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Logs and Pix from Fiji-on (2008 Season)


Back Aboard in Fiji  05/04/08

It was a surprisingly smooth departure from Yachats, and a similarly surprisingly smooth journey all the way back to the boat.  One of the biggest challenges was getting all the boat stuff packed into luggage. We’re not talking about small items here- a big barbeque, new anchor roller and two big fenders being the notable challenges- but somehow we got ‘er done.  By some wonderful happenstance the plane from LAX to Auckland was only half full, so we actually had room to relax for that 13 hour flight, making it almost a pleasant experience.  We had a great, although very short, tour of Auckland via bus and boat (an hour and a half harbor cruise), and then a bumpy 3 hour flight here that landed about 8:30pm local time.  Once again we had that strange time-warp effect of leaving Monday afternoon April 28, flying all night, hanging out for a day in Auckland, and arriving in Fiji Wednesday night April 30.  That darned dateline deal.

The extremely sad part of all this is that we lost a dear friend, Gary Ewing, while in transit, and didn’t find out until yesterday.  We had just visited with Gary and Karen before our departure, and though he looked far from well and had been having serious health problems for a couple of years, nothing prepares you for that ultimately sad news.  I have been working on a website for him recently to help promote his art and hopefully generate some income to help defray his astronomical hospital bills, and that will be an ongoing project.  To see the fledgling site, click here.  He was a genuine gentle-man, one of the finest human beings I’ve ever had the good fortune to know, and will be missed greatly.

So the work has begun getting our moldy, mildew encrusted vessel cleaned up, put back together, and ready for floatation.  Fortunately the worst heat and monsoon rain has abated here, so it has been possible to get several hours in each day before melting down and running for the pool.  At night there has been a cool breeze off the water allowing us to sleep comfortably.  Things could be worse.  We’re hoping to be back in the water in a few days, and ready to set sail in a couple of weeks if all goes well.  The marina has emptied out, with many of our fellow cruisers already enroute to Vanuatu.  We’re still planning to enjoy Fiji for a month or so before heading out, since there really doesn’t seem to be any reason to hurry.  After traveling ~6000 miles last season, the ~1000 miles to Australia doesn’t seem like much at all.

That’s about all for now, we’ll get some pics up soon.

Fair winds,

Mike ‘n Barb

Some miscellaneous pics-

Preparing to Leave the Vuda Womb 6/15/08

Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like here: safe, peaceful, warm and protected from all harm, with a big scary world outside this circular pouch-like enclosure.  You exit via a canal through the reef, once you’re ready.   And it’s a womb with a view- of the ocean- with everything you need in easy reach: a little grocery store, laundry facilities, showers and bathrooms, a café, a yacht chandlery, a restaurant and bar, free outdoor movies three nights a week, a yacht repair facility onsite, water and electricity right to your boat, and taxis available 24/7 to take you to the nearby towns.  It’s altogether way too comfortable, but we must (finally) be going.

For our first baby steps we’ll make the 20 some mile voyage to Musket Cove, where we’ll ease back into the cruising lifestyle for a bit before heading out to Vanuatu, a 3 to 4 day trip.  We’ll most likely miss the famous tower-diving there (proto bungie-jumping you may have seen on National Geographic) where men (and boys) leap off a tower made off lashed-together sticks with a vine tied to their feet, object of which is to lightly tap their heads on the soft dirt piled below.  It turns out they only do it April-June.

Anyway, Arabella is almost her old self again, windlass repaired, new mainsail, bilge-pump working, engine and transmission working, etc. so all that’s left is provisioning, fueling up, paying our bills, and heading out.  Our planned departure date is the 20th, and hopefully Barb will be over her stubborn cold by then.

We’ll do another update when we’ve had some new adventures to report…

Fair Winds,

Mike and Barb

PS We'll post some Vuda pix in a day or so.

Musket Cove-Our New Favorite Place 07/14/08

It was a beautiful calm day when we finally tore ourselves away from Vuda for the big three and a half hour voyage across to Malololele Island where the Musket Cove Resort is situated.  We agreed to ferry a young couple from Russia over with us so they could try to find a boat willing to help them continue their “hitchhiking across the Pacific” adventure.  Really nice kids they were- the young man had acquired a good command of English from working on big cruise ships and his photographer wife spoke a little as well.  We hope they found a ride.

The little shakedown trip went pretty smoothly; engine ran fine, transmission was fine, electronics seemed fine…until we got almost to the tricky entrance part and the cockpit chart-plotter decided it couldn’t keep a fix.  This is our “video game” unit that has a 14-inch color screen showing a chart at whatever zoom level we select, with a little icon boat moving along the tracks we program in, consisting of waypoints that are designed to keep us in the deep water and off the hard bits.  Of course it’s a (lazy person’s) newfangled gadget and should never be counted on as the sole means of navigation, but in these coral-infested waters it’s a darn cool way to get around with minimum stress.  When it suddenly didn’t know where it was, and we were just entering a twisty passage between coral we could barely see, it gave us a moment of consternation.  Luckily there is a smaller version down below over the chart table that knew where it was, so it was just a matter of programming in the waypoints down there and relaying instructions up to Barbara, who was at the helm.  Of course we had paper charts of the area, plus two more handheld GPS units aboard, plus Constantine, our young Russian friend, had Google Earth and a GPS on his phone- how cool is that- and could have piloted us in with that.  I think he was kind of miffed when we wanted to use our own stuff.

