Rain, Repairs and Reunions

Friday 30th March 2018

I’m sitting below in the stuffy atmosphere created by high humidity and closed hatches. Excyclone Iris is just NE of us and is bringing squally winds and heavy showers. Up and down the coast of Queensland the ocean beaches are closed due to extreme high tides and dangerous surf conditions.

We are anchored off South Stadbroke Island back in the protected inner waterway of Broadwater just north of Southport. It’s Easter weekend so again the area is crowded with craft big and small. It doesn’t really feel like we are anchored as not only are we being continually buffeted by the wake of passing speedboats, we are also not facing into the wind. A two knot tide is flowing past us and we are laying with the current rather than with the wind, this in turn means the rain is coming straight into the cockpit and if not closed down through the hatch.

Mad motor boat drivers coming from all directionsi

Last weekends confinent on the hardstand in Boatworks, turned out to be better than expected. The frenetic whirling sanders, polishers and drills and the continuous loud engines of the lifts, that set such a stressful pace to life, all fell quiet. The noxious fumes from the antifouling and painting of dozens of boats dissipated and with no contractors busy around Raya, it was easier to relax. On top of this we had a car. Boatworks not only have good toilets, showers and laundry facilities they also have curtesy cars and we managed to get a set of keys for the weekend.

We used this rare opportunity to hit the nearest shopping centre. While Rick investigated the DIY Warehouse and tool shops, I went into the supermarket and filled a trolly with as much heavy stuff as I could fit in. We restocked all our dried goods and cans, cases of wine and beer and bags full of cleaning agents. Rick bought the biggest adjustable spanner in the universe. Never again would he have to struggle so hard against recalcitrant seacocks or any other ginormous nut for that matter, how have we got this far without one?

Ricks new spanner

Having a car also made it easy to join some friends for a bit of a reunion. Phil and Lynn who we linked up with on the Gold Coast last November, had a couple of other mutual friends, Kieth and Dianne, from our time living in Bahrain thirty years ago, visiting from Spain. We all met up at Sactuary Cove, a typical glitzy Gold Coast Resort, golf courses, gated communities, a marina and dozens of restaurants. We couldn’t work out why all the car parking spaces were so small, until it dawned on us that the people living in the resort mostly get around by golf cart. Real cars, such as our Boatworks Ute, were banished to the car park on its outer edge. Finally seated it was great to catch up with each other’s news, the food lost in the exuberant chatter.

Dinner with old friends

Tuesday morning, finally, Raya was lifted back into the water. The relief from the overheating fridges and freezer, that are water cooled, was almost audible and the comfort of having our sinks and showers back, a delight. A downpour however evidenced a blocked cockpit drain, we poked and rattled and finally blew it out with a hosepipe. One of the rags used by the antifoul team to prevent dripping from the drains during painting is the prime suspect. Luckily the problem was found sat at the dock not while waves were breaking over the boat as we battled a storm at sea.

The tide dictated that we leave early on Thursday morning despite the showers. We motored down the Coomera River observing the huge waterfront houses, so large and ornate were some that they were best described by a phrase coined by an American friend as Starter Castles. In the whole hour we saw nobody actually living in them, sun loungers were stacked and blinds were drawn. The rain turned into a deluge and by the time we had anchored we resembled a pair of drowned rats.

Motoring down the Coomera River in the torrential rain.

As Good Friday comes to an end, the weather has improved a little, the tide has turned and the stream of motor boats has stopped for the night. No doubt tomorrow they will be back but for now all is tranquil.

High and Dry

Friday 23rd February 2018

We are feeling rather frustrated. After we and the antifoul crew have worked our socks off, dodging showers and running from pillar to post, to ensure Raya is ready to return to the water at 3pm today, we have just been told that they have messed up and our berth in the marina is not available. So here we are stuck high and dry, 15ft in the air until Tuesday.

Ready to be lifted back onto the water

I think it’s fair to say it’s not been one of our most restful weeks. Things started well with a drama free overnight passage up from Coffs Harbour. There was little wind, the large swell, lingering from last weeks storm, undulated gently across a calm sea. Stars shone brightly in the dark moonless sky and as we are gradually creeping back north, the night watches have become pleasantly warm.

