Tuesday, November 27, 2007

She's Gone

We have sold our beloved travel companion, Maia. It was back in September that Craig's cell phone rang with the news. We were still traveling home, on our stop in Hawaii. In fact, Evvy had just done her first real long board surf at the break called Canoes in in Waikiki. Before Craig had even toweled off the water from this mid-day surf session, the cell phone was ringing. The number calling started with a "61" plus a lot of other numbers, had to be Australia calling. The broker was conveying an offer. At first, Craig could not remember what price we were asking. It turned out that the offer was exactly what we paid for the boat, so we took it!

The buyer needed more than a month to organize a trip up to the see Maia, and complete the sale. He was living in Sydney, so it was a few thousand miles for him to travel. A few days ago, it all turned out OK. The buyer was "extremely pleased" with Maia, according to our broker. No further negotiations, the sale was done. We are looking forward to completing the sale so we can find a home to buy in downtown Oakland, using the proceeds from this sale. We are looking forward to getting our new (to us) boat for the SF Bay again. That is different story to come. For now, we want to wrap up our Australia trip, to let you all know that it worked out. We came, we sailed, we sold, and it all worked out. Thanks to all for your love and support in this trip. We look forward to cruising again, before too long.

Craig, Evvy and Dave

Friday, October 5, 2007

Le Trimiran

Leaving town at 5 a.m. isn't easy, but we had the added bonus of the Sydney marathon running that day. Urging us on was the prospect of seeing Laurent and the construction of Utopia, a 53 foot trimiran in New Caledonia. Seven years ago Craig went cruising out of Hawaii with Laurent for about 4 months. Laurent spent about 3 years sailing from France, until he stopped in New Caledonia, where he taught for 4 years. Now he has stopped working, and is spending full time building his new boat, a trimaran completely of his own design. For the boaties, get this - he made it from a unique polystyrene & plywood sandwich, which he vacuum bagged in each panel! This will make the whole thing weigh just 6 tons, a light and strong design.

It was amazing for Craig to see Laurent, and the boat Steve that he sailed with 7 years ago. Laurent and his partner Sandrine welcomed us warmly to New Caledonia with a wonderful fish salad and french baguettes. We had definitely left Australia, the food was getting crazy good! We had lunch in the salon of the trimaran, and got to start looking at our tour of the boat. At 53' long and 40' wide, it is really big, and big job to build!

The hulls are complete and were assembled just feet away from the water at the beginning of this year. In fact, most everything is there: hulls, engine, mast, rudder, center boards, electrical system, and even a main sail. However, most of this has been there for about 6 months, as Laurent, Sandrine and many many friends work on 1,000 crucial details that make the boat work. Of course there is much more to the story, much of which is told at the web site for Utopia.

Anchored just off shore from Utopia is le Steve, where we spent the next week while Laurent and Sandrine lived aboard their new boat for the first time. Craig was happy to reunite with this boat where he spent so much time. It was amazing to see it with new eyes, because then he had not yet owned such a substantial boat, but now it seems quite reasonable to handle. More on this former story is in a friends' web site that also followed the Steve way back in 2000. Here is the link.

For the next week we got to know Utopia as well as help tick a few things off the job list including prep to paint the boat for the first time! Craig also drilled holes in strips that were attached by epoxy to the hull to be used to hang the nets between the hulls. The nets are a real substantial part of the boat needed to move around, they cover a big area as the floats are FAR away from the main hull. Evvy prepared the top of the floats for a layer of epoxy with synthetic sand designed to make a non-skid surface. The work was interesting, a good way to get to know such a craft.

It wasn't all work though. We took a tour of the town of Noumea, went out to dinner, too le Steve for a couple sails, and even went to a community meeting to work against asbestos contamination for which Laurent and Sandrine volunteer. Craig enjoyed re-awaking his French and Evvy got some French lessons. Sandrine is still working to teach French in the schools on a part-time basis as they prepare to leave.