Anyway, we made it in fine, but that malfunction was one of the reasons we ended up staying happily in Musket cove for a couple of weeks instead of venturing further up the island chain as we had planned.  The other things were: a suddenly balky outboard motor on the dinghy, an alignment problem on the alternator that caused belts to be eaten quickly, and the trusty Honda 2000 generator decided it was time to call in sick.  Nothing was major, just a bunch of little headaches.  It was exactly why we went over there, to test all this stuff out.

So it turned out Musket was the coolest place you could ever be stuck trying to fix little headaches.  Not only is the setting beautiful, which it really is,  but the people who work there immediately make you feel like you are their long-lost best friends, and things are set up perfectly for cruisers.  By now you probably know what that means: showers, laundry, a store, restaurants, a pool, bar, etc. but in addition they have set up an area on a tiny island by the marina with a round palapa-style bar surrounded by tables and barbeques (supplied with wood to fire them with) where you can cook your food and buy drinks, and they provide the plates, silverware and condiments!  How cool is that not to have to heat up the boat cooking, let alone wash dishes afterwards?  Think of the savings in propane!  It’s lovely and brilliant, as our new English, Ozzie, and Kiwi friends are fond of saying, and I’m sure it pays off for the resort.

While we were there it was somewhat of Rally Central.  There seem to be lots of folks who think the way to sail around the world is in an organized group,  and there were two such groups stopping in one after the other.  The first was the ARC which stands for what I don’t know, but they were a pretty nice bunch of folks who had paid quite a bit of money, both for their fancy big boats, but also for the privilege of being sheparded around the world in a big hurry (14 months).  They no sooner took off on their next leg than the next group showed up, the Blue Water Rally.  Again a very nice group, mostly British folks it appeared, who also paid large amounts of money-someone said 20,000 pounds sterling each- to be herded around at what we consider a breakneck pace.  I guess it’s a “safety in numbers” thing, or maybe the camaraderie factor, who knows.  Maybe they just want to make sure they don’t give up or get sidetracked along the way?  But wait, isn’t open options what cruising is all about?  Oh well, different strokes and all that…anyway, the latest group to mob Musket, just as we were leaving, is the Island Cruising Association rally. It seems to be just a Pacific deal instead of around the world, but we’re not really sure.  We joked that it seemed like a "rally jam" there for awhile.

So we have returned to Vuda to get the last few little headaches fixed and hope to be back out there within a week.  It was really nice being on a breezy mooring with some space around us instead of jammed in like sardines here, but it was also great to see our Fijian and American friends again upon our return yesterday.  By the way, we were hanging out with some wonderful new Kiwi friends, Rod and Viv on Innovation at Musket, who were extremely kind to let us use their spare outboard for over a week so we could stay there longer.  The wind was blowing 30+ knots for several days and we couldn’t row the inflatable ashore and back in that.  We were amazed they were so kind and generous after barely meeting us, and we don’t know how we can ever repay them.  They about have us talked into backtracking to New Zealand at the end of the season, BTW.

Sorry this is kind of long-winded, but I guess it makes up for the last one being so short...

Happy sails to you,

Mike 'n Barb

Fiji Pix from Vuda Point and Musket Cove

Still Chillin’ in Fiji 08/14/08 (with added update)

There must be a vortex or other supernatural reason, but we can’t seem to extricate ourselves from Fiji.  I could bore you with all the details of our struggle to get Arabella ready for sea, but let’s just say for every step forward we seem to slip back two.  We never should have listened to Paul Simon singing “Slip Sliding Away” because it has become our theme song.

Most serious is the problem we’ve been having with the drive train aft of the engine.  We broke both aft motor mount brackets and decided to replace the mounts themselves when we replaced the brackets, since they were old, stiff mounts, and we’ve needed some new, soft ones for a long time.  The problem then was getting the engine to align with the drive train, since it was suddenly higher.  In the process the Aquadrive CV drive unit got offset so far it split its protective rubber boot, and…oops there I go boring you with the gruesome details.

Along about this time we noticed our Adler-Barbour Cold Machine that cools our fridge was no longer doing its job well, and we could no longer keep things frozen, much less keep the beer cold, and that is a big problem.

Repairs are scheduled as soon as parts arrive, and we may yet escape the grip of this island paradise, who knows.  Meanwhile, we’re trying to make the best of it, (big wink), enjoying life and trying to get our Australian visa requirements met while we wait.  Since we spent so much time in Mexico they require us to have chest x-rays done to prove we’re TB free, and they also require health insurance which we’ve never had before.  Oh well, just another few thousand dollars; it’s only money, right?  Hope Oz is worth it.

Almost everyone we know has already left for Vanuatu, and it’s getting to be a bit of a ghost town around here, but luckily Vuda Marina has just upgraded the internet service so the WiFi works on the boat at almost DSL speed.  We have a free week of use before it starts costing big bucks, so we’re trying to make the most of it.  I may finally get caught up with the huge backlog of link requests I have been unable to fulfill.

