Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For you technically minded out there, here is a shot of our new electrical panel. I hope there were plenty of oohs and ahs, it is quite beautiful. The panel also drops down now, a huge improvement because you can work on it without squeezing yourself into an impossibly small space that is shared by the vented loops from the head! Barry wanted to take a picture of the back as well but we have put a hard plastic shield over it to protect from any moisture that may accumulate in said space. The Link 10 on the bottom left is the only not new thing on the panel, it tells us the health of our batteries and is working fine (touch wood). One very nice feature of the new panel is that it lights up with a greenish light so you can read what you are switching on at night. It is great because switches have been moved around, whereas before I knew that the bilge pump was the third from the top on the second row, and could turn it on by feel, I have not become familiar with this panel yet. This on the other hand is our new hydraulic auto pilot. The gizmo in the middle is the rudder post so the auto pilot can push and pull the rudder hydraulically from this location, which is at the aft or rear of the boat under a cockpit seat. The hydraulic pump is partially hidden under the boards It is run by a computer which is attached to a control head which is mounted at the other end of the cockpit under the dodger. The last control box was located right in front of the wheel mounted on a stainless steel grab post, it was a little more convenient because it was closer to the wheel but Barry is able to reach over with his long arms and use the control head. I hope the sighs of gee I wish I could have one of those were not too loud. It, of course is also controlled by our new electrical panel. With the auto pilot you can steer the boat mechanically while under sail or motor, it of course takes power so when there is wind we prefer to use our wind vane. It will be very helpful for putting up and taking in sails, single handed as well as steering under motor and when I want help raising the lowering the spinnaker, Barry can just put on Otto, I hope he and Wendy get along!
This particular item was a HUGE bone of contention between Barry and I. I wanted to install it in Fiji but he refused saying we could not afford it and now all of a sudden he thought we could. This has been good for many well thought out and reasoned arguments!!!
We have been busy fixing up the boat, I have got 5 coats of varnish on the teak but need more, I don't think I will shoot for the 9 I did in NZ, but a few more are needed, the UV is so hard on things. Other than that we have been doing little else, it seems. We went to visit the botanical gardens and have been walking back and forth to an industrial area to find (what else) boat parts. We are planning to leave either on Thursday or Saturday for points south, the weather is probably the best on Friday but sailors never leave a port on a Friday.
I went for a walk yesterday because I have been looking across the harbour at the hill opposite for almost a month and have not gotten around to walking over there. I had a lovely walk, I splashed my feet in the water as I strolled along the beach. There was a class of school kids doing various activities, some were surfing, some swimming, some playing games, some making designs in the sand, some just walking. I couldn't see any how the teacher was controlling them or even aware if someone was missing but hopefully they counted when they left school and when they went back, it all looked like terrific fun.
There were a couple of older gents fishing in the surf. They had big long poles and I went up to one to ask about how he was doing and got a poor reception so I did not bother the second guy. They had (dare I say man purses!) made out of canvas with their gear in, hanging off their hips and were standing in the surf in their shorts, fishing away; Australians seems to be fishing mad, they fish off the pier, off the breakwater, off the boardwalk, off rocky promontories, off big boat, off little boats, in rivers, streams, oceans and I imagine in lakes and ponds but I haven't seen that, but I digress. There was a older woman (over 75) walking along the beach in a turquoise hat and matching jacket, she looked so nice I gave her a complement.
When I got to the end of the beach I clamored the bank and walked along the other side of the harbour that ended in a huge breakwater. I was intrigued with a flock of gulls that was looked like they were attending a convention that was taking place in the parking lot beside the boat launch, there was no food in sight, they were all standing facing into the wind almost in rows, why??? At one time there was a railroad on the breakwater , the only part that was left were the cross members.
I hiked up the hill and enjoyed watching the surfers on the next beach over. This part of the coast consists of endless beautiful sandy beaches. We are looking forward to seeing more of it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

