Cruising the South Pacific with Tackless II
Tackless II, along with her two captains, Don and Gwen, cruise from Fiji to Australia
Sunday, April 1, 2012

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10 March 2009 -- What the 2Cs Have Been Doing with Themselves in Oz

Nearly a month has gone by without an update here from the Two Captains. You probably figure that life in Mooloolaba as we’ve depicted it was so good that we’ve just settled down into an uneventful retirement routine. To some extent that is/was true. Our long 10K walks along the beach were the highlight of the day, the rest spent primping the boat so that she would be beautiful should someone come by to look at her. We made some local friends who entertained us at their homes or on their boats, we faithfully caught the Wednesday night cruiser dinner and the Sunday morning market in Maroochydore, and we were connected to the world via broadband Internet on the dock. Given the economy, it made for a quietly attractive lifestyle. It could have gone on indefinitely.

However, a couple of things happened that interrupted the flow. First, our visas came due, and although we applied for extensions on schedule, weeks went by without hearing from immigration. We were uncomfortable with taking off camping to parts unknown until the visa issue was resolved, and so we lingered. Next, the weather took a less friendly turn with hot days and regular rain showers, making our tenting plan less inviting. Finally, our three month deal with the Wharf Marina came to an end. Because the plan was/is to get out camping, it dawned on us that it really didn’t make sense to sign up for another three months at the most expensive marina around. And the month by month price was even worse. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t regret a penny we spent at the Wharf, what with its great situation and nice services.

But Mooloolaba is an hour and a half north of both our broker in Deception Bay and the Brisbane airport into which fly most Australian boat buyers. If we weren’t going to be on the boat, it made sense to move her closer to the action, especially as we could save a couple hundred bucks a month.

And so it turned out that our run down from Wide Bay Bar to Mooloolaba was not our last cruise in Tackless II after all! On Monday February 16th, we motored out the channel and turned right to putter down the coast to Scarborough. It was a lovely day with gentle seas but not enough wind to sail, although we put the sail up in hopeful anticipation. The Queensland coast of beautiful beach after beautiful beach unrolled as we aimed for Caloundra Head in order to slip into Moreton Bay the back way as it were.

Moreton Bay, like Hervey Bay was off of Bundaberg, is a wedge of water trapped between an offshore island and the mainland. In Moreton Bay, however, great long bars of sand have built up across the mouth making the ships heading for the port at Brisbane stick to confined channels. We had several big ships catch us up and pass us by, so we were happy to hug the coast. Caloundra was a neat looking town crammed in the lee of the head with the unexpected crags of the Glasshouse Mountains rising in the distance. From Caloundra we followed the deserted sandy shore of Bribie Island, another National Park, rounded the corner at Skirmish Point, and squeezed into Deception Bay, where moments after we gave up and dropped the mainsail, a sailing breeze came up.

Our first impressions of Scarborough Marina back in November when our friends Whisper and Procyon were here did not compare well with Mooloolaba. However, giving it a second chance has come good. Our slip near the end of the main dock is much quieter than the one at the Wharf, (except when the fisherman are launching or retrieving their runabouts at the launch ramp right behind us.) It is less lit at night, which makes for better sleeping, and there is a nice roster of cruising friends and acquaintances around. Scarborough biggest negative is that it is a bit remote, but, since we now own a car, that has proved less of an issue.

Getting the car down from Mooloolaba was a bit of a chore, requiring several train and bus connections and a few hours travel. But since then we have made four or five runs back and forth to change storage lockers for one closer, and to follow up on various appointments we’d made up there.

Our morning walk, which we had thought would be the biggest sacrifice of the move, has actually been a non issue. The Queenslanders sure like their waterfront parks and Scarborough is no exception. Pleasant measured walkways lead from the marina, past playgrounds and a work-out station just like the one in Mooloolaba, through local neighborhoods to just about as far as you could want to go, and because Scarborough is a quieter residential area to Mooloolaba’s resort pulse, those sidewalks are relatively deserted. No more dodging on-comers! We even found a little neighborhood café run by a spry old Greek gentleman Dimitri, with whom we can pursue our coffee research.

