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Friday, December 31, 2010

Dec 27 – 31, 2010, Visit from Melbourne and Brisbane Friends and NYE in Sydney Harbour! Part 1

John and Loretta Wise arrived from Melbourne the morning of Dec. 27th. They know Sydney quite well, so after stowing their gear we donned walking shoes and took off. For the next few days we explored parts of Sydney that Frank and I may have taken months to discover. This included the Opera House, The Rocks (historic area), China Town, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, The Royal Botanic Gardens, the puppet maker's shop and art galleries. We ate some fabulous meals and walked until our little tootsies ached! One of my favorite days was taking the bus to beautiful Coogee, and then walking the beach trail all the way back to Bondi Beach. It is a magnificent walk, and one we recommend to anyone planning a trip to Sydney.
On January 30th, after another long sweltering day, Frank cranked on the A/C and we burrowed in to watch the 5:00 news. Within minutes we were pretty well zoned, listening intently to the news when we were jolted out of our cozy little world by a loud and urgent banging on the hull of the boat! Frank and I popped up the companionway hatch to be greeted by a rowing club canoe full of about a dozen rowers, pointing to the shore at a man there waving his arm and yelling for us to turn on our VHF radio. It scared the hell out of us! We turned on the VHF. The man hailed us saying, "Hello Destiny! My name is Mark Dent. I am the Island Packet Yacht dealer in Australia and I want to welcome you to Sydney!" We laughed with relief and started bantering back and forth with Mark. Eventually we relayed our phone #'s to one another, so we could continue our conversation on the phone. He told us he lived there overlooking the bay and, although he doesn't have a boat at this time, he had seen us motoring around looking for a spot to anchor. He had been trying to find a way to get in touch but we never seemed to have our radio on when he hailed us, so he coerced the group of rowers into getting our attention. He invited us all up to his penthouse for a NYE party the next night. We declined because we had our plans set on being on the water, but promised to get in touch with him after our guests returned home. He assured us that if there is anything we need while in Oz to just let him know.
On the morning of Jan 31, while awaiting the arrival of Scott and Muriel Spencer from Brisbane we hit the Sydney Fish Market for "provisions" for our NYE celebration. Frank and John went in one direction, Loretta and I in another. We loaded the fridge and the ice chest (Eskie) with fresh prawns, salmon, barramundi and oysters from the fish market; beer, wine and champagne from the bottle store, and accompaniments from the grocery store. We were equipped to feast until the dawn's early light.
As soon as we picked up Scott and Muriel we headed out of Blackwattle Bay to claim our little piece of prime viewing real estate in Sydney Harbour. We had hoped to anchor at an area in front of the zoo, which many locals had recommended to us. By the time we arrived at midday, the area was abuzz with eager boaters rushing in to drop their anchors. It was a zoo!  I do not know why but some people always want the spot that someone else has. This was the case time & again, as the show in the water around us got more and more entertaining. We sat out on deck sipping our drinks observing the hectic activities about. It reminded me of rude people in a queue at a Denver Broncos football game where people are trying to cram themselves through a very small opening so they can hurry inside. One poor couple with a small child in a very small motor boat had dropped the hook nearby and found themselves overwhelmed by the larger boats squeezing in and tossing them about. We noticed boats dragging, tangling up on other's anchor lines, calling to one another and vying for the perfect spot. After a while, the maritime patrol boats came out and set up perimeter buoys. As they did so lots of lots of boats that had spent lots and lots of time getting situated fell outside the permitted anchorage and were told to move. We got a little tense as they neared Destiny, nodded to us and then literally carved out a spot around us giving us front row advantage – whew! But, oh we did feel badly for those other people who just wanted to get settled and were finding it more and more difficult to squeeze in. It was nerve-wracking at times for all of us because for some it really was amateur hour!
Late in the afternoon a man came by in his runabout, yelled up at Frank, "Hey, you're the American bloke I met in Manly Harbour on Boxing Day, aren't you?" Frank laughed and said, "Yes, and you are the guy who gave me the wrong directions to the Heads!" We invited him up for a beer and after a while he left giving us his phone # and making us promise to look him up when we get to Broken Bay on our way back up the coast. Super nice guy – bigger than life and so typically Australian (from what we always pictured Aussies to be). At the time we never guessed that Russell and his family would come to be very good friends.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 20-26th; Summertime and Christmas in Sydney

I'd love to say that we did all the fun touristy things that we had planned to do in Sydney, but the truth is I've been dealing with some health issues that have cut into a fair amount of our time here and our time in Brisbane. It is also a small part of the reason I am so delayed posting updates of the last 6 months of our travels.
However, we did some walking around the city, and got to know the place fairly well in between my doctor visits and lab tests. Suffice it to say I will live, and there is nothing that needs to be reported on our blogs.
We had been reunited with some of our cruising friends since arriving here and were planning a busy holiday season. Cammeray Yacht Club extended an invitation to all of us to join them at their annual Christmas Eve party. Cammeray is located over in a whole other area of Sydney Harbour, several bays away from our present anchorage so we made the little journey over there to join our fiends for a few days. We caught up with Renata and Helmut (s/v Nuku a'lofa), whom we hadn't seen in a long while. We all prepared our potluck dishes and piled into the yacht club owner's home. Wow – what a feast! There was so much good food I wish I had two stomachs!
We left early Christmas morning to get over to Manly Bay to celebrate our own private Christmas and to be in position for the start of the Sydney-Hobart race on Dec. 26th. As Christmas day wore on, we got more and more crowded in by other yachts hoping to gain a good vantage point for the departure.  Finally on Boxing Day, Dec 26th, the excitement rose to new heights all around. Frank was very eager to hike up to the top of the heads to watch the start. It was pouring rain and I wasn't up to it, so sadly he went at it alone.  I couldn't see much from where we were wedged in so I turned on the TV and watched the race from the dry comfort of Destiny. It was very exciting, nonetheless! What a thrill to be here for such a big event. There were tense moments as one of the spectator boats (other reports said it was actually a media boat) was trying to get as close as possible to the racers and actually got in the course, colliding with one of the racing yachts! Idiots! It was so crowded out in the harbor that I would not be surprised of more such incident occurred during the frenzy.  Frank returned very happy. One more for his Bucket List for sure.
By late afternoon, the carnival atmosphere had settled down as most of the Stickybeaks retreated. Only the die-hards stuck around to finish out the holiday. Manly is a very popular holiday boatie spot. Frank and I made a last minute clean-up and boat check before retiring, making sure everything is ready for the arrival of our friends John and Loretta Wise on the 27th.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 19th, 2010 – Sydney At Last!

There are no words to describe the scene, the feeling of awe and the thrill of arriving by yacht into Sydney Harbour for the first time. None.
As we passed through the Heads (South Head & Quarantine Head), and entered the vastness of the harbor, I felt an incredible sense of smallness. Where is the Opera House? Where is the famous Harbour Bridge? Frank laughed and said, "Barb, it's a big place and we have about an hour yet to go". It is a remarkable feeling looking around with childlike wonder, tensing at the busy, busy traffic and noting all the things there are to see both on land and in the water. Sydney Harbour, AKA Port Jackson is tracked with its famous Wedding Cake Lights. They look like miniature lighthouses fixed throughout the port they are solid white and layered as a wedding cake.  Beautiful. There are countless little and not so little islands littered throughout. Ferries, from very large to small fast cats threw us in their wakes. Kayakers, fishermen and dinghies bobbed about. Are they nuts? There are so many bays, anchorages, inlets and coves that it is like a city in the water. Then of course there were the sigh-seeing tours and the cruise ships. This was larger and busier than Auckland by far, but even so more majestic in our minds. I was looking at the chart book to try to figure out where we were at any given time and noted some interesting names and found my favorite among them:  Woolloomooloo Bay.
Finally as we rounded Farm Cove the magnificent Sydney Opera House came into view. Just beyond it stands the notable Harbour Bridge. I scrambled out to the toe rail to get a good enough picture and cursed the ferries and other boats that kept getting between me and my photo op! I looked back at Frank and thought I'd never seen a happier smile on my captain's face. We just got to put one more big check mark on our Bucket List. Yes, we did it! We had sailed into Sydney Harbour on our own yacht. This was a special moment for the two of us. How many people get to say that?
We entered the small (very small) anchorage at Blackwattle Bay, where Wasabi awaited our arrival and pointed us to a spot near them. Frank popped his celebratory beer and I saluted him with my bottle of sparkling water. Big smiles all around!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dec 17 & 18, 2010 – Pittwater

Thursday we tried to explore Pittwater but it is a busy, busy place
and unless you are a member or a local it doesn't feel as inviting to
us as transients. Terry and Christine invited us over for dinner at
their home, so in the afternoon we went over to their place.
Their home is one of those multilevel ones you'd see along the
shoreline that is built up the side of the hill. It is like a
beautiful resort. Every room faces the water and has a balcony. It is
open and fresh. In the early evening the birds come right onto the
balcony just off their dining room for the daily treats that Terry and
Christine provide to them. We were thrilled to see Cockatoos, parrots
and Kookaburras practically eating out of Terry's hands. They came
right up to us, no fear. Fair dinkum!
After that we dined on Terry's amazingly prepared grilled steaks and
prawns. Ah, it was a lovely evening. Before leaving we agreed that the
next day they would come by for sundowners and then we would head over
to have dinner at their favorite Thai restaurant.
Frank and I spent the next day just doing boat chores and getting
settled from the overnight trips. We are not comfortable here and look
forward to leaving for Sydney tomorrow AM.
Dinner with Terry and Christine was very good. Great Thai food and
company. We all hugged goodbye and then headed home. They sure are a
nice couple.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 16, Second Day of Overnighter to Pittwater from Pt. Macquarie – Arrival

