Sydney & Home

Saturday was sunny and cool again. We explored the art museum and the Botanical Gardens. Flying foxes hung in the trees squawking and screeching at each other.

Flying Foxes

 

As we walked further I made a new friend. We saw a flock of sulfur crested cockatoos on the ground with people gathered around. A closer inspection was warranted, so we walked over. I had purchased a bottle of water and was holding it in my left hand at my side. For some unknown reason this was very attractive to one chubby cockatoo. He waddled over at a quick pace and stopped right next to my leg looking up at me. I let him explore the bottle with his beak. I thought maybe he wanted a drink, so I opened the bottle and poured some out. He tried to drink, but missed. This got him really excited and he flew up, trying to land on my shoulder. After seeing Susan loose jewelry to a bird a few days earlier, I decided to stick out my arm as an alternative to my shoulder. The plump cockatoo happily landed there. I tried to shew him off my arm, but he was having none of that. I started spinning around, hoping centrifugal force would help. He hung onto my fleece jacket with his beak. Finally, he broke free, everyone around quite amused. Immediately, he flew back up in the air at me. I ran off and he finally broke pursuit.

We walked Oxford St. stopping for lunch at a place called Wok On Inn. A cute noodle bar that was very good. Oxford is much like Castro Street but a bit longer. We didn’t need any rainbow colored objects so we didn’t buy anything. We had dinner at a Nepalese/Indian restaurant also on Oxford. It was delicious: goat curry and palak paneer. I had just read that mutton is often sold as goat. So, I’m not sure which animal it was, but it was excellent. Afterward we had a beer at The Oxford bar and headed back to the hotel, as it was too early for much to be going on.

Sunday we went to the Australia Museum. It’s mix of natural history and human history. The really sad treatment of the Aboriginal people is a significant part of the museum and very well handled.  I also enjoyed the section with all the stuffed birds. The variety and number is amazing.

The weather had turned a bit drizzly and it was still cold, so we opted for going to an advance screening of Brenda Blethyn’s new movie Clubland. It was an enjoyable film with Blethyn as a domineering comedian mother to two coming of age boys. It wasn’t as funny as expected, but certainly worth going to. Look for it in the States as Introducing the Dwights.

We still had hours to kill before our flight so we went off to Paddy’s Markets. It’s a crowded set of stalls with a bit of everything for sale; about half the stalls were selling souvenirs. We filled the rest of the day by checking email at the hotel and having another couple of beers on Oxford St. We headed off to the airport early and feel ripped off by the cab fare. It was $25 from the airport to the hotel and $36 from the hotel to the airport. Plus the driver drove like a maniac.

The flight home was fine. After dinner we both took Ambien and I slept like I’ve never slept on a plane before; at least 5 hours. We came through customs and immigration quickly to find a group waiting with leis for us: Andrew, Justin, John, Ed & Adrian.  We went off for brunch, home for some unpacking, to the beach and to Hula’s for drinks. It was our second Sunday this week and a nice re-introduction to home.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical is a 2 1/2 hour romp of
amazing costumes, energetic performances and a big old bus on stage.
It’s a stubby version of the one in the film, as the stage requires.
The side opens up and luckily it’s not the star of the show.

After a short overture, the curtain goes up to reveal a light-bulb
version of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. In a moment of hometown pride,
the audience applauded. From above flies in three what appear to be
drag queens (but probably weren’t) who act as Greek Chorus for the
entire musical. When the stars are supposed to be lip-syncing the
three sing.

The musical maintains all the major plot points from the movie, but
shortens and condenses a few things. All the songs from the movie
seem to have made it into the production too. Consequently, it’s a
cavalcade of pop songs. There are some new numbers written for the
show and it’s here the production falls a little flat. They’re over
quickly and we’re back to Abba, Gloria Gaynor, Pet Shop Boys, Donna
Summer, John Denver and many others.

The singing and dancing throughout are universally good. The cast
does a fine job. The three leads are strong performers at times
channelling the original stars of the movie. I’d mention their names,
but no Playbill is handed out and the program was $20. The strongest
of the three was the guy playing Felicia. He definitely saw Guy Piece
in the movie and modeled his performance on Guy’s. Normally, I would
find fault with that, but most everyone who sees this musical will
have seen the movie and are familiar with the characters. The guy
playing Bernadette didn’t have the best voice, but sang with that old
drag queen gravely sound that was appropriate. The one playing Mitzy
did a good job, but missed some the emotional depth that was reached
in the film.

The costumes were done by the same person who did them for the movie
and were incredible. They caused major laughter throughout the show.
The final number parades out all the costumes from the montage at the
end of the movie. The three leads obviously can’t change into each
one, so surrogates come out in each. It worked quite nicely.

There are a lot of Australian references that American audiences
wouldn’t quite get, so if this is to travel to Broadway the
production will need some tweaking. Some gentle editing of the script
and you might get a hit. It won’t be another Mama Mia runaway hit,
but it could have a respectable run on Broadway.

The whole evening was quite enjoyable. It was light rousing fun,
especially if you didn’t think about it too much and just gave into
it all. The bar even got into the spirit of things serving drinks in
battery operated flashing colored martini glasses. I had to have one.
The t-shirts and souvenirs were a big disappointment. Almost all of
them were pink. The “A Cock on a Rock in a Frock” shirt was a navy
tank top (they call them singlets here). I wish it had been available
as a t-shirt. I’ll just have to live with my memory

Beautiful Sydney

We arrived in Sydney last night and got to Sheraton On The Park about 10:30. We were lucky to get a room for free with points from our American Express. It’s quite a large, beautiful room. We’re quite happy with it.

