Time Bandit

23 August 2016
21 August 2016
17 August 2016 | Maupiti Lagoon & Two Muppets
12 August 2016
09 August 2016
08 August 2016
06 August 2016
05 August 2016 | View from the top. Note the pass through the reef. The "chip" in the rim of the teacup
03 August 2016 | Raiatea Town Dock from deck of Wind Spirit
26 July 2016 | Anne in Shirley Valentine Moment
19 July 2016
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14 July 2016
09 July 2016
08 July 2016 | Bali Hai Hotel, Mo'orea
05 July 2016
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29 June 2016

Popemobile Living

14 November 2017 | Blackwattle Bay, Sydney
Did you ever see E.T.?

Remember the bit, towards the end, when Elliot and E.T. are side by side in clear plastic isolation tents?

Well, that's us.

Maybe after another season in the tropics we've gone soft or something but our "clears" are almost a permanent fixture now. Years ago, you wouldn't have seen me dead in a boat with roller reefing let alone a bimini. Now look at us, tucked up in a cube of plastic both at sea and at anchor.

But then, there's something weird about the weather here Down Under.

The sun will burn the skin off you in half an hour and dermatologists do a roaring trade, but there's a chill in the breeze. Step into shadow and you can feel it. During the day that's just grand. A pleasant cooling draft. At night, after dusk, sitting in the cockpit it would freeze the balls off a brass monkey*.

Not yet the "Sizzling, Summer, Christmas" that's being advertised, an oxymoron if ever you heard one, but in the interests of keeping our Blog readers well informed of the realities of the cruising lifestyle we'll continue to tough it out on your behalf and report back.

Meanwhile, its brekkie time in our oxygen tent, Sydney rising above us.

Pretty cool.



*Time Bandit Trivia

In days of old, His Majesty's fleet would form a pyramid of cannon balls beside each gun, stacked on a triangle form made of brass. Just like the triangle used to set snooker balls.

When it got really cold, the brass would contract faster than the cannon balls which would then fall off. Hence the expression.

Lost

11 November 2017 | Bimbadgen Winery, Hunter Valley
You want how much

"Time for an anti-pie-effect walk" says I and off we go.

Our podiatrist.....or is it our pedometer, says we need to walk 10,000 steps a day so that's our goal. Anytime we're on terra firma we try and hit the goal.

So, we're a couple of thou in, back beginning to ache, when I spot a sign up ahead, here on the promenade in Newcastle. "That'll ease my back pain" I think and in we go. WHAT???? Twenty two bucks an hour? I can rent a car for that. Slightly let down at having had the prospect of whizzing along whisked away from us, off we went again.

Fifteen minutes later. Whoa. What's that in that coffee shop? FREE bike hire. In we go for another try. "Yes. Entirely free, courtesy of Hits 103.9 until December. But not today. But you can book for Sunday."

Duly booked we sat down for a coffee for which we paid much of the price of a bike hire, but there you go.

Just across from us, sitting on the waterfront is a bare footed, hairy bloke checking out something on his skateboard. (Just an aside but what is it with adults, I mean, seriously grown men, riding skateboards?)

I notice skateboarder dude is wearing a Fleetwood Mac T-shirt and it springs to mind that a couple of weeks ago I saw a poster promoting Stevie Nicks' Australian tour. A quick check online and yes, she's live on Saturday night in the Bimbadgen Winery, wherever that was. Bit it surely couldn't be far. "Best of two worlds" thinks I. Wine and music.

Having been royally ripped off by Viagogo when we bought tickets for Bruce Springsteen we went in search of the town ticket agency. This establishment fortunately is also a travel agency. So, not only did we get tickets but we got directions to both the car hire and Bimbadgen.

We checked the route map ticket-travel girl had kindly printed. Almost two hours to Bimbadgen, just on the outskirts of Sydney. So, it was an early start to pick up our wheels and head for the Scenic Route down the coast towards Sydney. Scenic it was. And pretty damn slow with every man and his surfboard heading for the beach. Two thirds of the way to Sydney and not entirely sure where we were we stopped for lunch deciding to go all high tech and check the route on Google Maps. Directions please from "My Location" wherever that was, to Bimbadgen. Now, I guess we should have realised that it might be a bit unusual to have a vineyard near the set of Home and Away but that's what the agent's route map said. So we double checked and what it actually said was, Bimbadgen Avenue, Sydney.

