28 October, 2006

Our last blog finished with us arriving in Cairns. We ended up staying for three and a half weeks – a little longer than we intended……. – but in saying that, Cairns was a pretty nice place to spend a bit of time.

When we got into the marina in Cairns we had Kiwis for neighbours – Brendan, Di and their two kids Sophie and Finn from Mangawhai. Like us, they are just starting out on the ‘cruising life’. Through them we met yet more Kiwis, Phil and Kate and their two girls. The Aussies can’t get rid of us!

The day we arrived we got told of the great fruit and vegie markets that Cairns has every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We thought we should go and check them out …… Sure enough, the markets were great, with everything being pretty reasonably priced and fresher than the supermarkets. The bargain hunters arrive at one o’clock on Sunday afto (an hour before close) to get everything at super-reduced rates! As well as the usual fruit and vegies, the markets had lots of fresh herbs, and tropical fruits. Here I am having a browse around the stands, working out what to buy to whip up my culinary delights for the rest of the week.

We spent two weeks in the marina, as the fridge starting playing up; we thought it might require a major effort to fix it. After much gnashing of teeth, two visits from a ‘fridge expert’, and work from Shane to effect minor repairs, we got the fridge sorted. Fingers crossed ………..

Once that was done, we could set about enjoying our time in Cairns. I managed to get motivated and fit in about three runs; we spent quite a bit of time drinking lattes and doing stuff on the ‘net’; we even got to the movies twice; and went to a great pub to watch the Air NZ Cup (rugby) final, and the two first Tri-Nations league games on a big outdoor screen – and after the results of all three we won’t talk any more on that subject!

The waterfront in Cairns has been done up really nicely. The stretch along the beach is called ‘The Strand’ – there are lots of open park areas, shops and cafes, and a great pool complex, which is packed most days. We used to take our books and lie in the sun and read, and it was real easy to then just jump in the pool and cool off. Note the lovely ‘fish sculptures’ at the far end of the pool.

The reason that they have such nice pool complexes at some of the beaches in far north Queensland, is that a lot of the beaches in the main cities aren’t up to much. (Plus there are the additional problems of ‘stinger’ jellyfish and crocodiles). The ‘beach’ along the Cairns waterfront…….

See what I mean! It is just one vast expanse of boggy mud. What you see is mud - there is no water for about one kilometre, until high tide comes in. We saw a guy walking in the mud one day – heaven knows why – and with each slow step he took he was up to his knees in mud – yuck!

Most of the time in Cairns it was unusually windy, even though it was still about 29 degrees. We also got quite a bit of rain. The winds became a real nuisance, they were still blowing from the S to SE, and we needed them to change to the north so we could start sailing south.

Before we all moved out of the marina, we decided we should have a Kiwi BBQ. True to form for a Kiwi barbie, it started to rain just as we were about to start cooking. Luckily most of the BBQs they have in the parks here are under cover! We had a good night ……

As you aren’t allowed alcohol (given we were in a public area) we had to get a little cunning to enjoy an ale or wine with dinner – let’s just say the water in Shane’s pump bottle was chardonnay-coloured!! All our years of training at the Wellington Sevens paid off!!

We decided we had to start heading south, so made plans to leave last Sunday (after having watched the league the night before). We left Cairns late afternoon, knowing that we would be going into the winds and that they were expected to be between 25-30 knots. The trip was to be my first proper overnight passage, so I was a little apprehensive – two hour watches during the night, being in the dark and not being able to see rocks, reefs and other boats made me a little angsy.

It was not a pleasant night…... The winds got up to 45 knots, waves were constantly breaking over the bow of the yacht, and I was feeling a little on the ‘green’ side. I managed the two-hour watches, but only just. Each time I moved I felt queasy, and had to yell to Shane at one stage to get enzwell’s equivalent of airplane sick bags – white plastic supermarket bags, double bagged in case there were any holes! They weren’t actually needed, but I came close….. After 18 hours at sea, we got to Mourilyan Harbour – a small commercial port with a calm safe anchorage. I was extremely happy to get there and get out of the wind. When we arrived, I found I obviously hadn’t crossed my fingers hard enough – the fridge had packed up again. This time it was a bearing in the motor – and a bearing on a ten year old 12 volt motor from the USA isn’t the sort of thing you find in a kiosk at a small commercial port where all they do is load sugar on big ships …. So we spent the next two days frantically eating everything in the fridge and freezer. After two nights at Mourilyan, the winds had abated, and we could make the next overnight trip and get to Townsville. To say I wasn’t looking forward to the trip (given the experience of getting to Mourilyan) would be an understatement. But I needn’t have been worried, as the winds were a lot lighter, and it was a pretty good trip. As a bonus, Shane got the TV working, and I spent my two hours off (when I wasn’t sleeping) watching TV. Aren’t reruns of MASH and Blue Heelers great! It made the time pass by really fast. We got to Townsville on Thursday morning, after 25 hours at sea, and got straight on to getting the fridge sorted.