Continuing this, our most interesting passage since reaching
Australian waters, a dense thick fog settled in around us as the wind
and seas became virtually still. We turned on all of our running
lights and deck lights in an effort to be visible to all traffic,
since some may not have/use or be paying attention to their radar.
Fortunately we forged on without incident.
The going continued at a snail's pace as the countercurrent pushed
against us and as we maneuvered back toward land to make approach at
Pittwater. I was happy to be able to brew up some coffee and prepare
breakfast in the becalmed conditions.
Time passed, the fog lifted we both got some rest and then just after
midday we had a good visual of the entrance to Pittwater. The day
turned out to be beautiful, the water sparkled and the approach into
this huge bay was an inviting and welcome sight. Lots and lots of
activity greeted us, as we passed by several yacht races, bobbing
fishing boats and vacationers participating in all kinds of water
sports. We felt revitalized.
We dug out the phone # of our friends, Terry Moran and Christine Soul
whom we had met in SavuSavu aboard their beautiful big catamaran,
Sedna. We had cruised with them on and off during the season in the
islands. They lived somewhere in Pittwater and had told us to be sure
to ring them when we arrived there. We got in touch with them and
obtained directions to their area of the bay. Pittwater is absolutely
huge; 5 miles long and littered with inlets, bays, lovely beaches,
resorts, yacht clubs, townships and reserves. Terry and Christine
lived on a little private island called Scotland Island, which is at
the far end of Pittwater. We bobbed and weaved, zigged and zagged past
the sailboat racers, fishermen, jet boaters and water skiers taking an
hour to arrive at the little anchorage off Scotland island. The
anchorage was packed and so we motored around for another half hour to
find a suitable place to anchor. Even still it was in the path of the
water taxis and ferry boats but we had no other choice. It was 2:30 PM.
Terry came out in his runabout to tell us the lay of the land and to
invite us to dinner at their house the following night. We unpacked
our deck chairs, the grill and tidied up Destiny before having an
early dinner and settling in for a nice long rest for the evening.

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 15, 2010 – Overnighter to Pittwater from Pt. MacQuarie

Oh, What a night! I kept thinking of that Four Seasons song last night
as we navigated our way through a minefield of large fishing boats and
container ships and watched a dazzling light show. We left Port
MacQuarie yesterday at 9 AM, thinking that we would have a quick and
easy 24-hour passage to Pittwater, some 170 miles south. Had the
weather forecast been correct we would have done just that, but it is
now 10 AM and we are at least another 7-8 hours from our destination.
The first couple of hours out, we managed to get 20+ knots of wind on
a very close reach. We knew from experience that once we got to the
eastern Australia current we would shoot right down the coast at
between 8 and 11 knots, regardless of the prevailing winds. For
whatever reason that did not happen. The current eluded us and
instead, we got some crazy erratic winding, swirling current that
would literally knock us out of Auto Pilot. We needed the winds to be
as forecasted: 15 -20 knots nor' easterly, tending northerly. Most of
the day, however, the winds were in our face (southwesterly) and the
current against us. By mid-day, we were managing to sail along at a
little over 6 knots, when Frank yelled to me to come help him with the
headsail. The halyard had snapped causing the genoa to drop like a
rock right into the water! Of course it immediately filled with water
and got sucked up under the bow. I scooted forward and for nearly 30
minutes, we heaved and pulled to get the sail out of the water, aboard
the boat. Thank God, the sea swell was less than 2 meters and the
winds were still under 20 knots. Frank quickly rigged a temporary
halyard from the spare we use for the gennaker. He got the sail re-
threaded into the track as I tried to hand crank it up. Geez, this
sail was wet and very heavy and I was having a hell of a time trying
to hoist it. Finally, we changed places so Frank could man the
hoisting efforts and I could guide the sail. When it was about
halfway up of course the wind began to build, trying to rip the sail
out of my grasp. Frank kept trying to turn the boat into the wind to
give us a break but the swirling current would just spin us right back.
Eventually we got the sail back into operation and were ready to sail
away with this fresh new wind. We were riding pretty steadily so we
turned on the watermaker and carried on. After about an hour,
however, the winds continued shifting and we began to heel too far to
Starboard so that the watermaker lost efficiency and began to suck
air. We shut it down to find that the water pump would not shut off
and that all of the water had gone into the Starboard tank, leaving
the port tank dry. It kept grinding away, so Frank turned it off –
this means we cannot use any water because the water pump enables
water to come out of the tanks into the faucets. We changed tack,
hoping that the water would level off back into both tanks. The
promised nor'easterlies did not arrive, but the sou'westerlies
prevailed so rather than beat ourselves to death as we'd done the
other day we just took our time and tacked back and forth making no
more than 6.5 knots.
As we were settling into a nice rest after lunch, Frank announced that
our flag halyard had broken. The Australian courtesy flag was
flapping haphazardly in the wind and hanging on by one end. He tried
to bring it down, but was unsuccessful, so he attempted to tie off one
end at the mast pulpit, raising the courtesy flag to the spreader in
hopes that it will hang in there until we can go up to retrieve it and
the broken halyard.
By 9 PM, both of us were still too wired from the day's events to get
any sleep but Frank urged me to try to go down for a few hours so we
could begin our night watches. This is about when the seas decided to
kick up, so I tossed and turned until around 10:20, announcing to
Frank quite often that I just can't do it. I drank 2 cups of
Sleepytime Tea and about 30 minutes later I finally got fell off to
sleep. I awoke at 11:40 feeling OK, although I'd only gotten an hour
of sleep. I went up to relieve Frank and that is when I saw the
virtual traffic jam of sea vessels. They were all around us and
seemingly coming at us from everywhere. The seas were chock full of
plankton giving us the phosphorescent light show we love so much,
throwing luminous pale green flashes out from Destiny's sides that
looked like glow in the dark wings, and shooting out the stern leaving
a brilliant 20 foot trail of sparkles in our wake. There was a
lightening storm many miles to the west that threw fantastic jagged
streaks across the skies illuminating the entire night like a giant
strobe. And to top it off, we witnessed numerous falling stars. It
was a show that entertained us and kept us awake and in awe as the
long hours passed. It was such a frenzied and busting atmosphere
around us that we both stayed up all night long watching and
maneuvering. I was tired, but Frank was exhausted. Finally just
before dawn, at around 4 AM, Frank went down for some rest.
Now the winds are nearly gone and the seas are relatively flat as we
continue to motor toward Pittwater.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dec 11 – 14 Port Macquarie – Lovely and Lively

After a very early wakeup call, we departed Coffs Harbour for Port Macquarie.  Our day was marked by intermittent periods of good sailing, blue skies and then cloudy periods. It was varied enough to keep us alert for the trip. Timing the approach and departure of these ports is very important, so we coordinated our departure from Coffs with the advised tide schedule issued by Marine Rescue NSW. There are strong currents, adverse tides and winds to consider when making it over the bars; the great big shifting sand bars that lay across the opening of most of the harbors. Some are of not much consequence, however, some are quite risky to cross causing a vessel to get thrashed at an entrance or exit.  We have heard many horrifying stories of boats getting to the bar and then being tossed around helplessly when they hit it wrong. Port Macquarie's entrance is among the more hazardous ones. I am happy to report that my captain has thus far managed to navigate these bars masterfully.  Arriving into this beautiful seaside town was an absolute pleasure.
Two large rock jetties flank the opening. We noticed they were very colorful and just alive with walkers, runners and people fishing. A narrow channel has been dredged leading into the marina and even in the little channel we noticed the depth was at times just 2 – ft. under our keel so it is a bit like threading a needle. The water was clear and very beautiful though. Dolphins came along to lead our way.  We secured to our mooring and then retired early.
The next day we walked into town to discover great meandering walking/biking/running paths throughout. We chose one that led us along the river up past town. We crossed at a little footbridge and then followed it around toward the jetties, which took us to the main waterfront area where we found the most outstanding fish and chips kiosk. I had fresh grilled Barramundi, while Frank feasted on traditional fish'n chips. Afterward we discovered the ice cream parlor!  We continued our walk up onto the south jetty where we discovered the most unusual art. The large boulders used to build the jetty were painted in brilliant varying colors. Most were personalized, marking someone's passing, an anniversary, a graduation, a family reunion, and other events. Many were signed with the Iron Man logo, giving us the impression that this was part of the course for a past Iron Man event.  About us was the bustle of healthy people out doing healthy things and it was easy to get caught up in the fever. For the days that we spend there we enjoyed some great walks and hikes along trails that yielded to magnificent views and colorful flora. We enjoyed Port Macquarie very much and look forward to returning on our way back up the coast in the Fall.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 7 – 11, 2010 Coffs Harbour

