Flight of the Cactus Wren / Radio Flyer

07 December 2011 | Torquay, Australia
03 December 2011 | Sydney, Australia
21 November 2011 | Sydney, Australia
11 November 2011 | Noumea, New Caledonia
31 October 2011 | Lautoka, Fiji
21 October 2011 | Vuda Marina, Vuda Point, Fiji Island, Fiji
15 October 2011 | Neiafu Harbor, Vava'u, The Kingdom of Tonga
15 October 2011 | Neiafu Harbor, Vava'u, Tonga
22 September 2011 | Neiafu Harbor, Tonga
01 September 2011 | Neiafu Harbor, Vava'u, Tonga
01 August 2011 | Neiafu Harbor
22 July 2011 | Asau Harbor
22 July 2011 | Asau Harbor
12 July 2011 | Apia Marina
28 June 2011 | Pago Pago Harbor
28 June 2011 | Pago Pago Harbor
02 January 2011 | Malaloa Marina, Pago Pago Harbor
04 December 2010 | Malaloa Marina, Pago Pago Harbor
08 November 2010 | Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa

Torquay, Australia: December 2011

07 December 2011 | Torquay, Australia
AH
Torquay, Australia

3-7 DECEMBER 2011
GEELONG AND NACHOS

On Saturday evening, 3 December, Peter met us at the airport in Melbourne and drove us to his home in Torquay (tor-KEY), a pleasant little beach town on the Surf Coast in southeastern Victoria bordering the Bass Strait on the southern coast of Australia. Unassuming though it may be, Peter informed us, Torquay is the birthplace of two of the most famous surfwear companies in the world. )Peter himself is a surfer and has any number of boards to prove it.)

On the way to Torquay we stopped in Geelong (tzsheh-LONG) where Peter hoped to take us to the yacht club. (Peter is a member of the Sandringham Yacht Club and so has reciprocal privileges at many other yacht clubs.) Unfortunately, they were hosting a private event that evening and so were closed to visitors. But at least we learned how to pronounce the name of the town, which I had heretofore called GEE-long.

And so we headed on to Torquay where we stopped to buy a few bottles of wine (I especially liked the Yalumba Shiraz) on the way home. And what a charming home it was! Peter's house is an early 20th C wooden beach cottage, small and spare but clean and attractive with a most welcoming guest room, situated in a pleasant residential neighborhood and boasting a large, grassy backyard with, of course, the mandatory barbecue grill.

On this night, however, we skipped the barbecue and gathered in the cozy kitchen where Peter whipped up some hot and delicious nachos. After catching up with Peter around the table for an hour or so we trundled off to bed and sweet dreams under a beach-themed bed cover. And, since it was still quite cold, an electric blanket as well.

IN SEARCH OF KOALAS AND KANGAROOS

Of course, being first-timers in Australia, Jim and I were anxious to see some of its famous exotic wildlife, and so on Sunday Peter, being the most gracious host that he is, set out to find it for us. We began by heading down the Great Ocean Road, the east end of which lies right there at Torquay. This route is quite scenic, offering many great views of the ocean and historic little towns along the way.

At Anglesea we stopped at the Anglesea Golf Course in hopes of seeing some kangaroos, but no luck. We had to be happy with a beer in the clubhouse instead. Then on to Lorne and its historic hotel where we stopped in at the Lorne Hotel Pub for a drink and then the seafood market to pick up something for dinner. Next came Wye River and its Wye River Hotel Pub where we once again quenched our thirst before reaching Kennett River Holiday Park in Kennett River.

Here is where Peter expected us to find koalas. Unfortunately, there were not many of the cuddly-looking creatures about on this day. We only spotted a couple sleeping high up in a eucalyptus tree. Sadly, many of the trees were now devoid of all leaves, presumably because the koalas were busy eating themselves out of house and home, not to mention their food supply.

But despite its seeming lack of koalas, the park did not lack for interesting wildlife, especially of the winged variety. We saw plenty of sulphur-crested cockatoos and crimson rosella parrots. The rosellas were not the least bit shy. In fact, one even landed on Jim's shoulder before hopping up to his head!

In Torquay once again, we stopped at Growlers, one of Peter's favorite watering holes, for a drink. Growlers is a funky and convivial beach town restaurant with inviting outdoor seating, but we sat inside on this chilly evening due to the cold.

Back at Peter's the menfolk lit the barbecue grill in the backyard, and we dined on scallops, shrimp, boarfish, and oysters with bread and dukkah (mixed spices) with olive oil, salad, and wine. YUM! (Have I mentioned that the Aussies know how to eat?)

TWO OCEANS, TWELVE APOSTLES, AND KOALAS GALORE

Monday we set out on the Great Ocean Road again, this time traveling all the way from Torquay to Port Campbell, a distance of about 200 km (approximately 120 miles). We drove through Bells Beach, which hosts the Rip Curl Pro, the longest continuously run (50 years in 2011) annual surfing contest in the world, and on to Kennett River Holiday Park again. This time we did see a number of koalas, but they were shy and up high and more difficult to see than I would have liked.

Next we stopped at Apollo Bay for drinks and a walk by the sea, then it was onward all the way to the Cape Otway Lightstation. On the way to the lighthouse we drove through the Cape Otway National Park, and there, to our delight, we finally found our koalas - LOTS of them. Up in the trees, of course, either sleeping, munching on eucalyptus leaves, or moving languidly up the branch to the next batch of leaves.

Peter parked the car and we all got out and stood on the road along with other onlookers to gaze up at these furry creatures. Once outside the car, we could hear loud, startling roars and realized that they were coming from those adorable little "teddy bears." These sounds did not sound like anything that should be coming from the throats of such cuddly-looking creatures, but Peter warned us that they are indeed wild animals and have a sharp claw in their wrists that can rip you open. Wow. Who knew?

While we were pondering this new and somewhat frightening information as we studied these amazing animals above us, one of them stretched out spread-eagle fashion, face down, between two branches and let loose a long, hard pee that barely missed hitting Peter on the head. This veritable waterfall made its own loud noise as it bounced off the pavement and lasted about 30 seconds. WOW! How could such a small critter who eats only leaves and drinks no water accomplish such an astounding feat? He must have been saving that up for a month!

Having decided that the koalas were probably ready for us to leave, we drove on to the lighthouse area and, for $17.50 a piece, took a do-it-yourself tour of the grounds, which includes the Head Lightkeeper's House, the Telegraph Station, and an Aboriginal Cultural Site.

The Head Lightkeeper's House was built in 1857 of green sandstone from a nearby quarry. It is now rentable as a getaway cottage featuring four double bedrooms, open fireplaces, and stunning views.

The Telegraph Station was built in 1859 to house Australia's first submarine telegraph cable, which linked Tasmania to the mainland. When the cable failed later in the same century, the building became a signal station, signaling passing ships and telegraphing the details to Melbourne.

Cape Otway, like most of the Victorian coastline, has been a habitat for Australia's indigenous people for thousands of years. Even today, such places are culturally and spiritually important to Aboriginal people, prompting the cultural heritage protection of these sites within the Lightstation Precinct.

A café is located in the Assistant Lightkeepers' Residence, which was built in 1858 to house two assistant lightkeepers and their families. Today Cape Otway is still an important reference station for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and a modern-day weather station is located in this same building.

At the base of a flagstaff lies a large red anchor from the ship Eric the Red, which struck the Otway Reef in a heavy fog in 1880 while traveling from America laden with exhibits for the Melbourne Exhibition. Four people lost their lives in the wreck.

The first casualty of World War II for the USA occurred when the US steamship City of Rayville was sunk by a German mine off Cape Otway in November of 1940. Following this event, a radar station was built at Cape Otway in 1942, and that radar bunker still exists on the property.

Also on the grounds is a plaque commemorating the mysterious disappearance of 20-year-old pilot Frederick Valentich whose small plane vanished over the Bass Strait while flying from Melbourne to King Island on 21 October 1978. Many who have read the transcript of Fredericks's last words with the Melbourne Flight Service believe this story to be Australia's most credible UFO mystery.

Of course, the Cape Otway Lighthouse is the focal point of the park. It was built in 1848 in response to the large number of ships (at least 18) that had wrecked in the narrow gap between Cape Otway and King Island, a distance of less than 90 km (54 miles). When the convict ship Neva foundered off King Island in 1835, almost 250 lives were lost. And in an 1845 shipping disaster, 399 immigrants died when the Cataraqui was wrecked off King Island.

The lighthouse was built on the cape's southern point at the juncture of the Bass Strait, that finger of the Pacific that separates the Australian mainland from Tasmania, and the Southern Ocean. The light was originally fuelled by whale oil, then kerosene and later electricity. It shone 48 km (29 miles) out to sea. In 1994 the old light was decommissioned and replaced with a nearby solar-powered automatic beacon.

And yes, we did climb to the top of the lighthouse and go outside on the narrow metal platform to view that almost mythical line where the two massive bodies of water meet. It was very windy out there on that platform, and the water below looked chillingly rough and cold. But now we can say that we have seen the Atlantic, the Pacific, AND the Southern oceans. Only two more to go!

We saw a few more koalas on our way out of the park, then continued westward on the Great Ocean Road, which veered northward away from the coast into a more countrylike setting. At the pinnacle of this northward trend lies Lavers Hill where we stopped at a roadhouse seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Actually, except for the fact that there were no saguaros in the background, this dusty, rusty, no- hexagonal-glass-jar-full-of-vodka-and-lemons-here bar could have been in southern Arizona. Just like home.

Next on our sightseeing tour were the Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park. The "icon of the Great Ocean Road," these magnificent limestone stacks are 45 meters (147 feet) tall. They loom just offshore in an elegant gathering of natural grace. Truly awe inspiring.

Not far west of the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road was the final destination of our day's excursion, Port Campbell. Here we watched the sunset at a beach bar by the sea and then walked up to the Craypot for a seafood dinner.

From Port Campbell we took the inland route back to Torquay - not nearly as scenic as the Great Ocean Road but much faster. Besides, it was dark now anyway.

GOLFING WITH THE ROOS

Peter had set up a tee time for Jim and him to play golf at Anglesea Golf Course on Tuesday, so off we went that morning in great anticipation of not only enjoying a lovely day on the course but also, we hoped, seeing some kangaroos. Suddenly, in the midst of this pleasant glow on a straight stretch of highway with little traffic, a policeman pulled Peter over to the side of the road.

What on earth? I wondered. Peter is a careful driver and was not speeding. Peter, however, did not seem surprised. He and the pleasant young policeman exchanged greetings, and then the policeman had Peter blow into a breathalyzer. "Do you catch many drunks on the road at 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday?" Jim asked the officer. "You'd be surprised," he said with a smile before sending us on our way.

Peter, who was quite blasé about the entire affair, informed us that if you drive in Australia you can expect to be pulled over at any time and required to take a breathalyzer test. If you blow .05 or higher, you must relinquish your license on the spot and find some other way home. Now we know why Australia had to develop such extensive public transportation systems!

After this unexpected little interlude, we made our way uneventfully to the golf course. We rented one golf cart, and the boys let me drive (brave souls that they are!) while they walked. It was all very lovely, and the guys were having fun, but I was anxious to see some kangaroos. And then, there they were! Dozens of them, lying under the trees on the side of the course and occasionally hopping from one tree to another.

These were greys, which unlike the big reds of the Outback, are only about four feet tall. That, however, does not mean they are harmless. Like the koala, the kangaroo, Peter warned us, also has a sharp claw with which it can easily eviscerate a human. And so I took lots of photos - from a distance. I did, however, get within a few feet of a mama roo with a Joey in her pouch. (Shades of Kanga and Roo in the Hundred Acre Woods. I kept expecting Piglet and Pooh to turn up any minute.)

We were surprised to learn that, despite their undomesticated nature, the roos on the golf course were adorned with leather collars. This lets the golf course personnel know which roos belong there as they have to be "culled" now and then. (I don't even want to think about exactly what that means.)

Anyway, while getting close enough to the trees to take photos of the roos, I found a leather collar on the ground, complete with a name in large black letters and a bit of kangaroo hair. So! At least one of these fascinating creatures had escaped from this unwanted necklace. Good on him, I say! (Unless, of course, it resulted in his being "culled.") We know next to nothing of his history and even less of his fate, but we shall always remember the undying spirit of "Vlad," the roo who would be free.

