05/20/2011, Durango, Co
Durango to Silverton: A trip on the Durango to Silverton railway
The weather was lousy (for humans) and, as is often the case, great for photos. It wasn't great when we left Moab and rain relentlessly turned to snow as we gained elevation. Cortez, then Durango at 6500 feet (2000 meters). Passes farther east were requiring chains. We were lucky to squeak through and find a motel room without too much fuss. Just a little white knuckle driving. No way I'm camping in this crap.
The Durango to Silverton narrow gauge (tracks are one meter apart) railway was founded in 1870 and at one time connected to rail lines in the rest of the U.S. Today it runs on a 45 mile (72km) track between Durango and Silverton Colorado - at 9273 feet (2853 meters). Besides dragging tourists to Silverton, the trains also serve residents living where there is no road.
The D&RG line runs five trains. As there isn't a store where you can pop in and buy old locomotive parts, the line has an extensive machine shop and foundry. All parts to keep them running have to be made from scratch. They're looking to add two locomotives but, as you can imagine, they're hard to come by.
All-in-all, it was a unique experience, weather be damned. All sailors know you get what you get and deal with it. The cars were first class, bar available, toasty, with an attendant to supply refreshments and narration. Worth every penny and then some.
05/19/2011, Durango Colorado
On The Road
Ok. What's wrong with this picture. Larry and I leave Seattle for the sunny Southwest. No sooner are we in Utah than it's raining and snowing while the rainy Northwest is seventy and sunny! Oh well, you take what you get.
We're taking a couple week sabbatical to go for a Tiki Tour of the sights, both Anasazi and scenery, of the desert Southwest. Larry and I are high school buds who took off traveling together when we were seventeen. Now we're at it again fifty years later. Some things aren't the same.
Driving through eastern Washington, through part of Idaho into Utah, hammers home the point... that most of the American West is vast vacant tracts of.... nothing. Sage brush, coyotes, Jack rabbits, and Red Tail Hawks cruising the skies for a meal of unwary mouse. Small towns are sprinkled here and there with a small city wherever there is a reason for one. Out here there's not much reason.
In places like Moab, where the Colorado River has carved down through the layers from the high plains, the landscape goes from deadly boring to dramatic within a few miles. Our firs stop with anything to see is Arches National Park just outside Moab. The $10 lifetime National Park Pass for seniors has to be the best bargain in America!
Don't let the damned Republicans mess with things like this. They'll have our parks either sold to, or run by some snake crony. Our National Parks, DNR (Department of Natural Resources), Forrest Service, Department of the Interior, State, County and city parks are national treasures meant for the enjoyment of all. Not profit for the few. Get out the pitch forks and torches.
03/21/2011, Washington State
The Home Front
Landing in Seattle, six am and thirty four Fahrenheit, with light snow predicted is a shock even when you're ready for it. Re-entry is going to bite. Not only are we going to be boatless in Seattle, we've changed hemispheres and swapped climate zones. From Southwestern Tropical to Northwestern Temperate. Break out the woolies!
The flight from Honolulu was an overnight, arriving at the crack of dawn. The shuttle dropped us at the rental car lot where we checked out a Kia Sedona that was going to be with us for a week while we became officially American again. IE: driver's licenses, vehicles, insurance and a place to live. All of this comes with keys! Dubious symbols of civilization.
Once the preliminary dance was over, we rented a mini-storage so we can gather all our scattered possessions from our last life together in one place. Things that were so important five years ago have lost significance. Why we thought we needed all this crap is a mystery.
The first thing that is obvious is: a boat has everything built in place. A house requires stuff. Tables, chairs, sofa, bed... It would be so much easier if it came with everything and you left it behind when you moved on. Alas, it doesn't work that way. Everyone like personal stuff. Accumulate. It's the other side of the Landlubber equation.
As I write this, Argonaut has turned into a $ entry in our bank account. Looks like our voyaging adventures are over for now. I'm going to really miss that boat but the reality of sailing or shipping it back across the Pacific meant selling. They say the happiest times in a yachties life are when he buys a boat and again when he sells it. I disagree. There are damn few boats I'd trust to take me across the Pacific and a forty year old Cal 40 did - with fewer issues than boats costing 10 times as much! I'd say we got more miles per dollar than most cruiser will ever get.
