Saturday, September 25, 2010

I've finished the dreaded Dinghy cover!!!!!!

After so much longer than ever anticipated, I've finally finished sewing together our custom-made dinghy cover for our inflatable dinghy!!! 
Hand sewing the tricky bits
Now we just need to wait for some non-rainy weather to glue on the velcro etc. to the actual dinghy. My part is all done now though! :D It feels good to have accomplished something so tricky. I know for sure that I never want to be an upholsterer - it's too hard! 

Next up, I've got a long (growing) list of things to sew that will help make our home more livable - particularly as it heats up here in northern QLD!

All done!!!

Settling into Townsville

The 'duckpond' outside Townsville isn't a very good anchorage. It's very shallow, muddy, is adjacent to the major (smelly & noisy) port and doesn't have anywhere easy to access the shore. We tried a few different approaches - each of which involved a long, wet dinghy trip and then a slightly dodgy tie-up before a long, hot walk into town.

So, we finally caved in and bought comprehensive insurance *ouch*.
Quite a few hundred dollars later.... we are now legally OK to enter marinas up here. But we still weren't quite sure if we would succumb to the expensive luxury or continue to anchor (for free)...

A few hours spent researching all of the marinas, their prices, pros and cons left us still wondering what to do! The cheapest option is to stay in Hinchinbrook marina... but there's not much there apart from a resort.
A quiet spot along The Strand

Still deliberating on what to do, I went ashore alone while Rene worked and I explored Townsville some more. After walking along 'The Strand', I fell in love with the place and within 24 hours we were tied up in berth E4 at the Breakwater Marina! We've paid for 3 months in advance (double *ouch*) as there is a discount for long-term rental. 

So. Suddenly, here we are! Settled (for the moment) in a town we'd never foreseen that we'd stay in. We didn't even make it to Cairns as we'd planned.
Rene hangin' at our new hood
So far Townsville has been pretty good! We met with some relatives at 'The Bucket' (an amazing free water playground). It was cool to connect with family we haven't had much to do with. The kids loved the boat after some initial confusion about how a boat could also be a home!
Rene running in to get the 'bucket' dumped on him!

We helped a boat limp in from the Louisiaides which had a broken engine and a broken autopilot! Meeting people who had just survived a pretty intense situation was inspiring... I wish I was more resilient! 
Last night the marina had a party which raged on until 3am! It has been fun meeting all the locals and hearing their stories. 

Each morning I wake at dawn to the sounds of tropical birds flocking to the parkland adjacent to the marina. I have slept so soundly since coming here - the boat doesn't move at all in these protected waters. The amenities are fantastic and the showers are integral to my health and happiness as it is sooooooo hot already! Having unlimited power is also a treat as we can use our laptops and leave lights on at night without having to run the stinky generator! 

So... with 3 months (maybe more) planned for us to stay here, I've set the ball rolling for getting supply work and have started to think that I'd love a car again! Need to make some money before that can happen... our cruising budget is well and truly scraping the barrel!
View of the marina from the bird-filled park :D

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Can you identify this sound?

The unidentified sound file is now working! Please have a listen and let us know what you think it is?

This is our recording of the 'Alien Ducks' or 'USO' as we read online (Unidentified Submersed Objects). Can anyone help us out by telling us what creature/thing made this weird sound?

You can see why we were a little freaked out! This 'alien duck' sound was echoing throughout our steel-hulled boat each night we were anchored at Magnetic Island... any ideas? Please let us know!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Magnetic Alien Ducks

Magnetic Island turned out to have a few surprises in store for us.
Upon arrival, we were pleased to note that our compass stayed true - no one has been able to replicate Captain Cook's original magnetic variations which caused him to name it like this. We anchored in Horseshoe Bay because it is the most protected of all the bays on the island - not protected enough though... but we'll get to that later!
Magnetic Island made Rene stand upside down!
As we have become accustomed to, the beach here is different to all others we've seen so far. Sure, there's sand and water but it's different. The sand here is so thick that it is difficult to walk. We discovered that by walking in a horse's tracks it was easier. It's a bit wilder here - quite a few different types of life on the sea shore.
New and amazing forms of marine life.
Met some locals in an unusual way. The couple were pointing out a baby stonefish to their son. Always curious to know more about our deadly wildlife, I asked for a look too. Their (large) puppy found Rene's old straw hat irristable and ended up eating half of it, despite being held back by the owner. They told us that some yachties sit out the cyclones
here in Horseshoe Bay. I think they must have a deathwish or at least the ability to sleep whilst inside a washing machine! The wind picked up, as it was forecast to, and the swell kept rising. Our last night here was the worst. We weren't in any danger - it was just incredibly uncomfortable as the boat bounced its way over wave after wave. I think I managed to get about 30 minutes of actual sleep. My ribs and lower back ache today from tensing my muscles to try and stay in bed and not in the air or the floor!

