Thursday, 24 May 2018

RIP - Brian Frank Darcey

9 August 1928 – 14 May 2018.

Brian, Christmas, 2017.
Our much-loved father passed away peacefully in his sleep. Widower to Ivy; elder brother to Gwen and Gilbert; father to Susanne, Judith, Belinda and Frank; grandfather to Janna, Jackson, Skye, Jasmine and Gryffyn; great-grandfather to Bowie, Violet, Finn, April and Noah; and uncle to Debbie, Robyn, Peta, Linda, Helen and Prue, he was 89 years young.

Brian was raised in Perth and the family moved to Melbourne in 1949. In 1951, he moved as a young man to Sydney, where he met Ivy, and married her in 1955 before relocating permanently to T.P.N.G. (Territory of Papua and New Guinea) shortly after; initially to Port Moresby for 1 year; then to Rabaul, where all 4 children were born; and later in 1971 to Kieta on Bougainville. The Darceys officially left PNG in 1978 for Australia and moved to Cairns, Far North Queensland.

Brian and Ivy, Rabaul, 1957

Brian worked initially in Rabaul for D.C.A. and H. Green & Co. but soon established his and Ivy’s own business B.F.Darcey & Co., buying and selling cocoa, copra, timber, crocodile skins, bêche-de-mer, and shell to buyers in Europe. They were also Providor agents for Bougainvlle Copper mine, during the initial exploratory period. The offices were located above the Newsagents on Mango Avenue in Rabaul, and in Toniva, Bougainville. For some years during the 1960’s he was Chairman of the Rabaul Town Council (R.A.T.C.) and also a commercial Representative of the Australian Navy in New Guinea. It was in this decade that he established and planted the Rabaul Orchid Park at the base of Namanula Hill, with physical assistance from his 4 young children, which still flourishes today.

As the business grew in Toniva, a variety of sidelines —a dress shop, jewellery, perfume— were added to the mix, along with an increasing number of genuine artifacts, collected by Dad on his many flights in and out of remote areas to source agricultural products. And let’s not forget the legendary ‘Buin Lodge,’ purchased to give Dad somewhere to sleep on his frequent trips to Buin, and then to accommodate tourists willing to brave a 4-wheel drive ‘safari’ from Kieta to the Southern tip of the island.

But without a doubt, his favourite destination was Fead Islands (Nuguria Atoll) and Malekolan, the family home of his closest friend, Graeme Carson. It didn’t take much of an excuse to detour out there en route between Kieta and Rabaul. Many happy hours were spent supervising the constant running repairs of Graeme’s outboard engines, while nursing a cold beer, followed by the obligatory dose of ‘snake-bite medicine’ (whiskey).

The artifacts were to become a mainstay of the business in later years. His vast library included many volumes on Oceanic art and exploration. His keen interest in Pacific art combined with his ongoing research resulted in him being recognized by international museums as a leading authority on Melanesian Art. Brian staged exhibits of curated genuine Melanesian artifacts in England, Germany and New Zealand, and facilitated exchanges with several museums, including London’s British Museum.

In his 70’s, he worked as a commercial skipper of both the 35 metre ‘Altlantic Clipper’ charter yacht, and the ‘Ocean Spirit’ catamaran tourism boat operating out of Cairns.

A Latin scholar, he was always a keen linguist, in his final week he was speaking French for over an hour in his nursing home room, much to the astonishment of the nurses. He quickly learnt Polis Motu as a young Skipper working in the Papuan Gulf and mastered Tok Pisin in Rabaul.

Classical music was his passion. He enjoyed opera, admired and followed Joan Sutherland throughout her illustrious career. As a graduate, his first ‘job’ of any note was as a radio announcer/disc jockey in Perth. Horticulture, particularly orchids was another lifelong interest. Boats and aircraft were his obsession but his real love was sailing.