The week in New Caledonia flew by quickly. Before we knew it, we were off to Hawaii, ending our 6 month tour outside of the country, on our way back to jobs waiting for us.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hawaii landing, Sydney story

It was hard to believe when we opened our eyes yesterday that our vessel was skirting the waters just off Hawaii. By 'our vessel' I just mean the Airbus airplane that we boarded in Sydney. We touched down in Honolulu, making our trip to foreign lands complete. We're back in the land of aloha, enjoying a wonderful home of Craig's friend Victor, the former director of the legal aid programs where he worked. But that story is yet to be told. We'll back up to tell you our Sydney story as our first 'bone':

After leaving Maia in Mackay and Airlie Beach with Sonya, the three of us headed for Sydney to visit Evvy's wonderful friend Vivian and her partner Ian. Arriving after 11 pm, we were relieved that we could still get good pub food and quality beer - ahh to be back in a big city. The next day Vivian took us touring Sydney. Walking from her flat in Paddington, we walked to the King's Cross neighborhood, then through the city's gardens, the waterfront, and on to Sydney Harbor.
We caught a city ferry to tour from the water (along with a few hundered other tourists, many American) out to the beach town of Manly. After living to long in Manly Queensland, we thought it was only fitting to go to Many, New South Wales. This beach town actually had a 4th floor to its "hotel" (no accommodation), where they set up barstools with a great view of the beach, catching an element often overlooked in Queensland pubs.

Vivian also has a favorite sushi restaurant, so we were anxious for our first taste of wasabi, hamachi and saki since leaving Oakland.

Our second day in the Sydney was spent walking the beach from Clovelly Bay to Bondi Beach. Sydney's public facilities did not disappoint, with no fewer than 5 public salt water pools long the way. After watching so many people in funny uniforms on the lawn bowling fields, we decided to join in and pitch some bowls on the vistas of these bluffs. This is Evvy showing off how close her bowl is to the "jack". It was the best toss of the day.

The waves crest over the saltwater pool off Bondi Beach, here the Iceberg club pool, keeping a constant flow of fresh water through them, but making that right hand swim lane more interesting.
We caught the bus back to downtown where our promised a pub crawl of Sydney's many fine pubs began. Ohhhh to have good beer again - 3 Sheets to the Wind ale was the favorite.
We were to remember these when we awoke at 5 am to catch our plane to New Caledonia. That story will have to wait until after we do some more visiting here on Oahu's windward shore.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good-bye to Maia

We said good-bye to Maia yesterday (sigh). Thanks to Sonya's help, the move went smoothly. We drove up to Airlie yesterday afternoon and plan to stay near the Whitsundays until we take off for Sydney tomorrow. Things are changing pretty quick in our world. (Unfortunately, we are back to using the internet at public spots, so no pictures for this post.) It is great to be back near so many of our sailing friends, but weird not to have our little floating home. We made our transition a little easier today by mailing home a big box of boat gear that we won't need while couch surfing.

Although our time on the boat has ended (sniff) we are still traveling. Before we head home we're set to visit Noumea, New Caledonia, starting Sept 23 and Honolulu Oct 2. We'll be back home on the 9th, ready to go back to work on Oct 15.

Thanks to all of our friends and family for supporting us through yet another transition. We have enjoyed our sailing time, but are looking forward to being home to see friends, get to work, and get back to the sights, sounds and tastes of California.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Return Cruise

We're back in MacKay, preparing Maia for the sales block. She's got a web page now with our broker here. Much has happened in the few days since we last hit the dock, from showing the boat to the broker, arranging for caretakers in our absence, to doing major paint work on the boat, including the entire mast, dodger, most of the decks, the cockpit, the chain locker and more. We've been hard at work since there are possible buyers scheduling to come see Maia, so we've got deadlines. There are stories to be told for our last days cruising that we look forward to writing up, once we get Maia fairly prepared in a couple days.

