Digital paradise

Australia got off to a good start. We applied for our visas completely online. We supplied all the supporting documentation as PDF files and finally received an email saying we were good to visit. No paper; no post; no signatures and no stamp in our passports.

When we arrived the border force came onboard and asked for various documents which we sent them by email. In return they set up a a cruising permit in their system and sent us a copy as an email attachment. Once again no trees died. The police scanned our passports and their screen showed a green tick. We were all cleared in without lifting a pen.

We sent scans of our french vaccination certificates to a medical center and they converted them to Australian digital certificates. Online we created an Australian health record and then our certificates were linked to our records. A few days later we received our booster jab and that appeared online the next day. We downloaded the Queensland covid App, linked it to our health number and immediately it showed a big green tick which allows us to go anywhere as “certified vaccinated”. And we still don’t have any paper. A few times we have rung the border force who answer the phone straight away, ask for our passport number or boat name and straight away know everything. They let us make our position reports by phone or email.

The supermarkets, who have upped the contactless payment limit to $200, also offer online shopping and free delivery for big orders. The two biggest chains offer self service checkouts which we sort of understand after three tries. We are getting there.

off an uninhabited island

Our €16/month phone contracts include more data than we can use and unlimited calls to 15 countries including Germany. And, until now we have had a 4G connection everywhere except the remotest island. We still had Internet but “only” 3G – at the far end of nowhere.

We visited a cafe where we scanned a bar-code on the table, the menu appeared on the screen and we ordered direct from the phone. Online shopping “just works”. We downloaded the Uber App, linked it to a credit card and enjoyed a trip back from Aldi in an immaculately clean car driven by a friendly driver. The App told us exactly what it would cost before we ordered and exactly how many minutes it would be until the car arrived.

It is going to take a lot of getting used to when we visit the “data-protection” paradise in Germany. The thought of dealing with health insurance companies and tax offices who think a fax machine is suspiciously modern is enough to cause nightmares.

Newsflash! Artemis fails to reach Aldi.

The world sailors Heidi and Neill on their 36 foot sailing yacht “Artemis of Lleyn” totally failed to reach Aldi today.

It should have been easy. Lift anchor at St. Helena Island, sail the eight miles south to Raby Bay, anchor again and then the next day take the dinghy to land.

BUT …

… they forgot about Cyclone Seth. “Seth” is sitting off the Australian east coast and causing high winds and huge waves.

“We’re also likely to see abnormally high tides for much of the south-east. … we’re still likely to see tides exceed the highest astronomical tide level around the western Moreton Bay area,” 

meteorologist Shane Kennedy

The intrepid duo took a look at the weather and decided that, even against the wind and swell in Moreton Bay, eight miles was “doable”.

Cyclone Seth to the east of Australia

No sooner was the anchor up than the wind increased. Even with the motor on, it was impossible to exceed one or two knots between St. Helena and Green Islands. Once the marker buoy was rounded the sails were set – just as the wind increased again. Trying to roll the foresail away again, a line went overboard. Motor in to neutral (before the line wrapped round the propeller), Heidi clipped in to the harness and heading to the bow. Of course it started bucketing down with rain and the wind increased some more. A few waves washed the deck and cockpit just to add to the fun.

Start (and finish) at the red triangle

With everything once again in control, it was back between the islands with much less sail to try the other side. As soon as the protection of the island was left the full effect of the swell was felt again. It was still six miles to the bay and motoring six hours at one knot was not an option. Tack again and sail (with a handkerchief of sail and at six knots) back to where the day started.

Two and a half hours after leaving St. Helena, Artemis was back anchored in the lee of the island. The wind was no less but there was no swell.

Sailing to Australia was not a problem but Aldi will have to wait for another day.

Christmas 2021 – Tangalooma Wrecks

Another Christmas, another continent. After Europe (2017), Africa (2018), South America (2019) and Oceania (2020) it was time for our Christmas in Australia.

We needed a beach, clean sea water, a gentle breeze and Christmas carols so we sailed to Tangalooma. Here there is a sheltered anchorage between the beach and a row of wrecked boats. The beach was full of four wheel drive vehicles all with their awnings and barbecues. The bay was full of boats – jet-skis, tiny fishing boats, sailing boats, catamarans, tourist carriers and a few yachts. The current was strong but we have a good anchor.