His first boat ‘Leeuwin‘ was a small 12 foot plywood dinghy, which he built himself, over the course of a year, 1949-50, in the family garage, and then learned to sail in Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay. The sale of this little boat allowed him to purchase a BSA Bantam motorbike, which he rode north to Sydney.

During his 20’s, between multiple stints as a labourer’s assistant in Sydney, he built a small steel hull ketch with 2 male friends, over 2 years on a vacant block in La Perouse. During this period, Brian also twice finished the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, as crew.

The yacht ‘Kylie’ was launched in Botany Bay and her maiden voyage was to sail around into Sydney harbour. Shortly afterwards ‘Kylie’ and her 3 young  crewmen set off to circumnavigate New Zealand before returning via New Caledonia, and Lord Howe Island to Sydney Harbour, where she was sold on a year later. She remains afloat today! This bold approach— find first, train later—was to become a signature pattern throughout his life.

At age 27, Brian had completed his basic Ship’s Master certificate and went to work for the Steamships Trading Company in post-war Port Moresby as a newly-qualified Commercial Skipper, with his new bride. The ‘Doma’ was his vessel, a sturdy coastal workboat that sailed the routes all around the Gulf of Papua, the Sepik River, the Torres Strait, the Papuan coast and the Coral Sea. (You can read Dad’s highly entertaining account of his first days on Doma in this post.) The position of ‘Sea Rescue Boat Operator’ for the active Marine Base in Simpson’s Harbour in 1956, working with the Catalina flying boat service proved too great an opportunity to resist for the young couple and they relocated to Rabaul.

“Arsover’ was the small plywood ‘Sailfish’ class dinghy that he also built in Rabaul that provided the young family with many, many wonderful weekend hours of pleasure and racing at Takumbar Sailing Club in the 1960’s.

In 1970, at age 40 he decided that their business required more flexible transport schedules and routes than the commercial airlines could supply. After purchasing his first aircraft in early 1970 in Sydney, he then proceeded to take an intensive 1month Pilot’s training course at Bankstown Airport in that single-engine Piper Cherokee 160 ‘MSC’. Having qualified he then flew the small 4-seater plane northwards along the Eastern Seaboard and back to Rabaul taking 1 week, accompanied by his friend, decorated former NZ Airforce pilot Adam Anderson, a well-known commercial charter pilot in New Guinea at that time. A second single-engine Piper Cherokee, this time an upgraded Model 180 ‘PWD’ replaced the former aircraft.

Brian and Ivy in front of PWD.

After some years flying regularly, Brian surrendered to Ivy’s pleas for him to upgrade to a ‘safer’ plane. Again he flew down to Australia where he sold the Cherokee and purchased a twin-engine Piper Aztec as the replacement, taking the requisite additional lessons, to successfully qualify for his ‘twin conversion’ Pilot’s license at Archerfield Airport before making the return flight from Brisbane to Kieta in his larger plane, reregistered as ‘BFD’. In the ‘Darcey family-friendly’ 6-seater Aztec, he was able to fly both farther and faster between PNG, the Solomon Islands and Australia.

Brian flew a total of 3,700+ hours in fixed-wing aircraft and only surrendered his Pilot’s license many years later, long after the sale of the plane and after he’d been sailing again for a while.

After ‘going finish’ from PNG it wasn’t long before he bought ‘Nyalin’, a modest yacht that would see much ocean mileage under his helm in the following years, much of it spent exploring the Great Barrier Reef in detail.

Brian, astern. Tekani II.

After several years of cruising about the Coral Sea, Brian and Ivy commissioned a new Arends-33 model yacht from the yacht builder in WoyWoy, NSW, with a customised (much-improved) interior layout designed by Ivy who was, by now, also an experienced cruising sailor. ‘Tekani’ was launched in 1984 and sailed many, many blue-water nautical miles, including an emotional journey back to PNG and the Solomon Islands, visiting all the familiar places and faces along the way.