This morning we lounged around watching TV and drinking the in room instant coffee. Underway at 9:30 our first stop was Starbucks around the corner for drip coffee. The norm here is a long black, which is expresso with water. Breakfast of quiche for me and a sausage roll for Howard got us going.

Down at Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) we hopped on a two for one special Sydney Harbor cruise on a large sailing catamaran. The day was beautiful and it was warm enough to sit outside until we turned into the wind. We retreated inside for the rest of the one hour tour. It was quite a nice tour, especially for $25 for both of us.

 

 

The Rocks and Pyrmont areas were our next destination. The Rocks was the first area settled in

Sydney. It has small streets and

alleyways. Pyrmont is on the other side of Darling Harbour, which we walked over, on the pedestrian bridge. The Sydney Fish Market was where we headed for lunch. Salt and pepper calamari were delicious and the battered barramundi not quite as good as the barramundi at Yorky’s Knob Sailing Club.

 


We stopped to pick up our tickets to Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical. We’re excited to see this production. Susan had heard that the bus used on stage cost over one million dollars. It should be good tacky fun. 

David Jones’ Foodhall beckoned as we headed back to our hotel. This basement of the expensive department store is foodie heaven. You can easily organize a gourmet meal from their selections and not have to do more than heat up a few things. Upstairs they are having their half yearly clearance sale so we shopped a bit. However, with Hugo Boss bathing suits half priced at $89 we didn’t buy anything. Howard was tired of shopping anyway. 

He’s off at the gym/spa sitting in the hot tub. Tonight dinner and the theatre. Tomorrow we’ll go to museum or two and Oxford Street. 

Rain, clouds, wind, Sydney

We left Cairns yesterday with the hopes that things would get better away from the mainland. We sailed upwind easily to Fitzroy Island. It’s big compared to most of the islands around and afford us some protection from the wind and waves. We moored at a blue ball and Susan I went in for a snorkel. The water was a bit murky and filled with very small cone jellyfish (they don’t sting) right by the boat. The snorkeling was very interesting even though the conditions weren’t great. The coral heads were amazing and the variety of fish large. On a clear, sunny day it would have been stupendous.

As we sat at our mooring the current and wind couldn’t figure out what to do with the boat and we ended up banging up against the mooring ball. That won’t do for sleeping so we moved to anchor where we thought we’d get a bit more protection from the swell. It was a somewhat rolly night. The boat creaking loudly at times, and the anchor chain grumbling. I didn’t sleep well.

The weather forcast holds out no hope for improvement so we moved on and are currently in Half Moon Bay Marina at Yorky’s Knob, a little north of Cairns. It’s dead quiet here until the planes landing at the airport go over. There’s no hint of the wind and waves going on outside th marina.

Howard and I are abandoning Susan tomorrow and heading to Sydney. I’ve changed my flight to head back to Hawaii early too. We had a flexible schedule and Susan is fine leaving the boat up here. She’s going to hang out for another week waiting for sun and then possibly come back too. She’s confident that she can do more single handing and anxious to try. A trip out to Green Island is certainly something she can handle from here if the weather co-operates. I hope she gets the chance.

They say the same thing to tourists here that we do back in Hawaii when these weather conditions prevail: “This is unusual.” Oh well, another time.

Kuranda Village

Up in the mountains an hour north of Cairns, surrounded by rainforest is Kuranda Village. It’s a tourist town, but a lovely one. It’s quite charming. The attractions are deliciously fun too. Three of them are affliated and we bought the all access passes for $39 Australian.

Our first stop was Butterfly World. It’s a large enclosure with 2,000 or so butterflies buzzing around. One variety is bright blue and black. They’re the hardest to photograph, of course. The most amazing thing was that a buttefly landed on this guy’s backpack and started laying eggs. They collected them before he left.

The second stop was Birdworld. Boy was it fun. We bought a small bag of food an quickly had exotic birds all over us. The native Eclectus Parrots were very friendly, landing on us and even stealing Susan’s earring. I got it back out of his mouth. The non native Sun Conures were also agressively friendly. Many other birds also landed on us for a handout. My favorite Rainbow Lorikeets weren’t among the friendly though. They came close, but ignored us. The Red-tailed Balck Cockatoos finally came down for a bite to eat also. The one in the lobby was eager to have his head scratched as he sat on Susan’s shoulder.

Meat pies were on the menu for lunch, Howard’s first.

Large bats called flying foxes are all over Australia. We saw a big group hanging out in the trees at Billabong Sanctuary when we were there. In Kurada there is a rescue organization and they have a free exhibit. This was our next stop. The woman who runs it had just shut the gate, but opened back up as we arrived. She showed us three kinds of bats and to Susan’s disappointment didn’t let us touch them. They’re smarter than dogs and the ones she can’t rehabilitate, that are permenant residents, know their names. One of them was begging to come out of the large enclosure. She got her way.