Tangalooma Wrecks

The wrecked boats were stranded here thirty to forty years ago to offer protection from westerly winds. Over the years they have rusted away and become partly covered with coral. They are now home to more fish than you can ever imagine. Twice we went snorkeling and we weren’t swimming through water, we were swimming through multicolored fish.

On the day we arrived it appeared that the whole of Brisbane had the same idea. We anchored near a catamaran and shortly after another catamaran appeared and anchored between us. All three of us were swinging in the current and the wind and it got a little dangerous. The idiots who had arrived last – “crazy cat” – weren’t bothered so the first cat went elsewhere and we re-anchored further from them. They were still swinging around and later threw out a stern anchor which caused them to hit another boat. At least they were now far from us and we could relax.

“crazy cat” sideswipes their neighbour

On Christmas Eve, Shane from the neighboring boat brought us a beautiful photo of Artemis at anchor in front of a storm front. Later we enjoyed the Christmas carols on the local radio station, home made lasagna and local wine. A perfect Christmas!

Artemis at anchor (thank you Shane)

On Christmas Day we walked barefoot along the beach and then in to the forest to enjoy the scent of eucalyptus and the deafening Cicadas concert. In the afternoon “the neighbors” from the vessel “Moonwind” came over for coffee and Heidi’s chocolate cake.

Heidi, Neill, Graham, Denise, Jenny, Dan & Shane

And finally – here is a great Christmas carol that was played on the radio. Fantastic when you can turn the music up without annoying the neighbors.

Noonsite on French Polynesia

Noonsite has published an article about the current situation in French Polynesia. It just shows how different two people can experience the same situation. We were in Polynesia for 17 months and, with five exceptions, only met friendly people who made us feel welcome. I summarized our fantastic experiences in a recent blog.

In the Noonsite article it says

I can’t speak to the situation in the Australes, other than to mention second hand reports of overcrowding at the most often-visited island. Last season there were up to 15 boats in the lagoon, compared to a previous average of 5 or so and some in the community were reported to be unhappy about this number of boats.

Noonsite.com

We were one of the 15 boats mentioned in this article. We were in the lagoon of Raivavae over Christmas 2020 and New Year 20/21. If anyone believes that the lagoon was overcrowded they should try anchoring in the British Solent at the weekend or off an Australian beach around Christmas.

Sunrise over Raivave Island

The first person we met in Raivavae was the deputy mayor who welcomed us with a present of fruit and opened the craft center specially for us. The duty Gendarme cleared us in to his island and provided advice on sailing routes, anchoring spots and biking routes.

The owners of the reef where we were anchored welcomed us, let us use their “swimming pool”, allowed us to party on their beach, gave us fruit and let us use their va’a (outrigger canoe). Before we left they also prepared a beautiful traditional meal for us.

On the island we were invited to play boules on a Sunday afternoon and given beer (to improve our playing) faster than we could drink it. One gentleman gave us bananas, papaya and a root vegetable called manuk. When we asked at a farm if we could buy vegetables they apologized that they had none but gave us so many lychees that we could supply the neighboring boats as well. We received so much produce while on the island that we had to make chutney again.

Boules and beer

On the summit of the islands highest mountain we were given bananas by locals who had “carried too many” to the top.

When a bracket on the engine broke we found a welder working on a gate. He stopped what he was doing to weld and paint our bracket and then refused payment because “you are sailors!”.

Raivave Welding team

And yes, one day three local men went from boat to boat saying we should leave but unable to explain why or what we had done wrong. The French boats explained that we would be gone once the wind turned from the south and they left less unhappy. Later we were told that this small group had heard horror stories of abandoned boats in Tahiti via Facebook.

Factually it is true “some in the community were reported to be unhappy” but when three people are unhappy and over 800 are so friendly, it would be better to write about the 99%.

Up the Brisbane River

While Heidi and I were in quarantine, Artemis stayed at a marina on the Brisbane River. After we “escaped”, we spent another two weeks in the marina working our way through a list of repairs. But, after a month, it was time to get moving again.