This is one of the kangaroos with her joey that we spotted in the park. On the way up to Inverell we stopped at a small museum. It was a former Chinese store in a mining town. There was a boom in the area when tin was discovered in the late 1800's. The store was established back then and provided just about everything you could ask for, dry goods, clothing, mining tools and groceries. The building expanded as the need grew and was run by the Chinese family that started it until about the 1990's. At that time the proprietor died and it was turned into a museum. They just left everything as it was. There was a display of old hats and I just had to try one on. This particular hat was said to have been made for the Melbourne
Cup, the premier horse racing event in Australia. The race actually took place the day after we arrived so we traipsed off to the local yacht club to watch it on TV.
We had a good trip back from Inverell. We stopped in at Yamba to have a look at the spot Trish has chosen for her wedding. It is a great spot where we can moor for next to nothing, Graeme's parents and my brother can camp, and there is lots of accommodations for the rest of the guests. There will be a passel of young children there and the resort is set up for family entertainment so everyone should be happy. There are great beaches on the ocean perfect for surfing, kite skiing and swimming. It should be great.
A bunch more boats have shown up from Noumea. There was a good weather window and about 20 boats left within a couple of days. We are planning a get together at the yacht club on Friday so everyone can swap stories. Our new sail is being made, the electrician is here to replace our old worn out panel and the fellow that is making a new bracket to hold the boom on to the mast showed up today and Barry (against my wishes) ordered a new electric auto pilot (our old one died in New Zealand) all is good.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We are up in Inverell visiting Graeme’s parents, Ian and Jackie. They have a lovely home on 6 acres of land and there are wonderful birds all over the property. I have been getting an education on galahs, eastern rosella, crimson rosella, musk lorakeet and rainbow lorakeet as well as cocatoos and I have yet to see a king parrot, they are all big colorful birds.
Yesterday we drove over 300 km up through the mountains on the coast to this flat pastureland. There were numerous national parks on the road which was named Waterfall Way. I convinced Barry that we should stop in a few parks and were rewarded with stunning views of the Great Dividing Range. They parks were all well maintained with boardwalks along the sides of the waterfalls and gorges. Today Ian and Jackie drove us to a state park where there was a large damn that was built to supply water to the area as well as the cotton plantations which have been established here. We were thrilled to see our first wild kangaroos, they would be lying about and when we drove slowly by they would stir and stare at the car to make sure there was no threat and then they would go back to lolling about in the shade.
We spent some time this morning exclaiming over pictures of our soon to be son-in-law, and daughter-in-law in their formative years. The kids having grown up in separate continents experienced the same world conditions, but surf boards figure prominently in Graeme’s childhood, while skiing and other snow sports were a main stay in Trish’s life.
Tomorrow we are off to Yamba, where their wedding will take place and then we have to reluctantly return the rental car. It does not make sense to purchase a vehicle like we did in NZ because we don’t plan to stay in one place that long. I could do with a bicycle though, I may see if I can rustle one up for the remainder of our stay in Coffs Harbour.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I have put some new videos on U-Tube. Check out the side bar on the blog and at the bottom there is a link section. Just click on the links and they will take you to the new Volcano Video from Tanna in Vanuatu and the Whitewater Rafting trip. I must change our position on the Yotreps site because at the moment it looks like we are 40 miles inland. I must have hit a wrong digit when I last reported.
I decided to go on the whitewater rafting trip. We traveled for 2 days down the Nymboida River about a 2 hour drive inland from Coffs Harbour. It was quite remote and we only saw one other set of paddlers on the river. The river was very high due to the big rainfall we had last week, while we were driving to the site we set off from, one of the rivers we had to cross was within 6 inches of flooding a bridge. This made for some exciting times on the river.
There were class 5 rapids that we ran, that had huge standing waves and at least a meter and a half drop in one spot. There were 5 paddlers and a guide in our raft. The paddlers consisted of 2 young German fellows and a young couple that had just finished university, the girl was from New Zealand and the guy was an Aussie. We had to work as a team and paddle in sync in order to drive the boat at speed in the entries of the rapids. We also got very good and "getting down and holding on" as we were bounced around the boat. It was amazing the skill of the guide to thread through the rapids and dance around the rocks. We portaged over several sections that were not safe with the increased water flow, but apparently we had a much easier time on other sections of the river that would have been more difficult at low water. We got thoroughly wet a number of times. My body is telling me that I haven't been kind to it. The food provided was excellent, the highlight being chicken cooked over an open fire with mango chutney, yum!!
It was great to have a chance to get off Cat's Paw IV and participate in a totally different kind of water activity. The added bonus was been driven 2 hours into the country side and back on a different route. I enjoyed the bird sightings along the route, we also saw a lizard and a possum that was interested in our food. I was not so thrilled with the reports of snakes at one campsite and the continual sightings of spiders, I know they can be poisonous here. It was interesting getting to know a group of very nice young people and share some of our experiences with them. Barry enjoyed a quiet weekend without me and is waiting to get his next scuba dive in.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