Which is nowhere near Bimbadgen Winery. In fact, the Winery is about a half hour from the boat. But it was a nice drive and we got to see more of Australia. Which is the objective after all.

So, there we were. Continuing our unbroken record of many decades in going to see '70's rock bands, none of whom have a band member younger than us. By a long shot. All the old folks dancing like their dads or perhaps just having a seizure.

Nicks was rubbish.

Saucy Sue. Where Are You

08 November 2017
Fancy this. We're on our way to Newcastle. Should have had a bag of coal on board. We should also have just stayed in Port Stephens as there's hee haw wind.

As we left the bay, we were being watched! You could almost feel the eyes on you as here in sunny Australia, at least on the east coast, there's a volunteer coastal watch cum rescue service. And.....,,,we're not registered!

It's like the UK's RNLI but apparently run by retirees, in their blue, badged uniforms and presumably and hopefully ex sailors. They also have some "tinnies", small, considering the size of the seas, twenty to twenty five foot aluminium speedboats with an outboard or two off the back. I'm not entirely sure what situation I'd have to be in to get off Time Bandit into one of these.

The deal is, you call up at the start of your passage, say Brisbane to Sydney and as you pass down the coast you report in at a scheduled time. As the miles tick by along your voyage you are handed from one station to the next. It's all very efficient and the locals seem to use it widely, calling in and reporting regularly. If you don't check in, I guess they have a look out the window or maybe send a rescue boat.

On passage the other night we heard them calling a boat thrashing along somewhere out in the dark with us. "Saucy Sue, Saucy Sue, Saucy Sue. This is Marine Rescue."

After Saucy Sue had fought their way, out from whatever inadequate shelter they had, climbed down the companionway and crossed dripping wet to the VHF and replied, they got a bit of a slapping because they were "six minutes late" for their check in.

My mum never worried about me that much.

And our kids only kind of vaguely know we're in Australia somewhere. (But they do know precisely where the wills are.)

Anyway, I think we'll just stay below the radar.

Sniff 'N Go.

06 November 2017 | Calm Before The Storm, Port Stephens
Sniff 'n Go

Coffs Harbour. A pleasant, small fishing harbour and marina created by breakwaters joining the islands to the land. Just like Croabh Haven.

It had showers, laundry, small shops, restaurants and bars. And live music. It seemed like a great place to stay awhile particularly as after the next 24 hours of northerlies a week of strong southerlies is forecast.

"Right" we said, "we'll base ourselves here and tour for a week." Decision made, we went to the pub, signed onto the wifi and, no sooner than the first schooner's slipped down than, "You've Got Mail". (Has anyone other than Tom Hanks seen this?). After ploughing through the kind offers from apparently gorgeous Russian girls eager to make me happy, an email from Aussie Dave and Galley Slave Jean appears. Now, Dave is just finishing his mostly single handed circumnavigation and is on the last stretch to home in Melbourne. He's been on the last stretch for some time now.

They want to go south. The winds are going north. It's taken them maybe four weeks of hanging around to catch the rare northerlies and make ground south. Consequently, Dave's strong advice was, "If you sniff a northerly, GO"

Oh bollocks. Dave and Jean are only a couple of hundred miles ahead of us, maybe two days sailing at most but its taken them weeks to get there struggling to find the northerlies in between the fairly consistent southerlies.

And not only had we sniffed a northerly, we were sat there with a forecast of 24 hours of north 15-20 sandwiched between southerlies. I guess Dave and Billy Connelly might say its Rule #4, Don't waste a northerly.

So, Coffs based touring plan was binned and we jumped on the north 15-20 and headed out. Well, we would have if the forecast was remotely accurate. For five hours we beat south, then, as time was running against us we motor sailed until finally, about midday, the wind backed to the east. And then, what a night.

With the winds alternating between south and north there's two opposing swells running. Add to that a south setting, one to four knot East Australian Current and the sea state is what they call, "rough".

Once the north breeze arrived it got faster and faster. One slab, then two and genoa rolled away to a hanky and we were still blasting along taking green and white water from all directions. Wet 'n wild. And that was just my missus.

