Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hello from the north end of the south island, NZL

Hello again from the Cool Running's crew.... We are about 30 minutes south of Picton, right near the top of the South Island.

Since the last update we have driven from Queenstown area, along the west coast and up to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, then headed up towards the Northeast corner and town of Picton. Very spectacular drives, but slow going in a camper van :)

Queenstown was a bit of a shock and disappointment for us.... When Guds and I were here 20 years ago it was a quaint and small town....today it is a busy, traffic jammed, sprawling town/city.... To us sadly, the charm is gone and the place is overun with tourists and traffic. This is actually true for so many of the places we have visited on the south island.  While the natural beauty of the South Island is undeniable,  the charm of the popular towns has gone and they have been transformed into money making machines at every turn.... very sad to see,  but in our opinion New Zealand's popularity unwittingly is leading these places to actually be undesirable. We actually saw a tourist info board in Milford Sound that said the place has gone from a few hundred visitors a year only a few decades ago,  to over half a million visitors annually now,  and their greatest future challenge is how to cope with this future increased influx,  while still maintaining its charm.... Certainly a challenge I think will be tough to meet and I hope they can figure out quickly!

So from Queenstown we drove to The glacier region on the west coast and spent the night in Franz Josef. Early the next morning we all sang Happy Birthday to Guds, and brought mom coffee in bed :) Then off we set to drive to the Franz Josef glacier. Once we reached the parking lot it's another roughly 1 hour walk up the valley to get 700 meters from the glacier's terminal face. Again it was a bit of a shock at how much the glacier had melted since we had last seen it 20 years ago.... Sadly global warming alive and well we have no doubt. Never the less this was an incredible learning experience for Ben and Gaby,  and the questions had started the day before and still continue. It was very exciting and inspiring to see its proportions,  and when a helicopter flies overhead and lands on the glacier you really see how massive it is!!!! The picture attached shows us at the closest point you are allowed to walk to the glacier. The glacier right now is about 10km long and about 1km wide. We sat at the end point for about 30 minutes just admiring the beauty and just soaking in the atmosphere, before reluctantly walking back to the car park.

After that we headed to the town of Greymouth and then north east and back over the mountains. We stopped at an old abandoned mine at what was the former town of Brenner.  This mine closed after a massive explosion in 1869 that killed 65 miners and was apparently the worst workplace disaster in New Zealand's history. It's beautifully preserved and the kids had a ball exploring it's many wonders.... And best of all as it was late in the day (6pm) we were the only visitors and had the place to ourselves.  

Luckily it only gets dark at 9pm here,  so after taking our time we headed off to find a campsite for the night. We stumbled upon a real jem.... a hole in the wall tiny town called Nelson Creek. The campground was quite empty and alongside a river,  had a zip line for the kids and other play areas. We walked across the road to an old tiny pub,  called the Nelson Creek Hotel.... What a find.... We could not have found a more genuine working class pub anywhere.... Locals having a pint,  the odd f-bomb,  dog outside etc etc.... Just an all around cool place.  It was Guds birthday so we ordered a jug of local draft and some local grub and just had a cool time while the kids had fun across the road on the campsite zip line! One of the locals in the pub was a sheep sheerer and I considered getting a haircut but have seen how they shave sheep so kept quite! 

Today was spent driving to Picton where we are meeting our good friends from catamaran Moby tomorrow. They have sailed all the way to the south island (most sailboats stay above Auckland area).  Apparently they had 60 knots at anchor the other day. It will be good to see them again and catch up,  as we will hopefully be crossing the Indian Ocean together later this year. 

So with that it's  good night for me (10pm) and time to get my beauty sleep  😴. 

Cheers!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hi from Lake Wakatipu, outside Queenstown, New Zealand

Hi all.... Well here we are camping ("glamping" really....glamour  camping) next to the beautiful Lake Wakatipu, which runs all the way from Kingston in the south to Queenstown in the north. 

After spending our first night just outside Christchurch we headed off early the next morning and drove to Mount Cook, New Zealands highest mountain at 3,754 meters!!! The scenery along the way was truly spectacular and driving next to some of the lakes and rivers along the way are overwhelmingly beautiful!!! 


Unfortunately the peak of Mount Cook was partially  covered in cloud so we never got a clear view,  but it was still worth the long drive to get there! Heading out we were driving over an old bridge and I wound down the window on Guds side for her to take a photo.... Next thing we knew our map flew out the window and was gone....into the river way below!  We had to laugh it happened so fast!!!! 