After Jim and Peter finished their nine holes of golf, we returned to Torquay where we sat outside with cold drinks at Growlers. Now ready for lunch, our gracious host bought us chunky beef pies from a local patisserie, then took us down to a little park where we ate at a picnic table overlooking the Bass Strait.

The pies tasted good, but a short time later, right after we got back to Peter's, Jim became quite ill. At first he suspected food poisoning, even though Peter and I were fine, but we eventually figured out it was a stomach virus. Poor Jim! What an unhappy ending to an otherwise most enjoyable day.

As for our overall Torquay visit, what can we say? FANTASTIC! Thank you, Peter!



Sydney, Australia: November-December 2011

03 December 2011 | Sydney, Australia
AH
Sydney, Australia

21 NOVEMBER - 3 DECEMBER 2011

DID YOU SAY DEPORTATION???

Later on the morning of 21 November we left the Customs mooring and wended our way through fast-moving ferries (which, by the way, in Sydney Harbour have the right-of-way even if you are under sail), a few large ships, and plenty of sailboats and small craft from Watsons Bay, near the South Head on the northeastern side of Port Jackson, across the harbor to Neutral Bay in the northwestern portion of the port to clear in with Customs and Immigration.

Several very courteous young Aussie officials were awaiting us there along with a black Labrador retriever in little booties. The dog and his handler boarded the boat while I filled out paperwork on the shore. We never knew what the dog was searching for - drugs? bombs? firearms? people? - but whatever it was, we didn't have it and so he didn't find it, which was good. What was not so good was the fact that no one had obtained visas for Jim and me to enter the country.

The omission occurred because Jim and Andy, the new boat owner, had agreed that Andy would submit all the paperwork to the Australian authorities for us to import the boat into Australia. He had indeed done so for the boat importation but had neglected to obtain our visas. This was a bit of a sticky wicket because these very courteous young gentlemen were informing us that due to this omission, they had to legal right to charge us $5,000 each and deport us. Ouch!

Fortunately, Andy talked to them on the phone and explained everything and they decided to forgive us. Our only penalty was being granted a visa for only three months instead of six, which was fine since we only planned to stay about three weeks anyway. Whew!

COOKING ITALIAN TONIGHT?

For the next step in the clearing-in process, we had to cross the port again to Rushcutters Bay on the south side of the harbor. Here two cheerful women came aboard to conduct a health and environmental inspection.

We were relieved to know that, since we were leaving the country shortly and taking him with us, we would be allowed to keep Barney, our copper "Zuni" bear wall sculpture adorned with leather, feathers, and fur, but we were a bit surprised when the ladies confiscated a number of our herbs and spices. "Why?" we asked. "Are you planning on cooking Italian tonight?" They laughed and explained that certain tiny critters sometimes hitch a ride in oregano and such. Oh.

BUT WHAT IF WE DON'T WANT TO EAT A ROCKET?

Docking at the inspection dock at Rushcutters was free, but officially only for the duration of the inspection. However, it was lunchtime by now, and our friendly inspectors told us we could stay an extra hour or so in order to get some lunch.

Great! How lucky we were to be able to go ashore at tony Rushcutters Bay to go in search of a good burger. We stopped at the CYC (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia) where Jim got a beer for A$5.50 and we shared a burger with fries for A$18.00. (The Australian dollar was pretty much on a par with the U.S. dollar while we were in Australia, fluctuating only a cent or two in either direction, so from now on I shall simply use the $ sign when needed.)

The price of the food was a bit of a shock - we are not talking fancy here: we got our burger from a walk-up window and ate at an outdoor table - but we thought it might be something special as it was advertised as coming with "rocket." Alas, this much anticipated exotic ingredient turned out merely to be arugula, which I don't even like. Thus began our rather expensive Down Under education.

A NIGHT IN THE JUNGLE

When we returned to the dock, we stopped in the marina office there to obtain information on getting to our destination, d'Albora Marina at The Spit in Middle Harbour, just north of Port Jackson, where Andy planned to keep the boat for awhile. However, it was now 2:30 p.m., we were more than half an hour away from The Spit and its bridge, which would have to open to let us through to the marina, and the bridge was scheduled to close from 3:00 till 8:00 p.m., at which time it would be dark and the marina, no doubt, would be closed.

We asked about staying overnight at the marina at Rushcutters, but they had no room for us. Where could we go? Well, we were told, we could go straight across to Athol Bay on the north side of Port Jackson and spend the night there. It was a public park and there were a few moorings there where we could stay one night for free, or we could even anchor there if all the moorings were taken.

And so once again we braved the mad harbor and managed to snare a mooring just moments after its previous occupant left. (All other moorings were taken.) And so we settled in for a pleasant evening, nestled in our deck chairs on the foredeck, sipping wine and admiring the jungly green vegetation adorning the shore in front of us. The jungle theme was further developed as the night wore on and we heard monkeys and other "wild" animals making their night-time noises from their habitats at the Taronga Zoo on the shore so near to our mooring. It was all very exotic and quite entertaining.

SURFERS ON THE RAIN

The next morning we made it safely to the d'Albora Marina, which is just on the far side of The Spit bridge from the main harbor. Andy had reserved a mooring there as of a few days hence, but he and Angie graciously allowed us to stay aboard the boat for a few days so that we could have time to pack up the belongings we wanted to ship back to the States, and so we docked the boat there for the next few days.

Upon arrival, we asked the dock master whether there were any shops, grocery stores, bars or restaurants within walking distance, but he said no. And so we took a taxi to the Warringah Mall in order to get a cell phone card and an internet WiFi stick. We also ate lunch at the Navigator Brasserie while there and bought a Sydney map at a bookstore.

From there we took another taxi to the historic Steyne Pub on Manly Beach, a popular surfing beach on the ocean a bit north of the North Head. Our dear friend Dianne, whom we had met in Fiji, joined us there for a glass of wine. It was pouring rain, and we sat inside by a large plate glass window looking out at young professional women scurrying by with umbrellas over their heads and barely dressed surfers standing gamely at the stoplight waiting to cross the street with their surfboards under their arms while a few hardy souls continued to surf in the rain.

We spent that night with Dianne at her house in Cabarita, a suburb of Sydney, and took her to dinner at the nearby Crumb Italian Restaurant. Dianne admitted that she had passed the restaurant, which is only a few blocks from her house, many times but had never eaten there, and was quite delighted to discover that both the service and the food were quite good. I had the Fettuccine Primavera, which was excellent.

FIRST FORAY INTO SYDNEY

The following day we walked with Dianne down to the ferry dock in Cabarita and boarded the ferry for downtown Sydney. Docking in Cockle Harbour at the south end of Darling Bay, we wound up right in front of the King Street Brew House, which of course we had to sample. In fact, we ate lunch there: fish (barramundi) and chips (french fries). We were excited about getting to try the barramundi, which is an Australian fish I had read about long ago, but it was not all that good. (We later learned that any barramundi you eat outside of the area where it is caught in Queensland is certain to have been frozen, so take note.)

Dianne had a meeting in the city, so Jim and I walked across the bridge to the Australian National Maritime Museum, which we toured. It was most impressive, I thought, with interesting and well designed exhibits. There is even an old wooden ship you can tour docked behind the museum, but we didn't explore that part.

On the way back over the bridge toward the ferry docks we used the umbrella Dianne had lent us because it was raining. Suddenly the wind whipped in behind the umbrella and pushed it inside-out, breaking its spokes. So much for "Sunny Sinny" (as our sailing friend Greg, whom we met in Fiji, calls his native city). In fact, the weather continued to be cold, overcast, and rainy the entire two weeks we were in Sydney, which included 1 December, Australia's first official day of summer.

WE NEVER MET A POTATO WE DIDN'T LIKE...UNTIL

After a damp, chilly, but nevertheless enjoyable day downtown, we returned to the marina and buckled down to pack our stuff and clean the boat. By 8:00 p.m. we were quite worn out and decided to splurge and eat dinner at Ormeggio at The Spit, an Italian restaurant right there at the marina. We had looked through the window and seen the white linen tablecloths and figured it would be on the pricey side, but it supposedly served Italian food, so how bad could it be? Besides, we were exhausted and felt like being pampered for an hour or so before going to bed.

And so, believing that there were no other restaurants in the offing in the near vicinity, we walked up the dock and took seats at one of the linen-clad indoor tables overlooking a couple of large motor yachts docked right n front of the restaurant, blocking what otherwise might have been a pleasant view out over the water.

Our ever-cordial young waiter let us peruse the wine list and then took our order for two glasses of the least expensive wine on the list. Then he came back with a bottle and poured about two fingers' worth in each of our wine glasses. The wine was fine, but we were saddened by the meager amount allotted us, especially at $9 per glass.

The waiter then handed us menus with a flourish and left us to make our selections. We read over the appetizer list, but hardly any of the "appetizers" seemed very appetizing. We thought we might enjoy the Sydney rock oysters, which at $25 was the least expensive except for the mussels, but we were really hungry and thought a mere six oysters would hardly fill the void, so we looked at the entrees and saw a dozen strange listings but absolutely nothing we thought we could eat. I mean, these dishes sounded truly bizarre.

At last we decided to go with the $25 mussels appetizer because at least the little darlings would be served on a bed of pasta, which would be more filling than the oysters. The waiter smiled and told us what an excellent choice we had made as the "crunchy" spaghetti served with the mussels was a house specialty and very popular among their patrons. He was sure we would enjoy our appetizers. (We didn't have the heart to inform him that for us, this was not going to be appetizers: it would be our entire dinner as we did not plan on having any of the $39 entrees or $17 desserts.)

The waiter took our menus and wheeled happily away, soon to return with a complimentary mini appetizer for each of us. He set before us a shot glass on a saucer while explaining that this also was a house specialty: a mussel in potato foam. We thanked him and then dug cautiously into the little glass. The mussel was hiding at the bottom under the highly praised potato foam, so I scooped up some foam and gamely gave it a try. UGH!!! What awful stuff!!! I forced it down in order to get to the single mussel at the bottom, which was, unlike its topping, quite tasty. Jim, who tends to think far less laterally than I, simply scooped the foam away and ate only the mussel. Smart man! We were also treated gratis to two small pieces of white bread, which we ate while sipping our bit of wine and waiting for our dinner.

At last our appetizer dinner arrived: a bowl each of "crunchy" spaghetti topped by four mussels. (Yes, count them: four.) We were starving by then and dug into the pasta, only to discover to our dismay that Ormeggio's oh-so-popular "crunchy" spaghetti was merely undercooked pasta. Ugh again! Jim refused to eat more than one bite of the spaghetti, but I was so hungry I ate some of it anyway even though I thought it was awful.

What a disappointing dinner out! And the price? $68 for five mussels each plus a small slice of mediocre white bread and a few sips of wine. I was so hungry when we left I had tears in my eyes. (But looking on the bright side, the mussels were good.)

A DIFFERENT SORT OF DINING SPOT

The next day Andy and Angie, who live in Canberra (which is the capital of Australia, situated in southeast Australia between Sydney and Melbourne, and pronounced CAN-bra), showed up with giant packing boxes for us, and Dianne drove over to help us get it all done. She also treated us to lunch at The Oaks, an excellent restaurant in Neutral Bay. It happened to be Thanksgiving in the U.S., and in honor of this "foreign" holiday The Oaks had a lovely buffet of turkey and all the trimmings, but Jim and I decided to indulge in more mussels instead. They are SO good!

Back to the boat for more packing and cleaning, and then Dianne drove us to Mosman and the Mosman Retired Servicemen's Club. Here we gained a bit more Aussie education: There are "clubs" in Australia where you can get cheaper than normal food and drinks, but in order to drink or dine there you must be a member. Fortunately, all you have to do to be a member for a day is sign your name to a book and give your address, which must be more than five miles away from said club. Cool, huh?

Jim and I shared the garlic shrimp appetizer and roast beef dinner. Mm, mm, good. And we treated Dianne to dinner, too. Total cost? $46.87. Now that's more like it!