Even our social life got off to a great start by getting in on a jazz concert in nearby Redcliffe where fellow cruiser John of Gingi sat in with his horn with a combo at a local RSL club (Retired Service League) which led to drinks with a local group of sailors at the Moreton Bay Boat Club. The Aussies dearly love their social clubs, whether it’s a surf club, a bowls club, a boat club, a sports club or whatever, all of which seem to have cheap booze, affordable meals and pokie machines (gambling is big here).

So I guess a little to our surprise we have really enjoyed being here! However, the one thing that has been a disappointment is that there has been almost no activity on the boat. Our broker has dropped by a number of times and she insists that our boat is generating more interest than any other listing. We see lots of boat shoppers roving the docks looking at boats for sale with the Marina’s in-house broker. And boats have been selling! It’s a puzzlement.

Because we are ready to sell! Don, of course, has been ready for months, but I have been dragging my feet, hoping, I guess, that Don would have a change of heart or that there would be some kind of new revelation. And perhaps there has been, in the guise of our plans for our future. In this economy, the spring feeding our cruising kitty has contracted and these two old captains can’t come home and just rove the country in our RV like we planned. We need to create positive cash flow, so Don has been researching opportunities since we’ve been here. And we have pretty much decided to go with the mobile espresso cafe business. Guess it’s all that coffee we drank in Mooloolaba’s cafes. We have actually started the process back in the States! It’ll be a new adventure.

We’ll tell you more about all that later, but having made the decision, we’ve made reservations. Yes, the Two Captains are returning to the US…..on one-way tickets. We will depart Brisbane on April 15, leaving Tackless II in the hands of the brokers. It will probably work out much better than way, without me and my emotional second thoughts clouding the cosmic synergy.

So, now, having left it to the eleventh hour, we are indeed going to take off for a quick look-see around the countryside. It won’t be the full-fledged campervan tour we had imagined, but a briefer sampling that will fuel our fantasies until we can come back here and do it right. We are taking off tomorrow with our friends Mike and Kathleen of Content, to follow their experienced lead and to pitch our squeaky new tent in the lee their campervan. We’ll try to update from the road.
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Sunday, January 11, 2009
New Australia Blog
If you have this Blog in your favorites, it's time to change it for Yes, we finally started a new Blog for Australia, and all the posts about our first months in Australia have been moved there.

Remember, too, that our beautiful Tackless II is for SALE. She will be going market officially here in Australia in a few weeks. follow the link to see all her specs.

Saturday, November 8, 2008
28 October – 6 November, 2008 – the Port2Port in Bundaberg
Our first week in Australia was dedicated almost wholly to the arrival festivities of the Bundaberg Cruising Yacht Club's annual Port2Port Rally. The BCYC was formed in 2000 specifically for the purpose of sponsoring this rally to attract Pacific cruising boats to the Port of Bundaberg, which is situated up the Burnett River off Hervey Bay in Queensland at 24*45.58S 152*23.28E. This year the rally drew some forty boats, departing from two ports in Vanuatu and two in New Caledonia.

Port Bundaberg is an enticing arrival port because, unlike many Australian ports whose approaches can be complicated by shifting river bars, the approach up the Burnett River, leading in from the protected waters of Hervey Bay, is manageable in virtually all conditions, including, as we saw, at night. It is also far enough north that yachts coming from the tropics cross in the Coral Sea, north of the unpredictable weather generated by the Tasman Sea to the south. This had weighed on our minds because a boat we had met and socialized with in Vuda Point had been lost a few months ago in bad weather a mere 150 nm outside of Brisbane. Of course, the Coral Sea route was not without its hazards. One rally boat, Hot Ice, hit a reef and had to be abandoned. Fortunately for it's crew, they were on one of the radio nets at the time, and rescue was organized expeditiously.

