Provisioning

Deal Island to George Town

As we ready things to leave Deal Island for George Town, two more boats turn up. It’s time to go. I love this place, I love that people visit it – but I don’t want to share it – the very loneliness of the locale leaves me requiring solitude to enjoy it. Meeting caretakers is different – lighthouse caretakers, in my experience, are reliably excellent people and a great source of information.

We have had a day soaked in sunshine. Crazy clouds funnelling through Murray Pass in the morning. I imagine that over in Melbourne the Mothership must be a pool of sweat – it’s been too hot for us to walk to Pebbly Cove – we were seduced by the coolness of the museum, with its thick block walls, the green grass surrounding it and the breeze coming over the top of the hill.

The wind won’t be from the right angle until dinner time so we have had a full day and it’s lovely to sail away down Murray Pass and out into the ocean with the sun lighting up the cliffs on the island. The sailing is perfect. Ford St Clair has been foiled again – conditions are perfect – his maritime heroism is yet to be tested in big swell and savage winds.

Night sailing. Deal Island to George Town.
Night.

The night shifts were uneventful and we arrived in George Town the following morning – 1 November 2019. By this time I’d realised we were absolutely mirroring our first sail to Tasmania after launching in 2016 – to the day! So crazy – but kind of cool as well, to realise how much more relaxed we are this time…

George Town does not seem to have fared well in the intervening three years. The town seems more economically depressed. The shining light is the library, which, in comparison to everything else in the town, looks like it has been dropped there by accident. The range of books had the Smalls squealing with delight – we hung out there most of the day…

Updating the apps. George Town library.

Ford St Clair went shopping at the very well-located supermarket and made us a dinner to celebrate his stay with us – he left early the following morning on a bus back to the nether regions of Burnie. We were sad to see him go, although of course, we embraced the extra space. His presence remains aboard in the guise of multiple bottles of hot sauce.

Like goldfish we returned to the library with great glee… it was closed. Why would a library be CLOSED ON A SATURDAY? The same thing happened the same time we were here last time. It was literally the same weekend – the Monday was a public holiday in the north of the state – they call it ‘Recreation Day’ – but it’s really name is ‘Hobart Had A Public Holiday For Some Reason So We Will Have One Too’.

You will not go over the line. George Town.
The end of the table.

Grey skies. Rain. M and I left the Smalls aboard and haemorrhaged over $30 at the excellent coin laundry (the only thing open besides the pub/s and supermarket). I took a traveller cup of tea and my laptop. M took…himself. And so, by the time we’d flung everything into the dryer, he wanted to go an get a drink somewhere.

The closest place to go within our 29 minute timeframe was the pub two doors down. The front bar was intimidating – TV screens and a posse of local dudes around the bar. The bistro was all set up and entirely empty. The lounge? There was stuff going on in the lounge – the most populated area of the pub. At least twenty pokie machines, more than half of which had people feeding coins into them with a glassy kind of concentration. I noticed a coin machine on the wall and realised that I could have got all my dollar coins from here without a problem instead of lining up at the supermarket and convincing the check-out person to sell me a roll of one dollar coins for the laundry.

M got a beer. After some investigation, I got a glass of something white from Marlborough. We sat on the two upholstered chairs in the room that were not in front of a machine. I noted the free tea and coffee available and the way that the person behind the bar knew the name of everyone who came up and ordered something. I was forcibly reminded of what people in Tathra had told me – how the new owners of the local pub had removed all the pokie machines and in doing so had revived it into a community hub where people would drop in for a drink or dinner, where there was free live music on Sunday afternoons.

George Town. Tathra. Opposite ends of the coastal spectrum. The former low lying at the mouth of a river. Mud flats, some historical significance, very little money floating around. The latter all cliff edges, whales and blue blue ocean. Lots of money floating around; and although there didn’t seem to be much work available in the area, people worked in Bega. It’s a holiday spot and the community hummed along. The community in George Town appeared to be struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

Zoe. George Town.


Provisioning. George Town.
Provisioning in the Wonder Trolley.

