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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.