Aboard Tackless II, we had very mixed feelings about doing another rally, since sailing to any kind of schedule can only mean trouble, as we were reminded in our trip from Port Vila to Noumea last month. However, the Port2Port Rally takes a slightly different approach. Participants are urged to TRY to arrive within a three-day window prior to the start of the rally parties, leaving departure time up to each individual boat. The organizers provide a tremendous amount of clear, useful information by email prior to departure, run an excellent radio sked twice a day from the 18th to the 29th, but don't collect entry fees until you actually arrive. Therefore, if you don't like the weather, you simply don't come! This year most Port2Port boats left over a span of eight or ten days!

Tackless II was called from the quarantine anchorage to the quarantine dock mid-morning. This gave us plenty of time to spiff up the boat…rather like cleaning for the housekeeper! Customs and immigration were mere formalities since we had applied for visas online in advance and also had printed out the customs papers from the Internet and pre-filled them out. It is quarantine that is the big deal in Australia. Modern day Australia is paying heavily for the past introduction of foreign species – both ignorantly and inadvertently – that have wreaked havoc with its fragile ecosystem (read Jared Diamond's book Collapse.) We are not allowed to bring in any fresh fruits or vegetables, meat, eggs, seeds, dried beans or related products and wood and fiber crafts from the islands are a concern as well. There was a lot of suspense about what we would be allowed to keep, but it proved wise just to wait and see (beyond the very obvious), because we were allowed to keep a lot of things I'd thought they would take. In our case the officers were more worked up by some bugs they found in a bag of slivered almonds, a fluttery character that they eventually identified as a harmless warehouse moth. All in all it was a very professional and courteous entry.

In the course of the following week there were: a spaghetti night, a BBQ night, a welcome breakfast sponsored by the Bundaberg Regional council, a curry night, and afternoon BBQ sponsored by the marina, a "Beer, Prawn and Oyster" night (the marina is associated with a seafood wholesaler), a pot luck evening, and finally a fancy End of Passage dinner with yummy hors d'oeuvres and free Dark and Stormy's (a rum cocktail famously made with the locally brewed Bundaberg rum…although, since the distillery failed to provide the rum, the evening's supply was actually made with Captain Morgan dark!...Yay! More on Bundabeg rum later.) Each of these events was more than affordable and took place around eleven huge round tables in a big tent set up on the marina lawn! The cruisers mixed and mingled (we all had name tags, bless 'em) and sorted out into subgroups of new and old friends.

We had around us quite the circle of friends from the past few seasons, including, Randy and Sheri of Procyon, Tom & Bette Lee of Quantum Leap, Robin and Duncan of Whisper (who actually crossed from Mexico when we did). Tricky and Jane of Lionheart, Jan and Lee of La Boheme, and this year's buddies, Jim and Paula of Avior, among many others.

The day after our arrival, Tom and Bette Lee, who had arrived early and rented a car, conducted us into Bundaberg for our first exposure to this very pleasant Queensland town. Lonely Planet describes Bundaberg as "a country town that feels oh-so two centuries ago." I don't know about that, but to us it felt just right. Down the center of town is a wide boulevard with lanes divided by a tree-shaded parking island and intersections had been attractively bricked. We learned later that there are plenty of modern shopping malls around, but despite them downtown still seemed plenty healthy.

Our primary stop was the Telstra Phone store where, like most of our pals, we got a local phone, a chip for my T-Mobile GSM phone, and a cellular broadband modem for the computer. We were quite grateful for the devalued Aussie $ when we got the total. But it sure has been money well spent, particularly the broadband modem which is so fast we can actually do video Skype!