My next blog entries will take up back where we started in 2006. The Pacific Northwest of the U.S., arguably the best, most protected, cruising area in the world with the most and safest anchorages anywhere... many with small (quaint) towns (villages) right at your boarding ladder! Don't just think NW U.S, either. Think SW Canada and even the Inside Passage to Alaska. The inland sea encompassing Puget Sound/Seattle-Tacoma to the northern tip of Vancouver Island Canada is the second largest inland sea in the world. B.C. (British Colombia) has 40,000 islands and 25,000 km of coastline between the Washington and Alaska borders.
My bad... Instead of starting with Seattle, I started where we started. With a day trip north to Liz's wee cabin on Orcas Island. The day started out cloudy with showers and ended in glorious sunshine. So... we begin.
The Washington State Ferries are part of the Washington State highways system. The San Juan Island run begins, for us, with a two hour drive north of Seattle to Anacortes. The S.J Island ferry services Shaw, Lopez, Orcas islands and Sydney B.C., Canada, next door to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. It's a great, scenic ride even if you have no particular place to go!
So much information is available online about the American and Canadian San Juans, Canadian Gulf Islands, Victoria and the route north to Alaska that I'm not going to go in depth in my blogs. Stay tuned for more adventures.
02/24/2011, Between South and North
Getting out of Dodge, everything went smoothly for a change... If you don't count Liz freezing up at a Y in the road that put us miles in the wrong direction with minutes to the deadline for dropping off the camper van. We made it. The camper people called a cab (we were only a mile or so from the airport) and we were there with hours to spare before our flight.
Hawaiian Air Sydney to Honolulu was great. It was an overnight flight and we expected the abuse normal to domestic U.S. carriers. Instead, we got real food ! Honolulu to Seattle on Delta was a different matter. $120 on top of the ticket price for checked luggage + peanuts thrown at you like you were monkeys in the zoo. And they act like they're doing us a favor, flying the unfriendly skies. Well... #$*& on ya I say!
Honolulu wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Not too big. Great waterfront. Nice ambiance. Waikiki was crowded but nothing to compare to Mexico during Easter. It's hard to get excited though, after all the beaches we've seen. Yeah, I know... Lo siento, pobrecitas!
Food was cheap compared to Australia and gas is almost free! Oz is over $5 a gallon. All you non -smokers will gleefully note that smokes in Australia pay $17 a pack but sad to note that bad rum is $40 for 750ml. I don't smoke so Ptttthhhh! No sympathy from me!
Day two we drove cross island to visit with relations of one of our YC buddies in Edmonds. Bob is part if the Hawaiian Eye Foundation and was in Tonga right after the Tsunami. He's also a sailor. His Niece was visiting and we discovered that she had signed aboard a smallish trawler yacht for a voyage from Sydney to Thailand so I gave her links to other sailor's blogs who were there now.
Hawaii to Seattle was another overnighter, but the climate at the end was something we've not experienced in nearly five years! We took a 40 degree drop in five minutes! Good thing we thought to rug-up before we left Honolulu. "TWO TRAVELERS FOUND FROZEN IN SEATAC TERMINAL." Wouldn't look good on your record, Seattle.
We're settling in, but I don't think I'll ever be warm. Seattleites are in the habit of running around in the house wearing fleece. I have all these great T-shirts from all across the Pacific and two layers on top. Ok. Raise your hand. Who's for Global Warming? Aye! There's one for the opposition ya bark munching ozone lovers. Did Adam wear knickers in the Garden of Eden? I don't think so.
Since I've run aground temporarily, my blogs will soon be covering another dimension in the continuing adventure. We take Home for granted but to other's it just may be an exotic cruising destination. Indeed, we have some of the best sailing in the world - and I'll stick to that claim with flintlocks at ten paces - and dramatic scenery to rival anything Europe has on display. In summary, the Pacific NW coast of the US and Canada are unbeatable in so many ways you'll just have to come see for yourself. Plan on six months in each country, with Mexico in between during winter... then back... and forth. You may never leave!
Everyone deserves a second chance. Even a country. So, we're on the road in Oz. As we're not coming back, we're staggering around with all the crap we're taking home. Yes sir, yes sir. Four bags full. Each.
