Tag Archives: musings

A wrinkle in time…

The thing they never tell you about homeschooling is the absolute dearth of time you will have for yourself. How every time you pick up a book, or your laptop, you will be interrupted exactly 31 seconds after settling yourself in. Admittedly, I am living in a tiny space, which means there’s nowhere to hide except for cafes, which are expensive. And siren-like. So right now I am on the deck of an unopened cafe sucking down their wifi (with full permission, of course).

Pink daisies with curled petals.

We are on the side of the river, waiting for the gods (council bureaucracy) to decide whether they will realign the boundaries of a property owned by our new friend Linda. Should they agree, we will have a hectare of our very own land in the Huon Valley within easy walking distance to the little town of Franklin. It does not have views of the river, but it does have a permanent creek, tree ferns and enormous swamp gum trees.

Thistles and blackberries and boaties...

It’s also consumed by blackberries and thistles and numerous feral foreign trees, all of which I intend to ruthlessly obliterate via a combination of goat, chainsaw and earthmoving machinery. In my head, that plan gives me a feeling of great satisfaction. But meanwhile, as the council thinks its glacially paced thoughts, we wait – too scared to sail away in case there is an unexpected ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card and we are suddenly free and clear to proceed. There is nothing in me that requires an unnecessary crossing of the Strait.

But the uncertainty is infuriating. Travel is our thing. New places. Moving about. Checking the weather and planning passages. To sit here on the river is becoming increasingly tortuous. Despite the fact that all around us is postcard perfection. So we have discussed various possible modes of attack: housesitting, sailing around the west coast, WWOOFing, buying a van and going camping.

054/366 • bumble at rest 💤 •

It’s the last option that has grabbed us. The prospect of roaming freely around the Tasmanian interior. The INTERIOR! As sailors, we only know the edges. It would not be too difficult to leave Bella Luna on a mooring, spend a few grand on a secondhand van, chuck a mattress, a tent, a stove and an esky in the back of it and set off. There would be no need to shape our plans around the wind (or lack of) and we would have to lascivious delight of being able to travel in whatever direction we chose. Intoxicating choices.

Kicking back on New Rd. Campfire underway.

No land. No dog. No garden. No base. We are all so sick of saying, “If we get the block…” If we were in the city, there would be more places we could visit, but at the same time, it feels like we should be here, as the council wheels grind slowly.

At least we can visit the land, and help the owners with making paths and chainsawing. We can visit their caravan and make cups of tea, even in their absence. It’s pretty nice.

Tea. Water boiled in a frypan on a fire. Worked out well.

Up and down and down and up…

Like almost every online glimpse of other people’s lives, I’m sure ours looks better than yours. You don’t tend to keep bad photographs in your album, and likewise, you don’t tend to exhibit the mundane bits of your life online. Where’s the interest in that?

I’ve had several people comment; ‘Your life is amazing.” and “You guys are living the dream!” And yes, the way we are living right now is outside the norm and thus automatically more interesting to others – much more so than our life during the nine years that it took M to build the boat.

Obviously most people realise that our life is not all sunsets and adventure. Logically, living with your family in a large floating cubby while endeavouring to spend a minimal amount of dosh, creates its own kind of tensions. Being in a different country has been another shift – another layer or logistics, different currency, different language…

The focus for the first half of the year has been on GETTING here. Now that we’ve made it, we have to change gears – become explorers again. It’s taking a little time to adjust. Going south, away from Noumea for five or six days was quite revelatory. It seems that while we are in the vicinity of the city, we are bound by the things we need to get done, things we need to buy.

A few days ago we were all literally driving each other crazy. The Smalls were bickering – infuriating M and I – because HELLO? What have they got to bicker about? They are taken care of, fed, loved – THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE TO DO ANY SCHOOLWORK. Small DB is a little under the weather and has become more intractable than normal.

