Not Always Fun….Always an Adventure

February 18th, 2020
It’s been a long time. A long time since writing my last post and a long time writing the blogs. It’s not that I don’t have much to say. I do. It’s that, life, living, cruising gets some in the way of writing these posts. They are not just off the cuff. I do put thought into them. I can’t seem to get in the swing of writing brief, frequent posts as some of my other cruising friends do. I can’t seem to make it a daily or weekly note and post updates. Sorry.
That said, since Fraser Island we’ve come a long way in activities and a short distance in miles. We hung in the St. Mary’s river with two other cruising boats, played tennis in Tin Can Bay, navigated the Wide Bay Bar and moved down to Scarborough Marina where we’ll hang for a minimum of 3 months. Oh, we also watched the fire works from South Bank. What an event! While here, we’ve reconnected with some friends from the states of 17 years ago, spent some time with them, bought a car, joined a gym, and another tennis club.

As far as the boat is concerned we began the list of projects. We ordered a new cooling system for the engine; a Bowman heat exchanger kit from TAD, we’ve completed one sewing project, attacked a wee bit of the varnish and for our comfort we purchased a portable AC unit.
There are different types of cruisers. There is the commuter cruiser that returns to the states every 6-9 months, and the tourist cruiser that hits all the highlights in an area.  Then there is us. We are slow cruisers. We want to meet the locals,  share our stories, experience how it is to live in their country, taste test their foods, and ok; see a few of the sights. We’re never going to see them all.
Bonna; a mate on the boat Good News is from the Philippines. She loved to tell everyone there are 7,000 islands in her country. Well, if we anchored at each island for just one day; that’s 20 years of cruising. You can’t see it all. So; we don’t try.
Sailing in Australia is, well, not the countries highlight. If one chooses Tasmania the anchorages are great, the scenery awesome and the wx; much too cold for us. We hear the Whitsundays are great cruising grounds. We’ve not cruised there yet. The rest, as far as I”m concerned is not for the faint of heart. Crossing bars one must watch the winds and the tides. Anchorages are packed full making holiday parking lots look empty. Katie M told us recently that they couldn’t even get into an anchorage as there were so many boats there. The anchorage outside our marina has no protection from the ESE to the NNE. The trades blow right on through. Thus we’ve joined the marina crowd. When we head out we will seek some cruising time in the Whitsundays. For now, it is marinas and projects.
Just to give one an idea of Australian navigation fun. There is channel north of where we are, near Cairns. One can navigate it during High tide. During low tide it is a cattle crossing! There are many bar entrances and exits to protected waters here. When the tide is going out and the winds are blowing ashore standing waves occur. They are big waves that look squarish and often break. Boats have been flooded, rolled and sunk trying to cross a bar at the wrong time. There is a group of people that volunteer at the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) . They provide info on the condition of the bars. Getting across one of the bars isn’t the only thing to be concerned with. It is getting back in. Some boats have had to wait one or two days before entering a bar. People have died crossing at the wrong times. We are extra cautious.
Anchoring too is exciting. We anchored in the Mary’s River near it’s mouth. While the winds blew up the river we rarely laid to the wind. The current with the 2 m tides directed the boat. The current was often 3 kts. That is 50% of our normal boat speed; and we are not even moving, only the water. Anchoring we need to take the tides into account. Two meters tide (about 6’) means we need to add about 12 m more of chain / rode when dropping our anchor. That in turn means we’ll move in a larger circle during low tide. Further to complicate things; this river has a flood plain of about 10 meters (yes you heard me 30’). So if for some reason it floods from excessive rains inland, we would need to move somewhere else. Flooding brings debris like logs down the river. All threatening to up our anchor and damage our boat.  With that high of water we might even pull our anchor out and become part of the debris.
Settling (even temporarily) in a new country adds another set of problems. All marinas in Australia require a $10 million liability coverage. Our insurance liability doesn’t go that high. We needed to get more insurance. We contacted some companies and they wanted a new survey. We prepared for that and were ready to haul and get an updated survey. After a couple of days searching we found reasonable 3rd party insurance coverage for 10 million dollars. We will most likely haul and get a new survey when we do our yearly haul here in Australia. Then we can get the Australian full comprehensive coverage. In some countries insurance companies will not insure a foreign flagged vessel. And getting that much coverage with a US company gets to be quite expensive if one can even find it now. Many US companies have opted out of covering US vessels so far from their home port.
