Sunday, 27 November 2016

Sailing Around Australia - Chameleons


We have been on a sojourn from our sailing adventures since April, as we top up the kitty by working and top up the browny points by spending time with the family. During this time it has amazed me how chameleon-like we are.

Looking back, when we left on our sailing adventures in 2013 it was a slow transformation from jobs and “normal life” to relaxed, carefree cruising sailors that took 2 or 3 months to evolve, a bit like our sun tans that took a few months to bronze, or in my case to go from red to a shade of fawny brown.

In April 2016, we had to leave Easy Tiger on the hard stand (in storage) at the Gold Coast while we attended to business matters at home in Bunbury. After a couple of years of sailing around pretty much as we pleased, it was a shock to the system to have to front up every morning, on time, motivated and prepared for the cut and thrust of managing staff, customers and general business.

I would say that within a week our tans had started to fade, our minds had changed from the next sail to the next sale and the dreaded rise in stress levels had kicked in.

Fortunately, in July we sold our business. That was again a real change in our psyche. We now had to make sure all our I’s were dotted and our T’s were crossed so that the sale would actually go through. Rather than waiting for the next weather window we were waiting for the bank to approve the purchasers finance, then we were waiting for the handover date, then we were waiting for the handover period to finish and then… finally were done.

Our next change was into thinking like investors. The money we had left over after all the business bibs and bobs were done with, had to be squirreled away very wisely. Then hopefully we would have some left over to re-boot our sailing adventures.

By the time we settled all that it was now, September. The annual southwards migration of Humpback whales and cruising sailors had begun by then. We were being teased by blogs, emails and facebook stories of the wonderful time our sailing buddies were having as they ventured to new destinations such as Hardy’s reef, Yellow Patch and Orpheus Island.

A quick look into our sailing money account told us we had enough to sail for probably six months, then it would be back to work. After much discussion, some negotiation with each other and several coin tossing sessions, we decided to find jobs now, for the next six months rather than race back to the boat nd catch up with all the others for a few weeks. We could then build our sailing funds up to the point where we could sail for a year or so, beginning in April or May 2017 when the northward migration began and conditions are much better.

So with out further ado, we morphed into job seekers. We were both concerned though as the local economy in WA has suffered a huge downturn and many businesses were closing, not hiring.
For me, finding a job was surprisingly easy, courtesy of having had a road train driver’s license for some years. I was able to find a job working four days on then four days off which suited.

For Leanne, though, it turned out to be a far more difficult task. After sending 20 or so applications off, often having no response, three interviews at Bunning’s and a host of other dead ends, Leanne was getting quite downhearted. Also, the processes employers are using such as group interviews, (and the video response I had to send in) for what are relatively straightforward jobs is now very interesting.

16 years of running our own business yet it was very hard for Leanne to find work.
For someone who has run our own business, has achieved a lot of sales success, and has sailed short handed around Australia, getting constantly rejected for jobs as a checkout chick, or chicken recipe demonstrator csn be really demoralizing. Thankfully, our friend Christina came up with a solution and offered Leanne some work as a housekeeper at a resort.

So I have morphed into a fluoro wearing, shift workin’, gear crunchin’ trucker who rolls up and down the highway dreaming of our next sailing adventure. Leanne now spends her days cleaning and making beds, dreaming of getting off her feet, having a cup of tea and a lie down after her day of physically demanding work.

After some weeks of get up early go to work come home, have dinner, go to bed… repeat;  our sailing dream had begun to slip away. In fact we had both been looking at maybe buying a house and putting our roots down and…egad… selling Easy Tiger.

How lucky that our friends, Melian and Ian, shared some of their sailing journey on facebook with Leanne. These friends had bought a catamaran in the Seychelle Islands, had it sailed back to Mandurah and become our neighbours in the Marina. These two both had hectic jobs, teenage kids, were building a house etc..etc.. while Easy Tiger was moored next  to their boat, Indian Summer.