The next day we met our yacht broker, Anita Farine, who was up from Scarborough to meet several clients. Yes, you read that correctly: Yacht Broker. It is something we have been considering almost from leaving Mexico, and in the end, with man, many mixed feelings, we have decided to put Tackless II on the market here in Australia. We have been repeatedly told there is a good market for our kind of boat here. The market was, of course, very strong up until a month ago, when the world economy went topsy-turvy and the Aussie dollar dropped from USD.95 to USD.60! This, of course, is good news for our living expenses here (especially as we all now only have half as much USDs!), but it is not good news for the boat market. If you'd like to see Tackless II's listing, you can find it at . If you would like to BUY Tackless II, contact us directly ASAP at svtacklessii AT (Address is written that way so spammers can scan it, but you know what to do!)

The other big highlight of the Rally week for us was the Monster Bilge Sale – the equivalent of a yard sale to landlubbers. Don and I wheeled up several cart loads of junk…er treasures…about half of which we actually sold. Can't say we made a whole lot of money, but bit by bit we are emptying out Tackless II's crammed lockers. I will say that we didn't BUY anything! Our other strategy for clearing the boat out involved several trips to the Post Office to send back some of the souvenirs we have collected.

Sunday morning, the rally organizers had arranged a bus to take us to the Shalom Vegetable market, held on the unusually named grounds of the Shalom Catholic High School! Don gave this trip a bye, which was a shame as there was a vendor specializing in macadamia and other nuts (which he would have enjoyed!), but I managed to load up two bags full of fresh produce on my own! On the way back, the bus driver took us on a side trip to Bagara, an up-and-coming seaside resort town just south of Bundy. Very pretty, but development is opting for "high rise" (6 or so stories) condos which will milk the real estate but fast defeat the charm.

On Monday we boarded another bus for a tour of Bundaberg's two great claims to fame, its Rum Distillery and its Ginger Beer Factory. We started at the Ginger Beer factory where is proudly brewed natural ginger beer, as well as sarsaparilla (root beer), a lemon-lime drink, an apple ale, a peach ale, and several others. Who knew this stuff was originally brewed like beer (and still is here!)? We got to taste all the products, including the diet versions, and all the ones we remember were very tasty, especially the ginger beer and sarsaparilla, of which we carted home a six-pack. Sadly, the diet versions did nothing for us.

We wish we could be as enthusiastic about the rum. Bundaberg rum, to a Caribbean-trained palate, is quite simply vile stuff! Our guide, the Port2Port volunteer Judy, must have encountered this before with cruisers arriving from the east, because she promoted more heavily their special liqueur – "only available from the factory." The factory tour itself was a little disappointing. In fact both factory tours were actually pseudo tours, cute little displays instead of the real thing. (The real thing can be had at the rum distillery, but it wasn't on our agenda. Perhaps because it calls for closed shoes and so few cruisers have any!) But it did also end up with free tastings. Each of us got a card entitling us to two tastes. I tried the new Bundaberg Red, in hopes it would be smoother. Better, but not a winner. We all tried the liqueur, which is a blend of rum, caramel, chocolate and licorice (I think, or cloves…something exotic), and it was good enough that almost every couple bought at least one bottle. Sadly, they don't offer tastes, free or otherwise, of their two more expensive products that MIGHT have been better tasting. But then, who needs an expensive rum!

After the tours, the bus dropped us all first at Bunnings, a Home Depot-type hardware outlet, and then at a grocery store, which we pretty well besieged. Cruisers who have been in the islands for a few months kind of lose all sense of proportion when exposed to first-world markets like this. So it is probably a good thing that they didn't take us to the Woolworths, which in Australia is a huge mega-market (we went there later with friends!), because they would never have got us all out again!

Between the soda six-packs, the booze cartons and the grocery bags, the return bus was pretty loaded, but this driver, like Sunday's driver, wanted to give us a little something extra so he drove us to the lookout atop the "Hummock." The Hummock is the closest thing Bundaberg has to a hill. Visually, it is a pimple on the very gently rolling flat cane fields, fields that look like a cross between Indiana and Fiji…in other words tidy mid-west farm fields with sugar cane and palm trees! Historically, the Hummock is actually a very ancient volcano, responsible for all the rich soil hereabouts, and as you might guess is densely built up with houses in search of the only "view" in town!

