Adventures of Maia | Blog
An adventure, sailing and cruising throughout the world with Laura, Dick and Ellie.
Sailing, Blog, cruising, MAIA, Sceptre 41, sailboat, fun, adventure,
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Three months went by quickly at Scarborough Marina. We tied up to the dock on December 10, 2020. We were excited to re-connect with friends in the marina and begin our life attached to land. Plenty of boat projects were on the list to be completed while tied to the dock.

Summer was in bloom, and the weather was warming up. As Dick began the boat projects it quickly became apparent that it was too hot, and the fans were not enough to keep things cool inside of Maia. A stand-alone air con unit was purchased, and we investigated making or buying shade cloth to shade the cabin top. In the end we ended up purchasing shade assemblies from the hardware store. Inside the cabin it became tolerable, though it was still a little warm during the hot, dog days of summer!

Our number one project was to get the refrigeration, ie. fridge and freezer back in working order. In the meantime, we purchased an electric portable unit (cooler/eske) to keep our veg, cheese and other refrigerated foods fresh. Dick started the project on December 11 by pulling out the old compressor and evaporator and then got to work on removing the old WET insulation. Ick! He was hoping the job would be less than it was, (isn’t that usually the case with home and boat projects)? After he worked on getting the insulation out from the back of the fridge box, he realized he needed to cut out the bottom of the inside of the fridge. Out came the multi-tool saw and pieces of the icebox were removed.

Employing his amazing boat yoga poses Dick was able to remove the rest of the wet insulation. New parts were ordered and by December 23 the inside of fridge had been re-assembled. On December 26 D had repaired the cutouts with epoxy and was beginning the re-insulation with spray foam. He had it looking and working well by January 9. (It was keeping a perfect temperature.)

Unfortunately, the inside of the fridge smelled chemically, so we chose to not put any food inside. As the smell had not dissipated two weeks later, Dick investigated and was told that the epoxy needed to cure for one week before the topcoat was painted on… so off came the beautiful topcoat, (we were back to looking at the epoxied part of the fridge). Dick spoke with the coating company, and they recommended a two-part polyurethane. On went the new product, a week or so later it was still smelling nasty. We called the company again…. This customer service rep said oh no, that is the wrong product you need this food safe product….. coat off, coat on…. By February 25 the new coat was on, and finally on February 28 the fridge was working well, with the chemical smell dissipating, we were able to start re-filling the fridge!

During a regular maintenance check of the steering, Dick got down into the insides of the boat underneath the cockpit and found rust.. decay… on a few of the wires. On January 15 parts were ordered with an Australian merchant, but the parts would be shipping from the USA. As he dug deeper into the project, he found a sheave was badly worn and this part needed to be replaced. As the Australian company would not be ordering again from the US for at least a month, Dick ordered the sheave directly from the US manufacturer. As we are waiting patiently for the parts to arrive, we found out from the Australian company that our parts had been shipped to the UK and not Australia!??? Finally, by February 25 all parts were on their way.

While waiting for parts, new lifelines were constructed from Spectra cord, spliced together, and installed. (It sounds pretty simple, but we spliced around 20 lines… Dick also replaced the Engine insulation that had literally crumbed and fallen apart. We decided to order a Froli system which is a plastic spring type mechanism to put under the foam on our bed. (We are happy with the results; the bed appears to be a bit comfier!)

During this time Laura wrote an article for Go West magazine (an Australian cruising mag) that covered our previous five-month adventure on the Great Barrier Reef and sailing on the East Coast of Oz. You can read it here:

During our time in the marina, we enjoyed the cruising community. Spending time with old friends and making new. Laura specifically enjoyed her times on shore with the “Girls”, going for walks, shopping for veg at the Redcliffe Sunday Farmers Market, Thursday meditations at the LoveLight Crystal Sound Healing Temple, fieldtrips up to the Mountains, beach picnics and a few art afternoons in the park.

When our three-month marina stay was complete, we decided to extend for another week to finish up all the little things that we wanted to get done before we began living out and about, mostly on anchor. Our plan was to stay in the Brissy area until cyclone season had ended 30 April.