Each night, the weird sound began again. It sounds like a swarm of alien ducks - all quacking under the water. Only, when you shine a torch down into the murky depths, there is nothing there... and then the sound stops! I have recorded this mysterious noise and, once I obtain the correct cords to transfer the sound to the laptop, will share it here to see if anyone has any leads as to what it is!

I spent a lot of time continuing to work on the never-ending dinghy cover. Two days are gone in a blur of blue plastic and frustration. We ended up having to sand back the needle holder on my Janome to fit the big needles that Nick gave us- working better now but still having issues with thread tension. The cover is nearing completion... which means (using the boat-work equation of normal time to do a job x at least 3 = actual time needed) that it may be finished next week sometime!
Fighting with the sewing machine in paradise.
Figuring out if the cover fits... again!
Rene was also busy. He has started working part time back at his old job over the internet. We are really glad that he's able to work online as it means that we can still live up here and continue to travel. I plan on picking up some supply work at local high schools and also doing many many boat jobs and looking into digital work too.
Rene hard at work!
And so, we escaped the mountainous swell of Magnetic Island to end up in the mud of Townsville. The only anchorage here is very shallow and our depth sounder was making a racket as we entered and settled into the mud. I'm looking longingly at the marina (showers!) but as we don't (yet) have comprehensive insurance, we are prohibited from
visiting it.

Townsville is the biggest town we've been to since Rockhampton over 2 months ago, so our list of things to do and buy is pretty substantial. My grog supply is down to one bottle of too-sweet wine that I can't bring myself to drink so a visit to "Uncle Dan's" is in order! We're also looking at replacing the boat batteries as power continues to pose a problem for us digital junkies! Lots to do.... including finishing the silly dinghy cover!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Paradise - Too Good To Be True

Yesterday we left Cape Bowling Green as the sun rose and proceeded to sail-drift our way towards Cape Cleveland in very light winds. Rene hauled up the Spinnaker for the first time. I think our maximum speed was 2.5knots (slow!) but we had fun anyway as you can see from the photos. 
Sailing under Spinnaker.

Ren takes a dip as we sail along.

Reading Lucas' guidebook.

Hot but happy on our way to Paradise...

Our sail turned out to be so slow that we changed our plan and headed in to anchor at Paradise Bay. It looked surreal - steep, rocky mountains reaching up out of the sea with a long orange beach below. Paradise Bay isn't marked as an anchorage and isn't mentioned in Alan Lucas' Cruising The Coral Coast (the guidebook everyone relies upon) but we decided to go ahead anyway because the winds are so light.
Proof that we anchored in paradise from Open CPN our free open source chart-plotting software.
Unknown footprints on the isolated beach..
We love exploring isolated beaches - this was no exception. There was an element of risk involved due to the evidence of wildlife that had been in the area. Covering the beach were dingo/dog prints and some tracks that we couldn't identify. Rene came upon a black snake and we saw a mangrove swamp that probably held crocodiles waiting for their next meal.

Paradise turned out to be too good to be true. The anchorage - though safe - was plagued with rolling swell all night. Neither of us slept well as the boat pitched about tossing us around. 

So we are now motoring onwards towards Magnetic Island which is just off Townsville where it will hopefully be more comfortable.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thank Your Mother For The Rabbits!!

A favourite saying of Bowen-based family friend, John Warby sums up our latest experiences nicely... thank your mother for the rabbits!!