Another overnighter from the Gold Coast to Coff's Harbour left us pretty wiped out.  The big commercial vessel traffic is getting heavier the closer we get to Sydney making night watches tense.  We arrived at the breakwater to Coffs at daybreak, dropped the hook and decided to get some sleep until the marina opened.  It was extremely rolly, and we found sleep difficult as Destiny literally pitched from side to side. We prayed that the marina had an available berth for us. Finally at around 9 AM, the cell phone rang.  The marina had a spot available, so in we went.  We got settled and then as I was checking out facilities, Frank hooked up with Wasabi and Endangered Species to make plans for lunch.  He also ran into Deb and Al from Sunboy, the couple with the three teenagers that we met at Tanna in Vanuatu.  This is their homeport.
I was so exhausted that I just couldn't get up much energy until the next day. We tinkered around looking for some needed boat parts, doing laundry and generally awaiting an opening in the coastal report to make another dash down the coast. There wasn't much excitement here other than taking walks and chatting with friends.
Next stop will be Port MacQuarie.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 3 – 6, 2010 – Ah, Australia’s Famed Gold Coast

The day after Frank and I arrived, Rick and Robin from Endangered Species left but then Isabelle and Brian from Wasabi arrived.  Frank and I enjoyed the area, although the rain persisted nearly the entire time we were there.  We did some boat jobs and in between rainstorms, Isabelle and I went to the shopping district where there is a huge shopping mall.  I find the prices here abhorrent but managed to pick up a few sale items. I plan to do my shopping next time we go home. By the way, the USD is steadily losing its value since we arrived in Oz. It is now hovering around 102 (Aussie dollar) to $1 USD. But hey, we had a real good run while in Fiji for a few months so it evens out at the end of the day.
Nothing spectacular happened while at the Gold Coast except that we ate well and spent a lot of time looking around with our mouths hanging open; at the people, the homes and the very marina we berthed in – it had an upscale Rodeo Drive caliber shopping mall attached. We probably will not plan to spend much time here on the way back through other than to duck in for a night or so.  Of course that was the plan this time, however, weather rules the day and so we waited and watched for the right time to make a safe overnight run to Coffs Harbour.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dec 2, 2010; A Very Tense Sail to the Gold Coast

Our Coral Coast Cruising Guide warns us: "Abandon all thoughts of peace and solitude when visiting the Gold Coast".  It is trendy, and bustling. Naturally we envisioned something like Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, so we left Brisbane with a combined sense of excitement and trepidation. We'll see. But we had to get there first.
We made a 6 AM departure back out the Brisbane River and when we hit the open water of the Coral Sea to venture south, the jolting reacquainted us with coastal cruising in Australia.  We did manage a great sail, however, when we hit the entrance to what is called The Broadwater we harbored concerns that we may not arrive at Mariner's Cove Marina in time to berth.
The Broadwater is a long inland waterway very much like our own Intercoastal Waterway but one that is like a minefield to traverse. It must be navigated very carefully because one particular area should only be approached at low tide in order (for the mast) to clear a cable that is stretched from shore to shore some 70 - 80 feet overhead (depending on real time depths), and then you have got to hit other areas at high tide because in some spots the depths are even too shallow for our draft. There are some schools of thought that dictate these waters should only be approached during Low low tides and High high tides that only occur about once a month. We felt confident because Destiny was built in Florida with these factors in mind for cruising the Florida waterways.  Nonetheless, Frank took the helm and hand steered much of the way while I manned the lookout for shallows & obstructions.  It made for an interesting journey as we passed by various levels of socio-economic areas of habitation and inhabitation.
The first developed part of shoreline we came to looked pretty scabby. The homes on shore and the watercraft moored about looked like a scene out of "Deliverance". We sure hoped we did not go to ground here.  We didn't, but a little while later we arrived at the dreaded cable.  It reached across a very wide part of the waterway with no support in the middle making it impossible to navigate the deeper mid section because the darn thing drooped dramatically.  Frank steered as close to the edge as he dared keeping a close eye on the depth gauge as I stood on the bow and watched for shallow spots.  Then he yelled to me to watch the mast and call out to him if it looked as though we would not clear the cable. I was running around like a little Mexican Jumping Bean! But, whew! We nudged the sandy bottom as we cleared it and had a few feet to spare at the top.  Calories were sweated during these tense minutes.
We then passed by areas of near desolation and isolation, decorated by the most beautiful beaches and the prettiest clear aquamarine water you could imagine.  This is where we hit ground the second time. The cruising guide had also forewarned of shifting bottoms and that sight navigation would reign superior to electronics.  The guide was correct. We had steered away from an area noted on the chart with shallow markings only to hit bottom at the area marked for clear passage.  We reversed, forwarded and bow-thrusted our way off the sand bar after just a few minutes, but became hyper alert now.  We were both so tense that I could feel the muscles in my jaw spasming, and knew that my TMJD was going to be giving me hell soon., so I could only imagine Frank's stress level.
Next came the high-rent district where the real estate can only be described as utter opulence. This told us we were getting close to the rumored sin city of the Gold Coast.  Large motor yachts were racing up and down the waterway, throwing us about and rocking us sideways like a little rubber duck in a bathtub. No consideration or sense of safety for others – rude, rude, rude. About this time, we hit bottom again! We had more trouble getting off the sandbar because of the #$*@*#G&%^! motor yachts throwing us further up onto the bar with their large wakes.  Finally, the tide rose just a little more, enabling us to break free and just then it began to pour down rain.  We made it the rest of the way into Mariner's Cove Marina, just catching the manager as he was locking up for the night.  We got tucked into our berth and then Frank grabbed a beer, sat back and said; "That is the hardest sailing I've done since we left the US!"  Time to de-stress! We were both bushed.  We sat, sighed and watched it just rain and rain, as I pondered what to do about dinner. Fate intervened when Robin from Endangered Species phoned us.  She told us that they figured we were pretty tired, because they had arrived the previous day and knew the drill. They were at the next marina over and wanted us to come join them for dinner at the yacht club. This is a real yacht club and tonight was "roast night" all U can eat for $15.  We jumped on it and so we sloshed over in the rain for a very nice dinner with our friends.  What a great way to end this day!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nov 20 – Dec 1, 2010 – Loving Brisbane!

OK, I'm wayyyyyy behind in my journals.  We loved Brisbane!  Scott and Muriel were amazing hosts. 
After several days with Scott and Muriel, Frank and I returned to Destiny where we discovered Brisbane via train, water taxi and on foot. The city is laid out to be a walking, running, bicycling and climber's paradise! We felt a vibrant bond with Brissie!  Scott calls it Bris-vegas.  We only stayed two weeks and were quite saddened to leave but we are to be south of 30° by Dec. 1.  Since today is the deadline we obviously won't make that but will get close enough for government work.  We will return after cyclone season ends.
So off to the Gold Coast we go! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nov 17 – 19, 2010 – Exploring Brisbane, the Zoo and Rock-n-Roll!

We sailed down to Brisbane – great sail, and then a nice long 3-hour
cruise up the Brisbane River, past the major shipping port, meandering
along commercial and residential areas. We felt a certain excitement
and thrill at arriving here. Our destination was the Dockside Marina
just around the bend from CBD Brisbane. We were advised not to
attempt to dock until "nil tide", which on this day would be well
after dark. Fortunately the marina gave us a temporary berth at the
end of B-pier giving us the opportunity to slide right up and side-tie
for the night. We had been forewarned that this marina could be quite
uncomfortable because it is right out there on the river without a
breakwater of any kind, and is heavy with traffic. It is, however,
the absolute closest to downtown Brisbane, therefore we felt we could
tolerate the discomfort. We stayed for two weeks and YES it is
uncomfortable but quite tolerable.
There is something very important that happened to us at about this
time. Our young friend, Owen Topolnicki who is a second-grader in
Castle Rock, CO sent us a paper doll character that he made, named
Flat Stanley. We are to take Stanley around with us, show him some
important landmarks and then send this all back to Owen so he can
report it to his class. When we shared this information with the
Spencers they decided to help us show Stanley the sights of Brisbane.
We even set up a Facebook page for him. You are welcome to visit him
there. Just look for Flat Stanley.
Thursday morning, at 6:30 we moved into our berth, had breakfast and
then at 10:00, Scott and Muriel Spencer came to get us. It was a rainy
day, as most recent days have been but it did not deter us one bit.
They took us for a driving tour of the Brisbane area, which gave us a
good overview of what this lovely area has to offer. Our first stop
was the lookout at the top of Mount Coot-tha. Even on this dreary day
the panoramic view was spectacular. Next stop was a famous landmark
– The Breakfast Creek Hotel, affectionately known as Brekky Creek.
Built in the late 1800's, it is not only a beautiful landmark but also
a famous steakhouse and watering hole. We had a delicious steak
lunch, basked in the lively ambience for a bit while the boys enjoyed
some ice cold brews and then as the rains threatened to soak us to the
bone we ran for the car to continue our get-to-know Brisbane tour.
The next morning we packed our bags for a long weekend with the
Spencers. When they picked us up we set off directly for the
Australia Zoo, which was the pet project of Steve Irwin, The Crocodile
Hunter. This zoo is absolutely amazing! We had an opportunity to
actually interact (touch) koalas, kangaroos and wombats. Of course we
saw lots of crocs and snakes and lizards. The birds here in Australia
are amazing as well, and it is so shocking for us to see varieties of
cockatoos, parrots and macaws flying around wild. This is where I got
to hold a koala and get my picture taken. It was most assuredly the
highlight of my visit to OZ so far! Of course we took Stanley who
also got to touch the animals and watch the croc show, the bird show
and the elephant show.
Friday night we gussied up for a night at the theater. We went to see
"The Ultimate Rock 'n' Roll Jam Session", featuring music from Elvis,
Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis on a historic date:
December 4, 1956, when these four men met at Sun Record Studios in
Memphis for an impromptu jam session. It starred four famous Aussie
musicians. We had front row seats. It was incredible! What a great
end to a wonderful day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nov 15, 16 – Scarborough Marina