ORMEGGIO'S COMPETITION DISCOVERED AT LAST

Speaking of Ormeggio, I must say in all fairness that they also have a breakfast/lunch kiosk at d'Albora Marina, and the next day, while finishing up our packing, we had a prosciutto sandwich there for $13.50, and it was quite good.

Anyway, Andy & Angie stayed in the Sydney area for the weekend and came by the next day on Friday. While Angie took me to the supermarket at Warringah Mall, Jim and Andy found the Middle Harbour Yacht Club (yes, on the road to d'Albora and, for us anyway, within walking distance). Angie and I found them there and joined them for drinks.

Then we four wandered down the road where we passed several restaurants on the way back toward d'Albora Marina and stopped at one of these, called Cala Luna, for dinner. Jim had the fish and chips, which he said were so-so, and I dug into some pasta and shrimp, which was quite good. Hooray!

TWO BAGS FULL

While at The Oaks with Dianne I had noticed a place of business right across the street with a large sign above stating: "LAUNDROMAT." Aha! Now, I thought, I have found a place to do our laundry since the marina has no such facilities. And so I gathered up two bags of laundry on Saturday, called for a cab (that's another long story), and eventually arrived at the laundry place across from The Oaks in Neutral Bay.
Great! Only when I entered the establishment I discovered that it was a dry cleaning and laundry business with no do-it-yourself laundry facilities. Oh. But there I was, having waited an hour for a cab and then paid $20 to get there, and the laundry really DID need to get done, and Dianne's washer was broken so I couldn't do it there, so... I bit the bullet, gave them my two bags of laundry, and took my book across the street to The Oaks, figuring I could have lunch there and read while I waited for the laundry to get done.

Actually, I was secretly pleased that I was getting this respite. And so I took a seat in the nearly empty dining room (it was no longer the height of lunchtime) and perused the menu. After so doing, I ordered a glass of wine (and later another) and a bag of crisps (potato chips), which was all I could afford to eat, and read till time to pay the bill ($29) and go pick up my laundry ($42). Then I called the same cabbie who had brought me, and (unlike the first two taxis I had called originally), he actually showed up in a reasonable amount of time. Return fare: only $17.

TOTAL COST of getting two loads of laundry cleaned: $108. Oh, wait. That's unfair. After all, I did eat "lunch" (potato chips) for a cost of $29, so that brings the actual cost of getting the laundry done to only $79, less than $40 per load. Not so bad when you look at it that way, huh?

Jim and I walked up to Cala Luna again for dinner and had a pizza, which was not very good. Price for our dinner: $44.

DOWN UNDER DOWNTOWN

Sunday Jim and I took a bus to downtown Sydney and spent the day walking around. We bought T-shirts for $10 each at a souvenir shop and had drinks at a historically atmospheric watering hole -- think stained glass windows -- named Sweeney's Pub for $12.50. That was a bit of all right!

The day was overcast and rainy (again), but we took the weather in stride like our Aussie counterparts, who everywhere downtown were walking briskly about, some with umbrellas and some without.

We ate fish and chips for lunch ($23) at the King Street Brewhouse down by the water. Afterward, Dianne joined us there with Mikayla and Terina, her "granddaughters," and so we stayed on and had drinks with them. The girls were delightful, and we enjoyed watching them eat their "hot chips" (french fries).

We took the bus back to the boat and, that night, walked directly across the street to Chang Thai on The Spit, a Thai restaurant that turned out to have excellent (and not too spicy!) food. We shared the Massaman Beef Curry, which was delicious. Dinner tab with wine: $38.60. (I confess: Despite the dock master's commentary to the contrary, we had noticed this restaurant upon arrival at the marina but decided to give it a pass since we are not overly familiar with Thai food and my past experience had led me to believe that it is all too fiery for me to eat.) Just goes to show: Sometimes it pays to be adventuresome.

FAREWELL, CACTUS WREN

Monday we bought a few more boxes and packing tape and finished packing our stuff for shipping. The shipping company sent a truck to the marina to pick up our boxes, and then all that was left was to load our travel clothes into Dianne's car and wave bye-bye to the lovely Cactus Wren.

Dianne drove us around some scenic areas by the water, and we stopped for oysters and drinks at the Sydney Rowing Club where she is a member. That night we all had dinner at Trat Tat Ora where I stuck to the Sydney theme and ordered seafood pasta. The outing plus Dianne's company greatly helped to ease the pain of leaving the Cactus Wren for good. Thank you, Dianne!

PUBLIC TRANS AND WATSONS BAY

Monday we moved to Dianne's house in Cabarita, and Tuesday we all jumped on the ferry and rode over to Darling Harbour in Sydney where we walked up town to the bus terminal and caught a bus out to Watsons Bay.

Let me pause here to praise Sydney's public transportation system. Residents of the area can purchase tickets at a reasonable rate (those for senior citizens are only $2.50), which then allows you to use any of the city's transportation systems or a mixture thereof - ferries, buses, trains, or monorail - without further charge for one 24-hour period per ticket, beginning when you first use the ticket. Dianne let us use some of her tickets, and so it was that Jim and I were able to ride the ferry from Cabarita to downtown Sydney and then take a bus to Watsons Bay and back downtown and then another ferry home all for one $2.50 ticket each. And the buses and ferries are, of course, air conditioned, comfortable, and VERY nice. Such a deal!

So we took the ferry for the first part of our foray to Watsons Bay, but alas, just as we pulled in to the ferry dock downtown my camera battery died. My fault. So sorry. But as a consequence, I have no photos of our lovely excursion to Watsons Bay.

Dianne treated us to lunch (I know; I feel bad, but we treated her to drinks and dinner once in a while, too) at Doyles, a famous seafood restaurant on the beach there. Jim and I shared one order of John Dory fish and chips (you get your choice of fish there, and John Dory is the most expensive but also supposed to be the best: a real Aussie treat). The fish was so-so and the chips weren't very good at all. Price for the one order of fish and chips alone: $43.

After lunch we walked a ways up the beach to an old abandoned fort and gazed from there down onto a small "nude" beach. It was cold and blustery and there were only two people on the beach, both middle-aged men. (Sorry, Jim!) Only one was nude. I didn't take a good look, but Dianne assured me I wasn't missing much.

From there we hiked up a high bluff that looked out over The Heads at the entrance to Sydney Harbour and Port Jackson, a most impressive view. And I must say, it looked quite different from up there than it looked when we sailed in between those Heads to moor at Watsons Bay in the middle of the night eight days previously.

After a scenic bus ride through Vaucluse and other exclusive hillside residential areas and a ferry leg back to Cabarita, we wound up back at Dianne's. She made a lovely dinner for us of lamb chops and sausages with corn on the cob, potatoes, asparagus and cooked onions. My goodness, those Aussies surely know how to eat!

Wednesday, the last day of November, Di took us to Burwood Mall where we bought a piece of luggage to take on the plane. We also bought an electric plug adapter so that we could charge our electronics in Australia and some wine at - get this -- Woolworths Liquors. (How long has it been since you've seen a Woolworths store in the U.S.? Think about it.)

And then, for our big expenditure of the day, we purchased two tickets from Sydney to Melbourne and back on Virgin Australia for a total of $732. (Those two cities are farther apart than you think!)

A TRIP TO THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS

Thursday was the first day of December as well as the first official day of the Australian summer, and it was COLD! Appropriate weather, perhaps, for our excursion into the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, about 100km (approximately 60 miles) from Sydney. Dianne was our chauffer and guide, and she knows the territory well.

The Southern Highlands are noted for their scenic views and their wineries, their gourmet food shops, antique shops, 19th C villages with quaint hotels and pubs. private day schools and boarding schools, and independent bookstores, one of which, in Berrima, dates from 1812. Berrima is also home to The Art of Bookbinding, a bookbinding and restoration business located next to the post office. And don't forget the International Cricket Hall of Fame in Bowral.

Our first stop was at a most charming country store in Robertson, "The Gateway to the Southern Highlands," called The Robertson Cheese Factory. The Cheese Factory is actually a collection of several small shops: Green Heart Gallery, which sells Australian-made clothing, hats, straw bags, pottery, and other crafts; Cheese Factory Café, which is open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch; and - our personal favorite - The Robertson Cheese Room, which offers local and international cheeses and other gourmet products. Here were displayed many an innovative and colorful culinary delight. We managed to restrict ourselves to only one of those delights - "coconut ice fudge" - while Dianne bought a selection of cheeses.

Next we stopped in the even smaller town of Burrawang to wet our whistles and stoke our tummies at the historic Burrawang Pub. Here we reverted to our American heritage and ordered a cheeseburger, which was quite good.

South of Burrawang lies the Fitzroy Falls Reservoir and Fitzroy Falls, located in the northern part of Morton National Park. There are a number of hiking trails visitors may take, ranging in length from 800m round trip to 3480m round trip, but it is only a two-minute walk to the main lookout for Fitzroy Falls, a tall, magnificent waterfall cascading over a sandstone escarpment into the verdant rain forest below. And for extra gratification, we were fortunate to see some of the resident lyre birds along the way. Unfortunately, it was not their mating season, and so their spectacular plumage was not on display.

Other stops included a meat shop where Dianne purchased some fabulous lamb chops (more about that later) and a lawn bowling club. In spite of its being the first day of summer, dusk arrived and we got lost for awhile. A happy enough adventure, however, as it gave us an opportunity to see a wallaby and a wombat in the wild along the side of a dirt road.

Not so happy, however, was the fact that using that extra fuel while we were lost contributed to our running out of gas before reaching our next destination. But Dianne called some friends of hers, Tim and Mary, who live in the area, and they were kind enough to bring us a can of gas.

Once we had refueled, we met Tim and Mary at the Moss Vale Pub in the historic Moss Vale Hotel in - you guessed it - Moss Vale. We had an excellent dinner there of a T-bone steak with potato and veggies. For dessert, as it were, Dianne stopped and bought some excellent wine -- Black Chook Shriraz from McLaren Valley, South Australia - and we took that to Tim and Mary's house, a most beautiful home in Moss Vale, for a nightcap.

After a long day, we got home rather late at night, but it was a most wonderful trip offering many enticing images to dream about.

ABOUT THOSE LAMB CHOPS...

The next day we just hung out at Dianne's, walking the dogs, reading, etc. She had an engagement that night, but her son Darran and his gal Luwana cooked dinner for all of us and Lu's two girls, who were all at the house that night.

Well, Darran went rummaging in the fridge for something to make for dinner, and what should he find but Dianne's precious lamb chops that she had bought in the Highlands. Darran, it turns out, is an excellent cook, and he cooked those lamb chops plus sausages and corn on the cob to perfection on the Barbie while Lu made a tossed salad. What a scrumptious meal!

Sadly, Dianne was not there to enjoy those most excellent chops, and she let Darran know that that did NOT make her so happy, but she was good about it anyway.

FROM FRIEND TO FRIEND WE FLY

Saturday morning, on our last day in Sydney, Jim and I walked up to the town of Concord , just up the street from Cabarita, where we sat outside the Brazilian Restaurant and sipped hot drinks (yes, it was still chilly). Dianne soon joined us, and then we all went to the historic Palace Hotel Pub in Concord for lunch, again electing to sit outside on an upstairs deck under the spreading branches of a very large tree. There we ate schnitzel with mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables, a meal both warming and good.

After lunch Di drove us to the airport for our flight to Melbourne. We had to pay $75 ($15/kg) for extra baggage because we had to take with us everything that needed to stay with us until we returned to the States. So to cheer ourselves we got - you'll like this! - Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee at the Airport food court, then two drinks at the Airport Pub & Wine Store.

Two glasses of wine ($16) on the Virgin Australia flight made it all the more pleasant to think about our upcoming visit with Aussie friend Peter, whom we had met in Hiva Oa and who had sailed with us from Hiva Oa to Fatu Hiva in French Polynesia in 2010. We adore Peter, as we do Dianne, and were excited to know that we would soon be seeing him again and that we also would be seeing Dianne once more in Melbourne as well.

We are so lucky!



Sydney, Australia

21 NOVEMBER - 3 DECEMBER 2011

DID YOU SAY DEPORTATION???