We waited for the incoming tide so that we would get a bit of a “free ride”. Luckily, just as the tide turned the wind also came up so, with wind and tide going our way, we made good progress.

Big city living

The river meanders wildly and is a major highway for commercial boats and ferries so we had to continuously tack the sails and concentrate – both things that are not so necessary when we are out crossing oceans. The plus side was the constantly changing scenery with evidence of abandoned coastal industry and a lot of new developments. The river is an interesting place.

The City Cats are the local river ferries and they zip from pier to pier apparently at random. We just held our course and let them go round us as the law of the sea says they should – they being motorized and we under sail.

In the heart of Brisbane we anchored off the botanical gardens and enjoyed our sun down drinks with the skyscrapers just off our stern.

A few days later we moved on to a pier right in the middle of the city, put our mountain bikes together and cycled in to the Mount Coot-Tha Forest. By chance we chose a route that included the steepest climb anywhere in the eucalyptus forest. At least the long run back down in to town made up for it. We left at 05:45 and were back five hours later. The amount of early morning bicycle traffic on the riverside bike path had to be seen to be believed. A counting station claimed that over a quarter of a million bikes had passed this year.

Brisbane – bikers paradise

The following day we cycled along the bike paths heading downriver and enjoyed the bike lanes, bike paths, parks and side streets. Brisbane is a bikers paradise.

In the afternoon we cycled over to the outdoor swimming pool and enjoyed the refreshingly cool water.

In the botanical Garden we saw our first dragons – Eastern Water Dragons. In the evening the flying foxes flew above our heads – bats with a one meter wing span. There is a lot of new things to see here in Australia; and people to meet. Our neighbours on the sailing vessel Mahili invited us over for sundown drinks that became a late night affair which was great fun! A tour boat pulled in to take on new guests and Heidi knew the skipper from a barbecue a week before. (A month in Australia and she knows everyone 🙂

Dragons1

After a week of city life we let the outgoing tide carry us back down river leaving the skyscrapers astern.

Australia – finally

After our two weeks of quarantine, we were released on to the streets of Brisbane. Finally, about thirty years after I first dreamed of visiting Australia, we could start to explore.

The bikes were assembled and we set off to look at the surrounding countryside. We discovered perfumed Eucalyptus forests, bright red flame trees, flowery Jacaranda trees, orchestras of cicadas and winding creeks.

The cycle paths along the creeks were wide and the Australian pedestrians disciplined. It was fun to ride everywhere. We rode to the supermarket, to the chain supplier and to the telephone company.

On the first day a marina neighbor took Heidi shopping. Another neighbor asked us to join him on an evening sailing trip. It turned out that our presence was fortuitous. At the end of the trip there were 16 people on board and we were the only ones not drunk. An interesting experience. Other marina neighbors invited us round for drinks with great pizza and gave us lots of tips. The skipper of a government boat also gave us good advice. Australians appear to be extremely friendly and willing to help with anything.

A doctors practice converted our French vaccination certificates to Australian digital versions and last week we received our covid booster injections so are now ready for the harsh measures being introduced for the un-vaccinated next week.

Wine only costs four dollars a bottle and cheese is affordable again. Every day we are being introduced to something new in this exciting new country. Life is fun!

Getting fit during quarantine

After two days recovering from the Pacific crossing, while locked away in our quarantine hotel, we began our fitness program. The first two days we did ski gymnastics following this video.

After spending seven weeks sailing, we thought we were fit but after these 20 minutes the leg muscles were burning.

For the third and fourth day Heidi chose something with a little less leg exercise.

I still sweated non stop and the lady in the video just smiled all the time. I am not sure if she is human.

Days five and six. Same lady. She is still smiling. My muscles feel better but her exercises are getting more demanding. I was so happy to see the young lady wipe a drop of sweat off her nose towards the end of the session. She is human!

After we were finished I read what the lady had written and she wrote “Dieses No Repeat Workout ist das Härteste aus der gesamten Reihe!!!” which is German for “this is going to hurt!”

Day seven.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall not do any work. – Exodus 20:8-11
Well you can’t argue with Exodus can you? And my muscles needed a rest anyway.

