06/11/2012, Marlin Marina, Cairns, AU
Today it was time to start in earnest attacking the various small boat projects that I have on my list. So far this year we have been fortunate as our boat list has been slow in growing and what is on the list is fairly minor. Two days ago I spent the better part of the day washing and scrubbing the decks. Of all the things that I am responsible for, that is my least favorite. This is because it really does not take much time after being washed before the decks start getting dirty again. Sigh!
The "big" dirty job that highlighted today was taking the dinghy down, removing its floor boards, and scrubbing out the oil and dirt that has accumulated over the last few months. There was a lot of gunky stuff adhering to the floor because the hose fitting to our fuel tank was not securely fitted at one time and fuel had slowly seeped out and spilled onto the floor. The gasoline had evaporated but the oil additive stayed and accumulated a lot of dirt. It was a messy, yucky, thankless job but now it is done and that it one more thing scratched off the boat project list.
After working the better part of the day on boat projects, I decided to put up the shade tarp and hang up the hammock. Ahhhh, now that is what the cruising life is all about. As I gently swung in the hammock, I watched the cute young ladies with their macho men slowly walking up and down the outer quay that is facing our boat. Today was another sunny, beautiful day and that made the viewing that much more enjoyable.
The highlight of our day was, once again, dinner. This time we were joined with the folks from Sea Mist, Kilkea, and Imagine. The eight of us had a grand old time as we returned to the restaurant Sauces. After looking at the menus and prices at a number of other places, we have determined that this is the best place for us cruisers to eat and drink. They have a 1.5 liter jug of cocktails for just $17.50! Once again, Marian brought a couple for 50% off of food and drinks coupons and the 8 of us ended up paying only $141 AU for the meal and drinks. What a deal!!!
During dinner Steward and Dale of Imagine told us their story about attending the Land Diving ceremony on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Each April the tribe on the island builds a 30 meter high tower out of branches and vines and in May, they perform the Naghol ceremony. This is where they tie vines to their ankles and dive off to smack into the ground in hopes that the vines will break their fall right as they hit the earth. It is a ceremony that began generations ago as a semi-religious ceremony to have the gods bless their yam crops. It is also the origin of the current craze called bungee jumping. However, unlike bungee jumping, the purpose of Land Diving is to actually smack the earth at the base of the tower with your chest or head.
Needless to say, death or permanent injury to the diver is not uncommon. In fact, one of the divers did suffer a significant injury when Steward and Dale were there. They also shared with us that the ceremony is now rather commercialized as the fellow who is in charge of the exhibition will wait until a cruise boat comes in and charges the cruise line company $90,000 for the exhibition. Thus, Steward and Dale watched the ceremony with the small, select group of 2,000+ cruise ship passengers...
All I can say is that I hope some of the money goes to poor divers who get hurt each year.
06/10/2012, Marlin Marina, Cairns, AU
We have discovered that Cairns is the ultimate party town. This place just rocks and rolls! Starting around 4 PM, the band at the bar next to our marina starts up and the din of people laughing, talking, clinking glasses starts to grow. By 6 PM things are in full swing across the road where a number of chic restaurant/bars are packed with crowds of 20 and 30 somethings. The girls are all very leggy with very, very short skirts and the guys are mucho macho. Everyone, and I mean everyone is just having one big great time.
Cairns is the season's ultimate young person's tourist destination this time of year in Australia. While the rest of the country puts up with the constant march of pressure centers to the south bringing up cold arctic air, Cairns, while cool to us, is warmer and many times escapes the rains the rest of the Queensland coasts get. While Cairns gets tons of rain during its summer, it makes up for it during the winter. During the months of June through October, its combined rainfall is much less than any of the individual months from December to April.
Our good friend Steward of S/V Imagine came into the marina today. We have not seen him since last year. He and a sailing buddy came in after sailing from Vanuatu. Steward's wife will be joining him once he gets to Darwin and they will also be sailing in the Sail Indonesia Rally starting the end of July.
Imagine came in with another boat, one that Steward has been buddy boating with. I can't remember the name of the other boat but it was struck by lightning shortly after leaving Vanuatu. The boat lost all of its electronics and they had to hand steer for 7 days to get here. Hand steering is very exhausting when there are just two people. You can only go for 2 to 3 hours before you tire. This means that over time, you become sleep deprived until you park the boat (i.e., heavy to) in the open ocean and get some sleep.
The boat did have one hand held VHF that worked but they could not recharge it because the recharger was fried in the lightning strike. Thus, they just stayed closed to Imagine and during the night used Imagines' lights to steer their course. To us, this just underscores the need to have a sextant on board with an updated nautical almanac. Even if you only take noon sights, you would be able to plot both your longitude and latitude once a day and then plot running fixes every two hours on your paper charts that you must carry with you just for this reason. We have all gotten so lazy with the advance of electronic charts and GPS which makes electronic navigation so darn easy. The skill of truly navigating one's way across the ocean using non electronic means is quickly falling to the way side.