Recovering from a successful battle with cancer, Brian at age 74 resolved to ‘get back out there’ once he was declared a Remission case. This time he took up non-engine Gliding, taking his qualifying lessons in Charters Towers and membership later at the Gliding Club in Dululu, QLD. He was astonished at the thrill that gliding gave and habitually went there twice a year, for ‘a month of fun’ as he called it. His last solo gliding flight was on his 80th birthday.

Brian, gliding. Dululu airstrip, Queensland.

‘Bougainville Blue’ was the novel he published in 2008, an allegory based on the political situation in Bougainville prior to the Civil War there, which was critically well-received.

In 2010, Brian aged 82 purchased his final yacht, a Ketch SouthCoast 36, renamed as ‘Tekani II’. This beauty was a comfortable floating home for him for the last years, leisurely sailing solo along the Eastern Seaboard.

For us, his children, his values were very clear: respect for the individual, privacy and the elderly; kindness with the sick; lead by example; and adherence to the Rule of Law. He was against physical violence as a solution to any dispute. He was a dependable husband and a responsible parent who was determined to provide a stable, safe home for his family. He valued life experiences and learning above academia although his belief that as parents, they ought to provide for the best education that we children each strived for, was a strong motivational force for him in matters of business.

Content in his own company, he was known to many but friend of a select few. Those who were fortunate to know him as a friend, experienced his deep loyalty and wide generosity. An avid reader, feminist, environmentalist and outspoken advocate for justice, his most marked characteristics were his curious intellect and his fierce independence.

A staunch atheist, his instructions were for 'an unattended cremation', no service at all. He firmly believed, "Life is for the living." Accordingly, his ashes have been cast into the Pacific Ocean. Raise a glass in his memory.

Brian, at his happiest, sailing Tekani II to Michaelmas Cay, at 82.

Friday, 27 July 2012


The main lesson learned from my recently completed 1800 nautical miles in Tekani 11 from Cairns to Mooloolaba and return along almost the full length of the Queensland coast has been the abysmal communications situation for small ships which now exists: due to what can fairly be labelled as dereliction of duty by both state and federal governments.

Some 15 years ago, a similar journey in TEKANI 1 was made far safer by OTC Coastal Radio stations which covered the whole coast with high frequency, long-range transmissions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Any problems, either sea-induced or medical met with instant professional response and action….not so today…
All this has been “replaced” by Volunteer Coastgard stations manned by volunteers of varying degrees of proficiency and nautical expertise…the irreverent, but sometimes deservedly appropriate label of “Dad’s Army” is often used.

These ameteur volunteers deserve full credit for trying, but they are no substitute for the real thing as the unforgiving sea continually demonstrates when emergencies occur. Most are open for business during daylight hours only, some only on weekends and all are really there to serve the weekend recreational fisherman in his small outboard powered open boat in semi-sheltered waters for a few hours.

The serious sailor can use the AIS automatic reporting system used by commercial shipping which can and does indicate his identity, position and speed 24/7, but this requires the installation of special equipment costing many thousands of dollars and more battery power than the average small boat can offer as it must be operated non-stop to be effective.

A cheaper alternative is to have a satellite phone on board with access to satellite coverage. The illegal people smuggling industry uses these by providing boatloads of illegal fare-paying illegals ( average cost $10,000 per person) with one which is used in the Indian Ocean to call AusSAR in Canberra direct. AusSAR contacts the Royal Australian Navy and issues orders for a tow into port and eventual Australian citizenship.

I already have an Australian passport, but prudence has prompted the purchase of an INMARSAT satellite phone for access to help in any real emergency on TEKANI 11.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


From six miles up, the jigsaw-like wavy shapes in the upper right hand corner betray the
presence of one of the open cut coal mines which are a significant factor in the economy of Australia and a major reason for our escape from the GFC.