Crew member extra-ordinaire Dave is leaving for home tomorrow. It turns out that flying on September 11 is still quite a bit cheaper than other days. Go figure. We really benefited from Dave's help, good spirits and camaraderie for Maia's adventure. We won't have long to miss it though because we plan to leave the boat just a week after Dave does. As soon as we return, we are looking forward to sailing with Dave and Colin back in the SF Bay on their boat Pacific High.

In the mean time, here's a couple pics from our return trip with Moves Afoot, a Wharram design Tiki 38 catamaran. We had a great couple weeks with them before we had to say good bye.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Heading South

Just a quick note to say that we're about to start heading South, for the first time, back to MacKay. We're planning to take at least a week to get there, and we have friends on their catamaran Moves Afoot to buddy boat with for a little while. This will be our last time in the Whitsundays for the trip, and some of the last sails we take on Maia. We will soon have a listing up with our broker, and are already starting to making preparations to leave the boat. Craig and Evvy are hot the trail to find plane tickets home; we are looking forward to seeing our old friends scattered around the Pacific on our way home. Internet and phone connections come back to us when we reach MacKay late next week.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Whitsundays continue

The crew of Maia have taken a few side-trips on other people's boats to some of the islands. On Wednesday, our friends Ralph and Jen on El Misty were motoring around on a calm day because they needed to charge their batteries and offered to take us over to Daydream Island. We checked out the resort, had a walk on the trail and went for a snorckle in Lovers Bay. Like so many of the island resorts this one is top-notch. As such, it has its obligatory art work:

Dave, Jen and Craig smile as Ralph demonstrates how to best enjoy the statuary.

The resort has the best mini-golf course we have ever seen. The theme is different places in Australia. Jen clued us in that Australians don't have "shrimp on the barbie", they call shrimp prawns, and it isn't common to bbq them.

On Friday we piled on to our friend Warren's 40 foot catamaran Odyssey to head out to an enormous party on Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island.

Mind you, there are NO facilities on Whitsunday, it is a national park with pristine beaches. Well, for this one, they brought out big tents, a huge sound system for the band, 4-5 kitchen set ups, all on a few trucks they brought in by barge. About 300 boats gathered for a real Australian style bash. We had an excellent time swimming and walking on the beach.

This was a close call with the first croc we've seen.

On our sail home we starting racing a large tug boat. Skipper Warren pulled up the big spinnaker and we sailed away from them - no dinosaur bones needed.

The big spinnaker with the boxing kangaroo is a favorite. We've heard that this is the logo for a very cheap fluffy white bread, like Wonder, called "Tip Top". This particular one came from a boat called Australia II, which won the America's cup. Unfortunately, a few minutes after this photo was taken, the spinnaker split and now needs to be repaired.

We have been having a great time in Airlie Beach. The weather is warm, so we have plenty of opportunities for swimming. The boat is safely at anchor, which keeps expenses low, and we are surrounded by friends. Our friends Dan and Jenny inspired us to stay up late and visit all of the nightclubs in town. Good news for Darrin, I don't think your lifetime ban is on the books, a decade can bring a lot of forgiving and forgetting. Unfortunately, we also do not see any tourist trimarans here, so yours must by plying other waters now.

The Shire Council for Airlie is trying to keep up with the resorts, so they added this enhancement to intimidate the men in the public urinals. Dan and Craig demonstrate

Here's the scoop on our exit plan. We took a big step towards home: we have decided to leave Maia with a broker in MacKay. We will be there sometime in early September, or just about 10 days from now. Dave has bought his ticket home, flying on September 11, so we figure we should be situated about that time. Evvy has a friend, Sonya, who is coming to visit about a week later. Then we'll be heading home in late September. Rather than rush home we're looking at making some stops on the way home in Sydney, New Caledonia, and Honolulu - all places where we have friends.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On the Hook in Airlie

Craig and mom Gayle on a hike on Hamilton Island.

