Friday, March 31, 2017

The Best of New Zealand: North Island

Thanks to Dave’s diligence, we did post updates for most of our trip to New Zealand, but we didn’t have the opportunity to post pictures. And, since New Zealand is SO beautiful, I really want to share “The Best Of…” photos with everyone! So here are the highlights of our short time in the North Island.

What were some of the best parts?  Undoubtedly, one of the highlights was meeting up with old and new friends: Les and Lauren Gorvett, friends from University days, and meeting their son, Justin (thank you for having us, picking us up from the airport, and driving us around!), and also catching up with our sailing buddies, Invictus, Excallibur and Moby.  Fata Morgana and Vida, we are so sorry that we didn’t get the chance to see you guys, but we hope to catch up somewhere, sometime!   We also saw mud pools, geothermal landscapes, stunning lakes, glow worms and caves, and sheep and cows and more sheep and cows!  Gaby got to milk a cow, Ben got to feed a goat, and we all got to feed Alpacas!  

With Les at Takapuna, where Dave sailed a Laser World Championships in 1993!

Boat Kids reconnect:  Ben and Gabs with Juli and Marlena from Invictus,
making a train while the parents enjoy catching up!

With Tobi and Nicole from Invictus.
 It was so great seeing you guys again!  Sail safe and hope to see you sometime soon!!

Auckland skyline as seen from the ferry from Davenport

Dave and kids take a breather while exploring Auckland

Auckland skyline at night


Alpacas and Llamas…. We learned the difference!
Llamas have longer legs and neck – can you spot the one in this picture?!

Gaby gets to feed an Alpaca

Who knew there were so many different types of sheep?  At the Agrodome in Rotorua

Gaby getting ready to milk the cow

Ben gets to feed a baby goat


An explanation of the mud pools:  acid waters attack and dissolve the ground to digest many minerals in the rock, forming viscous mud pools.  The temperatures can get up to 100 degrees Centigrade!  The pools are fed by steam and gas from the earth's core.  Science learning at its best...

Bubbling Mud Pools

Another view of the mud pools.  You can see some mud bubbling up out of the ground in the middle of the picture

"Craters of the Moon":  Hot steam rises out of the earth wherever you look!

Ben feeling the heat

Gabs enjoying the day


Beautiful Lake Taupo

Water from Lake Taupo flows into a narrow gap, and then down through the Huka Falls

About 200,000 liters of water plunge 9 meters over the rock face of the Huka Falls every second!

Family shot at Huka Falls


Stunning road side landscape

Windy roads along beautiful lakes

A special day with special friends:  we caught up with Nicholas and Anne-Marie of the good ship "Excallibur", and their kids Charles, Paul and Eleanor, in Tauronga

More detailed posts of our time on the North Island were posted by Dave while we were there.  If you missed them, just scroll down to "Older Posts" to find them.  After we left Excallibur in Tauronga, we drove back to Auckland to catch our flight to Christchurch, early on the morning of February 13th.  We had an amazing 10 days on the South Island, and the photos from that time will be the subject of my next post:  The Best of New Zealand:  South Island!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Heading back North: Newcastle to the Gold Coast

Luckily for us, it was a short trip from Pittwater to Newcastle. We weren’t sure if it was because we hadn’t sailed in a while, or if it really was just rough, but none of us enjoyed the sail and were happy to see the lighthouse marking the entrance to Newcastle. Not that we could have missed it, with all the ships waiting outside! We watched as a huge cargo ship positioned itself in an area marked on the chart as “Pilot boarding area”. Soon we saw a helicopter fly out to the ship, land, and take off again. This is how they deliver the pilots to the ships! We then raced the ship into the channel entrance, and entered together with it. We were awfully close to this ship, making for some great pictures, but it was a little nerve wracking for this first mate!

