Tuesday, 24 August 2010

NO ROOM AT THE INN

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.


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Monday, 23 August 2010

TEKANI 11

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.


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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.


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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

STILL TRAPPED IN THE TELSTRA HALL OF DOOM

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 worry...it's cancelled...you 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 ?

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

CALL CENTRES AND HOW TO HANDLE THEM

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

ESCAPE FROM THE HALL OF DOOM

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.

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Saturday, 2 January 2010

AUSTRALIANS BEWARE. BIGPOND IS AFTER YOU

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.


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