I drove past this one at last light on my way back to Tekani II at Mooloolaba, driving inland to avoid the overloaded coastal highway. A half mile long artificial mountain of fresh piled earth which had been removed to get at the black gold beneath was a head-turner as I drove into Clermont town just a few kilometers away looking for a bed for the night.

It soon became apparent that this was not an easy ask. One after another the motels all showed NO VACANCY signs. I lowered my expectations and started asking at the string of outback hotels dotted along what was once the relaxed and comfortable main street of a sleepy cattle town. Same answer..."Sorry...full up mate"

There was literally not a bed to be had anywhere in Clermont. Miners, contractors, tradesmen, drillers, modern-day carpet baggers and other harvesters of the torrent of money and opportunity generated by the two huge mines nearby were in semi-permanent residence.

Memories of another small town after the invasion of another mining army came flooding back...this was another Kieta, Same frantic rush and bustle; same crowds of thirsty miners: same cast of thousands of strangers thrown together by the lure of big money for anyone with two hands and plenty of muscle.

I tried the very last of the hotels and threw myself on the mercy of a bored receptionist.
"Are you sure there isn't even one single bed available ?"
"Well, there probably is but the rooms aren't serviced until tomorrow."
"I'll take one anyway"
"OK, but you'll need some clean sheets and a fresh towel, these guys are a bit grubby, you know"

I paid in advance at double the usual cost of a motel, collected the bed linen and a towel and located my room at the end of an unlit first floor corridor. No key needed, the lock was hanging askew from its moorings. The ancient air conditioner on the wall did not work, nor did the rusty overhead fan. Two unmade single beds, both showing signs of recent use and a broken chair completed the list of amenities.

I put the clean sheets to good use and went in search of a badly needed shower in the communal bathroom which was also without a working lock. The shower proved only 50 per cent effective. Plenty of cold water, but the hot tap had no handle, so I removed the handle from its cold neighbour and managed to get both working.

Time for a meal and I went down the creaking unlit stairs and found the dining room alongside the bar which was doing a roaring trade.

" A meal ! Too late mate. The cook's knocked off "

I settled for a large scotch and went back up the stairs to bed comforted by the thought that the never-to-be-forgotten Kieta Hotel is not lying in ruins on Bougainville. It's alive and kicking in Queensland.


Monday, 23 August 2010


There is very liitle needed that isn't already there, but she now has two 'nice to have' extras.

Leading a bachelor existence as I do, a microwave oven escalates from 'nice to have' to 'must have' and Tekani now has one in addition to the gas stove. It is securely fastened to a shelf above the work bench in the galley which leaves the cook's work space unobstructed. The diesel gen-set provides 240 V power for this as well as for the air conditioner and water heater.

The other addition is a chart table. Many small boats don't have one now and rely on the GPS satellite system for navigation; spreading the seldom-used paper chart on the saloon table for the rare occasions when it is looked at. I have been at sea for far too long to join them and a chart spread out on the table with parallel rules, dividers and a sharp pencil at hand is a comfort for when the batteries go flat or the ship's cat. mistakes the back of the electrical switch board for a relief station. There is a designated space in the aft cabin for chart work, but this is too far from the action when navigating. The table will accept a half-folded standard chart and can be removed in port or when not needed, but it is already proving so useful, that it will probably stay permanently in place.

Time I got moving before any more expensive ideas surface.


Friday, 23 July 2010

Tekani II

Tekani, the home island on Nuguria Atoll is the source for the name of my new boat Tekani II. The first Tekani is still sailing with new owners and regulations insist that no two ships can have the same name.

The Darcey family spent many happy days on Nuguria. We had a house there, built on land provided by Graeme (King) Carson, my good friend and fellow mariner who ruled the atoll as its benign but absolute ruler in those politically incorrect times.

