Freebirdie's Sailin' Blog

22 November 2011 | Seattle
01 August 2011 | Santa Maria di Leuca
03 July 2011 | Greece
15 June 2011 | Gulf of Corinth
05 June 2011 | Athens
28 May 2011 | Poros Greece
25 April 2011 | Symi Island
13 April 2011 | Naxos, Greece
20 February 2011 | Istanbul, Turkey
30 January 2011 | Ephesus
28 January 2011 | Marmaris
16 January 2011 | Selcuk, Turkey
31 December 2010 | Marmaris
24 October 2010 | Cappadocia, Turkey
16 September 2010 | Marmaris Turkey
26 August 2010 | Fethiye, Turkey
19 August 2010 | Marmaris
03 August 2010 | Larnaca Cyprus
01 August 2010 | Mediterranean Sea
30 July 2010 | Ashkelon Marina

The Whitsunday Islands

14 April 2008 | Queensland Australia
Dave and Judy
Whitsunday Islands
Log 56

April 10, 2008

After an nice two and a half hour sail we arrived at Abel Point Marina. This is the center of yachting in the Whitsunday Island area. The small town of Arlie Beach is loaded with backpackers and is a holiday destination. We weren't too impressed. The town was centered on a dusty busy street with speeding traffic. The "strip" was dedicated to fast foods,trinkets, and low budget accomidations. The beach was nothing to write home about. We spent one night in the upscale (expensive) marina, topped of our fuel tanks (US$7.00/gallon) and decided to take a mooring buoy in front of the Arlie Beach Sailing club. The Buoy cost us A$50 for a week. The marina was A$105 per night! (greedy bastards) The buoy had better access to town anyway. It was also much cooler out in the breeze. The weather has been very hot the last few days.

The next few days we tramped around town with our trusty/rusty folding bikes. An alternator was taken in for repair and we did a little grocery shopping. Freebird got a clean sweep fore and aft as we were preparing for visitors.

April 13th 2008
We rented a car to go pick up our friends, Geoff and Judy who were coming all the way from California. Before taking off on the 3 hour turn around trek we checked online to make sure the flight was on time. We arrived at the airport and guess what?? You guessed it.... The plane is delayed by 6 hours! It's not like there is anything to do near the airport for 6 hours. There is nothing for miles.. no restaurants, no shopping, no movies, not even a golf courses... nothing!.... Okay back to Arlie beach for lunch and the killing of time and rental car kilometers. We finally picked them up at 8PM . We jetted back into Arlie in time for a late Thai dinner.

April 14th 2008

Freebird is sailing with her new crew back out to the Whitsunday Islands. It's a beautiful sailing day and the wind allows us to comfortably lay Cid Harbor in the afternoon. It was such a nice day that we added a few extra sailing miles just for the fun of it. Feels good to be back out on the water. We're all pretty zonked. After a little nap Judy makes a nice chicken dinner. After a few hours of solving world problems we all crash for a quiet night on the hook.

A quick breakfast and we're off to find some remote anchorages. We've spotted some good potential snorkeling spots on the chart. Our track takes us around to the windward side of the islands. Soon it's blowing 30 knots and the skipper makes the decision to turn back. No use in making a miserable day of it. We sail by the Hook Island underwater Observatory. A mooring buoy is available so we take it. We took the dinghy to shore and spent a few hours walking the trails and checking out the old underwater observatory. It has deffinatly seen better days. The glass was so scratched that you could barely see out. It must have been very special in its day. Still all in all it was a plesant little excursion. Because the weather had started to blow up a little we dicided to head back to Cid Harbor. It is the most protected place in the island group. We dropped the hook in the calm water enjoyed the tranquility of this special place... Marquritas all around at sunset..... Good times with good friends...

April 16th

Awoke to a stormy day. The skipper felt that we should get back across the open water while the gettin was good. Our friends had a flight to catch in a couple of days. It would not be good to be stuck on the wrong side of the channel.We upped anchor and headed out into the malestrom. The wind was blowing about 25 knots but the seas were fairly calm because the current was moving with the wind. Had we waited a few hours the sea conditions would have been much rougher. A few hours later we anchored in a rainstorm. We're in front of "Peppers Palm Bay Resort". We scurried to the beach with umbrillas. It was pouring. Our plan was to make some dinner reservations but the weather didn't look promising. We dicided to do lunch instead while we were ashore. We enjoyed a nice lunch watching the downpour from the open air cafe. After lunch the rain let up and we went for a walk to the other side of the island. We returned to Freebird just as the sky opened up. We were treated to another nice evening of good food, drink, and special friends..