New Aussie WheelsAs I said we bought a car. That too came with new challenges. In NZ we had a signed title. With one page of paperwork we went to the post office, presented them with the paperwork and boom, the car was ours. Here we needed 3 forms of identification as well as a local mailing address. Our friends provided us with the mailing address.  We are fortunate that they are here. A week later we picked up a 2007 Honda CR-V. The newest car we’ve ever owned! Remember; we’ve been traveling for 12 years now.
One of the biggest challenges we have had cruising is with our bank cards. We would love to switch to the bank (USAA) our cruising friends have. They have one that supports veterans and their families. They understand people are mobile. I’m not a veteran but my father was. And sadly, he passed many years ago. I need a living immediate family veteran to qualify. Anyway, our credit union is as good as one can expect considering we don’t fit into a category of standard retiree.
They send the CC to our home address. Well, we’re not there. Because of that the CC gets destroyed and our account frozen. CC’s and debit cards is how we acquire the needed funds for cruising. Gone are the days when cruisers carry boat loads of cash to move from country to country. We have a good contact in the bank and he suggested we switch our home address on the account to our Aussie address. OK, no problem. We do online banking with a VPN. (We use Express VPN and if anyone wishes to use them please acknowledge us; we get an extra month-sorry shameless sell). Anyway I go to make the change and the profile page will not accept a 4 digit postal code. Aussies only have a 4 digit code. We again contact the bank and our “guy” is able to get one of their computer people to put in the 4 digit code. At this point we don’t have a working CC but do have working debit cards… so far. We’ve taken enough cash out to carry us through till the new cards arrive. Now that the address is right the bank will send out new cards to this Australian address. Unfortunately they don’t send them the way the best way – DHL. They send it snail mail. Three weeks later we finally receive the cards. Now to activate them.
When we call they ask for information from us to verify it is us. W/ gives them the info, but when they ask for our home zip (remember Australia doesn’t have a 5 digit zip) we give them the Aus postal code. Also remember that this is in our profile. No good. The computer program they are inputting to doesn’t accept this 4 digit code. They want 5 digits, even though it is now in our profile as 4 digits. We are lucky, the employee at the bank was able to make a work around to activate the card. We’re back in the game. Almost. Now we need to wait for the debit cards. Again that takes a few extra weeks. We have one but the other isn’t in our pocket yet.
While all that is happening we’re ordering stuff for the boat. When one orders stuff on line and puts in the CC info, merchants often make sure the address matches the CC info. Again, since this is a US card and we are in Aus we have a 4 digit post code. Merchant stores don’t like that. Orders are denied and kicked back. More issues ensue. Luckily, before we left I set up PayPal and that has been a fall back. To keep things as simple as possible we often order from Australian web stores. One order I made was cancelled when they discovered that the card was a US card with an Australian address! And when cancelled they never told me. Three weeks later I’m investigating where our stuff is. I discover that the order was cancelled and refunded. No charger or refund showed up on the card.
On top of all that, since we knew we were buying a car and planned on being here awhile, we opened a local bank account. It is much easier doing business having a local bank. (BTW, NZ and AUS banks are far ahead of the US banks for electronic funds transfers). We first went to one bank and opened an account. Spent an hour doing all the paperwork. To add money we wrote a check from our account in the states for deposit. Their policy dictated that before we deposit a foreign funds check we needed to have an account for 6 months. Even though we would not be able to use the money until the check cleared and the money was actually in the account! On to another bank we go. This one is a sister bank to the one we used in NZ. All good. We open the account and deposit a check. Almost three months later the check still has not cleared. We discovered yesterday that they never got it sent off because the bank individual didn’t have us “endorse” it. The check was to be deposited in our account. SMH!
And we needed the money to buy the car. We (both of us) got up at 2 am to call our bank during their business hours and make an international wire transfer. Finally, something went smoothly (still it was at 2am), and 3 days later we had the funds. Oh, isn’t cruising fun? Not really- always fun, but definitely -always an adventure.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