Arriving at Scarborough Marina was a challenge! The waves had been
big and the winds high during our trip down, but getting into the
marina is just as challenging. With the local swell and
countercurrents we struggled to get into the berth. There are
cruisers who do not care for this marina and then there are many who
like this marina for various personal reasons. Do not count us among
them. It is laid out in such a fashion that the walk up to the office
and facilities is annoyingly long. Other than the marina office and
amenities, a local seafood shop and a high-end restaurant, there isn't
much here. Unless you own or rent a car you pretty much feel like you
are out in the boonies. There were a couple of redeeming attractions.
Foremost was that our friends Laura and Mark Pitt were here on their
yacht, "Sabbatical III". We had last seen them in Noumea, New
Caledonia last October. The second positive aspect for us is the
amazing hiking/walking trail that goes on forever. It is very nicely
maintained and is equipped with lots and lots of exercise equipment,
picnic tables and state-of-the-art BBQ grills all along the path. We
spent two nights here. Both nights we took food over to the picnic
area and BBQ'd with Laura and Mark. The first night was just the 4 of
us. The next night, Bob and Belle on "Bichou", and Mike and Mary on
"Carpe Vita" also joined us. We enjoyed visiting with our friends,
but were anxious to get going, so on Wednesday we set off for Brisbane
which is just 30 or so miles up the coast.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nov 11 – 15th Mooloolaba

We anchored for one night in the river, and then moved to the marina where we felt incredibly humbled, surrounded by very large yachts.  After getting Destiny snugged in to her berth we took a stroll down the boardwalk and along the beach into the surf club where we ordered lunch and watched Tiger Woods play golf at a tournament somewhere in Australia on the big screen.  Even here, the cameras follow him as though he is the only one on the golf course.
Afterward, we walked further along the boardwalk passing trendy shops, attractive restaurants and hotels, constantly commenting that it reminded us of a mini Miami. Yes, this is definitely a very nice, and expensive place to play.  The beaches are beautiful and inviting and although the surf looked frighteningly powerful, the water was chock full of swimmers and surfers.  There were warnings on the message boards to watch for "bluebottles", which are little jellyfish type creatures that are referred to as the Pacific Man-o-war.  The beach was littered with them but it didn't stop the bathers.  It did stop us.  So we walked and enjoyed the lovely weather and sights.

That night Endangered Species and Wind Pony arrived as I was getting some laundry done.  We agreed to meet them at the yacht club for sundowners and then meet for dinner at – of all places – the Hogs Breath Saloon.  They wanted a little flavor from home and we got it as we dined on succulent prime rib.

Saturday, Scott and Muriel Spencer drove up from Brisbane to visit us for a night.  They took us to an awesome café called Thai Seasons.  The tables are set up on an outdoor slab, which was once home to a shop that burned to the ground and the empty space is now used as additional dining area for Thai Seasons. It is rumored that the café had something to do with the fire – hmmm. The café itself is tiny but there must have been 100 diners packed into tables and chairs and a long queue to get in, with another long line of people awaiting take-out.  The food is incredibly good and moderately priced. This place is definitely the spot!

Sunday morning we took Scott and Muriel out for a dinghy ride along the river, through the canals where opulent homes and sprawling waterfront estates sat like lonely monuments.  Scott grew up here and told us that as a boy this was his playground, but back then it was primarily comprised of mangroves and sand beaches.  The river and canals were his swimming holes, but are now swimming with bull sharks. Even since moving to Brisbane, this continues to be their family vacation playground.  It was nice to be here with friends who know the lay of the land. Afterward we had a nice day at the beach, took a long walk, lunched at the surf club and then they left to return home.
Monday, Frank and I said goodbye to lovely Mooloolaba and continued south on a long one-day sail to Scarborough.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nov 8 – 10, 2010; Moving on! Mooloolaba or Bust!

We spent an uneventful day going down to the end of Fraser Island
where we anchored in VERY shallow water along with too many other
yachts and much too much watercraft traffic. Because it took us the
entire day just to travel the few miles to the bottom of Fraser
Island, we stayed the night. We felt very uncomfortable here, but it
is where boats await a good opportunity to pass across Wide Bar Bay.

The waterways in this area are a challenge for keelboats. You must
time entrances, exits and crossings over the sand bars carefully.
There are many, many shoals which actually move with the strong
shifting currents, varying tide differentials and winds. Prudent
sailors ("Boaties" they call us here), check with the Coast Guard
before making a move in or out of these areas. Weather has been
erratic and not optimum for cruising, so we must be patient.

Early Tuesday morning, we took the incoming tide into Tin Can Bay,
following Endangered Species and Wind Pony. We all went in to shore
for a nice long walk, had a fantastic lunch and then consulted with
the Coast Guard about best next moves. The others decided to stay for
another day to feed the dolphins in the morning.

Frank and I were ready to get going and had a good weather window, so
at first light we rode the incredible rollercoaster that is called
Wide Bar Bay. Oddly, you must exit at incoming tide. It was quite the
most unusual ride we have had since cruising; bucking the tide and the
wind, seeking the exact waypoints issued by the Coast Guard so that we
could hit the precise exit point out of the bay, while watching the
rollers crash toward us. It is an ominous feeling. We revved the
engine to nearly 3000 RPM, making barely ½ knot of forward movement at
times. Frank finally found the sweet spot and we made it through the
3-mile pass in just over an hour and a half. Wow, what a ride! Poor
Destiny – she looked like a hobbyhorse going through that pass! But
when we broke free we got good wind and flew toward the river leading
to Mooloolaba. We passed by several multi-million dollar homes along
the river telling us that this is where the big boys and girls come to
play, once again arriving at the anchorage just at sundown.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nov 7, 2010 - Touring Fraser Island

Sunday morning was rainy and dreary as we rode to shore with friends
on "Wind Pony" and "Endangered Species". We knew that the 6 of us
would be able to get the dinghy back into the water at the end of the
day with less of a struggle than Frank and I had encountered the
previous day. All of us were heading in for the guided 4WD Bus Tour of
the island. This island is simply amazing. It is the largest sand
island in the world and the fact that we could drive all over it in a
large bus is even more amazing. Special tracks had been inlaid and
then "webbed" to accommodate 4WD vehicles to navigate the island. I
can't begin to describe the beauty of the place. Once upon a time it
was solely inhabited by Aboriginals (Abos), who cohabitated with
dingoes, snakes and other predatory creatures. They called the
island, K'Gari, meaning "paradise". It is an amazing 120 km long pile
of sand, which has given birth to a delicately balanced and lush eco
system. It is full of rich mineral lakes, fresh water pools, crystal
clear rivers that you could actually drink out of and other natural
resources that helped the indigenous people to thrive for thousands of
years. Yet as is typical, the European white man came along and
displaced the Aborigines in the name of commerce. The island is named
after a drunkard sea captain, James Fraser, who shipwrecked on the
island. The Europeans came along and deforested large areas of the
good timber. Logging and sand mining were the big revenue makers
until in the late 20h century the EPA was allowed in, and managed to
get the island registered as a World Heritage area. Now protected it
is still a very dangerous area; the surrounding waters are riddled
with sharks, the land is crawling with poisonous snakes and run amok
with dingoes. If you follow the rules you can enjoy a nice vacation
on Fraser Island.

We were taken up to Lake McKenzie, which is said to be full of rich
anti-aging minerals. The boys swam but it was too cold for us girls.
If the sun had been out we would probably have jumped at the chance
for a swim.

Next we headed into Central Station – the middle of the island – that
is the former station of the logging enterprise in the heart of the
rainforest. From there we hiked a few kilometers down along one of
the most beautiful rivers we have ever seen. The water is so clear
that you can't even see it. You can only see what is in the bottom of
the river. Incredible!

At low tide we were able to drive along the beaches where we saw the
rainbow cliffs, shipwrecks and miles and miles of silky soft white
sand. We were then taken up top to a very large area of sand dunes in
the middle of the island. This is called a sand blow and gives credit
to the fact that the entire island is made of sand, making it nearly
impossible to believe that these rainforests, lakes and rich green
valleys of gigantic trees are all thriving here on a giant sand bar.
There are only 3 rocks on the entire island. The cliffs and other
formations are entirely made of shifting sand.