Somehow they managed to get their boat up to speed (I think Ian stayed on board during the week, so that he could work on it during the evenings) and had thrown the ropes earlier this year. With tons of courage, they had headed north on the Western Australian Coast, through the Kimberleys to Darwin and were now in North Java, Indonesia, participating in the Sail Indonesia Rally. From there they intend to do a circumnavigation of the world.

When I arrived home the night after Leanne had been Face timing with Melian, the transformation in Leanne left me quite amazed.

Just like the first time she had got excited about buying a catamaran, her lights were back on. Just like the first time, within a week we were booked to fly to Queensland although not to hire a boat this time, but to visit our boat and to reunite with some of our sailing buddies.

Our arrival at the Boatworks yard on the gold coast was exciting. Neville and Amanda from Bossa Nova picked us up from the train station. After an hour or so of talking about their adventures of their cruising season, we realised how relaxed they were, how tanned they were and how many new adventures they had.  The conversation flowed like it was like we had never been away, but left me feeling that I had missed out on a lot.

There was a Pizza night at the cafĂ© where we met several more “boaties”.  A couple of days later there was a talk about sailing to New Caledonia and there we caught up with part of our “Sailing Family”, Brain and Eva. That also left me with the feeling of how far removed from this “community” we had become

I was relieved to find that as the discussions turned to next years planned adventures, I realised how easily and quickly we will morph back into being cruising sailors, once our work is done.

As Land Lubbers do, Leanne got dressed up for a day at the races with her sister.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Sailing Around Australia; You Don't Know What You'e Got

13th April 2016

You don't know what you've got till it's gone.

Our sailing adventures began in 2013. We left Perth not really knowing if we'd enjoy the experience, not really knowing where we would end up and not really knowing how long we would go for.

2 and a bit years on and we are really enjoying the experience of cruising sailing. We still don't know where we are going to end up, but at least for the moment we also know we have only two weeks left.

In the past two and a bit years we have only been home a couple of times.  We were settled in Brisbane before Christmas to sit out the cyclone season further north, when we found some cheap fares and flew home to WA for a visit.

Our timing was impeccable. We got to attend a niece's 21st and a friend's 60th birthday celebrations.We were able to spend Leanne's fathers 80th birthday with him.  We stayed with my Mum who had not been well and as fortune would have it, we spent some time with my Dad at the nursing home he lived in. This was especially good timing as he passed away 5 days later.

My Dad's passing brought real meaning to our mantra of live life well while you can. He had a stroke at the age of 59 that robbed him of his ability to work, or participate fully in many of the pastimes he enjoyed, like golf and bowls. He had several more strokes, each robbing him of independence until we were forced to put him in the car of a nursing home. I used to almost feel guilty when regaling our stories of sailing adventures and the places we have been or the people we had met, hoping not to make him feel too envious. I also will always feel a little guilty that we only got to visit him a couple of time a year since we left.

Another thing that hit us hard during our home visit was the state of our local economy. On the day we landed I mistakenly read the local newspaper. I say mistakenly because reading the doom and gloom on each page of the paper brought a feeling of missing the boat terribly. The BHP Alumina works that drives much of our local economy had laid off several hundred workers and more cut backs and retrenchments were on the cards. There were more stories of a similar vane and even the sport on the back page didn't cheer me up much with the favourite football team getting well beaten.

While visiting friends we kept hearing many stories of lost jobs and financial hardship causing high amounts of stress on our mates. We again felt almost guilty for sharing our adventures.

Than came our turn. The small business that we are partners in has consequently suffered a hit and sales are well down this year. We had hoped the the business and our house rental would support our sailing adventures, but this will not be the case.

Faced with a sharp decline in income, we had to cut costs. Our business partner decided that he would like to leave the business and we were left with having to put our sailing adventures on hold for the foreseeable future.

We had six weeks to get Easy Tiger into storage and secured. We then have to get back to Bunbury and find somewhere to live and get into work mode in our heads.

So for the past week we have been savouring every moment of the sailing life. We have been cruising around Moreton bay enjoying each minute. Fortunately we have had great weather and Leanne has been snorkelling at Tangalooma and we have been swimming at Deanbilla.