We had a lovely two-day motor sail from Island Head Creek to Great Keppel Island (GKI) and spent a fortnight in the area. We went back and forth between the Island and the Marina. As the refrigerator and freezer were not working properly, we were hoping to have a refrigeration guy take a look while in the Marina. It appears that most of the trades people, “tradies” were “flat out” (super busy) with work, so he was not able to come by. However, our time in the marina was well spent as we met new friends, made an early morning trip to the farmers market, borrowed the marina car for a trip to the grocery store and had a fun evening of dominoes.

We spent the majority of our GKI time at Long Beach anchorage and it swiftly became one of our favorite Aussie anchorages. We explored the island, hung out with mates, enjoyed hikes, sundowners, paddling, swimming, Yoga, and beach walks. While at GKI, we enjoyed the beautiful calm days and were less excited about the stormy afternoons and evenings. However, we did see some amazing lightning storms and Maia received some cleansing showers. As we were closing in on two weeks in paradise, we decided it was time to make our way further south. Pancake Creek was next on the agenda!

We had an exciting entrance with wind against tide, 1-2 metre swell on the starboard aft quarter, giving Maia a lift into Pancake Creek. Our week went by quickly as we engaged with old mates, met new ones, participated in sundowners on beach and on the middle sandbar. One calm day at high tide we succeeded in a dingy ride up to the mouth of Jenny Lind Creek, just having enough water to row through the shallows. We enjoyed walks to Aircraft Beach, out towards Clew Point and across the low tide sand bar. When the winds picked up, we spent several days hanging aboard Maia. We stayed longer than others and watched the ebb and flow of boats in the anchorage go from 13 to 3!

We had heard wonderful things about Lady Musgrave Island, and she did not disappoint. We had an amazing four days and it revolved around beautiful weather, snorkeling, rowing, turtles, mates, and more turtles. While snorkeling we were amazed at the clarity of water and the abundance of fish life. On shore we saw where mother sea turtles had made nests and laid their eggs. At night when we went to the beach to watch the sunset, we were spoiled as we able to observe the mums crawling up the beach, digging their holes and laying their eggs. It was sooo special sharing the sea and the shores with these beautiful creatures!   

Our next stop was Bundaberg Port Marina (where we had entered Australia a little over a year ago). Some work and some play made it a fun place to be! We celebrated our American Thanksgiving with 3 other Americans, 1 Brit and 4 Aussies. We had 2 turkeys and all the fixings!! Feeling grateful that we have been able to spend an amazing year in Oz!

As we were leaving the Bundy and raising the main, unfortunately we tore the main sail. We went back and anchored in the Burnett river across from the Marina and sail loft. After realizing that we would not be able to repair the sail ourselves we took it into “Port Canvas” and were able to have the sail repaired and we were ready to sail away within three days.

Afterward, we sailed quickly through the Great Sandy Strait while the tides were right and arrived in Mooloolaba, while the bar was passable and before high winds and big seas. We spent five wonderful days exploring and visiting with mates, getting a rig inspection, before sailing on to our new home in Scarborough Marina where we expect to spend the next 3 months or so. We have a list of projects and are looking forward to a little land life and catching up with our friend in the area!

The beginning of October was upon us and it was time to begin our migration southward back to the Brisbane area (for Cyclone season). With the predominate South East trade winds, we expected the trip South to be a little trickier and thought that we might opt for occasional overnight sails to get us further when the scarce North winds blew. When the wind was predicted to be above 20 knots, we would find a place to hide, anywhere in the lee of land away from the wind and hopefully from the swell.

We were thrilled to have arrived back in the beautiful Whitsundays after a 20-hour motor-sail. The temperatures were warm, the water was crystal clear, and it was time to play in the water. We found the snorkeling fantastic! Why had it taken us so long to jump in? Oh yeah, there are sharks in these parts and crocs further north…. Seeing boat loads of tourist snorkeling helped us feel more comfortable, even though we were still on the lookout for sharks.

After exploring the Northern Whitsundays, Hayman, Hook and Blacks Islands, we sailed to Hamilton Island for another visit. We enjoyed a strenuous sunset hike to Passage Peak and were rewarded with stunning views. Saturday, we enjoyed a relaxing beachside pool hang out with a beach walk, swim, live music poolside and a social evening aboard Maia.

As higher South East winds and rain were predicted we found a safe haven in Cid Harbour, it was a perfect anchorage to hangout in for a couple days. Swimming is not permitted as in the past several years there have been shark attacks in the anchorage! However, we pulled out the sewing machine to make necessary Genoa repairs and while waiting for dryer weather, sewed a couple of accessories for Maia. We also enjoyed trail walking on Whitsunday Island and getting together with sistership Pathfinder IV (another Sceptre 41 built in British Columbia, Canada).