It was good to know I could manage fine with an overnight trip. Although we have been cruising for nearly four months now, we had only been doing day trips, and we will certainly need to do overnight trips, as well as passages of several days, in the next few months, so it was good to get the first ‘overnighter’ under my belt.

We’re currently at the marina at Townsville, and with a bit of ‘downtime’, Shane went out yesterday morning and fitted in a well-deserved game of golf. He enjoyed it, but managed to come back with two less balls in his golf bag. The fridge is still proving to be a bit of a problem, but as I type this we have our toes crossed as well as our fingers that it is finally going to work properly.

We’re going to watch the league tonight with Pete and Viv (remember them from Shane’s “it’s a small world segment” a couple of blogs ago) and then we’ll head off tomorrow morning. It should take us two days to get down to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. We want to get a few longish trips in to knock off a few miles in our trek down to Brisbane. As well Elton John’s concert at the end of November, we’ve also got tickets to Cirque de Soleil’s latest show, Varekai. Quite a few cruisers are starting to head south now, so I’m sure we’ll bump into lots of familiar boats and faces along the way. All we need now is for the northerlies to arrive.

Carry on reading for another segment of the blog……..

Heather and Shane Posted by Picasa
28 October 2006

I had too much to write this time, plus we can only get four photos in per blog article, so here’s what we did one day we were in Cairns.

We decided to get a rental car for the day. I was keen to see and learn a bit of the Aboriginal culture, and Shane wanted to check out the crocodiles. Of course, we picked the rainiest day that we were in Cairns.

First up was Tjapukai, (pronounced Jab-u-Kai, and they say Maori is hard!) Aboriginal Cultural Park, which is in the Barron Gorge about 20 minutes north of Cairns. The Barron Gorge area is the traditional home of the Tjapukai people. A bit like NZ with it’s different Maori tribes being associated with specific areas, the many aboriginal tribes are much the same.

The park has five theatres where we learnt the history of the people, there were song and dance performances, boomerang and spear throwing demos, and didgeridoo playing. Shane was very disappointed as due to the rain, the boomerang throwing was cancelled.

Shane thought the park was average, but I found parts of it great, particularly the skills involved with playing the didgeridoo.

Next up we were off to Cairns Tropical Zoo just up the road.

Not long after we got there, it was “have your photo taken with a koala time”. So here we are, Shane and I, with Tilly the koala.

Isn’t she cute??!! Koalas sleep for 18-20 hours per day (I think I want to come back as a koala in my next life!!). Koalas are amazing in how they manage to stay sleeping in the branches of a tree, without falling out. They have very strong front paws, but their body and back paws are very weak. They also have very poor eyesight and rely on their strong sense of smell to work out if the eucalyptus leaves that they are near are the right ones to eat. There are many varieties of eucalyptus leaf, and only a few are on a koala’s diet. The zoo had recently had a few mother koalas give birth; the little baby koalas were really really cute…..

Part of the reason Shane was keen to go to the zoo was to see a crocodile or two. We thought it best to see them at the zoo first, rather than our initiation to them being a visit on or near ‘enzwell’. Well, we saw a few crocs at the zoo all right……

As well as the ones in the photo, there were some extra huge crocs in another enclosure. The scary part is that when they are under water, you are lucky if you can see their eyes and bridge of their nose, so you have absolutely no idea of the size of them. I did learn though that crocs are relatively slow over land – compared with their speed through the water – so I better start work on my 100 metre sprints.

And of course, what would a visit to an Aussie zoo be without a snake or three. The zookeeper brought out a few pillowcases at the start of his demo, and when they started wriggling it wasn’t too hard to figure out what was inside. Most of them he touched, but with this little sucker he used a pole with a hook at the end.