The easterly swell did make the Gold Coast Seaway entrance a little lively however and things were not helped by having to share the constricted space with a fleet of racing sailing dinghies, several returning small fishing boats and a group of mad jet skiers. We headed expectantly into the calm of the inner channel – the Broadway, only to find it full of more jet skiers and dozens of fast motor boats. It was Saturday and everyone and their dog was out enjoying the sunshine. The anchorage, just north of Southport Marina where we five months ago had checked in to Australia, is charmingly known as Bums Bay. It was also very busy, especially the blue buoyed area directly in front of us, that turned out to be a jet ski practice course!

We were tired from our trip, we put on the anchor alarm, turned on the cabin fans to block the noise outside and went to sleep. We only had to cope with all the activity until Monday morning when on the high tide we would make our way up the Coomera river to Boatworks, Raya was to be hauled out for her yearly once over.

Sunday morning dawned fine and bright and soon the crowds began to reappear. We had anchored next to our friends from Paw Paw and decided to go ashore together to escape the noise and increasingly choppy waters for a few hours. It’s nice in our transient life to revisit places occasionally, having a bit of local knowledge from our previous stop in the area. We returned to the waterfront Thai restaurant for lunch and walked back along the expansive Main Beach.

Walking on Main Beach with Elaine and Roy from Paw Paw

At seven the next morning while doing his normal pre-trip engine check, Rick noticed a leaking coolant pipe. While lifting the anchor I discovered the anchor down switch wasn’t working and with a very tight schedule on the tidal river we had the potential of the perfect storm – an overheating engine, no ability to anchor and quickly swallowing waters. Our normal cautious selves nearly abandoned the trip but we really wanted to make our hard won appointment with Boatworks. With the judicious use of tape to slow the leak, I steered us through the shallows of the river while Rick worked to sort out emergency use of the windless so if necessary we could drop the anchor. Two hours later with a sigh of relief we tied up to the dock and prepared Raya to be lifted.

We were last antifouled, just over a year ago and were hoping the hull might be in decent condition but it was definitely in need of redoing.

Dirty hull!

Our time on the hard was tight, particularly with plenty of rain in the forecast, it was full speed ahead. As Rick fixed the leaking coolant pipe, checked the seacocks, replacing one, greased the prop and investigated the windlass. Complete Antifoul services, cleaned and repainted the bottom, cut and polished the top sides and replaced the cutlass bearings. I organised for the life raft to be serviced, battled to keep the water cooled fridges from over heating, started filling the numerous forms required for entry into Indonesia and ordered new lenses for my damaged varifocal sunglasses – who knew that eyelashes could be so abrasive.

Watching the life raft being checked

So here we are clean, shiny and ready to go back into the water but with no berth to go into it looks like it’s going to be a further few days of washing up in a bucket, lovely.

Charming Coffs

Thursday 15th March 2018

As Ex Cyclone Linda continues to ease and turn SE away from the Australian Coast, we sit under clear blue skies with just a light cooling breeze, the only sign of the strong weather to the north of us is the sound of crashing waves on the northern breakwater.

We have been tied up in Coffs Harbour Marina, since Saturday, enjoying the forced break as we wait for Linda to pass by. Well known amongst cruisers as an entry port into Australia, people have been surprisingly dismissive of Coffs Harbour being anything more than a place to go through customs or a stop off conveniently placed halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. Fair enough the pontoons and docks are a bit rickety, there is quite a bit of noise from the work going on to build up the breakwaters and to get into the town centre is a forty minute walk.

But we like it here, the place has a charming small town feel, an active fishing fleet occupies one half of the inner harbour and the green of Mutton Island dominates our view to the east. Mountains form the backdrop to the town and traffic noise is minimal. Walkways spread out in all directions and three great beaches are within easy reach. The marina itself has a friendly quaint quality, with most activity best being summed up as pottering. There are all the essential services, restaurants, laundry, showers and brilliantly the local Coles supermarket will deliver your groceries right to the side of the boat.

Climbing to the top of Mutton Island, a nesting sanctuary for migrating wedge tailed shearwaters, gives a great overview of the area.

View of the harbour from the top of Mutton Island.

The town of Coffs Harbour started to grow when it’s long jetty was built. Projecting into the harbour it enabled large ships access to the timber cut from the rich forests that cloaked surrounding hills. As roads and railways spread into the area and shipping timber by boat became less profitable, the focus switched to the growing of bananas. Although the largest crop produced now is blueberries and the economy is dominated by fishing and tourism, this area is still known as the Banana coast.