The next stop was Airlie Beach to re-stock food, water, fuel and get ready for an overnight sail South. We washed laundry and spent time on the internet while we had good wi-fi, before we expected to be off the grid for a week or so.

With a slight break in the South winds, we took advantage and proceeded with a 30-hour motor sail from Airlie Beach to Island Head Creek. Surprisingly, we had 4G along the way. The forecast was predicting 6-7 days of strong south east winds. We spent seven days in Island Head Creek. Why would anyone spend 7 days up a creek? For us, it was the perfect hidey hole as the winds blew from the SE 10-25 knots.

The following segment is a journal entry, written while we were in situ!

Island Head Creek October 10 – October 18

On day 1 after our overnight sail, we anchored just inside the entrance and had a rolly night. The first question of the day was, did we want to stay here to wait out the forecasted high winds? We readied Maia for continuing on, while preforming the engine check we found the seawater strainer a little clogged. The plastic strainer was rinsed, put back in and the top was screwed on tightly. When we went to start the engine, we had no water flow. Engine off… investigate…. still no flow. Our question 1 of the day was answered, we would move further up the creek, to get out of the swell and the engine problem could be worked on there. If the engine would not run properly, we could use the dingy to move us to a better anchor spot. We readied the dingy and tied it on to the port aft side. As we tried the engine one more time, we had some water flow, so we motored in about 3 nautical miles and put the anchor down.

Day 2…October 12, 2020 The WIND, WIND, WIND….

Here we are on day two with 4-5 more days to go, with the wind a blowing. I get an uncomfortable feeling when the strong winds blow, it is a fearful feeling.

We are anchored off the main channel in the Island Head Creek… which by the way is really a river, a tidal river, so about every 6 hours the flow changes from in to out or out to in. It’s big enough that we are getting 1-2 foot wind waves coming across our starboard hull making us bob up and down a bit. I am not sure if we are getting used to the motion (after being out for 4 months) or if it really is not too bumpy. I do know that the constant sound of the wind is making me a little crazy.

When the wind blows our spinnaker pole sings, the wind waves appear and when the wind is strong enough, I get an uncomfortable feeling. When I was a girl and the wind blew hard it generally meant that there was a storm… wind, rain, hail, snow… I grew up near the windy city of Chicago. The trees would sway, and sometimes branches would break and fall. In the winter you could feel the cold blowing in through the house windows. When I was in my 20’s I was backpacking high in the mountains near Durango Colorado, I was sleeping in a tent by myself, the wind was fierce as a storm blew through. The wind was charging through the trees, I was scared. I still remember feeling the fear.

Today I sense this fear. The wind feels relentless, it does not let up, it just blows and blows and blows. We sit safely inside the cabin of Maia….

As sailors, we like the wind, so we can sail. We like the wind (currently especially the South wind, to keep us cooler). But… I prefer just the right amount of wind… 10 – 18 knots of wind, just enough for a nice sail, just enough so the swell does not get too big, just enough to keep the little flying insects away.

So here we are, enjoying another day in Paradise! Since our water flow problem through the engine yesterday, Dick is researching with the books on board as we have zero internet or cell service. He has decided to check the raw water impeller (circulates the water thru the engine). He is busy taking out the old and installing the new. Luckily, we are prepared with spare parts and books (and plenty of food if we end of being out somewhere for longer than expected). I am keeping busy reading, writing, and considering starting on another sewing project. Plenty to do aboard Maia. No time to get bored….

Day 7 10/17/20 Anchor spot number 4 in Island Head Creek

While hiding out from the wind we have had lots of time to observe and fill up our time… After our windy day and night at our anchor spot 2 and Dick had the engine running well (the seawater strainer is now taped closed and a new one is on the shopping list). We decided to move up into the creek to get better wind protection. Approximately 5 miles in where the wind was being somewhat blocked by a hill, we put the anchor down. Up here is where other boats were hiding, we could see 5 boats in the west arm. We chose to stay out in the channel, as it appeared a little busy inside.