Gayle and Richard took off from MacKay last night (Aug 15), on their way to Melbourne for a few days’ visit before they head for home. Maia is now on the hook in Airlie Beach, a tourist town, backpacker haven, and great calm harbor with easy dinghy access to town. Craig and Evvy rented a car to drive Gayle and Richard down to the larger airport in MacKay. This trip also had the advantage of making a car tour of the coastal area here in the Whitsunday area, and most importantly - allowed us to retrieve our passports.

Let me back up a bit and catch up on some developments of our trip. On the day we received our U.S. Coast Guard documentation, July 19, we sent off our passports to the Consulate for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in Brisbane in order get permission to enter the country. At that time we were in the Keppel Bay Marina, planning to make our next stop off at a town in MacKay. We sent the package overnight express, and hoped to get it back by July 30, for a possible rendezvous with Gayle and Richard in PNG. Craig called the MacKay marina to make sure they expected it and to confirm the address to use from their website. Recalling the fiasco of renting a car to track down our EPIRB, we didn’t want any mistakes this time.

Paperwork trouble reared its head again, as our passports did not turn up in MacKay, and we could not get any information from the PNG consulate. We asked the MacKay Marina every day for this package, but finally left without our passports. By the time we reached Hamilton Island, August 8, we had been without the passports for 3 weeks, and finally got word from the PNG Consulate that allowed us to get post office tracking confirming delivery in MacKay. Craig talked to the MacKay marina again and told them that the package must be somewhere in their complex – which is rather large and includes real estate brokers, ship yard facilities, and a number of other shops and restaurants - but the marina office did not lift a finger to track down our mail. We seemed at a dead end, so were beginning the process of getting new passports. Then a few days ago we got a call from the shipyard in MacKay saying they have had a package for us for weeks but didn’t know who we were. Our phone # was written on the package, but we were just happy to finally locate our passports and get them back.

This passport loss for nearly a month has put the prospects of traveling to PNG out of range. Evvy is anxious to return home for work, and we don’t have enough weeks left to allow a window to make this part of the trip. There are lots of preparations required, and we may be at sea for weeks only to spend a few days in PNG, looking for a weather window to return to Australia again. We have decided that we have pushed enough on our vacation and we will slow down and enjoy the Whitsundays for a couple weeks. It is just that little bit of time before we need to get the boat ready to sale, and move our lives back into a couple duffel bags for the trip home.

Poor us, stuck in the most beutiful part of the world. Enjoying some of the best sailing and spending every evening witnessing sunsets like this one on Brampton Island. The mechanism on the bottom of the picture is our self-steering "magic fish".

The other major development is that Dave is now cruising with a friend of ours, Warren on his home-built 40’ catamaran called Odessy. We first met Warren in Keppel Bay, and he caught up with us again a few hundred miles later on the island of Brampton. While coming back from our walk on Brampton August 5, we saw Odessy pull into the anchorage. We took our dinghy by his boat, caught up and invited Warren over for dinner. While eating Evvy’s great pasta creation and breaking out an actual bottle of red wine (not from a box or more gently put here, a ‘cask’), we learned that Warren is a bit tired of sailing his big catamaran alone, he would really like to have crew. Craig was all ready to sail on that big, fast cat catamaran, that regularly sails as speeds above 15 knots, where if Maia goes over 7 knots we’re really going way too fast and need to slow her down. Realistically, though it was Dave who was the potential crew. With encouragement from Craig and Evvy to take this new adventure, Dave decided to meet up with us in a few days at Hamilton Island, or further on at Airlie Beach. So the next day, after more than 3 months living with Craig and Evvy on a 32’ boat, Dave got a chance to have a 40’ hull of a catamaran all to himself.

Dave sailing off with Warren from Brampton Island

We met back up with Dave and Warren at Hamilton Island, and they are having a great time cruising together. They decided to keep going, as long as we are both in the same area. Dave has had the chance to learn a whole new boat, try out “the dark side,” as many sailors call catamarans, and have the life of two single guys. Maia and Odessy are now anchored right near each other in front of Airlie Beach, and we’re planning to take a trip all together in few days back out to the Islands.