We toured literally all day and yet saw only about 20% of the island.
If we have time on our way back down the coast we will probably stay a
bit longer and see a lot more of this stunning island.

At the end of the day, after all of the bus riding and hiking, my
ankle was swollen to the size of a tennis ball and was throbbing a
good bit. So I needed to take it easy for a while. We figure it is a
torn ligament because I can walk on it, just have difficulty turning
and rolling it.

We got to bed early and then on the 8th, set sail for the end of
Fraser island to anchor in Pelican Bay for the night.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nov 6, 2010: Fraser Island, Kingfisher Bay

We awoke Sunday to beautiful blue skies, and as we were having coffee in the cockpit, we noticed that while re-anchoring Sat. night we got real lucky!  Less than 50 feet away from our new spot was the edge of the sandbar marking the edge of the island.  Whew! Thank goodness we didn't move any closer or at low tide we would have ended up on our side.

Late morning we went to shore for a visit to the Kingfisher Bay Resort.  Gigantic biting flies began attacking us as soon as we beached the dinghy. Of course we did not bring our repellant. We swatted our way up the road past the ferry wharf, the swimming pools, bar and restaurant for day guests to the Kingfisher Bay Resort where we looked into tours and had a nice lunch.  We booked the 4WD bus tour of the island for the next day and then went for a hike up to the lookout.  The island is completely lined with fences to keep the dingo's away.  They seem to be a problem here.  We maneuvered our way up the path, noting how absolutely beautiful it is here.  At the top we had an even better perspective of how close we had come to anchoring in the shallows, but man is it a lovely view!  As we were making our way back down the trail, I slid off the side of one of the steps, and as my foot torqued I heard a loud crack!  Something gave way in my ankle that sounded like a twig being snapped in two.  Down I went.  I sat on the ground for several minutes until the shock and pain subsided, then Frank helped me up and assisted me down the pathway back to the pools and restaurant where we relaxed and had a few cool drinks and swatted flies.  We noticed that the wait staff all had big welts on their arms and legs.  I guess they are used to the bites.  I put my foot up for a while and then we set off to head back to Destiny.  It hurt like the devil by the time we got to the dinghy, which was a disappointment because the tide had gone out…way out.  We had about a 150- yard hike/drag to get to the water's edge.  Even with our new wheels, the bottom was so silty that the dinghy just sank to the axels.  We struggled for about 100 feet before a nice man on shore and his wife offered to lend us a hand.  The effort just to get the dinghy just out to the water took nearly 45 minutes.  We got back on the boat in time to greet the arrival of our friends on "Wind Pony" and "Endangered Species".  Rick and Robin popped over for a visit and while they had a cool beer, I propped up my swollen foot.  I guess this is my year to get knocked around!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 2 – 6, 2010; Last Hoorah in Bundy – Departure For Points South

Wednesday, we did a unique and spectacularly touristy thing with three other couples (from yachts; Wasabi, Northern Winds, Endangered Species and Wind Pony).  We went touring on scooters that were modified to look like little Harley Davidson motorcycles.  The business is called "Scooteroo!" They offered a variety of styles and types for all levels of experience. Some even looked like the choppers from Easy Rider. Frank chose one for the more seasoned riders, but I chose one that was more my speed – beginner rider - with a fuel tank painted like the US Flag.  It was so much fun! They decked us out in helmets and leathers. We were given a large array of temporary tattoos to choose to wear. The group was large, about 45 riders, most of whom were more my daughter's age.  We drove into the country and through small towns around the area of the historic town of 1770.  They took us to a couple of areas where we could watch kangaroos in the wild, then to the Oceanside to watch the sunset.  People gawked at us like we were a band of bikers on the loose!  Here is the link in case you want to check it out:

We just really loved it!  I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time.  Our biggest regret is that we forgot the camera!

Thursday, we had intended to begin making our way down toward Brisbane, yet Thursday became Saturday as we waited out some big bad weather.  Thursday saw the worst of the storm, and in between heavy rains I trouped back and forth to the laundry and read my Bryce Courtenay book, "Jessica".  On Friday, a group of us (mostly girls) went into Bundaberg to catch the newly released "Eat, Pray, Love" at the local movie theater, had a nice lunch and did last minute shopping.  I really like Bundaberg, and could spend a long time here enjoying the history and laid back lifestyle.

Saturday arrived and we were ready to move on down the coast. This is a big country and we have only seen the tip of this iceberg. Next stop: Fraser Island

Once we cleared the bay, the chop and current came at us as though we were in a boxing match. Wind on the nose…what? It was supposed to be on the beam! We rocked like a hobbyhorse, bucking and trudging along for the first few hours listening to our engine groan in protest to the resistant elements. Frank fought to find us a fair point of sail to make the going a bit easier and also in hope of making better time and distance.  What we had planned as an 8-hour sail turned into a nearly 12-hour workout.

We arrived in the anchorage at Kingfisher Bay just as the sun was dipping below the western sky.  Whew! Happy to be here!  As I was preparing dinner, bright lights illuminated the galley and for just an instant I felt like we were having a close encounter of the "God-knows-what" kind.  I heard a loud engine and shouted to Frank that something large is looming.  He popped up the companionway in time to see a ferry bearing down on us.  We both blurted out a string of colorful expletives as we watched the ferry divert.  Clearly we were not in a good place here.  The current had turned Destiny into the apparent ferry path, although there were no markings of any kind and no indication that this is a Ferry Area.  We waited and watched. 30 minutes later, the ferry departed Fraser Island, sweeping by us much too closely for comfort.  Now that it was gone we hurriedly raised the anchor and moved – twice.  We set the anchor in the dark, went below for dinner and prayed that we would be OK until morning.

Monday, November 8, 2010

October 26- Nov 1, 2010; Bundaberg Port 2 Port Rally Events

Bundaberg Port Marina sure makes it easy on cruisers. They offer so many amenities: a small convenience store, a large chandlery, a fresh seafood shop, a gourmet restaurant, great laundry facilities, a nice cruising club and best of all a free shuttle service into the city of Bundaberg. Just a short walk up the road is the small township of Burnett Heads.  It was very easy to pass the time here without realizing how much time we'd really spent or had intended to spend.

Tuesday we took the shuttle into Bundaberg with several other cruisers and then set off to the shopping center with our new friends, Isabelle and Brian on s/v Wasabi.  First stop (as always) was to the phone and Internet facilities to get sim cards and broadband "sticks". For a First World country, Australia is way behind the USA's information and technological highway. There is really only one service provider that offers reliable service and full coverage for phones and internet, and that is Telstra. There are others including Vodafone, however, they only offer coverage in major populated areas.  What's more is that the services are outrageously expensive and archaic. For instance, our Aussie Vodafone does not allow us to make international calls or to text-message, unless we purchase an additional package, yet the phone service is available here in some areas but the internet is not. We had already purchased Vodafone when visiting Melbourne back in March.  Well, we have to shelve that for now and go with Telstra, which offers what is called "NextG" service for which we had to purchase a new phone and modem. This is nice except that Telstra provides no international service; therefore, we purchased a third service that will let us text and phone outside of Australia (Oz). This is way too complicated to even try to explain and it infuriates us that many hundreds of dollars later, we still have to pay a per text fee and $.80/minute to talk within the country, PLUS a connection fee for every call and every text. God Bless America!!!!! Well, at least we have now got Frank's computer set up and we now each have a cell phone.  Having finished that bit of business, which only took up 2 ½ hours of our morning, Frank and Brian went one way while Isabelle and I went another direction. We wanted to do a little personal shopping and get pedicures.

After Frank and Brian walked away they were approached by a reporter for the local newspaper and asked to be interviewed and photographed for a special weekend edition featuring yachts participating in the Port 2 Port Rally. I am proud to say my husband made the news!  We saved the feature spread and sent a copy home to his mom, where she is surely and quite proudly sharing it with her friends at the Virginian.

A pizza-fest was provided that night at the cruising club, at 6 PM, where once again we all gathered, ate, visited and departed for our respective boats by 8 PM – party animals us.

Wednesday was chore day.  I did laundry and straightened the boat while Frank did his bit, and then at 5 PM the cruising club provided the official Welcome reception and Aussie BBQ. We chowed down on steaks, fish, chicken and kangaroo sausage.

And so it went for a week – Thursday, the Bundaberg Regional Council hosted a large Aussie breakfast, followed by a safety briefing, and "curry night" for dinner.

Friday, the marina hosted another BBQ and a Cane Toad auction. We bid on Cane Toads to be raced later that night. We won the bid for a toad named "Miss Congeniality" She came in 3rd.

Saturday was the "treasures of the bilge sale" (Yachties garage sale), where we sold an anchor some hoses, books and movies.  Afterward we were all transported to the Burnet Heads Lighthouse to attend the Music and Arts Festival.  Later that night we piled into vans for a group dinner at the local hotel and pub, where one of the top local singers from the festival was performing.  We ate, chatted, listened to great music and watched the Allblacks play Australia in the tube.