April 17th

Up early for the sail back to Arlie Beach.... still raining. There is no sign of a break. We huddle in the cabin and watch the radar. Freebird makes her way back to the mooring buoy before noon. The weather finally clears. We head ashore and after a bit of shopping and lunch at the Arlie Beach Sailing Club, it was time to bid our friends "Bon Voyage". They caught a cab back to the airport. We caught our dinghy back to Freebird where laundry was waiting for Judy and sail repair was waiting for Dave.

Up the Queensland Coast

19 March 2008 | Mooloolaba to Whitsundays
Dave and Judy
Log 55
Mooloolaba to Whitsundays

Stormy trip ahead

March 19, 2008, Thursday

We are sailing North……Departed Mooloolaba(26 41.2 S 153 07.6 E) early this morning. Firebird is moving along nicely under the reacher sail. She’s happy to be back in her element. We have been at the dock for four months. Even though we are a little queasy, it feels good to be back out sailing. Mooloolaba was fun… friends, good food, car, dock, surf, kiteboarding, beach walks, side walk cafes….but it’s time to move on. We'll really miss our neighbors ~ The Liquid Insanity's. We plan to be in Darwin by July for the start of the “Sail Indonesia Rally” 2500 nautical miles away.

After sailing all day we arrived at the notorious Wide Bay Bar (25 48.1 S 153 03.8E).. The swell is running and the bar is well known for rough conditions. Timing in a must. A slack tide passage is the ticket. As we approach we can see the white water from 2 miles away. We have waypoints in the gps to guide us in a zig zag pattern through the surf. Freebird surfed several small waves and then we were picked up by a monster and delivered at speed into the calm waters inside. As the adrenalin worked its’ way out of our system, we sailed toward Pelican Bay (25 48.98S 153 02.134E) to anchor for the night. We heard on the radio that the 2 boats behind us took white water over the top.....Welcome back to cruising.

Our plan is to island hop up the inside of the Great Barrier Reef to Cape York. We are trying to meet our friends in the Whitsunday Islands. Geoff and Judy Siodmak who are flying in to join us for a few days sailing in the Islands.

We stopped at Bundaberg 24°45.4631 S 152°22.8224 E. for a few days then headed for Lady Musgrave Island, 23°54.0088 S 152°23.1519E the southern most island considered inside the reef. The weather was blowey and not inviting so the next day we continued our journey north. We made day hops to Fitzroy Reef 23°36.9148 S 152°09.4191 E then to Northwest Island. 23°17.320 S 151°41.950 E Turtle in the anchorage :>}}}} Another small turtle came ashore later & when we were negeotiating a very small channel we accidentally broke up turtle love. How insensitive is that???

The weather had moderated some so Judy made some Tacos and Margaritas for dinner. We were settling down to a nice evening when a storm hit with 40 plus knots of wind. The anchorage became a“Maytag” We hung on all night. We think the wind generator broke a blade but can’t confirm until the wind calms down… hopefully tomorrow.


A power boat in the anchorage near us was blown off its anchor and out to sea. The owners were camping on shore. They did recover her on Douglas shoals late the next afternoon many miles away. The storm had dissipated by first light. We decided to change anchorages to find calmer conditions to get some rest. We found anchorage close to the lea side of the reef. 23°17.005 S 151°43.606 E The afternoon was spent resting and watching dolphins and manta rays play around the boat. We settled into our regular evening routine… Sundowners, nice dinner by Judy, tea, coffee and cookies for late desert, cribbage, showers, in the sack by 10:30. No storm tonight ZZZZZZZ.

March 31, 2008

Awoke to a bright sunny day. After breakfast we sailed in light wind to Great Keppel Island. 23°17.1602 S 151°41.6240 E We walked the beach and played a little Bocci ball in the late afternoon. Nice evening with beverages & snacks on the beach.

Finally Sun!

The next morning we took the dinghy around the island to the small town and spent the day trekking around the island. We found some nice beaches and vistas. Judy found lots of mosquitoes or they found her I guess.

