21 Mar Living Life in Brisbane, Queensland, Oz!!!!
We arrived in Bundaberg, Australia on October 30, 2019. It was so exciting! Oz was a country I had wanted to visit since I was a young girl. In 1967, Bert Genat a student from Perth, lived with our family for a year. He was with the Rotary Youth Exchange program. That was the year when I learned that a jumper, a boot, and mate, were not necessarily what I had thought them to be. That was when I heard the awesome Aussie accent and knew I wanted to visit Australia. Fifty years later, here I was!
Our entry into Oz was smooth, thanks to John Hembrow & The Down Under Rally! The rally had arranged for officials to come to the Bundaberg Port marina for our check-ins. Once we were docked a Customs crew knocked on Maia and asked us to step off the boat. A dog and officers were waiting to board. We had a little scare as we heard a whimper but found out the cute little beagle had hit its head on the salon table as it was jumping up on the setee. Next Biosecurity came aboard, inspected our lockers and cabinets and we were awarded our Certificate of Pratique, and told we could lower our Quarantine flag. Following was the Australian Border Force who completed the procedures. We were granted a control permit for Maia, which allowed us to operate within Australian waters for three years before needing to import Maia into Australia or depart… sail away. We were also instructed to check in with the Border Force every three months. The officials were kind, efficient, and helpful. (We had applied for a visa before entering, which was mandatory, our visas were now in force.)
We had a fun week of events with the Down Under Rally; informative lectures, parties, relaxing with mates. A highlight of the first week was our Kangaroo sightings! It appears they hang out in park areas and we had several encounters. We took the “good” camera with the zoom lens out one day. We saw a “family” of 5 or so Roos hanging out on knoll and snapped a bunch of pictures. The funny thing was that when we downloaded the pictures, in the background there appeared many more Roos (which we had not even seen in person). We had a surprise encounter after dark one night. We had ridden our bicycles to a beach in the evening in hopes to see turtles hatching eggs. As we were riding back in the dark (with headlamps) they appeared right in front of us on the path and the surrounding parkland. We had been told they can be aggressive, so we kept our distance and enjoyed the surreal surroundings! (Around Oz, Kangaroos are common animals and are considered pests by some. Possibly like the deer in North America.)
Once the rally concluded and the weather seemed appropriate, we enjoyed a 2-week sail South through the Great Sandy Straights to Moreton Bay. We were buddy boating with two new boat friends, Elysium (Wendy & Dave) & Vagabond (Cheryl, Lauren, Robbie & Dan).
The winds started out light and increased throughout our first day. We had decided to anchor at Woody’s, which would be protected from the North winds. As we were nearing the anchorage, we went to start the engine and it would not start! Dick went into action, he changed the racor fuel filter, but the engine still would not start. As he continued his investigation, he found we had a faulty electric stop switch, which he was able to disconnect and we were able to start the engine. (We would manually turn off the motor until fixed.)
By now we had floated past Woody’s anchorage (I had decreased the sails to slow us down as much as possible) and were near Kingfisher Bay, on Fraser Island which was our actual destination, so we lowered the anchor down. By now the wind was blowing around 15 knots, the wind was against the tide, so it was super choppy and very uncomfortable!
After our rocky start, we enjoyed our 4-day visit to Fraser Island, (touted as the world’s biggest sand island). Four Star, Kingfisher Bay resort is very accommodating to Cruisers and allowed us to visit and take part in the resort activities. A highlight of our visit was our 4-wheel drive excursion around the Island. Seven of us participated in a driving tour with Dick as our dd. He did a fabulous job in the “thrilling 4WD tracks” (deep sand and ruts) that were pervasive on parts of our 8-hour drive. We drove along the 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side of the Island and went to many of the Island highlights, the Pinnacles, Maheno Shipwreck, Eli Creek, and Lake McKenzie. We swam and laughed and saw airplanes parked on the beach waiting for their next tourist. During our visit to Kingfisher Bay we saw Kookaburras, turtles, dugongs and Dingos!
The winds were to be picking up and Thanksgiving was a few days away, so we decided to anchor close by in a protected area of the Susan river. We celebrated an American Thanksgiving aboard Elysium (Floridians) and our Canadian and UK friends from Vagabond joined us. We had an enjoyable evening, with a fairly typical Thanksgiving dinner. However, we substituted whole chickens for Turkeys (as we could not find any Gobblers in the small markets nearby) but had yams and pie and other thanksgiving treats.
During the first week of December we arrived in Manly (near Brisbane) and tied up to the dock at East Coast Marina. We began our land life by taking the train into “Brissy”, spending a couple days exploring the big city and celebrating my birthday. As always it was a treat to sleep in a real bed and take long hot showers.
