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.