At Double Cone island (where we spent the night anchored alone but for the very friendly mozzies) we went beach combing in the three rocky beaches and discovered all sorts of stuff. I found a plank (a family joke - as a kid I really wanted a plank for Christmas) and some rocks which strangely reminded me of people back home. Something about the combination of colours, patterns and textures. Rene found a perfectly useful lifering (worth about $100 new) and some fishing lures. We skinny-dipped in the sea (I was really brave and spent most of the time looking for imaginary jellyfish) to try and trick the swarm of sandflies into leaving us alone. It didn't work and we escaped back to the boat covered in bites.
Rock people

Life ring discovery
At Armit island we continued our beach combing ways but it had already been gone through and there wasn't anything useful left from the ship wreck. There were so many shoes washed up (at least 50) that I piled them all together into a shoe shrine next to a rock cairn that someone else had made before me. I wonder if others will add to the shoe pile? There was so much flotsam and jetsam here that we figured it must have been from the cyclone that hit Airlie beach back in March this year.

Anhinga under Jib and Mainsail on her way to Bowen
We left for Bowen at the same time that Nick and Jan from Yawarra 2 were leaving so they obligingly took some photos of us under sail (our first record of Anhinga sailing with us as the helm). In Bowen, family friends the Warby's helped us out so much because (as they kept telling us) 'we know what it's like' (to not have a car, washing machine, shower or space) and so they provided us with all of these things and more! John and Koffee Warby built their boat, Jantala (meaning 'home wherever you are' in Aboriginal language) in Brisbane and went cruising with Rene's parents 30 years ago. With their help, we were able to get the little outboard motor fixed (it turns out that all that was wrong with it was the off button had disintegrated), do a tonne of washing, stock up on food, get sparkly clean and cut out the pattern for our dinghy cover.
John, me, TT, Koffee, Jan and Nick on Yawarra 2
While in Bowen (famous for mangoes by the way) we first anchored off the boat harbour and as the trade winds picked up (as they always do this time of year) we began bucking about quite vigorously. Getting back to Anhinga in our little dinghy resulted in us and everything we were carrying getting completely drenched. A funny sight – us washing and wiping up our freshly bought groceries in the cockpit! Anchoring around at Greys Bay was much nicer and provided Rene with a bounty of fresh coconuts – his new fave snack food.
Anhinga sail-drifting to Cape Upstart

We eventually left Bowen for Cape Upstart and again, Yawarra 2 overtook us and snapped some more photos. Ren wishes our sails were fuller. If only we could somehow get a picture (from google?) of us as we are sailing right now on our way to Cape Bowling Green. We have four sails out – all full, it's a gorgeous day. Warm, sunny, surrounded by sparkling green water with the wind pushing us along. Very peaceful.
Yawarra 2 anchored at Cape Upstart
Nick helped us out (again!) last night. I was complaining about how hot it has been – how it's only September and we are sweating like it's the middle of summer in our little aft cabin (bedroom). Nick got a glazed look in his eyes and said that he recalled Max and Gloria (the builders and original owners of Anhinga who cruising through Asia and Micronesia with Nick and Jan) having the bedroom hatch set so that it faced forwards – not backwards. The 'toe-stubbers' on deck turned out to be the steel for the hatch to be secured from the opposite side so that it now faces forwards – HOORAH! Last night I was actually a bit chilly as the wind flew right down through the hatch and onto me as I slept. I may just be able to survive the tropical summer after all!

Covering Up

Beginning - at this point I thought it would only take 2 hours!
My list of things to sew is still a whole page long so I thought it was time to stop procrastinating and start sewing! The most challenging job is to cover our inflatable dinghy. It is suffering from the sun and salt - a cover will extend its life for much longer! I found a website that explained how to go about making a cover... 

First, we hauled the dinghy up the boat ramp in Bowen and set it in the shade of a picnic table. After washing it down, we started taping together a paper pattern using our old marine park maps. This seemingly simple act turned out to be quite fiddly and difficult. We worked at making the pattern for over 8 hours. 

People came and went - some just stared, others thought we were making a protest boat using all of the green zone maps and some thought we were making a paper mache boat! 
I was over the moon when a bunch of people who'd been water skiing took pity on us and gave us some of their beers at sunset :D 

Marking out the patterns.
The next day, our amazingly generous friends let us use their verandah to set out the pattern and cut it out. Of course, this seemingly simple job took hours longer than expected as we hit unforeseen snags. I really wish we'd had Rene's mum with us as she's a sewing queen!   

Another whole day on this task. By sunset, I had 5 pieces of ripstock material marked, cut and ready to be sewn. 

Part of the pattern monster...
The next step is to actually sew the pieces together. The thread I'm using is a very thick polyester that keeps getting snagged in my needle. Last night Nick from Yawarra 2 gave me some larger needles so I'm hoping that will make a difference when I come to complete this mammoth task! 