It is a good spot, we have some wind, but nothing like we had downstream. Dick repaired the screens with new mesh and gaskets as we heard that the bugs could be bad up here. We kept busy, we brought out the sewing machine. Made some phifertex covers to help shade the cockpit. Summer is a coming and it will only get hotter for the next several months. We read, played our word games watched movies. Once the wind had quieted, we took a dingy ride into the West arm, talked with one boat, waved to another, and explored a bit. I took a short turn on the oars as we entered the shallows until I could no longer row against the tide. We started the outboard and made our way back home. It was nice to get off Maia after 4+ days.

On night 4 the wind died! Unfortunately, the midges (sand flies) came out and they found their way through the new screens and began pestering me. I had woken up and made a trip to the head and was trying to fall back to sleep when I thought I felt something on my face, hmmm probably nothing… then I felt it again, and again, then I heard the buzzing. WTF???, I turned on the headlamp I have next to where we sleep and yes, we were inundated… screens were removed, hatches and ports were closed, and then I went on a killing spree (which is not like me). I probably killed 40 – 50 of the annoying little creatures… then I was able to fall back to sleep. In the morning we added our bridal veil to the screens in hopes to keep the little critters out of the inside of Maia. With the calmer winds (10-15 knots) we decided to move back downstream where we had noticed a couple boats had anchored off a beautiful looking beach. Using Navionics and Zula Offshore we found a good location.

Day 7…

Dick is working on another project, splicing two Genoa “barber haulers”, in layman terms this is a device that will allow us to easily adjust the sheet lead to the genny while sailing. As Maia adjusts her position to the wind we can easily and properly trim the genoa sail!

I find it fascinating hanging out in a tidal river watching the scenery change as the tide flows in and out. At high tide, as the river swells, we feel small and far away from everything, boats appear that were hidden during low tide. As the water recedes and flows out into the ocean, land masses emerge, mud banks, beautiful sand beaches and islands (which are no longer islands) become part of the riverbank. A large mossy part of the shoreline becomes a haven for birds; Egrets, Pelicans, and smaller birds all become part of the landscape.

During low tides, once the winds quieted, we explored some of the creek and the sand bars. We learned firsthand about quicksand; where to walk and the best places to land the dingy in newly created beaches. It was marvelous walking around and viewing the environs intimately.

On our final day we see a boat sailing into the Creek. It is a beautiful sight, and we are quite impressed. As I am taking pictures, we notice it is our mate David who is single-handing his boat sv Sierra. He stops by later and we catch up. We will both be heading to Great Keppel Island, most likely tomorrow.

On June 5, after six months of being tied securely to the dock in Manly, Queensland the state opened for in-state travel. As Covid-19 numbers became under control, and the state border was still closed, we felt comfortable sailing North and discovering the Queensland Coast. During June and into the beginning of July there were no new cases reported. As of July 25, Queensland had 5 “active” covid cases.

Queensland is the second largest state in Australia, the East Coast of Qld is 3765 nm (more than 2 x the length of the US Atlantic Coast). Before Covid-19 our plans had been to sail to Indonesia in July; however, as country borders remain closed, we decided to take advantage of cruising and exploring the Great Barrier Reef!

Within our first month we sailed from the Brissy area in Moreton Bay, over the Wide Bay Bar to Pelican Bay, up through The Great Sandy Strait to River Heads, then up the Mary River to Maryborough. We planned our passage times fairly well for higher tides. We spent a week on a mooring in Maryborough, where the local yachties took us under their wings and we explored a city famous for Mary Poppins, as the author, PL Travers’ was born there. The rich history of the area engaged us as the Port of Maryborough was where nearly 21,000 migrants entered Australia from 1863 to the end of the century.

While coastal sailing we have found it imperative to pay attention to tides, being informed can help with favorable currents as well as keep you from running aground. We planned our exit from Maryborough at an hour before hightide to travel down the Mary River. Our experience has taught us that in shallow waters the best time to travel is on a rising tide, however when travelling in a river it is as important to go with the current which means when you are heading down river the tide will be going out and the water getting lower. Inauspiciously, by the time we reached the shallows near the Mary River mouth, we felt a little drag then found ourselves aground, and spent several extra hours waiting for the tide to come back in, until moving on. (BTW.. As the saying goes there are four types of skippers, those who have been aground, those who are aground, those who are about to go aground, and liars.)

