Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas!

We'll be celebrating in Brisbane with family and thinking of all our dear friends.  Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Brave Miss Daisie

Monday was a shocking day for Miss Daisie.  She is such a love, she makes friends wherever she goes.  It's hard to believe she could travel all over the world, in places where dangers abound, only to be attacked in Brisbane.

Miss Daisie's is not happy her hairdo has been messed up.
We were returning home after visiting the groomer, red bows in her hair, when we came face to face with a big dog who leapt across the path to attack her.  It was so quick and shocking for us all.

Both dogs were on leads and we were able to pull Miss Daisie away to safety.  We got her quickly back to the vet who took her in straight away to check her wounds.  She cleaned her up and gave her an injection, as well as some anti-inflammatories and antibiotics to take away with us.  The vet says she's lucky, no serious damage.

  Daisie is a brave soul.  Despite her shock, her tail still wags when she sees someone who wants to be friends.   We're making sure she spends time with her best furry friends.  She is recovering her usual happy demeanor and we are taking good care of her.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

I've Been Everywhere, Man!

Kangaroos at Balancing Rock, near Glenn Innes
Driving from Brisbane to Sydney recently to pick up Daisie from Quarantine brought back some fond memories.  There's nothing like a drive through small Aussie East Coast towns to make you smile and think of singing.  Just saying the place names out loud is a hoot!

Guyra Railway Signal, New South Wales
Take a look at some of these "blink and you'll miss it" place names we've loved most on many a drive along the Pacific Highway:

Duranbah, Tyagarah, Newybar, Yelgun, Uralla, Uki, Bilinudgel, Bellimbopinni, Tabbimobile, Jackadgery, Liangothin, Tibuster, Coopernook, Coolongolook, Nabiac, Rainbow Flat

The 10 year drought has broken.  Mann River at Jackadgery.
Then there's some all time favorites from around the country: Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby, Cunnamulla, Cabramatta, Indooroopilly, Kirribilli, Woolloongabba, Oodnadatta, Nambucca, Clybucca, Buladelah, Bambaroo, Woolloomooloo.

You might remember Johnny Cash's 1996 version of the song, "I've Been Everywhere, Man".  Back in 1962 Lucky Starr recorded the Aussie version, written by Geoff Mack in 1959:

I've been everywhere man,
'cross the deserts bare, man,
I've breathed the mountain air, man,
of travel I've had my share, man,
I've been ev'rywhere."

Been to...
Click here to see where intrepid traveller Peter Harris has been as he's followed the lyrics of the song.

Near Scone, NSW

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Brisbane Street Art

Sandstone was a common building material for the historic buildings in Australia's cities and towns.  

There was nothing to tell the significance of these gorgeous, quite large carved sandstone blocks.  You just have to enjoy the beauty of the stone and the work of the artist.

Wall art, reminiscent of aboriginal cave paintings

Friday, 10 December 2010

Kangaroo Point, Brisbane

Boardwalk Dockside, Kangaroo Point
Dockside Marina, Story Bridge in the background

Poinciana tree roots

Classic old Queensland pub architecture, Story Bridge Hotel, Kangaroo Point
Woolworths store with Story Bridge art

Brisbane's iconic Story Bridge is represented in art and advertising all over the city.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Eating, Drinking Tea, Cycling with Hugh Jackman, Brisbane

Chinese restaurants in Australia serve great, super fresh seafood - Spanner Crab
Gary's new car!  Waiting for you Gary, when you get tired of NZ.

Standard fare

Ok, so Hugh was only with us in advertising, it's still great to see his face on the street!

In Brisbane we can pick up a bicycle, cruise the miles and miles of boardwalk,  and drop it off wherever there's a cycle station.  
October in Brisbane, Jacarandahs and roses in bloom

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Miss Daisie, Out of the Slammer

Sprung from Quarantine, Daisie jumps into the getaway car

Freedom, fresh air, sunshine, green grass, lose the leash and let's have a run.