Hopefully next month I’ll have some good stories to tell about our passage and new adventures in a new place.

Update 08/23/08

It's a beautiful Sunday morning in Fiji, with little birds singing and small puffy clouds in the sky.  We have completed our "quickie" haulout ($600FD) and now sport two (2) coats of high quality bottom paint ($1100FD), a revolutionary new coating on our propeller (Propspeed) that's guaranteed to prevent marine growth for a year or better ($240FD), a totally rehabbed Aquadrive CV joint with new rubber boot to keep the grease in and the water out, as well as a motor repositioning so the CV joint now is almost perfectly in line instead of radically offset ($360 USD w/shipping for the boot), (haven't got the bill for labor yet, but it took two guys about 6 hours), a wonderful new Technautics holding plate fridge system ($2200 USD + haven't gotten the labor bill for installation yet) and I slept well for the first night in a long time last night (priceless).  We took her out for a spin and there are no more clunking, grinding, or other types of noises from the drivetrain.  Oh yeah, and we got a new nylock nut for the transmission linkage armature, see why below.

So glad we have good credit, since we're flat OOM (out of money).

We had an amusing little incident on the way to the haulout when, in the midst of backing up, the trans linkage fell apart and I lost ability to stop the boat, with the result being a loud crash into a houseboat next to the travel lift.  Luckily the houseboat has seen better days and the owner was more unhappy about being awakened at the crack of 8am than by the damage to his porch railing (the corner post is now about 4" in from where it used to be).  He's a guy with more money than God, owns the luxury resort next door, and is a really nice guy, luckily for us.  Arabella suffered a blue paint spot on her wind-steering gear support strut from the encounter.  All in all, it could have been much worse,  but our reputation around here has become the stuff of legend.  I'm thinking of changing my name to Capt. Crunch.

So the plan now is to make a big provisioning run tomorrow (Monday for us) and check out of the country Tuesday, weather permitting.  Just in time, too, since our visas expire in a week or so.  We'll keep ya posted.

Sea ya,

M and B

a few new pics of the recent work

The Legend of Bigfoot the Sailor 09/07/08

Greetings from the beautiful isle of Tanna, at the south end of the Vanuatu chain.  Arabella brought us on a lovely romp across from Fiji, what with her new racer-style hard antifouling bottom paint, and fancified prop coating.  She actually kept up with her pal Magnum for the first day, and Magnum is a Peterson 44.  We departed the marina at Vuda at 10am Wednesday, enjoyed steady 15-18 knot beam winds day and night to put us in here at 11am Saturday- 480 knotical miles in 72 hours- pretty good for an older cruising-type vessel.  There were several boats anchored in Resolution already, including Magnum, of course, as well as our new friends on the beautiful Hereshoff ketch Tamasha, and the new arrivals were being attended to by several local guys in home-made dugout outriggers ready to “trade stuff”.  They would offer fruit and vegetables and then ask for cigarettes, batteries, or sometimes fuel.  We figured out that these "trades" weren't meant to be equitable per se, but rather a clever way of extracting rent from cruisers anchoring on their turf, and as such, it was entirely fair, we thought.

We spent a couple of relaxing days getting over the rolly passage, then it was time (Monday morning at 7:00 am) to load up all the new arrivals into the back of two small pickup trucks for the two-hour each way journey to Lenakel, Tanna's Big City on the opposite side of the island, where we could complete our entry requirements.  The ride was wonderful torture.  Wonderful because of the scenery: lush jungle contrasting with moon-like ash plain near the volcano, tidy villages, and happy, smiling people constantly waving to us from the sides of the road. Torture because we were jammed in tighter than sardines, with cargo at our feet, making any movement virtually impossible.  A couple of the smarter lads stood up for the ride, since there was a tubular framework to cling to, but they had to be ever-vigilant for low trees, and always ready to duck.  Luckily we had been warned about the inadequate seat cushioning, and brought a couple of cushions from the boat, so at least our bums were happy, or so we thought… did I mention they don’t have pavement, except a 200 yard section near the top of the mountain?  That’s necessary because of washouts, I would guess.

Anyway, on arrival we all trouped around town en-masse, first the bank, which doesn’t do cash advances, then customs, quarantine, and finally, quite a distance away at the police station, immigration.   All the officials seemed to want about 400 vatu ($45 USD), which we, luckily, were able to borrow (plus some extra to tide us over until we reached Port Villa), from our dear friends.  In Villa they may have actual ATM’s!

Oh yeah, that’s if we ever make it there…back to the story.

The ride back was even more cramped, due to masses of produce purchased at the bi-weekly Market.  Your old webcaptain even bought some kava, since Vanuatu is reported to have the best in the Pacific.  Thought I’d give it to the local fellows and share in the session- try to find out for once and all what the big deal is.  The kava here looks almost like a different species, bigger, thicker roots, and sold very fresh, like right out of the ground.