The Smalls professed their dissatisfaction with George Town, apropos of nothing. This is not to say anyone was horrible to us – every single person we chatted to was nice. It just felt bleak. We spent two nights there and then took off for Launceston on Sunday morning, early.

Southport to Lord Howe Island

My eye has been on Lord Howe Island as a destination for many many years. My former boss at my university job had regaled me with the story of his horror sail to the island, and I’ve read several others. I remained undeterred. Sailing was pretty much the only option – it’s so bloody expensive to get to any other way.

After arriving at Southport we had (as I said previously) a day and a half to pull everything together, including submitting our Application for a Public Mooring and provisioning for a minimum of two weeks. M and I did not stop from the time we dropped the anchor (although admittedly I did do some mental-health op-shopping, getting a long-sleeve Icebreaker merino top for $12 and a great wet weather coat for Small Z).

M zipped around on one of our bikes (the one without the snapped gear cable) getting beach-wheels for Foamy, fuel, a two metre boathook, a slab of Wilde beer and a box of sparkplugs. He serviced two of the main winches, put new oil in the motors and roped our new SUPs to the starboard lifelines.

217/365 • a photo of M and I in our matching ex-Commonwealth Games op-shop hats, hitting our stride and busting our arses to pull it all together in order to leave for Lord Howe Island in the morning. It’s at least a two night passage, but compared to Van
Matching hats. Trolleys of excellence.

I made countless trips to the supermarket, and was very grateful that I knew where Bliss Bulk Foods was. I actually bought lollies for everyone – usually I avoid processed crap, but I just wanted us to make it through the passage as happily as we could.

The Smalls had to forego the jumping cushion and the playground. Small Z was not well throughout and largely remained on the boat, gently simmering with fever, while Small DB was dragged from pillar to post. By Thursday night we were sorted. Friday morning, we left at 5am – there were quite a lot of ships about as we headed out to sea.

En route to Lord Howe Island. Avoiding the traffic.
One of many…

Our aim was to arrive early on Sunday morning at high tide and be on a mooring before the big southerly swell that was due before noon. We were averaging 9kts, sometimes peaking out at 13kts. M and I took turns having naps. It wasn’t the kind of passage that you could lounge about and read, but the uncomfortableness was bearable.

On passage. From Southport to Lord Howe Island.
Me. Zoe. Making it through the passage…

Decontructed nachos for dinner. We put two reefs in the main and continued to fang on through the night. By 5.30am on 3 November we had clocked our first ever 200nm day. Pretty happy with that, except that it meant that we had to slow down in the afternoon or we would have arrived during the night – something we wanted to avoid. Took the mainsail down and whizzed along on a reefed jib, ensuring an early morning arrival.

DB on passage to Lord Howe Island
This is how she travels for days at a time. Nude and wrapped in blankets.

At some point during the second day we had a few waves come up over the port side of the boat on to the roof. Which would have been OK if we had remembered to bring the generator in from the back step into the shelter of the cockpit. M and B – Kings of the Idiots.

We arrived at Lord Howe Island at about 7am on Sunday 4 November 2018. Wrangled ourselves on to a mooring with helpful instructions from Simon – the LHI policeman – on Channel 12. Very happy to be securely tied up, we all collapsed for a few hours. This is really basically an ocean anchorage – we are protected by a reef at low tide, but high tide… the swell makes it over and there’s a lot of sloshing about.

We went ashore in Foamy and jumped into HOT SHOWERS!! Genuine bliss. There’s also a fancy looking washing machine here that I plan to put through its paces. The perks you get when you’re paying to visit!

Lord Howe Island : View from the start of the jetty.
Mt Gower – shrouded in cloud. 

A long slow walk down along the coast – saw a cafe, a general store and had a good chat to an older woman called Jill about climbing Mt Gower (currently shrouded in cloud). Back on the jetty we met the crew of the Illawarra – they had set out in their boat at around the same time as us, but something broke on their boat and they had to turn back. So they came over by aeroplane instead!

Lord Howe Island : The jetty.
Foamy tied up to the pier at Lord Howe Island.

