January 29, 2012

Australia Day!

Somewhere a little past midsummer is a good time for national holidays, right? And there's often a good historical date cooperating to line up with good weather.

Niall waves the flag
Niall on the M/V Furthur, waving a flag to celebrate Australia Day in Sydney Harbour, 2011

For Australia, that's the 26th of January, and the commemorative event is the 1788 arrival of a British boat in what is now Sydney Harbour.

The boat was part of what's now called The First Fleet. Basically, these were boats of convicts and a supporting crew of handlers in search of a place to call home in the big new land down under. The loss of the colonies in the United States had prompted Britain to find other places for the removal of their unwanted, and this was the first mass dispatch for relocation.

Cook had been here back in 1700 and this boat we're honoring had actually gotten to Australian shores a couple of weeks previously. After poking around a number of bays in the area of what is now New South Wales, and some contact with the existing residents, they hadn't found a "suitable" place to establish the first settlement of exiles. And so, in remembrance of having landed near the current site of Sydney on 26th January 1788 and claimed a bit of land in the name of King George, there's now a spectacular national celebration. Official establishment of the colony was a few weeks later, but I suspect this date rules because February is inconveniently outside school holidays.

There is grand patriotism. Lots of flags. National food (prawns on the barbie, anyone? cold stubby?). Probably fireworks, too, in someplace less rainy than Brisbane has been lately. But the most hyped local festivities in our area? Cockroach Races!

A big fan of the fun-loving nature of Aussies, we decided this would be a good ol time and trundled along with our friends on Ceilydh to the nearby race theater and "party zone," held nearby in land adjacent to a storied local pub.

Despite the bikini babes in the dunk tank we passed on our way in, the venue was included serious racng. There were well documented rules posted for all; the grandstand arena included box seating. They've been holding these annually for some time. And there was pomp: an Irish pipe band paraded through the arena before each round. You just can't deny the emotional pull of bagpipes!

Cockroach races
The scene of cockroach races at The Story Bridge Hotel, 2012

Was it fun: yes! The crowd was convivial. The races were hysterical. A bucket of cockroaches, names carefully painted on their backs, are dropped in the middle and run hell-bent for the edges. There's a meager attempt to determine which one actually gets to the outer ring and takes first place, but winning is for the "trainer" and not the cockroach...it's a short road for the little athletes. Supporting staff found it fun to grab a few and chuck them into the viewing crowd.

Was it family friendly: not so much. Perhaps the pub location should have tipped us off...we're a little slow that way, sometimes. But we enjoyed our race, the kids got a kick out of the dunk tank, and then we made our way back to Totem... for our own version of Aussie Day celebrations.

January 23, 2012

A well fed crew is a happy crew

Among the cruising truths I had to relearn was how important it is to have easy meals prepared in advance.

Hazards of galley cooking
The stove was gimbaled, but apparently still not level...lopsided cake is a hazard of galley cooking.

People, this is cruising 101. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I glossed completely over it in our preparation. Apparently, I really thought I'd be cooking pasta, dicing tomatoes and cutting up pineapples as we worked our way up the coast.

The first leg up to Pittwater was motoring in flat water. Easy. But Pittwater to Port Stephens was such a roller coaster ride, the best I could do was throw  a bunch of veggies, lentils and some couscous in the pressure cooker with water and make curry mush. It was good enough, and it stuck to bowls (hot, liquid soups are a menace to eat in a seaway!).

At least it only took one leg for me to relearn this. Before we left Port Stephens, I cooked up a storm. We had a pumpkin cake, banana bread, brownies, cornbread, chili, baked beans, prepared salads and more. Minimal effort (and no boiling water!) required.

January 18, 2012

Sydney to Brisbane: the weather always wins

We had looked forward to getting off the dock and being underway for months. Free under sail again, listening to the whoosh of water against the hull while we worked our way north. Taking the time to discover a few pretty bays, as our route would keep us near the shore to avoid the big currents running south on the Australian East coast. We'd have almost a week to work our way from Sydney to Brisbane before commitments required us there.

