Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Only Cruisers

Current Location: Bundaberg, Australia
Current Position: 24º45.62' S 152º23.28' E
Next Destination: Bundaberg for at least two weeks

More than once on our journey I have thought, “Only cruisers” …. and at least twice over the last week that thought has crossed my mind.

During the last week, the Port to Port Rally has been keeping us busy with every-night eating and drinking events. Besides putting on a few extra pounds, it has been a great chance to meet new people and some of the locals. It is amazing how fast news & stories travel through a fleet of cruisers. It didn’t take long before people were hitting Chris up for both computer and fishing advice. Most people were especially impressed with the use of ‘junk’ aboard Billabong. They found it interesting that he uses old [wine] corks to make fishing lures (and soon they too were rummaging for corks), but were especially curious about the pasta strainer hanging in our rigging. Yes, you read that correctly, we have a pasta strainer hanging from our rigging … and to be honest it is catching on, a number of cruisers are now following suit, and apparently they are doing it in Noumea too (where we first started this trend). What it is in reality is the cruiser’s version of a parabolic wi-fi antennae.

It is really a clever design (perhaps we should patent it, ha ha). Chris taped our external USB wireless network adapter in the center of a medium-sized wire-mesh, hand-held type of pasta strainer (4 bucks at the local supermarket). He strapped that to our rigging, facing the provider’s wi-fi antennae, and ran an extra long USB extension cable down through our hatch. Voila … internet on the boat! We even covered the whole contraption with a Ziploc, making it an all-weather antennae! We started this in Noumea, where we couldn’t even get a signal on the boat, and Chris was getting tired of carrying his computer up to the parking lot to use the internet. Oh sure, we got some strange looks by people walking by, but once word got around that it actually worked, the grocery store found themselves in high demand of wire-mesh pasta strainers. I wonder what people think when the meander by a marina full of boats with pasta strainers and other similar kitchen utensils hanging from their riggings!!! The word followed us all the way to Bundaberg, where cruiser after cruiser quizzed Chris about how to duplicate the setup …. to the point where we finally just brought the thing to one of the Port to Port Rally dinners and had a bit of show-and-tell! Sure, you are laughing, and shaking your head (and perhaps saying, “only cruisers”), but you’d be surprised how well it works, and all it took was a 4-buck pasta strainer and a Ziploc! Still aren’t quite picturing it? – We promise to post a picture on our website soon.

The finale to the week long events was a mini-tour of some of Bundaberg’s sites. It included a stop at Bundaberg’s ginger beer factory and a tour of the Bundaberg rum factory. The rum factory was quite interesting, from the gigantic molasses lake to the huge barrels, each worth about 5 millions dollars (in rum)! The bus ‘tour’ also included a stop at Bunning’s. As the huge charter bus, carrying about 40 people (all now a bit tipsy from rum tasting), pulled into the parking lot a few people walking back to their cars stopped to stare. I’m sure they were wondering what the hell a charter bus would be coming to Bunning’s for … you see Bunning’s is a really big hardware store. Yes, HARDWARE store. And the really funny thing is that everyone on that bus was quite excited to be stopping, and when we were told we only had 30 minutes, I thought there might be a riot!!! Our final stop was at the supermarket plaza, which had a supermarket, liquor store, bakery, and pharmacy. Yes, a tour only a cruiser would love!!!

What’s next for Billabong? With the Port to Port Rally events over, we can finally get on to some relaxing (hmm, like we haven’t been doing that already), and perhaps get a few boat projects done. The previous owner of Billabong lives nearby and has invited us for Thanksgiving, so we’ll probably stay in the Bundaberg area through Thanksgiving, and then begin our trek down towards Sydney.

Continue reading "Only Cruisers"...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Passage to Bundaberg

Current Location: Bundaberg, Australia
Current Position: 24º45.62' S 152º23.28' E
Next Destination: Bundaberg for at least two weeks

So our passage didn't stay quite as dreamy as it had started out, but all-in-all it was still quite nice. The biggest problem was a lack of wind coupled with just a tad too much swell. The boat would roll a bit, slackening the sail (because there wasn't enough wind to hold it), and then when the boat rolled back, the sail, along with the boom, would slam back into place ... an ugly and loud noise that eventually drove us (especially Chris) crazy. With the banging sails and looming overtime charges if we didn't get into Bundaberg by 4:30pm on Friday, we motored more then we normally would have ... in all we figured we probably motored about halfway here! But the cost of diesel was less then the cost of overtime charges, and we saved our sails from the extra, unneeded, wear and tear. Everyday was filled with near cloudless bright blue skies and sparkling clear waters. The swell was never that bad, and I was thrilled to have a passage without seasickness. After a year full of beating to weather and 20-30 kts, this passage was a welcome relief.

We had a bit of entertainment along the way as well. In all we caught three fish, of which we only kept the 4 ft Wahoo caught on the morning of our arrival. The guy was strong and put up a good fight, bruising my finger, and giving Chris a pretty good gash on his hand (via teeth). Luckily we did NOT catch a whale --- About half way here, on a very flat sea day, we had a whale (maybe two) check us out. Chris and I were both reading in the cockpit when we heard the blow. "What was that?", Chris asked, and when I looked over the side I could see a large dark shape just thirty feet off our stern. Just a few seconds later emerged the back of a huge whale ... it appeared as though he was actually chasing our fishing lures, "Uh oh" I said as the big 'ol whale head brushed into the lures before losing interest and diving back down. I was sure he was going to snag a hook, but luckily there was nothing for the hooks to grab onto and they just brushed off his back. Next the whale came along our starboard side and swam along side us for a few minutes, as though trying to figure out what kind of sea creature Billabong was. I just hoped he didn't mistake us for a potential mating partner! For quite awhile he seemed to follow us, always resurfacing just behind us while we slowly moved along ... it was a good spot of entertainment for the day, but we still let out a big sigh of relief once we were clear and sure we weren't going to hit each other. The last 'creature' to keep us company was a Boobie (bird), who decided our collapsed main sail would be a good spot for a break. He rode along for a bit until, in our efforts to say hello, we scared him off. He attempt a couple of more landings, but apparently wasn't used to landing on a moving target, and could never get it quite right.

We arrived in Bundaberg on Friday (Nov 3rd), about six and half days after departing Noumea. As we closed in on Bundaberg I commented to Chris that you would never know how big Australia is from this angle; the land seemed really flat, almost like an atoll, and not much seemed to occupy the shoreline ... it will be interesting to see what other Australian shore-side cities look like. Customs and Quarantine were some of the nicest, and youngest, officers we've experienced. We spent so much time chatting it was hard to get the paperwork filled out. We never would've guessed but apparently electric fly-swatters are considered weapons and not allowed in Australia!!! I guess people are known to buy them and alter the battery to higher voltage, creating taser-like mechanisms (what will people think of next?). We were just finishing up the final papers when another boat was heading for the quarantine spot in front of us and lost forward gear. We came out to assist them in backing in, and, go figure, they lost reverse. The winds and current started pushing them right for Billabong! Yikes! No worries though, we were able to throw out fenders and grab their lines, rafting them up to Billabong. The poor people aboard were horrified that they might of damaged Billabong, but there wasn't a ding in her. Later they had to tow her away, and then we moved into a regular slip.

Since we had joined the Bundaberg Port to Port Rally, we now have a week of social events to look forward to, and have been meeting a number of new boats. I already feel overwhelmed with the endless things to see and do in Australia!!!

Continue reading "Passage to Bundaberg"...