TIGER LILLY - CHRISTMAS 2015
23 December 2015 | Brisbane, Australia
Tom & Lilly Service
We hope that you are enjoying the Christmas Season, and anticipating the coming New Year. Here in Brisbane, the city's 2015 collective holiday festivities have been given the name "The Wonder of Christmas" and we think that is so very appropriate. As we think back to past Christmases, and anticipate the coming celebration, what is it that makes us anticipate this time of year with such alacrity and affection? What is it that can unite people from diverse walks of personal faith in a common embrace of warm emotion? We think that it is love; an altruistic outpouring of emotion towards our fellow man - and it certainly is powerful stuff. As the years thunder by, and we find ourselves at a station of life where there is less distraction to the real meaning of Christmas, less holiday tidal flow in our check-book, and more time to think of those we cherish, we reflect that it is this love which truly blesses our lives. Love is not just an emotion, it is an action; there can be no love without sacrifice. We love God, and we love each other, because HE FIRST LOVED US; that is the "Wonder of Christmas" aboard TIGER LILLY.
It has been said that cruising under sail is nothing more than working on a boat in exotic places - and that is what we do. Christmas 2014 found us in the quaint and friendly town of Whangarei, New Zealand; TIGER LILLY was moored in the Town Basin with a huge Christmas tree overlooking the harbour - it was a great place to do major work on the boat, and we were blessed by the Kiwi Spirit of Christmas. After the Cyclone Season was over we sailed north to the tropical islands of Vanuatu. Cyclone Pam had brought devastation to these islands of humble villages and a lifestyle exposed to the elements. While we were in New Zealand Lilly combed the town's thrift stores almost daily, buying clothing and basic household necessities that would help the villagers of Vanuatu return some normalcy to their lives. We made a decision that the money we usually spend for Christmas would go towards Vanuatu's cyclone relief this year. Can you IMAGINE being huddled with your family in a hut roofed-over with palm fronds while winds of over 125 MPH raked the jungle around you? The people we met said that "When the house blow down, we run to the forest, and hang on to the trees!" We gave them very little in a monetary sense, but we came to them, and they certainly blessed us! In addition to the many millions of dollars of cyclone relief sent by the governments of New Zealand and Australia, the people of Auckland donated guitars and ukuleles - they knew how important music is to Vanuatuans. The difficulty was getting those bulky fragile instruments up to the islands, and out to the remote villages; the call went out to the international yachts heading north to help. When we sailed from New Zealand our entire vee berth was packed with guitars and ukuleles - padded with bags of serviceable and clean used clothing. TIGER LILLY's mission was "Ukuleles to Vanuatu" - try saying that one 5 times quickly... We had our own challenges in Vanuatu as we blew-out our 11 year-old mainsail, and had to do some patch work and jury rigging for the boisterous beat south to New Caledonia.
We LOVED the wonderful French culture and civilization of New Caledonia, and in juxtaposition to rustic Vanuatu it was quite a shock to our senses. The central mountainous section of New Caledonia has large nickel mines, while tourism predominates the coastal regions; New Caledonia plays an important role in the European Union's strategic materials program, and it is one of France's major overseas tourist destinations. In New Caledonia we continued to work on the boat, but our venue was the Southern Lagoon and the Baie des Citrons - with all the amenities and glitter of an international tourist destination. Fresh hot baguettes were the order of the day, and we love those fancy French pastries too!
LILLY SEZ: WE Tonto? Ladies, when I would get Himself out for a brisk walk and a bit of needed exercise, all HE wanted to do was stop at the boulangerie and eat jelly donuts! For the longest time, I thought that they sold ladies underwear in a boulangerie - at least that is what it sounds like. And what the heck is he doing hanging out in a ladies underwear shop anyway? In Jacksonville, you KNOW what they sell at Dunkin Donuts!
In mid-December Cyclone Season was upon us again, and we sailed some 800 miles west across the Coral Sea for Australia. The country town of Bundaberg on the Queensland Coast was our port of entry, and it was another culture shock after cosmopolitan French New Caledonia. Bundaberg, 10 miles inland on the tropical Burnett River, is surrounded by miles and miles of sugar cane fields, and the local sugar mill and rum distillery are the economic engines of this farming region. Their kitschy Christmas Parade was a step back into the simpler time of the 1950's; the backyard-built tractor-pulled floats were covered with brightly costumed happy and expectant children, calling out to their friends and neighbors - truly the Spirit of Christmas. Bundaberg is well up on the Queensland Coast (just below the Great Barrier Reef), and it does experience occasional tropical cyclones, causing the Burnett River to flood in a rage - no place for TIGER LILLY. Our Cyclone Season destination was Brisbane, and our target time was to arrive by Christmas, so we headed south for safety. We sailed across Hervey Bay, then coastal via the UN World Heritage area of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Straits; calling at anchorages along the western coast of this huge national park, and working the 3 meter tides to get through the shallow flats.