I must admit that we are getting rusting in our skills of using the sextant. This is simply because we do not use it. However, we do have all of our course notes and books that, in a pinch, we could review and rub that rust off of our skills.
06/09/2012, Marlin Marina, Cairns, AU
One of our major milestones along the Australian coast has always been Cairns. We have been told by many people that it is the best and one of last places to provision before leaving Australia. While we plan on also provisioning some in Darwin, we have been told that things are much more expensive there since Darwin is rather isolated up in the Northern Territory and everything needs to be shipped a great distance to get there.
Well, today we arrived in Cairns. The sail up from Moresby River was fine and we actually had enough wind for a few hours to sail without the engine running, which was very, very nice. The sun was out the whole time and by mid morning it had warmed up the enclosed helm on the flying bridge deck so that we could remove our sweatshirts and be comfortable. We are still struggling with the concept of being north of 17 degrees south and it still is cold outside. We know that it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere but we are well into the tropics and had anticipated warmer weather. It is in the lower to mid 60's in the mornings and with the wind chill factor, it feels like it is in the 40's or 50's. We actually sleep with two blankets on us.
Since we want to do major provisioning, we have decided to stay in the marina here in Cairns. It is right next to the Central Business District and shopping is very convenient. As we turned into the marina and approached our dock, we were greeted by our friends Marian and David of S/V Kilkea. They had arrived yesterday. They ran over to our slip and helped with the dock lines. There was a good cross breeze and a strong cross current but we came in just fine and in no time were tied up and giving and received hugs with our friends.
John and Cheryl of S/V Sea Mist arrived at Cairns about an hour before us but they have decided to anchor in the channel across from the marina. However, they are close by and we plan on seeing them a lot while we are all here. They will be staying about 5 days while Kilkea and we will be staying a week.
To celebrate our reunion with Kilkea, the four of us went out to dinner. We had invited John and Cheryl to join us but Cheryl was a bit tired. We too were tired but since we could just about trip and fall into the restaurant from our boat, we decided that eating out was easier than cooking in. Plus, what cemented the concept was the fact that Kilkea had a coupon that gave 50% off the food and DRINKS at the restaurant. Man, we just could not pass up a fine evening with friends and great savings to boot!
The restaurant, Sauces, was very reasonably priced without the discount, the service was very good and the food was delicious. We spent the evening catching up with David and Marian, swapping stories, making jokes and just having a grand old time. Reunions with fellow cruisers are always such sweetness.
We have not made any plans yet for tomorrow and it most likely will be a day of rest with some cleaning of the boat. I need to give the deck a good washing and scrubbing. Without the daily multiple rains that we had in May and the fact that each of our most recent anchorages have been in mud, the front of the Leu Cat is rather spotty with mud that came up with the anchor and chain. Usually, I wash it off with our deck hose as the anchor comes up but we have been leaving each morning in the dark so I just have not bothered. It now looks rather disgusting and I am sure our neighbors are wondering from where these slobs have come from...
Techno-Tip Of The Week: Hoist That Dongle!
I owe this techno-tip to our good friend John of S/V Sea Mist. We have found that when we were 20 to 30 miles from the coast of Queensland that we could not get Internet access through our Telstra dongle. This did not surprise me since we knew that many of the anchorages we were at did not have a cell phone tower and being out so far from the coast we were below the horizon of the cell phone towers that are along the coast of the mainland. For many of our days after leaving Bundaberg we were without Internet. As a cruiser, you quickly appreciated how wonderful and magical the Internet is. It lets you Skype to your kids who live halfway across the world from you, lets you order boat parts that are desperately needed when something breaks, and lets you surf the Internet for whatever information you crave.
Thus, any tricks that you can use to have access to the Internet are always greatly appreciated. Well, John came up with this trick that I would like to pass on to you. When he discovers that he cannot connect to the Internet through his dongle that is plugged into his computer, his removes the dongle, encloses it in a Zip Loc bag, ties a line around the dongle in the bag and then hoists it up his pennant halyard up to just below the first spreader. This is about twenty feet above his cabin. From this height the dongle can "see" the cell towers on the mainland and will connect to them. The Telstra dongle does not have to be plugged into your computer to work but will automatically connect to it through its wifi capabilities. The battery in the dongle will last up to about 6 hours (at least mine does) before you need to plug it back into your computer to recharge it.
I think this is pretty slick trick that he came up with and he says that he has been connected Internet each day since leaving Bundaberg.
When I took this shot of the mangroves along the shore where we anchored in Mourilyan Harbour, I did not notice the feature(s) in the center right hand side of the picture. Is this a croc or crocs sunning themselves? What do you think? Let me know.
You can see how close we were anchored to Sea Mist and also you can see the large sugar terminal in the background.