We were hooked on our first morning, we sat at the yacht club eating breakfast overlooking Park Beach, the sand stretched a mile or so to the north, the sun shone and the surfers played, the week of waiting ahead didn’t look so bad after all.

Rick enjoying the view

Wanting to get a few jobs ticked off, Tuesday we set out for the shopping centre in search of new trainers, wine glasses, pillows……

We took the path that runs along the back of Park Beach. Shaded from the midday sun by trees, the bright blue of the sea and sky invaded through the gaps. We love theses glimpses through the tree trunks, the tantalising hidden promise of the world beyond.

Turning into the town we came across the bowls club, the greens sat right on the road and we stopped to catch our breathe and watch for a while, the teams were surprisingly good and as the final bowl smashed all other contenders out of the way, it was almost exciting. The shops were disappointing as they often are, no suitable footwear or homewares, but we did find a box of Mexican Train. A game we have enjoyed on many other yachts, we snapped it up, another way to pass those evenings when anchored in paradise.

Keeping up my campaign to lose weight and get a bit fitter, I walked the couple of kms to take a look at the beach to the South and was rewarded yet again by a spectacular view.

Miles of beaches run South from the harbour

As I paddled back along the calmer inner Jetty Beach, groups of school kids arrived to have surf lessons. Rick is hugely jealous, this is not how he remembers PE at his school. What a great life these Ozzie kids lead.

The water was warm and waiting for the schools to leave at lunchtime, we were tempted back down to Park Beach for a swim. The onshore wind was flattening the waves from behind, the surfers were struggling but for playing in the shallows it was perfect.

Enjoying the tumbling surf

In between the fun we have been keenly watching the weather, firstly to make sure the storm didn’t decide to turn SW and arrive on the coast too close by to us and secondly once it had past to find a narrow window to sail up to Southport. We need a twenty four hour period when the large swell produced by the storm has reduced but before the northerly winds set in. Tomorrow looks like the day, thanks Coffs we’ve enjoyed our stay.

Newcastle

Saturday 10th March 2018

Newcastle city centre

Our short stay in Newcastle was extremely pleasant. As well as a convenient stop on our way north it is the home of our friends from Toothless. Their cruising life is on hold for the time being, Toothless sits moored in Lake Macquarie awaiting her next adventure. Having chatted on email and Facebook we realise that the last time we actually met was over eighteen months ago in Tahiti, it was a shock to see the boys so grown up, school bags in their hands and shoes on their feet. Our timing was particularly lucky as Chris was home for a few days in between legs, he is back competing in the Volvo Around the World Ocean Race. All our tales of extremes at sea pale into insignificance compared to what these guys, and increasingly girls, go through as they battle their way across the oceans. It was great to catch up and the main bit of local knowledge Chris and Megs imparted was to make sure to turn left not right out of the marina.

Like it’s English namesake was a hundred years ago, Newcastle, Australia is a large coal exporting port. At the estuary of the Hunter river, it’s northern banks house the docks and wharfs for the massive tankers that transport the coal and other goods around the World. On the southern side sits the marina and the city centre and sure enough directly outside and to the right of the marina the city is quite run down. However, this situation looks about to change, building is going on everywhere. Hoardings, adorning the building site fences, promise not only a brand new light railway network but also glass covered corporate office blocks, upmarket apartment buildings and wide open manicured public spaces. And sure enough as you walk left towards the city centre, that is what you find.

Wednesday, leaving Rick head in the computer, ear to the phone trying to sort out arrangements to lift Raya out of the water when we get back up to the Gold Coast, I joined the lunchtime joggers, cyclists and other walkers on the the foreshore walkway. Everywhere we have been in Australia these superb public paths and surrounding spaces are a revelation, such a great resource and although not crowded, all are extremely well used. I pass the many waterfront restaurants, glossy offices and apartments neatly fitting with the old buildings of the city centre, I was heading for the beach that we spotted as we sailed in.

Foreshore walkway

I walked on until I found the ocean, as the pathway entered the sand dunes this sign greeted me.