Today we have anchored off Tipplers resort. We have contemplated going ashore, but that would waste a precious hour or so that we could spend on ET.

We will be hauled out at the boat works on Friday and will pack up and strip Easy Tiger so that she can wait for our return. While we are not sure when that will be, we do know that it will be as soon as practically possible.

The song says you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Trouble is we do know what we had but luckily it's not gone, it's just on hold.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Sailing Around Australia; Flat Spot

Boatworks, Coomera River, Gold Coast

6/2/2016 Flat Spot

It is fair to say that sailing around Australia aboard Easy Tiger is the adventure of a lifetime. We do feel a little bit embarrassed to say that every now and then we hit a flat spot.

All great adventures had their dull moments I am sure. These are the times that can’t be described as exciting, dangerous or even mildly stimulating. Theses are the times when the adventurers just have to grind it out, do the hard yards or sit and wait at the ready.

One such flat spot has been the past 12 days. For theses days we have had Easy Tiger pulled out of the water and sitting half in a shed at the Boatworks near the Gold Coast.

This was so that we could have Easy Tiger’s starboard keel repaired. As usual we also took the opportunity to do other repairs and of course have some new bits added.

To save money we try to do as much as we can ourselves, so for most of the 12 days we have been flat out sun up to after sun down, scrubbing, sanding, polishing, glueing, cleaning and other laboring tasks as well.

While we were doing this Easy Tiger had her bows pointed north with the stern inside the shed. This had a multiplier effect as the sun blazed down on the foredeck all day, the shed blocked what little breeze there was and we melted as we worked.

The heat didn’t abate much in the evenings so sleep was something we needed and didn’t get much of.

We got as much as we could done, but some days it was working in slow motion and more than a couple of times a trip to the shops was made on a very feeble excuse, just so that we could sit in the air-conditioning for a while. Unfortunately one of the coolest shops was Bunnings and that meant our budget was whacked again.

Some jobs were invented y mistakes, adding to our already short tempers. We used degreaser to remove some dirty black marks on our foredeck. The degreaser got all the dirt off really well. The deck looked a treat. Unfortunately the degreaser then ran over the sides of the hulls and took all our freshly applied polish with it. So we had to re-polish the hulls, which took a very long day.

Once our keel was repaired, they had to sand back and re-apply a coat of anti foul. That is black sticky paint stuff that, bless their cotton socks, they decided to apply by spraying rather than rolling. We were told that from the minute they finished spraying we would have an hour to completely scrub the boat, or the overspray would settle and be near on impossible to remove. That was also the hottest day.

One could only imagine our relief at being put back in the water at 4.00pm yesterday and last night we slept like babes even though the wind was howling through the rigging, the boat was buffeted from side to side and the rain was heavy on the roof. Plus it was still at least 28 degrees.

Today has been spent tidying up after the works. Leanne has spent half the day at the free Laundromat and I have done some inside jobs including relocating phone charger points. We have done one of five or six more wash downs to get the black foot prints and various other marks of our beloved Easy Tiger.

Tomorrow we will start a short trip form the gold coast to the Manly marina in Brisbane.  Being on the move should also be the end of our current “flat spot”.

Word of warning; don't fish in a green zone in Queensland. That hovering helicopter isn't taking holiday snaps, it's taking photo's to use as evidence that is then used to slap you with an $1800 fine. Ask us how we know! Nice of Leanne to give them a wave!!!

ET with wheels, lifted out at Boatworks.

Poor sore keel!

Our new weapon in the battle against sand flies and mozzies

Flycreens now cover our cockpit

The naughty dinghy even got some attention scrubbed, re-glued  and cleaned.

Sitting in the marina at the gold coast, ready to go.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Sailing around Australia; Straya Day

Jumpinpin Bar, South Stradbroke Ilsand, Gold Coast

We are proudly flying the flag. WA flag too.

25/1/2016 Straya day

Here we are spending Australia Day 2016 aboard our catamaran Easy Tiger at the Jumpinpin Bar near the Gold Coast Queensland.