All in all we were in our own ‘living the dream’ version of a despairing slump. I felt very down. One shiny aspect was that our friends on GonYonda had arrived, and so had our friends from Iluka on Pandion. We decided to damn the expense and have a day and night in the marina with them – it would allow all the kids (eight in total) to hang out together, which in turn would give us some breathing space.

Still in a funk, I went up on deck to help pull up the anchor. The anchor that we had had to reset SIX times when we arrived. I was happy to leave – the ferries, tugboats and motor cruises going by had made it a very rolly anchorage.

We motored the short distance to the marina, and M manouvered the boat in order to reverse into the berth.

The starboard motor cut out and we drifted a little too close to GonYonda, who had tied up before us. “Go forward,” I told M, somewhat forcefully.
Thankfully we have two motors – one in each hull – and he gunned the other one while still attempting to restart the other. There was not a lot of room for error. It quickly became obvious that the starboard motor would start, but not reverse.

I lent over the back over the starboard hull trying to see what might be the problem. Heart sank. I had not pulled up the bit of rope I leave over the step for Honey the Boatcat to climb up on, should she take an unintentional swim. I pulled it in. Easily. Immediate relief. There was no way it was long enough to have got entangled in the prop.

Then I looked down the side of the boat.

“Zoe! Get me a knife!”

She materialised next to me, wielding the bread knife. I hacked through the rope that had been hanging from the bottom of the rear fender and had wrapped itself around the propellor. The fender was too taut for me to be able to undo the knot or release the shackle.

The tightness of the rope made it easy to saw through – the torn ends pinged away from each other in opposite directions, and the fender floated gently away. The starboard motor agreed to go into reverse and M somehow angled us properly, enabling us to tie on to the dock. Hot, stressed and demoralised, I could barely summon any excitement to greet our lovely friends on Pandion, who had come over in the Go East Rally (you can read about their passage here).

One of their kids rescued our fender, another gave me the code for the shower. After washing my mood down the drain, I was able to let marinaland work its magic on me. It was interesting to see that the other kidboat adults were similar – the kids were running together as a pack, and this gave us all the opportunity – in calm water, with shore power and water, to clean up the chaos of boatlife. This in itself, was heavenly… and everything improved.

City City City

Moored in Brisbane we are in a perfect position – to my right I can see the botanic gardens, to my left is a restaurant, the cliffs and a walkway. Each time we have stood in a city street and wondered where the library… the bookshop… the supermarket is, someone has stopped and asked if we needed any help.

Wintergarden. A better looking mall than most. Brisbane.

I was rowing Small DB ashore this morning to do a load of washing – “Hello!” called a man with a French accent. “Do you need some fuel? Are you OK?”

“I’m fine,” I called back. “I just like to row!”

Ducks

Small DB and I walked through the gardens as our 32 minute wash cycle does its thing.

“We love your bag,” say two women on the walking track to me. “It’s fabulous!”

195/365 • top of the tower • . #playground #9yo #sailing #queensland #abcmyphoto #bellalunaboat #cruising #Spring2017 #eastcoastaustralia #visitbrisbane #brisbaneriver #australia #brisbanecity

I’m sitting with a cup of tea in the morning before everyone is up. Two guys go past in a dinghy at a slow chug and spy me.

“You’re living the life!” says one of them.

“I’m trying!”

And it’s true, I am trying; although appearances are obviously deceptive. From that dinghy, I look like a woman sipping coffee on her Very Expensive Catamaran, like I have my shit TOO-GETH-AH! When inside my head is;