On the way to our campsite just outside Omarama we made one last worthwhile stop to see "The Clay Cliffs". These were some amazing features formed as the water washed through a clay valley over 2 million years ago.... Quite amazing and something you may expect to find in the Grand Canyon in the USA. 

The next morning we set off toward Milford Sound driving over some incredible mountain passes and finally through a single lane tunnel to get through the massive mountains that isolate Milford Sound from the rest of the world.  It's so remote there is no radio,  cell phone or internet access! Even our Iridium satellite phone had intermittent reception. This place sits at 45 degrees South so is in between the rouring 40s and furious 50s.... Getting some pretty tough weather. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into the only campsite there that is situated alongside the river that flows into the fjord. A Very pretty area indeed!

This morning we woke up early again to catch the first boat tour out into the fjord at 9am.  Guds and I were last here over 20 years ago,  and back then there was only 1 boat doing this tour,  and the town had a population of 12. There are now about 8 tour boats and I am guessing at least 100 people living in Milford Sound. Never the less it was truly just as breathtaking and we were in awe at the sheer scale of the fjord. It's over 200 meters deep,  and waterfalls scattered everywhere along the sheer cliffs and mountains that plunge into the deep icy water. The boat tour was 2 hours long and we could not stop taking photo after photo. I am not looking forward to sorting through those pics to try and select "the best of" for a later blog post.... yikes!!!! 

By 11.30am we left Milford Sound and headed towards Queenstown. A few stops along the side of the road for more spectacular scenery, coffee and lunch etc,  and we arrived at our camping spot for tonight. We found a lovely flattish piece of land next to the huge lake Wakatipu and just stopped, broke out the camper chairs and a beer and glass of wine,  and voila.... That's were we will spend the night "free of charge" if you forget the $300/night cost of the campervan 😉.....oh well.... You only live once!!!!! 

The kids had a great time along the waters edge of the lake building a small harbour out of sand,  rocks and sticks,  while mom and dad enjoyed a cold one and planned the next few days.  Eventually Gabs and I went for a swim in the icy cold lake.... Very refreshing and invigorating.... But oh soooo cold...


So that's our update for now. As an aside for those that follow our tracker,  we brought the Iridium satellite device with us,  and have it turned on most of the time,  so you may see some "highspeed" tracks across the south island :) 


Cheers from a sunny but cold New Zealand!!!! 



Monday, February 13, 2017

Hi from New Zealand, South Island

Hi all... Just a quick note to say hi from the South Island,  New Zealand. 


We are a little behind in the blog,  but figured we may as well skip ahead slightly so we don't get too far behind!!!! We still need to (and will do) write blog updates of:
1) our time in Sydney and Pittwater, where we met up with Andrew Dudley and his family;  Dave Collins and his family; Bruce and Di Denley,  fellow boating friends from catamarans "Nogal" and "Impi", Jackie Savage and her family, and Bruce and Lyn Savage and their parents.
2) our sail back from Sydney to Gold Coast including Australia Day celebrations. 
3) our time in the Gold Coast preparing Cool Runnings for haul out and catching up with old sailing friends William Voerman and his family (including going racing with William over a weekend.... the 1st time I have raced since 1997). Also catching up with old varsity Building Management friends Brian Chambers and Gavin Cubbin!


As I write this,  we are camping next to a beautiful lake somewhere south of Christchurch. This is our 1st of 10 days we will spend driving around the south island of New Zealand. We have rented a self contained Camper Van for the duration and are looking forward to exploring this beautiful country by road :)


OK.... Rewinding a few days.... We left Cool Runnings in The Gold Coast area at "The Boat Works" for a full Pedi / Mani... and just overall pampering session. We are having some warranty work done,  having the bottom antifoul repainted,  installing new oil seals in the sail drives,  having the cone clutches lapped in the saildrives, new window outer privacy screens installed,  and a full polish and wax of the sides and top.  We figured after 11,000 miles it was time for a bit of maintenance.  So hopefully when we return Cool Runnings will be almost ready for her next adventure  across the Indian Ocean. We still need to purchase a new genaker (as Puff is a little tired) and possibly a new smaller spinnaker for night sailing in stronger winds, plus I need to service both engines plus the generator and outboard engine,  and try and remove some excess weight. 