Our Queensland journey continued to Fraser Island and Kingfisher Bay. Then across Hervey Bay, up the Burnett River, anchoring in the Bundaberg Town Reach. We enjoyed being in the “middle” of town as it was easy to walk and ride our bikes around town, check out new restaurants, go shopping and wash laundry, before heading back down the river to wait out strong winds prior to starting our journey into the Great Barrier Reef!

We were excited to visit Pancake Creek and once we arrived were invited to join a group of Aussies for a bush walk up to the Bustard Head lighthouse. Our local “guides” filled us in on history, flora and fauna. As we were taking a picture of a big spider one of our mates asked… “Do you know if that is a variety of Spider that jumps?!!!” Whaaaa…??? Once we arrived at the lighthouse, we joined another group for the official tour and found the history interesting. Our mates skipped the tour, but we were told to walk to the other side and check out the amazing view!!! It was spectacular.

While hanging out in Pancake Creek we inflated our stand-up board and kayak and enjoyed paddling around on the calm days. However, being the only ones paddling around we stayed quite aware as Bull Sharks and Crocodiles have been spotted in this area! We have had nice temperatures mostly in the 70’s (21.11 c) during the day but expect things to be warming up soon. We have not been in the water, partially because of the cooler temps, but also because of the animals that may be lurking! 

As we cruise north in the Great Barrier Reef it feels like we are on vacation, finally taking a real holiday! We have time to explore and cruise at a snail’s pace, as we will want to be back south of Bundaberg for the beginning of cyclone season, around the end of November. Keen to experience as much of the East coast as possible we decided to make many stops on our way North, visiting Islands, hiding out in rivers and marinas when the wind is strong. We had a favorable stop at Gladstone Marina, (possibly the most affordable marina in the Great Barrier Reef). We enjoyed riding our bicycles (“push bikes”) to get around the hilly town. We found a circuitous route to the grocery stores to purchase additional provisions.

By the end of July we had sailed North of the Tropic of Capricorn and arrived at Great Keppel Island with its beautiful sandy beaches and tropical water. There are anchorages on most sides of the Island, so while we were there, we found ourselves closing watching the wind and being ready to relocate and pull up anchor if necessary. After experiencing both rolly and calm anchorages, the bush trails, exploring, and discovering the resort life on the island, we sailed across to Great Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay. From here we would be sailing into a more remote area, so we were thrilled to borrow the courtesy car to re-stock Maia. As such, we had a couple busy days exploring the area, eating out in restaurants, provisioning (shopping for food and other necessary supplies), doing laundry, cleaning Maia inside and out, refilling our water tanks.

It was warming up; we had reached 80 (26.66c) degrees! As we headed North, we made notable stops in Port Clinton, Pearl Bay, Hexham and Middle Percy Islands. We found the tropics beautiful with lovely anchorages, beaches and wildlife! Whales, dolphins, turtles, birds, butterflies, spiders and snakes!

As we were quietly sailing along one arvo (afternoon), we had an unexpected encounter. We heard a whale spout (a sound of rushing air) and began looking around. Next, we heard whale calls coming from underneath us! Dick and I looked at each other, wondering what was happening? Subsequently a humpback popped up two boat lengths behind us, it was exciting and scary! We heard more whale sounds and then the whale resurfaced behind us a second time. What a breathtaking and surreal experience.

Curlew Island was a pretty stop before heading to Mackay Marina. It was time to re-stock again and we found the town a goldmine of shops. A terrific camping store, health food store, along with Coles, Woolies and Big W, grateful to have our “push bikes” with racks to carry all our goodies back to the marina. It was a 40-minute ride each way and we were happy to have a bike path to ride on. At the marina, we re-filled our propane tank as well as Maia’s fuel tanks.

Sailing on to Shaw Island, we had arrived in the Whitsundays, the touristy part of the Great Barrier Reef. We were loving the scenery, we felt it to be a little alpine-like, reminding us of Northern California. We spent several windy days and nights in this comfortable anchorage.

Within the cruising world, we tend to travel on similar routes, as the Ocean currents dictate the best ways to travel. We had met a yachtie, Jeanette (sv Monkey Island) and her family in Tonga and then spent some time together in a marina in New Zealand. She was now working at the popular holiday destination, Hamilton Island. We made a quick overnight visit and loved our short time on the Island. We were impressed with the wonderful restaurants, the grocery store at the end of the dock, convenient laundry facilities and access to the resort pools, hiking and up-close visits of Lorikeets and Parrots at Bob’s Bakery.

