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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.