Sunday we were bussed to the fruit and veggie market, which was more like a giant flea market – most of the girls went while the men opted for golf. It was heavenly.  Sunday night (Halloween night) was our formal rally dinner, hosted by the Port of Bundaberg and the Port Marina.  They did it up right, serving 5-star meals, never-ending champagne and wine, live music and awards for various competitions.  We were instructed to dress for dinner, which provided a fun and pleasant opportunity to see everyone dressed in their best rather than looking like crusty cruisers. On the awards front, Frank actually won the golf game, which would shock and amaze his friends back home. I was very proud of him!

Monday morning began with a group photo shoot. We were then piled into a bus for an all day tour. First stop was the Bundaberg ginger beer factory for tastings and shopping. We loaded up on a wide variety of sarsaparilla, ginger beer, lemon lime and bitters, and several other non-alcoholic drink flavors.  Next stop was the Bundaberg Rum Factory where we were given a tour and a passport for 2 free drinks. Frank was pleased to have 4 free drinks (his and mine). He purchased the reserve and several bottles of the liqueur.  Then it was off to Bunning's Hardware store – every man's wet dream! The men literally raced off the bus loading their trolleys like it was Christmas. This was followed by a trip to Bundaberg's newest and largest "bottle store" (wine and spirits), which probably held more wines than I think I have ever seen in my life.  We left with a mere case of Aussie XXXX beer.  In the old days I would have been in heaven!  Our last stop on this whirlwind tour was the big grocery store where we all staggered back to the bus wondering how we would get all this stuff back to the boat.  We could have sworn the tires on that bus were flat by the end of the day.  What a great day that was. 

The official events were finished but we all stuck around for a few more days to relax, unwind socialize at a more leisurely pace and also to wait out some storms that were headed our way.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oct. 25th, 2010 – Arrival at Bundaberg!!!!!

The last night at sea was relatively calm and thankfully uneventful. We were both real anxious to get into Bundaberg safely, therefore neither of us slept well during our off hours. There were no more ships spotted, although we both stayed on red-alert during watches. I listened to my audio book on my watch and found that this or listening to the i-Pod while doing a little cock-pit exercising are about the best ways to get through watches like this. Frank wanted to be up for the pass through the reef, so at 2:30 I awoke him and he stayed up with me after I awoke from my nap. We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and a becalmed approach into Bundaberg.  We passed the lighthouse at 8:30 AM, called Bundaberg BMR 488 (Bundaberg Marine Rescue) on the VHF to announce our impending arrival. We were directed into the Bundaberg Port Marina and then instructed to anchor near the yellow Quarantine buoy to await further instructions. We dropped the hook at 10:30 AM.  All about us were yachts awaiting clearance and the air was abuzz with anticipation.  There are 4 "Q" berths that were already full with boats being inspected. We were 4th in the queue after those boats cleared. At around 11:00, 2 of them finally pulled away. They had been on the berth since 8:00 AM. We realized we were not going to be able to just clear in and then get our long awaited nap. Finally at nearly 1:00 PM the other 2 boats cleared away and we were called to the "Q" dock. Two women and one man boarded us. One woman searched the boat for drugs while the other two officers sat down in the saloon. The man was from Immigration and the other lady was Customs. I think they asked us every personal question possible including our blood types and the names of our first-born. All the while, Olivia, the drug search officer was going through the entire length of our boat looking for illegal substances. The phrase "In-depth" doesn't even cover it. Then we were asked as many questions about our boat and her contents. Everything from do we have flares, weapons, mace, spear guns to what and how many RX drugs are aboard. When was our last hull cleaning, haul-out, where had we anchored last? It went on and on for nearly 2 hours before they declared us OK to enter the country on the condition that we report in to Customs and Immigration every 90-days and that we repeat this drill in 12-months time. We were given the paperwork and instructions for doing so. These three departed and told us we were to await the Quarantine Officers before being allowed to interact with anyone or to get off the boat.  And then we sat – presumably while they went to lunch.

Eventually two more officers boarded us, one a government representative from Canberra (Australia's capital), who was there to question us about bio-security matters and to give us information about these matters during our stay. He gave us more forms to complete and instructed us to report to him after 12 months. The other was there to inspect our ship's stores and to evaluate our yacht for the "Time-limited Practique" clearance. This is the method by which they evaluate the amount of wood on a yacht to ascertain the threat level this would pose to Australia regarding termite infestation. Huh? Australia is worried that boats entering Australia are bringing termites into the country. Hence if a boat has a lot of wood then it poses a potential threat and is subject to a very expensive termite inspection requiring sniffer dogs and the like, at the expense of the owner. He seemed very concerned about our teak interior. Eventually, he gave us a 12-month permit, for a mere $330 (AUD). Once again, we will be required to submit to this same inspection at the end of a year. Well, we've been told that Australia has a terrible termite problem so if we don't have them now, we very well may have them after being here for a year! This incredibly rigid clearance is new just this year and will be the norm for all arriving yachts, henceforth.

At 3:30 we were declared "cleared-in". We moved to our berth, got showered and dressed and then went to shore to pick up our Rally packets, check in at the marina office and head to the cruising club for the welcome dinner at 5:00.

The Bundaberg Cruising Club knows how to welcome weary cruisers who have just had their boats stripped of consumables. They had set up a table overflowing with fresh fruits and veggies, eggs and bread for sale at pennies on the $. We were handed two large tote bags full of welcome goodies: coupons, hats, snacks, ground coffee, can coolers, etc.  It was like Christmas in October!  And because they took pity on the arriving yachts, a dinner of meat pies and frittata was provided for $5 per person (AUD). We ate and visited until 7 PM when we could no longer stay awake then we returned to Destiny for a nice long sleep.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 23/24, 2010 - Our Last Night of the Passage to Australia - Nearly There!

Saturday continued pretty much the same, we read. I baked a loaf of bread and we enjoyed hot fresh bread with butter and honey - yum! The evening was pleasant enough and then last night I just could not get myself to go to sleep at 7:30 for my watch. Frank said no worries, we would bump our schedule back an hour. By 8:30, though I went below, put an eye cover on and forced myself to try to get some sleep. I was dreaming away and snoozing soundly when Frank roused me at 10:30. I got up, saying, "has it been 3 hours already?" He said, "yeah" and headed off for the front cabin. I looked at the clock and went linear. I grabbed his arm and told him if he wanted to change to 2-hour watches, then fine, I would get up but otherwise I was entitled to another hour of sleep. We argued about this like children. He was tired and wanted to go to bed but wanted his 3 hours. Now for anyone who has never done this thing - two people on a passage fight like wolves for their sleep time because grabbing 2 - 3 hours at a time creates a cycle of deprivation until your body catches on. Finally, although quite unhappy about it, he agreed to give me another hour. When he roused me at 11:30, I was in a total brain fog. I got up shook the sleep out of my eyes, drank some strong tea, grabbed some sugary snacks and decided to try one of the audio books we'd picked up. Lots of our friends listen to books on passage; I've just not been able to get into it but decided to give it a try. So I grabbed one (Double Cross by James Patterson) and settled into it as my body began to jolt awake from the tea and sugar. I went through 2 disks that covered a little more than my 3 hours and realized this is definitely the way to do a night watch! I even gave Frank an extra 35 minutes of sleep, waking him after 3 AM. He was grateful and I was happy. Peace resumed aboard Destiny. We managed to make it through the night and readied ourselves for our last full day at sea.

After breakfast on Sunday, we decided it was probably going to be tame enough to play a game of cards so we settled into the cockpit for a game of Baja Rummy. The game took us a through the entire morning - it was a good match! For lunch I scrounged everything I could think of out of the fridge and freezer to cook up. We will undoubtedly have to give up food and who knows what else to the Q officer at check-in so we feasted. Of course we have heard horror stories from other yachts that have heard the stories from their friends arriving in Oz this year already. The stories range from…"They will take all of your food" to "They only looked in my fridge and freezer too the fresh and stuff and dairy" to "They will look in ALL your lockers, even in your dirty laundry bag to see what you might be hiding". One thing is for certain; this year bio-security seems to have become very concerned about termites being transported via infested vessels, so we are prepared for every locker to be opened and inspected for termites. Although our boat hull and structure is comprised of fiberglass, the interior is nearly all wood. We have been warned that boats with a lot of wood will be scrutinized very closely.

I spent the entire afternoon vacuuming, dusting and scrubbing down the inside of the boat. Although I did a deep cleaning just a couple of weeks ago, I am amazed how quickly dust, hair and unidentifiable particles collect on board. We will be as prepared as we possibly can and hope for the best. I know we have no bugs or termites.

After finishing cleaning, Frank and I sat in the cockpit enjoying a cold drink when he said, "Wow, look at those huge tankers!" Two large vessels were passing in front of us about 3 miles away. Frank looked them up on our radar and reported to me that one of them was traveling over 21 kts/hr. That is fast out here. We realized we are in some serious shipping lanes and that from here on in, we had better be extra vigilant, always having someone alert in the cockpit, because at night they will not see us until they are upon us, and trying to get out of their way isn't so easy when we are traveling between 5.5 - 6.5 kts.

We chewed on that for a little while, and then as dusk was approaching, he said, "Oh my gosh! Something huge just jumped out of the water! Over there!" and he pointed to about 11:00 out front. Sure enough just when I looked over, a pilot whale or a very large dolphin shot up out of the water about 10 feet and did a side flip! We saw a few more similar acrobatics and then suddenly the show was over. It was a nice end to our last evening on passage. Thanks, God. Nice job.

