Three brave sailors departed form Darwin today (Saturday) on a beer-can boat nine metres long to sail two and a half thousand (2,500 m) miles to Singapore on a tourist promotion exercise.
Beer-can boat "Cantiki" undergoing last minutes of preparation prior to launching at the Naval slipway in Darwin. Aboard are crewman and promoter, Darwin businessman Lutz Frankenfeld (large, tall man, ginger beard), construction supervisor Gino Marinucci (large, short man, dark glasses), carpenter and an unknown member of the organising committee.
Launching of the Cantiki at 0930 3.9.77 and the boat moves off to take on fuel and stores in Frances Bay.
Cantiki arrives in the mooring out front of the Darwin Sailing Club on Vestey's beach, where the departure was timed for midday.
Frankenfeld, assisted by friends and many well-wisher, wades out to board the craft.
Second crewman Paul Harding, an experienced Sydney sailor, joins the boat.
Third crewmen, former Darwin Reconstruction Commission chairman Clem Jones, was late in arriving, and we had used all film.
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Background: Three brave sailors departed form Darwin today (Saturday) on a beer-can boat nine metres long to sail two and a half thousand (2,500 m) miles to Singapore on a tourist promotion exercise.
One of the men instrumental in rebuilding Darwin after the big cyclone of Christmas 1974, Clem Jones, dreamed up the idea in collaboration with local businessman and used car dealer Lutz Frankenfeld.
Frankenfeld is the originator of The Darwin Beer-Can Regatta, the enormously popular four-year-old carnival for boats made of discarded beer-cans, a creature of plague proportions in this big-drinking city.
The astonishing project wet its head today despite refusal from the Australian and Singapore navies to lend a hand with a refuelling vessel, vocal opposition from an anti-alcohol campaigner and doubts among professional and amateur sailor about "Centiki's" sea-worthiness.
Although the concept of the craft is a raft, hence the name, its basis is fibre-glass hull in jet-powered surf rescue boats in many parts of Australia.
About twelve-thousand (12,000) empty, sealed beer-cans, supplied by a Perth brewer (Carlton United "white" cans, but the local branch is 51% owned by Swan) have been glued onto the hull, a cabin and mast raised, and four 50hp (37kw) outboard motors attached to the stern make up the so-called raft.
First sea-trials a week ago saw the Cantiki sitting deeply by the bows and fuel tanks had to be shifted aft. Tradesmen, helpers and Frankenfeld himself were still elbow deep in glue a few hours before launching scheduled for the high tide.
The Australian Navy, which stations three patrol boats in Darwin, declined to provide an escort vessel, and so did the Singapore Navy, which had the landing craft Endurance in port until yesterday.
Organising sources said the project was costing in the vicinity of one hundred thousand dollars, and the last-minute charter of a private escort vessel would cost another five thousand.
The navy refusals of assistance were attributed to the widely heard opposition to the project form the secretary of the Northern Territory Council for Social services, Peter Hall.
Hall's comments that the creation of a beer-can boat contributed to Darwin's image as a town full of alcoholics attracted him a suit for defamation from Clem Jones.
Naval opinion at the dockyard this morning was that they would not venture beyond the slipway on the Cantiki. Regulars at the sailing club were of the some thought, and it was probably this feeling that prompted Frankenfeld and Jones to include Sydney sailor Paul Harding in the crew.
Frankenfeld himself admitted concern at the passage of the Lombok Strait, past Bali, where the tidal surge creates dangerous currents.
Funds for the project have been subscribed by the public, through the sale of printed Tee-shirts, car stickers and empty beer-cans, which were inscribed with the name of the donor and attached to the raft.
The hull, motors, control gear and safety equipment were donated by local business-houses and three companies in building materials sponsored Harding, the third crewman.
Despite the opposition, Frankenfeld and Jones see the voyage primarily as promotion for Darwin and its commerce. The city's remoteness from southern Australian capitals and its large population of Asian people create a positive association with Asia, particularly Singapore.
The organising sources suggested that the promotion could eventually profit Darwin more than one million dollars in tourist revenue. Frankenfeld also says the use of old beer-cans in the raft and for boats in the annual regatta helps keeps Australia beautiful, and that is a relevant claim in a city that discards 800,000 food and drink cens each week with a population of only 49,000