That’s all the big news for now. Evvy sends out a big thanks for all the warm birthday wishes. Here's one more pic:

Craig and Evvy enjoying the pool at the Whitsunda Moorings Bed and Breakfast in Airlie Beach where Gayle and Richard were staying. The Bed and Breakfast is surrounded by lush landscaping enjoyed by many species of birds.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reef Tourists

Thanks to a special treat from Gayle and Richard, the four of us just returned from a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef, at a spot called Knuckle Reef. The trip offered snorkling, a water slide, a underwater observatory and a semi-submersible boat to check out the reef. For Evvy's birthday Craig went even further and got a tourist scuba dive option. Here's a few pics to stand in for a couple thousand words for today. The fish's name is Wally. He is very friendly and let us give him a pet.

Gayle and Richard depart tomorrow via MacKay, so the four of us are driving down to town. The Weather has warmed up considerably. Craig even complained of being too hot even while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The temperatures are still below average, but very comfortable.

We are looking forward to getting back on the cruising track and spending more time in the Whitsundays. So many wonderful places to see. For those of you using google earth our coordinates are Latitude 20 15.5S Longitude 148 43.2E at Airlie Beach, the outer Great Barrier Reef (including Knuckle) are located north and east of the Whitsundays.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Marguerite's Pics

Evvy' s Mom Marguerite took about 100 great photos with comments and posted it to her web site.

[ http://www.mlstivers.shutterfly.com ]

The password is downunder

Thanks so much Marguerite for being the proxy for our posting. Craig's Mom Gayle and husband Richard are here for a few more days. We are enjoying Airlie Beach, and just made the final arrangements for their departure in a couple days. Logistics done, we're off to see some more sites in the Whitsundays before they depart.

Maia is now at anchor while we run around town, a new experience for us. Steep hills nearby allow us to keep an eye on her, so we feel secure. Before long we'll have some leisurely days here in Airlie and we'll put up some of our pics too.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hamilton Island

After coming half way around the world, Gayle (Craig's mom) and husband Richard have joined us at Hamilton Island. We picked this spot to meet because it has the largest airport in the area and it has many hotels which offer a supposed 'range of accommodation'. It turned out that the 'range' went from high end to very high end, and despite the fact that there are thousands of rooms, all of them were booked too. For the first night we all camped out together on Maia, but last night Gayle and Richard got a very nice room at the Reef View hotel. The rooms here are so nice here that we're off to the more affordable Hook Island today. We've got a job list to do as usual, and there's not enough time to get up those photos that really give you much more of the story. That will probably have to wait until we go to Airlie Beach next week. This is just a short update to let everyone know that we're still collecting stories to be told here in the Whitsundays. Dave is collecting other stories too as he has been crewing for a few of these 'parents' days on a catamaran of a cruising friend. The telling of the stories will have to wait a bit.

Keswick, St. Bees, Brampton

Maia in Australia continues to find opportunities to blog only in marinas, both from a standpoint of not finding much wifi and there is typically not enough electricity on the boat, unless we are at a marina. The problem is that the marinas are busy places where we are making repairs, shopping, showering, making internet phone calls, then leaving as soon as we can. When we're on the hook, reading, hiking ashore, cooking better meals, with much more time, the captain (me) is reluctant to use up the power to run the computer to write. So there is some limits to the connectivity we can get with you all.

Yesterday (August 4) we departed MacKay for some islands 15 miles away but there was no wind, so we pulled a 'cruiser move' and rather than motor for hours we anchored just a few miles from the marina off a nearby beach. Today there still was no wind, so we gave in and motored from Slade Pt. to Brampton Island, for many hours. This leaves our batteries topped up, and the solar panel is covering the computer just fine. In fact, we need to make sure the panel doesn't turn out too much power, so this is a golden opportunity to dash off a quick note to our small internet audience.