4 Wheelin on Fraser Island

November 23rd, 2019
Yep, there is a speed limit on this beach

Beach Speed Limit

We took a tour; unlike Gilligan it was longer than 3 hours. And unlike Gilligan; we eventually returned to our destination. The day prior Laura, W/ , and I found the 4 Wheel Drive (4wd) auto rental place. We signed up. To drive one of the rentals on Fraser you need a drivers license and to watch an hour video on “Driving on Fraser”. Honestly, it was quite good and informative. We watched it, paid our deposit, informed that Dick, who would be the main driver needed to watch it too. Otherwise we would be leaving later then we wanted to…. in the am.

It didn’t matter that much. We were there promptly at 8 am and the agent was quite busy. Between 8:30 and 9 am we were on the road. Dick had watched the video and the agent cleared the car. The “road” is a lie. Yes, It was asphalt as we left Kingfisher Bay. As we reached the top of the rise the road changed to sand ruts. And ruts is putting it mildly. Dick switched on the 4 WD and we crawled, bumped, shaked and shimmied across Fraser. The ride made any of Disney’s adventures seem sane by comparison. Forty-five minutes later we had crossed the 15 km wide island. No bruises but quite tenderized bums. There the ride eased. We switch into high gear and flew along this Australian Highway. Yep, the beach is a highway with an 80 kph speed limit. Our rental company told us our limit was 60 kph. Anyway, it would be crazy to go 80 kph. That is unless you are a plane flying low. Yep. The beach too is airport worthy. We passed three landing areas.
Driving at high speeds on the beach was fun. For us, 60 kph on a beach is high speed. We traversed several washes. Places where water was running out of the sand mountains or those in the Western US would say hills. We stopped first at Eli Creek. A pure fresh water creek that was said to be drinkable. Drinkable at least above the area that people are playing in it. 🙂 Neither W/ or I availed ourselves of ingesting the cool liquid. We walked in the creek and enjoyed the party like atmosphere around the mouth. John and Leanne on Songlines told us in the past they would camp there for a week or so. That was before it became a popular mecca for locals.
Cooled off and refreshed we again headed N on the beach highway to the wreck of the Maheno. A luxury liner that was headed to the scrap yard years ago. A cyclone struck it and the towing vessel offshore and the tow line blew apart. The Maheno ended up on Fraser and has laid there ever since. The story has a few people losing their lives trying to recover it. Since, it slowly is working its way deeper and deeper into the sand. Currently I hear three floors of it lie below the beach.
The Pinnicals were quite pretty but no climbing. Climbing will break the sand and destroy their effect. We took some photos and reached the Northern terminus of our trip; the Cathedral. There we had a light lunch and rested our backsides. I asked one of the employee’s at the Eco resort we had lunch at, about it. He said that they called it the Cathedral because from afar the cliffs look like one. But, he indicated he never could see the resemblance. Neither could we.
Back down the beach we went, dodging a few airplanes, climbing through creek washes. Dick; our designated driver drove through a dozen or so washes. We passed also passed the spot where we crossed from the. Our southern terminus was one of the few towns on the island. About 50 people live there! 🙂 Again another snack, restrooms, and a break. After which we cut back across the island towards Lake McKenzie.
Lake McKenzie is one gorgeous lake. Crystal clear water, white sand beaches and no trash. Food and drink are not allowed at the lake. Only people. And people, still bring problems. They put on sun screen as well as perfumes and skin oils that are contaminating the lake. There are no fish in the lake, a few turtles, and frogs. It was a wonderful stop. We had melon (100 m up from the shore) in an enclosed wire compound. That compound keeps the Dingo’s out. Trash either taken with you or placed in Dingo proof containers in fenced in eating areas. Lake McKenzie is one of the most idyllic areas we’ve ever been to. After a swim and some sustinence we continued our trek back across Fraser to Kingfisher bay. There we will fill up with diesel and return the vehicle.
Diesel for the day ran a bit over $75 Aus. We turned the car in and had it checked over. Our attendant was happy we didn’t have any damage. Three out of the six vehicles out that day came back with damage! I tell you; the sand track was rough. Luckily Dick was adept at driving in sand. He had experience biking off road in Utah and much of that experience transferred. Our agent indicated the tracks were beat up due to people bringing all wheel drive cars. Those vehicles create ruts and the washboard effect. In case we wish to do this again, she indicated that after the rains start the track will smooth out and be packed, much like the beach. For now, one day of bouncing up, down and sideways is really enough for me.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