Later on the morning of 21 November we left the Customs mooring and wended our way through fast-moving ferries (which, by the way, in Sydney Harbour have the right-of-way even if you are under sail), a few large ships, and plenty of sailboats and small craft from Watsons Bay, near the South Head on the northeastern side of Port Jackson, across the harbor to Neutral Bay in the northwestern portion of the port to clear in with Customs and Immigration.

Several very courteous young Aussie officials were awaiting us there along with a black Labrador retriever in little booties. The dog and his handler boarded the boat while I filled out paperwork on the shore. We never knew what the dog was searching for - drugs? bombs? firearms? people? - but whatever it was, we didn't have it and so he didn't find it, which was good. What was not so good was the fact that no one had obtained visas for Jim and me to enter the country.

The omission occurred because Jim and Andy, the new boat owner, had agreed that Andy would submit all the paperwork to the Australian authorities for us to import the boat into Australia. He had indeed done so for the boat importation but had neglected to obtain our visas. This was a bit of a sticky wicket because these very courteous young gentlemen were informing us that due to this omission, they had to legal right to charge us $5,000 each and deport us. Ouch!

Fortunately, Andy talked to them on the phone and explained everything and they decided to forgive us. Our only penalty was being granted a visa for only three months instead of six, which was fine since we only planned to stay about three weeks anyway. Whew!

COOKING ITALIAN TONIGHT?

For the next step in the clearing-in process, we had to cross the port again to Rushcutters Bay on the south side of the harbor. Here two cheerful women came aboard to conduct a health and environmental inspection.

We were relieved to know that, since we were leaving the country shortly and taking him with us, we would be allowed to keep Barney, our copper "Zuni" bear wall sculpture adorned with leather, feathers, and fur, but we were a bit surprised when the ladies confiscated a number of our herbs and spices. "Why?" we asked. "Are you planning on cooking Italian tonight?" They laughed and explained that certain tiny critters sometimes hitch a ride in oregano and such. Oh.

BUT WHAT IF WE DON'T WANT TO EAT A ROCKET?

Docking at the inspection dock at Rushcutters was free, but officially only for the duration of the inspection. However, it was lunchtime by now, and our friendly inspectors told us we could stay an extra hour or so in order to get some lunch.

Great! How lucky we were to be able to go ashore at tony Rushcutters Bay to go in search of a good burger. We stopped at the CYC (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia) where Jim got a beer for A$5.50 and we shared a burger with fries for A$18.00. (The Australian dollar was pretty much on a par with the U.S. dollar while we were in Australia, fluctuating only a cent or two in either direction, so from now on I shall simply use the $ sign when needed.)

The price of the food was a bit of a shock - we are not talking fancy here: we got our burger from a walk-up window and ate at an outdoor table - but we thought it might be something special as it was advertised as coming with "rocket." Alas, this much anticipated exotic ingredient turned out merely to be arugula, which I don't even like. Thus began our rather expensive Down Under education.

A NIGHT IN THE JUNGLE

When we returned to the dock, we stopped in the marina office there to obtain information on getting to our destination, d'Albora Marina at The Spit in Middle Harbour, just north of Port Jackson, where Andy planned to keep the boat for awhile. However, it was now 2:30 p.m., we were more than half an hour away from The Spit and its bridge, which would have to open to let us through to the marina, and the bridge was scheduled to close from 3:00 till 8:00 p.m., at which time it would be dark and the marina, no doubt, would be closed.

We asked about staying overnight at the marina at Rushcutters, but they had no room for us. Where could we go? Well, we were told, we could go straight across to Athol Bay on the north side of Port Jackson and spend the night there. It was a public park and there were a few moorings there where we could stay one night for free, or we could even anchor there if all the moorings were taken.

And so once again we braved the mad harbor and managed to snare a mooring just moments after its previous occupant left. (All other moorings were taken.) And so we settled in for a pleasant evening, nestled in our deck chairs on the foredeck, sipping wine and admiring the jungly green vegetation adorning the shore in front of us. The jungle theme was further developed as the night wore on and we heard monkeys and other "wild" animals making their night-time noises from their habitats at the Taronga Zoo on the shore so near to our mooring. It was all very exotic and quite entertaining.

SURFERS ON THE RAIN

The next morning we made it safely to the d'Albora Marina, which is just on the far side of The Spit bridge from the main harbor. Andy had reserved a mooring there as of a few days hence, but he and Angie graciously allowed us to stay aboard the boat for a few days so that we could have time to pack up the belongings we wanted to ship back to the States, and so we docked the boat there for the next few days.

Upon arrival, we asked the dock master whether there were any shops, grocery stores, bars or restaurants within walking distance, but he said no. And so we took a taxi to the Warringah Mall in order to get a cell phone card and an internet WiFi stick. We also ate lunch at the Navigator Brasserie while there and bought a Sydney map at a bookstore.

From there we took another taxi to the historic Steyne Pub on Manly Beach, a popular surfing beach on the ocean a bit north of the North Head. Our dear friend Dianne, whom we had met in Fiji, joined us there for a glass of wine. It was pouring rain, and we sat inside by a large plate glass window looking out at young professional women scurrying by with umbrellas over their heads and barely dressed surfers standing gamely at the stoplight waiting to cross the street with their surfboards under their arms while a few hardy souls continued to surf in the rain.

We spent that night with Dianne at her house in Cabarita, a suburb of Sydney, and took her to dinner at the nearby Crumb Italian Restaurant. Dianne admitted that she had passed the restaurant, which is only a few blocks from her house, many times but had never eaten there, and was quite delighted to discover that both the service and the food were quite good. I had the Fettuccine Primavera, which was excellent.

FIRST FORAY INTO SYDNEY

The following day we walked with Dianne down to the ferry dock in Cabarita and boarded the ferry for downtown Sydney. Docking in Cockle Harbour at the south end of Darling Bay, we wound up right in front of the King Street Brew House, which of course we had to sample. In fact, we ate lunch there: fish (barramundi) and chips (french fries). We were excited about getting to try the barramundi, which is an Australian fish I had read about long ago, but it was not all that good. (We later learned that any barramundi you eat outside of the area where it is caught in Queensland is certain to have been frozen, so take note.)

Dianne had a meeting in the city, so Jim and I walked across the bridge to the Australian National Maritime Museum, which we toured. It was most impressive, I thought, with interesting and well designed exhibits. There is even an old wooden ship you can tour docked behind the museum, but we didn't explore that part.

On the way back over the bridge toward the ferry docks we used the umbrella Dianne had lent us because it was raining. Suddenly the wind whipped in behind the umbrella and pushed it inside-out, breaking its spokes. So much for "Sunny Sinny" (as our sailing friend Greg, whom we met in Fiji, calls his native city). In fact, the weather continued to be cold, overcast, and rainy the entire ten days we were in Sydney, which included 1 December, Australia's first official day of summer.

WE NEVER MET A POTATO WE DIDN'T LIKE...UNTIL

After a damp, chilly, but nevertheless enjoyable day downtown, we returned to the marina and buckled down to pack our stuff and clean the boat. By 8:00 p.m. we were quite worn out and decided to splurge and eat dinner at Ormeggio at The Spit, an Italian restaurant right there at the marina. We had looked through the window and seen the white linen tablecloths and figured it would be on the pricey side, but it supposedly served Italian food, so how bad could it be? Besides, we were exhausted and felt like being pampered for an hour or so before going to bed.

And so, believing that there were no other restaurants in the offing in the near vicinity, we walked up the dock and took seats at one of the linen-clad indoor tables overlooking a couple of large motor yachts docked right n front of the restaurant, blocking what otherwise might have been a pleasant view out over the water.

Our ever-cordial young waiter let us peruse the wine list and then took our order for two glasses of the least expensive wine on the list. Then he came back with a bottle and poured about two fingers' worth in each of our wine glasses. The wine was fine, but we were saddened by the meager amount allotted us, especially at $9 per glass.

The waiter then handed us menus with a flourish and left us to make our selections. We read over the appetizer list, but hardly any of the "appetizers" seemed very appetizing. We thought we might enjoy the Sydney rock oysters, which at $25 was the least expensive except for the mussels, but we were really hungry and thought a mere six oysters would hardly fill the void, so we looked at the entrees and saw a dozen strange listings but absolutely nothing we thought we could eat. I mean, these dishes sounded truly bizarre.

At last we decided to go with the $25 mussels appetizer because at least the little darlings would be served on a bed of pasta, which would be more filling than the oysters. The waiter smiled and told us what an excellent choice we had made as the "crunchy" spaghetti served with the mussels was a house specialty and very popular among their patrons. He was sure we would enjoy our appetizers. (We didn't have the heart to inform him that for us, this was not going to be appetizers: it would be our entire dinner as we did not plan on having any of the $39 entrees or $17 desserts.)

The waiter took our menus and wheeled happily away, soon to return with a complimentary mini appetizer for each of us. He set before us a shot glass on a saucer while explaining that this also was a house specialty: a mussel in potato foam. We thanked him and then dug cautiously into the little glass. The mussel was hiding at the bottom under the highly praised potato foam, so I scooped up some foam and gamely gave it a try. UGH!!! What awful stuff!!! I forced it down in order to get to the single mussel at the bottom, which was, unlike its topping, quite tasty. Jim, who tends to think far less laterally than I, simply scooped the foam away and ate only the mussel. Smart man! We were also treated gratis to two small pieces of white bread, which we ate while sipping our bit of wine and waiting for our dinner.

At last our appetizer dinner arrived: a bowl each of "crunchy" spaghetti topped by four mussels. (Yes, count them: four.) We were starving by then and dug into the pasta, only to discover to our dismay that Ormeggio's oh-so-popular "crunchy" spaghetti was merely undercooked pasta. Ugh again! Jim refused to eat more than one bite of the spaghetti, but I was so hungry I ate some of it anyway even though I thought it was awful.

What a disappointing dinner out! And the price? $68 for five mussels each plus a small slice of mediocre white bread and a few sips of wine. I was so hungry when we left I had tears in my eyes. (But looking on the bright side, the mussels were good.)

A DIFFERENT SORT OF DINING SPOT

The next day Andy and Angie, who live in Canberra (which is the capital of Australia, situated in southeast Australia between Sydney and Melbourne, and pronounced CAN-bra), showed up with giant packing boxes for us, and Dianne drove over to help us get it all done. She also treated us to lunch at The Oaks, an excellent restaurant in Neutral Bay. It happened to be Thanksgiving in the U.S., and in honor of this "foreign" holiday The Oaks had a lovely buffet of turkey and all the trimmings, but Jim and I decided to indulge in more mussels instead. They are SO good!

Back to the boat for more packing and cleaning, and then Dianne drove us to Mosman and the Mosman Retired Servicemen's Club. Here we gained a bit more Aussie education: There are "clubs" in Australia where you can get cheaper than normal food and drinks, but in order to drink or dine there you must be a member. Fortunately, all you have to do to be a member for a day is sign your name to a book and give your address, which must be more than five miles away from said club. Cool, huh?

Jim and I shared the garlic shrimp appetizer and roast beef dinner. Mm, mm, good. And we treated Dianne to dinner, too. Total cost? $46.87. Now that's more like it!

ORMEGGIO'S COMPETITION DISCOVERED AT LAST

Speaking of Ormeggio, I must say in all fairness that they also have a breakfast/lunch kiosk at d'Albora Marina, and the next day, while finishing up our packing, we had a prosciutto sandwich there for $13.50, and it was quite good.

Anyway, Andy & Angie stayed in the Sydney area for the weekend and came by the next day on Friday. While Angie took me to the supermarket at Warringah Mall, Jim and Andy found the Middle Harbour Yacht Club (yes, on the road to d'Albora and, for us anyway, within walking distance). Angie and I found them there and joined them for drinks.

Then we four wandered down the road where we passed several restaurants on the way back toward d'Albora Marina and stopped at one of these, called Cala Luna, for dinner. Jim had the fish and chips, which he said were so-so, and I dug into some pasta and shrimp, which was quite good. Hooray!