We have been enjoying exploring the town of Coffs Harbour. It is a city of about 100,000 and it has a beautiful setting. There are lovely beaches and hills. The town has kept the shoreline relatively free from development so it is quite natural as you stroll along the beaches. The island that is just seaward of the marina is a bird sanctuary, with a wonderful walk up the hill and across the highland. At all times of the day you can see people walking, strolling and running along the breakwater and up and over the hill. I have been doing it every morning and it is a good workout. Today Barry and I took a walk out to the end of the Jetty, it's very sturdy and was used in the past for ships getting timber from the area to load supplies on and fishermen used to tie up and offload their catch there before the breakwater was built.
I thought since I was in Aus. I should attempt to learn to surf, Barry didn't think his ankle would stand up to it so he did not attempt it. I quite enjoyed the lesson, the fellow was a very good teacher. I did manage to get up on the board several times so I was quite pleased with myself. It was a 3 hour session in the water and by the end of 2 and 1/2 hours I was done, my eyes were sore and my legs were cramping and my back was starting to hurt, ah the pleasures of age! There are so many things to think about but I did get the concept and I think found the sweet spot of the board a couple of times. The fellow also offers white water rafting trips and said he would give me a deal so I decided to go. It will be a 2 day trip down a pretty spectacular river, leave Saturday morning and come back Sunday night. Barry has decided that he would rather spend his entertainment dollars on diving so has booked himself on a 2 tank dive next week. He is determined to catch up or surpass me in the number of dives he has!!
I called Graeme's (Trish's partner) parents because we are having a boat part shipped to them and they very kindly have invited us to stay overnight when we drive up. That will give us a chance to get to know each other and I am really looking forward to that. We are looking into having a sail made here as well as upgrading the rest of our rigging, it seems a pleasant place to stay and I am in no hurry to go further south until it warms up a bit more. I have plenty of boat projects that I would like to accomplish as well such as varnishing and polishing (what fun).Baie D'Opheliant in Noumea before we left
I am so confused!! For many of you that know me well, you will remember that I have a difficult time with left and right, difficult may be putting it mildly. I just can't seem to get it straight in my brain. For example when we were diving on the Coolidge, Barry asked me to check if his air tank was wide open and I twisted it a few times to make sure it was open. Well, we almost lost Barry, I had twisted it partially shut and he had a very hard time breathing when he went under water. He rather looked like a fish as he gasped for more air! Honestly, I did not do it on purpose, he even admitted last night he had some trepidation about me doing it but did not remind me righty, tighty, lefty losey.
So, we had been in New Zealand, Fiji, and Vanuatu for almost 6 month, they all drive on the opposite side from North America, I am truly not sure if it is on the right or left, but then we get to New Caledonia. They are French, they drive on the same side as we normal Canadians. All is good.
NOW, we are in Aus, and they drive on the wrong side, I am so confused, I do not know which side of the road to look for cars coming. I don't know which side of the sidewalk to walk on and in the supermarket I am constantly causing traffic jams in the aisles. Does anyone out there have a solution to my problem? Am I alone or is there a syndrome that I can identify with and a self help group that I can attend. I believe that I have even passed on this affliction to one of my daughters. I think she may have managed to partially overcome it but you would have to ask her partner for sure. What is a person to do.

Monday, November 01, 2010

We are here, that is a big YAHOOO!!! The passage was super, only one thing broke, I kept waiting for something else to go, great sailing, all down wind and only one very small yelling match. (it was about the pole, that would be the spinnaker pole) which comes in very handy when you are going down wind. Barry though we would get beat up on the passage like the voyages to and from New Zealand but it was not to be. We picked a great weather window, Barry is getting to be quite the weather reader, he gets it right 3 out of 5 flips of the coin. His usual gambit is to wait about until everyone else says it good and then we depart in a panic. This time he actually went out on a limb and said "Oh man, it really looks good" and we left!!!

All the rest of our buddies stayed in New Cal and are stuck there as the lows are marching across Oz AND cyclone season here has commenced as announced by the South Pacific weather guru Bob McDavitt!!!!!! We ourselves are now SOUTH of the dreaded cyclone belt.
Aus is not what we expected, it has hills. We were sure it would be flat, there are lovely rocky hills and surfing beaches. It is first world, we went in and bought a cell phone today and had to make VERY TOUGH DECISIONS about minutes and plans and which one of the (#*&$) phones to pick, it was a wake up call after 5 months of grass huts, palm trees and sandy beaches!Our phone number is 043865531 and you have to figure out the Aus prefix because we are too tired to, but don't call now the network was down when I tried to activate the phone so we are still not connected, BUT WATCH OUT TOMORROW, the scrouge of the airwaves will strike.
We have been told how expensive things are in Aus but they are compatible with Yellowknife prices, except the bus it is a travesty, it was $3.80 each, ONE WAY, unbelievable. I only slept about 4 hours last night, we had to dodge at least 6 freighters, good thing I read that book How to Av0id Large Ships At Sea, thank you Paul and Lorraine. P.S. Barry says the secret is to yell really loud!!!