Racing the ship into the harbor - Newcastle

Once in the sheltered waters, we headed for the same dock we’d been on the last time we were in Newcastle. Not too long after we had tied up, a boat came past, and the skipper told us that he was a subscriber to Dave’s You Tube channel, and had seen some of our videos! We invited him aboard, and we had a beer with Bruce and Baz, local Newcastle-lights / Newcastle-ers (?!). It was great to meet you guys, and thanks for the beer!

We left early the next morning, and sailed to Port Stephens, an area we had missed on our way down. We had heard it was a lovely cruising ground, and were eager to have a look! We anchored in Fame Cove, a lovely, protected bay a little distance down the waterway. The following day, after school, we took the dinghy over to a public jetty, where we were able to tie it up, and walk around for a little to explore. The following day was Tuesday, January 24th, and we moved the boat to Shoal Bay, while waiting for the wind to switch. We anchored in clear, shallow water, so were able to give the hulls another clean, and we all took the opportunity to have a little swim to cool down! 

Sunset in Fame Cove - Port Stephens

On our trip we've seen hundreds of these large jellyfish

I managed to get a good picture of the jellyfish in the calm water in Fame Cove

As predicted, the wind came howling through that night, and we upped anchor and left at 6:00am, in order to make the most of it. We headed for Crowdy Head, where we had stopped on the way down, but as we got closer, we decided we had some time to get a little further, so we kept going, and instead pulled in at Camden Haven / Laurieton. Bruce and Lyn had told us about the United Services Club dock where we could tie up for free. So that’s what we did and still had time for a short walk around the charming town of Laurieton. It is nestled at the base of a big mountain, which, unfortunately, was covered in mist almost the entire time we were there (2 days).

Pelicans wait for a scrap from a local fisherman.  Cool Runnings is in the background at the dock 

We loved this statue of the koala!

The following day, January 26th, was Australia Day, so we decided to stay and enjoy the festivities in Laurieton. The kids took part in all sorts of fun activities, such as nibbling on a cookie (biscuit) to make it into the shape of Australia, doing the gumboot toss, and having the Australian flag painted on their cheeks! All in all, a great day and fun to be able to celebrate this special day with the locals!

Ben and Gaby line up for the cookie eating competition

Not bad!  The extra crumb at the bottom is Tasmania.  Geography lesson at it's best!

Happy Australia Day!

The wind dictated that we had to leave the following day, and we had a great sail, primarily under spinnaker, to Coff’s Harbor. It was a long day, and we entered the harbor at sunset. Unfortunately the moorings that we had been on last time were taken, and there were two other boats anchored outside the harbor. The one boat looked very familiar, and it turned out to be Eric and Gail on Nautilus, our friends from “Bum’s Bay” who had watched Cool Runnings for us when we went to stay with Ingrid and Dave Taylor! We had a quick chat, glad to see them again, but unfortunately we were going in opposite directions, and they were leaving early the next morning to head south, and we were heading north.

The lighthouse at Crowdy Head, seen from the sea this time.  On our way down, we stopped here and visited the lighthouse

The breakwater at Coff's Harbor at sunset

We had to motor the next day, as there was no wind, but at least that worked well for both north and south bound boats! Our stop on this day (Jan 28th), was Yamba. It was another new spot for us, and we battled a bit to find a good spot to anchor, as the river was pretty shallow. But we eventually settled down, and still had time to do some administrative stuff (check bank accounts, sort out health insurance etc!).

The fishing fleet at Yamba

Storm Clouds - Yamba

The following day was another day motoring, and we checked off the miles between Yamba and Ballina. The light winds also made for easier bar crossings, which can always be a potential hazard when entering and exiting the rivers. We left Ballina at dawn on Monday, Jan 30th and headed the last stretch to the Gold Coast. We were able to sail for the last hour or so, the rest of the time we had to motor. After all the bar crossings we had to negotiate, I had not even considered that the one at the Gold Coast Seaway could be a problem, but it turned out to be the most interesting one we had encountered on the whole trip! Dave had to carefully control the boat as the waves were breaking over the bar and we surfed our way back “home”!