Anyway.... We flew into Auckland on the North Island last Wednesday, Feb 8th after staying with Brian Chambers and his family for 2 days. Thanks Brian and Carla for your hospitality and for letting us enjoy your wonderful home!!  It was great catching up with Brian after so many years since we were at university together. Brian has actually organised a "Builders" reunion for all the builders who graduated in the 1990 era on the 1st weekend in March. So far Gavin Cubbin,   Les Gorvet, Kevin Pickering,  Andrew Dudley,  Brian Chambers,  Richard Wilkinson ,  Dave Hibberd have confirmed with a few other possible builders that may attend. Rumours are Dave Lewis may even make a guest appearance :)


Back to NZL... Les Gorvet (also a fellow varsity building buddy) was kind enough to pick us up from Auckland airport and took us back to his home for a 2 day stay.  We had a fantastic time with Les,  Lauren and Justin.... What a cool family and Lauren is an absolute riot!!!! A BiG thank you for your kindness and generosity and it was so nice to catch up after so many years!!! Les took us for a tour of Takapuna beach where I had sailed a Laser World Championship many years ago... That bought back many fond memories!!! 


Les then dropped us at Devonport where we caught a ferry into downtown Auckland and explored a bit of the city including a look at some America's Cup former race boats!  Later that afternoon we met up with Tobi and Nicole from catamaran "Invictus" and enjoyed reminiscing about our time together in the Pacific over some drinks and pizza for dinner.  


The next morning Les helped us secure an Avis rental car and we set off on a whirlwind 3 day tour of the south part of the North Island. The 1st day was spent driving down to Rotorua and Lake Taupo area where we enjoyed visiting the Agrodome and some real mud pools. Gaby got to milk a cow and Ben fed a lamb in the Agrodome farm show which included sheep shearing,  sheepdog show and a few other activities.


We stayed at a lovely motel on Lake Taupo (called 52 on Rifle) and rose early the next day to explore The Huka Falls. These where unbelievable falls... They supply 15 percent of NZL power through hydroelectric power and over 200,000 litres flow over the falls every second!!!!! 


After seeing the  falls we drove to " Craters of the moon", a large geothermal park and explored the many natural thermal steam vents.....quite a sight and quite a smell :)


Later that afternoon we set off yet again to another natural phenomenon at Waitomo Caves where thousands of glow worms line the ceilings of these beautiful caves. Having seen some wonderful caves along our travels we did not expect too much but were blown away by how spectacular these limestone caves were!!! After walking through the caves for about 40 minutes,  the final part of the tour is a small boat ride in the pitch dark out the cave mouth...very cool. 


That night we stayed in an Airbnb near Cambridge and then yesterday drove from there to Tauranga, a seaside town,  where we met up with Nicholaus and Anne Marie from "Excalibur" whom we had also spent many wonderful times with in our journey across the Pacific. We found a really cool fish and chips place next to the local fishing fleet and enjoyed an awesome afternoon catching up with them and the kids had fun with their old playmates from Excalibur. All too soon our time was up and we had to head back up towards Auckland to catch our flight to Christchurch this morning. We stayed at another lovely Airbnb just south of the airport and woke up at 5am this morning to catch our flight.


After arriving in Christchurch the company we are renting from,  www.heroncampers.co.nz picked us up and took us to their place for a full briefing and handover of our camper... It's a new 2016 model van so really nice thus far.  We made a stop at a local grocery store and loaded up with 10days worth of groceries while the kids unpacked our luggage and made up beds etc. Then off we set...


So here we are... 2 beers later,  sitting next to a peaceful lake and feeling very relaxed and happy to be here and getting a bit caught up on our blog :) The kids have been running around and enjoying our first ever family camping adventure :)


More to come as we set off further south tommorrow... But now it's time to crack another beer and fire up the BBQ.... And PS enjoying the cold.... "Cheers mate"

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Gold Coast to Sydney - A Sail down Australia's East Coast

It seemed a little abrupt to leave so suddenly, but a weather window opened up, and if we wanted to be in Sydney for New Year, we had to leave the Gold Coast on Boxing Day (Dec 26th).  So we moved back onto Cool Runnings and early on Monday, December 26th, headed out the Gold Coast Seaway, into the Coral Sea.  It had been a while since we were out at sea, and the first couple of hours were pretty rough on us all!  The sea was confused and Cool Runnings was bashing and banging her way through it all!