The Tourist Dance

November 16th, 2019
We finally broke down and did a couple of tourist things. We shared a rental car with Vagabond and went to a turtle laying beach.
First Time Lawn Bowling

W/ first time Lawn Bowling

On the way there we passed a Lawn Bowling club that said open to the public and kids eat free on Fridays. We had a kid with us. 🙂 Sweet. She didn’t eat. 🙁 Anyway, one of the members took a shine to Dan (Canadian) and he kindly encouraged us to try Lawn Bowling. Not knowing any of the game he explained much to us. All except how to score. The balls are balanced funny and not really round. Thus if you roll them down the green, as they slow down they curve right or left. If you try rolling them on their flat sides they bounce part way down and fall short. We tried a few. About 20 tosses in W/ hit the “jack”. She was first to strike the target. Immediately following her I hit the jack. All of us came close at one time or another but that was it. After we sat and chatted for a bit, then hit the road to our destination for the evening: turtle beach.

Other cruisers had come across nesting sea turtles recently at this beach. This is our second time in attempting to see turtles nest. The first was in Granada. Currently we’re 0 for 2. We’ve seen turtles hatching and returning to the sea in two places in Mexico. But; never nesting.
As a consolation we spoke with the Turtle volunteers. Interesting info. One volunteer has been doing the watch for decades. He told us of fisheries that have required fishing vessels to install turtle doors in their nets. This allows turtles caught to escape and survive. At the time the turtles nesting on the beach where he watches were close to 200 / year. Now 15 years later they are close to 600 / year. The eggs are in the ground for 8 weeks then hatch. Each nest contains about a 120+ eggs. And the females may nest 3 or more times per season. Out of a 1,000 hatchlings, one survives to adulthood. Not good odds. I hope we have better odds in seeing a nesting sea turtle in the future.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

New Country, New Challenges

November 14th, 2019
Cruising is not a piece of cake. Besides the offshore sailing, the next most challenging aspect is preparing to live in a new country. If you are a speed cruiser; one who joins the ARC or one who has taken a year or two off of the work routine, you might fly through a country that none of these prepartions are needed.
For those of us taking our time and finding joy in the experience of a new country, this next bit is for you.
Aside from the clearance in procedure our next step is to clean the boat. Often that means a marina or access to water and washing machines. While there are those that envision cruising as living in a bathing suit -that is not reality. Nights are often cool and in some cases cold. We’ve worn long underwear with two or three layers and fleece on top and on top of that even full foul wx gear. And while we don’t wear our foullies all the time, there are times that an errant wave will splash the boat and spritz one with salt water. All those need to be washed. Everything salt water touches. In the boat we attempt to localize areas that salty clothing goes. If it is beyond our smell tollerance we place it the wash pile and pull out more clothes. We usually have 2 loads of clothing when we finish with a passage. Then another two loads of our “crew covers” that protects our interior fabric and cushions. Getting salt on foam cushions usually involves replacement of that foam.
After washing the boat, the gear, and our clothing; the next step entails getting local currency. Once we have money in hand we have two new tasks: Fresh fuit and veggies as well as replacing any meats a country may have taken for destruction, and finally communication.
For communication we rely on a local SIM card. In years past WiFi was the preferred way to connect. Now getting data through the cell phone network is the easiest. Once the phone’s have cards we usually buy or sometimes get one free a MiFi device. That device acts as router for a SIM card and one can then connect all the devices up on the boat to the MiFi and it’s just like home.
And last; depending on how much time you expect to spend in a country it comes down to money. Here in Australia we expect to spend about 18 months. It’s a big country and we would like to see a few of the tourist places. That and join a tennis club, visit friends, and make all boat projects easier. To complete those task we need a car and to get settled comfortably we need a bank account to pay all the local bills.
Yesterday we went to open up an account. NZ was and I assume Australia is far ahead of the US in banking. In NZ if we wanted to pay anyone (business or personal) with an account on any bank in the country we could easily through online banking. In the US we can only move money through accounts at the the same bank. Sad, I know. In NZ we used Westpac. I was happy with them and everything worked perfectly.
We go into Bundaberg to set up an account. The only Westpac in town is moving and the branch is closed for two days. We’re getting ready to move South so I am not liking this. Some of the locals said they like the Com Bank. With the Com Bank one can do much of their banking needs at the post office.
And so…. we stop in there to set up a new account. We spend roughly an hour getting the employee all the needed info, visa stuff, tax number, address in Australia, sign this form and that form. After which we wrote a check to add money to the account. All looked good until she checks the banks rules for foreign checks. A check over 5k Aus requires a few extra bank procedures so we elect to write one for under 5k Aus. Again, all looks good until she discovers that even though we expect to wait until money is in the account, the bank will not accept any foreign checks until the account has been open for 6 months! A circular Cluster F——. You know what I mean. How can we start an account and put money in and use if for 6 months if we can’t deposit a check for six months. We don’t want to hit the ATM up daily to take cash out and then put it in a local bank. THAT, is not making our life easier.
In the end we cancelled the account, deleted everything and walked out frustrated. Tomorrow we will go to the Westpac and try to get a local account. I am hoping even if they say we need an account for 6 months they will accept our over 6 months Westpac account in NZ. We’ll see. It is close the final task we need to do for a successful stay in …..Oz.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

