Sunday, January 28, 2018

Return to Sender

It was time to get Moonshadow up to Brisbane for her date with a big yacht carrier ship. As we took one last look at Sydney and Port Jackson's North Head in our wake, the weather was perfect - 15 knot southerlies with southerly seas measuring less than a meter.

But, as we know quite well by now, weather can change quickly.  So when we saw the sky looking like this later that afternoon, we threw in a reef and waited.

Ashore we heard thunder and saw lightning strikes, but it never ventured offshore to find Moonshadow.  

But the wind did increase and by the next day we had 25 knots with gusts in the low 30s all day.  Naturally by the end of the second day, bigger seas had developed, but with the wind still south, we were enjoying the ride.

There have been many times we've looked astern and thought "glad we're not headed that way"!

By sundown the wind had begun to ease off, but the seas were still up, so we had several sunsets.

That's right sunsets. Plural.  As Moonshadow rode up to the top of each wave, we could see the sun was still above the Australian mainland...

... then Moonshadow would find herself in the trough where the horizon was just a few dozen meters off and the sun had "set".

This passage was our last until we join the October 2018 Baja Ha Ha rally from San Diego down to Cabo San Lucas.  That's ten months away, so on this sail, we savored every moment...  

... and there was plenty to savor.  The voyage took 2 days 22 hours and covered 498 miles.

We arrived the third morning at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Manly Harbor, near the mouth of the Brisbane River.  

Manly Harbor is the largest boat harbor in the southern hemisphere with storage for 3,000 boats.  RQYS manages all the berths on the East and South part of Manly Harbor, and all of the land adjoining the docks.  It is a huge expanse, so big we actually used the dinghy to get from Moonshadow to the club's shore facilities.  

At the Southeast corner of the yacht club a large grass area is reserved for visiting regatta sailors to set up tents and RVs.  RQYS was hosting the 2018 Australian Youth Championships in Laser, 420, 29er, 49er, Optimist, and Finn classes. Every day there were hundreds of boats and scores of coaches in RIB launches passing by our berth.

Somehow, it seems junior sailing programs are the same the world over.  Here are the parents sweating all the details while the kids are off doing what they do best - being kids.

A 25 minute walk from the dinghy dock at the yacht club is a station where every 30 minutes, a clean, air conditioned electric train arrived to whisk us to the city of Brisbane, about 30 minutes away.

We found Brisbane to be surprisingly vibrant, 
modern and beautiful.

Brisbane's new skyscrapers appear to have grown like weeds through the pavement of a 100 year old city.

Everywhere you look, there is a blend of well preserved historic buildings and ultra modern glass towers.

Queen's Mall is a square, about 2 city blocks on a side, with roadways converted to pedestrian walks.  Within this mall is every manor of shopping, coffee shops, dining, and bars.  

We confess, we haven't been to a lot of malls lately, but is this what you typically find there nowadays?  

This combination looks dangerous!

But, when in Rome...

There was no singing for us this time.

Like so many of the world's great cities, Brisbane is built on a river.  The water gives a place so much personality.

With a river, you get bridges...

...and ferryboats.  
We're partial to both.

Of course, nothing gives a city personality like a beach, 
right in the middle of town...

... or, if you prefer, a rainforest walk.

How about a walk through a bougainvillea tunnel?

Just so you don't forget, you're still in the city.

Or is it really just a big playground?

To find out, we had to take a ride on The Wheel of Brisbane and see the surroundings from aloft, 200 feet up in an air conditioned gondola.

Yep, it's a big playground.  What city has a huge pool, on the river, surrounded by restaurants and bars?

Near all this, we visited the MOMA, Brisbane's Museum of Modern Art.

This may be the only place where you'll see a spiral of silver plated spoons, knives and forks paired with a spiral of chili peppers.  On the floor.  Imagine the hours to set this all out, arranging chili peppers by size and color.

Very thought provoking.  Is the artist always on hand to restore things for the occasion when some absent minded old fool walks across the display scattering spoons and crushing chili peppers;  or curious children escaping their parent's grasp... maybe a runaway wheel chair?  Can't we get one of those deep purple velvet ropes with the chrome stands...?  This just all seems so risky.

But that's modern art for ya...

... and so is this.  Our favorite art is art we can become part of.

Our own personal masterpiece. 
One of a kind.  
With two heads...

... or two of a kind.

At the end of our first day in Brisbane, we took time to reflect on all we'd seen...

... and done.  Holy cow, we walked a lot!

Another day, we took the train back to Brisbane to visit the doctor.  No, we didn't contract flesh eating bacteria from eating raw oysters (we don't think), we were here doing our very best to stay out of jail.  It's kind of a long story but we had to apply for a new visa to extend our stay in Australia long enough to be here for the Jan 28 loading of Moonshadow onto the ship.  After paying $750 to apply for the visa, we were advised we would each have to undergo a complete physical and get chest Xrays.  Net cost for three weeks extension: $1,400!!

But, hey, we got these cool matching crew shirts!  

After our two hour exams, we found serenity on a long stroll through the Brisbane Botanic Garden.

This is a beautiful place.

No bureaucracy here, and it's free!

We decided we'll hide here if we end up in more trouble with Customs or Immigration.  Can you find Deb?

Another outing was our trip to the Koala Sanctuary. What trip to Australia is complete without a Koala or a Kangaroo? The thing is, it's January here.  And were at 27.5 degrees South latitude, so it's the middle of Summer and HOT!  The animals, especially those wearing fur coats, were not keen for lots of activity.