We made it back to Port Resolution about 4:00, and a bunch of the gang wanted to charge right back out in the trucks for the Volcano Tour, but we felt pretty tanked.  Lots of cruisers seem to be in a hurry to see everything they can, as quickly as they can, in every country, but I guess we’re just not like them.  We like to find a cool spot and hang out for awhile.  We thought, what the hay, hang out a few more days, and we‘ll make it to the dang darned volcano eventually.  We still may…but not too soon.  Y’see, after a big day hiking up and down the beach the next day, when we returned back to the boat your webcaptain had an overwhelming urge to lay back in the cockpit and stare at nothing in particular.  I made a remark to Ladysailor that a well earned feeling of lethargy was so much more satisfying than garden-variety lassitude.  Then I fell asleep for an hour or so and woke up with uncontrollable convulsive shivers.  It wasn’t a cold night.  After I experienced a few hours of unrelenting chills underneath a pile of every blanket on the boat, Barb got worried and put out a call on the VHF for ideas from the fleet.  Magnum suggested we probably couldn’t have been there long enough for Malaria to incubate, and it doesn’t exist in Fiji for some reason.  Our new friend Antje is a nurse in real life, back home in Germany, and she came over for a boatcall.  By this time, all the water I’d been drinking since the onset had forced a shaky visit to the head, and I noticed a lot of pain in my left leg, all up and down from groin to ankle, and it hurt to put weight on it.  I chalked it up to “fever pains” since that’s when they started, and Antje said such pains can exist…so she started me on two  Panadols every 4 hours to help with the fever and pain, and said we could add ibuprophen if I needed more help with pain.  At this point my oral temp was 103 degrees, not a happy number I’m told.  It was a long night of chills and sweats.  Antje and her husband Norbert came over next morning after the fever had broken, and we all started to wonder about Dengue Fever.  I noticed my leg was beginning to swell a bit and it itched down by the ankle, but neglected to share this with “my nurse” or even Barb.  I did mention it still hurt like hell to walk on it, though.

That night, the whole fleet was treated to an authentic, homestyle (not tourist style) pig roast at a village ashore, and though my kava attended, I stayed on Arabella.  It turns out they prepare the kava by oral mastication- young men with “clean mouths” chew it up and spit the cud into a bowl, then they add water, mix well, and strain out the liquid.  Since it was my kava, I’m not sure how I could have declined partaking of it gracefully.  It was a good night to be sick.  Sometimes our blessings come in unusual forms, eh?


(continued from Surgical Ward B3, bed 52, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia)

The next day, another volcano trip had been organized, and I was really hoping to be well enough to go.  No way, Jose.  The fever was still there, and suddenly there was much swelling and redness on my foot and ankle, and the pain all the way up my leg had become excruciating whenever I tried to move it anywhere from the elevated position.  The next thing I knew, I was being ferried ashore, then zooming to the Lentakel Hospital from the beach where the ambulance (a pickup with a foam pad in the back) picked me up.   We made the 2 hour trip in an hour and three quarters!  Unfortunately, after the wild ride, the Doctor wasn’t there…turned out he was visiting there at Port Resolution.   We left the semi-scary hospital and rented a bungalow for the night, and finally saw him next morning.  Dr. Dan is a majorly saintly type individual who has volunteered to work at this beautiful but challenging spot for 6 months in return for being able to bring his wife, 7 kids and-a-friend, and live on site, where of course he never gets a day off.  He sets a whole new standard for the “nice Canadian” stereotype, as do all his family.   Dr. Dan took one look, said “acute cellulitis” and said he had some good antibiotics he’d give me once a day IV, for three days, then finish it off with some oral ones I could take back to the boat.

If only it could have been that easy, but of course it wasn’t.  The fevers and some of the inflammation on my leg seemed to go away, but the foot kept changing colors and growing giant blisters- it looked like an “instant leprosy” kit was being used.  The pictures don’t fully do it justice, but will give a little clue.  More than the ugliness, the pain of having it lower than my heart, much less bearing any weight, was indescribable.  Vicodin didn’t touch it, and so far morphine is the only drug that’s been effective.  But I’m way ahead of myself, because I didn’t see any of that until the end of my journey.  After Dr. Dan pronounced that I needed a better, cleaner and more modern set of conditions to clean away the dead skin, my journey continued via small airplane to Port Villa on Tuesday, a week after the onset of this thing, and once in the private hospital at Port Villa, I was again informed that I needed a different doctor, to wit, a surgeon, and better resources like those available in Australia.  I started feeling a bit like a volleyball, but we started to set up our play.  

The private hospital in Villa was fairly (grossly) overpriced, but the saving grace was the doctor’s knowledge of how to play the insurance company like a Stradivarius, and he sure did have it.  He also knew how to get the local ambulance company to do a huge amount of work for him, to the point I wondered if he owned that company.  Once he got the insurance company to admit that I was indeed covered, he handed me off and a young lady gave up her entire night to arranging for special treatment by the airline, expediting my visa application with OZ immigration, and going rounds with HCI (Health Care International, the insurance company) as to whether they would pay for upgraded seating (I needed the 1st class space) an escort to help me on and off, and during the flight, including giving me pain meds; and of course the hospital choice in Sydney, which they wanted in on.  In the end I think we got a lot from them upfront, and they made it up by housing me in this very nice, but tightly run teaching hospital.  It’s located pretty far off the beaten track in a northwest fringe area of town, but the staff seem quite professional,  mostly very energetic, and all seem very competent.  Tomorrow I will finally get a good reading from a doctor, I hope, as far as what my prognosis and timeframe look like.  They keep checking my blood sugar along with BP, rate, and temp, and the readings keep on being in the green.  Hope they quit that soon, hate the continuous little pricks, ya know?