I hesitated for a moment, until the sight of dog walkers, mothers with buggies and strolling retirees, assured me that this was probably just a case of the Port Authority covering its back. Still I carefully watched my step as I walked through the dunes out to yet another magnificent almost deserted beach. The surf crashed in and with the lifeguards red flag flying the only people around were a few brave kite surfers. It was fantastic.

Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle

Back in the marina, in the laundry as is often the case, we found some more friends, last seen in Sydney, fellow Brits Dianne and Graham had arrived to ready their yacht Maunie to be shipped back to Southampton. We joined up for dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants, tales were swapped and too much wine was drunk. We spent Thursday recovering and preparing the boat to set sail, the marina was hosting a fishing competition at the weekend we needed to free up our berth by midday Friday.

We knew conditions weren’t ideal, the wind wasn’t bad but the swell was bigger than we would have liked, however, it was the current that was to be the killer. The Australian East Coast current that had whisked us Southward so quickly last November was now against us. Being bashed by the waves as we did 8-9kts through the water but achieving only 5-6kts over the ground towards our destination was really depressing.

On the upside we did get a great sunset, our first for a while.

Sunsetting behind the big swell

Sayonara Sydney

Monday 5th March 2018

After almost three months, on Friday we sailed out of wonderful Sydney Harbour and started our treck north. We have until mid July to cover the nearly 2000nm up to the very northern most tip of Australia, experiencing as much as possible of the East Coast on our way. This is, we realise, the start of our journey home. We can’t quite decide whether to be excited or downcast by this fact but it’s hardly relevant we’ve a long, long way to go yet.

Thursday evening we picked Sheridan and Daisy up from the Fish Market dock, for an early start the next morning. We were headed up to Broken Bay and into Cowan Creek. We motored for the final time under Sydney bridge. The iconic views and frenetic ferries were all very familiar to us now and it didn’t really sink in that we were leaving this fantastic city behind us.

Sayonara Sydney

Until, that is, we left the protected harbour waters and were back out in the ocean for the first time since our arrival last December. I was glad of the seasickness tablets I had taken, it was a grey and lumpy sea that met us and at only ten knots not enough wind for us to sail, we were in for a rolly trip.

Luckily it was just a short hop and within a couple of hours we were motoring in the calm waters of Cowan Creek. We returned to our favourite spot of Jerusalem Bay, glad to see the Ospreys were still soaring above us, a little less pleased to see the hundreds of jelly fish that again drifting past on the tide. After so long in the city the silence was wonderful and the surrounding bush enveloped us like a comfort blanket.

Jerusalem Bay, early morning calm

The Cowan Creek area is part of the large Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Saturday morning Rick dropped Sheridan and I at some makeshift steps in the rock and we climbed up to the join the Great North Walkway, a trail that runs, for a short part of its length, through the bush above the bays shoreline. With tree roots to climb over, tree trunks to dodge and rocky outcrops to negotiate, it is just rugged enough to seem like an adventure. The spaces between the eucalyptus and pines gave us glimpses of the bay and as we walked further the deep creek that feeds into it. Rich woodland smells filled the air, bird song and the piecing sound of cicadas filled our ears but the only physical sign of animal life were strange deep holes in the ground. Could land crabs be living up this high or were they home to something more sinister?

Sheridan on the Great North Walk, in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

The day was fine and we met quite a few groups of walkers out enjoying their weekend and when we returned to the bay our quiet spot was busy with small fishing boats, kids jumping from the high ledge in the rocks and jet skiers churning up the calm waters.

We however were moving for a few hours to Looking Glass Bay around the corner, after a too brief a visit Sheridan and Daisy had to get back to Sydney. The plan was for us to have lunch at the one populated area of the park, Cottage Point and then for them to get a taxi back to Sydney, a 40min drive away. This turned out to be rather more difficult than anticipated. When asked, the owner of the charming Cottage Point Kiosk where we sat eating, with a sharp intake of breath said “oh, you won’t find it easy to get a taxi out here”. The problem was compounded by no internet and a phone signal that could only be found up three sets of very steep steps and a climb up the hill. After a rather breathless and anxious hour or so, with the help of numerous kind locals, who even offered lifts, we finally had no less than three taxis vying for our trade and Sheridan and Daisy were on their way.