Feels good.
She does not seem to have suffered any culture shock and the locals have no problem with her American accent.  It's great to have Miss Daisie with us after all her adventures around the world.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Brisbane City 2010

Brisbane!  Who would bother visiting?  That's a sentiment from the not so distant past and you might be still thinking such blasphamy.  In fact, it seems many Queenslanders still cling to those out of date sentiments.  It's been many years since we've spent any time in Brisbane.  Robert once worked at the CSR New Farm Sugar Refinery, now a waterfront apartment conversion.  Trish attended college at Kangaroo Point straight out of school, now nothing looks familiar.

Heads Up!  Brisbane has grown up.

Wow, what a change!  Sailing up the Brisbane River we could hardly recognize the suburbs that used to be full of examples of the classic "Queenslander", a unique Queensland styled house designed to keep inhabitants cool in the summer heat, and dry during the frequent thunderstorms.  If we can still find one, we'll take a picture!

Ferries and CityCats run every 10 to 30 mintues from the remodeled old/new Ferry Wharves linking 24 stops along the river.  You can pick up a bicycle and cover a few miles of riverfront boardwalk, then drop it off at your destination.  That's cool.

We went to a concert in the park.  Peter Frampton, America, Chicago and Brain Wilson!  Neil Diamond and Leonard Cohen are in town.  Just down the road at the Byron Bay BLUESFEST, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Elvis Costello and the Blind Boys of Alabama are playing. Hang on didn't we just leave the US?

We are struggling to get used to the cost of living in Australia.  Beer at $3.00, business shirts $100, meals $25 a plate, cell phones and internet costs - we are still in denial on this one, quaratine on arrival $330, meat from $26/kg.  Bargains may be found with some careful hunting around.  With the Aussie dollar around parity with the US dollar, we might have to make a trip back to top up the work wardrobe.


All in all, Brisbane is still a great place to live.  It's good to be back among "our tribe".

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A Big Mistake Coming In

Owen hoists our oversized courtesy flag and yellow quarantine flag.
Amidst the realization that we actually did it, crossed the Pacific in a sailboat, was a terrible sinking feeling we'd made a big mistake.

In fact it was more than a feeling, we DID make an unbelievable mistake.  We came to the wrong place!

So sure of our ability to arrive in a country with documents and our confident selves ready to face Customs and Quarantine officials, we failed to question the information published in the three Cruising Guides we were using.

Note to any cruiser planning to check in at Scarborough, or Manly in Queensland; don't try it.  The official check-in office is now Rivergate, on the Brisbane River.  There is no other check-in location for a Brisbane landfall.

Queensland's Glasshouse Mountains with Bribie Island foreground
Talk about embarrassing!  That was the least of it.  We still wonder if our VHF radio is "on the blink", i.e. only working intermittently.  We could hear officials on Channel 16 but not one person responded to our numerous calls for instructions as we approached Scarborough, knowing our arrival would be in the dark.  A big change from everywhere else in the world is that the radio is quite silent here, perhaps due to the fact that many Australian boats don't use VHF as they still require operators to be licensed!  Most cruisers come in further north, to Bundaberg or Mackay, so there were no boats like us to talk with.

With the threat of a major storm with lightning and damaging winds forecast for Moreton Bay, we congratulated ourselves on getting to Scarborough in the dark, before the storm.  The volunteer with the Coast Guard was visible in his "ivory tower" so we radioed but he was unable to give us any information and no, we could not tie up at the fisheries dock because we were not authorized (thanks for the welcome).  Someone in a slip yelled that customs had moved to Manly and they could make a phone call for us.

Storms at sea
The wind was picking up, the storm was closing in.  Robert circled Bristol Rose in the tight quarters available to us.  We could not wait there, circling, with the fear that the wind would soon force us into the slipped boats and rock retaining walls.  So we headed back out through the narrow winding channel hoping to get some protection somewhere.  Manly seemed too far.

A radio call came from the volunteer Coast Guard, "Captain, what are your intentions?".  Hmmm, so the Coast Guard DOES care about where we are and wants to keep an eye on us?  Followed was what seemed like a scripted conversation on the CG's side, suggesting that "You're the Captain so it is up to you, but you could come back in and tie up at the public dock until the storm passes".  By this time it was about 9:00PM.  Ok, we'll do that, sounds like the best offer we've had tonight.