The Port2Port week finally wound down on Tuesday and boats began taking off. Avior, back in their home cruising grounds, took off early for a rendezvous with friends at Lady Musgrave, a coral atoll about 100kms north that is the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef. Quantum Leap headed out for Mooloolaba, which is our eventual destination, where they will store the boa and head home. Procyon, who plans to explore as far south as Tasmania over the summer, got a jump on us by sailing south on Tuesday for the Sandy Straits where they have ended up exploring up the Mary River. It doesn't take long for the gang to disperse!

Saddled with two more paid-for days in the marina, we hung on a bit longer. Our reward was a ride up the Burnett River with Tricky and Jane aboard Lionheart. Rivers are quintessential Aussie experiences. This one wound about four miles inland through mangroves and cane fields to the Midtown Marina and mooring field right in the heart of Bundaberg proper before being blocked by a bride and railroad trestle. Tricky did a great job following the beacons up the river course. That it was a tricky route was attested to by our passing one of the rally boats stuck fast in a shoal area! (We sent the marina guys back for them!) With Lionheart moored bow and stern in the middle of the river, Tricky and Jane will do their own dispersing, taking off for a week visiting Tricky's brother in Rockhampton, about three hours north. Tricky and Jane (or "the kids" as we call them!) plan to go back to work for several years to beef up a world cruising kitty. It had looked like they might be based with us in Mooloolaba as Tricky may become a catamaran sale agent, but recently it's been sounding more like Brisbane will be where they tie up.

Tuesday, the day we rode on Lionheart was a very big day in Australia. Yes, yes, it was a very big day in the US as well, only the elections wouldn't even get going for several hours yet. But here in Australia, Tuesday the 4th was Melbourne Cup Day! Melbourne Cup Day is said to rank second in importance to Christmas on the Aussie calendar, and while it is not actually a holiday, "no one works." Instead they dress up, including fancy hats, and find themselves a Melbourne Cup Party. Presumably, in Melbourne they actually go to the Melbourne Cup! What is the Melbourne cup? It is a horse race on par with the Kentucky Derby.

We did not actually get to a party, but we did lunch at a pub in town that was making a deal of the race. We had to eat on the sidewalk as all the tables were reserved, but Don and I did nip in at race time to watch the race itself. It loses just a little when you have no clue which horse is which, but it was a huge field, maybe eighteen or twenty! And the track was grass! With such a huge field, the race was very exciting (seemed long, too!) and the finish came down to the leader being caught by a charging grey. It was a nose to nose photo finish, and I sure saw nothing to distinguish which was the winner! Wow. It almost makes up for not having seen a kangaroo yet. (We've been walking early; I guess we need to walk late!)

The American elections dominated hearts and minds and TV sets on Wednesday. Duncan and Robin of Whisper staked out a table for the day in Baltimore's, the very nice restaurant at the marina, and watched the returns come in over a long bottle of white wine. We checked in on Yahoo now and again, and stuck our noses into Baltimore's each time we passed. By early afternoon, it was a done deal, so we had Duncan and Robin to Tackless for a evening celebration to toast our new president -- CONGRATULATIONS, OBAMA! And congratulations America, on making a choice for change!

So, here we are. It is Thursday evening, the 6th of November. We have backed off the dock and are anchored not too far from where we were our first night. Tomorrow, we start our trip south through Hervey Bay and the Sandy Straits., a sinuous braid of sand banks and navigable channels squeezed between Frasier Island and the Queensland coast. Piled around me are charts, the Beacon to Beacon guidebook, Alan Lucas' Coral Coast Cruising Guide, lists of way points and bearings, and routes on two electronic charting programs. Leaving a marina is always traumatic!


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