Guests dispatched Rick and I returned to Jerusalem Bay for one more calm day before setting back out to sea. Having yet again had to motor, today we are 45nm further north and back in the City, this time the centre of Newcastle. We are safely tied up in the Yacht Club Marina awaiting another set of friends. The crew of Toothless who travelled on and off with us from Europe to Tahiti, live locally and are joining us for sundowners.

Frustrations

Wednesday 28th February 2018

Nice to see the evening sunshine finally glinting off the tower blocks.

It was with relief yesterday that we finally saw some sunshine. All day Sunday and most of Monday it didn’t stop raining. Boats are not great places to be for extended periods of rain, a feeling of damp pervades everything and as so much of life is spent outside, with all hatches tightly closed, it feels rather confined below. Evidence of how bad things got was the appearance of the Scrabble box.

In fact it’s been a rather frustrating week all round, after a promising start to our return to Sydney things went rapidly downhill. The electronic charts I had organised before we left for Perth had not been ordered, the sprayhood we had sent off for repair was untouched and even with the new engine alternator we still needed to replace the batteries.

Never mind we thought, that evening we had tickets for a performance of Carmen at the Opera House. Unfortunately that was a little disappointing too, the production wasn’t in the expected flamboyant style we were hoping for. The set and costumes were ‘realistic’ ie rather drab and the main character Carmen, who in our minds should be sexy, larger than life and command your attention, was, well, rather mousy. The music was fantastic however and it would be difficult to beat the view from the bar.

We decided to delay our departure from the marina for a day so Rick could sort out the batteries and for the electronic charts to arrive, which all went to plan. The sprayhood however couldn’t be fixed until the end of the week, we put it back up unrepaired, a job to go back on the list. So half satisfied we headed out to Blackwattle Bay. Typically for this week, our favourite spot in the middle of the anchorage, with plenty of depth, was taken. We had arranged to pick some friends up here, we needed to stay, so we anchored out on the edge. This turned out to be problematic in the changeable weather. If we positioned ourselves so there was enough depth when the NE winds pushed us towards the shore then when the wind changed to the South we ended up outside the bouys that marked the anchoring area and were politely ask to move by the marine police. If we anchored inside the bouys for the southerlies then when the wind went back to the North we swung worryingly near to the shallows. Unusually, the wind has reversed three times this week, so yes we have reanchored three times also.

We persisted with this anchorage because our good friend Sheridan arrived in Sydney to see her daughter Daisy for a couple of weeks and they, plus some more friends, came for lunch on Friday. At the far end of Blackwattle Bay is the large Sydney Fish Market, we all met up there to select some goodies for lunch. Fish and seafood of all kinds adorn the extensive market stalls, there is a posh deli, a wine store, fruit and veg shop and a bakery. Particularly around lunchtime it becomes jammed packed with Chinese’s visitors, so actually getting what we needed was a bit of a bun fight but eventually we returned to Raya bags full and put together a great spread.

This wasn’t so good for the start of our new healthy life style. Heidi who has visited Sydney many times, informed us that we weren’t alone in our issues with weight gain, the food is so good here that this phenomena is quite common and has been nicknamed the Sydney Stone. Lettuce and water for lunch today.

With another wind change we have re-anchored yet again, but the central nature of this spot and the easy access to shore make it worth while. We pick Sheridan and Daisy up tomorrow and if the weather finally decides to play the game we hope to sail the few hours up to Pittwater on Friday.

Fascinating Freo

Tuesday 20th February 2018

With our time in Western Australia rapidly coming to an end, Friday we took a day to visit Fremantle. In the south of the Perth Metropolitan Area, at the mouth of the Swan River, it has been a main port for nearly 200 years and retains much of its original 19th century architecture. We found an eclectic mix of historic buildings, museums, craft markets, art galleries, trendy bars and restaurants.

As we entered the city we noticed the clocktower of the townhall had squares of yellow paint near its top, at first we thought it must be having some renovations done but as we walked down High Street we saw more seemingly random yellow daubs and then stripes curling up from the pavement and onto the buildings. Slightly perplexed we walked on until up the steps of the roundhouse at the end of the street we turned and all was revealed. It is the work of Swiss artist Felice Varini who creates 3D optical illusions in public places all around the world. Designed to be viewed from just this one spot, the yellow lines and squares come together to form a set of eliptical rings that appear to float miraculously above the street. It is mind boggling to imagine how the artist could even conceive such an amazing idea and impressive that the Fremantle council took the risk with one of its prime tourist spots to allow it to happen.

