North Island post coming very soon

The North Island has been highlighted by visits with fellow sailing families. So far we have seen Anthem, Field Trip and Fluenta. So much fun catching up with these families. We also visited key Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film sites such as the Weta effects studio and Hobbiton.

Next we will visit the Bay of Islands, the treaty grounds where the Maori signed agreements with England, the Poor Knight Islands (one of Cousteau’s top 10 dive sights), and more cruising family visits! YEA!

We have been so busy, but should have time in the next two days to up load many more photos and give much more info.

Cyclone Pam also passed by NZ after hitting Vanuatu. In NZ she only moved our Eagles concert time to earlier but still very much in the rain event. The news here has had a lot of coverage of Vanuatu’s distruction and the country is really struggling with aid being slow and their crops being totally distroyed. Paul’s article on the Island Chain in Cruisers Outpost shows many photos of what it looked like before. Cruisers Outpost has also put a link to help donate to get aid to the island which can be done by simply visiting their web site. Please consider a donation if you can.

More soon!

South Island of NZ

We have heard so much about the beauty of NZ, and had read that as you drive you will end up saying “Wow!” at least three times a day. After 6 days we had over 1000 photos and we still kept being impressed by the amazing landscapes.

The logistics: Fly into Christchurch on March 4. Then we started moving and staying in many wonderful locations covering 2000+ kilometers in 7 days. The route was: Christchurch, Hokitika, Fox Glacier, Haast, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Te Anu, Twizel, Mt. Cook, Kaikoura, and finally to Picton to catch the ferry to Wellington (on the North Island).

During our tour we went star gazing at one of the three dark sky zones in the world, met friends Jaz and her boyfriend Cody, visited glaciers, saw the 1000+ foot falls of Milford Sound with the one mile raise from the ocean to cliff peak, took a gondola to the top of Queenstown’s peak to ride the luge carts, made driftwood art on the beach in Hokitika, visited the Antarctica center and road on the Haaglund, feed eels, saw kiwi’s, lost count of deer, cattle, and sheep and sheep and sheep….

NZ really does have a lot of sheep.

We went from rolling pastures to high mountain peaks to rain forests and from East Coast to West Coast. It is hard to write how wonderful this country is, but the choice for it to be the backdrop for Tolkiens books turned into film here in New Zealand was no accident. The landscapes are fantastic. We saw many places where the films were shot, and they looked just as stunning in person as on the screens.

We hope the many photos here help make up for the lack of photos on the last posts and give some indication of the wonder of the South Island of New Zealand.

One last note, Paul’s cover article on Vanuatu is out on shelves now in Cruisers Outpost. Might want to check it out! http://cruisingoutpost.com/

Pictures are taking a bit longer to name and upload because there are so many. We should have them up later today.

NZ is Fantastic! and Cruisers Outpost Article

A very short note here as we are very busy. We have over 800 pictures now of the amazing views of New Zealand. Have not seen a Hobbit yet, but lots of the back drops views from the movies.

Also, the article Paul wrote for Cruisers Outpost just hit the news stands. Check it out! It is a cover story article.

More very soon.

Keeping it Tropical even though we need jackets and jeans!

Anniversary, Jobs, School, Smoothies, & NZ

Like the title, this post is a bit all over the place. Today is 17 years for Suzi and Paul, we celebrated by having a date night, finding good Mexican Food (as our first date was to Taco Surf in Seal Beach) and then went to go see a very fun movie: What We Did on Our Holiday. Go see it, you will really enjoy it!

Paul and Suzi have been busy on the job hunt. It has been many days of working on work, and the girls working on school. The pay off is the girls are now slightly ahead on school so we can take a bit of a break on that during our NZ trip, and still stay on schedule to finish before May.

Smoothies was a little project the girls created here at the marina. They decided they would make smoothies and sell them here from 11am to 1pm to raise money for the local library that has been so good to them. This is the library they have been going to many days to work on school, do the poppy counting, and a couple other events. This is also where they have been getting hoards of books they have been reading like crazy. They made signs, talked with the Rivergate staff, and in the end raised just over $90 to donate to the library!

Boat repairs on the damage done from our neighbor are going to completed on Monday, and our davits will be hanging our dingy again. Yea. The plan we are working on now is to have a crew bring the boat back, and we are checking out the emails from many captains on trying to get this done.

