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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 16 – 28, 2012 Loving Sydney Again and the Arrival of Scott Morlan

We blew in through the Heads of Sydney Harbour literally in a storm. It was late and as tired as we were all we could do was scramble over to Spring Cove and drop the hook.

We spent the next several days moving about from Blackwattle, where we visited Mark and Heather to Birkenhead Point where I had a few more outings and lunches/coffees with Pauline and Janet, which included a trip t the Picasso exhibit. I could have sent all day there! Then over to MHYC for a tie up, water fill and a boat rinse.

Heather and Paul invited us to join them on another hash run but we could not make it that night and because Frank had a friend arriving next week, we knew it would be fruitless to plan to hash again. I was extremely disappointed but Frank promised to begin getting in shape so that we can really run with the hash again somewhere in the future. We arranged to meet for dinner at Heather's home in Balmoral the next evening. Heather's home is a three-story modern beauty. The top floor opens completely on two sides to reveal an impressive view of Balmoral beach and Middle Harbor. Frank immediately plopped down and felt at home. He said this is the design he wants when we settle down into a house again, although Lord knows when and where that will be.

On Friday, February 24th, Scott Morlan arrived from Denver. We filled his days and nights as much as possible with the sights of Sydney. Scott being Scott was a bit more interested in where the best bars were and golf.  We walked him through Sydney, much the same as Karen's first day. Heather Olson and Paul had moved her yacht, Billyana over to Blackwattle Bay. We invited them over for Happy Hour with fresh oysters, prawns and sashimi from the Sydney Fish Market. Afterward we piled into Heather's car for a trip to Newtown where we literally feasted at Atom (Thai).  Saturday the boys set off for the Coogee to Bondi walk and were planning to grab the Hop-on-Hop-off bus from there. I spent the day in the Mac Store (Apple) getting tutorials on my new MacBook Air. My original MacBook completely crashed when we were in Virginia recently. I lost everything. When I'd returned to Australia, I'd taken my external hard drive into an Apple Store where they attempted to restore it. We are still trying to get there unfortunately. Heather Olson joined me. She was getting a tutorial on her Mac products. She and I spent the day in town and enjoyed a lovely lunch. Frank and Scott returned SEVERAL hours later very sunburned, very jovial and more than a little tipsy. On Sunday, we walked Scott to some of our other favorite sites in Sydney, and found his favorite spot to be the cafĂ©/bar outside the QVB (Queen Victoria Building), where we people watched and were entertained by street buskers.

Monday we took Destiny over to Rose Bay so the boys could play golf at the Royal Sydney Golf Club.  Scott returned very happy and exited. They'd had a really great time, at the swanky club and on the beautiful course but the best part for Scott was seeing kangaroos all over the course. He said at one of the holes, he crested a hill to find a herd of camels! What a great experience! Late afternoon we moved over to the MHYC dock to fill up with water and show the place to Scott. We ran in to the Tuppenny girls and some of our other friends there who got to meet Frank's mate. Early the next morning, Janet and Pauline drove over to have breakfast with me before we left Sydney. This meant so very much to me because it was quite a drive for both of them (coming from opposite directions) clear across Sydney just to meet me one last time. It was an emotional goodbye. Today marked the beginning of a lot of goodbyes.

As we sailed out of Sydney Harbour for the last time I teared up, feeling my heart tighten as I felt I was leaving so much love and companionship behind. Door One of many to follow, slowly closed and as we rounded the South Head I swear I heard a faint "click".

Friday, February 17, 2012

Feb 8 – 16, 2012 A Disappointment on Return to Newcastle, Haul-out and a Surprise Visit

Back in Newcastle, we arrived late. Exhausted. It was raining. We wanted to fall into bed but immediately noticed there was no electrical power to the boat. As I am processing this, the awareness that no power meant no fridge or freezer hit me. As Frank raced out to the power unit on the dock, I opened the freezer lid to find its contents swimming, ruined. Oh no, this did not happen.  I braced myself as I opened the refrigerator for the inevitable unpleasant and disgusting results. It was so, so bad.  Some time during our absence our power plug had shorted and blown at the box. While Frank rewired the plug I dove into the sickening task of emptying the contents of fridge and freezer, lamenting the loss of literally hundreds of dollars worth of food. Because of what I'd found growing in there I spent hours cleaning and sanitizing both boxes. The next day Frank spoke to Howard the marina manager, who told him it had rained and stormed nearly every day that we had been gone. He had no idea that our power had blown. None of us had a clue as to how long it had been out, although at this point it didn't really matter.

Obviously we hit the grocery store the next day and then made arrangements for Destiny to be hauled out for a bottom cleaning. We also arranged for some zipper and canvas repairs to a few ripped and worn spots that were appearing on the dodger and bimini. We are praying that the canvas, sails and rigging will remain intact until we reach Thailand at the end of 2012. We have been in so many incidents of high winds and rough weather it is time for replacements.