Amazing street art in Fremantle

Still glancing back over our shoulders we wandered into an art gallery at the top of the steps displaying beautiful underwater photos, the photographer had done some wonderful things with his images of coral, tropical fish, sharks and rays. Not having the ability to paint whole streets but thinking that we had, maybe not quite of the same quality, but very similar photos, perhaps we could create some of our own Freo inspired artworks.

In complete contrast we then spent an enjoyable hour at the shipwreck museum learning about the early Dutch explorers and more specifically the story of the Batavia. Part of the Dutch East India Company she was wrecked off the WA coast in 1629 amid tales of mutiny and murder. The museum has on display a large section of her hull, salvaged in the early 1970’s along with many arifacts, including cannons, domestic items and part of her cargo, a large stone arch destined for Jakarta.

The next day we were lucky enough to be included in a gathering of Taryn and Greg’s friends for a Peeking duck night. Greg and friend Pete had spent the previous evening preparing the duck. Part of this preparation required the skin of the raw duck being unstuck from the carcass to allow it to crisp more easily. An ingenious solution to this problem led to the bizarre sight of Greg inflating the duck using his scuba tank and regulator. The technique proved its worth the next evening when, after a fun few hours decorating the terrace, we all sat down to delicious Peking duck.

Peking Duck night

And then before we knew it it was our last day, we opted, before we started our packing, for one last swim in the Indian Ocean.. The surf was relatively small, the water warm and the colours as incredible as always.

Thanks Taryn and Greg for a great break

Yesterday evening we flew back to Sydney and this morning its back to business on Raya. Rick has his head in the engine room replacing the alternator with a new one sourced in Perth and I’ve just returned from the supermarket with some basic supplies. In my bags there is a heavy emphasis on healthy foods, our stay in Perth did nothing for our already expanding waistlines. However all the walking and swimming we enjoyed has motivated us to start eating less and exercising more. Watch this space……….

Super South West

Friday 17th February 2018

What a startlingly beautiful stretch of coastline. We have spent the last week exploring the Margaret River Region in the far South West of Western Australia. Under wide clear skies and impossibly bright sunshine, the colours are breathtakingly vivid. Long white sand beaches, blue and turquoise seas, rocky outcrops and rolling surf.

The stunning beach at Injidup

The area is sparsely populated so these stunnng bays are often deserted even though they are less than an hours drive from the charming seaside town of Dunsborough, where Taryn and Greg have a beach house. The only crowds are seen at the calm town beaches and at the many surf breaks along the shore.

Surfers Point near the mouth of Margaret river is home to pro surfing competitions and attracts surfers from all over the world. Kite surfing is also hugely popular, with the reliable afternoon sea breezes often providing perfect conditions. It is entertaining to stand and watch their antics as they ride the waves with ease, professing how if we were just a bit younger we would, of course, be out there with them.

Watching the kite surfers at Yallingup

Resisting the temptation to jump in we instead went rock climbing, enjoying the smooth granite boulders and the pretty oranges of the sandstone. We have always loved watching waves crashing onto to rocks and it’s been a while, our sailing life has us searching out much calmer seas.

Our favourite spot was Canal Rocks where the granite has eroded to produce ‘canals’ that fill and empty with a cascade of white water from each ocean wave. A large Ray, defying the strong currents, swam into the whirling water, as did, rather worryingly, a young girl, who without the rays swimming ability was washed violently back and forth before managing to grab the side and climb to safety. We chose an easier route using a bridge and some stepping stones to cross the canals and then clambered as high and as far out onto the rocks as we could to take in as close as possible the exhilarating view.

Taryn out on the edge of the Canal Rocks.

Another great place is the natural spa near Injidup. Here you can scramble over giant boulders to reach a protected rock pool where it is safe to enjoy the power of the crashing waves. All is tranquil until a large wave hits the outer rocks, this sends gallons of water gushing over and through the crevasses between the boulders, creating power showers and turning the calm water into a bubbling whirlpool.