Kuranda Koala Gardens was our final stop. As we stopped to look at the koalas a handler came in and one was particularly anxious to be choosen to be held. You could tell she was thinking “pick me, pick me.”  Howard was reticent to hold her, as she had just pooped when the handler came to pick her up. Chibby was her name. I talked him into cuddling her for a picture and I’m sure he enjoyed it. Here they let you hold the koala a lot longer than elsewhere and Chibby was quite a bit bigger than the one we held at Billabong. After his offical shot they let us take our own pictures and then join in for a group shot. Chibby was happy as a clam to be held. We were encouraged to pet her after the pictures, the whole time Howard holding her.

We took the long way home through the Tablelands. It’s a high plateau with lots of farmland, with sugarcane, corn and other stuff growing.

It was a terrific day.

Howard arrives

About a half an hour late, Howard arrived at the Cairns airport yesterday. His luggage came off very quickly and we headed back to town. The airport is close so we were back at the boat in no time. Howard commented on some of new things on the boat, like the railings around the mast, which are a great help when working on the main sail.

After he unpacked the three of us when walking around town, in and out of tourist shops. Our last stop was at Woolworths. It’s not a dime store, it’s a grocery store. It has Walmart “Rollback” signs too. I’m not sure they are affiliated. Woolworths is a great store with lots of interesting things. I’ve enjoyed going down every aisle looking at all the interesting things. As everywhere else we’ve been, there are many more ready to eat items on the shelf; full meals to milk and cream in boxes. We just picked up a few things, leaving our big shopping for later.

Back at the boat there was lots of relaxing/napping and then we went out to dinner at Pesci’s. It is a fish restaurant right next to the marina in a hotel complex that sports 7 restaurants. Howard had paella, which was delicious. Susan chose the swordfish, which she loved. I ordered the bugs. They’re small slipper lobsters. They were fine, but the texture was a little mushy. Not firm like Maine lobster. I don’t know if that’s the way they are or if it was the preparation. Under the 3 split lobsters was a tasty paw paw (papaya) salsa over baby salad greens.

Back at Honu it was early to bed. Today we’ll go take in some nature and let Howard see some roos and koalas. There’s a town up in the rainforst, Kuranda, that has 3 different nature parks.

Cairns

We sailed all day yesterday and all last night, pulling into Cairns early this morning. So, we’re here 24+ hours ahead of Howard. I’m sure he’s relieved we’re here. We are.

Last night was the usual sucky night watch. It was cold, sometimes rainy and tiring. It’s cloudy and scattered rain today. The weather doesn’t look so great for the next couple of days either. Good thing I have a rent-a-car reserved. There are more opportunities to hold a koala.

Susan napped this morning while I did laundry and then walked Cairns. It’s got a nice mall that’s walking distance and two movie theaters. Oceans Thirteen is opening today. Maybe we’ll see it. The rest of Cairns is filled with tourist shops and travel/dive/snorkel shops. It’s kind of like Waikiki (more Kuhio than Kalakaua) or Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Still, everything we need it right here and open on the weekends.

Now it’s my turn to try and nap. Not sure I will after all the caffeine I’ve had.

Bye Bye Townsville, Hello Mud

We left Townsville today around 2:15, but didn’t get far before going aground in mud. Our fatal mistake was not checking the tide charts. Luckily the tide was coming up and we only had to sit in the mud for about 45 minutes before we got going again. Townsville just didn’t want to let us go.

We’re now safely anchored in Horsehoe Bay at Magnetic Island, right outside of Townsville. The systems seem to all be working.  We’ll be leaving for Cairns early in the morning, sail all day tomorrow and all night, arriving Friday. Howard flies in on Saturday.

It’s not the easy day by day trip we had planned, but then I wouldn’t have held a Koala Bear if it had been.

It’s weird being in an anchorage with good wireless internet access. We’d paid for two weeks of time and this is the last place we’ll be able to use it.

Time to make some dinner…..

Hiking Queensland

The concept of hiking here is a bit different. We found a park about a hour north of here that we thought we’d visit and get in some hiking. Up a winding two-way, one-lane, road is Paluma National Park. Near the top is the village of Paluma. It’s tiny and we stopped in for lunch at the Heaven’s Kitchen. It’s an odd place, as it’s decorated with all this Native American stuff. There are dozens of laminated poems for purchase. They’re by a Chief Gray Cloud, a local resident. They’re genuinely awful. When we arrived there were four tourists clamouring for t-shirts from the establishment. Why, we couldn’t fathom, as they were kind of tacky. They spent a great deal of time picking out just the right ones and probably bought close to a dozen.

Our hike started right there. The first lookout was a good 500 feet from trailhead. The second probably 1/2 mile. The view was all the way to the ocean.

We moved on to the second hike that was supposed to be 1-2km. We got there and it was 500 meters, about 3 football fields long. Oh well it had a nice cascade waterfall at the end.

Back in town we went for Gyros sandwiches and Greek Salad. Something I learned was that real Greek Salads don’t have any lettuce. I’ve never had one that didn’t. It was delicious.

Later, we went off to the movies to see The Curse of the Golden Flower. Howard and Tim saw it while I was in Ohio last time. It was beautifully shot, with wonderful cinematography. I found the story boring. Susan liked it though. It was very Shakespearian, with everyone dead at the end.

This morning finds us waiting for our mechanics to return. I’m off to the airport to return our car. Fish just “attacked” the boat. There a big silver fish in the water that we only get fleetiing views of as the rapidly burst to the surface near boat hulls. It makes quite a noise. We think they’re some kind of trevally. We never get a good look at them. Also in the water are Archer Fish. They’re so interesting. They shoot water up into the air to knock bugs down to eat. We haven’t seen them do it yet.

