Friday, February 16, 2018

Cairns


We put Georgia to bed in her snuggy cradle on the hardstand in Bundaberg (Queensland, Australia). Along with the hardstands there's also some nice bright blue ropes holding her down just in case she has to sit through some high winds. The field behind her gets a fair number of browsing kangaroos that hopefully don't jump the chain-link fence.

On our trip back to the US we decided to make a bunch of stops on the way. The basic itinerary: Brisbane-Cairns-Osaka-Honolulu-San Diego-Ft Lauderdale-Jacksonville-Greensboro, GA-Spartenburg,SC-Seattle-Bellingham,WA.
We landed in Cairns in the rainy off season. It was still clear it is a heavily tourist focused town. Can you guess where a lot of the tourists come from by the sign above in the airport toilet?

Since our flight was going to go through Cairns anyway we decided to stay for a few days to ride the train up to Kuranda and take the Skyway gondola back down. Cairns is pronounced Cans - don't ask me why. Kurunda is an aboriginal tourist town. The railway went in the 1890s for gold extraction. It began being a tourist railway in the 1930's.


The train station in Kuranda is fairly original. It has a switching yard so that the train direction can be turned around. This is the switch house containing all the manual controls for the yard switches. The three colors separate the controls for turning the switch, locking the switch and setting the signal. Visiting the switch house was right up there with checking out rusty stuff.


This local was playing a large didgeridoo on the sidewalk, making sounds of the jungle animals.



It was dumping down rain when we headed into Bird World who's claim to fame is that it is the largest single collection of free flying birds in Australia. I should have saved this photo for Valentines Day or, as I was convinced it was pronounced as a kid, Valentimes Day.



There was something really tasty to Chris' rubber soled shoes for this ring necked parrot.

Hungry critters.

This dinosaur looking Cassowary is native to Queensland. They can get to 5 feet tall.

Lots of waterfalls viewable from the train ride.

This 'crashed' DC3 is not really rusty stuff as it is made from aluminium. Plus it was actually a plane used as a movie prop and then moved to Kuranda for tourist enjoyment.

Just to help you understand the general level of culture in Australia, here's a central gift item in the Kuranda Railway station store. Kangaroo scrotum bottle openers - a gift for all.
  Ok, it was touristy-- but really fun.

Paul

Monday, January 15, 2018

Aussie Animals

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After getting our rudder somewhat back together we decided to pass on doing the 1,000 miles down and back passage to Sydney. We needed to do a Visa run the first week of February and were feeling pinched for time.  We are on a 12 month visa in Australia that is multiple entry for a maximum of 90-days at a time, and our 90-days are up soon.

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So we spent some time in the Southport area, which is Fort Lauderdale with more jet skis, less charm but nicer beaches.

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While in Southport we did a road trip courtesy of our friends Judy and Sherman on the half US and half Australia boat Fair Winds. I managed to forget to bring my camera with me, so only got a few cheap Huawai phone shots. This is the Byron Bay Lighthouse on Cape Byron, the eastern most part of mainland Australia. It was built in 1901 and still flashing away to the cruisers passing by offshore at night.

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We drove inland into the coastal mountains to the town of Nimbin. The main reason to go here was to see the Museum of Marijuana. Unfortunately it burnt down two years ago. Pot is illegal in Australia, but Nimbin seems to be a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell kind of town in the state of New South Wales. It makes its money selling pot paraphernalia and t-shirts to tourists while supporting a robust 1970’s hippy community.

After Southport we brought the boat up to Manly and took a slip for a few weeks so we could explore Brisbane. Manly is about a half-hour commuter train ride from Brisbane. It is a major boating stop on Moreton Bay. After we purchased our GO Cards (Queensland trasport cards) and learned to use the train, bus, ferry system, getting around was easy.

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The bird life in Queensland is really impressive. You see a wide variety of interesting critters just walking around town and the parks.  This is a white ibis that goes after junk food like sea gulls would in the states.

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These cranky and noisy Rainbow Lorikeets come out in flocks to feed each evening.

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If you didn’t get the hint from the photo at the top of this blog, here’s another hint. We went to the Australia Zoo. This is the private zoo started by Steve Irwin – the Aussie who was famous for saying ‘Crikey!’ every time he got near a wild animal.

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The zoo is nicely laid out with a bunch of somewhat interactive exhibits. The Saltie Show, aka saltwater crocodiles, doesn’t allow for a lot of customer interaction with the Salties. In practice, you don’t really need to be concerned about the crocs in NE Australia as long as you stay at least 25 feet back from the waters edge and never swim in itSad smile

The waters around here are really full of unfriendly creatures. You don’t swim in any of the murky waters due to the territorial bull sharks. The clear waters are OK as long as there are no Great White sharks. Over the last two weeks three people have been stung by Stone Fish – majorly painful. There was just a warning not to swim off the beaches on Fraser Island because of the poisonous and potentially deadly box jellys. It’s a tough crowd here.