Like Bundaberg, Brisbane is a river town in Queensland, but that is about the extent of the similarities. Brisbane is Australia's third largest city (after Sydney and Melbourne) and it is an absolutely AMAZING place; this thriving city of two million Australians is clean, bright, safe, fun, and outdoor oriented. As you can visualize from the attached photo, Brisbane is a modern city with tall buildings in the Central Business District; but what is harder to see is all the green areas between the sky scrapers. These folks have done a fantastic job investing in their public infrastructure - and us Cheeky Yanks could certainly learn a thing or two from our Australian Cousins in this area.
LILLY SEZ: We absolutely LOVE Brisbane's Apple Store; it is located in an old high-ceilinged bank which was renovated to make it clean and bright, it has fast free WI-FI, lots of smart young people outfitted in bright red shirts to help solve technical issues, air conditioning, and the staff encourage us to stay just as long as we like - it is a regular yachtie paradise.
The Queen Street Mall is one of the world's great shopping destinations, and it is absolutely packed with busy people on holiday missions - and it has plenty of Old-Guy benches to simply sit and watch the river of people flow by. (Did we mention that the Brisbane CBD sidewalks are populated by thousands of stylishly dressed attractive young women bouncing around with cell phones glued to their ears?)
LILLY SEZ: Eyes in the boat tough guy! Enough sitting, let's start sanding that cap rail... (While I eyeball those buff young Aussie cyclists on the Botanic Gardens River Trail.)
TIGER LILLY is moored between a piling-set in the Brisbane River with about 50 other boats of all types and sizes; we come and go with Grace, our rowing dinghy. Our port side is only about 25 meters from the river bank and the bucolic Botanic Gardens, with the high green-tinted glass towers of the CBD just over the bow - our view is absolutely stunning. There is a floating dinghy dock (important in a fast-flowing river with 2 meters of tide), a laundry, clean showers, and convenient toilets provided for the yachtie visitors. At most any time of the day or evening the Citizens of Brisbane, and their international visitors, are out enjoying The Gardens. From TIGER LILLY's cockpit we see an almost constant parade of people passing by, representing all stages of the human condition; young couples pushing strollers and pulling the grandparents, joggers bouncing along with their iPod earphones swaying to the pace, Japanese honeymooners holding hands as they stroll, families with teens hurrying to youth soccer or rugby practice, Lycra clad cyclists focused on speed (Lilly's favorite), a few bums toting their cardboard beds, office people enjoying their lunch hour in the beauty and serenity of nature, singles on a bench watching the river and enjoying the day, groups of young adults planning to make the world a better place, and the occasional yachtie reading a book under a tree - hey, you can't work on the boat all the time!
On our second night in Brisbane we took the free Red Hopper Ferry over to the Southbank to see Hillsong Church present a Christmas program at The Piazza Amphitheater. This Christian message was presented in a public forum, and the church was smart enough to include Santa in their program - really well done. For many un-churched folks and families this will be the only Christmas message they will receive, and we are so glad that Australians have the good sense to allow a spiritual message to be presented to the public in a city-owned venue. We saw all different nationalities and colors of people there (even people in Muslim attire), and we are sure that they were not all Christians - but they seemed to enjoy the SPIRIT of Christmas together. The program included a balanced mix of secular Christmas music, along with traditional hymns of faith - it was a great show, and very well received. We think that Australians could teach us Americans a thing or two about tolerance and diversity. (DONALD flipping TRUMP - how the heck did that happen!?!?) After the Christmas show we walked down to the riverfront to see Brisbane's Christmas Fireworks Spectacular; which was accompanied by a holiday music simulcast, and started off by four of Brisbane's fast catamaran ferries rapidly shooting fireworks skyward from their sterns while making high speed runs up and down the river - it was really dramatic - WOW! Good on ya Brisbane! We walked home over the Captain Cook Bridge, along the riverside mangrove walkway, and back to The Gardens dinghy landing. It was a GREAT start to our Christmas.
We have settled-in for the next 4 months of boat work in fabulous Brisbane; we have found the local AA meetings, Lilly has joined the University 50 Meter Swimming Pool, and we are church-shopping - our first experience was St. Andrews Uniting Church. Tom was happy with the expertly played GIANT pipe organ, AND they sung the Battle Hymn of the Republic (under another name of course). Now that's a church song you can really LEAN into.
LILLY SEZ: Concerned mothers with small wide-eyed children were backing away towards the aisles when the visiting Yank in the bright shirt started stomping his foot in the verses (like Mister Ed the talking horse), and belting-out the refrain "Glory Glory Hallelujah" - and all of it way off key...
We both enjoyed, and benefitted from, the Christmas message at St. Andrews; but Lilly was looking for guitars, drums, tambourines, and people jumping up and down - and that just didn't happen in buttoned-down conservative St. Andrews... For Christmas 2015 we continue our practice of finding a nice urban setting for the Holidays. We do like tropical cruising, visiting rain forests and jungles, snorkeling in crystal clear lagoons, with swaying coconut palms fringing the anchorage (certainly all great places to work on a boat), but it is also a really nice change of pace to spend Christmas back in civilization - and it works out quite conveniently with the Southern Hemisphere Cyclone Season.
We miss each of you - especially during this time of year. Know that YOU are in our hearts and minds, even though we are half-a-world away. We pray for God's blessings to touch your lives.
WE WISH YOU ALL A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
Tom & Lilly
S/V Tiger Lilly