So another day has passed,  it’s Wednesday the 17th of September, and yesterday the surgeon “deroofed” the newly healing area of my ankle, which I guess means skin grafts will be required eventually.  Eventually when the infection is finally gone…and we still don’t know what bug to thank for all this.  There have been several swabs taken, but I’m still getting broad-spectrum antibiotics.  The doctor did say it’d be a minimum of 9 more days enjoying the hospitality here so at least I’ve got that going for me.  Good thing Australia required me to have health insurance, and good thing it became active 10 days before I got sick.  Good timing eh?  On another note, you can't imagine what it felt like when they changed the dressing that had been applied after the procedure.  Betadyne-saturated  gauze pads stuffed into a 3/4 inch deep X 4 inch crater of raw tissue and wrapped up tight defined a whole new level of hell for me for a few minutes, let me assure you.  Luckily I only had to endure that twice, and when the betadyne red color had all but disappeared by the next day, I think that meant it was necessary and had done the trick.

Today is Sunday, the 21st, and I reckon I may be getting a skin graft tomorrow if the doctors like what they see.  I’ve had a vacuum dressing on for the weekend, which is supposed to promote fast healing and tissue growth by sucking away all the fluids that accumulate in the crater-like wound under my ankle.  It sure hurts lots less then the betadyne.  Barb refused to take a picture of the latest incarnation when they changed the sponge yesterday, so you are spared from viewing that particularly gross image.  Otherwise she’s been a great asset and help to the nursing staff, not to mention a great comfort to me since she’s been here.  She was a real star organizing a crew to help her move Arabella from Port Resolution to a nice safe mooring in Port Villa.  Though I can’t imagine ever being able to walk normally on the foot, if all goes perfectly, I could get my so-called walking papers by the end of the week.  This is a busy place, and they need every bed.  Just can’t imagine what “normal” life will feel like after being down for so long.  Nobody coming by in the middle of the night to check my blood pressure or start an IV drip?  Unthinkable.

Today was a breakthrough day in that we finally got our new cell phone activated with an Oz number, which is 0413 083 099 (hint hint) and I bought a USB modem/dongle that allows me WiFi broadband access anywhere, including right here in my hospital bed.  How cool is that?  I’ll be trying Skype tomorrow, so you may be hearing from me.

Ready to throw some shrimp on the Barbie,

Bigfoot and Littlefoot

some gross-out infected foot pics (view at your own risk), and some cool vanuatu pics

Life After Hospital 10/9/08

Greetings from 9 stories up, in downtown Sydney, where Barb and I have been enjoying the view from our 5 star luxury micro-apartment (full kitchen and washer/dryer ensuite) that we somehow scored for about $100/night.  We've got 2 LCD TV's, a stereo and DVD player, marble coated bathroom and a dishwasher!  Plus some other stuff I can't even think of off the top of my head.  Regular price is normally over $400, but we’re just not normal I guess.  True, to see the water we need to ascend to the 19th floor rooftop swimming pool/spa/barbeque area, but the view of all these skyscrapers is pretty awesome too.

We made our break from Westmead Hospital in western Sydney yesterday, and took a cab to the nearby ferry stop, located at the terminus of navigable water in Paramatta.  The River Cat ferry leaves on the hour, and, from our seats in the bow, we enjoyed the leisurely cruise into Sydney harbor through the “back door” so to speak.  Not exactly the dramatic entrance from the ocean as we had envisioned, but it was cool as we passed under the Harbor Bridge and went by the Opera House before landing at Circular Quay, the original city dock of Old Sydney.  Our hotel would have been a 10 minute walk from the ferry landing, but with my foot in the shape it’s in, 5 minutes is about my limit for walking, then I have to put it up for a half hour, so we took a cab.

The doctors say the skin graft looks beautiful, and all I have to do is go in for a clinic appointment with the surgeons Monday morning, and another with the infection specialist Tuesday, then we should be free and clear.  Fingers and all other digits crossed, please, for favorable outcomes there.

The boat is being delivered by Capt. Peter Charles from Port Vila to Bundaberg (Bundy from now on) sometime around the 23rd of this month, so we will be working our way north to be there to meet her.

Today we bought a two-day "jump on 'n off" pass for the double-decker bus that cruises around the area for a 90 minute tour with canned commentary.  Really cool way to see the place, and tomorrow we'll hop off at the aquarium and maybe do the Bondi tour as well.  Wish I could walk better, but we'll figure it out.

Keep watching this space for more updates and touristy tales.  Thanks to everyone for your concern and prayers during my rough time, I’m sure that’s what got me through in such fine style.

Fair winds,

Healing, Hobbling Mike and Barb “the Nurse”

New Pics are up

Finally Aboard Again! 10/27/08

Arabella arrived safely, though a little tired and wet, on Wednesday, October 22, to Port Marina, Bundaberg, Qld.  We were here to greet her and her captain and crew, Peter Charles and Steve Withers, respectively, and after a quick once-over by Customs and Quarantine, she was once again our boat.  We knew we’d been missing her, but it’s hard to explain how great it was to see her sail in, (the Aquadrive CV joint failed enroute) and, after a short tow, be tied up and peacefully floating at the dock here. 