ps  We went in Friday to set up the new account and they made an appointment for us to return …. Monday. Further I know I’ve left out some cruising updates and well hopefully get to fill a few in as time passes.

Les Loyalties, New Caladonia

September 28th, 2019
A fascinating island; Lifou. The bay is HUGE! and we are anchored in the lee of Drueulu. This community has one business; a bakery. The commercial center on the island is about 30 minutes by car  and on the windward side. Ironically there is a wharf and marina there. Entering that side would not be the most fun. There the trade winds keep it exciting. Thus they have the resorts that focus on kite surfing, wind surfing and dinghy sailing.
Having completed the paper work; expedited by the Go West Rally organizer, we went for a walk ashore. The island culture (Kanak) has been bickering; in some cases fighting, the French since their arrival. People on the island are not overly gregarious like Fiji. They are more reserved. We walked along in solitude and noticed a majority of homes having a round cement like structure with a thatched roof. John (the village chief) later told us that upon a marriage this is the first structure built.

Photo by Wendy. A family community building

It is to house not only the new family but the extended family community as needed. On the second day of our visit we had a gathering at the village. This had a fire pit in the middle; two sets of doors and many mattresses. The doors were even short for the local population. Short doors demand of an entrant to bow or stoop. This was to show humility.

But I jump too far ahead. The day following our clearance we made a trip to the commercial center, there to refresh our stores, get local money at the only ATM on the island, and acquire a phone card for internet and communication.
The money here has a similar relationship to the $’s on Vanuatu. 1,000 CFP equals $10 US. The phone card is from the OPT their only telecom company and mail service. The data usage and connection is the poorest of the the main island groups in the S Pacific. One dollar US gets you one hour of connectivity. Four dollars US gets you 24 hours. The problem with the 24 hour choice is that the first 200 megabytes is full speed but after that it is throttled.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Headin’ South

September 26th, 2019

The trip was not fun! We waited for about 4 more weeks than some other sailing friends of ours. They left and we thought the winds will still become more favorable. They did; 4 weeks later! SMH. And they didn’t stay favorable for the entire trip. All of one day.

David from Gulf Harbor Radio indicated we might have a good trip as the winds don’t often blow long from the East. The East winds would give us a broad reach all the way to New Caladonia.