A simple success story.
On another note, I covered our derelict cockpit cushions easily - making them as good as new! The salt and sun really does eat away at everything out here. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

A New Name

In order to leave Australia, we need to have the boat Australian registered. There are about half a dozen or so forms to fill in and one of them has got us thinking... this is an opportunity to change Anhinga's name. 

She was originally named after the type of cormorant (or 'Snakebird') that is native to the warmer parts of America. This bird doesn't contain any water-repelling oil in its feathers and so, when in the water, sinks down underneath the surface, only leaving its neck out. Once out of the water, the Anhinga finds somewhere to stand and hang out its wings to dry like a cormorant (pictured). 

I like that the boat is named after a bird but the word itself is difficult for people to understand - particularly over the radio! So, we have been thinking about what she could possibly be named instead.

It is difficult to choose a name as many of the obvious good choices are already taken and no two boats can share the exact same name. We both really like 'Laputa' after Laputa: Castle In The Sky by Studio Ghibli / Gullivers Travels. But unfortunately, it means 'the whore' in Spanish!!! Then we thought of Nausicaa, a spunky nature loving princess from another Ghibli classic. Other lead Ghibli females were disqualified: Chihiro (our sister in law!), Mononoke (too long maybe).

The names that are currently at the top of our list are:
Amidala or Padme (princess from Star Wars)
Zelda (princess of wisdom in Nintendo game of same name)
Linka (a planeteer with the power of wind from Captain Planet (one of Cerae's fav cartoons), also appealing because it sounds a bit like Link, the protagonist in the Zelda game)

Any further suggestions or votes for which is preferable? 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Making Plans and Changing Them

A friend of mine once told me that she thought one of the meanings of life was 'making plans and changing them'. For us, this observation has rung very true over the past week. 

We initially planned to head straight up to Singapore, but our leisurely pace, in conjunction with the paperwork to do, means we'd be a little too late for the weather window which is July - October. Searching for other plans, we noticed a route "Sydney to Hong Kong", north of PNG and the Phillipines in a book from the 70s that was inherited with the boat. The weather would be OK, if we managed to get going November at the latest. The only problem is we're already a little too far north to easily get on track out to the Solomons. Also, there are a number of long (10-15 day) passages which may be a little too much too soon, and a number of important upgrades to do on the boat.
An example of one of the weather maps we're loooking at. July - September is good for getting up through Torres straight to Hong Kong with those strong SE winds through Indonesia.
December is not so good - wind in the opposite direction. Very strong winds near Hong Kong. However, the NE trades in Micronesia could have been used if we went for the Solomon Island route.
After talking to Jan and Nick from Yawarra 2, we decided against. Currently, what we intend to do is to stay up in Northern QLD for the cyclone season (November - March). We hope to pick up some casual employment, save $ and work through the very long list of things to do! Then, around Easter next year, we plan to continue cruising up around the top of QLD and across to Darwin before heading up into Asia. We hope to end up in Hong Kong by this time next year to work and live for a while... After that, who knows! 

So, instead of heading north as we intended last week, we've stuck around Airlie Beach and now, Hook Island - still in the Whitsundays! (it's so beautiful here that it's proving quite difficult to leave). 

Rene spent 4 days balanced up the mizzen mast installing our wind generator. It works better than we first thought and has been providing us with some more (much needed) amps to help on cloudy days. We think Anhinga looks quite cool sporting her new windgen! 
Anhinga with her new look!

Rene working in 25+ knot winds!
We moved over from Airlie to Nara Inlet on Hook Island to be with Nick and Jan. After having arrived, I remembered that Rene's parents had written about their being here 30 odd years ago on their cruise from Brisbane to PNG. They spoke about how there was 'graffiti on a huge scale. Every yacht that ever comes to the Whitsundays paints its name here'. How times have changed (illegal now)! I was surprised to see that some of it still remains - though we couldn't see Thurloo anywhere so it has probably washed away after all of these years.  
Looking Back over Nara Inlet

Yachty Graffiti from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Some much older, more impressive art is also here in Nara. Inside a cave here is some art painted by the Ngaro people who were the original inhabitants of this region. This is the first time I've seen real cave paintings - so I'm incredibly happy that we ended up sticking around. 

Cave Art in Nara Inlet by the Ngaro People.