We love seeing the kangaroo crossing sign...even in the water!
We saw this as we were leaving Coomera Waters Marina where we had kept the boat over Christmas  

Saying farewell to the Gold Coast

We had originally thought of doing the trip in one go, which would have taken 2 days and 2 nights, but after our rough start, we decided to stop for the first night (and, as it turned out, we stopped each night, enjoying experiencing a bit of this coast).  Our first stop was Ballina, and once again, we had to negotiate a bar entrance.  The section in the Cruising Guide that talks about the Ballina bar is as follows:  "...the navigator being warned that breaking waves can carry onto the end of both breakwaters, catching a vessel on her beam if conditions are not ideal"  (ref:  Cruising the New South Wales Coast by Alan Lucas pg 318).  Hmmm...great....oh well...we didn't feel like sailing through the night, so we radioed Marine Rescue Ballina, and asked about the condition of the bar.  The kind voice on the radio told us that the entrance was not too bad, and the swell was coming in at 10 second intervals, and that a vessel of our size should not have a problem entering.  We decided to cross, and Dave had fun surfing the swell into the river and it was not a problem getting across the bar!

Sunrise in Ballina
We spent a calm night in a lovely anchorage and set off early again the next morning.   We were escorted by dolphins early in the morning, surfing our bow waves. It never gets old, watching those dolphins just having fun, turning their heads to have a look and smile at us, looking down at them from the bow!  At around 6:00pm, we decided to pull in at Coffs Harbor, and were lucky enough to pick up a courtesy mooring buoy.  We had enough time to take the dinghy ashore and take a quick walk up to the head on Muttonbird Island and then treated ourselves to a burger at a little restaurant in the harbor.

Coffs Harbor at sunset.  View from Muttonbird Island.  

Gaby on one of the new concrete blocks they are placing along the breakwater.  The marina was destroyed a few years ago by a storm and is only just getting back on its feet
Another early morning the next day saw us motoring in the morning, but then we were able to put up the spinnaker, and we had a great sail most of the way.  With the assistance of the East Australian Current, we were doing speeds of up to 10 knots, and covered a distance of almost 100 miles this day!  In the evening, we stopped at Crowdy Head, the tiniest harbor we've ever been to!  The cruising guide had mentioned a visitor jetty, but we radioed the VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue), and were told to take a berth on the fishing boat jetty.  Unfortunately, we were just too wide to fit into the fishing boat berth, so we were wondering what to do.  This harbor is seriously small...no room to anchor...in fact, it is forbidden.  Locals on shore shouted to us to pull up to another jetty that looked newer and berth there.  They were very helpful in assisting us with docking, and soon we were tied up and set for the night!  We chatted with the locals, who obviously did not often have boats come in here, and then took a walk up to the lighthouse.  We've been delighting in seeing these beautiful, old lighthouses on the headlands that jut out into the sea.  There are 2 stories about how Crowdy Head got its name.  The cruising guide said that the headland was named "Crowded Head", by Captain Cook after noticing a crowd of aborigines on the headland, when he passed by on the "Endevour" in 1770.  The sign at the lighthouse said it was named after a gentleman (I can't remember exactly who it was) named Crowdy, but when I researched it, I could only find the reference to Captain Cook, so who knows how it really got it's name!  Either way, the lighthouse is beautiful, and is one of many built by James Barnet in 1870-80.

The Lighthouse at Crowdy Head

Gaby and Dave in the tiny Crowdy Head harbor.  Cool Runnings is on the right

We left Crowdy Head by 5:30am on the morning of December 29th, and as usual, spent the morning motoring.  Once the wind came through at about 11:00am, we were able to put up the spinnaker, and sailed the rest of the way.  Our stop this evening was in Newcastle, where we arrived at around 6:30pm.  Newcastle is the largest coal exporting harbor in the world, and from the sea, it looked terrible.  We saw a big, industrial port, and were not thrilled to pull in here for the night.  However, we were most pleasantly surprised, and, after tying up the visitor jetty, we found a delightful waterfront area with restaurants, bars and hotels.

Our floating home peacefully tied up in Newcastle

Leaving Newcastle at dawn

Another early morning saw us leaving Newcastle at dawn, as we headed down the coast, to our final destination, Sydney.  We had been in touch with Bruce and Lyn Savage, and so, as we approached Pittwater, they were able to pick us up on the AIS signal, and they left to sail the last 20 miles with us into Sydney Harbor.  We spent the first night anchored near Manly, and hooked up with Bruce and Lyn's friends, Joe and Belinda de Kock, who were there for New Year's on their boat, and then we all went over to Watson's Bay to rendezvous with Clynton and Lisa Wade-Lehman, another sailing friend of Dave and Bruce's.  In fact, Clynton was also on the 1996 South African Olympic Sailing Team, so now we had 3 out of the 5 team members together again after 20+ years!  We had a great dinner together, old friends and new ones, 14 people altogether with kids.