At last we were tied up, no help offered, awaiting the storm and feeling a little shell-shocked after our welcome and the past 8 days at sea.  We feel like we have the plague.  Knock, knock, thump, thump, three armed Officers of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are standing on the dock beside us.  Welcome aboard!

After being read the riot act about illegal entry into this fine country of ours, and being questioned about why we came to Scarborough, they decided not to press charges.  They proceeded to then process our customs and immigration clearance on the spot, while the rain poured down and the lightning and thunder welcomed us to Australia.  Not exactly what we would have planned.  We finally got to sleep around midnight.

The mouth of the Brisbane River.  Beyond is Moreton Bay.
Turns out that only two weeks before our arrival, another vessel arrived at Scarborough, also seeking shelter from a storm.  It was an Australian vessel which had reportedly been involved in importing large quantities of drugs.  At least they did not make the mistake of thinking they would be able to do customs, immigration and quarantine clearance at Scarborough.  Their surprise reception was of a different calibre.  Obviously the locals were a little nervous about unfamiliar boats entering there, hence the reluctance to speak to or help us.  You can bet more than one phone call was made to authorities about our arrival that night.

On a very positive note, we have to dispel some of the bad news out there in the cruising community.  Yes the officials are very serious about their role as protectors of Australia's borders.  God help anyone who comes in with ill-intent.  The approach is equivalent to what we experienced in Puerto Rico with the US Coast Guard and what we encounter entering the US.  No messing around.  There's nothing to fear when arriving with nothing to hide.  The officials, once they established we'd made a silly (very embarrassing) mistake about port of entry, were extremely courteous and helpful and did indeed welcome us with sunny smiles.  We slept, comforted with the thought that our protection was assured.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Anchorages... Coconut Point Fiji

Coconut Point,
south coast of Vanua Levu, Fiji
*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Monday, 1 November 2010

She's In The Jailhouse Now

Miss Daisie is at the Eastern Creek Quarantine Facility awaiting her release on November 20, 2010.  You can bet there will be some excitement.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Anchorages... San Blas, Panama. January 2010

This anchorage was worth the 5 hour wait until sunrise. Navigating the approaches to anchorages in the low lying San Blas islands with unreliable charts and coral reefs demands good light. Coco Bandero was our first San Blas anchorage after our 1,000 mile passage across the Caribbean Sea.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Brisbane, QLD

We are docked at Dockside Marina , in the heart of the city of Brisbane.  Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next - so the Tourism ads used to go!

Starting the process of settling back into Australian life.  It was an interesting passage from Vanuatu.  The weather had something for everyone, from mill pond conditions to gale force and back again.  Still, we made it in 8 days, safe and sound.

Checking in is a story in itself, for another time, but all went well in the end and we have to report that the officials were far more human than the reputation that preceeds them (among the cruising community).

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Close to Home

It's 4.30am Saturday and we're only about 145 miles from Brisbane, ETA Sunday afternoon.
I'm finishing my watch and thinking, close to home, just one more night on passage. Two years of cruising coming to a close. Feeling excited, tired, and maybe on the verge of getting emotional. Better get some sleep now.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Nasty Conditions, A Positive Note.