  • what will we have for breakfast?
  • what will we have for dinner?
  • we have to make sure to buy some food so we can pack lunches when we go out exploring so we don’t have to pay for a cafe or hunt for a supermarket…
  • I need to get in touch with X,Y,Z
  • when was the last time I practiced my violin?
  • why doesn’t there seem to be ANY disciplined area of my life? – oh that’s right, I had children, and to take things one step further, we decided not to send them to school…
  • and I appear to have had a self-discipline bypass – check my fingernails for confirmation (there aren’t any)
  • why can’t I find a reasonably priced insulated stainless steel teapot?
  • maybe my brain would calm down if I learnt to meditate…?
  • or maybe I should just buy that six bottles for $36 deal from 1st Choice Liquor?
  • remember to send those books back to the couple in Hervey Bay who lent them to us
  • would it really be so bad to get a BoatCat and just figure out all that vaccination/quarantine/legality/rabies shit on the fly?
  • will we really go overseas on Bella Luna?
  • is Z-Mow truly lost forever?

So. I’m trying. Just because they’re first world problems doesn’t mean they’re not giving me brainsnap. This morning the overwhelm got me in its grasp and shook me.

“Take me ashore,” I begged M. “I’m so hot. I’m so hot.”

“Oooookay,” he said, looking at me as if I was odd.

Sometimes the heat does my head in. Coupled with the stove (which literally doubles as a heater) the floating cubby turns into an oven (albeit not the kind I can bake cupcakes in dammit) and my coping mechanisms start to excuse themselves and go elsewhere.

Plus the 9yo is in mourning for Z-Mow and also obsessed with letting NO BREEZES COME NEAR HER PERSON and closing the door and hatches with infuriating regularity. We sing at her:

I don’t want any air in the room,
Keep it locked up tight like an Egyptian tomb…

Gluten free donuts are helpful for the overwhelm. So are shady spots under enormous fig trees.

NoDo GF Donuts. HEAVEN.

193/365 • moody subtropical city - view from the river • . #citylife #brisbaneriver #sailing #queensland #abcmyphoto #bellalunaboat #cruising #Spring2017 #eastcoastaustralia @brisbanecity @visitbrisbane

Border Island to Airlie Beach via Zombie Brain

Ah – M had wondrous plans to explore the islands further, until I told him it was Friday (not Thursday), and that the market at Airlie Beach was on the following day – the only place to buy B-A-S-I-L for $2 a bunch. His plans switched, and we left Border Island for Airlie Beach.

It did not help matters that I’d awoken feeling like a zombie. M didn’t know I was a zombie – but it made his current endearing nautical habit a little harder to take. He has been sitting up at night and (in the absence of Facebook) has been reading weighty tomes by Respected Sailors all about Heavy Weather and Rescues. It has become obvious to me that his brain cogitates upon this stuff while he slumbers, and in the morning he arises energised and inspired, ready to equip me with all he has learned. Even without a zombie brain it’s a little difficult.

Although he did not say, “HOIST THE MAINSAIL, HORNBLOWER!” – he kind of may as well have. I could intuit that he’d been reading dastardly, sphincter tightening sea-rescue scenarios, where the writer (in clipped, military tones) has stated that you’re only as strong as the weakest crew member – everyone has to PULL THEIR WEIGHT.

I mean, I can hoist the mainsail – it just takes me longer because my muscles are, it has to be said, punier. And everything in sailing seems to have such urgency attached to it – and the more wind, the more urgent it becomes. So there I was, M having unhitched us from the mooring, steering us out of Cateran Bay, having been instructed to go between the rocky point and a nearby boat.

“Keep an eye on the rocks,” instructed M, visibly restraining himself from getting closer to the wheel. “You might want to steer…”

“I can’t steer,” I interrupted him, “The wheel is around as far as it will go…”

There was a sort of strangled sound as we coasted past the end of the point and out into the welcoming wind. I presumed that now I would able to begin on my second cup of tea and return to my book. M loves to sail, and I felt like a ZOMBIE. It seemed perfectly clear to me.

However…an hour later I was still steering, tweaking the jib, arguing with the autopilot – M reclined in the cabin behind a magazine, although I could hear his body quivering like a finely tuned violin string, ready for me to scream, “OH FUCK, I’VE HIT A REEF!”