Taryn and Rick enjoying the natural spa bath

This region is not just about beaches however, running the length of the coast are numerous vineyards all plying for your trade at their cellar doors. Taryn and Greg took us to their favourite, Vasse Felix. Set in green manicured gardens, modern sculptures greet you on the lawns and between the trees, the modern art theme continuing with a small gallery inside. At the tasting bar we tried eight of their wines, we resisted the $80/bottle of delicious Chardonnay and plumped for a more economical full bodied red to accompany our lunch. The wine was good, the views delightful and the food, exceptional.

A few days later we ventured a bit further south to Boranup Forest. The day was unusually cloudy and as we entered the forest there was a short shower. With the rain came a burst of smells, the scent of eucalyptus, mixed with the tang of damp moss and rich earthy leaf litter. The forest is full of giant Karri trees reaching 90ft tall, they regularly shed their bark in long narrow strips revealing striking trunks of orange, salmon and greys. We were surprised to discover these giants were members of the Eucalyptus family. We are coming to the conclusion that all the trees in Australia, whatever shape or size seem actually to be eucalyptus trees.

Boranup Forest

On our final day we drove down to Smiths Beach, where feeling the name was telling us something, we finally braved the surf. We ate a picnic amongst the colourful dune plants and then went for a swim. The water was surprisingly warm and although we had picked a calm spot, the waves were fun and still strong enough to dump Rick as he stood knee deep taking photos. As he tumbled concentrating on holding tight to the camera, he was stripped of his expensive and vital prescription sunglasses, luckily they miraculously ended up at my feet.

The Smiths at Smith Beach

With a final farewell to this beautiful coast, yesterday we returned to Perth. A few more days to enjoy before our flight back to Sydney.

Perth

Friday 9th February 2018

A five hour flight across this huge continent and we arrived in Perth to the welcoming faces of Taryn and Greg. It feels fantastic to shower in a spacious bathroom, with limitless hot water, it’s novel to cook in a proper oven and prepare a meal on the large work tops and most of all go to bed without the responsibility of thinking about the weather, the anchor or whatever else might cause us to sink in the night.

Our stay in Perth seemed to immediately become centred around interesting conversations while drinking great local wine and delicious food. All keen cooks we are having good fun creating meals, sourcing the ingredients from the plethora of specialist butchers and farmers markets that appear to be everywhere here.

The whole of this area, stretched as it is along the coast, is dominated by the Ocean. On our first morning we drove from Taryn and Greg’s house in leafy Wembley the ten minutes to City beach. A brisk SW sea breeze created copious white horses in the deep blue of the sea and with the beach stretching seemingly forever in both directions, we walked down to dip our toes for the first time in many years in the Indian Ocean.

City Beach, Perth

The daily arrival in summer of this cooling sea breeze is nicknamed the Fremantle Doctor relieving everyone from the often uncomfortably hot weather. Temperatures in Perth can regularly sore over 40C, luckily for us Western Australia is experiencing a mild summer with temperatures nearer to 30 C. The use of the word mild in this context sounds very odd to us, in England it is used to describe warm winter conditions. However, which ever word is used, we were glad of the perfect temperatures and enjoyed a lovely lunch of fresh ingredients deliciously combined, while admiring the views.

The following day Taryn and I went to visit the Botanical Gardens in Kings Park. High on a hill it provides excellent views of the city centre and the Swan River. Full of native plants, we wandered chatting, enjoying the calm as we followed a pathway through the trees and shrubs. Our favourite tree in the whole park had to be the beautiful Weeping Variegated Peppermint tree, but also impressive was the famous Boab tree. At 750 years old and right in the middle of a new highway project it has been carefully rescued and transported over 2000 miles south to its current position in the park. I was also rather taken by the grass trees, common to this part of Australia, but strange to us.

Trees in the Botanical Gardens in Kings Park, Perth

In complete contrast to our peaceful day was our evening at the Perth Fringe Festival. Staged each year in February, we joined the throng in the centre of town to enjoy some street food and then a show. Club Swizzle is a slightly outrageous cabaret group, performing comedy, music and acrobatics, we had a thoroughly entertaining and sensational evening.

We had arrived in Perth with one complaint, we had been in Australia for three months now but had not seen one kangaroo! Greg born and bred in Perth sorted that out for us, sending us off to Pinnaroo Memorial Park, a large cemetery planted with native plants and attracting local wildlife.

Kangaroos in Pinnaroo Park

Kangaroos ticked off we repacked our bags, we are off on holiday from our holiday, heading 3hrs south to Taryn and Greg’s beach house in Dunsborough.

