Oh dear

Top Gear

I’m not sure if it’s karma for breaking my car purchasing ground rule (never spend more than $5000 on a vehicle) or just stupid bad luck. M asserts that it is our fault for never checking the water level in the radiator; my theory is that the radiator was stuffed – which is why it fractured, drained all the coolant, which then overheated the car and trashed the head gasket…and possibly the head itself. (There’s a $1000 difference between those scenarios – but who cares, when the car is basically ripping money from you in any way it possibly can?)

The Delica came home from M’s Solo-Man adventure on the back of a truck after I hurriedly joined the RACT. M came home in the front of the truck. It was with extraordinary foresight that I’d purchased a block of land next door to a mechanic. The tow truck deposited the Delica next to the shipping container and all I had to do was lean through the tiny side door and wail.

“Roger…. M killed the Delica….” (Which, while not strictly true, was an accurate representation of what was going through my head at the time.)

Roger is already friendly with the Delica, having replaced the starter motor in it three weeks before. Six hundred dollars. Jesus. He came out, wiping his hands. Listened to it once, and like an ornithologist identifying a rare bird, cocked his head to one side and said,
“Head gasket. No compression in the engine.”
He bade one of his minions to put a hose in the radiator and fill it up, but this proved impossible as it leaked out as fast as it went in. Like a mocking automotive sieve.

By this time I was in a foetal position. There was little option. I either sell the dead Delica for no money, spend $3500 to save it and then sell it and by a reliable $5000 HiAce, or trust that the massive cash injection into it will mean that it runs like an angel for the next ten years…

“Tell me,” I begged Roger. “Is this car just a piece of crap? A disaster car?”

“Well, I look after about four of them, and generally they just tend to go and go. Until they don’t.”

I exhaled. The credit card is going to take a beating. I’m trusting that the repairs will encourage to live a long and healthful life.


Yeah. As accustomed as we are to being isolated for extended periods, this whole thing is getting hard. Harder for some than others. Everyone has lost the plot for short periods. I am plotting to find my own part time abode to retain my sanity… and keep things dry.

Without other people, I would be surfing BARRELS during this lockdown thing. Crochet, walking, cooking, writing, brewing the perfect cup of tea, tending campfires, patting the little kitten, pulling logs out of the creek – I am self sufficient. It’s not that much of a stretch for me. However, I am only one of four, and we are stuck in a tiny floating home at the bottom of Tasmania as the weather gets colder and c-o-l-d-e-r.

The land? We have put in some serious hours clearing the creek, chopping down feral trees, sweating and making fires. But. As much as I like doing physical stuff – and I do – the lack of sunlight on the block is making serious inroads into my dedication.

Do I want to put the only chunk of money I have into somewhere that I will not be able to live for six months of the year? It’s May, people. There was NO SUN on the land today at 1pm. It’s not even officially Winter. We went down to work for a few hours at 3pm, leaving the sunlit river for the cold of the block – our breath was dragon steam. In proper winter, some locals have delighted in telling me, there is ice on the road.

“But you have the boat!
That’s where you go when there’s not a enough sun! Down to the river!”

Down to the river to pray? Advice from friends. And yes. It’s true. But I am trembling over the decision. Beggars can’t be choosers. But should beggars settle for not quite right? Not enough light? I know not.

Meanwhile, I invented a soup.

Parsley, Potato, Leek, Kale Soup

2 Leeks
4 cloves of garlic, crushed – skins removed
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of kale (stems discarded)
2T of butter
1 cup (or more) of chicken stock
Almost a litre of water. Or extra chicken stock
1kg of potatoes cut into big diced chunks
A tub of bocconcini
Salt and pepper (and maybe chicken stock-powder?) to taste

Whizz up the 2 leeks, 4 cloves of garlic, parsley and kale. (Don’t freak out about the amount of kale, it subsides to barely anything.)

I use my thermomix – 20sec/Sp8. If you don’t have one, whizz in your food processor and then dump in a saucepan. Salute in the butter for a few minutes.

Thermomix? How lovely. Add the butter. Sp2/100℃/4min

Throw in the spuds. And the chicken stock and water. And some salt and pepper.

Stovetop? Cook until spuds are soft.

Thermomix? Sp1/90℃/25min

Tear up four big bocconcini, or eight cherry sized ones. Chuck ‘em in.
Cook for another five minutes. It’s green. It’s soup. It’s good.
I had a 100% family hit rate. Almost unheard of.