Reefs. I can’t even start writing about all the goddamn sailing terminology that is ingrained in M, and all the other people of his sailing calibre (hi Grant, hi Craig, hi Kay Cottee) and how irritating it is in high pressure situations to have people stridently saying things like, “the reef” – which reef? The one in the sail, or the one we’re about to get stuck on? Or – “If you steer any further that way, you’ll put us in irons.” Irons?

But then there is, “Pull in the black rope…” – and there are TWO black ropes – one that hangs off the boom (BOOM!) and one that controls the traveller (the track that a rope connects the boom to via pulleys)… I can’t go on, putting down in writing makes it even dumber…

Back to the sailing. (I have just consulted the chart for historical accuracy…). I was steering us toward Deloraine Island in order to tack down toward Whitehaven Beach. “We’re fine,” I said to M, smearing through my zombie brain, briefly putting on the autopilot in order to check the chart for reefs. “There’s something called ‘Jester Rock’ but it’s a fair way ahead.”

I could tell he wasn’t really listening to me. “Yes, yes,” he said, looking nautically out toward the horizon. “We’ll be tacking before we get to that.”

I sailed staunchly onward. We did our tack. “Wind the jib in,” said M, as the wind whacked the sail around. He has always, as long as I’ve known him, refused to yell while sailing. Although gratifying, it means I can sometimes not hear him over the sound of the wind, motors, winches, sail flapping, Smalls fighting… it reminds me of the episode of 30Rock where Liz Lemon is reapplying for her job and using power-soft-talking to make Jack lean closer to her…

“What?”

“WIND. IT. IN.” He didn’t yell, but spoke more forcibly than before.

I was already winding, but redoubled my efforts. But my efforts were fairly pathetic – he bounded toward me, gazellelike, and with four manly clockwise hefts, had the jib-sheet under control. I put my overcooked tagliatelle arms back on the wheel…

He shaded his eyes and looked over the water. “Any reefs…” (I looked involuntarily at the mainsail) “…on the chart?”

I hurriedly checked our prospective path. “None that I can see.”

“How deep are we?”

I looked at the depth sounder reading. “Thirty metres.”

“Wow. The water’s so clear, it looks like about three!”

I steered happily onward, with the middle of Deloraine Island to my left (PORT!). All was, momentarily, well. I felt my zombie brain flop back down, on cruise control.

“Look at THAT!” M had resumed his ‘heavy weather’ voice and was pointing to my right (STARBOARD). I looked where he was pointing – straight at Border Island. Was I supposed to admire it’s beauty? I murmured something appropriately agreeable, but he continued to point – the expression on his face increasingly horrified.

In an I’m-restraining-myself-from-being-a-shouty-captain voice, he said. “Move. Let me take the wheel.” I slithered from the seat. What had I not seen?

“The rock,” M hissed.

“The wha..?” A large, black shiny thing emerged from the sea under his horrified gaze, and I relaxed. It was not my fault. It was not a rock. It was something that was not on the chart. It was a whale – with a tiny, briny eye.

“Oh my god,” breathed M, awed. “I had to restrain myself from screaming at you about going so close to that rock, because you were talking about the rock earlier, but…but you were right…”

There are few more thrilling phrases in the world than, “you were right”. Of course “you won $3million” is also good – slightly more unrealistic, but good.

The whale did not surface again. All was again momentarily well until we neared Solway Passage – just past Whitehaven Beach. M had gone to put down the starboard (RIGHT) centreboard and gave a groan. I looked for rocks, whales and reefs. There were none.

“The chock,” he moaned. “The chock has fallen down the centreboard shaft and now the centreboard’s wedged – I can’t move it. You’re a lateral thinker – I’ll steer, you fix it.”

Finally, something I could do without instruction. I got a long knitting needle, some wire, dallied briefly with the idea of using the tape-measure… “Maybe a fish hook on the wire?” M chimed, from the cockpit.