April 1st (fools)

Three hours sail takes us to Keppel Bay Marina. 23°09.6764 S 150°46.1979 E Freebird settles into a nice slip with water and power (long hot showers). Marinas make us nervous. We find ourselves maneuvering around amongst millions of dollars worth of shiny boats in completely unfamiliar territory. Sometimes there is a cross wind to raise the anxiety level. We don’t know which side we will be tying to so we don’t know how to rig the boat. It’s always chaos. Often people show up on the dock to help. This is usually a good thing. Sometimes its not so good. On this occasion the ”helper” took our bow line but didn’t tie it to anything and walked away. We managed to get into the slip with out any collateral damage and with out getting the line around the prop. Happy April Fools day!

The marina had a loaner car for us so we headed into the big city of Yapoon. We managed to do a little shopping and have a cappuccino and some lunch.

April 2nd

The AM weather called for big winds and heavy seas in the morning then falling off in the afternoon. The way things have been, we considered this to be a “good” forecast. We left Keppel Bay Marina and headed out into rough 7 foot seas hoping for an afternoon reprieve. It did settle down some and we made it into isolated Pearl Bay 22°26.2406 S 150°44.1652E at 1530. The anchorage was rolly with swell on the beam. We contemplated a stern anchor to hold the bow into the waves but laziness took over. By 1730 we were doing rolling sundowners in the cockpit. Not another person in sight. Nice sunset……

Evening Routine

April 3rd

Sunny! No wind… Off we motor toward the Duke Islands. Judy makes some breakfast and we settle into a calm passage for a change. We don’t normally like to motor but it’s nice to see the sun and some calm weather so we don’t complain. Eight hours later we are anchored in a beautiful isolated bay. 21°58.4343 S 150°08.2543 E We settle back for some reading relaxing and the usual evening routine.

The next morning the radio is calling for …you guest it… High Winds! We decide that this bay is not the best place to be for this wind direction. We head around the other side of the island group to a small bay on the north side of Marble Island. 21°58.3708 S 150°10.4099 E There are 20 foot tides here so you have to be careful where you anchor. If you calculate the tides wrong you can find yourself high and dry. We anchored off some rocks near the shore. In a few hours we found ourselves looking up at the rocks and beach with 3 feet of water under our keels.



This was a beautiful place. Nice little beach and rocks to climb on. As we walked down the beach we noticed what looked like …Reindeer? This is tropical
Queensland. How can that be? Sure enough, we found out that the island was a game reserve that had been used for hunting. Thus the name of the island “Hunter” The deer were brought here years ago and seem to be doing quite well. We saw a heard of about 20 animals. You just never know …What’s next?

Grazing for Shells

Well, the next day we were on the beach. Judy grazing for shells when she looks up and says “ Is that a Tornado?” I look up to confirm that it sure enough does look like a big BLCK water spout coming our way. It’s difficult to describe the next seen in this story. Two grown people running around the beach in full panic shouting, What to do? If we try and make it back to the boat in the dinghy we could be caught in a real mess. On the other hand there is no other place to hide on the beach. Hum……Panicked, we leap into the dinghy back to Freebird. After the fastest dinghy retrieval of all time we tie everything down and wait..and wait…We watch the ugly monster head for our island tand US...then at the last minute , veer off out to sea….Whew!….

We call the marine rescue service on the radio. “ VMR this is Freebird” ..”Go ahead Freebird”…”We just sighted a big water spout off of Hunter Island”….”Wow, we don’t get to many of those around here” …”Yea?, we just thought you should know”….”Okay, G’day mate”. “Freebird clear” I don’t know what we expected them to do but their response wasn’t what we would have expected Fortunately it was time for "happy hour" to wash the adrenalin out of our system.... again.

The weather pinned us down for 3 days in that bay. We couldn’t get off the boat because it was too rough. We sat there watching the magnificient Buck with all his points lead HIS Reindeer until the wind calmed down.

Pinned Down For 3 Days

April 7

In the morning we finally get our two anchors dug out & head off in nice weather. With an overnight stop in the Beverly group 21°58.3708 S 150°10.4099 E and Kenawik island
20°53.9458 S 149°24.5143 E At last we arrive in the Whitsunday Islands. We drop the hook in Saw Mill Bay 20°15.5885 S 148°56.3824 E the most protected bay in the islands. After a quiet night we head for Abel Point Marina (20°16.0330 S 148°42.4775 E) where we plan to meet our friends, Geoff and Judy. Stay tuned…..