They (Peter and Steve) had a wet and wild seven day passage from Port Vila, and saw some tropical weather sporting 40 knots off the north end of New Caledonia.  Despite the Fijian rebuilt Aquadrive tanking out, though, they had glowing reviews for the boat, saying they were very pleased at her speed under (fully reefed) sail and her general sea-kindliness.  They said she is a boat you could sail in any conditions and feel safe.   We already knew that, of course, but were glad to hear it come unsolicited from these experienced sailors.

There are a few things to fix, however, besides the obvious problem in the drive-train, like the noise the wind generator makes when it is trying to brake, the geysering aft head (always a fun project, but not hard), and some deck leaks.  Perhaps a bit of remedial carpentry in the settee area will be done as well.  Then there is the daunting task of sanding and varnishing that must be done to the rails and certain areas below decks.  We need to make her pretty again before we see if someone might want to be her new owner.  After much soul-searching, we have decided we really don’t want to give her away, rather keep her, thanks.  So…someone is going to have to see her as we do, a beautiful classic worthy of ardent affection, at the least, if not fully devoted, crazy love.  She really is worth what I’m asking, at least to me. 

However, after major hemorrhages of our so called “cruising kitty” from boat needs as well as medical expenses, we are actively looking for alternate income sources.  Unfortunately, getting work permits at this time might be hard, or impossible.  Aussies are worried about their economy and jobs for Aussies, for good reason.  Alternatively, we’re thinking about flogging crafts,  maybe deck pillows, or t-shirts, hats, etc.  That kind of thing might be easier to pull off, especially online, so stay tuned for the new “Arabella Products Page”, coming soon to a web site near you.

A logo idea I put together just now- looks like a little kid drew it, eh?

Oh, yeah, almost forgot, the drive up here from Sydney was some kind of Magical Mystery Tour.  We have never seen such beautiful countryside, so lush and green, as well as relatively unpopulated.  After leaving Sydney we stayed at our new friend’s (Kerry and John) weekender place in a community called Wangi Wangi (no, I’m not kidding) which was situated on a beautiful peninsula in the middle of huge saltwater Lake Macquarie, approximately 2 hours north of Sydney.  There we blissfully enjoyed a few days of peaceful rest and decompression hanging out with Kerry, then hired a car and set off North, heading for Coffs Harbor our first night.   Coffs Harbor was busy with a giant “Olympics” between fire and police squads from all over.  Probably a great morale builder, but they rented almost every motel room in the town! We finally found the last available vacancy in the Original Roach Motel, which looked clean until we set a cookie down on the bedside table and started a roach riot.  In their defense, the new managers had only been on the job for a short time, and had done a ton of painting and fixing.  The place just needed a good bombing, but our little room-mates were pretty tame once we had them comfortably fed.

The following day we had a leisurely drive up to Byron Bay, a most cool community, where we found a luxury ocean view apartment for two nights, just to really spoil ourselves.  I had spent a month lying in a hospital bed looking at the top of a scrawny tree where occasional birds might visit, and a concrete wall across the courtyard.  A small piece of sky was sometimes available to glimpse.  Well, I decided if and when I ever escaped that place, I’d get a room with the coolest view possible.  The place in downtown Sydney was cool, but it was a little urban, you might say.  This one in Byron Bay was pretty darn good, but was set back a bit from the water and was a bit expensive.  The last day we decided to push it all the way to Bundy, and stayed at a place in Bargara, the beach town suburb.  Now This Place Was Cool.  Right across a quiet little street and park was the surf and sand, which we could see well from the third floor balcony.  The place was a huge apartment, two bedrooms, two baths, and decorated with extremely tasteful masculine-type luxury.  There was a beautiful granite full kitchen of course, washer-dryer setup, and a Jacuzzi tub in the master bath, for about $130 bucks after the exchange rate.  Oh yeah, there were new leather couches in the living room, a 50” plasma TV, beautiful dining table for 8, heavy teak table and chairs on the deck… I could go on and on but you get the picture.  We wished we’d found it sooner in our travels.

While staying in Byron Bay, however, we took a drive to the west one day and found a little town called Nimbin.  This place is located in some of the prettiest countryside we’ve ever seen, reached by a circuitous route that was like driving in Fairyland.  After each bend in the road, another amazing vista would open up, so that we were always reaching for the camera a second too late as an amazing view would fly by.

Nimbin is a counterculture extravaganza, a place where the main street has about 14 different kinds of headshops, some specializing in jewelry, some books, etc., and one grocery market, one restaurant.  Very entertaining group of individuals there as well, as you might imagine.  Unfortunately for them, times and attitudes seem to be changing, and the Nimbinites may have to take their show a bit more underground.  Hope not.

