In to the Red Continent

We have sailed the entire East Coast of Australia. We have rounded Tasmania’s southern tip and Cape York in the far North. With our bikes we have explored the area near the coast and spent a week on a farm in Victoria. But we had not yet seen the “inland” of Australia so it was time to change that.

We hired a car to head south from Darwin to Katherine but at the hire office we met people who had just got back from Mataranka and told us “we had to go there”, so – being sailors and very flexible – we changed the plan.

The first day we dropped our outboard engine off for a service which would have been difficult with the bikes. We then took the Highway Number 1 and headed south for over two hundred kilometers. In Pine Creek we stopped at the lazy Lizard, bought a coffee, met a blue tongued lizard and met a Victorian who now lives here after stopping on her way round Australia. She told us that she loves the small town as up in the Northern Territories you have the freedom to do what you want and be who you want.

A little further south we took a forty kilometer detour to visit the Edith Falls and have a swim. You are driving through brown, dry bush and then you descend in to a valley, turn a corner and there is a waterfall and a beautiful pool to jump in to. Incredibly there are (mostly) no crocodiles, no sharks, no stingers, no sea snakes. The place is so un-Australian and so inviting.

After over 300 kilometers, millions more trees and thousands more termite mounds, we reached Katherine and booked in to our cabin for the night. We then set off to explore the town which an elderly white lady had warned us was “rough”. Rough is white code for “full of aborigines” which it was. Unfortunately many of the aborigines we saw in town appeared to have social or alcohol related problems which is maybe why they are not welcome back in their villages. We had read a lot about problems with alcohol, the resulting violence and measures to try and reduce both but we had not heard about Katherine’s “Point of sale intervention policy”. Walking past a drive in alcohol shop we noticed a big, bearded, tattooed police officer checking ID and telling some potential customers to leave with no alcohol. At the next alcohol shop we found a less frightening looking policeman doing the same so we asked what was happening. Apparently there is a police officer at every “bottle shop” and every person who wants to buy alcohol has to show their ID and answer any questions the policeman may have. If he decides you can’t buy alcohol then that is final. You are refused if you are on an offenders register, intoxicated or unable to explain why you need so much. He told us that in only three years domestic violence is down by 70%!

The next day we continued south for another hundred kilometers to Mataranka. On the way we passed a lone cyclist so slowed down to ask if he needed water or something and where he came from. He was, of course, German. Only a German would cycle the 5000 km from Perth to Darwin and then turn south for another 3000 km to Uluru at the end of the dry season. His name is Martin and he is actually a bit of a hero.

At a road repair site we spoke with the lollipop lady. She was from Ireland and is in Australia on a “work and travel” visa. She spends all day stood out in the hot dry landscape and we wondered why any one would do this. Later we learned that the job pays fifty dollars an hour so a few weeks of torture finances a lot of holiday.

Bitter Springs

In Mataranka we we found the Bitter Springs which were our destination since leaving five hundred kilometers ago. They are stunning with warm, transparent water flowing slowly out of a spring and through the bush. You drift downstream, walk back to the start and repeat as often as you want. Absolute heaven.

In Mataranka we also visited the thermal springs for some more lazing around in fresh water, photographed a few 56 meter long road trains and saw some Brolga birds. I asked an aborigine what type of birds they were next to him before noticing that he was blind. Luckily his companion came to our rescue. Sometimes I am a bit stupid.

Heading back north we passed a few road trains and realized that you need a lot of empty road to pass 56 meters of truck moving at over 100 kmh. We also passed a railroad train and stopped to video the 108 wagons being pulled past us by two huge locomotives.

We spent the second night in a cabin in Batchelor. The owners wife was away so he sent us “next door” to get a pizza for dinner. The restaurant looked like your stereotype outback restaurant but it was owned by a half German man and his German wife and both waitresses were from Germany. Today was German Day.

On Day Three we “did” the Litchfield National Park. We began by visiting the magnetic termite mounds. These are incredible. Instead of being a big round mound they are built like gravestones and all aligned north south to reduce the warmth received from the sun. I still can not get over that some termite long ago said “Hey! Lets try thin, geographically aligned mounds.” and convinced all the other termites to go along with his plan. He must have been an amazing leader.