Ratua Island on Espiritu Santo to Bundaberg, Australia.

Having pulled it all together in a rather wonderful way (cat adoption, mega-shop, cooking frenzy, check-out of customs, happy dinners, sad farewells) we were ready to leave bang on time – on the morning of Friday 5 October. The weather forecast had remained fairly steady. Most importantly (for me) was minimal swell – I was desperate not to repeat our passage from Southport to Noumea (something I haven’t even written about because my psyche wants to bury it – the offer is open to M and/or Crewperson Sam to fill the gap here in blogland).

An hour before departure a low moan of despair reverberated around the anchorage.

“Our provisioning is BULLSHIT!”

It was the enraged cry of Captain M.  We had just realised that our Shop of Glory had not included his drug. Coffee. I felt bad for him, but I felt worse for the rest of us – trapped aboard in the middle of the Coral Sea under the command of a captain in the throes of caffeine withdrawal.

The other thing we had forgotten was a few litres of diesel to run the stove. THIS WAS THE BAD THING. All the meals I had made and frozen… the last thing I wanted was for us to sit around a bolognese iceberg chipping bits off with forks.

Obviously I had to do what I could – I motored over to Pandion and begged them for spare diesel and coffee. Diesel they could do. Coffee? They gave us the petrified remains of some Nescafe Instant which, even if he didn’t drink, I thought M would be able to use the scent as a comfort tool.

A cup of tea, more goodbyes – and Small DB and I motored over to see Yanina – our Russian American friend who was anchored nearby. She and her husband were taking the first sips of their last coffee before sailing around to Luganville to replenish their stores. They were able to donate three sachets of instant coffee that they scrounged from the bottom of the cupboard. M was out of luck.

Vanuatu to Australia.
The Smalls were pretty unhappy to leave their friends behind…

There is not a lot to write about the majority of the passage other than it was an ABSOLUTE NOVELTY. Why? Because there was NO SWELL. We literally skimmed along, thanking our lucky stars, and marvelling at our good fortune. We did not see any other boats at all…

Vanuatu to Australia.

Never has there been a large passage where we could actually Get. Things. Done. Seriously – we began cleaning Bella Luna to ready her for clearing customs… The Smalls did not feel ill, I was not willing myself through it all hour by hour, it was super-civilised.

Espiritu Santo. Vanuatu.
Violin practice in the middle of the Coral Sea.
Vanuatu to Australia.
Seabirds. 

We hoped to make it to Southport, but after a few days this became increasingly tenuous. There was a very large low coming up the south coast, and if we attempted to get to Southport we were going to run straight into the beginning of it. Also, we would make earlier landfall if we went to Bundaberg. So – after racking up a billion dollars on the satphone getting weather updates, we turned towards da ‘berg.

Vanuatu to Australia.
The happy flat flat sea!

Of the whole passage (which I say was eight days long, and M says was seven and three-quarters) the last 48 hours were the least enjoyable – a lot of motoring when we ran out of wind. And as soon as we got within a few hundred nautical miles of land, ships became an issue. Ugh. 

Vanuatu to Australia.
1am on Friday 12 October. 

We ended up threading our way down the channel at the mouth of the Burnett River at about 9pm on Friday 12 October (L’s birthday – Happy Birthday L!) and dropping our anchor in the quarantine area outside the Bundaberg Port Marina.

An hour later, just as we had collapsed, there was a MASSIVE thunderstorm. Mere capital letters do not convey the ENORMO-NESS of the TORRENTIAL RAIN, SMASHING THUNDER AND UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE LIGHTNING. M was at the helm with the motors running, and a few times had to accelerate into the malestrom in order to encourage our anchor not to drag. Jeeez. After all that time at sea with no drama, we copped it right on arrival.

After that we slept, and in the morning we were allowed into the marina – which was VERY busy – and Border Force came and put us through our paces. We had chickpeas, lentils, chia seeds, popcorn, sprouting seeds, collections of shells – but the only thing that was taken from us was our fresh ginger and fresh garlic. We literally had no other fresh food left. They were particularly interested in if we had any driftwood, meat or cheese from Vanuatu, which we didn’t.