We had cleared out, loaded up the dinghy and by 7 am cast off the mooring lines and headed out of the anchorage. Sails hoisted (reefed mainsail and Jib) we were moving fast; fast for a yacht in the perfect direction. I’m not going to re-write what I said in our Predict wind track. If you want further detail of our frustrations you can read them there. About 30 hours later we pulled in to the anchorage at Lifou and there we waited for the officials for clearance.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Gettin Ready to Leave

September 24th, 2019

Clearing out of Vanuatu was akin to running a maze. First I had to head down to the commercial wharf. Then I located Customs, fill out a few pages of paperwork. Didn’t understand one of the questions and left it with the customs officer who directed me to the Port Captains office; in another building. I climb up to the second floor and wait in line. Another cruiser (who shall not be named) is having a disagreement with the port captain about the costs. SMH! Cruising is not as free as it once was. Everyone in the office knew he would loose but he persisted for a another 5 minutes. I understand he was already there for about 15 minutes prior to my arrival. Eventually, he left to find an ATM and get the money he needed to pay for the stamp he needed to show to the Customs Officers for the clearance paper he needed to prove at the next port that he is an above board visitor.

For our paper work to leave Vanuatu I paid approximately $150 US. After the port captains office I was directed to the Immigration office. Another short line there and 15 minutes later I had the stamps in the passport indicating we were legal to leave. From there I went back to the Customs office where we received a paper indicating that the boat was cleared for another foreign port.

Two hours later I was back home to Elysium. We began to prepare for departure. First W/ and I would head to the store and pick up any last minutes items we needed to fill our stores. This as well as empting our wallets of the final Vanuatu currency we had. That completed we returned to the boat to ready it for off shore.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

September 23rd, 2019

We got lucky. Well, maybe; we’ll see. We wanted to see the Loyalties. The problem is that they are up wind from Noumea where we are required to clear into the country. Some people rest there for a day or so but that’s not really our style. We prefer to be legal. John; the owner of the GoWest Rally part of the DownUnder Rally universe, sent us an email indicating that the dates for clearing into the Loyalties has changed.

Rally organizers often group enough people together to pay and have the officials fly to a popular cruising destination for clearance. Due to inclement weather John changed the dates for the rally and they just so happen to coincide with what looks like a good weather window for us to leave from Vanuatu to New Caladonia. Tomorrow we check out.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

My Story

September 20th, 2019

This am we’re taking our laundry in for the last time in Vanuatu. Getting ready to go. I head up on deck to ready the dinghy. We always hip tie the dinghy at night. It doesn’t make noise in the chop and is slightly more difficult for someone to “borrow” the engine or take the entire thing for a joy ride.

These definitely do not float!

I release the bow line and turn back to put the drain plug back in and release the stern line. My head brushes an awning line and flips my prescription sun glasses overboard. They are my last pair. They are now in the water. Our mooring is 120’ feet deep. They are sinking. Not much time for thought.

Our electric snorkel will not allow me to get much below one atmosphere; about 30’. With a scuba tank that gives a bottom time of only about 10 minutes at that depth. There is not much light at that depth. They are not floating straight down.

I jump in. Fully clothed. I jump about 6’ away from them so as not to disturb where I see them. The water is cool, not cold. By now I would estimate they are one meter down. I dive down and must open my eyes. I am glad the water is clear. But, salt water burns the eyes a bit. However, I need to see to reach them. They are still sinking. I reach for them and miss. Depth perception under water and with my needing prescription eyes is not good. I miss. Seeing my hand pass in front of them, I swim close and luckily I reach them the second time. Relieved I swim towards the surface smiling. I have saved my glasses. Now I’m wet and cold.

Glass with a Life JacketI dry off, put on a dry cloths and we finish launching the dinghy. When I take in the clothes I shower off with fresh water. Now my glasses have a float attached to them.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Damn Rain

September 15th, 2019

I could never live in Seattle. I know, I know. Never say never. It is just that I am not a fan of rain. Oh, it is sometimes nice. A drizzle on the roof top at night; cabin top in my case, seems to enhance sleep. But during the day. YUCK!

We’ve had three days of rain. Ok, I know I’m whining a bit. Those in Dorians’ path had it much much worse. For me, this was bad enough. We don’t like to get off the boat. We walk. Walking in the rain in a city or even a remote village is not fun. Muddy  and wet. We don’t like to track dirt onto the boat. We leave footwear in the dinghy. Thus for the most part we are boat bound.

In many respects that is not a bad thing. I read, play chess on the computer as well as other games. Hang some on social media and try to complete some small inside boat chores. Enough is enough. I want some Sun.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long