December 31st dawned with grey skies, and rain threatening all day.  We got up early and decided to take Cool Runnings over to Rose Bay, which is where we had all decided to watch the fireworks from.  As we rounded one of the headlands, we got our first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House and the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge!  Seeing those two landmarks, made it real for me:  we were actually in Sydney, Australia, and we would be watching the world famous fireworks that night!  Rose Bay was not the closest spot to the bridge, but we still had a clear view of it, and we had decided that we would rather be a little further back and enjoy the evening, than be right up close and have to deal with the masses of boats that were anchored closer up, along with the washing machine effect of the ferries that were zooming around between Circular Quay and the numerous ferry stops on the other side of the harbor.

One of our first views of the bridge, Sydney Opera House and a ferry!
This was pretty much our view for New Years Eve celebrations

A few hours after anchoring, JoliFou arrived with Lyn's parents, Keith and Merle, and Bruce's mom, Joliet on board.  JoliFou rafted up to Cool Runnings, and a little while later, Joe and Belinda arrived and tied up to the other side.  The kids were thrilled to finally have a raft up!  Around lunchtime, Clynton and Lisa arrived on "the Turtle", their beautiful, old wooden sailing boat.  In all the time they had owned it, they had never raised the sails, but decided that this was a good time to do it, so we were very privileged to be a part of the momentous occasion of the raising of Turtle's sails!  Ben and Gaby also got a chance to go for a sail around Sydney Harbor in the Turtle, impressing Ben so much, that he has asked if he and Dave could build a boat like it when we get back home!

The Turtle's sails go up...

And she's off!!

Benjamin LOVED his sail on the Turtle!

Dave climbed the mast to get this view of our 3 boat raft up!

Raft up from the front...see those dark skies?!!

The grey day continued and it looked threatening, but it never did rain!  The first show of fireworks came on at 9:00pm, and was spectacular in itself.  Then just before midnight, you could see the count down projected on the stone columns on the bridge ....10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1.....HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  We watched in amazement as one of the most spectacular fireworks shows played out in front of us.  The show payed tribute to David Bowie, Gene Wilder and Prince as Purple Rain flowed down from Sydney Harbor Bridge.  The display used 7 tons of fireworks, 100,000 pyrotechnic effects and took 500 hours to prepare.  Not only did the fireworks erupt from the bridge itself, but also from 7 barges around the harbor.  It was truly spectacular, a "once in a lifetime" experience for the Hibberds!!

Our beautiful Dancing Queen, Lyn Savage and Dave (excuse the hair), enjoying the festivities

Gaby and Ben get into the spirit of the evening!!

Pictures were difficult to take and you can't capture the amazing fireworks, but here are some attempts!

More fireworks...I also took some video...please see the short clip below

Once it was all over, it was a sight to see many of the estimated 4,000 boats on the water head back to their respective homes, marinas and anchorages, and the ferries carried hundreds of passengers back to their points of origin.  The water was alive and for us, it marked a new chapter in our journey...a whole new ocean to cross and more places to see!  What adventures lie ahead of us in 2017?!


video








Monday, January 30, 2017

Family Time on the Gold Coast

We were very blessed to be able to spend some time with Dave's family in the time leading up to, and including, Christmas.  Shortly after arriving at the Gold Coast, Dave's aunt and uncle, Gaylor and Brian Smith, drove down to where we had anchored, and welcomed us on the dock.  It was so nice to see them, after we had corresponded along the way, and Gaylor had written us such wonderful encouraging emails while we sailed across the Pacific.  She has a knack of providing such good advice, and encouragement when we most need it....THANK YOU, Gaylor!!!

They took us back to their house and we were treated like royalty....the kids could not believe their luck!  Later they took us back to the boat and then lent us their car, which made running errands, (such as sorting our phones and internet hotspot!), and doing grocery shopping a breeze!  What a treat to have wheels again!  Thanks also for having Ben and Gaby for 2 days, while Dave and I stayed on the boat! The kids often talk about their stay in pure luxury and were treated to movies, great food, and just generally fussed over!

Thank you for everything, Gaylor and Brian! 

A few days later we sadly said goodbye to Bruce and Lyn Savage as they headed off to Sydney to be with their own families for Christmas.  It was strange to be on our own...Cool Runnings was missing her friend JoliFou!  But we knew we would see them again as we were planning to be in Sydney for New Year.