Tekani II is a South Coast 36 designed by Bruce Roberts and is best described as a motor sailer. She has a bigger than usual engine, but still sails well without it and has more creature comforts than the average yacht of her size. Ducted air-conditioning, a generator for providing power to run it as well as a big freezer and refrigerator, hot water service and other frills, including a bow thruster.

A roller furling headsail and sail socks with lazyjacks on main and mizzen make handling under sail a breeze with everything controllable from the glassed-in pilot house.

Electronics include a GPS and chart plotter linked to an auto pilot plus radar and radio commmunications equipment and the galley has a microwave oven as well as a normal gas stove.

There is a roomy cabin aft and another up front, toilet, shower and galley all have h & c running water. Everything is in very good shape, thanks to Geoff Benson, her previous owner.

She is presently in the marina at Mooloolaba where the main engine is being checked and serviced before departing for Tekani's new home port at Cairns.

More photos later, this is just to put you all in the picture. My 82 birthday falls on August 9, so let's see how Tekani II performs with this ancient mariner in command.


Tuesday, 9 March 2010


It is now almost three months since I thought I had won my freedom from The Hall of Doom, to which I had been consigned while out of the country. (See previous posts for the gruesome details.)

The last contact with Betty from Bangalore was in early January when, with the timely intervention of the Telecommunications Ombudsman, Telstra finally released me from captivity and allowed me to return to TPG as my preferred ISP from whom "they" had illegally churned me during my absence from Australia. I reluctantly agreed to hand over a ransom of AUD$99 to Telstra Australia for a return to TPG and was back with them after a further tedious delay.

I breathed sigh of relief; the TPG connection, ( faster and half the price ), worked well, and I had no further problems. I still have a phone connection to the Telstra Monster and was expecting the usual six page incomprehensible account, but nothing arrived. I assumed that the order from the Ombudsman for Telstra to refund the ransom of $99 plus another $100 for my time and trouble had left me in credit, and that this was being offset against my telephone bill, hence no charge...silly me !

Today, a threatening call from Betty in Bangalore arrived through my cell phone.
"This is a first and final call to give you an opportunity to pay the overdue $500+ on your Telstra Account before you are posted as a defaulting debtor with the adverse credit rating which will follow "

After a pause to collect my thoughts, and with memories of previous encounters with Telstra call centres, I called the the secret Australian number, ( 1800 814212 ), which deals with angry Telstra customers and was immediately connected to a concerned and quietly sympathetic young lady who was not at all surprised at what had happened.

I quoted the file number which we Telstra victims are given, she examined it, heard my complaint, put me on hold for a few minutes, then assured me...again... that it was all a dreadful mistake. 'Someone" had not only not refunded the disputed amount, but had compounded the problem by imposing an ' Early Cancellation Fee' of almost $400 for my temerity in closing the unwanted and illegal Big Pond ISP connection...Very sorry...dont's don't owe us anything...sorry...sorry...sorry.

What can one do?. Ignoring these shenanigans will result in a destroyed credit rating.

Carrier pigeons, perhaps ? ... A bit slow, but a lot less stressful.

Why me, Lord ?..What have I done to deserve this ?


Thursday, 14 January 2010


I received a call from the elusive Telstra Customer Referral Centre, the one that sits up and pays attention once an angry customer gets past their working call centre. This included a promise to refund the ransom money paid to Telstra before it would permit my return to the Internet Service Provider from which it had illegally churned me. Let's see how long it takes for the money to appear. The current number of the TCRC, which changes once it becomes known to too many trouble-makers like me is, 132200.

A useful ploy, guaranteed to get instant attention from any call centre, is to utter the same phrase used by their own operators as an intimidatory opening remark. "This call is being recorded for operational purposes." Many phones now have a recording function and you will be believed whether you actually record the conversation or not.

When the call centre first answers, say nothing and do not press buttons or respond in any way. This will cut many minutes off the time you are about to spend replying to the same questions you answered in previous calls, and you will soon be flick-passed to a live human voice. You can save still more time by asking the voice to read the notes on your file which will have been posted by those you spoke to last time and the time before that. This doesn't always work and the voice will just go on asking the same questions and ticking boxes on the prompt screen, but it's worth trying.