TWO BAGS FULL

While at The Oaks with Dianne I had noticed a place of business right across the street with a large sign above stating: "LAUNDROMAT." Aha! Now, I thought, I have found a place to do our laundry since the marina has no such facilities. And so I gathered up two bags of laundry on Saturday, called for a cab (that's another long story), and eventually arrived at the laundry place across from The Oaks in Neutral Bay.
Great! Only when I entered the establishment I discovered that it was a dry cleaning and laundry business with no do-it-yourself laundry facilities. Oh. But there I was, having waited an hour for a cab and then paid $20 to get there, and the laundry really DID need to get done, and Dianne's washer was broken so I couldn't do it there, so... I bit the bullet, gave them my two bags of laundry, and took my book across the street to The Oaks, figuring I could have lunch there and read while I waited for the laundry to get done.

Actually, I was secretly pleased that I was getting this respite. And so I took a seat in the nearly empty dining room (it was no longer the height of lunchtime) and perused the menu. After so doing, I ordered a glass of wine (and later another) and a bag of crisps (potato chips), which was all I could afford to eat, and read till time to pay the bill ($29) and go pick up my laundry ($42). Then I called the same cabbie who had brought me, and (unlike the first two taxis I had called originally), he actually showed up in a reasonable amount of time. Return fare: only $17.

TOTAL COST of getting two loads of laundry cleaned: $108. Oh, wait. That's unfair. After all, I did eat "lunch" (potato chips) for a cost of $29, so that brings the actual cost of getting the laundry done to only $79, less than $40 per load. Not so bad when you look at it that way, huh?

Jim and I walked up to Cala Luna again for dinner and had a pizza, which was not very good. Price for our dinner: $44.

DOWN UNDER DOWNTOWN

Sunday Jim and I took a bus to downtown Sydney and spent the day walking around. We bought T-shirts for $10 each at a souvenir shop and had drinks at a historically atmospheric watering hole -- think stained glass windows -- named Sweeney's Pub for $12.50. That was a bit of all right!

The day was overcast and rainy (again), but we took the weather in stride like our Aussie counterparts, who everywhere downtown were walking briskly about, some with umbrellas and some without.

We ate fish and chips for lunch ($23) at the King Street Brewhouse down by the water. Afterward, Dianne joined us there with Mikayla and Terina, her "granddaughters," and so we stayed on and had drinks with them. The girls were delightful, and we enjoyed watching them eat their "hot chips" (french fries).

We took the bus back to the boat and, that night, walked directly across the street to Chang Thai on The Spit, a Thai restaurant that turned out to have excellent (and not too spicy!) food. We shared the Massaman Beef Curry, which was delicious. Dinner tab with wine: $38.60. (I confess: Despite the dock master's commentary to the contrary, we had noticed this restaurant upon arrival at the marina but decided to give it a pass since we are not overly familiar with Thai food and my past experience had led me to believe that it is all too fiery for me to eat.) Just goes to show: Sometimes it pays to be adventuresome.

FAREWELL, CACTUS WREN

Monday we bought a few more boxes and packing tape and finished packing our stuff for shipping. The shipping company sent a truck to the marina to pick up our boxes, and then all that was left was to load our travel clothes into Dianne's car and wave bye-bye to the lovely Cactus Wren.

Dianne drove us around some scenic areas by the water, and we stopped for oysters and drinks at the Sydney Rowing Club where she is a member. That night we all had dinner at Trat Tat Ora where I stuck to the Sydney theme and ordered seafood pasta. The outing plus Dianne's company greatly helped to ease the pain of leaving the Cactus Wren for good. Thank you, Dianne!

PUBLIC TRANS AND WATSONS BAY

Monday we moved to Dianne's house in Cabarita, and Tuesday we all jumped on the ferry and rode over to Darling Harbour in Sydney where we walked up town to the bus terminal and caught a bus out to Watsons Bay.

Let me pause here to praise Sydney's public transportation system. Residents of the area can purchase tickets at a reasonable rate (those for senior citizens are only $2.50), which then allows you to use any of the city's transportation systems or a mixture thereof - ferries, buses, trains, or monorail - without further charge for one 24-hour period per ticket, beginning when you first use the ticket. Dianne let us use some of her tickets, and so it was that Jim and I were able to ride the ferry from Cabarita to downtown Sydney and then take a bus to Watsons Bay and back downtown and then another ferry home all for one $2.50 ticket each. And the buses and ferries are, of course, air conditioned, comfortable, and VERY nice. Such a deal!

So we took the ferry for the first part of our foray to Watsons Bay, but alas, just as we pulled in to the ferry dock downtown my camera battery died. My fault. So sorry. But as a consequence, I have no photos of our lovely excursion to Watsons Bay.

Dianne treated us to lunch (I know; I feel bad, but we treated her to drinks and dinner once in a while, too) at Doyles, a famous seafood restaurant on the beach there. Jim and I shared one order of John Dory fish and chips (you get your choice of fish there, and John Dory is the most expensive but also supposed to be the best: a real Aussie treat). The fish was so-so and the chips weren't very good at all. Price for the one order of fish and chips alone: $43.

After lunch we walked a ways up the beach to an old abandoned fort and gazed from there down onto a small "nude" beach. It was cold and blustery and there were only two people on the beach, both middle-aged men. (Sorry, Jim!) Only one was nude. I didn't take a good look, but Dianne assured me I wasn't missing much.

From there we hiked up a high bluff that looked out over The Heads at the entrance to Sydney Harbour and Port Jackson, a most impressive view. And I must say, it looked quite different from up there than it looked when we sailed in between those Heads to moor at Watsons Bay in the middle of the night eight days previously.

After a scenic bus ride through Vaucluse and other exclusive hillside residential areas and a ferry leg back to Cabarita, we wound up back at Dianne's. She made a lovely dinner for us of lamb chops and sausages with corn on the cob, potatoes, asparagus and cooked onions. My goodness, those Aussies surely know how to eat!

Wednesday, the last day of November, Di took us to Burwood Mall where we bought a piece of luggage to take on the plane. We also bought an electric plug adapter so that we could charge our electronics in Australia and some wine at - get this -- Woolworths Liquors. (How long has it been since you've seen a Woolworths store in the U.S.? Think about it.)

And then, for our big expenditure of the day, we purchased two tickets from Sydney to Melbourne and back on Virgin Australia for a total of $732. (Those two cities are farther apart than you think!)

A TRIP TO THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS

Thursday was the first day of December as well as the first official day of the Australian summer, and it was COLD! Appropriate weather, perhaps, for our excursion into the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, about 100km (approximately 60 miles) from Sydney. Dianne was our chauffer and guide, and she knows the territory well.

The Southern Highlands are noted for their scenic views and their wineries, their gourmet food shops, antique shops, 19th C villages with quaint hotels and pubs. private day schools and boarding schools, and independent bookstores, one of which, in Berrima, dates from 1812. Berrima is also home to The Art of Bookbinding, a bookbinding and restoration business located next to the post office. And don't forget the International Cricket Hall of Fame in Bowral.

Our first stop was at a most charming country store in Robertson, "The Gateway to the Southern Highlands," called The Robertson Cheese Factory. The Cheese Factory is actually a collection of several small shops: Green Heart Gallery, which sells Australian-made clothing, hats, straw bags, pottery, and other crafts; Cheese Factory Café, which is open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch; and - our personal favorite - The Robertson Cheese Room, which offers local and international cheeses and other gourmet products. Here were displayed many an innovative and colorful culinary delight. We managed to restrict ourselves to only one of those delights - "coconut ice fudge" - while Dianne bought a selection of cheeses.

Next we stopped in the even smaller town of Burrawang to wet our whistles and stoke our tummies at the historic Burrawang Pub. Here we reverted to our American heritage and ordered a cheeseburger, which was quite good.

South of Burrawang lies the FitzroyFalls Reservoir and Fitzroy Falls, located in the northern part of Morton National Park. There are a number of hiking trails visitors may take, ranging in length from 800m round trip to 3480m round trip, but it is only a two-minute walk to the main lookout for Fitzroy Falls, a tall, magnificent waterfall cascading over a sandstone escarpment into the verdant rain forest below. And for extra gratification, we were fortunate to see some of the resident lyre birds along the way. Unfortunately, it was not their mating season, and so their spectacular plumage was not on display.

Other stops included a meat shop where Dianne purchased some fabulous lamb chops (more about that later) and a lawn bowling club. In spite of its being the first day of summer, dusk arrived and we got lost for awhile. A happy enough adventure, however, as it gave us an opportunity to see a wallaby and a wombat in the wild along the side of a dirt road.

Not so happy, however, was the fact that using that extra fuel while we were lost contributed to our running out of gas before reaching our next destination. But Dianne called some friends of hers, Tim and Mary, who live in the area, and they were kind enough to bring us a can of gas.

Once we had refueled, we met Tim and Mary at the Moss Vale Pub in the historic Moss Vale Hotel in - you guessed it - Moss Vale. We had an excellent dinner there of a T-bone steak with potato and veggies. For dessert, as it were, Dianne stopped and bought some excellent wine -- Black Chook Shriraz from McLaren Valley, South Australia - and we took that to Tim and Mary's house, a most beautiful home in Moss Vale, for a nightcap.

After a long day, we got home rather late at night, but it was a most wonderful trip offering many enticing images to dream about.

ABOUT THOSE LAMB CHOPS...

The next day we just hung out at Dianne's, walking the dogs, reading, etc. She had an engagement that night, but her son Darran and his gal Luwana cooked dinner for all of us and Lu's two girls, who were all at the house that night.

Well, Darran went rummaging in the fridge for something to make for dinner, and what should he find but Dianne's precious lamb chops that she had bought in the Highlands. Darran, it turns out, is an excellent cook, and he cooked those lamb chops plus sausages and corn on the cob to perfection on the Barbie while Lu made a tossed salad. What a scrumptious meal!

Sadly, Dianne was not there to enjoy those most excellent chops, and she let Darran know that that did NOT make her so happy, but she was good about it anyway.

FROM FRIEND TO FRIEND WE FLY

Saturday morning, on our last day in Sydney, Jim and I walked up to the town of Concord , just up the street from Cabarita, where we sat outside the Brazilian Restaurant and sipped hot drinks (yes, it was still chilly). Dianne soon joined us, and then we all went to the historic Palace Hotel Pub in Concord for lunch, again electing to sit outside on an upstairs deck under the spreading branches of a very large tree. There we ate schnitzel with mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables, a meal both warming and good.

After lunch Di drove us to the airport for our flight to Melbourne. We had to pay $75 ($15/kg) for extra baggage because we had to take with us everything that needed to stay with us until we returned to the States. So to cheer ourselves we got - you'll like this! - Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee at the Airport food court, then two drinks at the Airport Pub & Wine Store.

Two glasses of wine ($16) on the Virgin Australia flight made it all the more pleasant to think about our upcoming visit with Aussie friend Peter, whom we had met in Hiva Oa and who had sailed with us from Hiva Oa to Fatu Hiva in French Polynesia in 2010. We adore Peter, as we do Dianne, and were excited to know that we would soon be seeing him again and that we also would be seeing Dianne once more in Melbourne as well.

We are so lucky!























Noumea to Sydney: November 2011

21 November 2011 | Sydney, Australia
AH
Noumea to Sydney

11-21 NOVEMBER 2011

FRIDAY LUCK

Once upon a time, a ship named Friday sank on her maiden voyage. Ever since, the tradition among sailors has been that it is bad luck to set out on a voyage on a Friday.

Years ago - okay, make it decades ago - our young sailing friend Weston told me of a sailing voyage he once made where the boat left port on a Friday, and it was a disaster. For one thing, Weston, who was a crew member on the trip, broke his toe. Well, we had now left port on a Friday, and guess who broke her toe? Yes, it was yours truly. And what a silly accident! I was barefoot in the cockpit, walking across the teak grates in the cockpit sole, when the boat lurched slightly and the second toe on my right foot got caught down in one of those little square holes in the grate. Okay, it was no major injury, but it did hurt like hell and, I knew from experience, would continue to give me trouble for some weeks. (The thought of walking all over Sydney was suddenly a lot less appealing than it had been.)

Weston declared way back when that he would never leave on a voyage on a Friday again. And after our troubles on this 10-day voyage, Jim said he never would, either. And he didn't even break any bones!

DOLPHIN SHOW

One of the more delightful events that occurred on our trip was meeting up with a pod of dolphins that cruised along beside us for a while. While we were sitting in the cockpit enjoying this serendipitous show of dolphins popping up all around us, one of the dolphins off our stern suddenly leapt 15 feet into the air and twirled around several times before diving back into the water. Wow! It was a show right out of Sea World. And we didn't even have to pay admission to see it. What a treat!

CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE WORST KIND

On Wednesday, when we were about halfway across the Tasman Sea on our way to Sydney, I was on watch when, at about 3:00 a.m., I noted a bright light some ways ahead of us off to starboard. I told Jim, who looked at it and figured it must be a fishing boat that was just floating in the water while fishing. We hadn't seen any ships for days and were surprised to find one in that location, but there it was. Jim adjusted our course a bit so that we would miss the stationary vessel by a couple of miles and told me to keep a close eye on it.

I kept watching for the next 15 or 20 minutes, and we drew closer to the fishing vessel, but it remained stationary, still off our starboard bow. Then our bilge alarm went off and kept on blaring. Usually when the automatic bilge pump came on, which it did from time to time as a little water accumulated in the bilge, the pump would pump out the water in 10 or 15 seconds and then turn off, thus shutting off the alarm. Only this time the alarm kept blaring for well over a minute, at which point Jim decided he had better find out what the problem was.

So Jim went below to check on the bilge and the alarm. If we were taking on that much water, we needed to do something about it fast. Meanwhile, I kept an eye on the stationary fishing vessel as we were getting closer... and closer... and closer. Suddenly I realized that the fishing vessel was now moving, quite rapidly, and it was headed straight toward us. I could even see its bow wave in the moonlight.

"Jim," I called down below, "this boat is getting close, and it's headed straight for us!"

"Don't bother me!" he called back, assuming that I was overly excited and that the other vessel was no doubt much farther away than I thought. "I'm trying to fix this alarm." (Fortunately, the boat was not taking on water after all; it was just a faulty alarm.)

"Jim," I said again, thinking that I had better get behind the wheel and do something quick if he didn't come up right away, "you really need to come up here NOW."

"All right, all right," he grumbled, then repositioned the companionway ladder he had had to remove to get to the bilge underneath it and came on up into the cockpit. When he got topsides and saw that big fishing vessel, still with work lights ablazing, charging toward us, he let go with an expletive I won't repeat and immediately jumped behind the wheel.

We were under full sail, of course, and so had limited mobility while the fishing vessel was under power going full steam ahead. I was still watching it as it approached to within about 100 yards of us, and still Cactus Wren had not changed course. We had our running lights on - including the ones at the top of the mast - and our sails up, and yet the other vessel didn't seem to be aware of our presence at all. And it was about to cleave us in two.

My first thought was that Andy and Angie would lose their lovely boat, and it was in our care. If the boat went down, it would be our fault. Only then did it kick in that if that fishing vessel hit us, we would almost certainly die. And if we didn't die right away... well, I didn't even want to think about that--which was just as well because we were out of time.

"Jim," I said then, in a calm but slightly disbelieving voice as I continued to watch the other boat race steadily toward us, "that boat is going to hit us."

"No, it isn't," he stated just as calmly, and then he turned off the automatic steering switch (which his fingers had been trying to find in the dark), turned the wheel, and within seconds we were sailing right beside the larger vessel, headed in the opposite direction.

"HEY!!!" Jim shouted over the roar of their engine(s) to the men on the foredeck as we passed within feet of their vessel. The crew whipped their heads around to face us but, due to the bright work lights shining down on their foredeck, apparently still couldn't see us.

As that fishing boat sped past us in the middle of the night out there on the Tasman Sea, we could at last see her stern. The boat hailed from China.

CHINESE INVASION

Then, as we got closer to Sydney and were off the coast of Newcastle, our AIS (Automatic Identification System) on our Chart Plotter showed about 40 ships waiting to get into the port there. Most of them were coal ships from China. (Our new Aussie friend Dianne informed us that Chinese is now the second most common language spoken in Australian homes.) Interesting.

FLY INVASION

We encountered no further major incidents after our close call with the Chinese fishing boat, but we did have a somewhat unpleasant encounter with hundreds of flies as we sailed on toward Sydney south of Newcastle. We were 25 or 30 miles offshore when we were invaded by a swarm of flies. They stayed with us for a few hours and then disappeared as mysteriously as they had come.

FAIR WINDS

Unexpectedly, in my case at least, the sail from Noumea to Sydney, which took almost 10 days, was very pleasant. The weather was sunny and calm. The seas were a bit rough on the first and last days, but otherwise it was a lovely sail. We picked up a southern current north of Newcastle and had a 30-knot wind behind us the last day-and-a-half and so were moving along at a fast clip: 10 knots over the ground. Not bad for a 42-footer!


SYDNEY HARBOUR

Once again, our timing was off -- we kept moving faster than expected -- and we arrived at the entrance to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) in the middle of the night. We sailed between the Heads - dark, steep cliffs rising up out of the sea -- at the entrance to the harbor and picked up a Customs mooring at Watsons Bay a bit south of the South Head at 2:00 a.m. on November 21. This time we managed to pick up the mooring without much trouble. (It's a learning curve.) The sky was clear and we could see the city lights sparkling across the water on the Sydney skyline. Beautiful!

And so we arrived safely Down Under.

Noumea, New Caledonia: November 2011

11 November 2011 | Noumea, New Caledonia
AH
Noumea, Nouvelle Calédonie (New Caledonia)

6-11 NOVEMBER 2011

OPPORTUNITY MISSED

The six-and-a-half day sail from Lautoka, Fiji to Noumea, New Caledonia was fairly uneventful. We came across quite a few long-liners out from Fiji and so had to keep a sharp lookout during the night. We sailed through the Royals and approached Vanuatu. We had planned to stop there at the island of Tanna to see its volcano, which is reported to be the most accessible active volcano in the world. Unfortunately, the seas were up and attempting to sail in there seemed a bit treacherous, so we decided to just head straight on to New Caledonia. Jim, however, was on watch around 4:00 a.m. when we passed Tanna, and so he at least got to see the volcano’s red glow.


“JE PRENDS”

We arrived at Port Moselle Marina, the yacht marina in the port of Noumea, at about 10:00 p.m. Sunday, November 6. The following morning the authorities came to the boat and cleared us in. After the customs/immigration officer left a bio-security officer came to the boat and took our fresh produce and eggs.

The bio-security officer was a very nice man who spoke little English. I would show him various foods, and he would hold out his little green plastic bag and say, “Je prends. Je prends.” Somehow enough high school French came back to me for me to realize that he meant “I take. I take,” and that I should put the offending limes or sweet potato or whatever into the little bag. He also took our eggs but informed us that we could break them open, give him the shells, and keep the rest, but since we only had one or two left anyway we just gave him the whole eggs.

PORT MOSELLE

Port Moselle is a nice, clean place, with dockage for cruise ships on one side of the harbor and yachts on the other. Port Moselle Marina, where we docked, is adjacent to Le Bout du Monde Restaurant, which is a pleasant place to sit outside by the water in good weather and partake of breakfast, lunch or dinner. During our stay we ate there several times, trying such dishes as mussels gratinée, tartine Scandinave and salad Tahitienne. We especially enjoyed the mussels there. Le Bout is also a popular local venue for Happy Hour.

The marina itself includes showers, washers and dryers, a fuel dock, and a convenience store where you can get ice as well as a cold soda.

A short walk beside the harbor from the marina brings you to the Village Market where locals sell fresh produce and seafood as well as souvenir trinkets. We took advantage of a visit there to purchase some limes and mahi mahi.

Just beyond the marina area toward town is a little park with a most unusual sculpture of the American flag. The park is a 3-dimensional thank-you note to the U.S. for protecting Noumea during WWII. What a pleasant and unexpected surprise!

DOWNTOWN NOUMEA

Noumea is the capital of New Caledonia, which is a French protectorate. While Port Moselle is geared up for tourists and mariners, the city itself belongs to New Caledonians. We found a large supermarket and a lovely kitchen store along the lines of Williams-Sonoma there, but finding a quaint little bar or café totally escaped us. Consequently, the only place we dined out in Noumea was right there at Le Bout at Port Moselle. (We were told that there are more bars and restaurants in the suburbs, as it were, but you would have to take a taxi to get there.)

“TOO LATE” TRADY

While in Noumea we needed to get a fuel filter housing for the engine. In search of this item we first walked all over town, but what little the downtown offered in the way of marine supplies did not include such items. So we continued on for several more miles past the port into a more industrial area where we stopped at a small commercial establishment that sells fuel filters. The owner of the establishment was a Frenchman who did his best to be kind and helpful, but despite the fact that he with his little English managed to understand what Jim with his little French was trying to communicate to him, the bottom line was that he simply did not have such a part. However, he added, his wife Trady was due to arrive any minute and she could take us to the Maison du Filtre where they should have what we needed.

Trady did indeed arrive soon and was quite cheerful about chauffeuring us to the House of Filters, which turned out to be about a 20-minute drive. On the way we learned that Trady was from Singapore and had lived in Paris, France for some years. When Jim mentioned that the French were certainly proud of their language, she burst out with a very contradictory opinion:

“They are NOT proud of their language,” she said. “The reason they won’t speak English is because they are ashamed. They are ashamed of their English. It is no wonder they cannot speak English well. The French do not start learning English until they are seven years old. Seven! Too late, too late! In Singapore, we start learning English at three or four. Seven too late!” (No wonder I’m embarrassed to speak French: I didn’t start learning the language until I was 16!)

After a very entertaining ride with Trady we arrived at the House of Filters where Trady served as translator and established that they did indeed have the part we needed. And so we purchased the part and, once Trady had finished conducting her business there, she drove us all the way back into town and dropped us at the supermarket. What an amazing lady!

FAMILIAR FACE

The day before we left Noumea we met up with our new Aussie friend Greg, whom we had met in Fiji. He, too, was taking his boat to Australia and had pulled in to Port Moselle for a few days. It was great to see him again and hear of his sail to Vanuatu where he did get to see the volcano. A guide takes you up the mountain in a Jeep, he said, adding that the ride up alone was quite an adventure. Once you get to the top of the volcano you can get within several feet of the opening. Lava is shooting up and it can be dangerous. (In fact, a Japanese couple was killed while viewing the volcano up close.) Nonetheless, it was “awesome,” Greg said. Sorry we missed it. Maybe next time!

CLEARING OUT

Although the authorities will come to your vessel when you arrive to clear you in to New Caledonia, they don’t allow you the same courtesy when you leave. This presented a bit of a problem for us as we did not find out till 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 10, that the next day was a holiday and if we did not clear out Thursday afternoon we would not be able to clear out until Monday. This also moved our schedule up a day, causing us to leave on a Friday instead of Saturday. (Most sailors know that you should never begin a voyage on a Friday, but Jim reasoned that we were not beginning a voyage – even though we would be setting out on a 10-day journey across the Tasman Sea -- but simply continuing a voyage already begun. Hmmm…)

Clearing out involved getting a taxi to one office, then another, and finally walking almost a mile, crossing a ravine, and all but running back up the hill to get to the final office before they closed for the 3-day holiday. We made it, but it was close! At least the last stop – the port control office – was worth the visit. It is located in a modern control tower with lots of glass, reminiscent of an air control tower. And the view was spectacular! Now all we had to do was walk 5 miles back to the marina.

Friday, November 11, we paid the dockage, filled the water and fuel tanks, and headed for Australia. G’day!

Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji: October 2011

31 October 2011 | Lautoka, Fiji
AH
Lautoka / Vuda Point, Fiji

20-31 OCTOBER 2011

DAY OF ARRIVAL: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20

As usual, our timing for arrival was off as we sailed a little faster than expected and so arrived around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. in Lautoka, the second largest city in Fiji, located on the western end of the island of Viti Levu. (The largest city in Fiji is the capital, Suva, located on the east end of the same island.) We anchored in the customs harbor, slept several hours, and then dinghied in to the port offices in order to be there when they opened later that morning.

We had hoped that by getting there before the offices were open we wouldn't have to wait long, but there were two or three others in front of us, also waiting to clear in or out, when we arrived, and we wound up having to wait about an hour and a half before we could see a customs/immigration official. This gave us plenty of time to admire the faded photos of Queen Elizabeth II of England that seemed to grace every wall. (Interesting, since Fiji has had its independence from Britain for quite some time now.)