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Koala’s make for an iconic picture of Australia. Big claws, but not deadly.

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Chris snuck up on this Koala and followed the petting rules: not on the head.

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Meerkat looking for overhead predators.

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The bird presentations at the Zoo were even more interesting than the Salties. This Red-tailed Cockatoo was in training. She’s workingon showing less attitude about people being close by.

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The other iconic Australian critter is clearly the kangaroo. Look close and you can see the Joey in the mothers pouch.

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Joey sticking his head out of the pouch to get a little fresh grass treat.

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The Kookaburra – I’d say iconic but you aren’t allowed to have three iconics in one blog post. We were walking back at night from seeing a movie (and to escape the heat) and saw a Kookaburra sitting on a No Parking sign and occasionally swooping down to pickup bugs attracted to the evening lights. Check out their famous laugh here (scroll down to the audio clips). The movie was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – two thumbs up.

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A few more gratuitous koala pictures. Mom with a baby – neither one very alert.

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Now this youngster was busy getting to the freshest gumtree leafs.

We are still in Manly, Moreton Bay, till some weather passes through. Then around Wednesday we plan to make the 200 mile sail north back to Bundaberg. We’ll put the boat on the hard there and fly out just before our visas expire. This will start an extended state-side visit and grandkid fix.

Paul

Thursday, December 21, 2017

There Are Good Bars and There are Bad Bars

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Good bars serve decent whiskey with large pours at reasonable prices. Bad bars water down the pour then charge even more. Above is a shot of the Wide Bay Bar at sunrise as we start our way out.

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The bar is at the bottom of Fraser Island. It is known as one of the worst bar crossings on the east coast of Australia. One reason is that one leg that takes you very close to beam-on to the swells. That’s the middle blue line on the chart above. The locals call it the Mad Mile, even though it’s closer to 2.2 nautical miles. We left at about 4:30am to start heading out. This gave us plenty of time just before high tide. You really need to do the bar with an incoming tidal current so the wave faces don’t get too steep.

Our crossing was a little stressful being our first one on this coast, but in practice pretty mellow with nothing shallower than about 11 feet and maybe a 1 meter swell.

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After a decent days sail south we arrived at the bar entrance to Maloolooba. This one faces north, so the swells go across its entrance The weather was light winds and small swells. The bar was being dredged at the time. Like most of the other boats, I called the dredge master on the VHF and asked him if it was clear for us to come in. He said no problem, just come close by my side on the eastern side of the channel, as he had his piping on the western side. I told him we drew 2 meters (6.5 feet) and asked him to confirm that there would be enough water on that side to carry us safely over. No problem, he says, I just got done dredging that portion.

So we proceeded in and promptly clipped our rudder on the bottom. An official Holy Shit moment. I looked behind us and the bottom portion the rudder was floating off away from the boat. A quick check and we still had steerage.

Called up the dredge master on the VHF radio to let him know of our situation and told him to get his work boat to go out and retrieve the floating portion of the rudder.

Just after we went in a large, commercial, aluminum catamaran came in. The dredgemaster called him on the radio and asked him what was the shallowest he saw coming in. His response was 1.8m... too shallow for us! Argh!

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Ours is a carbon fibre rudder with a carbon fibre shaft. The lower portion of the rudder is designed to break away on impact to protect the shaft and the remaining portion. The sacrificial break away did its job. Above is the recovered lower portion of our rudder.

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There are a lot of sharks in the water here in Australia, we figure this is what a rudder looks like when a Great White takes a nibble.

We continued south for a few days (with overnight stops) down to Moreton Bay, in the Brisbane area, through the shallow, winding straights in South Moreton Bay to the Gold Coast, up the Coomera River and, finally, to the haulout at The Boat Works boat yard.

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We were really lucky to hook up with Ryan from 143 Boat Builders onsite at The Boat Works yard. He went out of his way to get everything lined up for the repair and keep it all at as reasonable a cost as possible. This during the Christmas season, when things really close down.

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Ryan matching the original layup schedule with layers of double bias fiberglass and carbon fibre unidirectional cloth (the black cloth is the carbon fibre). The CF cloth is amazingly strong and light.

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It took a bit of effort and wiggling to get the rudder back up through the bearing, but we got it in.

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All ready to drop back in, as close to good as new as you can get.

Notice the steps in the pic. All the boats that haul here get to use steps instead of yard ladders. This makes living aboard in the yard so much more comfortable. The daily yard rate includes free loaner cars, super clean heads and showers and an air conditioned room with TV for cruisers. It really makes for a whole lot more pleasant yard experience.

There are lots of contractors onsite here. If you need some work done, give Ryan at 143 Boat Builders a call and let him offer some suggestions. He’ll bend over backwards to work with you and does excellent work.

https://143boatbuilding.com.au/

We’re off to an anchorage so we can spend Xmas day with our friends from Fair Winds, Judy and Sherman,  and Chris and Chris from Scintilla.

Paul