Of the 200 or so boats anchored between us and the horizon, I think at least 3/4s of them are flying the Australian flag, as we are. Just to be different we are also flying the West Australian flag too, which is attracting many a quizzical look.

What a terrific day to celebrate our good fortune of being born in country that has so much freedom. We have the freedom to take opportunities that are presented, freedom to earn money and the freedom to use that money to buy a pleasure boat if we so choose.

Then we still have the freedom to use that boat in any way we choose to. Like taking off from our home port and sailing around our continent. We also have the freedom to choose taking our big power boat to Jumpinpin for the Straya day weekend, where we anchor up nice and close to someone elses sailing catamaran, then we have the freedom to crank the stereo so the whole anchorage can listen to the soothing sounds of Jimmy Barnes.

Of course what good would that freedom be if you couldn’t  shout and swear a bit especially when the little kids are swimming at the beach no more than 50 metres from where you anchored your big power boat.

The best part, is that we are all here to celebrate living in a country where we are free to have our mates bring their big power boat over and tie it on to the side of ours, then while jimmy barnes is shouting about working hard for a living on our boat, we can have drinking, burping a weeing over the side competitions on their boat.

Then when we are all drunk enough, we are free to jump off  the roof of our boat into the current that is so strong one of our drunk mates has to come pick us up in the dinghy. We are free to be so drunk that we can’t climb into the dinghy and we get towed back to the boat.

By this time we are free to be really drunk and obnoxious so when someone suggests we move our big power boats further down stream we think that is a good idea. Naturally, we have the freedom to roar off in our power boats at such a speed that all those little yachts and catamarans are rolled violently from side to side, cos hey, they are free to rock and roll too.

Not that I am saying this happened, mind you. I am just saying that we are free to do and behave like this if we choose, while so many others are just trying to live, or spend days trying to find their next meal. That’s why I celebrate Straya Day.

A few of the many boats anchored around us.

Full moon at Jumpinpin past night

A few photos I took while on a visit to North Stradbroke Island with Paul and Jenny off  "MY RUBY"

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Sailing Around Australia; Our First Tangalooma Tale

Deanbilla, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland

Our first  Tangalooma Tale

Yesterday, we took Easy Tiger on her second voyage form Brisbane to Tangalooma. I am pleased to say it went off without a hitch, unlike our first trip.

Not many know the story, but when we first became owners of Easy Tiger, our first trip was from the RQYS to Tangalooma on Moreton Island, about 15 nautical miles from Brisbane.

Tangalooma is where the Queensland government dumped some wrecks of barges and dredges that had been littering the river. They took them over to Tangalooma and put them parallel with the beach, hoping to make a breakwater from the wind and the currents. The breakwater idea failed, but it is now a good snorkeling , diving and boating spot.

We arrived in Brisbane, with our daughter Bree and her boyfriend at the time, Clinton. We were very excited to be spending our first week on “our” boat, Easy Tiger.

Our guy, Ken, that was helping us look after Easy Tiger had parked it in the VIP pens right in front of the restaurant and bars at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron.

I must point out at this time that my sailing experience up until this point consisted of 4 days on a yacht while doing my competent crew certificate. 

The four of us sprang out of the taxi and ran down the jetty, leaping aboard our boat. Our luggage was stowed quick time and we went over the boat with a fine tooth comb, trying to remember everything from our inspection, lift out and test sail a couple of months earlier.

The day went by in a flash with the girls going shopping and the guys, checking everything out, then deciding that we would go for a look see in the dinghy.

In my haste, I grabbed the dinghy rope in both hands, and let the clutch go before I had the rope around the winch. The weight of the dinghy sent it crashing in the water, pulling the rope through my hands very quickly. This caused a serious burn that blistered within seconds in the both of my palms.

For the rest of the week I was doing everything by using fingertips only.

The girls arrived back from the shops and by the time all the provisions were stowed, it was time for dinner. Leanne had bought some meat for the barbecue and set about plugging the barbecue gas line in. The bayonet was quite stiff, so she took a step back to give the gas bayonet a good push, but she stepped back too far.