So now it is 6:30 PM. Frank just finished reporting in on the "sked". We are 100 miles away from Bundaberg. Frank estimates us passing through the reef pass at between 2:30 and 3:00 AM, and then it will be another 6 hours to the marina. We are nearly there - but the fat lady hasn't sung and chicks haven't hatched so I'm not counting anything yet.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Oct 20th - 23rd - Passage From New Caledonia to Australia, Days 1 - 3

We awoke the morning of the 20th trying to decide whether to leave for Australia (OZ) or to wait another day. It was raining and the winds were really whipping up a chop outside. We decided to have breakfast and give it some more thought. I was anxious to get going - once we'd made the decision to leave on the 20th, I was psyched up. It's also something I can feel in my bones - no reason to wait another day, and it felt right to go. Frank agreed, so we waited for the storm to subside and at 11:00 AM, I went forward to cast off the mooring buoy. We made some calls to our children, parents and siblings back home on the Sat phone and said good-byes over the VHF to our "yachtie" friends, many of whom were departing for New Zealand. This was a farewell to Ivory Quays, Just In Time, Scallywag, Cop Out, Windflower and a few others. It has been a good season and a good time cruising with these wonderful Kiwis. We know that we will stay in touch with several of them. As I write this I am thinking of creating a list of the boats/friends we have met along the way and those we have cruised with; a list that will include where they are now or where we last parted company, which will be nice to look back on in the years and miles to come. This departure right now is a BIG goodbye for us. Time for Frank and I to begin new chapters and for Destiny to experience a new country. We are looking forward to reuniting with our Aussie friends.

Although we are participating in a rally, it is not an organized sail. We left by ourselves and will be checking in on a "sked" with the rally organizers out of Bundaberg every morning and night. The check in will require us to report our current location (lat and long), boat speed, wind speed, sea state and miles left to go (to reach Bundaberg). Bundaberg is north of Brisbane in Queensland. We have anticipated arriving at the marina around 2:30 Qld time on Monday, October 25th.

Our first 24 hours out of the chute was a splendiferous sail! We had 25+ knots on the beam and 1-2 meter following seas. It was fast and rough but we both took a Dramamine and tried to settle into the at sea rhythm of the boat and our bodies. Frank is posting his Captains Log Updates on his blog so I won't get into the technicalities. Anyone reading this can go check out his blog for the 411 there. Thank goodness I had pre-cooked all of our passage meals because the ride, being fast and furious was also tough on the below decks maneuvering. All we had to do was "heat'em up and eat'em up". The first night of watches was agony, trying to get into the 3-hour on/off routine.

Day 2 was again a very nice sail but a little rougher, but we made good progress. We spent most of the time holding on and reading books. I finished my first passage book and was onto the next one. By this time we have been sailing pretty closely with three other boats that left within 4 hours of us: Wind Pony (USA), Alliance (Aussie), and Bijou Verhmelo (Brazil). It 's been nice to have VHF contact and to see the other boats from time to time - the tips of a white triangle on the horizon during the day, and the twinkling of a mast light or two at night. The night watches were more brutal the second night - each of us nearly shoving the other out of bed at the end of a watch in order to pass out as soon as our heads hit the pillow. I finished my second passage book and started my third. Frank is beginning the second one I just finished. (both James Patterson novels)

It is now around noon on Saturday. We just completed our 3rd, 24-hour period of the passage. All is well except that last night we lost our wind and the waves began coming at us from the stern quarter to the port beam (hitting us at an angle), and making the ride ridiculously uncomfortable. I'm tired of crashing around and getting bruised and so is Frank. We finally turned on the engine and center-lined the staysail and a partially reefed main. The ride is much nicer now. I am finishing my third book, a Jonathon Kellerman novel. All is well aboard the good ship, Destiny.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

October 5 - 19th, 2010 - The French Way of Noumea

We had originally thought that once I was taken care of we would head back out to explore some of the beautiful anchorages around Noumea; however, Tuesday brought terrible weather that lasted until the weekend. Frank and I spent three days battened down playing cards, reading books and just being lazy enjoying every minute of the solitude.

Friday saw beautiful weather and a mass influx of boats into the anchorage. Most of them were cruisers who had been waiting for the weather to clear so that they could jet into Noumea. We also took note that the locals chose this day to sail or motorboat off for nearby anchorages to spend the weekend out. We stayed and decided to take in whatever the city had to offer. It offered a lot. We joined forces with Bill and Val on "IQ", taking long walks to several of the lovely bays, packing picnic lunches and enjoying the pretty beaches at Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata. We shopped, browsed and ate delicious French food. There were some parades and festivals in town, and one that we particularly enjoyed was a Tahitian Dance festival. Internet on the boat was just short of non-existent, so a couple of times we went through the rigors of wrapping up the laptops for transport to shore in search of internet to get the business end of our lives sorted and to reconnect.

So this is how we passed our time in Noumea and before we knew it we were attending the Saturday night (Oct 16th) Port 2 Port Rally dinner. We are participating in the rally to Bundaberg with some 30+ yachts departing from Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Our friends on "Baraka" did it last year and gave rave reviews and high recommendations for the rally and the organizers. Sunday - Tuesday were spent cooking passage meals (for me), and readying Destiny for the 5 ½ day passage. Monday we cleared out of the country, fueled up the boat and had a farewell dinner with Bill and Val on Destiny that night. Tuesday, as we returned to the boat from our morning last-minute errands we noticed that Scallywag and JIT had arrived. We had a quick farewell visit with them and then were off to go anchor at a little island called Maitre just a few miles outside of town. We picked up a mooring ball right before a gushing rainstorm moved in and pounded us for the rest of the evening.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sept 30 - Oct 5th, 2010 - a Surprise Encounter and Medical Treatment in Noumea

Fate dealt us a sweet surprise as we were sailing into the pass at Baie du Prony; we literally met Ivory Quays approaching from the east. They had made an overnight passage from Beautemps Beaupres. They followed us in and joined us at a small island called Casy, which offers free moorings. It is a beautiful little marine preserve, as are many of these areas in NC. There is a defunct resort there and some quaint walking trails. We spent two nights with them there enjoying the little island. It was quite hot after our walks so Frank and the others enjoyed a nice swim and snorkel in the pretty little bay. I had been advised to stay out of the water until my condition had been assessed, and besides there was no way I could get a mask on my face without suffering. We had emailed the Port Moselle Marina office a few days ago asking for a medical referral but had received no response from anyone, so on Friday I used the Sat Phone to call them. They explained to me that I would have to go to the hospital for an examination because it would actually be less expensive and more efficient than to try to get in to see a doctor who would undoubtedly refer me to the hospital for tests. My best bet was to just go there when we arrived in Noumea. So that is what we did. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and anchored in Baie del'Orphelinat along with Ivory Quays. There was some pretty high wind and chop in the bay, so we settled in, had a late lunch, packed our backpacks with books to read (for the waiting room) and then at 3:30 PM went in search of the hospital.

Noumea's hospital is interesting to say the least. We think it might be post-WWII. Everything is painted white. On approach it reminded me of the asylums I have seen in old movies. Parts of the buildings looked dilapidated and abandoned, yet other areas appeared to be operational. In several nooks and doorways locals seemed to be just loitering about as if on a downtown street corner. Don't know what that was about. As we entered the ER, I had difficulty trying to figure out where to go and to whom I should speak. There were lots of people milling about and they all wore white. I had that flash again in my head that maybe I was in a nut ward! I couldn't find anyone to speak to who could understand what we needed. NO ONE SPOKE ENGLISH. Finally a lady who was checking in for back surgery turned to me and said that she would interpret for me. I wanted to throw my arms around her and never let her go. She spoke good English, and after explaining "me" in French to several members of the medical staff, I was directed to a window for registration. I was asked for my Passport. I didn't have it on me. So a woman slid me a piece of paper and told me to write my name and home address and email address on it, then I was told to sit. We sat and read our books for 3 hours, while seriously injured and infirm patients were escorted and rolled past. I knew I had a long wait ahead of me so just took it in stride and tried not to stare at some of the really strange injuries that were coming in the door. As I mentioned, everything is white. But there was a lot of red. Blood. Smeared on floors, walls, and chairs. People came in bleeding but no one cleaned up after them. I decided if I had to use the toilet I'd rather pee myself rather than use their facility.

After a couple of hours a nurse came for me, she was Portuguese French but spoke much better English than my attempted French. She took me to an examination room where she ripped a dirty cloth off the vinyl covered table, scrubbed it with something wet, covered it with another cloth and directed me to lie down. I felt dampness down my backside and had a very difficult time feeling at ease. She got the preliminaries out of the way: questions about my accident and injuries, how much pain was I in, took my temp and BP and then left me there for an indeterminate amount of time. She returned, giving me something fizzy to drink, for pain. She raised the bed to let me sit up and then she left again. I wished I had my book it was a really good book and I had much more waiting ahead.