The weather has warmed a bit, but the nights are still in the mid to low 60s. The days have been sunny and warm.

Wish us luck getting everything fixed today!

Cotter’s Market & Aquarium

Yesterday we started the day with the Sunday Townsville Cotter’s Market. I can’t figure why it’s called that, even looking for an explanation on the internet. It’s a mix of farmer’s market and arts & crafts market. The usual mix of glass jewelry and hand made stuff abounds. There are some good finds though and true artists. Susan got Craig a gift that is really cool, but I won’t tell you what it is since he reads this. Just you wait Craig.

Next on the agenda was a visit to a gallery that specializes in Australian & Aboriginal artists. I can’t say I was a fan of the art but it was interesting. Upstairs was an exhibit of woven pieces. Some were made from very interesting materials, even kelp. A pair of woven feet were made from the needles of Ironwood trees, like we have in Hawaii.

Off we went to the boat to deposit our purchases before heading off to the aquarium. We rested up a little too.

The aquarium boasts the largest living coral reef in an aquarium in the world. The main enclosure is huge and has large number of interesting fish. Many you would recognize from Hawaii, although some are very close, but have small differences. Then there are the fish we don’t have in Hawaii. I had envisioned that the water would be crystal clear, but it wasn’t. Not that it was very cloudy, but a little. Perhaps they need to keep nutrients in the water to keep all that reef alive. There was also a conspicuous lack of big parrotfish, which would be a normal part of this reef.  They eat coral though.  Some  small ones were around.  For me the best exhibits were the small ones around the sides that let you get in close.

Today we’re headed north for some nature in a national park or two.

Billabong Sanctuary, Townsville

Since we’re stuck in Townsville without an engine or charging system, we decided to rent a car and explore. Just outside town is a place called Billabong Sanctuary. It’s a big petting zoo with Australian animals. It was excellent! We were allowed to feed kangaroos, wallabees and hold a koala bear and pet other koalas. I’ve always wanted to do that. The koalas are as soft and adorable as you imagine. The female we held put up with having person after person hold her. She got a little tired of it by the time Susan got her turn, but still she was good natured about it.

The pademelon wallabees were adorable. They held onto your fingers as they ate. They’re small and redish. We could see one had a joey in her pouch that was jumping around in there.

There were ENORMOUS crockadiles there. The salt water ones are fierce. We certainly don’t want to see these guys in the wild. They warm yachties not to hang their legs over the sides of their dinghys if they’re in croc areas. Mostly they like river outlets in murky water. So, it’s not someplace we’d be in the water anyway.

The dingos seemed friendly. They came right up to the fence wagging their tails. It was about and hour before their feeding time. Their coats were perfect and beautiful.

How funny is this picture of a turtle?

What a great day! Tomorrow or Monday we’ll take in the Aquarium. Then there are other parks and the Queen’s Birthday Festival to visit.

Townsville Day 2

The sun is shinning and it’s cool. About 70. That sounds whiny, right? I was expecting tropics. It is winter after all. The first sun of the trip really. I explored Townsville a little more and picked up some meat pies for lunch.

The diesel mechanic has been here and is coming back. We found out why the engine is overheating: when the alternator’s belt was screaming I disconnected the belt. Well that belt also drives the water pump for the engine. Oops. At least we were smart enough to only use the engine a short time. A couple of hoses need to be replaced too. So, the engine should be ready later this afternoon. We’re not so sure about the alternators. It’s noon and we haven’t heard from the electrician.

We hope to get to the aquarium this afternoon, but that will depend on when people show up with repairs.

Bowen and beyond

Up early this morning we left Tongue Bay on Whitsunday Island and headed
north. We made great time and got to the quaint town of Bowen around
1:30. The radio was silent for the longest time as we tried to find out
what to do once we got here. Luckily another cruiser came to the rescue,
having just left a mooring. She told us where to go. Just not how to tie
up. The operative question.

We had quite a time getting situated, and had a hearty laugh about it
half way through. Most moorings are just one ball at the front. This one
is front and back, on the side sort of. Honu is tall so it’s hard to
reach over and grab the mooring ball, which in this case is a plastic 55
gallon drum. I got it with the boat hook, but had a lot of trouble
getting the line through it. Eventually we previailed and got the boat
tied up. We took the dinghy in showered and then walked right onto a
movie set. Baz Lurhman(sp?) is here shooting a movie with Hugh Jackman
and Nicole Kidman. One end of town is all blocked off, with dirt
covering the streets and 19th Batallion signs and sanbags all around. It
appears to be a WWI movie. No sign of the stars, or even their trailers.
I think the title of the movie is The Lady and the Kilkirin, whatever
that is. I don’t have internet here, or I’d look it up. IMDB.com usually
shows works in progress.

We got a few more groceries, took them back to the boat and had dinner
at the yacht club. It was fine, nothing great. Most items were pretty
expensive, but the special was calimari with chips(fries) and salad. It
was just the right size portion, nothing too big.