I ground my teeth. I didn’t welcome the instruction but it was a reasonable suggestion. I spent the rest of our journey through Solway Passage jiggling a fishhook on the end of some wire, trying to dislodge the chock that was impeding the centreboard. From it being a major travesty, every ten minutes or so M would downgrade the urgency of the repair, as if he could feel my fury building.

“It’s OK, just do it when we get into calmer water….. It’s OK, just have a go at it when we get to Airlie Beach… Don’t worry about it, we’ll have a go at it tomorrow….”

“I…” I hissed at him, jiggling the hook like I was trying to break in to a car, “…am DOING. THIS. NOW.”

It was actually quite pleasant. My zombie brain appreciated being able to concentrate on one solitary thing. No checking for reefs or whales while keeping the wind in the sails and the boat on course. Just me, the fishhook and the chock.

But M couldn’t help it. He had to mansplain. “When you get it next, make sure you jiggle the centreboard so that…”

“STOP IT.”

“Ah….”

We sailed onward.

“OK. I’ve got the goddamn wedge on the fucking fishhook. Come and pull the stupid centreboard up.” My zombie brain had started smudging and I was losing my speakthinky.

“UP? Up? Are you sure you want it up? Don’t you need it…”

“Down. DOWN. D-O-W-N. I meant down.”

His self preservation kicked in at last and he said nothing. He shoved the centreboard down. I pulled the hook up – and the chock came up with it.

Beth
Vs.
ZombieBrainPretendHeavyWeatherSailingInstructionDay
= Beth 1 – ZBPHWSID 0

I took over steering again and was feeling rather excellent in view of my chock-victory and the fact that I was cruising along at about six knots through some very beautiful water. The sails were set. I thought I was pretty awesome…until…

Off in the distance I could see two headlands. M and I had a brief savage disagreement about which one I was aiming for, leaving me fuming and inwardly resolving to tack the boat on my own. If the wind had been coming from a reasonable angle, I’m sure it would have been fine…but…

Usually before such a manoeuvre I figure out the angles in my head – is this called visuospatial manipulation? I don’t know. Whatever it is, I visualise turning the boat, and how the angle of the wind is going to work with that.

But on this occasion, the zombie brain kept trying to imagine the hypothetical position of the wind after my imaginary tack, and stalling – it was unable to compute. All I could surmise was that the wind was going to be behind us and… And then… And then I would let Bella Luna figure it out – and I WOULD NOT ask M for assistance. [Note that the latter point was by far the most important. Yes. An unfortunate miscalculation.]

I focussed on where we were going and where I wanted us to go, and tacked the boat with a steely hand. I turned on the autopilot as I scrambled to pull the jib in on the other side. Of course, the tagliatelle arms took longer than they should, the boat began to overpower the autopilot, which began beeping a shrill warning. M strolled out of the cabin, turned it off, and strolled back in. [He later told me that he was fully aware of my dilemma, and wanted me to work it out myself…]

I, sweating, continued to crank the jib in as the boat continued around in a graceful 360 degree circle. In addition to this complete faux pas, I had neglected to remember that we had two trolling lines out the back, one from each hull, and my idiocy had created a sort of plait…

I couldn’t help it. “M,” I bleated. “M. Can I have some… help…out here?”

M, to his credit, did not snark at me. He looked at the lines coming off the back of the boat, breathed deeply, and said, “The lines are probably wrapped around the propellors and the rudders. That is a Bad Thing.”

My zombie brain and I blanched. I grappled for a divine solution, but settled for; “Couldn’t we just spin the boat back the other way to magically detangle them…?”

“Maybe…” mused M, scarily calm. “Maybe…”

We tried. And, thank goodness, within ten minutes both lines were free and back onboard – catastrophe averted by dumb luck. Then I had to help figure out how to get the boat on track… M tried to comfort me by telling me how he had gybed and capsized his little sailing dinghies and beach-cats a zillion times back in the day… It didn’t really help.