Straight down to Straight Up

Dot points are my saviour. Dot points and antibiotics – they are the things that enable me to make sense of the past ten days. 

  • At the dock in Kettering, catching up with our friends on Gusto.  On Sunday 24 November I become aware of a little sore just inside my right nostril. All of us on Bella Luna are afflicted with this now and again – usually when we spend time in cities after being remote for a while. No big deal.
  • Next day, sore still in situ. I feel very under the weather and stay in bed most of the day, getting up. only to cook bolognese and drink red wine. The thing in my nose seems to be trying to move in on that upper-lip moustachian area. Yellow and crusty. I assume it’s a rogue coldsore. 
  • It gets worse over the following days. Invades the other nose hole. My face starts looking like an overcooked pizza. I stay in bed feeling depleted, but not too depleted to crochet. As my face erodes I assemble the blanket I’ve been meaning to work on for a year. 
315/365 • ...such a beautiful day - my small blanket is 75% done. Trying to keep positive about sorting out a block of land here... trying... •
(A photo from a bit later after the whole drama.)
  • Thursday night I ring Healthline and they put me through to a GP. I text her some pictures of my face. “Looks like a staph infection.” 
  • I tell her we have a bountiful medical kit, courtesy of our overseas trip. I read out the names of all the drugs and when I say ‘Staphlex 500’ she says, “That’s the one.” I start taking them – waking up in the middle of the night because it says FOUR TIMES A DAY, EVERY SIX HOURS. I am convinced these things will be a magic bullet because I haven’t used antibiotics since 2010. Obviously I am RIPE for antibiotic magic. *
  • I take the goddamn drugs religiously. Every morning a Small comes in to check on pizza face. I have NEVER been in bed this long. I can get up and wander about, but I feel depleted. Face is cracked, crusty and bleeding. No improvement. 
Small DB delivering me my breakfast tray.
  • On Saturday M takes us to Copper Alley Bay where we again borrow our friend’s mooring. I wave to Copper Alley Bay out the window. 
  • On Sunday I have red streaks on my arms and right leg. We head up the Huon River to Huonville, where I know we can tie to the dock and walk to a medical clinic.
  • At 3pm I see Dr Lemon. I dislike him intensely once he starts laughing hysterically at the packet of medicine I’ve been hoping is my holy grail. He’s laughing because he’s seen it’s two months out of date.
    “Are you telling me that once they hit the use by date they stop working?” I am sure this is not correct – surely I’ve read about out of date medications being sent to the needy?
    “They’re an organic compound, so yes, they probably do.” I slump.  “What do you do for a job?” he enquires.
    I struggle to find the relevance, but maybe it’s a crucial part of my medical history.
    “I travel, I parent.”
    “Hmmmm. OK.” he sounds dubious. “OK. I’m going to prescribe you a different antibiotic – Keflex – and if you see no improvement by tomorrow afternoon you’re going to have to get yourself to hospital.” I gape at him. My face cracks a little further. “Ow. Where’s the hospital?” 
    “The Royal. The Royal Hobart Hospital.”
  • Gah. He draws a line around the red streaks under my right arm and inner right elbow. He laughs loudly again while telling me he won’t draw around the one on my face, but how it was SO FUNNY when he had to treat a 10-year-old with a staph infection on his face and had to draw a big line around it. I can’t get out of there fast enough. 

    [This is where I acknowledge my dot-pointing has been overun with needless exposition, but that doctor – he was terrible.]

I go to the chemist with my prescription for Keflex. The pharmacist looks at me with concern. I am a cornflake faced zombie. I tell her that I did not like the doctor I just saw, and does she think it would be reasonable for me to get a second opinion before filling the prescription? She encourages me to do so. 

“But the other medical clinic is full — they’re not taking on new patients.”

She looks at me. “Don’t worry – if you turn up there, believe me, they will see you. I’d drive you up there, but I’m the only one on duty.”

She’s right, I get seen straight away by two nurses and then a doctor. I am sent away with a different prescription and told to return the next day. New drugs do nothing. When I reappear they tell me to get myself to the Royal, so I get in a taxi to the emergency department, where I sit for an hour or so.