Back at the boat we’ve been planning on how we’re going to get to
Cairns. The next two days are about 40 miles each with an anchorage at
night. First is Upstart Bay, then Bowling Green Bay. Townsville is next
after that. From Townsville we’ll go to Orpheus Island, Dunk Island,
Moresby Inlet, Fitzroy Island and then Cairns. That schedule means no
dreaded night passages. However, if we get behind for any reason we can
go far doing two full days and one night.

The bay outside Bowen is a dugong sanctuary. We didn’t see any coming
in, maybe going out tomorrow. My fingers are crossed.

No luck sending this via the sat phone. So, I’ll add to it. We left Bowen
this morning in some big wind and rain. Everything is settled down and
we’re flying along around 6 knots under jib only. The watermaker is going
and I’ve got Sting on the stereo. Susan is up keeping watching on an oil
rig jetty that comes WAY out from the mainland. Our course takes us around
it anyway. It’s still raining on and off. We should be in Upstart Bay by
4:00 or so.

So, our best plans have been waylaid. We’re safe and doing fine, just not
that comfortable. We’re pressing on to Townsville, as we’re still having
some engine/charging problems. The remaining alternator’s belt started
screaming as we started up the engine and we smelled something
hot/electrical. Not good. Then the engine overheated. We shut it down right
away and changed course away from our anchorage at Upstart Bay. Finally, we decided to just go for Townsville where we’ll have a chance to get stuff
fixed. We’ve spoken to the wonderful volunteers on the radio who assure us
it isn’t a problem getting there in the dark. I took the belt off of both
alternators and we added water to the engine, which seems happier now,
although we didn’t run it very long. We did run it longer than it took to
overheat before.

OK this is getting really long, so I’ll stop. I hope it goes out this
time.

Townsville

We got up this morning and carefully moved to the marina. The engine did fine, but we sailed most of the way into the marina from the anchorage outside.

We’ve had showers and the electrician has been here already. We’re waiting for the diesel mechanic. I got the laundry done too. We haven’t had a chance to see anything but the marina, but we’re happy to be here and snug.

It’s still overcast with scattered sprinkles. It’s not raining at least like it was last night when we were coming in.

Everyone here has been genuinely nice and friendly.

More later after we know something.

A Full Day

Today was a very full day. We started out at Hamilton Island and got Mark from Sunsail to look at the alternator. He got us going. It’s not the best solution, but it will work until we get somewhere bigger.

The cockatoos visited the boat with a little coaxing. Crackers were the bait. Then I noticed what they were doing to another boat and decided their presence wasn’t really welcome. They were actively shredding a line(rope) on the boat’s main sail. So, after snapping some pictures I got rid of them.

With our charging system charging again we left Hamilton Island. It was a charming place. We enjoyed our short visit. It was raining on and off all the way to Whitehaven Beach. I drove most of the way, even through the strong
current passage. Today the current wasn’t very strong, but at times it would grab the rudder and try to turn us sideways.

Susan and I switched normal roles and I drove while she set the anchor. It’s good experience to switch. We quickly got the dinghy, now named Bato, blown up and in the water with the outboard motor Betty Davis II mounted on the back. I had named the old outboard after the film star because it was temperamental to say the least, but once it got going great things happened.

Whitehaven Beach is a very long stretch of very white sand. It would be blinding on a sunny day. Our overcast day continued as we walked down the beach. We encountered two dying fireworms, Pied Oystercatchers, sea eagles, some litle sandpiper birds we’re still trying to indentify and the dens of several different kinds of crabs. The sandpiper like birds had chicks that looked like bugs walking on stilts. Our cockroaches in Hawaii are that big, but with shorter legs. The parents both did their best to lure us away, rushing us, running in front of us and playing at being injured. It was cute. One of them stayed with us for a long time luring us down the beach. This beach is
also known for it’s squeaking sand. At just the right spot is does squeak as you walk. The sand cant be too dry or too wet for this to happen. Much of the sand is packed down and wet and is like walking on cement.

After Whitehaven we motored over to Tongue Bay, a short 45 minute ride away. We just missed getting a mooring ball, so again we anchored with Susan operating the windless. We took the dinghy in and hiked to the top of the hill to see Hill Inlet. It’s the third most photographed thing in Australia. It’s beautiful and the camera doesn’t do it justice. Each day the tide comes into this inlet and completly re-arranges the sand. As the tide goes down streams
and pools form. The inlet is etherial and colors are amazing, even on a cloudy day.

Walking on the sands of Hill Inlet we encounter an enormous army of Soldier Crabs. They’re so cute; their color variations are light blue to bright blue to dark blue. They’re everywhere, thousands upon thousands. If you walk
long enough behind them they bury themselves in the sand spiralling in. They also walk forward, which isn’t usual for crabs; most walk sideways. One would think there would be thousand of birds around for this easy feast, but there are only a few. Beach Stone Curlews and Silver Gulls are there but just a few.

Back at the boat we put away the dinghy and had a simple dinner of pasta with sauce from the jar. I was too tired to even doctor it up.

Tomorrow we’re off for Bowen, a town on the mainland 57 miles away. We have some places picked out to stop, if we don’t quite make it that far.

Peggy’s Cousin & Fireworks

When Susan was in Mackay before she visited a beach an hour away that
had tame kangaroos and wallabies. They’re orphans and there is a
place that takes care of them. She was shy around them, not know how
tame they were until some lady came up and put an arm around a roo
that Susan had been creeping up to. “This is Peggy.” Soon Susan too
was hugging Peggy.