NZ is also a big adventure we are preparing for. The islands have so much to see it is going to be whirlwind tour with hobbit movie locations, friends from other boats we have meet, a 3 hour ferry to cross between the islands, and so much we have made a spreadsheet just to try and keep it all straight. We planned to be there in March because it is the slower season after their Summer, but it turns out they are hosting the World Cup of Cricket through the end of March. Also, amazingly, there seems to be a lot of fans coming for this.

That is the latest, more pictures shortly.

Quiet Before the Storm

UPDATE FRIDAY MORNING: Marcia moved from tropical storm to Cyclone category 5 overnight! The storm is hitting land just north of Bundenburg (about 400 miles North) with winds well above 100mph. We are getting tons of rain, but winds are expected to drop fast as she moves over the land. Sure glad we decided to stay this far South.

We are about to experience another first on the journey… A named tropical storm is coming our way. Marcia is not a cyclone but is going to come with huge amounts of rain. She should hit land about 600 miles North and bring wind, rain, thunder, lightening, storm surge, and rain and rain, and well, more rain. It is because of these storms that we chose to stay as far south as Brisbane, and it looks like that was the right decision.

We are all set and on floating docks here at Rivergate. The rain up river is expected to be as much as 3 FEET in 24 hours! Winds are forecasted to be lessened by the time Marcia gets to Brisbane and topping off at possible gale force gusts (40 kts). The 70 kts winds should be long gone before she gets here, but the storm surge plus rain is expected to be the highest the river has seen in over a year.

The marina staff has been out looking at all the docks, boats, and lines. In short, everyone is out preparing so nothing gets damaged. We joined our neighbors getting ready. One casualty of this storm is likely to be the XXXX brewery tour that Paul, and a couple of locals were planning for Friday. The brewery is on the river and is likely to cancel the tours for tomorrow. We will have to do it another day.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Busy in Brisbane

Girls new hangout!

Girls new hangout!

Kangasteak

Kangasteak

We have been busy while staying in our slip in Rivergate Marina in Brisbane. Busy doing what you say?

Looking for jobs, Anna’s Birthday, School School School, Getting hit with significant damage, Superbowl, Visit to Morton Island, and … to Sell or Ship.

Well, with the New Year Suzi and Paul have started the “what are we going to do when we grow up campaign.” Paul has been enjoying catching up with many old work friends, and exploring the opportunity to work with good people again who want to create what was not there before. “Plan it, build it and do it,” still seems to be still be a set of skills in demand. Suzi is also having fun talking to old work friends, and exploring the many different library opportunities back in LA. This has largely been done while actually being in one of the Brisbane libraries. How cool is that!?

Each day for the last weeks the family heads over to the library to seek the wonder that is Air Conditioning to escape the regular 90 degree temps. The library staff here has included the girls in Potter Night and back to school fun things. They even let the girls check out the X-box games to play in the library with their new Aussie library cards. The girls are cranking on school, and Sonia is now working to get ahead prior to the New Zealand trip. Anna is not far behind, but has been delayed by the many stories she is reading and writing. Also regarding school, the girls woke up in the middle of the night to do video presentations to their old classes back at St. James. They were amazing with presentation details ready to go, answering questions, and doing it all between 3 and 4:30 in the morning!

We have done a number of day trips including Anna’s birthday where we saw the movie “Into the Woods.” It was Anna’s birthday idea, and everyone loved the show. A few days later it was the Asia Cup finals in soccer, and the Roo’s beat Korea for the big overtime win! We watched that with many fans, actually more fans around than the Superbowl. Superbowl Monday was the next day in Australia, and that was a weird thing watching the game early in the morning on a Monday. Frustrating game. Suzi happy. Paul disgusted. Girls eager to go play at the playground as soon as this game was finally over…. Nothing new there.

The Steak incident! Turns out Kangaroo is also a food here, and Paul made the mistake of buying some Kangasteaks. He says they are delicious, and tastes like venison. The quality was very good. However, it quickly freaked out all the girls and dad was left by himself to eat his lovely steaks. So, yes good, but no good for family meal.

Another event that unfortunately falls under the annoyance category is Vales Valeo got hit hard by our neighbor rushing out of his slip to go sailing. Probably for a race, but don’t know or care. He managed to start from dead still in his slip right next to us and to accelerate so fast when hit our dingy Vales Valeo lurched in the slip. The damage, as he hollered back he owed us a new dingy, was obvious. The pontoons tearing off the hard bottom and bending our starboard davit three inches is astounding. It bent a lifeline on his boat also. After his day sailiing he came back and collected the dingy. It was stated to be replaced, but after more than a week of no communication, we are now being told second hand the dingy is undergoing repair not replacement. Since the neighbor has not had a stainless person over to talk to us in more than a week, Paul has contacted a stainless company to repair the davit and is not waiting. Accidents happen. We have been hit before, and harder. However, we have been always fortunate to have folks do a better job of not making it our problem, and communicating the whole time. In the end, it sucks, but it is only a distraction.