Next on the menu was a small walk and swimming at the Florence Waterfall. We just couldn’t get enough swimming so then it was on to the Wangi falls, another walk and another swim. After that we saw a bush fire burning through the undergrowth. It was being monitored by a helicopter and we guess it was set as part of the managed burning program. It was fast and hot and not something you want to have heading your way.

Finally, after leaving the park, we found a tavern for a well deserved lunch and then headed back to Darwin.

Did we honestly do all that in less than sixty hours?

A selection of our photos since arriving at Thursday Island are here.

Darwin – At last

It was a long long way from Tasmania to Darwin but we have finally made it. A week ago – after sailing the distance from Bavaria to India – we finally anchored off Darwin. The plan was to move in to a marina round the corner so we took the dinghy up the river. It was low tide and we grounded which is pretty hard to do in a dinghy with ten centimeters of keel. The tides in Darwin are crazy, low tide is nothing and high tide is six or seven meters. We could not find the entrance to the marina so we asked a fisherman who sent us back and told us where to look. We found the lock gate about four meters above us at the top of a stone wall. The next morning it was high tide and we sailed effortlessly in. Strange.

The city, seen from the bush

We wrote to all our Australian friends saying “What should we do in Darwin?” and immediately David from the yacht Dancer wrote “I landed at the airport 15 minutes ago.” He was working but visited us in the marina and we could catch up on what had been happening since we last saw each other in Tasmania. That was a great surprise.

In the evening we were at the chip shop and met Ulrike and Wilhelm who have just driven here from Heidelberg – www.wolfx.de. Amazing! We sailed one way round the world and they drove the other way and we met in a Darwin chip shop.

We put the bikes together and cycled to the Charles Darwin National Park. You are only a few kilometers from the city but in the middle of the “bush” and they have great MTB tracks all around the park. After lots of trailing we cycled out of the bush and across the road to the industrial estate to buy parts to repair the boat. What a land of contrasts.

And today we changed the last two leaking windows for our new polycarbonate versions. We now finally have eight waterproof windows. Life is good.

Parasailor Review

Questions from S/Y Aegle

Answers from SY Artemis of Lleyn

– Suitability for a couple (we are of reasonable fitness and experienced offshore cruisers and racers sailors (less so on the ocean / blue water side)

We also sail as a couple. Single handed sailors and couples need to have “standard operating procedures” and plan each set of actions before they start. You need to think every sequence through before you do it and ensure that you have all the required equipment available where it should be. This is as applicable for setting or striking the Parasailor as any other “process”. You will be in the middle of an ocean so clipped in at all times. This limits speed and moveability so be sure you only do everything once.

We are nearer 60 than 50 and not athletes. We learned most of sailing on the journey from Scotland. Despite this, we can comfortably manage the Parasailor in sensible winds.

– Suitability of trade winds sailing vs day / coastal sailing

We have never used the Parasailor in trade winds. They are at least 15 knots and regular as clockwork. At that wind speed we use the white sails.

For passage, the Parasailor is perfect. When you are moving downwind in light winds, it is the piece of equipment that keeps the miles ticking away. Without it we would have spent thousands of Euros on diesel or spent days becalmed.

Often on coastal sails, it is only two hours in one direction before you need to pass round something or change tack. The Parasailor would work but all cruisers get lazy. You have unlimited time so you think “why bother”. The genoa gets you there eventually so you set that and relax. We could use the Parasailor much more often.

– The true wind range and angles in which you use it

30° off true downwind to 90° (across the wind). 

At 30° we take the parasailor down at 7 knots. On our 36 foot Rustler, you can sail it in more but you need to be very concentrated to ensure you do not broach.

Obviously at 90° you need a maximum of a few knots before the sail pulls the boat over. We had no measurable wind and used the Parasailor all the way from Barbuda to Antigua (25 miles) across the wind. It kept us moving and changed what could have been a boring motor into a great sail.