Tonight at dinner we ate one of Peggy’s cousins. It was quite good. I
dusted the kangroo meat with steak spice from the grocery store and
pan fried it medium rare. Susan like it too. It has a very meaty beef
steak consistency and is very low in fat. It reminds me of a New York
Strip Steak. We will certainly get it again, since it’s very
reasonably priced compared to other meat.

While Susan was washing the dishes there was a huge bang. I bolted up
top to see fireworks going off just a few yards away. It was quite a
show, lasting a long time, with lots of them going off. Now, the
bands are playing and the party is in full swing. It’s far enough
away though not to keep us up. Last night we made it to 9:30 before
crashing. It’s just before 9:00 now and I’m not going to last much
longer.

Mackay revisited

Our jet lag continues and we’re up every morning very early. Today we
got a very early start out of Brampton Island. Not long after leaving
though, we found that our main alternator wasn’t charging the bateries.
So, after some diagnosis and no solution we decided to head upwind back
to Mackay. About four hours and much seasickness later we pulled into
the marina and back into the same slip. Both of us got green around the
gills as we beat into the wind with side on waves. Even with medication
Susan didn’t feel well. My seasickness ebbed and flowed.

Once tied up we immediately checked in at the office and headed directly
for the electrician’s office here at the marina. As luck would have it,
someone was in. John came over to the boat and played around with some
things, changing nothing and the alternator started working again. Susan
and I had narrowed down the problem to an oil pressure switch that is
used to tell the alternator that the engine is on and it’s O.K. to make
electricity. Apparently he had taken one of the leads off and put it
back on. The were rusty. We’re pretty sure that was the problem. John
further cleaned up the contacts on the switch and everything seems fine.

It was too late to leave, so we went off for a late lunch. It was a
delicious tapas repast. We ordered 8 different things, although I think
they brought us 9. Neither of us remember ordering the pork meat balls.
Everything was great. It was so much food that I didn’t need dinner.

After lunch we got our cameras and headed across the street to see the
lorikeets. We got some nice pictures of these very colorful birds. They
let you get fairly close, but then just suddenly fly away.

Susan went off for a nap and I took a walk down the beach. I very
quickly encountered a sad sight. A dead turtle in the sand. It’s not a
species I’m familiar with. It wasn’t very decomposed, so I don’t think
it was there too many days. The beach is also littered with cuttlebones.
Just like the kind you buy at the pet store for your pet bird. I used to
by them for Toby, my pet canary (well, he lived with Val & Forrest
longer than with me).

Further down the beach is a park and a private beach club of some sort.
There were people in a circle in the park singing and clapping while two
of them did a kind of dance/martial art thing. They were singing in
another language I couldn’t get. It was interesting to watch, but I
really wonder what it was.

At the private beach club there was a wedding ceremony in progress. I
could see the whole thing from the beach walkway. Heading back to the
marina I ran across some raibowlorikeets again sitting on a wall. They
were so cute and colorful. I took more pictures. Then there was the second
wedding going on across the street. Her gown was much prettier.

Two weddings and a turtle funeral.

We will leave early tomorrow and head north and make it to
Tongue Bay/Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. If we don’t make it
all the way, there are lots of places to pull in and anchor.

Whitehaven not

Aloha all. We didn’t make it quite to Whitehaven, but we did make it to charming Hamilton Island. We were motoring into current created by the big tides here all morning. When afternoon came and the ebb tide came we were flying along. At first we thought we couldn’t make it to Hamilton where there is a marina. The reason we need a marina is the main alternator isn’t working again. Discouraging. We can do without it, but we have to conserve energy and hope for no days without wind and without sun. Those combined and we couldn’t have enough juice.

Afternoon arrived and we started flying along at 7+ knots. Really fast. When we got to the Dent Passage between Dent Island and Hamilton we went along hitting a high of 8.6 knots. Wow. We made a good amount of milage in one day and got here by 3:15. After tying up one of the marina guys came over and gave us the lay of the land. Apparently we’re lucky to have a slip as it is the busiest day of the year. Today was the Hamilton Island Cup, a paddling race. We saw paddlers from Tahiti, speaking French. We walked around town and up to One Tree Hill, with nice views. Cockatoos were everywhere, including hanging out at the fish and chips shop begging food. I got a nice picture of them all on the table after a group of people had left the remains of their meal. After our walk we saw people at the same shop give a fish bone to one. Another stole it and flew up to the top of a light pole. We walked along and stopped to read about the birds in the area on a sign. “Ker-thawp.” The cockatoo above us had dropped the fish bone. It went right between Susan and I. So, then I had a good opportunity to get a close up as he came to retrieve it.
Town is all set up for a party, which may effect our sleep. It’s sure to be raucous, this is Australia after all. They sure know how to party. Often they speak of nothing else.
Tomorrow we hope to have an electrician, and then head on. Whitehaven and Toungue Bay if possible.

We’re here. We’re off

The flight to Syndey was without much distinction. Time passed more
quickly as Susan rented a Digeplayer. It’s like a little handheld DVD
player, but has several movies and television shows. We shared it back
and forth. I watched Happy Feet & Epic Movie. Both of which did help
pass time. On the airplane’s screen I watched Music & Lyrics with Hugh
Grant and Drew Barrimore. Once again, no great work of art.