They didn’t look under the cushions, or in the bedrooms, bathroom or nook – M had cleaned the bajeezus out of the boat assuming there would be sniffer dogs and major inspection. There was zip. It cost us $400 instead of about $350 to re-enter Australia because it was a weekend… we were super relieved when it was all done and dusted. Hello Australia!

Darling it Hertz

A long day. A good day. A day of perfect weather. A day that thwacked me repeatedly to remind me that gluten is everywhere no matter how you endeavour to avoid it.

I hired a car! It was manual, because automatics cost more. I drove on the other side of the road – for the first time. This was all because I needed to get boatcat quarantine papers to a place called Paita. I chanted a mantra to myself;

Elbow to the middle line. Keep. To. The. Right.

This served me pretty well. My only issue was some difficulty remembering to keep good clearance between the right side of the vehicle and the edge of the road. I navigated roundabouts, freeways and roadworks. I had been told by two different people to use maps.me instead of google, and this was good advice.

Over the weeks leading up to my car hire adventure (as it became increasingly obvious that this was the only way to get out to Paita), M became increasingly twitchy. “I don’t want,” he said, out of the blue one morning, “I don’t want the Smalls coming in the car with us. Too dangerous.”

A Small free adventure being something of a treat, I agreed, presuming that we would leave them on a kidboat while we took in the sights. I imagined a soft top Sunbeam Alpine, open to the sky, travelling gaily along picturesque New Caledonian roads. Sunglasses on, my scarf rippling in the wind, M tanned and relaxed, steering with the lightest of touches, pulling over at roadside stalls to buy paper bags full of passionfruit. /end scene.

However. A few days prior to car hire day I had a sense that the aforementioned scenario might not be quite realistic. “M,” I said. “I think I will just do the car hire thing on my own.” Before I even launched into how then he could look after the Smalls and get boat things done in my absence, I saw his whole body sag with relief. 🙄 I could see plans of how he would live as a cool single dad after I was obliterated by going the wrong way around a roundabout.

The day before the car hire, he actually requested that I write his contact details in permanent marker SOMEWHERE ON MY BODY, in preparation for my imminent demise. His contact details. It’s not like he has a phone. I imagined my lifeless body draped over the side of a road, surrounded by emergency service people, one of them typing laboriously on the tiny keyboard of her phone. My t-shirt has been pulled up, revealing M’s email address – incorporating my belly button as the @ symbol.

==================

I made it to the quarantine centre without a hiccup, handed over my papers and waited for a few minutes. It had all been almost too straightforward. Thankfully, reality kicked in – they asked me for payment, which I was prepared for – having withdrawn some cash. But as it transpired, they didn’t take cash, or card. They. Only. Take. Cheques.

Yet again I found myself at the great cheque impasse. The way I could produce a cheque at that point, was to drive all the way back to the marina and beg one of the women in the office to write me one in return for some cash. Thankfully, because I didn’t need a boatcat import permit for Vanuatu, after a brief adrenaline fuelled few minutes, the quarantine people said they would waive the payment.

THANK GOD.

Back out at the car, surrounded by spectacular scenery I did some deep, soothing breathing, and then pondered whether to drive another 18km to the airport in search of Vatu – the currency of Vanuatu. M had stipulated that I should go there. I wasn’t keen – we had heard that Vatu are only given to people with an areoplane boarding pass.

I weighed up the issues. M’s displeasure on finding out I hadn’t tried the airport, versus another 20 minutes on the freeway probably for nothing. The importance of good diplomatic relations won out. I drove to the airport, which was very nice, but a complete ghost-town as the only flight for the rest of the day wasn’t until the evening. No Vatu for me. Airport staff suggested I try a nearby bank…

Meanwhile I was so hungry I was about to chew off my own leg. Hooray for being coeliac in a country where I don’t speak the language and thus am unable to interrogate cafe staff about the possibility of cross-contamination. The nearby bank – which had no Vatu – was next door to a supermarket. There I found the first packet of GF sweet biscuits I had seen since arriving in the country. There was ONE packet and I ninja-tackled it, before anyone else could.