Finally in came the doctor. He was so good looking that I nearly stuttered when he spoke to me. I sat there thinking I should have worn makeup and fixed my hair. How stupid am I? I was beginning to feel ditzy from the fizzy drink but finally, after a week of knife-sharp pain in my left temple there was relief. I found later it was 1000mg of paracetamol, which I am told is the equivalent of our Tylenol. The doctor poked and prodded my head and face, confirming that my nose had broken but that it was healing and if I wanted anything done about that I'd need a plastic surgeon. I took a pass on that. He then ran some other tests, and told me that I definitely have an infection in my sinuses but that he wanted me to have a CT Scan to rule out internal injuries. At this point I asked if Frank could come in with me. The doctor nodded,saying it was no problem and left .

A few minutes later Frank bopped into the room. As always, Frank made himself completely at home and spent the waiting time browsing the various items in bins and on the shelves in case he saw something interesting he might feel warranted further inspection. Eventually a giant of a man dressed in scrubs that were at least 2 sizes too small came for me with a wheelchair that looked like one my great grandmother may have used. I began to worry about the state of the radiology department. He wheeled me at warp speed down a corridor, zipping around corners, out into the night, across a cobblestone road, down a sidewalk, across another road and into a building. Frank had to quick step it to keep up. I was really dizzy after that ride, and when they asked me to stand up to get onto the table in Radiology, I did a little spin nearly falling down. They didn't muck about. I was immediately strapped in, told not to move and the scan began. Before I even got back into the wheelchair and out of the room, Frank was given the OK sign by the technician. Thank God! Shortly, a more humane intern arrived to transport me back to the ER treatment area to await my physician's report. I was parked there with several very sick and injured looking patients on gurneys. I actually felt guilty for even being there. We eventually got word from the doc that, thank goodness, my CT scan was good and I just needed to be treated for an infection that had lodged in my sinuses. He then passed me a handful of prescriptions for antibiotics, a steroidal anti-inflammatory and the pain medication. He assured me that within 3 days I would be feeling much better. He said that we should return the next day to pick up the CT scan results. We then waited at the window to pay and were told the computers had been turned off so we could just come back the next day to pay. Would this EVER happen in the USA? I think not. In fact regardless of appearances, Frank and I were quite impressed with the staff and their efficiency once they got me into the treatment room. We arrived back on Destiny at 9:30 PM. It was a little late for dinner so we just went to bed.

We returned to the hospital the next day to pick up my CT report and pay the bill. Unfortunately, we were not prepared to have to wait this time and spent 2 ½ hours waiting for someone to even talk to us. No one seemed to be able to understand what we wanted. This time there was no angel of mercy there to interpret for me. Frank was getting annoyed that he couldn't even pay the bill. Again, this would NEVER happen in the US. To shorten a very long story, we eventually got the films and the report and then they happily took our Visa card. What is more amazing is that the bill for all of the services came to less than $800 (USD).

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sept 25 - 29, Ouvea, New Caledonia

The passage from Pt Vila, Vanuatu to Ouvea, New Caledonia was one of the best yet. Winds were high and close to the beam and seas were fairly tame. We flew! So did all of the other boats - 35 in all participated in the rally. It was exciting seeing them all around us, competing for those few extra knots of speed. The one night we spent at sea was just beautiful; not only were the skies brilliantly lit with stars, the nav lights from nearby yachts added that extra colorful sparkle of greens, whites and reds and then the phosphorescent plankton contributed the fairy dust element among the waves and the wakes to the show. We felt energized during the entire short passage. We had planned to make the trip in roughly 36 hours and actually arrived in just under 30. As is normally the case on these short and quick passages we were exhausted by the time we dropped the hook and so after a wash down of the boat and a hearty breakfast we took a nice long rest.

Early Monday morning the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine officials arrived. Captains were called to shore for the clearance process while mates and crew were asked to stay aboard to await quarantine inspection. Coming with the ICA Rally was a good decision on several levels. The best part was getting to clear in at Ouvea instead of going all the way into Noumea on the big island, and second to that was the exemption given to rally boats for bringing in meats and other foods which would normally have been confiscated during the clearance process. Ouvea is just lovely. It is the ideal postcard view for a south Pacific advertisement. Frank and I had planned to spend a few days there, snorkeling, diving and enjoying the white sand beaches but I'm afraid I put a damper on things. The pressure inside the left side of my head was beginning to develop into sharp, knifelike pains that were shooting into my temple. The vision in my left eye was getting blurrier and the area around my left eye was swelling - making me look as though my eye was half -closed. The OTC medications I'd been taking weren't doing the trick. I had no idea whether this was a result of the hit I'd taken or if it was a separate issue, and had been hoping it would just go away. Frank suspected I'd developed some infection in my sinuses. We decided to take it easy for a day or so and just see what happened. So on Tuesday, we read our books and played cards with friends. Some of our friends had wanted us to go diving, but I knew it would not be an option for me. I tried to encourage Frank to go, but by Wednesday, I was not getting better and needed some medical attention, therefore, we made a decision to head for the mainland and make our way to Noumea where we knew there were decent medical facilities.

So we made an all day trip over to a quaint anchorage at Nemou. It is a preserve, as is much of the coastline in New Cal, giving us a feeling of utter privacy and safety. We would loved to have stuck around to explore the little islands but rose early Thursday for another day-long motor-sail into yet another pristine and well-protected bay called Yate. By Friday we realized we would not make it into Noumea before the weekend approached and weren't even sure if I'd be able to get into a doctor if we did put the peddle to the metal. We decided to duck into Baie de Prony for the weekend.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

September 14-25th Last Stop in Vanuatu - Port Vila Area

Our attempt to anchor at the "top" of Erromango was denied. The bay was very small and extremely exposed to large swells and high winds, in spite of good information our friend Ian had received. We therefore, in spite of our need for rest and fear of entering the mainland of Efate at dark, turned northwest for an overnighter. We got tossed around for about 2 hours before settling into a good cruising angle. Although tired neither of us slept much as we kept a sharp watch for traffic and other obstacles. The high winds became an asset putting us into a well-marked anchorage just outside the entrance to Port Vila at around 3 AM. We dropped the hook and fell into bed. The next day we got settled into the mooring field and then spent the next several days taking care of business. First priority was getting our Aussie visas at the Australian High Commission. We were disappointed that rather than renew our visas from the previous year we had to re-apply for all new visas which entails completing a 12 page CV and application, submitting proof of good health, health insurance coverage, financial independence (bank statements and pay stubs) and submitting to a criminal and whatever else background check. Did they think we were buying a house or something? It is arduous to say the least, but we had done this drill before so we sucked it up and began the process of gathering support data. As has been the case since leaving Fiji, internet is a luxury in Vanuatu and can be accessed but not easily, readily or cheaply making our information and proof gathering a bit burdensome but we got it done in two days, dropped off our passports, forms and documentation and then took off for the weekend out at Mele Beach Resort for some fun.

We met up with Bold Spirit, Just In Time, Ivory Quays, Scallywag and Windflower out at Mele Beach. The little restaurant there provided all sorts of water sports, great brick oven pizza, a big screen TV and pool table. Bold Spirit told us about a great place a few kilometers up the road called "The Warhorse Saloon". The owners are from Littleton Colorado! They had sailed here a few years ago and loved Vanuatu so much they stayed, bought an old establishment and named it after the Warhorse Saloon in Parker, CO. Of all things! We had a great time there. It felt like home.

After the weekend we returned to Port Vila where we spent a week just kicking back and enjoying the opportunity to eat out, do a little shopping and reconnect with friends. Frank played several rounds of golf. I had "girl time", shopping and visiting museums. A couple of times we loaded the laptops into our backpacks and went into shore in search of internet mostly to pay bills and see what emails were waiting for us. These days all we get is junk email and it kills us to have to pay by the hour or the "byte" to sort through that stuff which is getting worse than the paper junk we used to get at home. Cyber junk - it is a wonder we can't see it flying through the air!

The face smash I took on the way to Tanna from Fiji was beginning to worry me. My nose was still very tender and pressure was building in my head. Gloria from Scallywag, who is a nurse, told me I should get an x-ray to make sure there is no head trauma going on. The problem was that the medical facilities in Vanuatu leave a lot to be desired. One cruiser named Tony on a boat called Xanadu II had been sick for a week and was getting weaker and sicker after three visits to the doctor there. They kept running tests on him but couldn't give him the results because there is no local lab. Everything has to go through Australia and after waiting over a week for his results his liver and kidneys began to shut down and his fever was running 105 degrees. He finally booked a flight to Auckland where he was diagnosed with Malaria. This did not give me much confidence in the Vanuatu medical community so I continued taking strong decongestants and anti-inflammatories hoping for the best.

We were ready to get going to New Caledonia. Port Vila seemed to be sucking the money and the energy out of us this year. The heat was getting to us and the dust and dirt were contributing to my sinus troubles. It seemed that just since last year, Port Vila was taking a down turn. Some muesli that I bought at the nicer grocery store in town was crawling with little black bugs that looked like baby roaches. Even our cruiser friends seemed to be getting run down. Disappointingly we bided our time until the rally departure date for New Caledonia, which finally arrived on the 25th. We slipped from the mooring at 5:30 AM and were off!

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