Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gold Coast City Marina

Since the plan is to return to the US for the winter, our marina of choice was the Gold Coast City Marina.  This Marina is actually a City.  It covers probably 40 acres and is a real working boatyard.  There are buildings as big as airplane hangers where boats are being built, repaired, refurbished, painted, and welded.


Oscar drove us down from Brisbane (40 min) and we negotiated a good price for both Zenitude and Tortuguita to stay on the hard until April.

We arrived and had a nice slip in the marina to stay in to prepare the boat for haul out.  The facilities are nice, clean, and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.  The following weekend they were having a "Boat Expo".  Kind of like a Boat Show but fewer boats and more variety.  Living right in the middle of this event gave us plenty of time so see all the vendors and specials.

We hauled on November 6th, finished packing things up and left on Quantas out of Brisbane for the US on November 10th.  We didn't realize there was a holiday that weekend but we ended up spending 2 days in Phoenix waiting for the Veterans Day travel to subside.  What a long trip, but nice to be home.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bumming with the Bums in Bums Bay

After 4 days in the Rivergate Marina the weather looked good to start heading to the Gold Coast.  We left on the outgoing tide of the Brisbane River with Zenitude following.  It seems that after a had blow, the winds don't have anything left so we motored 30 miles down the lower Moreton Bay. The southern part is not really a bay but more like a river delta except made of mangroves.  We anchored for the night and continued the rest of the way the following day.

Bum's Bay and the Queensland Gold Coast
Zenitude headed up the Coomera River to the Gold Coast City Marina and we kept heading south.  We are anchored in a man-made hole called Bum's Bay. It was Sunday and the Gold Coast 600 motorcar race was going on so the bay was packed full of Aussie party boats.  There is supposedly a 7 day limit to stay here but there are squatters that look like they have been here for years.  Some of these things aren't even boats.  There is even a tent pitched on a platform on 55 gallon drums.
A Packed Full Bum's Bay

We're going to get the bikes out and explore town tomorrow and head up to the Marina/Haul Out at the end of the week.  They have a boat show/vendor expo this weekend and it will be nice to see what deals they have.  We'll need 4-5 days to prep Tortuguita and then be heading home.  Hope to see you then.
Cheers, Dave and Booker

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Land of Oz

The day after we arrived in Australia, the weather took a turn for the worse.  Weather windows don’t last forever and it was nice to be in a marina slip when the High Wind and Sea Warnings were being broadcast.

Jellyfish in Moreton Bay
The Rivergate Marina is 6 miles up the Brisbane River fairly close to town.  It would have been a nice place to stay except for the $90/day price tag and that it is located in an industrial area. 

Oscar had been at the marina since his arrival from New Caledonia 4 days prior.  He had a rental car and took us to reprovision at the supermarket since we had eaten everything on the boat in anticipation of Customs and Quarantine taking it anyway.  I also bought an automotive battery charger and extension cable so that Tortuguita’s batteries could be charged from shore power.  Australia has 220 volt/50 cycle power.  Our US Charger/Inverter is 100 volt/60 cycle so even though the Aussie auto charger is only 20 Amps, compared to our 100 Amp US charger, that should be good enough when plugged in full time.

Australia is like the US.  1st world in all aspects.  Roads, infrastructure, shopping, and communication are just like the US.  Also, just like the US, there is no Australian culture.  Just like the US, we have no American Culture.  After experiencing so many traditional lifestyles crossing the South Pacific, we very much miss that.

Everything is expensive here.  Even more expensive than French Polynesia.  The supermarkets are well stocked and Booker did a good job looking for values.  A sandwich will cost $10, burger and fries $15, a beer $8, cup of coffee $5, and a dinner buffet $50.  Surprisingly, the Australian wine prices were of good value.  A bottle of nice white in the Bottle Shop will cost $7-$10.  They make good money here.  They have to!  We are looking forward to US prices again.

We will be leaving for the Gold Coast on Saturday.  Oscar will be single handing ZENITUDE so he will follow us through the winding rivers to make his navigation job easier.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Perfect Passage

Since Mexico, we have spent about 80 days sailing.  We are constantly watching the weather to find the next time period that would give us a safe and comfortable sail to our next destination.  Sometimes we’ve had to wait a week, other times, three weeks for this window of opportunity.