Do not threaten legal action or mention your intimate friendship with a famous TV news personality. They have bigger and uglier lawyers than anyone you can afford : and bad publicity rarely damages the bottom line. The message you should try to get across is that you are potential Trouble with a capital T and you won't go away until they listen to you and fix your problem.

Good Luck. You can beat the system if you just keep coming back until the call centre gives up and actually does something.

Friday, 8 January 2010


Freedom at last. Internet access has been restored and I am again able to use my preferred Internet Service Provider, TPG Australia.

The battle was finally won after putting the frighteners on Telstra with the Telecommunications Ombudsman. Daily confrontations since December 24th with a series of disembodied voices in Telstra call centres and repeated assurances that the illegal churn, initiated by BigPond while I was in New Zealand and a long way from my locked and unoccupied office would be reversed are now at an end.....until next time ?

If it happens to you, don't waste time calling Telstra or BigPond. The Ombudsman can be reached on 1800 665376.


Saturday, 2 January 2010


The stand-off with Telstra continues into the New Year. Access to TPG, my preferred Internet Service Provider, is still impossible despite daily assurances from BigPond; (surely a misnomer, they must mean BigBrother), that the illegal churn would be reversed.

For this to happen, Telstra wants a ransom payment of $99. Otherwise no deal.

The phone line has finally been released and TPG is in the process of re-connecting me online. Best estimate is some time next week, probably about 5 days from now. If it happens, the hijack will have lasted over a month and my lawyers will no doubt take this into consideration when we go after the people responsible for this near-criminal activity in what was once a respected Australian Icon.

I am typing this at home before going to my online contact with the outside world at the Internet Cafe.

Happy New Year everyone. Make sure it stays that way by hanging up immediately if Telstra calls you.


Thursday, 31 December 2009


It started early in December 2009 after I left Cairns for New Zealand to buy a yacht to sail back to Australia.I had been gone from my locked apartment only a few days when Telstra, unprompted by me or anyone else of my aquaintance, cancelled computer access on my home phone line to my internet provider, TPG. Australia and churned me onto their BigPond system from which I had escaped in April 2009 after an acrimonius dispute over inflated charges in their byzantine accounting system.

I was blissfully unaware that this had happened while I accessed the internet from my laptop in hotels and motels all over New Zealand, sending and receiving email, using online banking, posting on Facebook, making international phone calls on Skype etc.The truth only emerged when I returned to Australia on Christmas Eve, December 24th and tried to boot up the computer in my home office. A call to the TPG help desk eventually established that access to TPG had been cancelled on this telephone line on December 6 after a request for a churn to Bigpond, allegedly from my phone in the locked and empty apartment.

It was now Christmas Day, not a good time to try to talk to Telstra or anyone else, but I tried...and tried... until I finally got a response from a call centre in The Phillipines where all calls to Telstra were being directed. Miguel in Manila was difficult to convince that my problem existed, claiming that I had requested a transfer to BigPond, this had been done, and what was the problem?. I finally persuaded Miguel that my plight was genuine, but he could only advise me to call Telstra Australia after it re-opened for business in three days' time after the Xmas holiday break.

By then, I had established a routine at an internet cafe close to home and used my laptop there to access email, but this was an unsecured public site and other activities including internet banking are unwise and cannot be used.
It is now New Year's Eve, December 31. nothing has changed. I have just spent the by now standard 90 minutes pressing buttons, listening to assurances about the importance of my call, etc, to be told that Telstra's last promise of action by 5 PM delivered yesterday should have read byJanuary 5. 2010 . SIX DAYS FROM NOW I am about to try to reach someone a little higher on the totem pole. Watch this space as my sojourn in the Telstra Hall of Doom continues