– Ease of rigging (easy enough to not be a chore?!); 

As described above, we have the lines already rigged. We have combination sheets and guys that Stuart made up for us. They can be set to the correct length before being attached. (These can also be used when poling out.)

The Parasailor needs to be manhandled from the cabin to the foredeck which is team building. Once there, you clip it into the three lines (making sure nothing is twisted – the red and green colour coding of everything helps) and hoist the halyard before the second person returns to the cockpit. Then person one lifts the sock and person one tensions the sheet. Normally the person on the foredeck then shouts “we are Parasailors!”

Deciding to parasail, planning, getting set up, getting the white sails away and setting the parasailor takes us half an hour when we are clipped in on ocean swell. But we tend to be slow and methodical and we always prepare everything with the previous sails still working and only strike them when we are ready.

– ease of handling (will it create any undue stress?!) 

A Parasailor is easy to handle but you are more alert when “Parasailing”. You constantly scan the horizon and surrounding waters for the next squall or pocket of high wind. You are more a sailor and less a cruiser (repairing something below or enjoying a long card game in the saloon).

– and in particular getting down (how is that snuffer when bouncing around on the foredeck when stronger winders have surprised you?!)!

We can go from Parasailing to “gone”  in a few minutes. Been there. Done that! 
Person one: harness on, clip in, reach the foredeck,
Person two: release sheet,
Person one; pull snuffer down and stow sail. You can drop it straight through the front hatch if you don’t have a dinghy on the foredeck. Otherwise, we stow it quickly between dinghy and mast and get a line over it until the squall passes.

Stuart sold us a soft roller that clips around the snuffer line so that instead of pulling down you pull up. The harder you pull, the more you stick to the deck. We don’t use it. If person two lets the sheet fully go then the snuffer slides easily down 

– Thoughts on taking the standard recommended spec / size vs value in taking a 3/4 size (for example) to make more manageable / increase the wind range in which we use it?!

We never thought about that. We accepted Stuart’s recommendation. It would be easier with a ¾ but you would no longer have the full “Parasail effect” of cruising at four knots with “no” wind.

– how often you really use the sail – will it be a shiny toy that after preliminary usage does not really see the light of day?!

It took us eighteen days to cross the Atlantic (2162 miles) and we used the Parasailor for 16% of those miles. It has to be noted that we spent 54% of the journey with two foresails poled out as the trades were directly behind us.

It took fifty four days from Ecuador to the Marquesas and we used the Parasailor for 954 of 3909 miles (24%)

– ease of storage, sturdiness of the sail etc

Our Parasailor is stuffed in the quarter berth with two foldable mountain bikes. It has to be manhandled out and back in. It can be compressed nicely with the draw straps on the bag but Stuart recommended against storing it too tightly compressed. 

The sail has one tiny hole that we need to patch – probably from catching it while pushing it through into the forward cabin. The snuffer has suffered from rubbing on surrounding rigging but is still fine.

– any other thoughts that you as owners have that we are not thinking of!

In this screenshot, you can see the speed dropping over six hours. Then we deployed the Parasailor and doubled our speed while also stopping the horrible flogging of sails and rocking of the boat in the swell. Should have done it earlier.

Definitely take the training that Stuart offers. We learned so much. It was a very hard day but a fantastic day. In the Caribbean we met two sailors who had bought a Parasailor but were “much too experienced” to take the free training but admitted that they “never got the Parasail to work.” Of course, they blamed the sail.

Nowadays we don’t pull the halyard as high as we used to. This lets the Parasailor fly with more “belly”. It seems to fly better that way. We are sure that Stuart originally showed us this as can be seen in the following photo but maybe we forgot.

Two really good friends are on their way around the world with their Catamaran “Sybo” and they are also happy Parasailors. The larger boat makes the foredeck work much easier. But we wouldn’t buy a catamaran because of that.

We promised to NEVER use the Parasailor after dark because we could not see approaching squalls. In use we NEVER took it down just because it was dusk. It is too great for that. It just keeps you moving.