As cruisers go, we're very short term, and very full of "plans," which primarily involve how to leave Australia. Well those plans are starting to change again. We sent our passports off to Brisbane to get permission to go to PNG. Well, that was two weeks ago and they haven't come back. The PNG consulate has not returned any of our phone calls, and has responded with just a cryptic one-line e-mail message that they sent them back to us. They will likely show up at the MacKay marina eventually, but after spending another week 'waiting' we're heading North again. Our pace is much slower now, however.

While hanging about MacKay we left for a few days to visit nearby islands, of Keswick and St. Bees. There are a few private houses accessed primarily by small planes on a landing strip. We saw locals snorkeling in a trip they made to the beach in their golf cart. We motored the dinghy over to St. Bees for a picnic lunch on the beach. We found goats and goat skeletons on the island, and Dave found a number of fresh water pools in the steep hills nearby. Craig got a first brief and cold chance to snorkel and see many new types of fish - no names, but it was a different reef. The rowing dinghy also came off the deck for the first time for some rowing fun. After a couple days hanging about, we had a slow sail back to the MacKay Marina to get in touch with the world again.

Craig's mom has arrived in Sydney, and will rendez-vous with the boat at Hamilton Island August 8. By that time we will be in the heart of the Whitsundays - supposed to be amazingly pretty but also a tourist zone with charter boats. We have seen some really wild and great stretches of coast here, but we are looking forward to more for the time we have left. Yes, that's right, we are actively planning our trip back to California.

Craig and Evvy also took a side trip to spend their first night off the boat for the entire trip. We'll tell you more about that in a separate message, our next installment of the trip.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gateway to the Whitsundays

Craig with our US Coast Guard Documents. So nice.

We've made it to MacKay (the Ausie's pronounce it McKie - like pie). It took longer than we thought even though the wind was blowing hard and we had some of our fastest sails so far. We really moved with just a little bit of our jib (the front triangle shaped sail) only. The ocean swell was some of the largest we've seen, making the passages rocky and rolly. Luckily, Maia's hard chine hull shape prevents the boat from being too tippy and prevents the waves from slapping the hull. The picture below shows the swell well above our lifelines which are unusually tall.

We spent one wonderful afternoon and evening in Island Head (22 degrees 25 minutes south and 150 degrees 32 minutes east) even without a stove and oven. There were so many turtles poking there heads out of the water checking us out that we were beginning to feel a bit self conscious.

This is a picture of Island Head as we left, notice the rainbow.

Our propane for the oven and stove ran out on our first night out at Island Head, which turned out to be four days before we got back to a town. We suspect that the bottle wasn't completely filled. We survived on cold food, but missed our fresh bread and hot meals. It made our landing in MacKay very welcome.

Back to our long term plans, we sent off our passports to the the PNG consulate the day after we got our USCG documents. Although we sent it in a return express mail package, we haven't got them back, so we still can't leave the country. At this point it is possible that we will spend the rest of the trip in Australia, given our short time frame. We will know more soon.

Evvy's visit with her mom was fantastic. They explored caves, fed kangaroos, sailed, and generally explored every tourist site within 20 miles of Rosslyn Bay. We are a little overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of pictures that we have from that portion of the trip. Marguerite is a spectacular photographer. Evvy is pulling together a slide show and we will include it in a post to come soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Big News

Hello international audience:

The BIG news is that today we RECEIVED our documentation from the USCG today. Thanks so much to our bureaucracy and Craig's Mom Gayle for making that happen!

As we have had Marguerite visiting, we have not had time to update you, and upload pictures. That will come in the next few days as things are changing. Maia will soon be heading North again, with an eye to going off shore on the most probable route. We are looking forward to leaving Australia, though it has been wonderful being here. There is precious little time left to make an offshore passage, but we have done much to get Maia ready.