Sunrise outside of Yamba, with one of the fishing boats returning from a night out at sea

The Australian Coast can be pretty treacherous - careful navigation is required! 

Cape Byron lighthouse

One happy crew member!

Approaching the Gold Coast under sail

Back in Bum’s Bay, we spent the next 3 days getting the boat ready for the haulout. We had to completely clear the salon area, and empty Benjamin’s cabin. There is a LOT of Lego in that cabin, believe me, but it was a worthwhile exercise as we sorted Lego and labeled boxes, hopefully keeping it neater and easier to pull out and put away in future! We also made new friends: Debi and Jono on “Taka’Oa” were kind enough to lend us their inflatable SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), and Kayak, so we could give it a try before shelling out precious $$ to get two of our own! We enjoyed drinks on their boat, and they on ours, and we hope to meet up with them again in the Whitsundays, in the Great Barrier Reef!

Dave trying out the SUP

On Friday we moved the boat to The Boatworks, up the Coomera River, and it was a final push to get the boat ready. Dave even removed the water tanks to check everything was watertight behind them, and while we had them out, we gave them a good flush, as we still had a slight sediment from bad Panama water at the bottom of the tanks. Gavin Cubin, a fellow varsity mate of Daves, came to the rescue early that same morning with some spray foam we needed to complete the job, so thanks Gavin!!!

With the tanks back in, the salon and cabins on the port hull empty, we gave ourselves the weekend off, and spent it with William and Pascalle Voerman, Dave’s old sailing friend. While Dave went racing (sailing) with William on his Etchel, Pascalle surprised me with a hair appointment on Saturday morning (first time since I’d left…and boy, did I need it – I think at least 2 inches were cut off!!), and then a shopping trip to purchase a few pairs of new shorts! We had a great weekend – thanks so much, William and Pascalle!

Monday morning at 7:00am was Cool Runnings’ scheduled haul out time, and we were there to capture the moment. They lifted her up in slings, out of the water and into a pen where the hulls were pressure washed. Then the crane moved her to another shed, where she stayed for 3 weeks, for her “manicure and pedicure”, while we went to New Zealand! Dave and I were very impressed with The Boatworks. It is by far the most impressive, and cleanest boatyard we have ever seen, and we felt confident leaving Cool Runnings there while we were gone. Packed and ready to go, we then went to Brian Chambers’ house for Monday and Tuesday, and had a great time catching up with them (thanks, Brian and Carla for having us!!), Really early on Wednesday morning, February 8th, Brian took us to the airport in Brisbane so we could catch our Emirates flight to Auckland!

Cool Runnings gets ready to be lifted out by the big crane

She gets her bum washed!

The Boat Works is a great boat yard!

Ben appreciated this sign in the boat yard!

Monday, March 27, 2017

A look back at our time in Sydney and Pittwater

Before we get to this blog post, I wanted to a) apologize for the long interval in posting, and b) assure everyone that we are fine, and in no way affected by cyclone Debbie that is unfortunately about to hit northern Queensland, Australia.  We are waiting in Brisbane until it is safe to venture further north and our thoughts and prayers are with all those in the storm's path.

As we didn’t get the chance to update the blog with our time in Sydney before we left for New Zealand, and then we posted a few times while in New Zealand, this is a little out of order, but I didn’t want to miss out reporting on our time there, so here goes!

The day after our New Year’s celebration on Sydney Harbor, we took Cool Runnings up the rivers that lead into the harbor. Nursing a slight hangover, our captain navigated the sometimes narrow rivers looking for a spot to anchor. There was nothing to be found! There are so many boats in the Sydney area, and every conceivable spot had boats on mooring buoys. Eventually we identified a little bay as a possible spot. We’d seen it on the way up the river, and there had been only one small motor boat anchored there. When we came back, there were 3 other catamarans anchored there, but still enough space for us. We dropped our anchor, and that ended up being our home for the time we were in Sydney. It was a beautiful bay, next to a nature reserve called Berry Island Reserve. It was well protected, and there was a lovely park and playground, and it was within walking distance to 2 train stations.