At last we were called back into one of the private offices to see a customs/immigration official. His name was Mr. Ali, and he was very courteous and helpful. He is also, no doubt, well educated. While we were in his office he answered his phone several times, speaking a different language each time. We noticed that he is fluent not only in English but also in Fijian and some Indian (think India) language as well. When he got off the phone the third time Jim asked him how many languages he speaks. Mr. Ali thought for a moment, then said, "Ten." Wish I could say the same!

Mr. Ali asked us many questions - including the color of our outboard motor - the answers to which he then typed into a form on his computer. This all took 20 or 30 minutes. Then came time to pay - a bio-security clearance fee of $89.70FD and a health fee of $172.50FD (Fijian dollars), a total of about $150US. Of course, these fees had to be paid in Fijian dollars and, of course, we didn't have any since we had just arrived in the country, so we were allowed to go into town to get some Fijian dollars, which we were able to do by using our U.S. bank card in a local ATM.

And so we walked into town, got some Fijian money, and quickly found a restaurant/bar -- the Lautoka Hotel Pub - where one can get a beer. Then back to the port and the customs office where we were told that the health (or was it bio-security?) official, who was supposed to go out to our boat, had been called away. Since we supposedly could not finish the clearing-in process without this inspection and it was already 12:30 p.m., they took pity on us and sent some other lady with us who was nicely dressed, wearing high-heels, and on her way to lunch. When she saw our dinghy and how far out the boat was anchored, she told us just to toss any fresh food items we had on board into "that trash bin over there," and with that she was off. The trash bin, by the way, was a regular ole dumpster with an open lid situated across from the dinghy dock. (And for this "bio-security inspection" we paid how much???) And so by early afternoon we were able to get under way to Vuda (pronounced Voonda) Point where we had made arrangements to haul out.

The trip to Vuda Point only took about an hour. When we were almost there we contacted the marina office via the VHF radio and were told that we should pick up the mooring ball in the middle of the marina basin. This turned out to be a bit more difficult than we had hoped as it was a TINY turning basin and I, who had to pick up the mooring ball, had never before done such a thing (male sailing friends had been aboard to assist Jim with this when we had had to pick up a mooring in Tonga.) Needless to say I botched it. Even though I picked up the mooring line on the first try - YEA!!! - my jubilee was short-lived as the boat began to run over the boat hook and ultimately I had to drop it. Fortunately, it was a very long wooden pole and it floated. Also fortunately, one of the marina employees arrived right then in a small motorboat, retrieved the pole and handed me the mooring line. Whew!

We soon were led to a slip where we remained until haul out the next day. No sooner had we gotten settled into our slip than we saw Alex and Angelique, the Ukrainian/Russian couple we had met in Pago Pago, who were also staying at the marina. We checked out the spot where Cactus Wren would be situated up under the trees after haul out, then went to the Sunset Bar, a large open-air bar out on the point by the entrance to the marina, for a drink. Afterwards we went back over to our haul-out area, ducked through an opening in the trees and found ourselves transported into another world, that of the First Landing Resort (named for the spot where the Fijians first landed on the island). Lovely! Very tropical, very relaxed, very friendly. Here in the Nalamu Bar we ate a chicken curry dinner, sipped some wine, and finally relaxed after a VERY long day.

FRIENDS FROM OZ

We were hauled out the following day, October 21, and spent a week out of the water overseeing the painting of the bottom and other needed maintenance. Jim spent a lot of time working on the boat while I did laundry and visited with our new friend, Dianne. We met Dianne in the Nalamu Bar at First Landing our second night at Vuda Point. She was having dinner there as were we, and we wound up sitting next to each other at the bar. Dianne is very sociable, and by the time the evening was over we felt like we were old friends. Since trying to cook and wash dishes and so forth were a real pain while hauled out, we ate dinner at the Nalamu Bar every night. The food was quite good, with Ika Vakalolo (cooked fish in coconut sauce) being our favorite dish.

Dianne, who was staying at the resort for several weeks, also ate there for dinner, and so we got to visit with her every night. When we mentioned in her company that this was the first place in the South Pacific that we had had any real trouble with mosquitoes, which were eating us alive as we tried to sleep at night on the boat up under the trees, she immediately invited us to stay in the air-conditioned bedroom in her villa since she preferred to sleep in the main room and so was not using the extra room. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed with gratitude and, after not being able to sleep for three nights, took her up on her most generous and gracious offer.

One day, while Jim remained at Vuda Point to help with work on the boat, Dianne rented a taxi for the day with her favorite taxi driver, Ali, and took me to Denarau across the water from Vuda Point. The Port of Denarau was the other place we could have hauled out, but I'm glad we chose Vuda Point because, aside from meeting such great friends there, it is a much nicer, though less upscale, place to be in my estimation. Anyway, the trip to Denarau was fun. Ali played chauffer and tour guide and left us to our own devices when we so desired. We drove through Viseisei, the oldest village in Fiji where the chief of chiefs comes from; Namaka, where I bought some limes at a vegetable market; and Denarau. Dianne had Ali pull into a McDonald's where she bought all of us hot fudge sundaes at the drive-in window. Then it was on to the Port of Denarau, a more modern development with golf course, high-rise hotels, a small marina for big boats and an outdoor shopping area right out of an American waterfront town.

The small marina is gated, but Dianne and I were able to get onto the docks to look at the boats when some other people opened the gate. No one seemed to mind, and of course we did no harm. Afterwards we had lunch outdoors at Lulu, one of the waterside cafés.

Then it was time to meet up with Ali again, and so we headed on back to Vuda Point. On the way Dianne stopped at her hair dresser's to take them some cookies. Apparently this is a custom during Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights that is celebrated quite elaborately in Fiji. Many of the women wear their best saris - absolutely gorgeous! Such luscious colors! - during Diwali and, Ali told me, many people decorate their homes with outdoor lights during this festive time, much as we do at Christmas in America. Alas, I did not have my camera with me for this trip and so have no photos of my lovely afternoon with Dianne seeing some of the countryside and towns of the island I otherwise would not have had a chance to see.

Besides Dianne, who has homes in both Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, we also met Greg, also from Sydney, who was on his boat at Vuda Point Marina, and Alan, who lives in the Sydney area as well and was staying at First Landing. All three of them gave us invitations for when we arrived in Sydney: Dianne said we could stay with her; Greg said he would take us sailing; and Alan wanted to take us to the wine country. I must say, the Aussies are a most hospitable people. (And don't forget our friend Peter from Torquay, Australia, whom we met in Hiva Oa, and Robert, who owns a sheep and cattle station out from Brisbane, whom we met in Raratonga, both of whom invited us to stay with them if we came to the Land of Oz.)

THE CROOKED PIER TO PARADISE

Our last full day in Fiji, Dianne accompanied us as we took Cactus Wren back to Lautoka in order to clear out. Once there, we all walked into town to meet Greg and his buddy at the Northern Club, a private club with swimming pool, tennis courts, and restaurant, where visiting cruisers are welcome. We found Greg at a table outside on the deck with several local expats. They invited us to join them, and we did.

One of the expats was an American named Kevin, a furniture designer and former restaurateur who now owned a lumberyard and sawmill in Lautoka. After a few libations and much jocularity, Kevin decided to go home, make up some sashimi, and bring it back for the table to enjoy. However, the Club took exception since whoever runs the restaurant there (not very good) pays to have that concession and would not be happy with Kevin's bringing in food to compete with them. So it was decided that we would all go to Kevin's instead.
After winding through town and some back roads, we came to Kevin's sawmill operation and then to his house, which is on the water. Kevin, who for three years owned a sushi restaurant in the Phoenix area, prepared sashimi and shrimp with special homemade sauces. After entering his house through the kitchen, we then walked out behind the house and beheld "the crooked pier to Paradise" (as Greg so aptly dubbed it) - a meandering wooden pier out into the water with a wider deck at the end. Here sat a rustic wooden table that Kevin heaped with delicious seafood. When, after we had pretty well put away all the fresh fish and shrimp, someone asked, "Don't you have any oysters?", Kevin went back inside and soon came out with a platter of fresh oysters. Oh, my! What a culinary delight! (And of course there was wine.)

Once it was dark, Kevin's right-hand-man built a HUGE (20 or 30 feet high) bonfire that we watched from the pier. Then it was time to go home. We called Ali, who came in his taxi to take Jim and me to Port Lautoka, where we now had the boat anchored in the harbor, and Dianne back to First Landing. It was truly a night to remember. And you know what? When we got back to the boat we could still see that bonfire raging across the harbor.

NEW CALEDONIA, HERE WE COME!

The next morning we cleared out of Fiji at Port Lautoka. This time we got a different officer, and he asked us ALL the exact same questions that we had answered when we had checked in just over a week previously. Again, he entered all the info into his computer. When we asked why he had to record all the same info on the computer that had already been entered on the computer by the same office such a short time ago, he told us that -- even though his office was just a few feet across the hall from our first customs officer's office -- the computers were not networked.

Again, the process took an hour or two, but eventually all the paperwork was done and someone - not sure what department - went with us to the boat to check and be sure we had no Fijians aboard (???). Apparently, the government doesn't want Fijians traveling from one island to another - - at least not surreptitiously. (There has been a lot of unrest in Fiji what with different factions of the population - Fijians, Hindus and Moslems - not playing well with each other.)

Since we were not smuggling any Fijians - or anyone else, for that matter, we simply had to return the officer to the shore and then dinghy back out to the boat again, haul up the dinghy and dinghy motor, haul up the anchor and LEAVE. This sounds simple enough, right? Maybe, except for the fact that once we were officially cleared out we had only 1 HOUR in which to leave!!! Who makes these rules, anyway? Obviously someone who has never operated a cruising sailboat!

It is October 31, and we're off! Happy Halloween!

Tonga to Fiji: October 2011

21 October 2011 | Vuda Marina, Vuda Point, Fiji Island, Fiji
AH
21 October 2011

We are now en route, delivering Cactus Wren to Sydney for Andy and Angie, the Australian couple who bought the boat while we were in Tonga. Arrived Fiji yesterday morning. Having the boat hauled out this afternoon so that the bottom can be painted, then it's onward to Vanuatu and New Caledonia on our way to Australia. Should arrive there in about a month. From there we'll fly back to the States, see some friends and family (we hope!), and look for another boat so that we can do it all over again.

We tried valiantly to leave Neiafu and head out on our voyage to Fiji on Thursday, Oct. 13, but the government bureaucracy and the fuel company combined forces (in a somewhat adversarial way) to make that impossible, and any good sailor knows that you don't dare head out on a voyage on a Friday, so we did last minute provisioning Friday morning and then motored (not enough wind to sail) to Port Maurelle, a small harbor with a little beach on another island in Tonga, and anchored there for the night.

Saturday morn we awoke to the drumming beat of steady rainfall. After several hours it finally let up to a mere sprinkle, and so we set out for Fiji at 11:30 a.m. As soon as we got outside the protection of nearby islands we discovered that the seas were up, the winds were much higher than predicted -30-35 knots instead of 10-20 knots, and the rain came down with a vengeance all day long, not quite the "brief showers" predicted on the Tonga weather report. (Why do we even listen to such fiction?) Anyway, it was lousy weather with plenty of squalls and not very comfortable sailing, but at least the wind was from behind. (Always be grateful for small - big? - favors).

It continued to rain Saturday night, but Sunday turned out to be fairly sunny with only the odd shower. And the wind died down. In fact, it died down so low that it basically disappeared, and so we had to do a fair amount of motoring.

Sunday morning Jim rigged a trolling line off the stern of the boat. That afternoon while Jim, who had been on watch most of the night, was dozing in the cockpit and Otto, Cactus Wren's trusty Auto Pilot, was admirably steering the boat, I looked up from my book to scan the horizon and noticed that something shiny and silver - a slipper? a fish? - was being dragged through the water next to the bright yellow and orange lure. It turned out to be a skipjack tuna of about 20 pounds, a beautiful fish. And so it was that for dinner that night we had a serendipitous break from the homemade lasagna I had prepared for the voyage. Oddly enough, the dark-meat fish tasted more like beef than fish. Jim and I agreed, as we ate it in the cockpit in the dark that night, that if we didn't know better we would have thought that it was some kind of meat that we were eating along with our black beans and rice.