Our next stop was Airlie Beach, where we were meeting up with other yachtie friends we had run across in New Zealand! Here we genuinely enjoyed the Coral Sea Marina, with its awesome floating cruisers lounge, free courtesy Utes (small trucks), nearby shops and restaurants.

We delighted in our next week sailing up the coast, finding secure and picturesque anchorages. East Double Bay kept us sheltered from the winds. At Cape Gloucester we reconnected with cruisers we had met in Kingfisher Bay. We appreciated the beautiful Shark Bay near Cape Upstart but had a bumpy night anchoring inside of Cape Bowling Green. However, the next morning the tide had fallen, and we woke to a quiet, still, and gorgeous morning before pulling up anchor and motor-sailing into Townsville.

When we arrived at Townsville Yacht Club Marina, we were greeted by Arliss and Eric, sv Corroboree, whom we had last seen in New Zealand 15 months prior and we had first met in the Marquesas, French Polynesia! It was wonderful to catch up, enjoy time together and get the low down on Townsville. We explored and found Townsville a large urban Centre and a great locale to provision with a variety of stores and a Farmers Market every Sunday.

Laura escaped the boating life for a few days and took a peaceful train ride on Queensland Rail, North to Cairns. She stayed with Cheryl, Lauren and Robbie in Port Douglas, they delighted in the wonders of nature as they took a couple of day trips to the Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation in Daintree National Park.

Meanwile, Dick enjoyed attending a car race on the streets of Townsville!

We had heard wonderful things about Magnetic Island and loved our time on the island. The buses made it easy to move around the area. Seeing Koalas in the trees in the bush was magnificent. Along the Fort track we found a network of hikers spreading the word of where the Koalas could be seen. What a thrill to see a “Mum & Bub” low down in the crook of a “eucalypt” tree where we were able to observe them closely while they slept and we gaped as they adjusted their cute furry bodies and small hands and feet. We were treated to additional views of Koalas sleeping quietly up higher in trees along the track! Besides the Koalas we enjoyed the sights, sounds and Island life on Maggie. We spent five nights at the Horseshoe Bay anchorage even though we found it rather bumpy and a couple nights in the Marina where we were able to hire a boat cleaner and got the bottom of Maia scrubbed.

As October was upon us, it was time to begin heading South as Summer and Cyclone season were quickly approaching.

During the unexpected time of Covid-19 it has been difficult being far away from family and friends in the US, however, we are feeling grateful to be currently living aboard Maia in East Coast Marina, (near Brisbane, Australia). Staying connected via the world wide web with social media, zoom and phone calls has made it easier. As with many other countries, we are in self-isolation.

In Queensland, our “strict” lockdown was from mid-March to mid-Mayish. Each State has been responsible for setting its restrictions and recommendations. (I assume the Australian Federal government had a basic mandate that the states were to follow.) During the first several weeks of March there was talk of a lockdown. By March 22, an announcement was made that restaurants, pubs, indoor venues, shops, churches were to close. Queenslanders were told to self-isolate and stay in “their homes”. We were allowed to go out for “essential trips”; food shopping, doctor visits, and are thankful that physical exercise was encouraged. We have been enjoying walking and riding our “push bikes” (bicycles) for exercise and making trips to the grocery stores. There are beautiful walks and bike ways to explore and a more vigorous walk can be had if we cross the street and cruise through the adjoining hilly neighborhood. The schools stayed open, but I believe it was a choice each family could make whether their children went to school or not. I read a government statement that said they felt it was important for families with working parents to have an option to keep kids in school.

Social distancing became the norm, credit cards were required most places (no handling of cash). Residents were encouraged to stay in their neighborhoods and shop in stores closest to their homes. Here in Oz, many grocery stores are located in malls. Walking into our closest Mall, (a smaller one in comparison to others), things were quiet, and surreal. Many of the smaller shops were closed, however, grocery stores, liquor stores, variety stores (K-mart, Target, discount stores), and Barber Shops were open. The strangest thing was seeing the closeness of the people with the barbers and the number of people in the barbershops! A few of the “cafes” were open for take away. Hand sanitizer became available for use as you were walking into the mall buildings and stores (however it was not obtainable for individual purchase). Grocery stores had employees as greeters, squirting people with hand sanitizer and some were wiping down the grocery carts with antiseptic. We began seeing signs recommending social distancing.