Very excited to see the iconic Sydney sights!

"Our" anchorage at Ball's Bay / Berry Island Reserve.  Cool Runnings is on the left

Sunset in the anchorage
The next day, on January 2nd, Andrew and Dominique Dudley, together with their son, Nic came to the boat to visit. Andrew and Dave did Construction Management together, and we all had not seen each other since University days, but it was like we’d seen each other just the other day and we picked up where we left off 20 years ago! It was great to see them again and meet Nic (we got to meet their daughter Katherine a few days later).

Happy Reunion!  The Dudleys and the Hibberds
The following day, another old friend of Dave’s from SA days, Bruce Denley, came to pick us up from our anchorage. Bruce drove us around, giving us a lay of the land. We drove to Manly, where he lives, and walked along the beach to Shelley Beach and back. We had a lovely lunch at Bruce’s apartment, and he was also kind enough to take us to a grocery store and made a quick stop at a mall, since it was Gaby’s birthday the next day, and we had a few pressies yet to buy!! Bruce also got us set up with Opal cards, which would allow us to use the public transportation in the Sydney area. We also had fun playing with Mika, Bruce’s energetic terrier! Thanks for everything, and for a great day, Bruce!

January 4th was Gaby’s 11th birthday, and she was lucky enough to be able to spend it in Sydney, Australia! We let her choose what she wanted to do that day, and she desperately wanted to see the Sydney Opera House! So that’s what we did: we walked to the train station, and took a train into Sydney. Just the train ride was a treat for the kids! We walked up to the iconic Opera House and sat on its big steps and just took in the view. It was sometimes still hard for us to believe that we had sailed all this way on our boat, and we were actually in Sydney, Australia, looking at the Opera House!! We had a lovely day exploring the city, walking along “The Rocks”, exploring the Botanical Gardens and discovering the streets and parks of Sydney. Back at the boat, I baked a birthday cake, and we had cake and watched a movie of Gaby’s choice, “Storks”. All in all, I think not a bad 11th birthday for Gaby!

Happy 11th Birthday, Gaby!!

Time for cake!

At Circular Quay - Ferry and cruise ship terminal.  Opera House in the background (of course!)

More Opera House...

And Selfie at the Opera House!

OK, just one more, close up
At the Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens looking back at the city - Sydney is beautiful!

The fountain at Hyde Park in Sydney

Beautiful St. Mary's Cathedral - Sydney

Stunning Stained Glass window inside the Cathedral
Another look at the inside of St. Mary's Cathedral
On Thursday, after a short trip to drop our Spinnaker at a sail maker for a small repair, we had more visitors! Dave and Lea Collins, with their daughter Faye came to visit! We had also not seen Dave and Lea in FOREVER and it was wonderful to catch up! Dave and Dave Collins sailed together back in South Africa, and we had been friends for quite a while before everyone went their own way. After a lovely afternoon on the boat, we all piled into their car, and went out for pizza up the road in Crow’s Nest. All in all, a lovely afternoon and evening…thanks, Dave, Lea and Faye!

Another happy reunion:  with Lea and Dave Collins
On Friday morning, Andrew Dudley came to pick us up and took us to his house. Thank you, Andrew, Dom, Nic and Katherine for a lovely day and evening! We had lunch, went on a drive, saw Kangaroos and made a quick detour to a mall to pick up Katherine. We had a lovely BBQ and then took the train “home” at the end of a great day! Thank you, Dudley family for an awesome day!