Beth
Vs.
ZombieBrainPretendHeavyWeatherSailingInstructionDay
= Beth 1 – ZBPHWSID 1

Once we finally got back on our way, I left M at the helm and sat in the corner of the cockpit. I fell asleep there three minutes later and didn’t wake up until we were in sight of Airlie Beach. The zombie brain had gone. Things got better.

Scuppers, the treehouse and Tasmania

From when I was tiny I loved the Little Golden Book called Scuppers the Sailor Dog – about a dog who was ‘born at sea in the teeth of a gale’ – and his adventures. At one point he gets shipwrecked on a desert island and builds himself a little house from driftwood… Both the A-Frame and the treehouse remind me of Scuppers…

Since arriving here we have made friends with the treehouse dwellers on Middle Percy Island – they live there, kind of as a buffer between the leaseholder on the island and all the boaties that turn up here. [For more information on Middle Percy Island, look here.]

When they’re not keeping the A-Frame tidy and explaining to people like us how to husk and spike a coconut, they are making mudbricks for their pizza oven, tending their garden, composting, fishing…

On our first night here we swopped them some potatoes for a fresh coral trout. The next day we bartered more spuds and some apples in exchange for some passionfruit. They fed us startling tasty rolls of grated cava root, coconut and honey that were bound in a banana leaf – beyond delicious.

Middle Percy Island: Treehouse

They have been kind enough to let us into their amazing dwelling – make us coffee – give the Smalls lessons in clay modelling – and tonight they are putting a goat stew on for anyone who wants to come along. Goat. Maaaaaa!

Both the goats and the palm trees were put on several islands up along the Queensland coast many years ago to sustain shipwrecked sailors while they waited for rescue. We have been eating coconut every day and tonight – yes. Goatland. Of course, the Smalls and I can’t eat the stew for fear of gluten contamination, but they are putting some aside for us and we’re going to team Billy Goat Gruff with some jacket potatoes done in foil in the fire.

Do a good deed...

We have been able to get about 40 litres or so of fresh water which runs off the roof of a little shed into a tank. And some lovely people we met in Lady Musgrave Island have let us buy some of their diesel to run our stove – so we are able to hang out here a bit longer, although we’re getting down to tinned food and chickpeas. And cheese. But coconuts fill the gaps.

Beware! Coconuts!!

Today is exactly two months since my birthday – it feels like a year has passed in eight weeks. Two months ago we were tied to a pier in St Helens in Tasmania, waiting for a weather window to see us safely across Bass Strait. We had celebrated my birthday the night before, and then celebrated again at breakfast, joined by our potential crew member David the EggMammal – who we had met on that very pier.

In the late morning of the 2nd of May we set sail and did not touch the ground again until tying up at Bermagui in the south of New South Wales. From there we stopped in at Jervis Bay, Sydney, Pittwater, Coffs Harbour, Yamba, Byron Bay (one night), Tweed Heads, Moreton Island, Double Island Point (one night), Fraser Island (one night), Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Lady Musgrave Island and now – Middle Percy Island.

Over eight weeks, powered by the wind, we have made our way up the east coast. With our progress has come the realisation that we really did the hard stuff first. In addition to our general inexperience (as Bella Luna had never been in the water before) the sailing was much more demanding – more tricky.

It’s possible (though maybe not totally probable) that had we headed north when we left Refuge Cove in Victoria, we might not have decided to go to Tasmania at all. The east coast might have been the measure of our experience – in the last weeks we have certainly met several people who are happy to cruise the east coast, but blanch at the thought of heading south to Tasmania.

Many times I have offered mental thank-yous to Phil and Stewie Hames (from the boatyard, where we knew them for the ten years we were there). The day before we sailed away they not only told me to keep my 5kg bag of rice, but urged me to head to Tasmania rather than New South Wales. I am so glad I heeded them.

