Monday, November 22, 2010

List Obsession + Homesick for Friends & Family

Lists lists lists lists lists!
I'll admit it - I have an obsession with making, keeping and crossing off lists. This habit is great in some ways - I'm generally really organised and know where everything is. However, there is a darker side to the list keeper - that horrid, ugly thing that lurks behind me even while on holiday... stress! 

Braving the engine room.
One job I never planned on doing was cleaning out and organising the engine room - a room I have always tried to avoid. It's dirty, hot, squishy and full of weird tools, pipes, spares and machinery. Now, I love Rene but he's not a very organised man - the engine room has never been sorted through. When we bought the boat 3 and a half years ago, the engine room shelves were brimming with all sorts of mysterious things. All that has happened in the time since then is that Rene has added to the mystery and mess by piling more things into the dim depths. Duty called - my super power was needed! Like all super heroes, I had my moments of self doubt 'why me?', 'I'm not that good', etc. but, with persistence, I survived and the engine room is now clean(er), is rid of old/broken things and is organised (for now!). While pulling out all manner of bizarre and curious things, I learnt more about tools and oil and grease and things.. though not enough to get back in there in a hurry!

Another job completed this past week has been scanning the 'Ships Manual'. Originally written by Max, (the builder of Anhinga back in 1983) the years of use, sea air and sunlight were taking toll on the book - so now we have a digital copy. It's such an impressive feat - 70 pages of details on how to troubleshoot and care for the boat in fantastic detail. The manual has helped us so many times to figure out how to fix or maintain various parts of the ship. 

'Brrr - I love air conditioning!'
The wet season seems to have arrived here in Townsville. With the torrential rain comes increased humidity - especially when all the portholes and hatches have to be closed (still, less humid than having them open!). We managed to buy a really cheap second-hand air conditioner and this week we fired it up. I sewed a cover (making the dinghy cover has given me skills!) so it can work efficiently inside one of our hatches. It is such a blessing to have a cool cabin - especially for Rene who works inside on his laptop and can't escape to the cold lands of shopping centres. 

Brewing up delicious chutneys..

It's 2 weeks since my sister and Tam left and I've been feeling a bit homesick. I miss all of my friends and family from down south. I really wish I could just go over to one of their places for a dinner, some wines and soul chats or games or music or whatever! I guess this is one of the downsides to travelling long-term. Only a few more weeks until I can visit!

I'm really enjoying cooking up chutneys for Christmas gifts this year. The most recent batch is soooo hot that just cutting up the chillies had my eyes watering like crazy. The boat smells amazing and I hope everyone enjoys them as much as I have loved making them.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Boat Jobs, Cyclone Preparation and Mango Madness

The list of boat jobs to do for November is slowly being whittled down. 
We finished double hose clamping all of the pipes that lie beneath the waterline inside the boat. I'm enjoying adding to my skills and am actually able to tell the difference between a nut, bolt and washer now (embarrassing for me, but I always used to confuse them!). 
Rene changed the oil in the engine - he managed to keep both the bilges and himself a little cleaner than last time (this job has to be done every 150 engine hours so Rene is getting practice!). I finally completed the application for Australian ship's registration - a lengthy and painstaking process involving about 10 different forms, certified documents and a hefty fee. Now we wait to see if I need to provide any further information before we get to carve our special Australian Rego number into the hull and fly the Aussie flag. This is a big hurdle as it means that we will legally be allowed to sail out of Australian waters now :) I also got the extension lead for our power tested and tagged - a hoop that the marina requires we jump through. And of course, all of the ongoing jobs continue (constant cleaning, rearranging, storing, packing and re-packing, buying and sorting). 

We attended the local cyclone information day at the Strand park. We spoke to as many officials as possible to try and absorb as much information as possible. We have discovered that preparation is key to survival. As we were walking home, we tossed around all manner of different ideas to try and stay safe. We even considered sailing all the way back to Brisbane (an 8 day sail if we don't stop and can average 4 knots) but we like it so much here in Townsville that once again, we have decided to stay. If a severe tropical cyclone does form in the ocean off the North East coast and it coincides with a very high tide, we plan to set off to Hinchinbrook Island to tie up securely in a mangrove creek. If a cyclone is forecast that isn't severe or that coincides with low tides, we will stay here in the marina - very securely tied on! Next year we might move up to Cairns where the mangrove creek is much closer to the marina. As always with cruising, nothing is certain - our plans could change once again and we could end up anywhere! I do like it here though. A gelati cafe has just opened across the park from the marina. The park itself is beautiful - full of massive old tropical trees and a pagoda to shelter from the rain. 

Mangoes here are either ridiculously cheap or free! This week at the markets, I bought a bucket full for $8 - including the bucket! I've been busy brewing up delicious chutneys to give to people for Christmas - all made from locally sourced, scrumptious ingredients!

Again I'm heartened by the sense of community amongst the yachties here in the marina. I've been struck by so many acts of kindness. Most recently, Les and Kath let us borrow their car to go and buy the oil filters we thought we had but didn't, Anna and Oli lent us their charts of Hinchinbrook and shared their years of local knowledge of the area. I've never had such generous, kind and friendly neighbours in all the 10 or so different places I have lived in since leaving home. Thank you!