Jimmy Cornell describes the passage from Vanuatu to Brisbane as either slow or rough. We must be lucky, we got both.
Closely following weather forecasts for weeks, it looks like this week will be a good week to sail to Australia. The past week of heavy seas and strong winds is behind us. The forecasts look good, so we'll head off with a group of boats participating in the Port 2 Port Rally to Bundaberg. The Rally has no official start date but expects participants to arrive in Bundaberg during the last week of October. We'll continue on to check-in in Brisbane.
Bristol Rose set sail from Port Vila Saturday morning and for that first day we made good time, sailing at six knots. Conditions were ideal, we felt good about our decision to leave when we did. We're in regular radio contact with the others, Onda, Zenitude and The Road.
By midnight the forecast light air forced us to use the motor. And the motor continued to push us slowly onward for the next three days through a heat haze and mill pond waters, sails empty of air. Elliot caught a big Wahoo, almost five feet long.
The wind was predicted to pick up to 15 knots after we cleared the Grand Passage north of New Caledonia. By 1600 hrs of day 4 we were sailing nicely and by 2200 hrs we had 27 knt winds and needed to reef sails. During the next 36 hrs the winds picked up to 30 knots, 40 knots at times, with very rough 4 meter seas. Waves crashed into the cockpit as the wind roared and the waves belted us on the beam, a potentially dangerous situation. For three days waves have rolled over the decks of a heavily reefed Bristol Rose. She is literally covered in salt crystals but despite a level of discomfort for the crew, she has performed exceptionally well.
While facing this awful weather we are all somewhat dismayed that the forcasts we're getting don't jibe with our reality. That's ocean sailing, you can never be sure of what you'll get.
Today, Thursday, as we near latitude 22 south and longitude 156 east, with about 350 miles to go to Brisbane, the winds have dropped to 15 kts and the seas are starting to abate. Now the Coral Sea weather forecasts are predicting rough conditions in the areas we are now leaving behind us. At last we can think about preparing a real meal and look forward to the prospect of some restful sleep. We'd love to finish this, the final passage on our path home, on a positive note. The GRIB files and forecasters are predicting the path in front of us to be much better, fingers crossed.
On a really exciting, positive note, we've just received an email advising us that Miss Daisie has arrived in Sydney today. She will spend the next 30 days in quarantine. While we have been cruising the Pacific, Miss Daisie has run the gantlet of airline and cargo, Australian Customs and Immigration, USDA and Veterinary rules and regulations required to leave the US and enter Australia. The process exceeded our wildest expectations of effort involved but she has made it, many thanks to our friends in California and Maryland.
We expect to arrive in Brisbane on Sunday night. Fingers firmly crossed.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Anchorages... Chapera, Las Perlas, Panama. February 2010

Bristol Rose, perched in a tree at Chapera.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Vanuatu to Brisbane, What's This Stuff?

Position 18 06.933S 166 07.554E
Day 2 of our passage from Vanuatu to Brisbane.
Wind dropped last night around midnight. We have been motoring since. Weather forecast is for light winds for the next 36 hours. The sun is shining, we have moon light at night, full moon is Saturday, and calm seas. The winds are forecast to pick up in a couple of days.
We are traveling with Onda, The Road, Zenitude and Meander. We are checking in with the Port 2 Port Rally net on 8161 mhz at 0615 and 1815 EST. The Rally boats are going to Bundaberg but we will peel off and make landfall in Brisbane.
Today's highlight - discolored water as far as the eye can see. We are not sure what we are seeing. We are sailing northeast of New Caledonia, 120 miles away from the nearest land, in 4000 meters of water. Could the very small floating/suspended particles be coral bloom, discharge from a ship's tanks, evidence of an underwater volcano? If you have any ideas, let us know. We have no clue.
send via SSB Radio

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Mt. Yasur Volcano

A John Frum village at the foot of the Mt. Yasur volcano
Visiting the small island of Tanna in Vanuatu was for us, one of the most amazing experiences of the past 2 years of cruising.  We anchored in Port Resolution (named after Captain Cook's ship).  When he visited he was not permitted to go up to the volcano.  We took a sunset tour in the back of a truck - that's how everyone gets around.

Bislama is the national language but perfect English is also spoken by many in the villages.  Village life looks much the same as it always has, with no hint of the modern day except for an occasional red "digicel top up" sign.

Climbing the rim

Where there's smoke...

there's an explosion

Sunset on the rim, making the climb to the top of the crater

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Vanuatu Update, Wifi Frustration

So what's new?  We're loving Vanuatu but hating paying over $2 per MB for wifi, and still not able to upload photos!  All that aside.......

Please try to imagine this beautiful country, active volcanos, crystal clear water, the beautiful smiles on the faces of people in the street.

We'll be on our way on Saturday, weather permitting.  Looks like we might have a reasonable weather window to get to Australia.