The following day, a windy Saturday (January 7th), the Dudleys came to the boat, and we took them for a sail around Sydney Harbor. We dodged the ferries, and the many other boats that were out and about on a Saturday, and sailed over to Watson’s Bay, where we picked up a mooring buoy and had lunch. The boys, Katherine and Gaby even went for a swim, but it was a little too cold for Dom and I!! Eventually we had to go back, and had to say our farewells. We knew we’d see Andrew again, as a “Builder’s Reunion” was planned for sometime in March in the Gold Coast, but it was sad to say goodbye to Dominique. Thank you, Dom and Andrew for everything you did for us and for your hospitality!! It was wonderful to see you again, and to meet your wonderful children!

I couldn't resist!  The sky was blue, the Opera House shone white...I just love it!

Dave and Andrew with the 2 iconic Sydney landmarks

 The Dudley family at anchor in Watson's Bay
Sunday was a recovery and blog update day! We also knew the kids’ “vacation” from school was coming to an end, as we had to go “back to school”, and had decided to start again on Monday, January 9th. They had had a nice Christmas break, but all good things must come to an end, so back to school it was! We spent the following morning preparing, developing their schedules and coming up with a few new school rules that we printed and put up in the salon, so we could always reference them. The rules included, amongst others:

• School starts at 8:00am - be on time and bring a positive attitude!

• Come prepared

• Be respectful: hands up, no fighting, no talking, listen to the teacher

• Focus, concentrate….JUST DO IT!

• Bad behavior = consequences

• Good behavior = rewards

So far, it has definitely been a better school year: a little more structured, and definitely more productive!

After school was done on Tuesday, we took a train into Sydney, but instead of getting off right in the city, we got off on the station that stopped right before the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We then walked over the bridge and were able to get some more amazing views of the Opera House and the city skyline. We explored a little more, and then in the late afternoon we met our friends from “Nogal”, a catamaran from Sausalito, CA, at Hyde Park for a David Bowie tribute concert. The Sydney Festival was going on for most of January, with concerts and activities everyday around the city. This was a free concert, and we had arranged to meet Frank and Marilia, and their 2 daughters Julia (11) and Sophia (10) there. It was packed, but a lot of fun to listen to old David Bowie songs like “Let’s Dance” and everyone had a great time!

Walking over the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Walking through the House of Mirrors at the Sydney Festival

Crowds at the Tribute to David Bowie Concert at the Sydney Festival
The following day was another school day, and then Dave and I spent all day trying to plan our trip to New Zealand! We were trying to use flyer miles to book the flights, but it was proving to be quite difficult to get 4 seats on flights that were somewhat reasonable with regards to connections and times (it was easier in the end to use Amex points and book a direct flight on Emirates from Brisbane to Auckland).

On Thursday (Jan 12th) we made use of our Opal cards (for public transport in New South Wales), and we took a train to the Blue Mountains. It was about an hour and half train ride, but it was fun nonetheless to sit and watch the towns and eventually the countryside go by. We caught a bus down to the view point of the “3 Sisters”, and then took a walk along the ridge and took in more spectacular scenery. It was a nice change from always seeing beaches and ocean!

We walked through the lovely little town of Katoomba, and ended up having some lunch at the Paragon Café. It was by chance that we ended up there. We were looking at the amazing candy displays in the window, and went inside to have a better look, when we realized they had a café in the back. We discovered that the Paragon was an institution in Katoomba, having been established in 1916, and has been in the same location, and in existence ever since!

The 3 Sisters in the Blue Mountains

Dave and kids enjoying the view

Ben and Gabs admiring some of the old collectibles inside the Paragon restaurant
On Friday the 13th, we received confirmation that our boat was to be hauled out at The Boatworks in the Gold Coast on February 6th. We had been watching the weather, knowing that we had to take advantage of the first South Easterly wind that came through, otherwise we would be bashing our way back into the wind all the way to the Gold Coast. The weather forecast a SE wind to come through on Saturday afternoon, so the next day, around lunchtime, we pulled our anchor up and said goodbye to Ball’s Head Bay anchorage, and headed back through the Sydney Harbor, out the heads and the 20 or so miles to Pittwater. We arrived around 5pm and tracked down Bruce and Lyn on “JoliFou”. It was great to see them again…it had been strange not being with them! We were invited over for sundowners on JoliFou, and Brent and Ana from “Impi” were also there! It was great to catch up with everyone!