I was so hungry by this point that I was getting irrational. All I wanted was some bread with which I could make a sandwich. Being on my own, I didn’t have to worry about there not being enough bread for four people. But there was no bread. All the salami I looked at had “may contain traces of gluten”. In the end, my lunch was two green apples and some pre-sliced Gouda. For some reason I felt hard done by.

I sat in the car, chopped up the apple with my pocket knife and ate bits of it topped with the cheese, reproaching myself for being angst-ridden. It was a beautiful day, I was a free agent, and the next destination on the agenda was a bakery supplies shop, from which I intended to purchase two 5kg bags of buckwheat flour.

Ducos is the industrial area outside Noumea. I threaded my way along thin streets that had cars parked on both sides, getting lost twice before finding the place I was looking for. I had been given the address by a woman at the market who makes buckwheat gallettes – we had been so excited to find something COOKED that we could eat – and I presumed that she bought her flour in bulk from somewhere. This was the place.

Inside there were huge bags of cooking chocolate and icing sugar. Boxes of edible cake decorations, packets of yeast and glucose powder, large and insanely expensive bottles of vanilla essence. I asked the woman there about ‘sarrasin’ and she nodded. We agreed I would require two 5kg bags. I don’t know what made me ask – except that the tiny bags of buckwheat flour I’ve seen in the supermarket here have all had “traces of gluten”, which is not something I have ever encountered in Australia.

“Sans gluten?” I asked her. She didn’t understand what I meant, but the one other customer in the shop translated for me. “I am coeliac – is there any gluten in the buckwheat flour?” She raised a hand to ask me to wait a moment, busied herself at the computer and then printed out a page of what seemed to be manufacturing details for the sarrasin. She shook her head and pointed to the words “dsjfldsjdljfslfjd”. I could have kicked a hole in the counter. Instead I spent $30AU on a 1kg bag of dark chocolate chips – which were gluten free – to console myself. A normal block of Lindt dark chocolate here is about $8AU, so I felt that the purchase was justified. But the BUCKWHEAT FLOUR – 😩

I felt so frustrated. Why hadn’t I brought more from Australia?! Now our fallback would have to be grinding up rice to use as flour, and then mixing through some tapioca or cassava flour. Basically, white pap. GAAAAAAAH.

Back in the car I drove humourlessly into the city, went and lined up in four different banks to try and get Vatu, without success. I bought a multitude of rice cakes (i.e. edible polystyrene) at Casino Johnson, found more small bags of buckwheat that contained traces of gluten, and finished up at the Carrefours supermarket on the other side of town.

For some reason, my card does not work in the supermarkets here, and I was out of cash. Before I went into Carrefour, I headed over to an ATM machine in a nearby building. There, after getting some money, I saw a woman come out of a security door that seemed to be part of the bank. “Excusè moi. Parle vous Anglaise?”

“Oui, yes. A little bit,” she said, holding her thumb and forefinger an inch apart.

“Do you know where I might get some Vatu? I’ve been to four different banks, and the airport.”

Unbelievably, she nodded. “Come up to my office, I will print you a map of where to get Vatu.”

It was like I’d conjured her out of a dream – although if I had done so, she would have been holding a 5kg bag of buckwheat flour. Up in her very fancy office she not only printed out a colour map of the bank I needed to go to – she telephoned them and confirmed that, yes, they did indeed have Vatu. I would just need turn up in the morning with my passport.

I was agog. SO GRATEFUL. I used up all my French, telling her about the catamaran, the two Smalls, M and the bloody boatcat – that we were anchored in Baie des Citron. At the end we shook hands and I thanked her profusely. Went and did more provisioning in Carrefour – the only place with tolerably priced tinned tuna, and then met M at Baie des Citron, unloaded all the shopping which he dinghied back to Bella Luna and then went to fuel up the car before dropping it off.