Customs & Immigration was a breeze and we took a $14(Austrailian) taxi
ride to the hotel. Our key was waiting for us and we proceeded to room
606. It was a very small room with a double bed and a bunk bed above it.
A very small TV and a clock radio that hovered over small desk rounded
out the room. The bathroom reminded me of one on a cruise ship. It was
that small. The view out the window was of a Krispy Creme. We were in
bed by 8:30.

We awoke the next morning very early. We got ready and headed off to the
domestic terminal which right across the street for our 6:30 flight. We
got checked in and headed off for coffee. I had a large long black and
Susan had a large long white. I think I talked about these terms for
coffee last year. Remember when you come Howard, you want a long black.
We asked as the French man was making them if it was OK to take them
through and he said “Well, yes, it’s just coffee. Wiskey, no. Coffee,
yes. I don’t know why but it’s ‘whiskey, mayday, mayday!'” Or something
close to that. We laughed about he ‘mayday, mayday’ comment.

Indeed they let us through with our coffees and without having to take
our shoes off. We sat at our gate for a while and I realized that there
was hardly anyone there. I looked at the boarding pass and noticed I was
looking at the gate for our connection in Brisbane. Oops. We moved down
to the right gate and boarded fairly soon after that. We got to
Brisbane and got some gooey breakfast items. Mine was pretty good, Susan
wasn’t that happy with hers. Soon after we boarded the plane for Mackay
and noticed it was the same crew as the one that brought us to Brisbane,
even though it was a different gate and plane.

Arriving in Brisbane reminded me of the size the Kauai airport was the
first time I flew into it. It’s small, not Raiatea small, but small. Our
carriage awaited and with our bags we took a 15 minute or so ride to the
marina, which is located out of town.

We ran into the boat’s caretaker on the pier and she told us that it was
opened up and waiting for us. The bottom had been cleaned the day
before. We unpacked and went off for lunch at Ants Cafe. We both had
meat pies. They were tasty if a little soggy. I think they were warmed
in a microwave and the crusts weren’t as crispy as they should be. The
filling was good though. There were beautiful lorikeets by the dozens in
the park across the street. I walked over to see them. I didn’t have my
camera though.

Susan went off to customs and I worked around the boat. I got the old
dead radio out of it’s slot and the new one in. However, the connector
was different, so I left the wiring for later.

We caught the bus into Mackay and got groceries and a fitting for the
hose. Shopping took quite a while, as the boat’s stores were pretty low.
We stocked up a little, but don’t need to prepare for days on end of
offshore sailing. The store was quite fun, but I was a bit tired or it
would have been more fun. One of the cheapest meats is kangaroo, so I
got some. I had to convince Susan a little, but mostly she convinced
herself saying that they have to kill them anyway because of over
population.

Back at the boat we unpacked the groceries and crashed. I was going to
cook, but instead we went for Thai takeaway. There is a nice strip of
restaurants at the marina. The food was pretty good and much more
reasonable since we got it to go.

Bed came fairly early as I couldn’t keep my eyes open much past 8:30. I
had smelled some mold in the v-berth and it started to bother my
allergies. I had to get up, take medicine and move to the center cabin.
I think the culprit was actually the sheets. Today I cleaned the berth
and we ran the sheet and towels through the laundry even though they
were clean when we got here. I think they may have been put away
slightly damp.

Around 10:00 am this morning we decided that we were pretty much ready
to go. So we did the remaining chores of getting water and fuel and left
right around noon. We headed north under motor, but were soon sailing
with just the jib out. The wind was steady which kept us going above 5
knots. Somewhere around 3:15 we arrived here at Brampton Island. We
anchored twice since we didn’t like the first spot we chose. While
wandering around to the second site we saw a nice big sea turtle. It’s
overcast and cool.

Brampton Island is at the lower end of the Whitsunday Islands. It’s
about 20 nautical miles north of Mackay. I’m not sure how long we’ll be
here, but I suspect not long. There are small hikes on the island and a
resort that is exclusive. It is the place Susan saw dugongs, though.
That would be cool! Brampton is also where Susan did her first solo
sail.

It was a good first sail for us. The first time just the two of us too.

Australia

We made it to Bundy about 30 minutes ago. We’re waiting for customs, immigration and quarantine.

Yesterday was sunny and a pod of dolphins visited us. I grabbed Susan’s little camera and got some great shots. I’ll post them.

The rain started again last night and got to it’s worst as we headed in the channel here. It was raining hard enough that we could only see the next channel marker and not the one after.

The Coconut Milk Run is done. We’re here and we’re ready for the hot showers and free lunch. They have a free BBQ on Fridays! Throw another shrimp on the barbie!

Rain and the Iron Genny

Our wonderful winds have died and now we’re motoring our final way to
Australia. We should go through Curtis Channel through the Great Barrier
Reef tonight. Then it’s another 43 miles to the bouys that mark the
entrance to Bundy.

The night before last Susan and Gerard had rainy watches. Last night
it was my turn. It’s been raining since about 4:00, about 5 hours now.
It doesn’t show any sign of stopping. It’s a light rain and the
temperature has warmed significantly, so it’s not so uncomfortable.

The bioluminesence in the water last night was magical. There was a lot
in the waves we create as the bow pushes through the water. With the
engine running there is a long stream behind us too. New to me though
was a kind of bioluminesence that glowed for a few seconds after I
shined a light on them. I sat in the cockpit with my headlamp on,
turning it on and off; on and off. Each time the round circle where my
light hit the ocean lit up and drifted away as moved. One time there was
a red eyeball in the mix. Not too big and for some reason I think it was
a squid. Just a guess.