Monday, Oct. 17, we entered Fijian waters and passed through the Lau Group of islands. The native people of these islands, which are now officially part of Fiji, are said to be Polynesian, like the Tongans, rather than Melanesian like the native peoples of most of the rest of Fiji.

Tuesday, Oct. 18, was a big day in that we crossed the true International Dateline - the 180° Meridian - at 8:40 a.m. Tonga time (7:40 a.m. Fiji time) at latitude 18°24.309S, about 5 nautical miles north of Moala Island in Fiji. We have now sailed in all four hemispheres (quadrants?) of the globe: North, South, East and West. YES!!!

We passed Suva, the capital city of Fiji, at daybreak Wednesday, Oct. 19. At about 8:30 p.m. we entered the Navula Channel on Fiji Island, which brought us into protected waters, but we still had about 25 nautical miles to go to our destination of Lautoka.

We reached Lautoka at 4:00 a.m. Tonga time (3:00 a.m. Fiji time) Thursday (yesterday) and anchored in the customs harbor. Spent most of the day clearing in and moved to Vuda Point, only about an hour away by boat, and are now at the marina there awaiting haulout.

And haulout time is NOW, so gotta go. More later!


Vessel Name: Cactus Wren / Radio Flyer
Vessel Make/Model: Tayana Vancouver 42 / Beneteau Idylle 15.5
Hailing Port: Tucson AZ / Newport RI
Crew: Jim & Ann Henry
About: Ann and Jim are now cruising on their fifth live-aboard sailboat. They have sailed the Caribbean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific in the past and are now looking forward to new adventures wherever their latest yacht, RADIO FLYER, and the wind may take them.
Extra:
Jim, a former TV and film producer, is a photographer and book designer. Ann, a former newspaper reporter and editor, is an author and chief editor at Ann Henry Literary Services. Her published works include THE NOVEL PITCH: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO WRITE A SUCCESSFUL QUERY FOR YOUR FICTION [...]
Cactus Wren / Radio Flyer's Photos - Main
Come with us to enjoy the Nights of Lights in the historic First City, a cruisers marina holiday party, and a little down-home entertainment with some of the Henry family.
104 Photos
Created 3 January 2015
November is brimming with family time as a brother and nephew accompany us on a local distillery tour and Thanksgiving is spent in North Carolina with our daughter and her lovely in-laws.
52 Photos | 4 Sub-Albums
Created 3 December 2014
FALL: A time for helping friends, having fun, and enjoying the Halloween festivities.
120 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 11 November 2014
We enjoy a fabulous week with our lovely daughter Julia (the bride) and John (the groom) and lots of friends and relatives on both sides of the aisle. Join us for a fun outdoor wedding and all the festivities in historic Wake Forest, North Carolina.
120 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 11 October 2014
Back in the First City on the First Coast once again: reuniting with relatives, enjoying holiday parties, and visiting Florida beaches. Oh, yes. And we hauled out, too.
113 Photos | 6 Sub-Albums
Created 11 October 2014
Capt. Jim sails Cactus Wren across the Pacific from Honolulu to San Diego with brother Charlie from Maryland and friends Gene and Michael from Tucson.
34 Photos
Created 9 October 2014
It's great to be back at Rivers Edge Marina again where we are greeted by fellow sailors and friends, brother Charlie, our dockside egret, and feline scamp Cruiser.
45 Photos
Created 26 August 2014
Enjoy a pleasant, quick sail with us back to St. Augustine, Florida, one of our favorite places that we now think of as home.
31 Photos
Created 3 June 2014
On the north shore of the Dominican Republic once more, we dock at water theme park, casino, and entertainment center Ocean World; reunite with another old friend from Canada; have lunch in Puerto Plata; say goodbye to Robert; spend a day in the beach town of Sosua; and meet an adorable six-year-old girl, a charming man from Mumbai, two lovely Dominican bar tenders, and a glamorous showgirl. All within three days!
104 Photos
Created 29 May 2014
Come sail with us and our son from Marina ZarPar on the south shore of the Dominican Republic to Ocean World Marina on the north.
24 Photos
Created 28 May 2014
People-watching at the beach, a party at the docks, and a bit of family time highlight our last 10 days in Boca Chica.
95 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 25 May 2014
Water is our world; without water we would have no world. It should be conserved, preserved, appreciated and enjoyed. Join us in rejoicing in our most wonderful world of water.
19 Photos
Created 22 April 2014
Get familiar with Boca Chica as we tour around town and have fun with our granddaughter on a very special visit to the beach when she comes to visit (see sub-album GRANDDAUGHTER JEISY COMES TO VISIT).
102 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 16 April 2014
Boats, beaches, and bars. There is plenty to see and do in Boca Chica. Check out these photos of the first half-month of our stay in Marina ZarPar, and be sure to view the sub-albums on the marina and our day trip to Santo Domingo, too.
120 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 24 March 2014
Follow us from Luperon on the north shore of the Dominican Republic around Haiti to the west and then on across the south shore of the Dominican Republic where we stop in at the tiny fishing village of Isla Beata and the bustling city of Barahona before arriving at our destination: the popular tourist resort town of Boca Chica.
95 Photos
Created 24 March 2014
During our 5-day stay in Luperon we also visit Puerto Plata and the mountain village of Tubagua where a friend of ours has an eco resort. Don't miss the photos in the sub-album: MI BAGUA ES TUBAGUA. Enjoy!
108 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 24 March 2014
Despite a lack of wind or wind on the nose almost the entire trip, we thoroughly enjoy the sunny weather and calm seas of this 12-day trip to the Dominican Republic.
39 Photos
Created 24 March 2014
Visit new places and old with us in and around the great old city of St. Augustine. And don't forget to check out the sub-album CHRISTMASTIME IN ST. AUGUSTINE to see the city transform itself into a fairyland of lights.
86 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 24 March 2014
We visit quaint and historical St. Michaels, Maryland; sail through the busy commercial and military area of the Chesapeake Bay; stop for another family visit in Wilmington, North Carolina; and finally make it back "home" to St. Augustine, Florida.
116 Photos | 4 Sub-Albums
Created 24 March 2014
Life is good in the autumn in Havre de Grace, a most charming and historical little town at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. Here we visit the Henry side of the family, attend the Annapolis Sailboat Show, and enjoy lots of good seafood and wine.
120 Photos | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 24 March 2014
Journey with us out into the Atlantic from St. Augustine, Florida, up the Intracoastal Waterway through the Carolinas, and on up the Chesapeake Bay to Havre de Grace, Maryland, visiting relatives along the way.
84 Photos | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 23 March 2014
Old friends, new equipment, and a birthday at the beach. Be sure to check out sub-albums A NEW PROFURL FOR THE GENNY and A DAY AT VELANO BEACH.
120 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 23 March 2014
We revisit Dinner Key Marina and Coconut Grove, Miami, where we lived decades ago, then wander up the Florida coast to Cape Canaveral where we visit friends in Titusville before returning to Rivers Edge Marina and our new-found home of St. Augustine.
92 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 11 February 2014
Come visit with us the island of our fomer home and meet our son Robert, his lovely wife Rosa, and our most precious grandson Sterling as we reconnect with family and friends and form joyous new memories of this most memorable island.
57 Photos
Created 10 February 2014
Sail with us down the Intracoastal Waterway, through the Bahamas, and over the sea to the Turks & Caicos Islands, once our home for 14 years,
54 Photos
Created 9 February 2014
Cruise with us through the Bridge of Lions and up the San Sebastian River to our new home in the oldest city in the U.S.A.
120 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 8 February 2014
A cruiser's Thanksgiving, a festive Christmastime, and a historic cemetery (not to mention all those lovely birds!) highlight our stay in this quaint little town on the St. Marys River, just three skips of the stone from Florida.
120 Photos | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 4 February 2014
Oh, the sound of the sander, the smell of the paint; the heat alone could make you faint!
120 Photos | 4 Sub-Albums
Created 28 January 2014
Follow Jim and Charlie on their trip south aboard Radio Flyer while Ann visits with daughter Julia in Raleigh, North Carolina.
38 Photos
Created 30 November 2013
The decision has been made, our offer has been accepted, and now it is time to get down to work.
24 Photos
Created 29 November 2013
We visit old haunts and new with family and friends while traveling across country in search of our next boat.
38 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 27 November 2013
Southeast U.S. marsh and sea birds: egrets, pelicans, ibis, and more.
66 Photos
Created 4 November 2013
Back alley pubs; city murals; botanical gardens; country wine-tastings; Aussie yacht clubs; and fairy penguins.
115 Photos | 4 Sub-Albums
Created 12 September 2012
Kangaroos, koalas, and The Great Ocean Road
107 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 12 September 2012
The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge; a tour of the Highlands; ferries, pubs, museum; and rain, rain, rain!
108 Photos | 4 Sub-Albums
Created 12 September 2012
Exploring an island while in search of a boat part.
39 Photos
Created 12 September 2012
A haul-out, new Aussie friends, and a trip down the Crooked Pier to Paradise
94 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 12 September 2012
See what readers have to say about Ann's first published novel, SAILING AWAY FROM THE MOON, now available in soft-cover print version as well as e-book version for Kindle.
11 Photos
Created 10 March 2012
Beer Bingo, Pub Trivia, and a trip to paradise on a small island.
55 Photos
Created 6 February 2012
Vava'u Regatta & Festival month in Neiafu -- sails in the harbor, exotic foods from the islands, and children in colorful costumes dancing in the street. What a treat!
76 Photos | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 4 October 2011
Visit our favorite cafes, meet some of our favorite people and puppies, and watch the Tongan kids swim.
57 Photos
Created 3 September 2011
Beautiful, scenic Tonga. What better place to recuperate?
59 Photos
Created 14 August 2011
Quiet, scenic harbor; friendly folks; a true get-away resort.
18 Photos
Created 14 August 2011
Apia: Home of Villa Vailima (Robert Louis Stevenson Museum) AND Vailima Beer.
69 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 9 August 2011
Farewell, Pago Pago! Farewell, Friends! Farewell, Flowerpot!
13 Photos
Created 9 August 2011
Nightly barbecues on the dock; working on the boat; war with marina authorities; and MORE RAIN!
56 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 23 June 2011
May brings a major fishing tournament, lots of barbecues, and (of course) more rain.
74 Photos
Created 5 June 2011
The Flag Day Canoe Race and a Flaming Knfe Competition provide ethnic entertainment in April.
113 Photos
Created 24 May 2011
Fire and water, friends and football, and more rain, rain, rain!
95 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 17 May 2011
W. Somerset Maugham had it pegged: RAIN!
52 Photos | 4 Sub-Albums
Created 11 May 2011
Good prices, good harbor, good friends -- and plenty of rain!
119 Photos | 7 Sub-Albums
Created 26 November 2010
The whole community of fewer than 70 people turns out for a day of celebration on tiny Palmerston Island.
50 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 24 November 2010
Slow and easy and a motorcycle ride to boot. We love you, Rarotonga!
58 Photos | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 17 November 2010
Good freinds, good wine, dining on the water, and those towering peaks!
38 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 4 November 2010
So much to see, so little time! We barely touched shore here but hope to stop again one day.
9 Photos
Created 4 November 2010
This gorgeous island served as the backdrop for the movie South Pacific.
57 Photos
Created 3 November 2010
Welcome to the Society Islands! Civilization and food.
15 Photos
Created 4 October 2010
Here we have an atoll with coconuts and pearls - oh yeah, and Fernand!
23 Photos
Created 4 October 2010
Two more of the Marquesa Islands, both very good visits.
39 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 4 October 2010
Beautiful Daniel's Bay and a hike to the waterfall.
22 Photos
Created 4 October 2010
Voyage with us to Nuku Hiva. Our first stop in French Polynesia, this magnificent island is a welcome treat.
48 Photos
Created 4 October 2010
Shots from our winter in Ensenada, Mexico, featuring Baja Naval, La Vendimia and Charly's La Cueva del Garfio bar.
96 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 4 October 2010
The Kahuna, Wendel, uses the ancient Hawaiian rites to name a boat.
16 Photos
Created 14 August 2010