This weekend we plan to motor/sail up to Hinchinbrook Island to suss out the area for potential cyclone anchorages. We figure it's a sensible idea to check it all out before things get scary (if they do, in fact get scary!). Today I'm gathering together a cyclone survival pack with essentials to take with us if we do have to evacuate the marina, I'm also cleaning out the engine room which hasn't had my organisation/cleaning ever as it is kind of a man's domain. So far I've discovered so many strange bits of machinery, weird oily stuff that stings my hands and storage space I never knew existed! As I write this, the smell of ripening mangoes wafts over me - ahhhh! yum!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
A few years ago, at Peats Ridge festival, I attended a meditation workshop during which the instructor spoke about how important gratitude is. He suggested that we practice being grateful of all of the positive, wonderful things in our lives rather than focusing on the negative, stressful or difficult things. I have really taken this approach on board (pun unintentional!) and find it so beneficial to live in the moment, grateful of all this life offers me. 

I'm so grateful for having such a loving, supportive, fun, crazy and harmonious family. I love everyone to bits and pieces! We are so grateful that Jez and Tam were able to spend another week with us and that my parents were able to fly up here to visit for a long weekend holiday. 
The party hats came out for our mini-reunion/b'day party!

We took the opportunity of extra crew to take a day sail around Magnetic Island - feeling the wind on our faces and the water moving beneath our hull was a reminder of how great it feels to sail. Not everyone felt as good as us though! Poor Mum and Jez felt pretty crook for much of the trip! We stopped over in Five Beaches Bay (I'm pretty sure we were anchored off Maude's Beach) for lunch. Jez and Tam dove off Anhinga and swam to shore. Everyone else took the sensible option of riding in our little (now blue) dinghy. Jez tried to catch us a fish but nothing was interested again.
We have found many fish swimming about here in the marina. There is a mammoth Barramundi that was attracted to the hundreds of tiny fish which were in turn attracted to a power boat with blue underwater lighting. Rene put his hand in the water to tickle it (apparently it's a tried and tested method) but chickened out when the fish saw him and licked its lips menacingly whilst flicking its large fins and tail.

Anhinga sailing towards Magnetic Island
We all had a beautiful time relaxing, exploring, swimming, eating, chatting, laughing and playing games. Tam had her birthday too so there was much chocolate and merriment all around! It was sad to send Mum and Dad home on the plane but we're so thrilled that they were able to take time off to visit and share in some of our experiences. 

Sewing replacement plastic into our spray dodger.
Jez and Tam stayed with us for a week and were a great help towards getting some of the jobs on the never-ending 'to do' list crossed off. The biggest help was that they sewed a new piece of plastic into our spray dodger (for those non-boaty people, it's similar in purpose to the windscreen of a car). The old plastic had been damaged when we'd had some welding done (another lesson learned there!) and for the past year we've had to peer over the top of the spray dodger rather than look through it. Tamsin became chief deck scrubber - she scrubbed away for days with rust buster to eradicate all of the rust dust which accumulated while we were at the slipway back in May. About half of the deck is now shining and clean :D Jez tried to help too but unfortunately after 5 minutes, had accidentally flicked rust buster into her eye! There was much cursing, crying and freaking out as the acid burnt into her retina. After a trip to the Emergency room, she had a pirate patch over one eye - and the next day, her eye was healed (phew!). She was hesitant to bust rust again and so became a great ship's cook, preparing loads of delicacies for us to munch on! 

While all this was going on, I had a blissful reunion with Boxy Lady, my old car, which I'd given to Jez in June (not realising at that time that we wouldn't be leaving Australia until mid 2011). Oh! How I love driving! All of the places that have taken me hours of sweaty walking and bussing were just a short 10 minute drive away! I raced about to all manner of places, buying supplies for the various jobs that need doing in the next couple of months. 

Cloudy Creek

Before the girls headed further south again, we took a day trip out to the Paluma - a beautiful tropical rainforest just an hour north of Townsville. We took the walk to Cloudy Creek which is crystal clear and very cold! I was struck by how many more critters there are in the rainforest in north QLD - I actually had to wear RID and flick leeches off my ankles regularly. It was at least 5 degrees cooler up in the rainforest - a welcome change to the oppressive heat of Townsville. The end to a perfect day was fish and chips on the beach - a great Australian tradition.  

Now everyone has gone and it's just Rene and I again. Rene is busy busy working at his laptop and I'm managing about 5 different boat projects simultaneously. Anhinga feels so quiet now that everyone has gone. We loved having everyone here with us and can't wait to see them all again for Christmas. It's raining every day now and there's talk everywhere about the cyclone season. I'm trying to stay positive about it all and not get lost in the fear of losing everything. I'm grateful to be living here in such a beautiful place with lovely neighbours in the marina. I'm grateful for having started Ashtanga yoga with a local class - it is like pilates but better! I'm grateful for my family and look forward to my brother and his girlfriend visiting us next month!

Sailbirds soaking up the rainforest energy.

Stinger Season Has Begun!

On the first of November, I was lucky enough to be hanging out with Mum, Dad, Jez, Tam and Ren on the Strand. We played Boules at the beach and watched the stinger nets go out - from now on, it's dangerous to go into the water! Mum and I were imagining all of the jellyfish congregating on the outer reefs, having meetings and planning who would attack where. So far though, the closest I've had to seeing a stinger is a plastic cup that was floating in the marina!!
Stinger nets being rolled out