We did go and leave the slip also, without the dingy, to get some nice water time over at the Morton Island. Paul checked the zincs and tried to scrub off all the slime growing from the time in the slip in the Brisbane river. The water was much clearer this time than our last visit, and it was fun seeing dolphins playing again on the crossing. The sunset and the calm anchorage were wonderful breaks from being tied to the dock.

Lastly, a ton of work is going into what is the best choice to wind the trip up, sell or ship? We have received many quotes on shipping her back. We also have contacted some brokers about the costs and process of selling her in Australia. The catch is you need to pay your boat value tax Prior to listing the boat to sell. That means even a sign. The Australian dollar has gotten much weaker so selling is not as likely to generate as good price as when we left in 2013. This process also includes finding moving options to send our stuff home if we sell the boat. It has been a good time to be tied to slip and working on all these details. The staff at Rivergate are amazingly helpful, and the people here in the library have also been amazingly helpful. Australia continues to endear us.

Road Trip to Sydney!

We have been busy seeing Sydney, visiting friends, and driving 1000’s of kilometers past 100’s of traffic cameras! As we looked at the New Year and what we wanted to see here in Australia, Sydney was simply too strong draw to put off. We rented a car after looking at sailing down to the Gold Coast, hoping to find some great anchorages and marinas to visit to work the boat south. We certainly did, and the Gold Coast is sort of like Miami’s South Beach area: Tons to do. Tons of tourists. Busy. Busy. Too Busy. We found some great spots during our scouting mission, but in the end we would rather be a short drive away than in the middle of a jet ski causeway, and fishing boat spillway. We did find room near “Waterski River”, behind an island that looked very cool, but you get the picture. This, and then some crazy weather changes, clarified our next move to Sydney would be via the land and not by sea. In short, the people at Rivergate Marina have treated us so well we are staying put, and we bit the bullet to grab a slip until we return from our planned NZ tour (end of March). We will leave Brisbane to head to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Whitsunday Islands in April and May.

Back to the Road trip!

We upgraded to a larger car with cruise control. This turned out to be even more vital than we could have ever imagined. Our Navman navigator we bought would pipe up that a speed camera was near CONSTANTLY. It seems in Australia they love their speed cameras. We set cruise control and did not dare deviate! Our decision to drive saved us some 12 days of open ocean through hard to predict seas and the return part of that trip is a long slow pounding we avoided. However, we did miss the ride on the EAC for you Nemo fans. We also wanted to catch two family boats that would only be in Sydney at the start of January: Mojombo and Lisa Kay.

Our route was down coast to Coff’s Harbor, stay there a night, then Sydney for a week, and then up the interior to Tamworth (AU country music capital), stay there a night, then back home to Rivergate! We put on well over 2000 kilometers with 4 solid days of beautiful country driving. This East Coast of Australia is so pretty with eucalyptus forests, pasture lands, rolling hills, and again, the ever present friendly people at every stop. Maybe it would feel the same to them driving from say Philly to Miami with all the forest, coast, and mountain views splashed with Southern Hospitality? We would hope.

There are more pictures in this post than any because we did so much: Played at the sleepy fishing resort town of Coff’s Harbor; Had reunion visits with friends met in Nuka Hiva and New Caledonia; Toured all over the Sydney city and region by car, foot, and ferry, falling under Sydney’s charm as a city with its own strong, attractive personality; Saw the three sisters turned to stone in the Three Sisters National Park; Visited Cook’s landing spot in Botany Bay which put Australia on the map for England; and Toured the small town of Tamworth as it prepared for its huge Country Music Festival.

Other big news: We have been living between 32 & 40 degrees for much of January like many of you… unfortunately we are using the metric system down here (think Florida Summer with no AC). Most days we go to the library, chill and get school caught up from all our touring.  We found that the botanist/naturalist on Cook’s ship, The Endeavour, had his own stateroom complete with name above the door. This is a long lost relative of Suzi’s! We are looking at cost and options to ship the boat (Vales, Valeo, not Endeavour) back after June or do something with her here. This trip has always been a one way tour of the Pacific, and now we need to figure out how best to end the trip.