There is no such thing, at least so far, as the perfect weather window.  The models do not forecast very well past 3 days and you sometimes have to deal with what Mother Nature throws at you.  When evaluating the weather windows, I am willing to accept mostly good, some bad, but no ugly in the forecast.  You do not launch out knowing that you will hit bad weather.  That happens enough on it’s own.  The weather in the S. Pacific has been rough and people we have met have said this year is worse than any other.  It is not even an El Nino year.

Spinnaker and Main together
The latitudes between New Caledonia and Australia are not in the trade wind region like most of our trip.  Weather in the Coral Sea and south is determined by High and Low pressure areas and mostly Cold fronts pushing up from the high latitudes.  The Southern Ocean is where most of the weather is generated and the storms there have been causing a southerly component in the waves our entire time in the S. Pacific.

We had beam seas from Fiji and it was not comfortable but safe.  We wanted east wind and east swell since the heading to Brisbane was to the southwest.  Getting hit by waves from behind is better than getting hit from the side or front.

A beautiful day under spinnaker
Plenty of ships approaching Brisbane
Well, somehow the stars all aligned and we had the best weather ever in 8 years for a passage.  The only bad part was the first 18 hours when the seas were 10 feet with a primary swell on the beam and secondary wind waves from behind.  For the next 5 days we had east wind and east swell.  The winds were a perfect 15-20 knots except for an 18 hour period of light winds when we had to motor. There were no fronts or troughs to cross, no squalls, and not even any rain.   We even had to slow down a little to not arrive at the Moreton Bay Channel before sunrise but that also coincided with low tide and the changing tide gave us a nice push down toward and in to the Brisbane River.  We pulled up to the gated Quarantine Dock at the Rivergate Marina.  Customs/Immigration and Quarantine showed up within 30 minutes and we were cleared in by lunch.

We could not have asked for a better passage to finish up the South Pacific.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New Caledonia

We made it to 'New Cal' in 5 days.  We were helped by 4 knots of current that was flowing in to the Havannah Pass.  The sun was setting and we still had 6 hours to go to Noumea so we picked up a mooring in quiet little Majic Bay and continued the next day.  Our friend Oscar, on ZENITUDE, was waiting for us when we came in to Marina Port Moselle.  He arranged for us to get a slip when all the other boats had to anchor out.  We hadn’t seen Oscar since Key West in Jan 2010 so it was a nice reunion.  He walked us through the clearing in process and we spent a lot of time with Oscar touring around, drinking great French red wine and eating smelly French cheeses.  The French really do know how to enjoy life.

New Caledonia was supposedly the setting for McHale’s Navy.  Not.  This place is nothing like what I expected because of that TV show.  It is a huge mountainous vegetated island.  Noumea has the feel of French St. Maarten only 10 times as big.  There is incredible wealth here because of the mining operations and the prices are just as incredible.  The lunch salad bar by the marina was $50 US for both of us.   The fruit and vegetable market was a convenient 100 meters from the marina.  Prices were like French Polynesia, expensive.

There is a large Melanesian population in New Cal but they seem to be living very much poverty level.  They don’t seem to have a cultural identity like the Fijians or Samoans so have gravitated toward Rastafarian.  Maybe the loss of culture was part of the French colonization process.  The French people here are the ones with the wealth and culture.  Just an observation.

Musket Cove

A Low was coming down from the tropics and it looked like heavy rain and winds were coming to Fiji so we headed a day early to Mololo Island where the Musket Cove Marina and Yacht Club is located.  They just finished up the 30th Annual Regatta the day before we arrived.  Musket Cove is a great place.  Lifetime Membership is $3 US but you must have sailed there from somewhere outside of Fiji.  We are member numbers 16,181 and 16,182.  Probably the largest Yacht Club membership in the world. This allows us to receive reciprocal privileges from other Yacht Clubs throughout the world.  Much cheaper than keeping a membership in Harvey Cedars for $1000 per year. We will need this in Australia.