Into the water she tumbled, much to the mirth of the considerable crowd now gathered in the RQYS bar.

The next morning we set off for our trip to Tangalooma. We had been going for a few hours and were feeling quite pleased that we had left the mooring pen, got out of the busy marina and around St Helena Island without any mishaps. Even with me steering by fingertips and heavily bandaged hands.

As we approached Moreton Island the need to tack or something like that became more obvious to me. As in my training , I announced to everyone that we would prepare to tack.

Leanne was fishing and carried on with that. Bree was sitting on a chair reading a book and carried on with that. Clinton was inside getting something to eat. So I prepared to tack, by myself.

Preparation to tack on Easy Tiger involves bringing the traveller to the centre of the boat. Unfortunately, the previous owners must have got a special price on blue rope, because our dinghy lift rope, traveller rope and the main sheet, were all blue.

In my preparation to tack I managed to undo the dinghy haul up rope, causing it to once again allow the dinghy to free fall into the water. In a state of shock I called to the crew, “oh shit, the dinghies in the water”. To which they responded by carrying on doing what they were doing.

I needed to get a response and some help quickly to tack, as we were now travelling straight towards a beach at about 8 knots with the dinghy, which was now upside down, bobbing along behind us. All I could do then was yell “F…..g man overboard, crew”.

Leanne, alerted to the urgency of the situation took the helm and fired up the motors, Clinton helped me winch the traveller over and around went Easy Tiger. We managed to furl the head sail to slow the boat. Once we were slowed, Clinton and I hauled the dinghy in and managed to get it back into position.

We motored gingerly the last couple of miles to Tangalooma.

Bree and Clinton were keen divers. As we arrived, they had their scuba gear on and jumped in. They hadn’t been gone long, when Bree surfaced and was yelling for help. Without further ado, Leanne and I dropped the dinghy and jumped in. Amazingly the dinghy motor started and we raced off to help our daughter who was finding the current too strong.

In our haste to get to her aid, Leanne and I had jumped into the opposite side for operating the dinghy. I was wondering why the throttle controller seemed quite awkward, even though I could only use my fingertips.

Bree grabbed the front of the dinghy as we got to her, but thinking I was reducing the revs, I gave it full power and we lurched forward, going straight over the top of our beloved daughter.

Leanne was screaming, I was shouting and fortunately, behind us Bree bobbed up all ok and was soon shouting as well. Then, Clinton surfaced and began shouting at Bree for not letting him know she was going to the surface, and Bree was shouting at him for shouting at her.

We got the two shouting divers back to Easy Tiger and again set off in the dinghy, this time the right way around. We needed to practice. We went to have a look at the wrecks, but got too close. A wave picked up the dinghy and as it went through, the dinghy crashed down onto part of the wreck, temporarily stranding us on the barnacle infested rusty steel hulk. Now we were shouting at each other again.

Another wave came through and picked us up, so while there was water underneath us I gunned the engine and we reversed away from the obstacle.

Leanne demanded to be taken to shore, She had to get on some dry land to sit and think. I put the dinghy into gear.

As the dinghy started to go forward the whole thing started shaking violently. We shook and shuddered our way to shore with Leanne shouting at me that we had managed to wreck our new dinghy in one day. She had me convinced.

At shore while Leanne went for some personal time in the shade, I inspected the dinghy. I found the painter, or the rope that we tie the dinghy to Easy Tiger with, which of course was blue, was too long. It had gone right under the dinghy and wrapped itself around the propeller, causing the awful vibration.

Luckily for my sail in aspirations, the rest of the week was a delight. We really took to boat ownership from then on.

We do look back at our first Tangalooma trip with fond memories of the “learning experiences” we had those first 2 days.That being, rope burns really hurt, you can't stand on water, you shouldn't have all your ropes the same colour and it is actually really hard to kill a dinghy.

We have had a few hiccups and “happenings” since then, one in particular that we are going the gold coast next week to have repaired.

When Leanne insisted that we go back to Tangalooma again this week, I was understandably a little cautious. Fortunately our trip was event free.