“Next,” calls one of the nurses behind the counter, and the whacked out crim who came in after me starts to make his way over. By that time I am done. Very very done. I growl menacingly through my crackled up cornflake face, “I DON’T THINK SO.” And he apologises profusely, sitting back down.

and spend the night out the back of the ED in a chair. They whack in an IV and antibiotic me – my neck starts getting itchy and the red streaks increase. Where is Hugh Laurie? Strung out on Vicodin elsewhere. 

They decide I have two ailments; the infection (cornflake face) and a reaction to penicillin (red streaks). Another bag of stuff (clindomyacin) is pumped into me and for the following two nights I’m given a bed. Hallelejah. Face begins to improve. Red streaks remain but don’t worsen. I’m on the mend. Heartrate normal. 

They let me out mid-morning and I make a beeline to <strike>heaven</strike> ‘Straight Up’ – the best cafe in Hobart. I am SO HAPPY TO BE OUT! I seem to get puffed out quite easily, so I go slow,and when I pass Spotlight and cross the road and make it into the cafe, this is what I get;

Egg and soldiers. The BEST.

(It is my current belief that you don’t hear a great deal of complaining about the absence of nutrition in the abysmal hospital food that is provided because people are so relieved to be discharged (as opposed to dead) that it immediately fades from their consciousness.   The food at the Royal isn’t even made on the premises, it arrives,  already compiled, in trucks – the predictable result of witless privatisation.)

I did not feel up to getting a bus back to Port Huon, where Bella Luna was hanging out with Gusto (their draught is so deep that it’s as far as they could get up the river) so I took myself to a blessed AirBnB in West Hobart and took the worlds longest shower.

The following day my friend Juleen happened to be in town and she drove me back to the boat. The Smalls were so happy that my zombie face had healed 🙂

A much better view than the hospital wall.

•  Note: I was delusional. It’s the infection I should hope has not been exposed to antibiotics, not my own self. 

You say goodbye, I say hello. Bermagui redux.

As soon as we returned from spending a couple of nights away from the boat it was action stations. Stupid amounts of shopping. Wrapping one’s head around the possibility of not seeing a shop for two or three weeks. Trying and failing to concoct meal plans and shop accordingly. M held himself admirably in check as the boat sank lower into the water with the influx of tinned food, long life milk, rice… The freezer was packed to the top.

276/365 • late afternoon 💫 •
Bermagui late afternoon light.

It felt rushed. We left Bermagui on Friday 11 October 2019. The sky was grey, there were mists of rain in the air. We headed out to sea – east – with the aim of obtaining a good angle to get to the Kent Group in Bass Strait. The wave action made the Smalls and I fairly miserable. We sucked on Minties and endured.

Then the autopilot choked. Even at the time I was grateful that if it had to happen, it happened then. Last time, the dark of the night made everything much, much harder. It was an opportunity to Ford St Clair to the realities of Life on the Sea. Sails down, rudders up – M dismantled the helm and began poking about.

A ship chugged by, less than a mile away – never radioed to ask if we were OK – a catamaran free floating on the waves. Fuckers. After about an hour I voiced the opinion that we should head back to port while we still had the light. It was agreed. We motored the majority of the way back to Bermagui, each of us taking turns steering.

It became increasingly cold – we tied back up to the jetty in the rain – a young guy from one of the trawlers came out into the weather to give us a hand. ❤️ Blessedly, Ford’s passage meal had been kept warmed in the Thermocooker – a lamb and chickpea soup. Couldn’t imagine a more appropriate food. I had three bowls full and we all retreated to bed.

274/365 • DB and I squeezed quietly out of the hatch above the bed this morning and went to check out #misterhope for a coffee and a game of chess ♟ •
DB and I escaped in the morning, to the excellent Mister Hope.

I will finish via dot points:

  • a boat pulled up behind us the next day – their identical autopilot had also died in the same manner;
  • after a little persuasion we were allowed to stay another week at the jetty;
  • new autopilot parts took only a few days to arrive;
  • now it is fixed!
  • we had a visit from Jean and Jindi ❤️;
  • I felt very unsecretly glad at what had befallen us, and hope that when the wind turns up that enables us to leave, it will be a sunny day with flatter seas.
273/365 • no real hardship being back in Bermagui, we are waiting for a new motor for our autopilot (as is the yacht right behind us on the jetty - same autopilot, same issue). Such a beautiful sunshine soaked day today - here are Jean, Jindi and I on the
Jean, Jindi and me.

Back on track. Goodbye Coffs Harbour.

