wheat continue to be produced here each year and are loaded for Asian markets.

Today Port Lincoln is better known for fish which support most of its families. Fifty years ago Ross’s father and two brothers had built Tacoma, an eighty-foot wooden fishing trawler on which they pioneered the blue fin tuna fishing industry in Port Lincoln. Back then tuna were caught with huge bamboo poles on baitless barbless hooks that would snatch tuna out of the swarming schools but now, to preserve the quality, nets capture the fish which are transferred at sea to pens which are dragged slowly to Lincoln Bay where tuna are fattened, frozen and flown overnight to Tokyo.

With Onora back in the water we took off to explore some of this gulf. After anchoring off of several islands we sailed the 60 miles across to Port Victoria where the last of the grain sailors, Passat, sailed for the Horn and England in June 1949.

We took the dinghy into visit the small Victorian town and, before heading back to Onora, stopped in the combination convince store, coffee shop and post office where a gentleman with a cane came up to us and introduced himself as Timothy, age 87 and pointed out our sailboat explaining authoritatively that it had sailed all the way from New Zealand. Thirty minutes earlier a young lady in the fish processing shop a block away had asked if we were on the sailboat and where had started from. Timothy went on to tell us about how he, as a young man, from this very spot, watched the loading of bags of grain from wagons on rail tracks, long gone, that went down to the end of the wharf which was bigger then before the storm washed that one away.

After the last ship a brotherhood of sailors who had sailed these vessels had formed the Society of ‘Cape Horners’ which had met in St. Malo each year but last gathered here in 2009 for three days where the few remaining raised their glasses and disbanded the society forever.

We sailed back for a 'barbie' at Kym and Ann Clarke's. Miles sent a message in the morning advising us to skip lunch, good advice, and picked us up at 6:30. We arrived at the house on the top of a hill with a sweeping view of Boston Bay, maybe the best natural harbor in Australia. Kym, a builder, had added on to what was once a small house and now as a sprawling ranch with a huge open living area that includes living, dining, rec, bar and kitchen areas with glass, stone and wood details. Along with Ann’s photos, (www.imagesbyannclarke.com.au) it makes quite an impression. I wanted to ask Kym about the large picture window that looks into the garage but he was too busy preparing the feast.

Other guests arrived. We had already met Wayne who harvests abalone; an emergency room doctor from Ceduna (just 250 miles away); Simon, a pilot; their wives and several others. Kym also raises oysters in nearby Coffin Bay which are renown in Australia.

We gathered around the pool where three barbies sizzled with lamb, chicken and pork. Ann had the Christmas decorations up in the house and was in the house preparing hors d’oeurvres while Kym organized oysters, both raw and baked with cheese and bacon. Miles contributed abalone which impressed our emergency room doctor who told us it sells for $200 a kilo. It was gone in seconds.

Wayne was the storyteller and the men gathered around him as he told of returning from a sailing race with Kym and the others in a small plane flown by Simon. After leaving the pub they all climbed into Simon’s, the only one not full of beer, plane and their voices went silent after the plane’s propeller, in the run up before take-off, froze at the top of its stroke. Simon did not seem to be bothered but did admit that, when they finally took off, to making a few extra circles before heading across the water to Port Lincoln.

Last night was the Christmas concert on the Port Lincoln waterfront. The population was out with their lawn chairs to sing along with local coral groups. The children were dressed in Christmas tee shirts and summer dresses, faces painted, reindeer horns on heads and electric candles clinched in their little fists.

Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden Ute

Kicking up the dust, Esky in the boot

Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs

It’s summer time and I am in

My singlet, shorts and thongs

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells

Jingle all the way

Christmas in Australia

On a scorching summer’s day, hey

Jingle bells, jingle bells

Christmas time is beaut

Oh what fun it is to ride

In a rusty Holden Ute!




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