Anyway, that’s about it for now, we’ll add to this as events develop. The Port to Port Rally will be arriving here starting tomorrow, so it will be fun watching them come into the quarantine dock next to us.  They have several days of partying scheduled, and we’ll try to blend in some!  My new Aquadrive CV joint from Drivelines NW in Seattle should arrive by the end of the week, and once we’re able, we’ll be moving 12 miles upriver to Midtown Marina in downtown Bundy.  From there it’s easy walking to shopping and other amenities.  Here at Port Marina near the mouth of the river, there is nothing except a (very good) chandlery, a restaurant/bar, a yachtbroker, and a seafood merchant.  The marina amenities are first-class, however, clean showers and bathrooms, great docks, and nice staff.

Hope all is well with you and yours, and keeps getting better.

Mike and Barb

Some new pics are up 

So There We Were in Port Marina12/04/08

Sitting here in Bundaberg Port Marina, next to the Quarantine Dock, watching the parade of boats coming and going, we’re settling in and finally getting some boat projects done.  I could tell my foot was healing up when I started being inspired to dig into some of these jobs that have been patiently waiting for me, as well as feeling like taking evening walks for an hour or so most days.  Going shopping still wears me out, not because of the walking as much as the getting in and out of the car (we can rent one here for $35AU/day, just for shopping day each week) and standing around a lot doesn't help either.  Somehow that’s harder on my ankle than just walking fast.

We are learning to speak Australian; a dock is a pontoon, a slip (space between pontoons) is a pen, a cooler is an esky, a camping trailer is a caravan, a pickup truck is a ute, a toilet is a dunny, and lots more.  We'll put together an American/Aussie dictionary before we leave here, to save time for future visitors.

So far, we’ve replaced the entire propane system with new hoses, fittings, regulator, etc., and I’ve torn down and ordered parts for the pesky aft head.  The perpetually cluttered nav station has been straightened out, organized, and cleared off, and the engine room has had it’s first pass at a clean-up and degreasing.  I’ve acquired a good scraper for loose varnish removal, and started that project, as well as located all the pieces of the Spartite kit to seal and steady up the mizzen mast.  The Christmas lights are up (so far we’re the only boat in the marina showing any Christmas spirit), the dinghy leak has been fixed, and the motor mounted so we now have a way to get around on the water a little bit.

Barb has a new (actually used, but new to her) 220 volt sewing machine, a really nice older Pfaff that seems really solid, and was a really good deal.  She’s all excited about getting into some sewing projects, and has already started making new “mosky” screens for the hatches.  Next she’ll make some terrycloth slipcovers for the cabin seating, and then maybe start making deck cushions, curtains, or other projects for our fellow cruisers.

The Aquadrive CVC joint and two new motor mount brackets are replaced on the engine, so technically Arabella is ready to go for daysails or overnights.  After the holidays, when we get the lights all put away, I’m hoping we’ll be doing some of that, but we’ve decided to make this marina our home base, and are all paid up until March 23.  They have a hot special going for the Cyclone Season, four months for the price of three, so we decided not to leave.  There won’t be a better deal anywhere else, unless we went onto a mooring.  That would mean lugging water to the boat in the dinghy since the river is too dirty to use the water maker, and not having the convenience of the electrical hookup or easy access to shore amenities.  We’ve decided that being where we are, a few miles out of town, is going to save us much in restaurant and bar bills, too!  There are some coral islands close by, a few hours away, that are actually the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, and Frasier Island, a huge (worlds largest?) sand island, is also very close, so there are some good overnight destinations.

After our time runs out here, we plan to start working our way north, inside the Barrier Reef, towards Darwin, where we need to be by July for the start of the Sail Indonesia Rally.  We’re not really rally people, but this group promises easy entry into Indonesia, where otherwise we might have to buy a large bond and maybe not get it back too easily when we leave.  We’ll see how all this pans out as we go, but that’s today’s plan anyway.  We've pretty much decided not even to try to sell the boat; there's too much world we haven't seen yet.  We miss home and of course our families and friends, but this is a once in a lifetime adventure and we have to follow it through as far as we can.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Mike and Barb

New Pix are up

All’s Fine in 2009…so far… 01/03/09

It was kind of fun being among the first on the planet to usher in the New Year.  We got to check it out for a whole day before the Western Hemisphere got ahold of it, and, though a bit odd, it made us feel like advance scouts.  Kind of fun.  There was a party down the dock at Gypsy Pearl  and we came back to Arabella just in time to watch the major midnight fireworks display at Sydney Harbor on TV.  What economic crisis?  They spent 5 million $AU on fireworks!  Impressive display of confidence, it was.

We continue to peck away at boat projects- got the aft head working “good as” and the mizzen partners all sealed up in time for the latest rain event.  It’s been blowing 20-30 and pissing rain for a day or so, and supposed to keep it up for a few days.  It’s nice to see it staying mostly outside the boat. This is only a pesky monsoonal trough, or something to that effect.  Please, no cyclones here this year!

Barb and I are trying really hard to avoid becoming setee potatoes, now that we have 5 channels of TV to watch, and dueling laptops.  Yes, Santa broke down and brought Barb a “new” refurbished ‘puter that works better than mine now.  Our N.Y.Res goal is at least 2 walks a day, hope we can stick to it.