I baked bread yesterday and we’re doing our very best to eat everything
we think the Aussies will confiscate. Our fruit and veggie net is almost
bare. The meat is almost all gone. Susan says no other cruisers eat this
well, which I find hard to believe. There has to be a few anyway. When
the seas are big it’s a particular challenge to not have everything
flying around the galley, but it can be done. A few nights ago I had a
couple of bowls of salad go flying. I’m still finding dried up pieces of
shredded carrot around. A few weeks ago there was an unfortunate
incident with uncooked rice. I’m sure Susan will find it in nooks and
crannies for years to come.

As it stands now we should be pulling into Bundaberg at first light
tomorrow. Not a bad passage for such a long distance. We had two 135
mile days and one 150 mile day. It certainly makes me envy those
catamarans that can have 200 or even 300 mile days. That certainly would
make passages tolerable. My last night watch is tonight. Yee haw!

Australia

We’re still doing great on our passage to Australia. We’ve slowed down
just a little and should be in Bundy at first light on Friday (Thursday
for you).

Alphie the autopilot is fixed. When Gerard opened up the floorboards
under the bed to look at it we got quite a surprise. The boatyard had
replaced the hand bilge pump hose, but left the old one in. This crammed
everything together and made Alphie very unhappy. In addtion the arm
where the autopilot attaches to the rudder post was completely loose.
Gerard tore out the old hose, put everything back together and then
Alphie was happy.

Night watch for Gerard was pretty wet, as was it for Susan. I got lucky
and only had a few sprinkles at the beginning of my watch. Still,
everything in the cockpit is wet. The Sunbrella fabric that the cockpit
cushions and pillows are covered with dries very quickly. Gerard was
saying it’s about $12 per yard, but boy is it worth it. It’s very tough.

The sun is up and we’re rolling along. We’re eating all the meat and
veggies we can, since the Aussies will take it all. The cruising guides
say they will even take some canned meats. What’s up with that?

Flying along

We’re flying along towards Australia. The winds are still directly
behind us, pushing our wing and wing sails. At this rate the GPS tells
us we’ll be at the entrance to Bundaberg(Bundy)in just 2 more days. Our
weather reports are very favorable too. Wow, we’re finally getting our
downwind Coconut Milk Run.

Last night during my watch all hell broke loose though. Our main and
very quiet autopilot, Alphie, was driving. He’s having a little problem
turning to starboard. He had been doing OK with us catching it before
any real problem happened. Then about 10:00 last night I didn’t correct
the problem quick enough and we decided to switch to the other
autopilot, the Autohelm. In the process we got turned around, the main
got back winded and we had to motor around to get back on course. It was
a very exciting few minutes with me driving, Gerard helping me, Susan
setting the Autohelm and lots of confusion. The Autohelm is now driving
just fine, but it’s a bit loud. So, today Gerard will try to fix Alphie.

Susan’s seasickness has passed. It’s the worst she’s seen on this trip
and she even kept last night’s dinner down. The night before was a
different story. We’re thinking it’s the green beans. The other time she
got sick we had also had green beans with dinner. Needless to say, there
won’t be any more green beans served on this passage.

The haricots verts (green beans) in Noumea were great. The French pick
them small and saute them nicely. They’re on about every menu and very
tasty.

Our last night in Noumea we went, for the third time, to La Chaumiere
for dinner. Once again excellent. Gerard had tripe, I had the calamari,
and Susan had the marlin. Even though there were many items I hadn’t
tried yet, I again had the fish terrine to start. It was excellent.
Gerard was full and didn’t want dessert, but it’s included. So, Susan
and I ate ours and most of his creme brulee too. I was stuffed. It was
the first time I had that “Thanksgiving full” feeling. It was a good
send off for Noumea.

Well it looks like I’ll be to Australia in plenty of time to get to
Sydney for my August 4th flight home. I may have time to stop for a
night in Brisbane on my way too. Maybe a dive from Bundy? Marci and
Steve arrive in Bundy on August 4th, and then Kirsten comes on the 10th.
Susan’s looking forward both visits. She’s hoping to cruise up to the
Whitsunday Islands. One of our neighbors in Noumea gave her a cruising
guide to look at. It got her excited. They look amazing.

Bye Bye New Cal

We left New Caledonia around 2:30 pm yesterday. We intended to spend the
night anchored at Amedee Island at the lighthouse. However, when we got
there the conditions weren’t favorable and we headed out the pass. That
was about 24 hours ago and we’ve gone about 130 miles. So, we’ve had a
really good day. The winds are from the perfect direction and somewhat
strong. We’ve got a triple reef in the main and a reefed jib and we’re
hitting 7 knots frequently. The seas are from the south though so we get
thrown around a little. At this rate we’ll be at the entrance to the
Great Barrier Reef in 4 days from now. But as we’ve seen you can’t count
on the winds for days on end.

The seasick clock is reset and Susan and I are back at square one. Even
Gerard has had a little and he doesn’t usually. I’m doing much better
today, but I certainly can’t type too much more. It’s still cold and
we’re all bundled up on our warm clothes. The tropical South Pacific,
HAH!