As it was close to Christmas, Brissy had some extra things to do in the downtown area. We really enjoyed the Enchanted Garden that was lit up with amazing lights, in the Roma St. Parkland. Also, the cute Koala story that was projected onto the City building in King George Square.
Once back on Maia, we settled into the marina life. I love going to Farmer’s Market’s and shopping for fresh produce and perusing the stalls for other healthy foods. The town of Manly offers a market every other Saturday. The third Saturday of December, I went early to the market and ended up with so much that I could not carry it all. I called Dick and asked him to meet me to help carry the goods back.
I sat on a bench to wait and started up a conversation with the stranger sitting next to me. It only takes one word out of your mouth and the Aussies know you are a visitor. Jo asked if I was visiting and I went on to tell her “yes that we lived on a boat over in the harbor”. She then got a puzzled look on her face and asked, “Would you want to live in a house?” I said “Yes, I would love to live in a house!”. (I’m thinking, does she mean now? in the future? Unaware of where her question is leading.) You can see her brain working and she says, “I am going travelling and was thinking about getting a house sitter but have not found anyone.” During a pause, Dick walks up and I ask Dick “Would you want to live in a house” and he answered “Yes!” The disjointed conversation continues, as Jo seems to be thinking and talking and wondering why she is asking these strangers if they would want to come live in her house? We exchange phone numbers and walk away with Jo saying she would think about it.
As we strolled along the promenade back to Maia, Dick and I discuss the possibility and decide that tomorrow afternoon would be a good time to look at the house. We send Jo a text message and arrange for the visit. (btw, I had been looking online at housesitting sites as we had about 6 weeks we would be staying on Maia in the harbor.) On our bike ride up to Jo’s we resolved not to make any decisions while we are at the house, we would leave the meeting, discuss and have a conversation before be decided.
The house is a conventional Queenslander style (the living space is on the second floor of the house), 2 bedroom, 1 bath with lovely front and back decks, a small front and back yard that would need a little water if there was no rain. As Jo was giving us the tour her statements started assuming that we would stay there and she says “sorry, you have not decided…” However, Dick and I realized it was an awesome opportunity and seemed like a perfect place to stay while we were working on boat projects aboard Maia, so we gave each other a thumbs up!
On December 27 we moved into our temporary abode on Tulip Street! It was about a 20-30 minute bike ride, (a little longer going home up hill) from Maia, a perfect distance to get ourselves into bike riding shape. The projects began in earnest with Dick installing new pipes and fixtures for the pressure water, while I stayed at the house to watch Sailrite DYI videos on how to sew your own Dodger! (Oh yeah, I might have also binge read a Nicholas Sparks novel.)
We decided to take New Year eve off, took the train into Brissy and enjoyed the festivities in South Bank. Dick and I arrived mid-afternoon and found a perfect spot to watch the fireworks. We hung out in the afternoon people watching and enjoyed the shade and breeze along the Brisbane River. The crews of Alysium & Vagabond joined us, and we had a jolly New Year’s Eve evening!
Once the plumbing project was complete, we began on the Dodger project in earnest. We patterned the dodger, cut the fabric, sewed pieces together installed zippers and windows, all by January 11th. We had to re-sew a few things a couple times to get the fit just right but were super excited about the results.
As the weather heated up, we realized we needed additional shade! Besides the new dodger, we also hung a couple of white tarps over the boom and sewed new hatch covers out of the linen fabric. It all helped make a temperature difference inside the cabin. Out of concern for the suns damaging UV rays we decided to sew covers for our life raft, fuel & water jugs! Things were looking good for leaving Maia while we headed back “home” to the States.
We had a fabulous 5-week holiday in the USA (all of February+). We flew in and out of Los Angeles, started our vacationing in Phoenix, then spent a good amount of time in Salt Lake and Park City before finishing up in southern California. The trip was filled with countless family and friends visits! Dick also had knee surgery (a meniscus tear clean up) and he recovered quickly. While in Utah we skied one day at Deer Valley resort, before the surgery and I got in oodles of hiking in the snow with Trevor, his girlfriend Macie, Dick’s sister Wig and sister Claris (who came to Utah for a visit). I was surprised at how easy it was to adjust to the cold!
We arrived back in Brisbane on March 4, just before Covid surprised us all. Our plan was to explore more of Oz, we had flights scheduled to Perth and Melbourne, and we were planning to rent a Caravan (camping van) to drive from Melbourne, to Sydney, then onward to Brissy. We cancelled all our land travel and got comfortable living aboard Maia as the country and specifically the state of Queensland went into lock down.