We were on a mooring with LIGHTSPEED and CYNERGY nearby.
Every night the staff stocks a barbeque area with wood and everyone is welcome to bring and cook their own food or you can buy pre-made packs that you then cook on the grills.  It is a great idea and makes a wonderful time to meet others and socialize.  We made use of this every night, even the couple of nights that we had rain.

Initially we weren’t too concerned about the America’s Cup race.  However, every day when the race was on, the management set up an internet video feed to a big screen in the bar.  Even though it looked like the US was getting their butts kicked, we still went and watched.  Out of the 100+ people watching, almost all were Kiwis and Aussies.  There were probably 5 Americans in the whole place.  Well, after the Americans started to win, there were a lot of quiet pissed off people in that room.  I think they all are still in shock that they got beaten so badly.  They take their sailing very seriously down under.  We delayed our departure from Fiji so we could watch the final race and then sailed to Lautoka to clear out.  ELFRUN had been waiting there for 2 weeks so we joined up with them for the formalities.

We left Lautoka to anchor for the night behind the Cloudbreak Reef where there is one of the best surf spots in the world.  There is a floating restaurant called Cloud 9 where we were going to spend the remainder of our Fiji Dollars.  The wind was whooping and it wouldn’t have been a good night so we went back to Musket Cove with ELFRUN for another barbeque dinner.

We left at sunrise for the 700 mile trip to New Caledonia.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sevusevu 101

Half Kilo of Yaquona Kava
Sevusevu is a Fijian tradition thousands of years old.  The Fijians were ferocious and cannibals long ago.  When a visitor from another village came to visit, they presented a gift of Yaqona (Kava Root) to the chief.  If the chief accepted this, you were welcomed into the community for the duration of your stay.  If the chief did not accept your sevusevu, you were probably eaten.  Captain Bligh, after being set into a lifeboat by his mutineers, sailed through the waters of Fiji but never touched land and kept on going for fear of the Feegees.  He probably should have brought some Yanqona.

Yaquona is sold in the markets of the large cities.  We bought 4 half kilo bundles.  You do not show up and anchor in front of a village without presenting Sevusevu.  It would be like someone pitching a tent on your front yard in the US. 

Before you do anything, you go to the village, find the headman, called the Turaga ni Koro.  He is your representative.  You must be well dressed which in Fiji means wearing Sarongs and the women must have their sholders covered.  You tell him your story about where you are from and why you want to be at his village.  He then takes you to where the chief is.  He may be at his house but could be anywhere.  The chief will be sitting on a mat and already know you are coming.  You must not have your hat or sunglasses on anywhere around the chief.  It works best if your Turanga talks the chief’s representive.  In Yadua, the Turanga ni Koro had a stroke so wasn’t able to represent us, and in Soso, they only had a stand-in chief.  So we just went along with whatever.  After all, we weren’t going to be eaten.

When you go into wherever the chief is, you take off your shoes outside, crawl to him on your knees and place the bundle of Yaqona in front of him.  By placing it on the floor, this is to give him the option of accepting or rejecting it.  Your Turanga will tell your story.  The chief will clap three times which means “I am about to speak, please listen”, then place his hands on the bundle, recite the traditional monologue that has always been said for Sevusevu, and clap some more.  You will clap also and that’s it.  He will welcome you to the community.

This clapping thing is very important.  A clap is called a Cobo, pronounces Thombo.  It is a deep, loud, cupped hand clap.

If you are fortunate, the drinking of the Kava will follow.  The chiefs herald will have a village boy, the mixer, cut and grind the Kava root in a steel mortar and pestal. When it is to the chiefs satisfaction, the herald puts it in a silk cloth and squeezes water through it in a large bowl until it is acceptable to the chief.  Kava is a mild sedative and anesthetic.  It numbs your lips when you drink it and you may get a mild buzz.  The Fijians live to drink this stuff.  They can not handle alcohol so it is best.

It tastes like dirt and dishwater and is served in a coconut or wooden cup.  The mixer fills the cup and gives it to the chief.  He cobos once, takes the cup and chugs it down completely.  Then he and everybody cobo’s three times.  The cup is then refilled and the mixer presents it to the next person in order of seniority (importance).  They cobo once, drink, and cobo three times, and so on.