Before heading off to be with our family, one of the major tasks we accomplished was beaching Cool Runnings for the first time!  We had seen another Lagoon beached on the sandbank in the Broadwater, near were we anchored, and we went over and chatted to the owner about the processes. Seeing Erik (the boat's owner) do this, gave Dave the courage to beach our boat, which allowed us to clean the hulls more easily, and would also allow Dave to change the sail drive oil.  It was a mathematical calculation of tide times and variances, to make sure that once you were on the sandbank, you could get off again at the next high tide!  But we did it, and it was fun to see our home on sand instead of in the water!

Cool Runnings high and dry!

With boat tasks out the way, first up was a trip to Casuarina, a lovely seaside town, where Dave's cousin, Ingrid Taylor, has a beautiful beach house.  We spent a blissful weekend here with Ingrid, her husband Dave, and their 4 kids, Raine, Travis, Dustin and Paige.  It was so nice to be in a house again, relaxing and reconnecting with family, and for the kids to meet second cousins that they had never met before!  We cycled to Kingscliff for pizza, had coffee at SALT, and went for long walks on the beach, which was right on our doorstep.

Cousins!  Gaby, Benjamin, and twins, Paige and Dustin
The beach at the Taylor's beach house

On Sunday, Dec 18th (the date references are more for us, as a diary of our voyage), we went to Byron Bay, a really cool, artsy town, whose headland, Cape Byron, is the easternmost point in Australia. We had a great time wondering up and down the streets, window shopping and then going to the local market, where you could find anything from fresh fruit and vegetables, clothing, plants and food.  Our only drama on this day was a call from our friend Erik (the beached Lagoon owner) regarding Cool Runnings, whom we had left anchored in Bum's Bay.  The wind came up really strong, and a boat that was anchored in front of us started dragging, and was about to crash into Cool Runnings!  Our deepest thanks to Erik and Gayle on "Nautilus", who watched Cool Runnings for us while we were gone, and who kept us updated on the situation.  Erik got in his dinghy and together with the local VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) boat, re-anchored the dragging boat, and kept Cool Runnings out of harm's way.

Perusing the streets of Byron Bay

Can you tell this is a surf town?!  Christmas tree made of surf boards!
 
Coffee and Beer in Byron Bay!  Dave, Ben and Gaby with Dave, Ingrid and Paige

After that incident, I was not leaving our home at anchor again while we were gone for any period of time!!  So, we managed to get a berth in a marina for a week while we went to stay with Warren (Dave's other cousin, Ingrid's brother), and his lovely wife Camilla.  Once again, we have to thank friends for helping us out.  Thank you, William Voerman, for organizing the marina berth (literally impossible to get just days before Christmas).  In true William style, he did this all just days before heading out on his own overseas holiday to the USA!  Thanks also to you and Pascal for your hospitality and the lovely braai we had at your house!

So we packed our bags and left Cool Runnings (safe and sound in the marina) and moved in with Warren, Camilla, and their beautiful children, Tanner and Sage for a week!  Ben and Gaby got to meet more 2nd cousins and enjoyed playing with them and their dog, Trigger! Thanks for making us feel so welcome and at home!

Ben and Trigger!

Warren and Camilla have a beautiful home on a large property, with a trampoline, and just to prove they live in Australia, kangaroos that regularly hopped into the neighbour's garden!!  Once again we were spoilt by having a car of our own (thank you, Warren and Camilla!), and it was a whirlwind week of Christmas shopping and sight seeing. Warren really spoilt us by taking us to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where Gaby's dream of holding a koala was fulfilled, and up to the top of the Q1 skyscraper, which provided us amazing views of the Gold Coast. THANK YOU!!!

And Gaby gets a turn!  Her dream comes true!

Ben holds the koala


Kangaroo up close!
Gaby feeding a kangaroo
This kangaroo has a joey in her pouch!  Do you see its little head sticking out?
 
How cute are these guys?  We just couldn't get enough of them!  See the baby koala holding onto it's Mum's back?

A view of the Gold Coast from the top of the Q1 building

On Christmas Eve we took a drive to Tamborine Mountain, a lovely little town in the "Hinterland", which was only about 45 minutes drive from Warren's house.  We walked up and down the street enjoying the quaint shops and restaurants, and then enjoyed exploring beautiful wooded areas and waterfalls.  It was a lovely way to spend Christmas Eve!