Welcome to Australia

Far off on the horizon we could just make out some hills that we knew to be part of Australia. Land Ho!

The first boat we met was “Texas T” and they were kind enough to photograph us with fully reefed sails as we headed for Brisbane harbour. The coastguard were warning of an approaching storm every hour and we were caught by it just before we reached the safety of Moreton Bay. Another sailing boat, maybe two hours behind us, was not so lucky and was blown south – hopefully to take refuge at Southport, further down the coast.

Artemis after entering Australian waters

We passed the fairway buoy that marks the beginning of the ships lane just before dusk and spent the night sailing south with the strong winds and swell following us. We had to ensure that we remained in the marked channel but at the same time avoid the monster ships leaving the commercial port of Brisbane. Each meeting was preceded with a quick radio conversation

“Monster ship, Monster ship, this is Artemis! Over.”
“Artemis this is Monster Ship on Channel 12! Over”
“Monster Ship, we are the tiny sailing boat heading your way with a dim light in the mast. We should meet in about 10 minutes and will keep well to starboard. Over”
“Roger that Artemis! We have you on visual and radar and will pass you red to red. Thank you for the info. Out!”

At least the port pilots spoke English English. A tug pulling a barge passed us to starboard and his Australian accent was so broad on the radio, I was not sure of everything he said. But he avoided us as agreed.

Once we reached the river mouth we turned upwind and drifted backwards and forwards for four hours to wait for daylight, wait for the incoming tide and, most importantly, finally sleep a bit. Until now we had both been catnapping while the other one held course.

At dawn we sailed up the Brisbane River. We passed the container terminal, the cement works and huge factory complexes. Just one tiny sailing boat being pushed by the wind between this landscape of industrial giants.

Container terminal

After about eight miles we reached the marina, turned in to shore and Heidi passed our bowline to a waiting dock-master. After 45 days at sea, we finally made it. We had done it. We had crossed the Pacific, the worlds largest ocean. We held each other tight, kissed and laughed.

The Australian Border Force had three officers waiting on the pontoon. They told us they had been following our progress via satellite and were a little confused and worried about out four hour “drifting around” in the night. They checked our papers and then said “welcome to Australia!”

Next was a gentleman from the Ministry of Agriculture. He should have checked our boat for animals and plants but couldn’t as we may have Covid so told us to ring him when we get out of quarantine.

The Border Force passed us on to the the Queensland Police who scanned a few documents and then discussed cricket with us while we waited for a taxi. The taxi ferried us to a quarantine hotel while being followed by the police (to ensure we didn’t make a break for it during the journey). At the hotel there were more police and medical personnel to process us safely in to our hotel room for 14 days quarantine. Twelve government employees for two sailors. Not many countries are that welcoming.

Halloween at Sea

The last day of October and the 34th day at sea on our way to Australia. Polynesia is two and a half thousand miles behind us. The Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia all came and went. Ahead of us is Australia, “just around the corner”, eight hundred miles away.

The day started with no wind but blue skies and remained that way all day. Sailing was not an option – even we can not sail with no wind. Before breakfast Heidi said “Let’s just have a lazy Sunday”.

During the morning coffee we learned French reflexive verbs to keep the brains working. Heidi made fresh bread for breakfast which we enjoyed in the cockpit surrounded by ocean. Not everyone has an uninterrupted view across a thousand square kilometers of the world from “the balcony”.

As there was no wind we ran the motor for half an hour to check it still works. We found condensation below the diesel filter so bled that off and then reprimed the diesel pump.

pizza is great. Water in diesel – not so good.

The motor had warmed the water up and the sun was shining so we washed the bed sheets, a few towels and us.

We also repaired the jib furling line and hoisted the main to sort out the furling lines. The mobile Solar panels we packed away ready for the forecast wind and Heidi cleaned the main panels. We documented a few things and finally sat down with a coffee and biscuits. I love these lazy days.

In the evening we made pizza. I did all the “easy stuff” – mix the dough and chop everything – while Heidi did the magic with herbs and the dangerous juggling of hot trays. We ate in the cockpit as the sun set.

We had just finished washing up when the wind came up so we set the sails and set off once again sailing west.

Another fantastic day on Artemis.