One bite from this baby and it would be all over within five minutes. I made a mental note to pay a bit more attention to things at ground level the next time I’m walking near any long grass…

After the zoo, we drove on up to Port Douglas, as Shane hadn’t been there before. We had the obligatory wander around the shops, dinner at the pub, before we headed back to Cairns after a pretty full-on day.

S and H Posted by Picasa

05 October, 2006

OK, get yourself comfortable ‘cause it’s been a while and we’ve covered some ground, or sea, since then.

When last we spoke we were in Townsville and having some drama with water not being on the outside. All in all though it went well, one less area to worry about and we had a good dodger made which gives us protection in the cockpit from the wind when at anchor and hell there’s been some wind. I don’t think we have had more than a couple of days with less than 25 knots. At least it calms done in the evening so we can sleep in some comfort and there is no wind chill factor like Welly. From Townsville we went to Magnetic Island, about 2 hours sail from Townville, a bit like going to Waiheke in Auckland I suppose. This was probably one of our favourite stays. Really chilled feel to the place and the bay we anchored in was very protected from the wind, had a couple of good pubs and cafes. There was also the unofficial Horseshoe Bay Yacht Club, which is one of the shelters set up for getting out of the sun and having BBQ’s etc. Lots of yachts leave a wee plaque as a record of their visit there. So we are now members of the Horseshoe Bay Yacht Club. (OK it might be a bit hard to see, we are top left)

We also met another great couple there, Les and Jax, both Japanese Hawaiians who most recently lived in Whangarei for about 14 years I think. Again, great people with lots of good advice, interesting history and Jax was one mean cook. Magnetic had some lovely walks to more secluded bays, one of which was clothing optional. On the day we went, Sunday, they had taken the option to wear clothes as I think they were mostly day-trippers from Townsville.

From there to Orpheus Island, pretty ho hum, then across the ways to go up the Hinchinbrook channel. At the entrance is the longest sugar wharf in the world with a loading platform at the end. And it is long!!! Over three miles long and it dips two metres in the middle to take account of the curvature of the earth. The problem around here is that the water can be shallow for miles, often being under 10 metres deep over two miles from shore, hence very long loading platforms for coal, sugar etc. Anyway the Hinchinbrook channel was beautiful, a mixture of scenery like the canals in France at one end and at the other, a bit like NZ mountain scenery.

Where we decided to anchor for the night was near the northern end, and we had to go over a bit of a sand bank to get there, necessitating taking a very wide sweep……….oopps, not wide enough. We had a wee rest for half an hour while the tide came in and lifted us up a bit more so we could motor off backwards. The Admiral was not happy. Sorry about that boss. Very scenic though and as we were in mangrove country we decide to try our crab pots. A bit of a story to that but suffice to say…….yum, yum. Our first crab.

Then it was off to Dunk Island. They have a very nice resort there, which is even nicer since Cyclone Larry ripped through the place and they had to completely rebuild the dining, bar area. Supposedly off limits unless you are a guest but we got gussied up a bit and went in at night, well, the NRL semis were on and we had to watch it somewhere. Cyclone Larry really did tear this area apart. Lots of damage still apparent all the way up the coast, none more so than in Innisfail where they took a direct hit. Still lots of buildings without roofs and windows.

Lots of the vegetation looks very bare and is just starting to regrow. It also made the sea bottom change in lots of places especially at openings to river mouths, sometimes washing away, sometimes filling in. Leaving Innisfail, which is just up a river, we scraped the bottom, following the channel and at high tide! Innisfail was another cool little town though and when it’s all fixed up it will be better then new, and when they grow their bananas again, the price may come back from $10 a kilo !!!!!!

So a quick stop at Fitzroy Island (yawn) very rocky anchorage due to wind swell sweeping around the corner, and now we are at Cairns. Another great city with lots happening for the tourists, backpackers and Asian students. Stuff going on in every bar every night, you know, toad racing, wet T shirt comps, live music, outdoor movies at the pub, cheap pizza, the usual things. So we will be here for a couple of weeks doing a bit more on the boat, like rebuilding the fridge/freezer box and the rust, and lattes, walks and chilling out. Presently parked up beside more Kiwis? They’re everywhere! Nice folks though with two young kids they are home schooling, surprising how much of that going on. Great life for the kids, well it must be ‘cause it’s a great life for us.

Till later.

Shane and Heather. Posted by Picasa