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CULLEN BAY MARINA. 12°27.124S, 130°49.296E

On the southwest corner of the Darwin peninsula, Cullen Bay Marina is a full service facility popular with cruising yachts.

It is not a conventional marina managed by a single authority, but rather a collection of berths individually owned under a strata title system. However, some berths are usually available for short-term rental for visiting yachts, except in July.

Because of the 8-metre tidal range, as with all marinas in Darwin, there is a lock system. Inside the basin there are 140 berths and the area has been developed into commercial units with shops, offices and restaurants. Plan for higher tide arrival as approaches can get shallow. Near the lock outside there is a commercial dock for passenger cruise operations at the fuel pontoon.

VHF Ch. 11 “Cullen Bay Lock”

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FRANCES BAY. 12°27.328S, 130°50.857E

The Northern Territory Department of Lands and Planning owns and operates the Frances Bay Mooring Basin, including associated wharves Hornibrooks, Fisherman’s and Raptis. The Mooring Basin or ‘Duck Pond’ lays a short way up Sadgroves Creek.

Check tides because approaches after Stokes Hill Wharf almost dry out in the spring lows. Add two metres to your own draft as the rule of thumb for the lowest tide to approach the locks around here. The internal facilities are for the commercial fishing fleet but they do accommodate visitors, especially if your yacht is too large for the other three marinas. There is often a queue at the lock so best contact in advance to reserve a slot.

The lockmaster will allocate you a position inside on European-styled stern to the dock berths. Lasso or loop a line onto the 1-metre diameter piles driven in about 25 metres off the dock and reverse in or tie alongside another boat. The jetties are fixed and there can be minor tidal movements inside when the lock is opened so don’t tie up too short on the stern.

Inside is a real cultural treat being home to more than 50 local prawn trawlers and barramundi fishermen. It’s a short walk north to the Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association site, with a small bar and restaurant. This is the only basin in Darwin where you can drive a vehicle right up to your vessel for loading gear or to carry out heavy maintenance.

Up to 60 trawlers can be offloading fresh banana prawns between April and June and again with tiger prawns between August and November. A few boats will sell to you direct and will have a sign out front if they do. Lockmaster: VHF Ch. 6 “Duck Pond Lock”. +61 4 0111 7062 Small Ships Scheduler: +61 8 8922 0617

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Further up Sadgroves Creek, between the Duck Pond and Tipperary Waters Marina, is an all-tide dinghy pontoon and ramp. It’s a short walk to Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association (DBCYA) with a rare old-Darwin style open-air bar and restaurant.

Formed in 1982, the club has a colourful history. It offers a laundry, hardstand, careening poles, workshop and dinghy racks. Visitors are welcome. While the club doesn’t offer repair or maintenance services, there’s always someone who knows someone (including a few Mick Dundee types) who can help you.

There is a wet season yacht race series with five classes. DBCYA is the main coordinating body for the annual Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race and Rally. +61 8 8981 7816

Outside, and half a mile north on the opposite side of Sadgroves Creek at the turn, are a few dozen government-managed fore-and-aft moorings at 12°26.725S, 130°51.376E. They’re well made with three rows of thick braided line, buoyed at regular intervals by large yellow-painted tires.

A convenient anchorage to wait out the tide, or if you’re on a budget, is south at the wide creek mouth a few hundred metres off the north of Stokes Hill Wharf at 12°28.099S, 130°51.244E. This spot, in 8-11 metres on mud, is open to the southeast and fishing boats’ wake to and from the Duck Pond. Around here, and up at the north moorings, are popular with the local live-a-board characters because it’s cheap and close to Darwin CBD. It’s a far easier option to transit shore near here than lug your dinghy up and down the beach around at Fanny Bay.

Fuelling in Darwin

There are two fuel docks for pleasure yachts in Darwin. Cullen Bay Marina and Fisherman’s Wharf sell through Bailey’s Marine Fuels Australia. They accept all major credit cards. Fisherman’s is more for commercial vessels and located past Stokes Hill Wharf just south of the Francis Bay Mooring Basin (the Duck Pond) at 12°27.535S, 130°50.992E. Approaches to this wharf can be shallow at low tides so deep draft vessels should time their entry. At Fisherman’s Wharf the diesel pumps are hi-flow, but at Cullen Bay Marina they run slower.

Fisherman’s Wharf is usually stacked full of commercial fishing boats, so you may have to raft up alongside. This means collecting the fuel line from the wharf and manhandling it over others’ decks to your boat. Pollution laws are strict so you’ll require capable crew to ensure nothing gets spilt – one to be stationed on the dock at the emergency shut off, with another controlling the filler nozzle back on your boat. The locals take a dim view of fuel spillages and view it as gross incompetence.

Call Baileys in advance to time bunkering when fewer vessels are alongside.

The Cullen Bay Marina fuel dock is just outside the marina lock. Baileys run this pump too. The dock has plenty of water at all tides but the channel shallows at spring lows.

Ferries and charter boats use this pontoon, so you might get shuffled around. At the time of writing the pump is set to shut off at $200 limits. This resetting and restarting can be irritating especially bunkering larger quantities. Call Baileys ahead to arrange a slot on either dock or to apply for a prepaid fuel card. +61 8 8941 3320.

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FANNY BAY. 12°25.775S, 130°49.920E

Home to the Darwin Sailing Club, this long open sandy beach offers anchorage in 10-12 metres. Beware the 8-metre tide; do not leave your boat anchored in less than 10 metres.

It is a long ride to shore and you must take your dinghy above the high tide mark or be prepared to swim to retrieve it. There are club trolleys to help get the dinghies up the beach. There is a laundry, toilets and showers, lockers and a dinghy rack. Afternoon sea breezes can make this anchorage a bit uncomfortable. Visiting yachtsmen are welcome at the club.

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While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.

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