See Ya!

More Photos

Oz Road Trip

22 January 2008 | SE Australia
Dave and Judy
Log 54
Oz Road Trip

January 2008
We head out in our gas thirsty campervan in what is to become the highest recorded rainfall for a summer in Australian history.
Now that we are back to being "Van-tramps" instead of "Boat-trash"...we make our first overnight stop at...... a greyhound race track???? in Grafton. Speaking of tramps....Yep, we have the latest greatest "Extra Economy Travel Vacation" guide. (Dave's idea). Walking through tall wet grass in the dark and rain to an unlit restroom, Cockroaches scattering in the dark.... YUK!!! From here on we had to step up a notch on the amenities.

Headed for Coober Pedy

On day two of our big adventure the rain fell heavily. It came down in sheets and buckets. We drove straight through Coff's Harbor and didn't get to even see the beach. We didn't stop driving until we arrived at our friends Pat and Greg Whitbourne's Dad's house in Lake Macquarie. They kindly let us park in the carport for the night. (We said, step-up, right?), Greg and Pat from the yacht "Rascal 2" are fellow cruisers who have also adopted a family in Vureas Bay, Vanuatu. They have been sailing to there for the past few years. Greg has been instrumental in developing plans for a hydro electric plant on the island.. Still pouring, we left the next morning after celebrating Greg's birthday with him and his family.
We were headed to Sydney but they were predicting flooding for the next week. We just kept driving. We made a day stop at the capital city of Canberra but it rained so hard we only visited the National Gallery and drove around the capital mall. Canberra is a planned city that has a fabulous layout of grounds poised on a lake, loaded with greenery. After we climbed to the top of the tallest building, the Telstra communications tower, to try and see the city through the rain, we called it a day and headed back to our campervan park.

We decided to head west until it stopped raining. It took 2 days to get to the outback of Australia. Coober Pedy is opal capital of the world and famous for it's desolate landscape. Seventy percent of the people live UNDERGROUND. Most of the infrastructure is also underground. Hotels, resturaunts, theaters, ....everything! We're talking really HOT here. Most of you can remember the MadMax scenery, right? It was filmed here. It was on the top of my must see list but not so high on Dave's. After lengthy discussion, we flipped a coin and I won! So after two extra days of driving we arrived at noon, took the afternoon tour, had dinner and were gone by daybreak the next morning. Fortunately, he really enjoyed the tour. Our guide, Jimmy/Dimitri grew up in the mines as a kid. He even saved a few lives. He had great some pretty vivid stories. A lot of the hopeful refugees came from Europe after WW11 and tried their hardest to strike it rich in the opal mines. Very few actually made a living. Most stories have sad endings. The Serbs carved a whole church out of the stone underground. It's adorned with statues carved right in the walls of the underground cathedral. It was phenomenal! Well, I almost won, no opals for me there, way too expensive!

Onward we go, back down South toward the city of Adelaide. We so wanted to get to Perth, but remember, just 4 wks..... and we are already into it one week by now. YIKES
Then there's the gas/fuel/diesel thing. When we drive all day it's $160 big ones in fuel, not counting the "caravan park" or the cost of renting the van. This is going to add up!

Serbian Church Downtown Coober Pedy

Fun in wine country

But the good news, along the way is the Barosa and Clare Valley's Wine Country. What a great diversion. We even had an extra day because we didn't stay in Coober Pedy. That meant we could bum around wine country for a few days. We toured vineyards, restaurants, and sampled all the local sights and tastes. Some of the wineries were a couple of hundred years old and built around Franciscan Monk's Monasteries. It was fun and it wasn't raining either!

One of the more unique sights in the area was "The Herbig Family Tree House" that an immigrant family lived in for 5 years while they started their family. Mr. Herbig was 30 when he married his 18 yr old illiterate Polish /Russian bride. They raised 16 children and had 100+ great grandkids when they passed away. The Herbig name is very common in the Barosa valley.

The Herbig Family Tree House

Next stop: Adelaide for Australia Day at Gleneig's seaside resort/campervan park. Lots of dogs on the barbie there. Fun! We checked out the Art Museum and managed to almost take the whole top of the van off in a parking garage. Luckily we backed down and only had to replace the vent cowling.... We're starting to wonder if we should have taken out that extra $800 insurance policy after all. The botanical gardens had the most excellent water lily exhibit ~ ever! The first conservatory was built over 100 yrs ago. The new glass conservatory houses lily pads from the Amazon as big as large inner tubes with massive white and purple flowers the size of a turkey plate! It was right next to the Sacred Lotus Garden, oh my, sublime.