Mountains of Maintanence

Sunday 4th February 2018

Rick has spent much of the past week working in a variety of confined spaces, contorting his stiff joints around corners, down steps and inside small holes, undoing tight bolts and jammed screws, sealing leaks and changing oil, pulling out rusted in impellers and testing batteries. We are tied up back at the Cruising Yacht Club Marina and working our way through a long list of jobs before we leave for Perth tomorrow.

Fixing a fuel leak on the generator

With the generator oil changed and a drip from the fuel pipe sealed, next on the list was changing the engine impeller, unusually for Rick this job defeated him, not able to squeeze into the right position to apply all his strength he just couldn’t get it to budge. What was needed was an engineer who knew all the tricks of the trade and someone perhaps, dare I say, a little younger and more flexible. Fortunately we found one such person that could pop in that day and after much huffing and straining he finally freed it and put in a new one,

Not wanting Rick to suffer his aches and pains alone, Thursday I somehow managed to trip on the pontoon. My fall was particularly ungainly as my main concern was to ensure the backpack I was wearing, that contained as well as groceries a years worth of contact lenses, didn’t end up in the water. Gratefully no one was around and I could escape with, if not my body, at least my pride intact.

So it was that Friday morning found us hobbling up the hill to the station, Rick with tired knees and a stiff back, me with grazed knees and bruised ribs. We were off to catch the train for the 2 hour journey out to the Blue Mountains. Near the top of my list of things to do in Sydney it had been pencilled in for a while, so despite the jobs still to be completed and our rather battered bodies, we decided to carry on with our plans.

The views were incredible. The high plain of sandstone has been eroded over millions of years to create a large canyon like valley. Cracks in the rock and intermittent layers of claystone, coal and shale, that are more easily washed away, have caused the sandstone sides to collapse forming vertical cliffs and striking pillars.

Pillars of rock known as the Three Sisters

We made the mistake of starting our day at the crowded Scenic World. A tourist attraction offering cable cars, skyways and the steepest railway in the world. It would have been a good introduction to the area had it not been full to bursting with coachloads of tour groups. It wasn’t until we escaped along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk that we could really appreciate the full grandeur of the views and the tranquility of the eucalyptus forests. If we were to do this trip again we would start with this dramatic walk giving ourselves more time to enjoy the waterfalls, cascades and trails further along the escarpment.

Walking along the Prince Henry Cliff

However as we had paid for the tickets we returned to Scenic World and took the small train, descending almost vertically into the valley. Protected by the surrounding cliffs from the harsh drying winds and extremes of hot and cold, the valley has its own unique microclimate and is home to a rain forest. We wandered along a boardwalk through tall trees, thick vines and thousands of wonderful large tree ferns, peering up through the canopy to the sheer rock above us. Thankfully there is a cable car back to the top and a hop on hop off bus to return you to Katoomba and the train home.

Wonderful tops of the tree ferns

Back onboard it was back to work. When sailing towards the marina last week the starboard primary winch suddenly started to make a horrible screeching noise. Rick, happy that he could work in the open and especially not on his knees, carefully took it apart, cleaned each of the 27 components, regreassed and oiled as appropriate and put it all back together again. Still the winch screeched. With stoney face and a certain amount of muttering, off it all came again, eventually he traced the noise to the gear coupling to the motor. He was in for another afternoon working in a tiny space, balancing on one leg, bending around the toilet and stretching past cables to remove first the ceiling panels, then the motor. The motor is very heavy and unfortunately his assistant has more brains than brawn and couldn’t reliably take the weight while he battled with the bolts. As luck would have it, in between being engineers mate, I was defrosting the freezer and with the available freezer baskets and books of varying thicknesses we managed to construct a tower to support the motor as it was removed and reattached. After a top up of oil and a thorough clean of the coupling, thankfully it ran perfectly.

Servicing the primary winch motor

Today’s big task was to take down all the canvas work, so it could be sent to the trimmer for a few bits of repair and two zip replacements. We are so use to being cocooned by the sprayhood that it is very odd to sit with a 360 degree view totally exposed to the elements. Luckily the day is pleasant and with just the watermaker to pickle, the bathrooms and kitchen to clean, the decks to tidy, etc. etc….. tomorrow we off on holiday.