With cyclone Yasi breathing down our neck and the Burnett River floods fresh in our minds, we hopped the train to Brisbane. The Tilt Train is one of those fancy high speed jobs that hits a hundred in the bush country. Off the main and onto a trunk line plus a short taxi ride found us at the Jucy Campervan Rentals. No Jucy doesn't have an i.
The first thing we notice heading south is: Not all of Australia is flat! Indeed, there are some quite mountainous areas. The beaches south of Brisbane are known as the Gold Coast. Southern California has nothing on them. High rise to high rise. Cheek to cheek, belly to belly. Units galore with ever shrinking strips of beach. Surfer's Paradise might have once been, but it's high rise hell now. I think the surfer's have fled to less hectic places?
Once you turn inland, you're in a different world. Vast tracts of eucalyptus forest, grand mountain views, sub-tropical rain forests and large ranch/farms. Some of the coastal plain is flat like northern Queensland but you don't get claustrophobia from the bush crowding in around you.
Our overnighter inland from Surfer's Paradise and Southport found us in Lamiston Park. Within five minutes of checking in at the lodge (to secure a campsite) we spotted a Koala snoozing in a gum tree. The next cause for excitement was the sighting of a miniature Wallaby, called by the locals, Pademellon. Why I don't know. Cute fella, anyway.
Called the Cat's Paw IV crew, anchored in Broken Bay - just north of Sydney - from the road and spent an enjoyable day jawing at them. Next day drove to Sydney and found a Caravan Park near the airport, on Botany Bay. What a torturous bus ride downtown! Jeez! A/C set so high I guessed they might transport stiffs to the morgue on non-peak hours.
Sydney is a very large city with a surprisingly small waterfront. We visited the Art Gallery showing of the Chinese Ceramic Warriors and the Maritime Museum. That's about all the time we had left in Australia. I think you need more time to see the country without all the flooding. Everyone says Melbourne is the place to go. We didn't have time.
Check out the gallery as I get the pictures up.
01/17/2011, Bundaberg, Australia
Take a pass
If you're thinking of sailing to Australia, you might think about taking a pass. At least as far as Queensland goes. The flooding and storms made a mess up there. We checked into Bundaberg and promptly motored the six miles up river to Midtown Marina and took a mooring ball in the heart of the city. Not bad, at first. Cheap as Chips claimed a Kiwi friend before he flew home for Christmas. He was on of the first to lose his boat to the flood in the Burnett River.
Bundaberg itself is a fair sized town with good infrastructure. It's a bit of a hick town where some of the ugliest tattoos decorate some of the fattest people we've seen in a long time... and we've been to Samoa and Tonga! I read that Australia has finally surpassed the US in the
gross weight of its people.
The real shocker came as the rain fell and the Burnett River started to rise. Along with the velocity of the current, were ever increasing piles of hyacinth, mangrove and logs coming downstream. Soon it was boats. We didn't have to wait long for boats to start dragging their moorings and disappearing downstream. Nothing much we could do with our wee little outboard dinghies and it quickly became evident that no official agency was going to lift a finger to help.
Something like six people went in the water from overturned dinghies and were rescued by other yachties. None died., a miracle in itself as the current reached over ten knots in places. Many more yachties tried to snag runaway boats as they flew past. To date, I think the Customs Service is looking for 24 boats, many out to sea or sunk along the way. Without yachties providing assistance in lieu of the government, they'd be looking for a hell of a lot more.
We managed to stay anchored farther downstream, clearing beaver dam sized piles of bush off the bow 24/7 while watching our neighbors drag anchor all around us. Ok. I admit it. I'm pissed because we couldn't get off the boat. Christmas dinner was a can of chili. I'll never get the stains out of my T-shirt. The week was by far worse than any ocean passage we've made. Including Bora Bora.
To top it off, VMR (Vessel Marine rescue) has gone from a government agency to a volunteer babysitting service that sat in their tower watching boats being flushed down the river and out to sea. Yer on yer own, mate is their attitude as their rescue boat(?) sits safely on a trailer. The long and short of it is: There is no meaningful rescue service anywhere in Australia to provide real time assistance to yachties in trouble.
So... what do I think of Australia? I haven't had the chance to see much of it but I'd likely pass it up for another trip to NZ next time. Personally, I'm sorry we left Fiji..