Finally, starting week 3, we are on Australia's Great Ocean Road, one of the most picturesque drives in the world. Dave's been chomping at the bit for this part of Australia. We pretty much turned down, stopped, found and went to every beach, lighthouse, view, grotto, cape along this stretch of the road till we got to Melbourne. Lorne was Dave's favorite beach town along this coast.

The Great Ocean Road

Surf Museum Torquay

We toured the National Surf museum in Torquay. This whole town is devoted to surf culture. There are outlet stores for all the big name brands of surf ware.

Spectacular Ocean Road

While at a very remote little lighthouse restaurant, the owner/chef mentioned he has some dear friends that were in the new play, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", one of my favorite movies. I was reading the Sunday paper over some yummy cocoa and chocolate cake at the time, while Dave was busy slurping down his tall double strong dark cappuccino and mentioned that it was playing in Melbourne. So we flipped for it, again I won !!! Tickets to Priscilla by cell phone.
So, it was a big day in the city for us. All day tram passes from the campsite. Found the Melbourne International Art Gallery. We did the walking tour all around the old city. A lot of the buildings had the original stain glass windows dating back to the 1800's. It was interesting the way they filled the alleys in with overhanging roofs which incorporated them into the buildings. A highlight was visiting the oldest hotel and pub ~ Young & Jackson, famous for Chloe, a scandalous 19th century nude painting which still adorns the wall. We had a drink there and watched out the second story window as a movie was being shot using the classic old architecture for a backdrop. Bryce Courtney mentions this famous landmark in a many of his books.
Dave really liked the play. First of all, it was housed in the most opulent theater in Melbourne ~ The Regents. Then, they used the original Pricilla (bus) that was in the movie. She was on a turntable so you could either be on the road with her or inside of her. Next, Dave, the mechanic from the movie, was actually in the play. I had bought the movie so our Dave could see it before we went. The costumes and choreography were stellar! Melbourne is a classic old multicultural city. We wished we could have stayed longer as we enjoyed it so much.

Classic Melbourne

New South Wales Coast

No time for Tasmania, it's up the coast now towards Sydney and home to Mooloolaba. Way out at the end of the peninsula in Cape Conrad National Parke, we met 5 couples of retired cruisers. Dave asks: "where can we drop the hook mate,?" They point out a space close by. They hailed us over and ask us to join them for sundowners. Amazing. They actually know our buddies back at the dock; Greg and Leanne on the yacht "Leahona" who we sailed with back in Vanuatu. We traded stories for the rest of the evening and were off again the next morning up the coast. It's back to raining again...
On the road again, does it sound like we drove every single day? Yes, that's almost right. We stayed only 2 days in a row in 3 places. Yeoowzer So, at our next stop, we went indoors to our first real room & bed. You probably forgot we've been sleeping in our campervan all this way ~ rain or shine and it's pouring out now. Well, we've taken a LONG HOT SHOWER in our own room, the one with a bed & TV in it. WOW huh? We brought back Thai take out, did 5 loads of laundry and internet. OH BOY! We stayed the next day too. Took in a movie, came back & broiled steak & corn on the cob in our own room, listening to the bellbirds chirp all night. It's hard to believe we haven't lived in a house since 2002.
The Southern New South Wales coast is really beautiful. It's much like Northern California only with less people. We stopped all along the way for quick hikes, spotted a couple of koala's in the wild, lots of cockatoos, a few kangaroos & wallabies. We've enjoyed all of the lilies that are planted beside the roadways. With a gallery guide in hand we've just missed a few that weren't open. Kiama was one of our favorite stops. It's a quant little costal town that inspires some watercolorists. They have a pretty impressive blow hole there with iridescent foam. The beach has crashing waves and there are nice walks all along the coast.

We're on our last week. Brother Bruce and his buddy Matt are coming to stay with us for 10 days back in Mooloolaba so we are hustling back up the coast. We have one big last stop to make.... Sydney. We put off coming there because it was raining so hard when we came down and it still hasn't stopped! Our friends from way back in Mexico/Panama days ~ The Kolo's (yacht name). Kathy & Kevin have started their new family in Sydney. Now we get to meet the impressive Tristan, the "Bilingual Boy". His mom speaks to him in French and his dad in English. He is an amazing child. So gifted. We stayed overnight with them for two nights and they took us everywhere in Sydney. We loved being with them and finally meeting Tristan.