Fun with tidal gates

A tidal gate is a point where the tidal currents flow really fast in one direction and then about six hours later just as fast the other way. They are caused by water entering or leaving a basin on the rising and falling tide. If you want to get through a tidal gate, then you need to be in the right place at the right time.

We sailed from Coral Bay on the Coburg Peninsula in the Northern Territories to Darwin and had a chain of three tidal gates that all had to be passed at the correct time. Brain jogging for sailors.

We left Coral Bay in the morning and sailed west along the top of Australia. The wind was as expected and we managed an average of four knots which put us in the Dundas Strait [1] just as the Van Diemen Gulf began to fill late afternoon. The current picked us up and we sailed through between the island and the mainland at seven knots. We kept going long enough to be well inside the gulf before the tide turned and then tried to sail as slowly as possible to lose speed. We were trundling slowly through the night [2] when an Indonesian warship called on the marine radio and asked if we were OK to be overtaken on the port side. No problem with that.

Despite our best efforts too be slow, we were still at the start of the next gate -the Howard Channel – too early so started to work our way slowly in against the tide. With the current against us, we were making about two knots but as the water began to leave the Gulf it picked us up and we sailed out at eight knots [3].

We turned for Darwin and tried to beat the turn of the tide that would work against us. Unfortunately the wind lessened so we went from five knots to four and then three and then two [4]. Finally with a one before the decimal point we put the motor on for the last half hour and one and a half miles.

Darwin to port

Once we reached civilization we read about a gentleman who did the whole route with one or two engines on. OK, he spent the night at anchor and we sailed for 37 hours but, maybe we had more fun.

Westwards over Australia

We have reached the Coburg Peninsula in the far north of the Northern Territories. We hoped to visit an aboriginal village on Croker Island but when we wrote to the town office asking if we could come they wrote back telling us they had no tourist infrastructure, no transport, lots of crocodiles and that we needed a government permit to land. We took that as a no. We anchored just off the island and they were not lying about the crocodiles. “Karl the five meter crocodile” hauled himself on to the beach just after we arrived and his younger cousin swam slowly past Artemis hoping we were going to take a swim.

Laeving the Torres Strait to enter the Arafura Sea

The next day we waited for the tide to turn and used the tidal current to push us through the Bowen Strait. It was a great high speed sail that took us to the other end of the island where we anchored and were amazed that we had a tiny bit of Internet. Crazy. Beyond the end of nowhere I could upload files for my colleagues and Heidi could send anniversary congratulations to her daughter.

The next day we sailed once again down wind. A few dolphins came over to play with Artemis, a passing turtle watched us sail by and waved a flipper and an olive sea snake raised its head to watch our progress but decided against chasing us. As sea snakes are each poisonous enough to kill you twenty times over with each bite, we were relieved that he decided against hitching a ride.

We are now anchored off the Black point Ranger Station and took the dinghy to shore. We were heading towards the buildings when a voice out of the bush said “Hello!”. The voice belonged to an army captain in camouflage gear. He left the trees to chat and ask if we had seen any suspicious activity out at sea and if we did to let them know.

outback Australia

At the station we met the three friendly rangers who live out here all year with their wives and children. We asked them typical cruiser questions about their resupply (the post plane each week), power (diesel generators) and water (a bore hole). Two of the rangers were aboriginals and we heard about their grandfather’s and the wealth of animal and plant local lore that they had – back in the day. One of them listed about ten things that could kill us out here and then sent us off to follow a circular path through the bush. We guessed that it looks bad on their resume if too many tourists die so we were not unduly worried. It is the end of the dry season so everything is very dry and waiting for the rains but we found one flower that added a color other than brown and red. We also found a strychnine tree with bright red berries that are, the name is the clue, very poisonous. The aboriginals used them to make poison for hunting and later the Europeans used them as rat poison.

After our walk we viewed the informative cultural center that explained about the peninsula’s history and included a canoe in which an Indonesian was blown out to sea and spent a month drifting to Australia with a broken motor. A four wheel bus arrived and disgorged an elderly tourist party who had just driven seven hours off road to get here. They were interested in the toilets, our journey and the local history in that order. Fifteen minutes later they were gone to catch a boat to a luxury resort across the bay and peace returned.