The all weather entrance to Port Stephens loomed early morning and by noon we were anchored and nervously sitting in the cockpit while a forty knot lightning and rain storm passed over thinking that maybe the $115 marina might not have been a bad idea.

Coffs Sweet

03 November 2017
Twenty seven hours and 167 miles later we tied up in Coffs Harbour Marina.

It should have been faster but the forecast was about 18 hours and 15 knots out. Pretty annoying as we'd spent Wednesday just killing time as Thursday's forecast was supposed to be even better.

Time killer number one was to get our mobile phone fixed so a trip to Vodafone was in order.

"Excuse me " says I. "Can you remove voicemail from this phone?"

"Oh sure" says the tattooed, pierced young thing and puts her hand out for the phone. "What's your number?" she asked. For a millisecond I thought I'd scored, always an ego boost for an old git; then common sense prevailed and I replied, "I haven't a clue". And neither had Anne. The girl with the sketchy tattoo knowingly turns the phone over, as this apparently is where old gits sellotape their number, but to no avail.

In a flash of genius I spout out what I'm pretty sure is the number.

She checks it and bingo, it worked. Anne says, "Wow! That's a surprise". Tattoo girl, looking equally amazed says, "yeah" and glancing at her colleagues who've all been looking over the top of their phones at this all too typical transaction with the older generation, and says, "we're ALL surprised". Cheeky gits.

Back at the boat, a check of the forecast, 15-20 from the north, yet another look at the pilot books and advice from cruising buddies Heemskirk, showed we had the option of going into Yamba at the mouth of the Clarence River. Our first shallow bar entrance. Sand bar that is. So, off we headed and soon we were motoring in hee haw wind and sliding up and down a four or five metre swell. Despite having to motor, we had a pleasant, moonlit passage but had to skip the Clarence owing to the swell. On our right, miles and miles of golden sand and occasionally on our left, islets that bore a striking resemblance to Scotland. Other than it was sunny.

Coffs Harbour hove into view early afternoon and we quickly parked, checked in and headed for Happy Hour and some of the yacht clubs rather tempting desserts.

(Desserts....Coffs Sweet. See what I did there?!)

Mayhem On The Gold Coast

01 November 2017
Well, we abandoned Brisbane after a very pleasant stay at the Rivergate Marina, a touch of sheer blooody looxury after months on the hook. The route south was through the channels south of Brizzie, and here, you should note, Australians apparently shorten every written wo.... and, or add an, "eeee" to the end. I'm apparently Stueeee. However, they're stuck with what to do with Anne. In the spoken word, they end every sentence on a high note, raising an octave or two as if they've been goosed half way through their last sentence.

Anyway, the route south is through the channels and swamps inside the outer islands between Point Danger and probably Point You're Gonna Die Right Here. For all his attributes, I'm not sure wee Jimmy Cook was that positive in his new place naming strategies.

Fortunately our good ol' buddy, Eliana Dave, had emailed us his Navionics track from his passage south a week or two ago so we had a route to follow through the spiders web of sandbanks.

We'd been told that at the weekend it got a bit busy. BUSY! Like Sauchiehall Street on a last day before Christmas shopping afternoon. Jet skis, powerboats, Sunseekers of all shapes and sizes and, worst of all, the barbecue boats. These are basically two aluminium torpedo shaped hulls with a B&Q, shed (ex colonials should think Bunnings or Home Depot) perched precariously on top. Power and what passes for steerage comes from an 8hp outboard screaming at full revs, just a tad louder than the four out of control kids. It was one of ease that nearly caused us a few scrapes and curses. These folks can obviously take to the water without the faintest idea of the rules of the road. Add to that mix some beer, cheap plonk and no rear view mirror and you've the recipe for disaster. Which it nearly was when one we were about to pass, without notice, decidedmtomhang a right and head for another channel, turned painfully slowly, right in front of us and only just escaped having our anchors join the various items of metalwork they already had adorning their noses, tongues and earlobes. How we missed them I don't know.

Weekends is definitely not a time to be out in these waters.

Booty Call Gets The Boot

25 October 2017
Did you ever see Bridge Over The River Kwai? If so, you might remember the scene where Alec Guinness, having given his Japanese captors a stiff talking too, gets stuffed in the Hot Box for his troubles. Poor wee Eck then suffers terribly under the blistering sun and tropical rains.