The Christmas lights came down yesterday, so hopefully when the weather calms down some we will be out giving Arabella some exercise and testing out her new drive train.  Other than that, we’ll just be hanging out and continuing to tinker with projects when it’s not too darn hot or wet.  We’re still toying with the idea of visiting New Zealand in February if possible.

Can’t think of much more to say right now, except we miss all our family and friends, and are seriously getting determined to be closer to the USA by this time next year, so we can come home for a visit and a break.

Here’s hoping all is well with you, and this year brings all the changes (as well as returns to normality) that we all desire.


Mike and Barb

Change is The Only Constant  2/12/09

Just got the computer back from the shop- hence the late Log Entry- sorry if you’ve been waiting for your Arabella update!

January has been another interesting month for the webcaptain, who had an episode of chest tightness and breath shortness that hung around for a whole day, January 9.  Finally decided prudence might dictate a trip to the hospital in case it was serious, and sure enough, they admitted me.  Good ‘ole health insurance came through again, after a week in ICU my bill was zero.  The echo test (like ultrasound) showed that my atria are somewhat dilated and aren’t pumping too well, and there is an irregularity to the heartbeat that has likely been there for awhile, and they didn’t want to try to fix it.  After a stress test involving radioactive dye and a mini CT type deal they decided the blood supply to the heart was fine and no angiogram or plasty or any of that angio stuff was necessary.  They prescribed several drugs and kicked me out.

The upshot of all this was a major change in lifestyle as well as sailing plans.   We decided it might be a good idea to lose the cigarettes and some major avoirdupois, so that’s the current focus.  After spending some nights listening to old guys (just a few years older than me, actually) struggling to breathe and coughing their guts out, it’s no big struggle to stick to the no-smoke plan, and the diet and exercise plan is progressing nicely as well.  I’ve dropped 15 lbs, only have about a hundred left to go!  I found a great free web site called SparkPeople that provides meal plans and exercise programs designed to take off the weight at whatever speed you want.  I'm shooting for a kilo a week, but I'll be happy with a pound, so this will take awhile.

Until the health situation is under control and we won’t have to worry about what might happen while we’re out there in the middle of nowhere, we’ve decided to take a break from the boat and go home for 9 mos. to a year.  That should also give us a chance to get the house projects wrapped up, and perhaps some income-generating activity to take place.  What a concept.

So between now and when we fly away April 2, we’ll be continuing to get Arabella in shape.  She already has had her slightly wobbly winch remounted with new backing plate, several small deck leaks sealed up, starboard side toe rail sanded and varnished, bent stanchion base removed for repair, etc. but you can bet we still have more projects.  We’ve decided to leave her in the water right here, with a marina employee keeping her engine started regularly and all her systems working.  No nightmare re-commissioning after dry storage like our experience in Fiji.

It’s really unfortunate many of our cruising friends will get ahead of us while we take our break, but I’m sure we’ll meet more folks as we go.  It’s just one of the realities of this life that friendships will get spread all over the planet as time goes by; but once a friend, always a friend, and we’ll do our best to stay in touch across all the distances.


Time’s Fun When You’re Having Flys  3/14/09

Just realized February has become history and it’s past time for another update from Arabella.

Not much to report  besides the Tropical Cyclone (Hamish) that just narrowly missed us here in Bundaberg.  Things were looking rather dire a few days ago, when Hamie was category 5 and making a beeline for us.  There were updates every 30 minutes on every TV channel, evacuation plans were being made for low-lying areas, and there was a frenzy of activity at the marina as every boatowner removed sails and all windage-inducing articles from the decks and strung every available dockline in every possible direction.  After all our prep work was done there was so much junk in our cabin, there wasn’t room for us; so we booked a room in our favorite Bargara beachside motel and prepared to watch the action from a safe 4th floor vantage point.

Wouldn’t you know, after all that, the goofy cyclone would be a no-show; but we’ve been having a great time for a couple of days enjoying the shoreside life and amenities.

During February we accomplished quite a few things on the boat, but primarily we’ve been concentrating on our new healthy lifestyle.  The diet and exercise has been paying off in many ways besides weight loss.  We’re feeling more energetic, stronger and more mentally focused as we go along, sleeping better and enjoying life more as a result.   On deck the rails are all varnished (Cetoled anyway), the new raw water pump is installed on the engine, the newly welded stanchion base is re-installed, and we’re getting our pre-departure checklist items taken care of (almost as fast as the list grows).  Actually many of the things we did to prepare for the cyclone were on the list, so we got a head-start there.

We both are more than ready to come back to the good ‘ole US of A for many reasons.  The only downside is, our money won’t be worth as much when we have to buy stuff priced in US dollars- it’s been really cool having the Aussie dollar worth only $0.63-$0.65USD.  Oh well, our country needs us to be spending our money there instead of helping the Australian economy.  Did I mention we just really can’t wait to be home?

So the count-down is going:  18 days and a wake-up and we’ll be on a Quantas flying kangaroo.

If all goes well and the creeks don't rise, we’ll be all settled in back in Yachats by the time my birthday rolls around…don’t want to miss my un-surprise party!  I guess the next update will be from El Rauncho del Koi, full of exciting stories from our journey.

Until next time,

Mike and Barb

<Further Logs from '09 can be found under "House and Pond" since they have nothing much to do with sailing!>


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