Rain, rain and more rain tormented us. Pauline phoned telling me she was up the coast at Boomerang and would try to arrange a stop at Newcastle on her way back to Sydney.  I begged her to make it happen. She arrived on Friday, picked me up and we set off for town and a Girl Day. We started with coffee and a catch-up, followed by some serious window-shopping and lunch on Darby St. We ended the afternoon picking up new deck chairs for Destiny before returning to pick up Frank for dinner. We drove back over to Darby Street where we met two of Pauline's good friends and former colleagues, Reece and Rosemary Delaney at the ever-popular restaurant, Goldberg's. Pauline stayed the night with The Delaneys, and early the next morning they picked us up for a trip to the Newcastle Farmers Markets where we shopped and ate to our hearts delight. Afterward, Frank had some work to do, installing our new horn and I was committed to finishing the laundry that had been sitting since before we flew home. Rosemary insisted that I bring the washing to her house, while Reese helped Frank wire the horn. Pauline opted for a nap. We enjoyed a nice afternoon and ended up staying on for dinner. At the end of the night Pauline was itching to get on the road back home, so she ran us back to the marina before setting off for the drive home.

Frank and Reese had toyed with the idea of playing around of golf, but the weather just never gave us a break. We finally got hauled out on the 16th.  The hull was high-pressure washed, and then some electronic bits were installed that had to be done with the boat out of the water. We splashed just a few hours later and then on Thursday morning we rose early for the long journey back to Sydney.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

January 13 – Feb 7, 2012 – Tragic News Back Home and an Unexpected Trip

The night after Karen left we received a strange text message from my brother who was on a cruise in the Pacific Ocean…"Ma has fallen and dislocated her hip. She'll have surgery today or tomorrow. We're at sea but get updates from Sam". It didn't' sound too bad – a dislocated hip must be painful but nothing to cause alarm, although we didn't know hip dislocation would require surgery. This stirred in us mild cause for alarm. We texted back asking for Sam's cell # so that we could get more first-hand information. Apparently, Ma fell while in her apartment and shattered her hipbone. Oh my God! She was presently in the urgent care facility of Fairfax Hospital, sedated while the doctor attempted to stabilize her in preparation for surgery. Now we prickled with fear, because at her age a broken hip can be very grave. Over the next two days it was agony not knowing what is going on with Ma, although we texted back and forth with Samantha and Kevin the news was sketchy and erratic. Finally we were told that Ma was stable and would be having surgery on Monday morning. We phoned her at the hospital but she was so out of it we doubt she even knew who was on the phone. Meanwhile, Pauline had invited us to their beach house at Boomerang. We sat on the fence about that and after hearing Ma's surgery was a success and that she was recovering nicely we agreed to ride with Janet up to Boomerang. Just a couple of hours before leaving, however, we received word that Ma was in distress. We began looking for flights to Virginia. Back and forth it went like this for two more days, when finally on the evening of January 18th we received word from Kevin that we might want to get there. She was asking for Frank. We immediately booked a flight to depart on Friday the 20th – it was Thursday in Virginia.

We had no place in Sydney to leave Destiny for nearly 3 weeks. I had just been to Costco with Pauline and filled the freezer to near capacity. We had also a fridge full of fresh foods. We needed Destiny to remain plugged in while we flew home.We had no place in Sydney to leave Destiny for nearly 3 weeks. The closest and most affordable berth would be in Newcastle, some 50-60 NM up the coast. On the 19th we sailed out of Sydney at daybreak, arriving Newcastle’s marina just before closing time. Thankfully, our flight to San Francisco out of Sydney wasn’t until 4 PM on the 20th. We arose in the dark Friday morning, walked to the train station that fortunately is only about 500 meters from our dock, and rode to Sydney’s Central. From there we took the airport express train, arriving just in time to check our bags and get to the departure gate.

Our travel days to Virginia were wrought with frustration and delays. We departed Sydney on time, but arrived Friday morning in SFO just as our connecting flight to Dulles was to begin boarding. We rushed off the plane but could not clear US Customs before the connection departed. We were left literally standing in the terminal with our bags. United would not let us recheck them through, rather pointed us in the direction of the DREADED Customer Service Desk queue, where we noted a growing crowd of already distraught travelers. We joined the line and during our wait heard continual announcements that one flight after another was being cancelled due to weather on the east coast. Time ticked away as we watched the departure board flash "cancelled" next to one flight after another. By the time we reached the desk we were told we could be placed on a wait list for tomorrow at 10:00 PM, however, we were the lowest of the low on that list not being premier/elite class members of United's mileage plus program, or Business or First Class travelers. The best they could do for us was to confirm us on a Sunday afternoon flight to Dulles. We asked what would we do in the meantime? The answer, very clearly articulated, was: Not United's problem. This is an act of God. We appealed on the basis that we had a family medical emergency, but those appeals fell on deaf ears. We continued our appeal at two other Customer Service locations until Frank managed to get the attention of a kind-hearted agent who gave us a hotel voucher and a meal discount voucher, put us on a (Saturday) dawn flight to San Diego, that connected to a 10:20 PM flight to Washington DC, putting us into Dulles at 5:46 AM on Sunday. It was the best that he could do for us. We took it.

We boarded a transport bus from the San Francisco airport to the hotel at 7 PM. It had been a long and upsetting day. Halfway there I received a simple text message from Mary: "Ma passed about 8 this morning". We were devastated.

The next couple of weeks were a bit of a blur. Karen managed to fly in from Denver, Jen from Houston. Most of the grandchildren made it. We did all the things that family do, and thanks to Ma had a beautiful reunion, overshadowed by the pain of not getting to her in time. Rest in Peace Ma. We love you and we miss you.