But when we found the exhibit with newborns, we remembered,  the little ones always have lots of energy.   

Mom is sound asleep here, but little kiddo is wide awake.

Next it was time to meet the Kangaroos.  You have to see them hopping about to realize, they are like no other species.

Like the Koalas, these Kangaroos liked the shade on a hot day.

We don't know all that many Kangaroos,  but the ones we met were all very polite, and had the kindest eyes.  

You can tell the tourists - they're the ones with the little paper bags of 'roo food.  But the Kangaroos don't beg.  If offered, they'll usually take it, very gently, leaving you with a slobbery hand.

But they're just as likely to chill with you, and let you pet them and scratch them behind the ears.  Like dogs, they love those scratches behind the ears and if you stop, they'll give you a look like:

Hey! I'm still here, don't stop!

Otherwise the Kangaroos prefer to remain contemplative, introspective, stoic.  They have a lot on their minds.  

The whole experience reminded us of pictures Dusty sent from a similar park in Adelaide years ago.

We had time to kill so we took Moonshadow across Moreton Bay to Moreton Island and an anchorage near the Resort of Tangalooma, about 20 miles away.

Like Fraser Island, to the north, where we had visited in November, Moreton Island is a huge sand island.  Comprising 72 square miles, it is the third largest sand island in the world (Fraser Island is the largest).  The western shore has several sections with very steep sand blows, probably all excellent for sand tobogganing but that's prohibited on the cliffs we saw for erosion and safety concerns.

The anchorage there is protected by a dozen wrecks, deliberately put there in the 1960's to create an artificial reef.

Placed on the shallow sand bar just off the beach, these rusting iron wrecks are a popular snorkel and fishing destination.

We anchored just inside the wrecks for protection from the wind and waves.

A vehicle ferry appears each morning bringing dozens of 4wd trucks which are allowed on the beach and inland sand roads.

Aussies come just to have a day on the unique beach, to swim, fish, or... row?  This is how great new ideas are hatched:  One guy, facing aft has an oar, while the other guy, facing forward, is using a paddle.  We would never have thought of this solution, but watching these two we realized they have found the best way to spin a tinnie in circles.  (tinnie:  Aussie for aluminum boat).

We had time to kill because the specialized FOFO 
(Float On - Float Off) ship had just left 
Tahiti on its way to Brisbane.

Time enough to reflect back on our adventures.  Here is what six years cruising looks like by the numbers:
  • 31,000   nautical miles travelled
  • 22          countries visited
  • 389        ports of call
  • 315        places anchored for 733 nights
  • 74          marinas berthed for 948 nights
  • 29          moorings taken for 83 nights
  • 4            ship yards - on the hard for 239 nights
  • 4,287     hours underway
  • 10%       time underway - 90% enjoying destinations
  • 126        days/nights on 24 hour passages - 19,434 miles
  • 19          24 hour passages over 200 miles (39 over 190)
  • 233        highest distance covered in 24 hours
  • 7.23       average speed underway
  • 7.66       average speed on 24 hour passages
  • 29,900   photographs taken
  • 153        blog posts

But cruising is most definitely not a numbers game.  It's the places, cultures, and the people we meet that make lifelong memories.

Just about 5 miles north of our berth is a long container ship dock at the entrance to the Brisbane River, where we were expected to load Moonshadow onto the Dockwise Yacht Transport ship Yacht Express.  This part is definitely a numbers game.  Show up late and the shipping company can charge $25,000 for demurrage.  So we had our route to the dock all planned.  All 14.9 miles of it.  Three alarm clocks were deployed for the Sunday morning appointment with the ship! 

We showed up early and steamed in circles in the channel for an hour as other yachts exited the ship. Finally it was our turn and we nosed Moonshadow into the open stern of the flooded ship.  What a feat of engineering this vessel is.  The whole thing sinks to allow yachts to enter and tie up, then, in an operation that takes 12 hours, they pump all the water out and sail to the next destination.

So this will be home for  our home, Moonshadow, for the next month.  The mother ship Yacht Express heads first to Auckland, New Zealand where they will discharge some of these yachts and pick up some others, including friends we'd sailed the South Pacific with, Vlad and Galena, aboard Wind Dancer.  From there it's on to Ensenada Mexico.

Good news:  We were pleased to learn from the friendly crew that Moonshadow will be washed down every day with fresh water, to keep the sooty exhaust from damaging her exposed surfaces.  Awesome!

More good news:
Moonshadow has been cleared out of Australia.  Evidently the Border Force wasn't interested in revisiting to see how their  tamper-proof seal stickers did on Moonshadow's secure stash of liquor and wine.  

Good thing as all the stickers were broken when both of us inadvertently opened the lockers, forgetting all about the seals!

Fantastic News:

As we were checking off some of the last items on the lengthy check-list prior to loading Moonshadow onto the ship, we received a letter from San Diego Yacht Club .

Moonshadow's new home on C dock
It was from the dockmaster's office offering congratulations on the fact we've been assigned a permanent slip at the club for Moonshadow!

So all that's left for us now is to fly back to San Diego and wait about a month for Moonshadow to arrive in Ensenada Mexico, then sail home.  After that, it'll be back to never missing a sunset.  Too bad Australia won't be in any of them for a while!