Somehow, after paying for the petrol, I managed to lose the car keys. In the car. For 15 humiliating minutes I looked under seats, emptied my bag, pawed under the mats in the footwells. The car was only marginally bigger than the car keys – and the service station people kept glancing over, obviously wondering why the tiniest white car in the world was home to a thrashing ramora (me) sitting stationary in front of a petrol bowser.

GOD.

Finally I found the keys – they’d slid down the side of the front passenger seat near the door. In the time it had taken me to find them I could have pushed the bloody car back to the hire place – it was only 100m down the road. After all that, having been given the all clear by the Hertz people, I walked the 2km back to Baie des Citron – taking the long way so I would end up passing Barca – where I knew it was happy hour.

I required a a celebratory drink – I had survived! Just to make sure, I checked with one of the wait staff about which drinks were half price during happy hour. Just beer, I was told. And soft drinks. Gluten strikes again. I ground my teeth gently and continued on my way, stopping only to chat with Gemma and Andy from Paws who intend to head for Tanna at the same time as us.

Back at Bella Luna M had dinner ready. He did not appear stunned at my longevity, but said he had bought me a present. Given that I had just been thwarted by happy hour, I was more than happy that he presented me with some gluten free beer. HUZZAH! Then I looked closer at the bottle. And very nearly threw it at him. It was not gluten free. It was SPELT beer. Then I had to watch him, the poor thing, drink the uber expensive faux GF beer he had bought me. And it was at that point I thanked god, my mothership and T for the presence of the Mental Health Gin I had been saving for Vanuatu.

Fruit, vegetable, plant. Going, going, gone.

Holy moly. It is so easy to leave Australia (once you have that ship’s registration thing) – but it is so HARD to enter New Caledonia. Not hard as in physically hard (although the passage did suck) – but hard as in knowing which regulations to observe.

First of all we believed that we could take in no fruit and no vegetables. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. That seemed doable.

Then members of the Go East Rally told us that coffee was rationed to 800g per person – and so was cheese. Someone else said their popcorn had been confiscated. As well as all meat that was not vacuumed sealed with a label on it.

Coffee and cheese? Two of our major food groups. I’d already bought 4kg of coffee beans to keep M’s caffeine habit well serviced. Sam brought her own 2kg of coffee on the (incorrect) assumption she’d be quaffing it throughout the passage. Plus 3kg of bog standard tasty cheese, two packets of feta, two containers of bocconcini and two packets of parmesan. Milk, I can do without – cheese and yoghurt? I cannot.

In addition to the above concerns I had bought 5kg of almonds, 5kg of cannellini beans, 5kg of chickpeas, 5kg of chia seed, 5kg of lima (butter) beans – you get the idea. I wanted to be able to survive offgrid. But when I heard that the popcorn had been ditched – I had The FEAR. Maybe customs would confiscate anything that might potentially SPROUT!?

Gah.

Cut to four hours out of Noumea. Captain M wants anything and everything that might anger/intrigue biosecurity piffed over the side. I am not great at divesting myself of things I have looked nurtured. It was hard to throw over the two aloe vera plants given to us by our friends in Franklin, Tasmania. The plant I had grown in water since we arrived in Sydney for the first time… I threw out my bag of sprouting seed mix I bought in Hobart…

Sam and I began an emergency rescue effort and cooked up all the remaining potatoes, turning them into a 14 egg frittata and a potato salad. M was putting on the pressure to get rid of all the cheese. I refused, and dug up some kind of official looking file that seemed to say we were able to keep cheese as long as it was unused and still in plastic, showing where it was made.

The cheese stayed.

When we got to Port Moselle Marina the following morning (after a night spent on a purloined mooring) the biosecurity guy who came aboard could not have cared less about what we did and didn’t have. I helped M fill out the declaration form, in which we admitted to the possession of cheese.

“We have cheese. Fromages!” I told Biosecurity Man, with a panicked expression. “They are all sealed. None of them are open.”

He shrugged a French shrug. “Fine,” he said.

I immediately began feeling even more mournful about my lovely aloe vera plants. And I needn’t have stashed a small cache of water kefir grains where no one would find them. I could have grown my sprouts.