At the dinghy we washed red sand off us in the sea. On Artemis we washed more red sand off with salt water and finally we washed red sand off our clothes and us with fresh water. Finally we know why they call it the red continent.

Give me the coffee …

Give Me Coffee to Change the Things I can 
and Wine to accept those that I Cannot

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We left Thursday Island heading west for Darwin. This being Australia, it doesn’t look far on a map but the reality is 750 nautical miles. For comparison, that is roughly London to Rome. At our normal speed that should take us a bit over a week.

The first 300 miles are across the top of the Gulf of Carpantaria and takes you far from land. We met cargo ships the first few days but after that there was nothing except a few Asian fishing vessels and us.

After the Gulf, the Wessel Islands extend about sixty miles north into the Arafura Sea and offer bays to anchor in on their downwind side. We were heading for Two Islands Bay which was described as untouched white sand and see-through tropical water.

The first day both wind and tide were our friends and we covered almost 120 miles in 24 hours. We were on a roll. The second day the wind dropped and the tide slowed. All the previous day’s gains were lost and we had to accept that we would reach the islands after sunset the following day making an entry to the bay impossible.

On day three the wind strengthened but then dropped again in cycles throughout the day. With every degree further west we traveled the sunset would be four minutes later. At one point it appeared we were going to win the race. But only briefly.

A cup of coffee and a serious look at the chart showed another Bay a tiny bit closer. The entry was not as good nor the protection but we could make it ten minutes before sunset. With the anchorage in view and the sun still in the sky we turned upwind setting course for the island and 

nothing happened!

The current out of the Gulf was so strong that we could not sail against it. We tried the motor and could only make one knot which would have us entering the bay in pitch black which we were definitely not going to try.

We re-set the sails, set up the wind steering and turned back downwind heading for the huge red sun that was balanced on the horizon. Heidi made gin and tonics and we set course for the next island 270 miles away – that is only London to Luxembourg.

The Torres Strait

We were anchored off Horn Island in the Torres Strait. The currents run fast and variable between the islands and the Trade Winds are strong. You need to time your dinghy trips well – and keep an eye on the local wildlife.

Photo by Molly Ebersold of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

We were about to get in our dinghy at the pontoon when a local suggested we wait for “the lizard” to leave the Anchorage. He pointed out a five meter crocodile swimming between us and Artemis. We were happy to follow his advice and waited until it was beyond Artemis. During the journey we lost sight of the monster and were very relieved when it appeared on a neighboring sandbank. I have backed away from an angry elephant, been in a room with a coral snake and swam with sharks but this was a totally new feeling. This was something that wasn’t going to hurt me because of a misunderstanding. This was something that actually considers me a good meal.

Another day we took the ferry across to Thursday Island. It wasn’t far but our 2.5 horsepower motor is not up to braving seven knot currents against the wind. Once on the island we went to the council office and asked about the interesting tourist stuff. The lady was refreshingly honest and said “not a lot”. We also met a local who came for two weeks and that was thirty four years ago. He agreed there was nothing much to see but told us the islands are very relaxing places.

There is a fort on Green Hill with some history and panoramic views so we enjoyed that before the tourist buses arrived. A complete circumnavigation of the island is only five kilometers so we walked but for “normal” tourists there was a bus laid on.

At the back of the island there is a huge graveyard which is interesting as each person’s life story is written on their gravestone. If the stories are to be believed, the island was full of upstanding people who were without blemish. A whole section is for the seven hundred odd Japanese who died here while pearl diving. Mostly they have no stones. A particularly spectacular grave was the last resting place of the designer of the Torres Strait flag.

There is an art gallery with works by local artists. We are obviously too stupid to understand art. As always, most of it was over our head but they had stunningly clean toilets which we enjoyed. On the seafront we treated ourselves to a fruit juice and a chat with vocational teachers about the challenge of getting the local children to attend school. A sad but recurring story that, it seems, no one has an answer to.