Kevin, Kathy and Tristan up to Brisbane to return our camper van undamaged, without the extra $800 insurance we were feeling pretty good....Oh oh, a truck throws up a huge rock and shatters our windshield on the last day! We stop in all the towns along the way looking for a replacement with no luck. Arriving back at Uncle Tony's for the night we find a shop that will replace it the next morning. Dave backs our trusty Fairlane down Tony's steep driveway. YEoooooooooooooo The brake peddle goes to the floor. No brakes! The old girl picks up speed. He's headed backwards down the windy driveway. Next stop?....the living room of the house across the street. . He cranks the wheel, misses the camper van and various cars parked on the road and comes to an abrupt halt by slamming into the curb .As Tony and I are making breakfast we hear a loud noise but quickly forget it in our haste to be ready to leave for the windscreen shop. Dave comes up pasty looking and explains how he almost died. We look at each other and say, "Oh, that must have been the noise we heard". So now, it's the tow truck thing. Tony takes one of us to the Windscreen place and then the other to the brake shop. The windshield is $300 so we are still ahead by $500 on the extra insurance - the roof vent.... We pull into the van return at 3:00 in the afternoon, an hour early. They love their new windshield and roof vent. Our "trusty" Fairlane is repaired in time to make the two hour run home to Freebird where we meet Bruce and Mat that night.

Back in Australia

20 November 2007 | Mooloolaba, Gold Coast
Dave and Judy
Please Go HERE

Australia 2006

11 March 2006 | Bundaberg Australia
Dave and Judy

Log 50
Australia 2006

Judy and Dave enjoy the Melbourne Cup

November 3, 2006
We arrived at Bundaberg Port Marina almost exactly 5 days after our departure from Noumea. The crossing was almost uneventful except that we blew out our beautiful spinnaker. I guess it was getting tired after 6 years of ocean sailing. We were having dinner watching the sunset in about 15 knots of wind when suddenly we heard a loud pop. We looked up to see the sail in shreds. We wrestled it to the deck and unrolled the less efficient reacher sail. The damage will have to be assessed when we get to port. We spent a week or so recovering with other cruisers who had also participated in the rally. Some of them old acquaintances from a few years back. We met some new faces as well. They put on a good party here. They had something planned every day. We of course went to the Bundaberg Distillery, famous for Bundy Rum & ginger beer. Had a day at the races, we watched the Melbourne cup on a screen while having lunch wearing our finest….Naturally there was a few BBQ's. Finally, we headed further up the river to the main town of Bundaberg.

Freebird on the Hard

We have decided to haul our girl out of the water at the Bundaberg Slipways while we head back to Seattle for 3 months where we need to get our bodies tuned up and assure our family and friends of our existence. This is the longest we have ever been away from Freebird, ever.

The journey started with a 2 hour ride in a shuttle van to Harvey Bay Airport. The driver got a little lost picking up a few other passengers so we were running a little late. We really needed to catch that first flight because it was the first link in the chain of 3 flights. We were already pushed to make our flight in Sydney for LA. So….. Guess what? Yep! The van broke down out in the middle of the cane fields about 30 minutes from the air port. So we put our thumbs out. We had a ton of luggage and 5 people. Two vehicles stopped. Ours was the 2nd one, a van. The nice lady was a school teacher on the way to work. She took us & the 5th person straight to the airport. We lucked out because the plane was late anyway. After 25 hours of traveling, we arrived in Seattle. Winter was in full force with freezing conditions, 80 knot winds, and power outages. With help from all our support team, especially John & Cyn, we accomplished our tasks and returned to Freebird a little over 3 months later. We did soften the trip with a visit to Dave's son Jason and family in Maui along with a week's lay-over in southern California to see dear friends.