More news soon. We will soon be leaving for Mackay, but plan to post some great pictures that Marguerite took when here before we leave.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rosslyn Bay

The sun is shining and the crew is clean and happy.

We've made it to Rosslyn Bay after two days of fantastic sailing. Evvy's Mom has just arrived from Las Vegas and we are looking forward to checking out some of the local islands together.

As we set our anchor outside the marina, our friends Frank and Jane pulled into port, so we are looking forward to some shared adventures.

Pictures to come soon....

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Latitude: 23 50' S (Decimal Degrees -23.843) Longitude: 151 15' E (Decimal Degrees 151.256)

The gateway to warm water and trade winds, so we've been told.

Gladstone itself is an industrial city where giant ships get loaded with coal, aluminum (or aluminium if you are Ausie) is refined, and energy is generated. The town is small, about 30,000 people. The marina is very inexpensive and managed by very nice people. It is a pleasant walk to town from the boat, and all of us have spent the last few days walking and biking about, enjoying some warmer weather, though nights are still quite cool.

Tomorrow we head out again, this time to The Oaks, then on to Yellow Patch, then either Keppel Island or Yeppoon. North of Yeppoon the US Military is practicing war with operation Talisman Sabre on the Queensland Coast, so after that we need to stay offshore or commit civil disobedience. We haven't decided what we are going to do yet.

Still no word on Evvy's mom's passport, but we are hoping to meet up with her before we get arrested, if we choose that route. Unless of course she wants to join us.

Here are a few more pictures from Pancake Creek and the sail up.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pancake Creek

Moonrise in Pancake Creek

We've arrived at the land of cruising, our first true destination for this has been Pancake Creek. Since our last internet access, Maia left Bundaberg, traveling north to the Town of 1770, then to Pancake Creek for a good few days, and arriving in Gladstone on July 4th. Our Australian compatriots here do know that July 4th is American Independence. I can't say that we knew of any historically significant date for Australia, but then again that's not much of a surprise, is it? As I type, we are running the motor as we head into Galdstone harbor. Like most sailing days for us we are again pushing against the winds that continue to come directly from the direction we want to go (north west). We are nearly into the harbor though, so this blog post will likely be completed tomorrow, when we have sorted out our arrival in the marina.

Our visit to Pancake Creek was the start of real cruising for us. The weather finally broke, and it was warm enough during the day to go back to shorts and t-shirts, at least until late afternoon. The creek is quite picturesque, there were great beaches to walk along. We went on beautiful walks up to the light house on Bustard Head, found all kinds of things on the beach including a giant lizard, a cane toad, and kangaroo tracks. We got to know the friendly cruisers in the other boats, who had all kinds of things to show us. We learned from Sherry how to spot the Southern Cross in the sky every time. Heather and Pete taught us how to find small shrimp they call "Yabbies" to use as bait. This worked so well, Dave immediately caught his first fish that we could eat.

We were excited to find on our second day there that our friends from Brisbane, Frank and Jane on Escondido, had sailed into the creek and we had a great reunion with them. They proved they are true sailors by launching their dinghy with an oar as a mast and a jacket as a sail to sail over to us without using the engine or rowing. Against the quick running tide, this was quite a feat, good fun! On our last day in Pancake creek, Frank and Jane organized a cook out on the beach with all the boats in the marina. At this gathering all three of us were again the youngest people (save for a three cruising kids), earning us the nickname of "the kids" here. As the sun set on July 3rd, we reminded ourselves that we had really made it half way around the world to Australia, bought a cruising boat, and got it ready and out cruising. We basked in the sun and our feat.

Today Dave pulled up Maia's anchor at first light, about 6 a.m. Craig steered the boat carefully through the shallow water of the creek and Evvy passed around the coffee and tea to keep us warm. About 5-6 boats left our anchorage at Pancake creek this morning, most all of them motoring their way to Gladstone at the same time we did. (It felt a bit like we imagine the BaHaHa to be.) Our preference to sail rather than run the engine ALL the time means that we typically will use all the time we have in the day to stay out on the water, keeping the motor off until it becomes clear that we have to motor to arrive before darkness. Today was no exception, after Evvy got together a great lunch, we turned off the motor and sailed for hours afterwards, until the wind went light and the tide turned adverse, forcing us to use the "iron genoa".