We bought fresh bread and caught the ferry home. It was a nice walk but the council lady was correct with her “not much to see”.

Through the Great Barrier Reef

We left Cairns and sailed to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef. From there we continued on to the Low Isles where we cleaned the hull of Artemis. Finally we set sail the 420 nautical miles through the world’s biggest reef, finally anchoring at Mount Adolphus Island. After a really good sleep we used the rising tide to reach Australia’s most northerly port, Thursday Island.

Just after Midnight

It is one o’clock in the morning and I am on watch as Heidi sleeps soundly in the saloon. The moon is preparing to sink behind Australia leaving us with only starlight.This is the third night of our journey north through the labyrinth of the Great Barrier Reef.

Since leaving Cairns we have been threading our way north west between uncountable reefs and sand shoals. Day and night, we continually have to adjust course to follow the marked channel that meanders its way through the intricacies of the unseen reef. We have a half moon and therefore the tides are not low enough to expose the reefs and we only see the markers and lights installed to warn of dangers and to signpost the route. 

One of very many ships we met.

This is the main highway for ships heading along the coast of Australia and so we share the narrow channels with a procession of bulk carriers and container ships. Everything feels very tight as a three hundred meter long ship passes only two hundred meters to your side. The marine VHF radio is an important tool to coordinate who is going where as we and neighbouring ships head for the same point to squeeze through a pass between two reefs.

This is the ultimate team work. We both need to be alert when awake and so need to sleep well when off shift. That requires that we both have absolute faith in our partner so that we can enjoy a deep sleep even as hull destroying coral slips past on each side of us. Occasionally a bend in the channel or approaching ship requires us both to jibe Artemis on to a new course. Sometimes we have to go from sleep to deckhand and back to sleep in ten minutes and then, in the worst case, do it again half an hour later.

The Monday Isles slip past to port

This morning the sun was shining and we were sat in the cockpit enjoying a coffee. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we were visited by a pod of frolicking dolphins surfing the waves and jumping to get a better look at us and hear our cries of encouragement. This afternoon the wind increased pushing large waves in front of it. Each wave picked us up and surfed us forward pushing us onward. When we eventually escape this maze, it will be the dolphins and the surfing we remember and not the ships or the wake up calls.

Challenging Moment 1

Saturday August 26. 0900. In a narrow shipping channel in the Great Barrier Reef. 

We had just rounded Bannan Reef and Neill was asleep after taking the last night watch. Cape Grenville loomed ahead of us and needed to be left to port. Heidi adjusted the wind pilot to take us further out to sea but nothing happened except we slowed down. 

The boat was rigged for downwind sailing and would not sail up wind. So she woke Neill and together we rolled away the large floppy genoa. We set the jib and turned back upwind setting course to round the Cape.

Heidi scanned around us and noticed a freighter on the other side of the headland that would soon turn and head straight towards us. She used the AIS vessel identification system to access his speed and course. Tighten the jib and turn hard on the wind to make space for the freighter to pass to port.

Five miles and about one hour later the freighter was gone and we rounded the cape, changed the sails back and resumed downwind sailing for the rest of the day.

Challenging Moment 2

Friday August 25. 0400. In a narrow shipping channel in the Great Barrier Reef. Corbett Reef to port. Rodda Reef to Starboard. No moon. No stars. Pitch black.

Three sailing vessels are heading north. Artemis, Packyamamma and Silly of Sweden. An 800 foot long cargo ship, Pirramu, is approaching from astern.

Silly speaks English with a Swedish accent. Pirramu speaks an Indian dialect which becomes more pronounced as he gets annoyed.

Artemis and Packyamama are to the far starboard of the narrow shipping channel. Nicely out of the way of the approaching behemoth. Silly is in the middle of the channel.

Artemis is the red arrow. Packyamama in front (red), Silly out in the channel (red) and Pirramu catching up fast from behind (green

The following conversation takes place on the marine VHF.

Artemis to Silly over.
No answer.

Artemis to Silly over.
No answer.

