Monday, September 11, 2017

Après Pacific? Vamos por Mas!

In our last blog post, we mentioned strong westerlies while we were at Ile des Pins. On our return to Noumea, we found they had strong westerlies too.  But the bay in Noumea is wide open to the west and here the wind was blowing 45 knots.  That was enough to separate five boats from their moorings and send them all to their death on the rocks of the harbor.  It didn't take long for Noumea's hoodlums to leave their mark.

We were a bit sad to encounter the graffiti on private property all around the city of Noumea.  We saw some of this on the island of Tahiti too.  But here it's rather prolific.

Even the beached harbor flotsam and rocks can't escape the tagger's spray paint.

So you just force yourself to look away.  And when you do, you just might see two boats that have traveled thousands of sea miles to get here.  Both 62 feet long.  One has a mast short enough to clear the 65 foot bridges in Florida.  The other, a gorgeous Oyster yacht "Red Cat", who's German owners Wolf and Marget we first met in Fiji, has a mast that soars to 90 feet.  Wonder which one is faster...

From this dock we waited for the weather to settle into what might provide good conditions for the 1000 mile trip to Australia.  We didn't have to wait long.  

We didn't have the wind we wanted for a fast passage but the conditions were about as smooth and comfortable as we've ever had.  Along the way we enjoyed some spectacular sunsets right off the bow to remind us we were headed due west.

Not wanting to get the formalities of arriving in Australia wrong, we hoisted the quarantine flag early, taking particular care to get it right side up.   

The last night on passage the airborne sediment in the sunset reminded us we were getting close to Australia.

In the morning, there she was.  The land down unda.  The continent of Australia.  Our first continental land fall (besides North America).  OZ!!

We covered the 985 miles in 5 days 5 hours arriving on Sunday which meant we could not depart Moonshadow until Monday when the authorities would be able to clear us into Australia. Not a problem, we needed some rest anyway.  But Monday's processing was like none we'd experienced so far.  It all began with the realization that we had not acquired a visa before entering Australia.  23 previous countries we've entered had no such requirement.  But in Australia, that's technically a crime, which was pointed out to us by the Australian Border Force.  They also reminded us there are other countries that have this requirement, like ah... the USA.  Since we were quickly sized up and judged not to be your typical criminal aliens, the Border Force helped us with immigration to sort out our own screw up.  

But first we had to deal with the fact that we were smuggling liquor into Australia far in excess of the allowed amount.  We were asked if we had liquor, we said yes.  How much?  Well, who knows?.. we don't keep records.  Somewhere during the process of opening every single locker aboard Moonshadow, the Australian Border Force tallied up 23 bottles of wine, and 9 liters of spirits, not counting the opened bottles which they didn't bother with.  At that point we produced four more bottles they had missed.

You are allowed something like 2.5 liters per person, so you could say we were a bit over.  OK, smuggling might be a stretch, but the excess had to be dealt with.  If you are a country, you simply cannot have people bringing in their own wine and booze.  So our choice was to pay duty on the entire lot, or secure it aboard so when the allotment runs out we are forced to buy still more from locals.  Fine, lock it up.   We don't have a locker that locks and if we did, probably couldn't be trusted not to simply unlock it when the booze ran out, so the Australian Border Force, anticipating just such an event has a solution.  Seals.  Only the carefully numbered seals are really just stickers, and are laughably tiny stickers at that.  Somewhere between a US fifty cent piece and a quarter, they're so small they barely span the gap on the locker door.  Within a few hours Moonshadow's gentle rolling, the play in the locker's latch, and the tamper-proof slits in the stickers conspired to break the Border Force seals.  We're beginning to think we probably are criminals.

Somewhere, locked up in our unlockable locker with broken seals, is this bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir, which we bought (four nations ago) simply because the name reminded us of the Baja Ha-Ha, an annual rally from San Diego to Mexico that attracts 150+ cruisers.   

 The Baja Ha-Ha reminds us of Mexico. 
Mexico reminds of us Philo Hayward.  

Philo Hayward, Sailor, Musician, Friend, so much more.  RIP.  (photo Latitude 38)

Like us, years ago Philo sailed to the South Pacific.
He was gone two years and missed Mexico.
We've been gone two years and miss Mexico.

Philo sold his boat, moved back to Mexico, created Philo's Bar in La Cruz 
and that changed everything.

We think we're just like Philo.
Only different.

We don't want to sell Moonshadow, or start a bar.  Hell we can't even sing!  But we do want to get back to Mexico with Moonshadow so....drum roll please....

...come January, 2018, we will drive Moonshadow into the bay of a Float-on, Float-off Yacht Transport ship in Brisbane.  A month later we'll start the engine and motor out of the ship and into the bay in Ensenada, Mexico.  

8,000 miles straight upwind without having to hoist a sail.  Or fix anything.
That's brilliant!!

From there, we'll divide our time between San Diego in the summers and Mexico in the winters, where we'll always be close to family and friends.

The last two years we've covered over 12,000 ocean miles and stopped in 135 beautiful places in the South Pacific.  We've also taken over 12,000 photographs.  From those, we've selected 165 images we feel convey the essence of our South Pacific experience. This can be viewed in the slide show below.  Enjoy, as we have.

Now, here's some graffiti we can agree with!