We spent a week in Pittwater, but it didn’t feel long enough! On Sunday, while I went to a local market with Lyn and and her mom, Merle, Dave and Bruce took the boats over to a sandbank and waited for the tide to go out. By the time Lyn and I got back, the boats were almost aground…JoliFou more so than Cool Runnings. So then it was time to clean the hulls! We also had a quick visit from Bruce Denley and his sister Di, who came to say hello and goodbye. Thanks for the cupcakes, Bruce!! Then, after some more hull cleaning we got ready to go to dinner at Jacqui and Guy Winship’s house. Jacqui is Bruce Savage’s sister, and again, we had not seen her since South Africa days. We had a lovely BBQ, and met Jacqui and Guy’s lovely children Bronte, and Thomas. Also present and accounted for were “Doc” and Joilet Savage, Bruce’s and Jacqui’s mom and dad, and, Keith and Merle, Lyn’s mom and dad. We had a lovely evening catching up and reconnecting. Thank you, Jacqui and Guy for a lovely evening!!

Lyn and I returning from our shopping trip - that's how we roll!!
JoliFou - almost aground (and I think that's poor Lyn scrubbing the sides!)
With Bruce Denley and Di - thanks for the visit and sorry for the wet and bumpy dinghy ride!
The next morning we had to wait for the tide to come up to float the boats, and then we moved to a new anchorage. We picked up a mooring ball and spent the afternoon enjoying our new surroundings. Since we were hanging out with the Savages again, sundowners were the order of the day! I’m going to place all blame for my weight gain on Lyn and Bruce!!

The next morning, Merle took Lyn and I to the local Aldi, where I was able to do a bit of a shop and reprovision the boat. I was also able to explore Mona Vale a little bit, and it was nice to see Bruce and Lyn’s “home town”. The kids had a great time swimming and playing in the dinghy. They hadn’t been in the water for a while. It was a little chilly, but refreshingly so! That evening, we were invited to Lyn’s parent’s house for dinner, and we were treated to a delicious curry and rice, chocolate mousse for desert and then, to top it all off, Dom Pedro’s!! Yum, yum, yum!! Thank you, Merle and Keith for a wonderful dinner and lovely evening!!

Fun in Pittwater - time for a swim off the dinghy!

A bit of rain can't dampen their spirits!
Wednesday dawned with the hottest day we’d had in Australia! Even though the wind was blowing, it was blowing hot air from the inland areas down to the sea, and it just seemed unbearable! We convinced the captain to run the generator and put on the air conditioning! What a treat!! We had a lazy day, enjoying the cool interior of our boat! The next two days went by so quickly. We finalized our New Zealand trip, the kids played in the water, and we continued watching the weather. The South Easterlies that came through only seemed to last a day or two, so we had to plan our trip back north carefully. By Friday evening we were fueled up with diesel and water and after exploring a little more of the Pittwater, we anchored next to “JoliFou” for the last time, and got ready for an early departure.

After a cup of coffee with Bruce and Lyn on Saturday morning, we said our sad farewells, and headed out into the ocean for a rough ride to Newcastle. It was hard to imagine not having JoliFou sailing with us again, but somewhere, sometime, we hope to meet up with “the Fou’s” again! Bruce and Lyn, thank you for your friendship and all the wonderful times we had together. It will always be a defining moment of our trip. We wish you all the best with your cruising plans! To those friends and family that we didn’t get a chance to connect with, or connect with again, we apologize sincerely! The time we had just flew by so fast, that before we knew it, we had to head back north! And that’s where this post ends, and the next will start…our trip back to the Gold Coast from Sydney.

Farewell JoliFou - Cool Runnings will miss you!!
And Lyn and Bruce...we will miss you even more!!