Artemis to Packyamama.
Artemis this is Packyamama.
Artemis. I heard you talking to Silly earlier. What channel can we reach him on. There is a large cargo vessel following us and I suggest he moves over to us.
Packyamamma. I will try to reach him.

Silly this is Packyamama. 
Yea! This is Silly.
Packyamama. There is a large cargo vessel behind you. I suggest you move to starboard to join us and let him pass.
Silly: yea I saw him. I don’t know. He could pass between us. He is only 40 meters wide. I could stay here but if you think I should come over there then OK.

Silly this is Pirramu. We heard your conversation. What are your intentions?
Silly: I could stay here or I could move to starboard. The wind is good to go to Starboard but also to stay here is good.
Pirramu: Then hold course and we will pass you on your starboard side.

Silly turns to starboard but stays out in the shipping lane. Pirramu catches up with Silly.

Silly this is Pirramu. What are you doing? Why have you moved in front of me? Why are you impeding my progress? Where are you going?
Silly: Hey! We can see you. You can get past. 

Pirramu turns to port and passes everyone with no further comment.

Did I mention that Silly had his anchor light on all the time?

Names of some vessels changed a bit to protect the privacy of the incompetent.

Menu

Often people ask what we eat as we sail along and if we can even cook at sea. As a short answer, we present the menu from the Great Barrier Reef.

Dinner: Noodles with tomato, ham and avocado.

Breakfast: Continental.
Lunch: Home baked apple cake.
Dinner: Rest of the noodles dish from yesterday

Breakfast: Ham and scrambled eggs.
Lunch: Fresh creamed carrot soup.
Dinner: Cheese and crackers.

Breakfast: Yogurt with muesli, nuts and apple.
Lunch: Avocado tomato salad and cheese on toast.
Dinner: Boiled potatoes with cheese and butter.

A week in Cairns

We have reached Cairns and are now far enough north that even Australians say “That is far up north.” The city is in the tropics so, despite it being winter right now, is a shorts and T-shirt place with lots to see and do outside.

We sailed the last few miles from Fitzroy Island at an extremely leisurely pace but managed to sail all the way up the ship channel in to the middle of the city where we anchored directly across from the marina. With the dinghy we can be on land in five minutes but have to time the river crossing to avoid huge ships, warships and ferries.

This is our first city since Hobart back in Tasmania so we had a nice long list of city jobs. Luckily we had pre-ordered some parts we needed and, thanks to Andrew Laming – our man on the ground, we already had an appointment organised with a notary.

We spent four days visiting the businesses that we needed and in between Andrew introduced us to a great breakfast location, a roof top bar, a trivia night, the Australia versus England ladies football game and an art gallery. For us two sailors, city life was a little exhausting and we slept well every night.

The trivia night was an evening of extremely difficult questions that were often impossible for non-Australians to answer – cricket, local television and politics are not our strong areas. But, with three Australian doctors in the team, we did fairly well and answered every medical question perfectly.

We watched the first half of the football on a huge screen in the park and the second half in a bar. We were amazed to learn that the ladies football game was the most viewed event on Australian TV – ever! We asked about men’s soccer but were told “No one watches that!” In Germany no one cares about women’s football and here the Matildas were bigger that cricket and rugby.

In the art gallery there was an exhibition called the Pillors of Democracy. Initially you think that there is a spelling mistake but the title is a play on words suggesting that the pillars are actually colonial inventions that hold the aboriginal people in pillory. A thought provoking work particularly as we have now reached the part of Australia where the aboriginal Australians are much more visible than they have been until now.

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” That is what the bible says but instead we went for a bike ride from Cairns out in to the tropical rain forest and along Freshwater Creek to the Crystal Falls. The route was only fifty kilometers but took us out of the city and deep in to the original forest. The canopy provided shade, the river kept the air cool and round every corner there was something new to discover. The route is at Alltrails. On the way back to the boat we diverted through the botanical gardens and then treated ourselves to a plate of prawns on a fishing boat in the marina.

Life is good!

“Wirlankarra yanama. Yurlu nyinku mirda yurndarirda”
“Go with a clear, open and accepting spirit, And the country will not treat you badly”

Aboriginal quote