Passage views
The reality, however, was a little different. Uncooperative weather didn't prevent our departure, but it definitely stalled our progress. This was the first of several cruising truths I had to relearn on this passage: that you can't put anything on a calendar, because the weather will always decide for you.

On the other hand, much of this was more happily familiar. Cruising in company with another family. Being off the grid, without readily available water and power from marina hookups. Separated from known, easy access to everything from hot showers to grocery stores. That sounds a little daunting, but it's an integral aspect of what we love about cruising. We are responsible in a more material way for our use and acquisition of basic necessities, and being in tune with their use and discharge in return increases our respect for what we have.

January 16, 2012

The Yin/Yang of Transitions: Saying Goodbye

Lots of transitions in the Totem world. Good reminders like meeting the Coles in Port Stephens to help balance out the goodbyes we've had to say...because lately, it seems like we say "goodbye" a lot.

Of course, this is also a reason to gather with friends and celebrate our time together! On a sunny weekend in December, we rafted up with a group of our neighbors in a nearby bay. Peter, from Kittani, got some great shots from his dinghy.

Weekend raft
Big raft- and this was before the boats Freddie Ray and Allagai showed up!

Weekend raft
Greg & Leisha from s/v Fine Gold with Mike & Sammy on the bow of their boat, Quartermoon.

The marina's holiday party on Christmas Eve was like one big reminder that there are a lot of people we we don't know when we'll see again. Steve, below, is the caretaker. He loomed large in our children's lives this year, and they miss him pretty badly. Abby and her husband Ben are sailing south to Adelaide. We wish it was north but are excited about their plans and dreams for a new chapter in their lives.

Steve, Siobhan & Abby
Siobhan adores Steve...and had him pretty well wrapped around her little finger.

The silver lining to saying all these goodbyes is knowing most of those are just until someday. Still, the departure milestones racked up. We did a lot of things for the last time. Last time for a while, anyway. Never say never!

Cammeray Marina Neighbors
Neighbors sending us off from the Cammeray marina

Last time through the Spit Bridge?
Following s/v Liberty out of Middle Harbour for our New Years Eve anchorage

But new horizons for a change...well, they feel good. Really good. We've gotten some growth on the bottom and are excited about sailing up to the warmer waters of Queensland. Goodbyes are softened with the knowledge we'll see many of these people again- some very soon!- and hold the promise of future shared anchorages.

January 13, 2012

Goodbye Sydney

Goodbye Sydney...

Our last look behind Totem at Sydney Harbour, before the Opera House and iconic bridge disappeared behind a point of land. January 1, 2012...changes in store for the Totem crew!

January 6, 2012

Friends in far away places

We're on our way north, destination Brisbane. The weather is mostly not in our favor since the Northeasterlies that blow in the summertime have finally kicked in. Stopping off at Port Stephens, we were connected by Jarana with a couple from Seattle who live in the harbor.

Turns out, we'd met them before: in 2003, at this big raft-up.

PSCC raftup - August 2003
Puget Sound Cruising Club, Oro Bay

Barbara and Jim made an impression on us then, and not just because their boat Complexity was a shinier, bigger sistership to our Hallberg Rassy 352, Mau Ke Mana. They were a fun couple who had put a lot of careful thought into outfitting their boat, and seemed the closest of the bunch to realizing the cruising dream...at that time in our lives, with babies and busy jobs, it all seemed far away for us.

Here in Port Stephens, they've welcomed us with open arms as members of the cruising family. We were treated to a beautiful dinner, and joy of joy for the kids- a BATH. Oh, the things you miss, living on a boat! It's so nice to feel so very well understood by someone you met once, nearly a decade ago.

And meanwhile, I've loved my walk down memory lane. I've even got a picture of Barbara hanging out in the hammock with  then four year old Niall, and one year old Mairen.


Good times, in the shadow of the beautiful Mt Rainier. In the middle of a period of transition, it's a great reminder that we'll see many of our friends again. Goodbye in the cruising world is really just until that future anchorage you'll share again someday.

PSCC raftup - August 2003
In the shadow of Mount Rainier