Paul and Suzi have started the process of looking at what they will do for work after returning in June. Paul wrote an article for his favorite sailing magazine which he was just informed got the cover story! And just so we end on a more immediate cruising note, the tickets for the trip to NZ are set and we are reaching out to the wonderful cruising families we have met that are cyclone seasoning there for more fun visits during March.

A Great Dive

Before we left for Sydney, where we are now, Paul was able to do a great dive off of Stradbrook Island at a place called the Manta Balmy. This was such a good place that the dive company did both dives at the same location. Lucky too, as the GoPro on the first dive stopped recording. It has taken a few hours to pull some pictures from over an hour of dive video, but here are some of the amazing features of this dive. We started with a tractor backing our boat into the surf with all of us divers on the boat. A very unusual start! After splashing through the waves, waiting for the tractor driver to swim through the surf to hop on the dive boat, we started out toward our location of the Manta Balmy. We had a pod of dolphins join us as we went. It was a good Omen for a Great Dive.

 

The dive had a number of coral and rock formations with a current running through the whole location. There were many tiny fish working as cleaner fish at each of these rock formations. Whole site is like a car wash for larger animals in the area. There were turtles, Manta Rays, Bull Rays, Eagle Rays, Leopard Rays, and Many Many Large sharks. This location is supposed to have the largest collection of Leopard Sharks and they were everywhere. Guitar sharks were also just about anywhere you look. The blue jelly fish we saw in huge numbers coming into Brisbane are called Blue Blubber. These were also everywhere. One of the most unique things we found was a large whale bone vertebra. This is a common route for whales during the season (which it was not) and it was hidden in the sand with slight growth disguising it as a just another rock. However, it looked just a bit different, and when we brushed it showed the smooth white bone and it was nice and light to lift. Well, enough descriptions, the pictures do a better job of showing how excellent this dive was!

Enjoy!

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year!

Below are a few more photos from the very busy week of super tours with our guests Tim and Liz. We went to the Steve Irwin Zoo, the Lone Pine Koala Sancturary, took a ferry to Stradbroke Island, visited the rain forest, went up and down the river visiting Brisbane’s many sites, and basically put as much fun as possible into the last few days of 2014 before putting them on a plane to fly home.

We celebrated the last day of 2014 with our guests Tim and Liz in downtown Brisbane. It was a very hot day so we took the river ferry up to the South Bank Park and walked to the Museum of Science to enjoy its many exhibits of Dinosaurs, Aboriginal history, Animal collections, and many more. We skipped the special exhibit on the history of underwear. Yep. They had an exhibit on underwear through the last 300 years. We enjoyed the cool air-conditioning all day, and then returned to the boat for a great BBQ and fun games on board. It was a perfect way to celebrate the end of the year.

We have already done a lot of reflecting on the last year, so we thought it would be a good idea to focus on the new year. This 2015 will have many new challenges both boating and non-boating. We plan to soon be leaving toward Sydney to catch up with friends ahead of us. We also are looking for a place to put the boat so we can get over to New Zealand and tour, visit many friends that sailed there, and see some Lord of the Rings sites. We then fly back and start sailing back North to that Great Reef we read about. The BIG question of selling the boat or shipping it back needs to be answered. To sell the boat we must first pay a huge tax to import the boat, before we can even list it. So that is a tougher question than just listing it. We have schools to enroll the girls in. Oh, and then there is the whole job thing we need to get before we get back for both of us. What are we going to be when we grow up?

2015 is going to be a year of many challenges, adventures, exploring, and hopefully as fantastic as the last year! We wish you all the very best of New Years, and an adventurous 2015!

 

The Visitor Fun Continues!

We have lots of Christmas fun shots to share here, and the morning was an early one with crazy amounts of stocking madness, gifts from Santa, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and family. Sonia and Paul went out right away to kick the new water soft soccer ball. Anna jumped on reading many of her new jokes from her joke book. New Christmas music played all day. Card games broke out constantly until late at night we all watched the movie Elf.

The next day was Christmas back in the USA so we had lots of calls back home as we drove out to tour the Steve Irwin Zoo. Crikey that was awesome! Huge crocks, giant tortoises, tigers jumping in water, and of course, koalas and kangaroos. The day ended in a huge downpour, but it was a hot sunny day until we left. So here are lots and lots of pictures to show what we are doing….