In Tamborine Mountain - there was a wonderful cuckoo clock shop that captivated our attention!

Amazing trees in the forest

On our drive back, we stopped and took in this view.
Beautiful green pastures with the Gold Coast skyline in the background

 Christmas Day was, of course, a family affair, with the Hibberds, the Taylors, the Smiths and Camilla's family bringing the total to 23!  What a privilege to spend this Christmas with so many family members, so far from home!  Again, our deepest thanks to all of you, for welcoming us into your homes, and making us feel so welcome!


The table set for 23!

Bring on the masses...we were ready!

Australian Family Portrait:
From left (back row):  Ingrid, Gudrun, Dave, Raine, Gaylor, Brian, Camilla, Warren, Faye (Camilla's sister-in-law with baby Billie-Grace), Cilla and Mike, Camilla's parents, Dave Taylor
From left (front):  Tanner (with guitar), Brad (Raine's boyfriend - behind Ben), Ben & Gaby (petting Cody, the Taylor family dog), Paige, Sage, Dusty, Rowan (Camilla's brother), Sam, Travis, Trigger

We often find ourselves saying how lucky and blessed we are for all we are experiencing, and for the kindness and generosity family and friends have shown us.  We will always remember with such fondness this wonderful Christmas of 2016!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Australia - Bundaberg to Brisbane and Beyond

After being officially checked into the country in Bundaberg, we were free to roam the great Land Down Under!  We spent one day catching a bus into the town of Bundaberg and it was a shock to the system!  While Bundaberg is not exactly a bustling metropolis, it was enough to remind us that we had hit civilization again!  We found a Target!  A TARGET!  Lets just say....we had a hard time getting Benjamin out of the Lego isle.  On the way back, we clung tightly onto the seats as our bus rocketed down the road!  We were not used to this kind of  speed after living at a "snails pace" for the past 8 months!

It was also the first sighting of the almighty Kangaroo!  Gaby and I had cycled to a shop with Bruce and Lyn Savage, and on the way back, there they were...3 big "Roos" on the side of the road! Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me to catch this moment, but we eyed each other for quite a while, and only when Gaby and Lyn (the adventurous ones) crossed the ditch and walked up to them, did they hop away.  It was then that we knew we were officially in Australia!


After spending a few days in the marina in Bundaberg, we decided to make use of the northerly winds to help us sail south.  We left on Sunday morning, December 4th and sailed 40 miles south over Hervey Bay, and anchored off Big Woody Island at the top of Fraser Island.  We spent the next day here too, doing schoolwork, climbing the mast, and meeting our neighbors, Rupert, Lynette and their sons Tom and Noah, who had sailed all the way from Tasmania on their aluminium catamaran, "Molly Leprano".  We were enjoying the new landscape of rocky shores and wooded islands.

The next day, after a quick stop at Kingfisher resort on Fraser Island, a wonderful swim in the resort pool, we had a lovely long sail down the Great Sandy Straits to Wide Bay Bar.  We had to negotiate some narrow channels with shallow water on either side, but enjoyed the calm water that was a result of being shielded by Fraser Island.

Ben up the mast!

Big Woody Island

Cool Runnings anchored off Fraser Island

Fraser Island
Enjoying a beautiful sail down the Great Sandy Straits

Australia had introduced us to new terminology, and a new task we had to master:  "crossing the bar". The east coast of Australia doesn't have many natural harbors or inlets where a boat can pull in for shelter, but it does have rivers that flow directly into the ocean.  However, these rivers usually have shallow entrances, and the combination of the tides rising and falling, and the volume of water rushing in and out, can cause big waves to break at the entrances, making crossing the bars almost a science.  You have to take a number of factors into account:  wind direction and strength, sea state, tide, and most importantly, swell and swell direction.  You have to time crossing the bar so that you enter or exit between 1 and 4 hours after a low tide to be certain of catching the in-going rising tide, and you have to avoid a swell from the east, as this pushes water directly into the river mouths.