The other half of the plan is to get our Freebird tuned up. We moved aboard our high and dry BIRD while we worked for a month making repairs. Among other tasks we: stripped and replaced the bottom paint, repaired the broken rudder that struck a reef 3000 miles back, reinforced the forebeam attachments, removed the escape hatches and replaced them with lexan panels. We did all this in sopping 90 to 100 degree heat with mosquitoes thrown in for special effect…. The up side? We met some really nice folks. Russ and Lorraine the owners of the yard were very helpful and even had a car available for us to use. While there, we met Trevor, who has been building his dream boat for we don't know how long. He lives aboard his partly finished boat, "Park Bench" with Boss and Crab Bait, his little dog and cat. In the evenings he would zip off to the pub on his small motor bike with Boss riding in the milk crate on the back. We watched with interest when he would make moonshine in our"backyard". He took the time to explain all the details of how the still works. He even shared a bottle with us….hum…..

Yacht "Park Bench" under construction

From here our plan is to sail south to the Gold Coast. Judy's really excited to meet up with Dave's friend and the designer of Freebird, Tony Grainger or Freebird's Uncle Tony. After that, we will head north to the Great Barrier Reef for the southern winter. Ha! We should know better than to make plans that far ahead……..Little did we know that our plans would soon change. Three days of day sailing brought us to the Australian Gold Coast. We have stayed in contact with our friends Scott and Nancy on the yacht "Traveler"... They are anchored in "Bums Bay". They called us on the radio and ask us to join them in the bay. We dropped the hook next to them under the shadow of the Seaworld Ferris Wheel. It's the largest in the Southern hemisphere. The high rise skyline of Surfer's Paradise looms in the back ground. The beach is just a short walk from the dinghy landing. The rent is free. The weather is good. The natives are friendly……. We stay! For a while….

One morning upon returning from an early surf, Dave spots a strange man on Freebird. Before he can get there the man paddles away on a surfboard. Judy is on board and waves goodbye to the man. Hmmmmm…..Dave gasses the little dingy and intersects the man on the surfboard. It's Tony Grainger! We do all the arr arr stuff that guys do. What a treat! We had emailed him where we were the next morning he paddled out to check on us. He was on his way back to the beach because he left his little dog, Simba, alone there. It was a great reunion. Twelve years ago Dave went to Australia to find a designer for his new boat. The first one& last one he met was Tony Grainger. They quickly became friends and with Dave's input Tony designed our beautiful "Freebird". He graciously invited us to his home for a few days where we caught up on his latest art work and yacht design efforts. He has become somewhat renowned for his oil painting and was busy with several canvases. He loaned us his car while he worked in the day so we took off for the beach and other tourist entrapments. After a few days, Tony returned us to Freebird.

Dave and Judy with Tony Grainger

At long last we decided to head to "Jumpinpin Pass" for a few days of kiteboarding. Traveler was already there. As usual the wind was somewhat fickle. We did get a little kiting in. The current is very strong in this anchorage. Freebird was dancing about. The wind pushing her one way the current another. One morning we headed off to the beach. Dave was kiting and Judy was off on beach patrol. Dave had just come in when Nancy raced up to the beach in her dinghy. She pointed at Freebird. Our Girl was misbehaving badly. She was chasing the other boats around the anchorage. We raced out to the anchorage at full speed. Nancy just managed to place their dinghy between Freebird and Traveler as they were about to collide. Quick thinking! I jumped aboard, and started the engines. Oh oh, I could not control the boat with both engines at full throttle. Something was very wrong. We tried to pull up the anchor. NOTHING The windlass jammed. The chain was bar tight. The boat was still drifting, now toward the shore! The current was about 3 knots. I jumped in the water with a line around my waist to investigate. The visibility is about 12 inches. Following the anchor chain I find that it has sawed it's self into the trailing edge of the keel. The boat is anchored by the keel! No wonder we're having a time of it. One more trip into the water with a chain hook on a line. I follow the chain as far as I can toward the anchor, attach the hook and the load is taken off of the keel. I am then able to remove the chain from the keel. As I do so, I notice that the keel is only 6 inches from the bottom. We manage to back the boat away from shore just in time. We're not sure if there is a connection or not but we notice that the moon was full that night. We're not superstitious mind you……
This turn of events is really disappointing for us. We were just feeling like we were getting back into the swing of things. Now we must schedule another haul out to repair the damaged keel. We've only been out a month! So off we go, to the Gold Coast Marine Center. Five days work and $1500.00 later we are back to square one.
One of the special things about being a retired firefighter is that you have brothers where ever you go. Since leaving New Zealand two years ago we have been in contact with Mr. Ray Warby, retired fire chief of Auckland Fire Department. We were introduced via a mutual friend, Jenny from Whangarei, via email but had never actually met in person. He has since retired on the Gold Coast with his partner, Marsha. We had several nice outings with them. While we were hauling in the anchor chain, Judy managed to tweak her neck & shoulder that locked all the way down her arm & was in excruciating pain. We didn't really know where to go so I gave Ray a call. He immediately came to our rescue. He picked us up and took us to the hospital. This wiped out about half of his day but he was happy to do it. What a guy! Thanks Ray.
So now that we're all fixed up again, we head back north to Brisbane. As we are going the river we notice that the moon is full tonight. Hmmmmm It should be beautiful shining on the river. The city of Brisbane is very picturesque, situated on the Brisbane River that switchbacks through the city. There are walking/biking trails all along the river with many vistas of the city. There have first class restaurants, inviting museums, and galleries. Sidewalk cafes abound. We called ahead to make sure that there was a mooring available for us. Naturally, when we arrived we find they had all been taken. So now, we had to anchor in the swift river. After our last experience with swift current we are a little concerned. We watch closely and things seem to be under control. No problem. In the morning after putting out a stern anchor, we head into the city for some sightseeing. After lunch, we return to the dingy dock across the river and notice that Freebird looks to be a little close to shore. We race across the river to find that she has drug her anchor yet again! We start the motors, drag up the stern anchor and try to retrieve the anchor. Again the windlass is maxed out. We are still drifting. This time the chain is pulled straight down. We must have snagged the anchor on some large object. We motor into the middle of the river with this heavy object hanging 25 feet down in the muddy water. It's a very heavy mystery object. It's not effective as an anchor but it's so heavy that the windlass can't budge it. Ferry traffic is zigzagging past us like a swarm of bees. We finally manage to get the boat to a dock with a sign that says something like: "don't even think of tying up here" We had no choice