Just as we left Bundaberg we found out that our US Coast Guard application was rejected for failure to have an address. In a wonderful show of bureaucracy, we learned of the problem with the address through a letter sent, you guessed it, through the mail! We are disappointed that we still have no time frame for when we might be able to get the paperwork needed to leave Australia.

In other news of bureaucracy, Evvy's Mom was set to join us here in Australia today, but she has been delayed because she still has not received her passport after months of waiting for it. She still hopes to reschedule, and the airlines are understanding about changing the time. We are off to explore Gladstone for a few days in hopes that Marguerite can soon join us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sandy Strait to Bundaberg

We've been on the move for the last week, going North to seek warmer weather. We are just now getting internet access again, so we are able to catch everyone up on what's been happening.

As explained in the last post, we got turned back on our first approach to the Great Sandy Strait due to strong head winds. Back on shore, repairs continued, here with Dave stitching up the jib sail. Our second attempt was hurried along by forecast swell coming that threatened to close out the entrance for a few days to come. It is important to arrive at the entrance during a flooding tide, which meant that we had to leave at night again to make it in time.

This time we were able to sail through the night in much calmer seas, and arrived near our destination as the sun rose. Dave, Evvy and Craig stood watch in turns through the night, and with more favorable winds we had a much better time on our second night out. It was still quite cold, though, a theme you will see somewhat constantly lately for us. The winds turned against us as we arrived, contrary to the forecast. After some motoring to get up wind, we arrived at the right spot and crossed over the sand bar. There were some waves around us, but we managed to come through safely, following the GPS coordinates and the navigation marks.

Once inside the Strait, we headed for the small town of Tin Can Bay, which has a small marina a couple kilometers from town. The sky stayed rather Wintery, and we pulled out the dinghy to go into the marina and have a look around. We found that were was a tourist dolphin feed, where tame dolphins come in to shore every day to be fed fish by tourists. We met a cruising neighbor who gave us good tips on how to proceed North, crossing the Sandy Strait to Hervey Bay. The tide window was coming later in the day, requiring us to leave the next morning to have a comfortable margin to cross over these shallow waters in high tide during daylight hours, so we headed out again the next morning.

This Sandy Strait route is well traveled by sail boats, but it is nevertheless quite shallow. We kept a close watch on the chart marks and the depth meter as we traversed an area that narrowed to just a few hundred feet across, and sometimes just a foot or two of water under our keel. As we made it completely through, smiles were all around. Another step North behind us.

Our next anchorage was near the Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island. The island is the place were a dingo famously attacked a baby, causing the mother to cry "a dingo ate my baby!" Although the mother was not at first believed since dingos are similar to coyotes, the lesson is well taken now as there were many signs about the danger of dingos and keeping tabs on your children. We had no dingo trouble, but did enjoy hearing their coyote like howls at night. We thought we may have remained on Fraser Island to explore and "bush walk", but Craig took a quick dip in the water and his chilly reception convinced us that it was best to keep sailing North.

Our next leg was 50 miles, quite a bit to make in one crossing, but winds were now blowing their (supposedly) typical Southern direction. An early morning departure was on order to make sure we would arrive at our destination before dark. The sailing was good, a great day going down wind. We were able to sail "wing on wing" for the first time in the trip, making an easy down wind run. We have now arrived at the mouth of the Bundaberg River, coming into a marina again to get in touch with people, in particular our first visitor, Evvy's Mom Marguerite is due to join us in just one week's time. We're off again tomorrow to make some more Northing before she arrives. We'll probably be out another week, finding our next connection with the internet at Keppel Bay. Fair winds - meaning down wind.