This is what you have to avoid.  Image courtesy of www.cruiserswiki.org/

So it was with this knowledge that we had to cross our first bar!  We anchored in Pelican Bay, a shallow little cove just next to the entrance to Wide Bay Bar, which is the entrance (or in our case, exit) to the Great Sandy Straits, together with JoliFou.  While it was not a narrow entrance, Wide Bay Bar (hence the name!) had a bad reputation for a section called "the mad mile", because there was such a long stretch of shallow, rough water outside the entrance.  We knew we had to have an early start because of the tide calculation mentioned above.  When we woke up at about 4:30am, we saw a couple of other boats already heading out of the exit.  Dave upped anchor and radioed Bruce to let him know we were leaving a little earlier than planned.  By 5:00am, we were heading out the entrance.  The initial exit was not that bad, a little bumpy, but nothing that we hadn't experienced before.  But now comes the fun part:  Bruce and Dave had seen a section on the charts that they figured they could cross, which would be a short cut, and avoid the "mad mile".  Cool Runnings was to go ahead, and JoliFou would follow.   We edged along...carefully watching the depth sounder...5ft...4ft...3ft....the alarm was sounding:  beep!  beep!  beeep!!!!  This was a little too close for comfort, so Dave put the engines in reverse, and we backed off. We radioed Bruce and Lyn and told them it was too shallow to cross.  Lyn came back on the radio, thanked us, and said Bruce still wanted to "have a look", so they continued that way.  We decided to rather face the mad mile rather than try again!

So off we went and smashed and crashed along with the other boats, all the while watching JoliFou taking the short cut.  And blow us down...they made it!!  Later they told us that they too had some close calls, but they edged their way through and soon were in deeper water and were able to make their way out close to shore, but avoiding the mad mile!

The rest of the day was a race (of course) with JoliFou leading, but Cool Runnings asking for leniency due to the fact that we caught a yellow fin tuna and needed 2 hours to clean and fillet it, and thus were not able to raise our sails as soon as JoliFou!  Leniency was not granted and JoliFou was proclaimed the winner. :-(  We arrived at Mooloolaba at about 2:00pm and just managed to get a berth at the marina.  We spent the afternoon exploring this beautiful seaside town and had dinner with Bruce and Lyn at the Yacht Club.

Gutting the fish that made us loose the race

One of the many amazing, rocky headlands with beautiful, old lighthouses that we passed on our way

The fishing fleet at Mooloolaba

The start gun went off at 7:00am the next morning (Thursday, December 8th), and Cool Runnings and JoliFou sailed across Moreton Bay, ending the day at anchor off Peel Island.  Moreton Bay is the bay that the Brisbane River runs into, and the city of Brisbane itself is situated up the river, but we decided to visit Brisbane on our way back up again, as we wanted to get to the Gold Coast relatively soon.  We had a quick look ashore and were cognizant of the fact that just a week or so earlier, "Impi" had been anchored here and had experienced a terrible thunderstorm with lightning, and strong winds, with boats dragging and ending up on shore.  Luckily we were spared bad weather, although it looked like a storm brewing on the horizon.

Ben enjoying sundowners on Peel Island

 The storm is brewing in the background, so we have to head back to the boats.  

Gabs tries her hand at filling the freezer

Our challenge the following day, which we had discussed at length over the radio the day before, was getting from Peel Island to the Gold Coast through the waterway.  We had discovered that we had to cross under some power cables, and we were not sure if JoliFou would fit, as their mast was allegedly slightly higher than ours.  But after reaching out to many people that day including, "Impi", and our new friends from Tasmania on "Molly Leprano", who had both recently gone that way, we decided we would both fit.  So we had another early morning, pulling up the anchor at 6:00am and heading down the narrow waterway.  It was beautiful, and getting under the cables proved to be a non-issue!  Of course we were racing the whole way down, even when there was 3 knots of wind, and we were sailing at about 2 knots.  At one point, they seemed to be dredging the waterway, and were shown a detour, which led us right next to some houses, so close were we, we could have reached out and touched their docks!  All this was done under sail, may I add!!

JoliFou easily passes under the overhead cables
It never looks like you'll fit!!  Cool Runnings passing under the cables
I love the Pelicans here.  They are much larger than our brown Pelicans we have in Florida, and are white with black wings

Cool landscape on the waterway

The waterway eventually spilled out in the Broadwater, and just like that, the skyline of the Gold Coast appeared.  Another shock to the system!  We had not seen high rise buildings like this since leaving the US!

Our first glimpse of the Gold Coast skyline

It was also here that we saw "Impi" anchored, and we went and said hi, and made arrangements to do the Moose update movie mentioned in my previous post.

"Impi" with the Gold Coast skyline in the background

Both JoliFou and Cool Runnings dropped anchor in the crowded anchorage of the Marina Stadium, affectionately known as "Bum's Bay". This was to be our home for the next 10 days!

The crowded anchorage in "Bum's Bay"
This view was better!