Freebird at the forbidden zone

By now, its past sunset & we watch as the full moon rises over the concrete towers as we manually winched the mystery object up one link at a time, link by link….So heavy that it took all of Dave's strength to pull each link, one at a time while Judy pushes the gear down into each dog. After an hour we could see the object. The bow of the boat is pulled down so far that the sterns are high. Freebird is nose down with her anchor caught in a collection of concrete filled tires chained together. A trip line is attached to the anchor and the load is dropped. She jumps into the air! Free! Free as a bird! The light of the full moon is shining down on us as we sit exhausted contemplating our next move. In the process of all this we managed to strip the gears in the windlass. We call the number on the violators will be prosecuted sign and beg for a few nights stay at the condemned dock. The owners graciously agree after seeing a copy of our insurance policy. The next day we manage to round up parts to repair our broken windlass. Two days later a mooring opened up and we moved to a pile mooring.

With the boat safely secured we are now able to enjoy the lovely city of Brisbane. We especially liked the art galleries and museums. Tony Grainger came up for a day and we all went to the Gallery of Modern Art. On another day, we went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where Judy got to" cuddle" one of the little critters. Next ,our friends Scott and Nancy picked us up in their rental car and took us to the Australia Zoo (the creation of the famous crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin) It was remarkably well cared for with the most dedicated trainers We pet kangaroos, held more koalas, watched enormous crocs being fed, and even checked out the elephants & tigers. Exceptional place.

Judy in heaven

Contact with the locals

We decided that it was time to start moving north so we headed up the coast to Mooloolaba. We planned to stop over night but the town was so appealing that we stayed for a week. It has a perfect surf beach, an appealing marina & most importantly to some, Starbucks coffee. The down side is it's really expensive.We've stayed in contact with other boats that were in the Great Barrier Reef area. They were all complaining about bad weather and rolly anchorages. We had been watching the weather and noticed that the wind was out of the west a fair amount of the time. Since we will be hitting the reef next season as well, Hmmmm…..Let's go back to New Caledonia and Vanuatu instead! So that's where were heading…….

Hang with us!

Vessel Name: Freebird
Vessel Make/Model: Grainger MC420 Catamaran
Hailing Port: Seattle
Crew: Dave and Judy Howell
Dave started building Freebird in 1995 in a plastic shed on Camano Island, NW USA and launched her in April of 2001. He retired from the Fire Department in 1999 after 28 years of service. Judy Retired from dentistry in 1995 after 27 years. [...]
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