Wednesday, September 27, 2017

DAY 76 – SEAFARER’S CRUISE IN PORT HEDLAND



We all seemed to be up pretty early, so we got ready for our boat cruise and then packed our breakfast up and headed for the lookout once again.   Such a beautiful day with cool sea breezes.  Much nicer than being behind the hill at the Turf Club.
Lovely views out over the water
Gulls lined up along the fence
Lots of finches playing in the trees
Lots of finches and they were so tame...

The bird life up here kept us entertained for quite a while as we watched this little colony of finches dart in and out of the flowering tree near our picnic table and then come to land on the fence rail right near us.  They were fascinating to watch and it is those things that remind us how blessed we are to be taking time out to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation around us.  There is also a lesson to be learnt here too, that even in our busy times back home when we are living the routine of our humdrum work life, that we need to take time out to ground ourselves by appreciating the little things that we so often neglect or take for granted…

Ian and Kathy having their breakfast
Enjoying our breakfast up at Koombana Lookout
 Once we had finished breakfast, been home and cleaned up, it was down to the Port to the Seafarer’s  Centre for our cruise around the boat.  
Seafarers Centre in Port Hedland
Steve, Kathy and Ian
Off to spend a morning at sea...
 It was well worth the $49.50 it cost us as seniors to do this cruise.  We started at the Seafarer’s Centre where we had about 15 minutes just to wander through the centre and see the facilities available to the Seafarers.  What an excellent service for men trapped at sea, as Melba, our guide shared with us, how her husband was a seafarer and she spent three months at sea with him on one of these ships. 
Shop for the Seafarers
A bar that the seafarers can have a drink at
Ian having a play of the piano - 

 She was excited when she was invited to join him on one of his trips as she thought it would be a bit like a cruise…. It was far from that.  She likened it to being in prison as you are at the mercy of the captain about whether you can even go ashore.  Even when they do get to a port, they are busy loading the cargo and the turnaround is usually only a day or two and they sail again, so it is a very lonely and isolated life. She put a whole new perspective on the life of a seafarer for us. 


Melba (our guide) also let us know how the Seafarer’s Mission started, and how that is is a worldwide organisation and there are over 30 Seafarer Centres in Australia.  Each of them are run differently according to the needs of the ships that berth in their docks.  The service was started to cater to the seafarers, mental, physical, and spiritual needs, and there are counselling services available for those that need them also. 

In Port Hedland, they run a boat service out to the ships every two hours or so from around 10am in the morning, with the last boat leaving from shore back to ship at 9.30pm at night. They do a run of all the boats docked in the port and if they see seafarers with lifejackets at the top of their gangways, they stop and pick them up.  

We all caught the bus down to the jetty
Seafafers Bus
They are then bought back to the  centre, where they can either use the computers there to contact family members, exchange currency at their currency exchange.  They also have a small bar for the seafarers, pool tables, piano, guitars, karaoke machines, and a chapel. 
Melba’s presentation to us at the Centre took about 20 minutes and then we boarded the Seafarer’s bus for the short trip to the jetty to go aboard our cruise vessel that was heading out to pick up the seafarers.  
Getting our life jackets and heading down the gangway onto our boat
We were all given life jackets when we arrived, and escorted down the gangway by the deck hand.  Once on the boat and heading out into the Port, we were allowed to walk around to the front of the boat, and the deckhand proceeded to share with us a little of the history of the Port and the different docks, eg.  Who owned which one, etc.  He also showed told us that most of the docks were dug up to allow the ships to sit whilst fully loaded waiting for the incoming tide to float them up so they could sail out of the harbour on high tide.  
This ship is ready to sail having been fully loaded.
This ship has just sailed into port.  By the time she is loaded you won't see any of the red hull.
This one needs to be loaded also.
Measurements to see how much the ship is loaded by,
Loading the Iron Ore
Iron Ore being loaded onto one of the ships
Empty ship
Getting up close and personal with this giant monster.

This ship is half loaded.  You can tell by how much of the red hull you can still see.
 The turn around of filling these huge vessels with Iron Ore took approx. 24-48 hours, with automated machinery, and they worked around the clock 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

It was interesting to observe the different boats at different stages of their cargo loads, and at once stage our skipper took us right up to bough of one of the new ships that had arrived the previous evening.  It was massive.  You don’t realize how much of the ship is under the water line once it is filled.  

The ships line up at sea waiting to come into the harbour and can be waiting out there from anywhere from a week or two up to about four weeks, which must be very frustrating for the seafarers who are aboard and not able to come ashore…

Each ship has to be bought into the Port by three tug boats.  There are 19 at Port Hedland, and they are all owned by BHP and are worth around 30 million dollars each.  It costs $70,000 per tug boat to bring a ship into the harbour, so approx. $210,000 to bring a ship in and then that amount again to escort a ship back out, so it is a very expensive operation.  
 
Picking up Seafarers to bring them ashore

We managed to pick up some seafarers from one of the ships which was great, as initially we thought that we may not have found any.  We enjoyed our cruise immensely and learnt quite a lot about both the seafarer’s life at sea and the running of the Port at Port Hedland.  
One of the $30,000,000 tugs used to bring in the ships and take them back out again. 
Ship being brought into the port by the three tugs
At the end of the tour we were bought back to the centre for morning tea, and we had a chance to ask any other questions that we wanted information on.  They also got us to fill in a survey.  I would highly recommend this cruise if ever you are in Port Hedland.
End of our cruise
It was lunch time by the time we had finished the cruise, so we headed back to the van to pack up some lunch, and get our gear for showers that afternoon, and we headed around to Pretty Pool to spend the afternoon around there…
Back to Pretty Pool for the afternoon...

It is such a lovely spot, lovely sea breezes and Steve was happy to try his hand at a bit of fishing there today.   It seemed that we were the only ones with this in mind, as both days we had come across a few other motor homes there as well.  They were also lining up for showers each afternoon. 

By the time we had our showers and headed back to our van it was after 4.30pm.   We needed to book our accommodation at Cape Ranch National Park for our visit to Ningaloo Reef the following week. 

Now this was a bit of an experience as it all had to be done on line and paid for at the same time.  This place is booked out often 12 months in advance so finding a spot for three vans at the one camping ground was almost looking impossible.  We obviously serve a great God because we found a spot at North Mandu for three vans for three nights.  It wasn’t our preferred camping spot but beggars can’t be choosers so we just booked them.  The drawn back was that there was no real beach in front of us but just pebbles and rocks. 
 
With our accommodation finally organised for Ningaloo, it meant we still had two spare nights before we had to be there, so we decided that since our accommodation in Port Hedland was free, we would have another night here.  We looked at staying at Exmouth  but everything we had read about Exmouth, was not terribly positive when it came to it being an RV friendly town.  Also we had heard that prices in Exmouth were highly inflated.  We had read some glowing reports about a Station Stay at Bullara which is only 70kms from Exmouth, so decided that it sounded like a much better option for us and we would spend a night there.  
Dinner by torch light up at Koombana Lookout in Port Hedland
Dinner is cooking
Delighted to be doing life with these guys at the moment
And he cooks them perfectly too.
Our view whilst eating dinner
So blessed
Love you Babe
Corn on the BBQ
Another wonderful meal
With that all finally done, we were able to organise our dinner. We had enjoyed being up at Koombana Lookout so much earlier this morning that we decided that we would pack up our dinner and head up there for a BBQ dinner.  There is no lighting up there other than the colourful water tower, so we had dinner by touch light.  The lights of Port Hedland though from here make it quite a spectacular spot to be. 

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