Small DB and I were driven to the airport by T and the Mothership at four in the morning, and we remain most grateful – our trip home was a breeze (if you skip over the part where security took my Swiss Army Knife that I stupidly left in my carry-on bag and put it in the bin: cue me with a quivering lip and Small DB patting me, suggesting a cup of tea…).

Back on the dinghy dock at Coffs Harbour before 9.30am!

256/365 • got up at 4am in Melbourne, back on the dinghy dock in Coffs Harbour just after 9am. DB is an excellent travelling companion ❤️ ... •

Our bag was the maximum weight limit. Courtesy of Small DB’s late birthday presents.

After all the agonising about the logistics of our travels, they were over… And the forecast swung our way. I borrowed a car and went and did a big shop for provisions – Small Z and M appeared to have eaten their way through most of our stores, with the addition of regular bread. They had a glorious time.

Small DB was able to spend a last day with her Sylvie, and we said a sad goodbye to Miles, who was readying Pandion for a trip to Newcastle to be sold.

258/365 • the single entity known as Silsey - squeezed in an unexpected visit (home from school with sore ear) - this is a goodbye hug 😕 because tomorrow the combination of wind and happenstance allow us to finally head south... I really hate goo

In the morning, at about 3am, M got us underway and Coffs Harbour – where we’ve been stuck for a month or so, faded away.

Dawn out at sea. It’s been a while.

The forecast was completely arse-about. The northerly? It did not come. So the sail was not as we had hoped, and ended up feeling something like marathon that was never going to end. It took us 43 hours to get to Manly – and we arrived again in the dark, scouting for moorings with a torch.

The moorings were taken at the Quarantine Station, but there were two free in our favourite spot near the ferry terminal. Yeah!! We were so exhausted, but had to have a wind-down chai, eventually going to sleep sometime after midnight.

260/365 • so bloody glad to be here in Manly - after 43hrs at sea, we got in last night around 11pm and found an empty mooring right near the ferry terminal 👏 It felt like we’d finished a kind of marathon... M and I had a celebratory chai and passed

The next day we let M sleep in and went ashore – had a lovely time until someone stole DB’s scooter from outside Humphery’s Newsagency.EXTREMELY NOT COOL.

Glaucus Atlanticus


Awoken not by the gentle offer of tea, but slightly harried tones; “What did you tie the kayak to last night when you got back?”

174/365 • drying out, fixing Foamy... (holed when he landed on his own ⚓️ while I was away) •
Just before high tide – Iluka.

I’m asleep but not asleep. I know immediately that I’ve fucked up. I pulled it up on the beach next to the boat last night. I tied it to nothing. An overnight five foot tide has ensured the kayak has gone rogue on a solo expedition.

My brain has me out of bed and standing on the breakwall in the drizzle before the rest of me knows what’s happened. There it is. Washed up at an angle, resting halfway down the oyster covered rocks – shout-loud yellow with the paddle somehow still balanced upon it.

Saved – both of us. Me and it. Sorry sorry sorry.

M motors across, checks it over. “Tough as,” he says, tying it behind Foamy. “It’s fine.” He takes them the short distance back to the big boat.

175/365 • float... •
Z, chasing me on the paddle board as I kayak away for solo-time.

I’m up now, only just realising it. I see the sand on the other side of the breakwall, untouched – a perfect tideline three quarters of the way up the sand. The urge to put down the days first footsteps is not one I’m going to override. I’m there before the dogwalkers, the health-conscious, the influencers – there are my footprints, a few hermit crab mounds and the patterns of seabird feet.

The past three nights – coming on and just after the new moon – have washed this place with water. There’s an old upside down dinghy chained up under the trees ashore looking like it hasn’t moved for years. Without the chain it would have floated out amongst the dolphins two nights in a row. I keep meaning to be a good person and spray some lanolin into the padlock – mariners karma.

Out on the beach there are a few small spots of blue that could fit on my thumbprint. My friend’s dad showed me what these were last weekend – he’d taken photos while walking along the surf beach out the front. Bright blue tiny flower dragon looking things. Glaucus atlanticus – described by Wikipedia as ‘a small blue sea slug’. Besides being weirdly beautiful, it is intriguing to me because it feeds on another blue thing – bluebottles, among other jellyfish.

The one I saw this morning was more blue sludge than blue dragon, but I am going to keep my eye out for blue blobs. It would be easy to confuse them at first with washed up bluebottles, but they don’t have those long stringy tendrils flowing from them.