“Our rubbish?” we asked him, gesturing to the bags in the net above Foamy. I knew that biosecurity would take away any organic matter.

“Any organic matter?”

“A bit,” said Sam.

Another French shrug.

“It’s OK. Just use the bins at the dock.” And he was gone.

So now, I publish this post to try and help other cruisers that might be thinking of sailing to New Caledonia. But it’s probably as helpful as all the other posts I’ve already read – the biosecurity laws are less intimidating in practice than they are in the documentation. And quite possibly depend on how much sleep the biosecurity representative has had the night before.

The only word I can come up with to describe my feelings is ‘frustrateful’ – a combination of gratitude and frustration. Grateful that it was far easier than had been anticipated; frustrated at the unnecessary waste and stress.

Little victories.

I delight in the fact that Queensland does not have daylight saving. I do not delight in waking up with the sun at a quarter past five every morning, but I’m learning to cope. But today, even at that early hour, I could tell that the day was going to be a hot one.

Fact: for those who consider Tasmania a great place to be in summer, Brisbane in spring feels like someone left the heater on – generally meteorologically intolerable.

My method of coping is to use a camp stove in the cockpit to make cups of tea. Avoid cooking food. Get out and about early, and spend most of the day in the library. (Where I am writing this right now.)

The ‘not cooking’ thing that has come upon me has had a negative effect upon feeding the family breakfast. Given that three quarters of us have coeliac disease and Bella Luna is gluten free, breakfast generally has to be made, not poured out of a box.

But in the last week of heat my inspiration/inclination has evaporated. It’s too hot to fry up eggs, or apples, or banana and coconut. But a message from a friend in Melbourne two days ago seemed quite serendipitous.

—GF Weet Bix half price at Coles this week!—

The Smalls and I went to both Coles supermarkets in the city – the ones we have been using regularly while we’re moored in the Brisbane River. Neither had GF Weet Bix on special, and my dreams of easy-packet breakfasts for a while began to droop. I assumed the special was limited to the Victorian supermarkets…

It was then I (re-)realised the profiteering inherent in supermarketland. Once I had spent a few minutes exploring Coles online shopping site, I realised that GF Weet Bix were indeed on special in Queensland – just not in the Brisbane city stores – presumably because they service a greater number of the population in a smaller area, they don’t bother with such trifles…

Thus M took Small DB and I across the river this morning to seek out a Coles Supermarket that was not in the CBD. God it was hot – and not yet 8.30am. We clambered up the rocks, shopping trolley in hand, and began making our way toward the supermarket in Woollongabba.

The hot hot walk…

Why was it that no one else who passed us seemed to be experiencing the same weather we were? Both of us red faced, dripping with sweat, gasping slightly, singlets sticking to our backs… I saw people coming from the opposite direction without ANY OBVIOUS PERSPIRATION. Some of them were even wearing long sleeves.

By the time our navigation app had planted us in front of the supermarket, I was ready for concerned members of the public to start asking if we were okay and did we need to sit down? Small DB collapsed in a trolley and I limply pushed both of us to the butter and yoghurt aisle… sweet, cool, air-conditioned bliss.

Once revived, we plundered every box of GF Weet Bix from the shelf. I love it when this happens. Living gluten free is so expensive that I rejoice in any opportunity to save a buck. If I ever clear a product from a supermarket shelf, selfishly leaving none for any other frustrated coeliacs, my glee propels me to the service desk at the front of the store. Motioning to the contents of my trolley (the cereal, not Small DB) I say, “You don’t have any more on the shelf. Can I get a raincheck?”

What happens then is that the salesperson writes you a little slip of paper, saying that you can have six boxes at sale price for the next month AT ANY COLES location. Depending on our whims and the weather, that may be somewhere along the Clarence River (Grafton?) or possibly Manly in Sydney, or even Hobart.

Although I am very tempted to take my precious raincheck into one of the Brisbane city supermarkets, just for my own satisfaction.

Small DB and I found an air-conditioned bus with a very helpful driver in order to return to the boat with our trolley full of half-price Weet Bix. A win.