Well, and I'll get another doing for seeming to "moan", but this hopefully brings you, dear reader, the sensation of living this wondrous experience as if you are right here with us in FNQ, i.e. Far North Queensland, and if the rain doesn't stop soon, just plain 'effin Queensland.

Every day starts lovely. Clear skies, warm sunshine and twittering birds. As the heat builds in the afternoon it gets steamy hot and by late afternoon or early evening, the fluffy white clouds of earlier are replaced by giant black ones. Then all hell breaks loose. Thunder, lightning and torrential rain hits. In the van, when it was tipping down we couldn't open the doors or we'd get soaked. That and we had this vision of the local wildlife creeping in. As a result, after not very long, Booty Call felt like wee Eck's hot box.

Now, not that we've gone soft but when you wake up like Alec in his hot box, awash in perspiration and feeling vaguely like your being suffocated, the novelty wears off. So, the compact campervan trial was drawn to an early close and Booty Call is relegated to the car park and we enjoyed a few nights in a swanky AirBnb apartment in Cairns.

On Sunday morning we picked up ride number two, a Toyota Land Cruiser with a tent on the roof.

It only took 20 minutes to get it up, so to speak, but got something of a fright when, fiddling about inside, on the roof, the car started to roll slowly forward. Only an inch or two but enough to make me feel like Mr Bean on top of his Mini.

Wednesday lunchtime and 1,862 kms later, we're back in Brizzie, on Time Bandit and happy to be here.

Time for a break. Maybe we'll go for a wee sail.

Men In Big Hats

20 October 2017
As I mentioned earlier, our cruising buddies thought we were crackers when, after only a few days in New Caledonia, a destination some people save for years and pay bucket loads to visit, we upped and off'd to Australia. Our plan was that we'd get here in time to explore the far north of Queensland before the rainy season, aka "The Wet" washed away all the tourists. And the roads.

We almost made it. After a week and a half on the road, living out our tin box, we finally stopped going north and west and turned for Cairns to drop off Booty Call and pick up our next deal of the century on Sunday. Wait 'till you see this one!!

Just before we turned for the coast we stopped at a roadhouse for petrol and a coffee. You tend to find these places about 180kms from the sign you saw that said "Last Fuel For 180kms". In between there's just bush populated by Mr & Mrs Rancher and their hundreds or probably thousands of cattle on their cattle stations the size of Belgium. And about as interesting. Our stop at the roadhouse coincided with the arrival of the grocery truck. It was deja vu. Or at least, we thought we'd seen it before. The truck is the equivalent of the islands' supply ship and turns up once every two weeks. The locals drive off their stations for a bit of a get together and to pick up fruit, veg and other sundries to last them through the coming weeks. It really was just like being back in the islands.

We reached Cairns after driving 1700kms north then west and north again. We exchanged live, working coal mines and their vibrant, albeit temporary looking towns for silent, long closed tin and gold mines and towns built on wood. Meaning they once had a logging industry as opposed to them being built on wood. If you get my drift. These towns, having lost their industries are now dependent on passing tourist income. And there aren't many tourists let alone income. Slowly we made our way back to the coast where, unlike in the bush, tourists were spending like drunken sailors. A large part of that was because, in the great outdoors it was tipping down so the bars were packed.

And man, has it rained. FNQ, Far North Queensland as its called locally gets three metres of rain a year. That's three times more than the west coast of Scotland. And most of it falls in the four months of The Wet. No wonder the locals all wear big hats.
Vessel Name: Time Bandit
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 45
Hailing Port: Largs, Scotland
Crew: Anne and Stuart Letton
About: ex dinghy and keelboat racers now tooled up with an ocean going boat and cruising around aimlessly, destination Nirvana...
Extra: 2017/18 Left NZ in May '17 cruising Fiji, Lau Group, Yasawas, Vanuatu and New Caledonia before heading for Australia to land cruise and sit out cyclone season down Sydney way.
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/timebandit/profile
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Created 20 October 2017
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An interesting perspective on evolution in the Galapagos.
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Mediterranean Spain to the Arctic Circle
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Created 12 August 2013
Scraping and sanding hull back to gel coat for epoxy and Coppercoat treatments.
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Created 3 February 2013