Coffs Harbour to Yamba

Hand-steering, after a few months of relying on Hoo-Ray the Autopilot, was actually pretty cool. A bit more work, but much more concentration involved, and that felt good. M and I did shifts as we sailed the 35nm toward Yamba. The last time we went there was in July 2005.

We are vigilant at all wearing our lifejackets as we cross a bar (going from the sea into the Clarence River in this case) but the conditions were so benign that we almost forgot. It was easy peasy lemon squeezy. Firstly we pulled in at the marina to get the lie of the land – there is a jetty that you can tie up to for 30min while you sort yourself out.

Aaaaaargh! It was so close to a Telstra WiFi hotspot that we could almost touch it – I imagined lazy days uploading all my photos on a screamingly fast connection, while plugged into shore power and water, with access to showers and laundry… but at $46 or so a day, we chatted to a few people and then motored off to find somewhere relatively central to anchor. For free.

Yamba. Sisters.

Yamba. Very refreshing after Coffs Harbour – it’s like a subtropical Tasmania! The women at the post office were super-helpful, and Rosie in the fancy deli on the main street was awesome and let the Smalls busk outside her shop. Almost everything is easy to get to, the op-shop is excellent – the only slight difficulty we have had was walking 4km back from the big supermarket with one supermarket trolley and two shopping trolleys after I dragged everybody on a provisioning shop. It was worth it.

Boat Gypsy Family

We did a bit of poking through the hard rubbish that people have our the front of their houses at the moment – M scored a bicycle – with an aluminium frame – and with the help of copious amounts of WD40 and pliers, revived it, and coasted around town with the wind in his (increasingly lengthening) hair.

Much to the despair of the Smalls, our three scooters have basically rusted away. We are hunting for new ones, and hold hope for the Hervey Bay Tip Shop – the one M and I became intimately familiar with over the two years that we renovated our Queenslander.

Writing of Hervey Bay reminds me that it looms large on our agenda – the Smalls have cousins (do I even call them cousins? what are they if they are the children of M’s neice and nephew?) anyway – they are a similar age to the Smalls and have never met. M and I haven’t been to Hervey Bay since the sad departure of his mum in 2006. The winds will dictate if we stop in Brisbane, but it looks increasingly unlikely.

Yamba.

Thoughts of the North

Both M and I are looking forward to the Whitsundays or thereabouts, though there is some trepidation in our hopefulness. In general, we don’t like following the crowd – preferring to explore on our own and not wake up surrounded by 20 other boats doing the same thing that we are.

However, that may be in our future, as it seems that the majority of cruising boats we’ve met or heard of on the east coast, are all heading NORTH. And why not? Everyone easily succumbs to the dream of crystal clear warm water and tropical islands. We want to use the boat as a swimming platform for a change, rather than a means of transport.

We were spoiled in Tasmania – our timing, quite by accident, was perfect. We got down there early and left quite late. In that time we spent several days behind a flotilla who had paid special rates to all travel together and circumnavigate Tasmania. When we arrived at a few places, people would tell us that there had been 27 boats near the mouth of the Gordon River a few days before, or anchored in Strahan, or Port Davey.

It was lovely to be solitary. But as we go futher up the coast, there will be a lot more boats – and I’m hopeful that the Smalls will hook up with some other boat-kids. I’m also hopeful that when we all agree that we have found a perfect spot, we will happily remain there for a week or two. It’s great to travel, but we have been making our way up the coast for a month, with the intention of STOPPING once the water is warm enough to swim.

Mornings in Yamba are quite chilly, although the days have been quite sublime. To swim here, even in a wetsuit, is a committment – and not for the fainthearted. I’ve immersed myself in water about four times in the last seven or eight months – I’m hanging out to be somewhere where I can wake-up, put on the kettle, and jump overboard for a swim while I wait for it to boil. How good will that be?!

Yamba ferry.