Restaurants and bars closed, though a few restaurants offered take-away drinks and meals. Marinas were open; we needed permission to enter the office. Haul-out facilities and boatyards remained open. The Marine store (near us) was open, but only a few people were allowed in the store at a time. (The bigger marine stores were closed, eventually they opened for pickup only.) Home Improvement stores stayed open, a limited number of customers where allowed in the store, one-way traffic began through the store, with signs posted only 4 customers per aisle. Sporting good stores remained open and business increased for some, as people began recreating more and needed to purchase running shoes, and other “essential gear”.

In the larger stores we began seeing X’s as where to stand in the check-out lanes, and eventually plexi-glass barriers went up at cashier stations. Towards the end of May, restrictions were eased, restaurants opened with minimal seating, (you needed to sign in if you sat down) as well as many of the other retail stores reopened. Currently, hand sanitizer is available, and use is encouraged everywhere. Handwashing signs and social distancing signs are posted in many locations.

During the first month of lockdown it took some time for information to become well-defined. Initially it was not apparent what type of boating was allowed. The Marina we were in has a storage facility for smaller motorboats, the weekend just before the lockdown started it was crazy busy with people going out on the bay. It eventually became clear that people would be allowed out for day trips as boating was considered a type of exercise, but still no one seemed sure if it was ok to go out for a multi-day sail or possibly cruise to another marina. However, April 12, as friends were preparing to leave the dock (as they had been planning to do for months), the specifics came out that you were only allowed to go out on day trips and they wanted people to stay within a restricted area. At this point some marinas closed their docks to incoming boats. We also found out that most Australians were not allowed to leave the Country. They had to apply for special circumstances to leave and, as I understand it, state that they would remain out of Australia for at least a year or more. This would appear to be because the government does not want their citizens leaving, going to other countries, picking up the virus and returning to Oz.

Queensland was fortunate that during lockdown the number of Covid-19 cases flattened and became under control. By the beginning of June, the total number of cases that had been counted was around 1000. For the remainder of June there were no new cases reported!

Lockdown for us did not feel very constrictive as we are used to entertaining ourselves aboard Maia. We have settled into our cruising lifestyle; working on boat projects, reading, writing, watching movies, playing games, spending time together, communicating with loved ones back home, preparing Maia for sailing and pushing ourselves to get out to enjoy the beautiful weather and landscape here in Australia (it is easy to get comfy on Maia). However, the socializing with others was missed….

On June 5, after six months of being securely tied to the dock at East Coast marina, Queensland opened for in-state travel. It was time to set sail! We had decided to sail North to the Great Barrier Reef!

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.

This passage remains a blur, is it night 4 or 3? (on our sail from Port Moselle to Bundaberg). After motoring for the past 12 hours, we are sailing again! It is interesting to me how different the nights and days can be. With the low and highs comes the ups and downs. 

The dark nights… with the new moon rising around sunrise, we have had no moonlight. The cloudy obscure nights are difficult, it is hard to see anything. We have seen two boats on AIS, Crazy Love on day 1-2 and Houtmangrecht, a large ship on night 3. On the clear nights the stars do a superb job of lighting up the night. Last night felt warmer and muggier than the previous night. Tonight, feels warmer and the moisture not so intense. We have less clouds in the sky. We just got splashed with a wave, that made me jump. Things have been calm, but now that the winds have picked up, it appears the swell is too. 

I’m very grateful for the beautiful weather we have now, unfortunately, this includes the 2 meter (6 foot) swell that has been somewhat behaving itself. By that I mean that it has been tolerable… The sleeping has been difficult, as you get rolled around in the berth, but walking around the boat has been manageable. I think I only have a few bruises so far. Of course, the winds are predicted to pick up, which will mean the swells and the wind waves too. I wonder is it more tolerable because this is our 30 something overnight passage where we have sailed through the nights, so we are getting more used to it? Or has this passage really been mellower? Most likely the truth lies somewhere between the two or with the two. 

What it is like to be out here in the middle of an ocean on a 41 ft sailboat, the two of us, my husband and partner in this endeavor? He is the captain; I am the co-captain. After our 3 years and 9 months living on Maia, we appear to have developed a fairly good groove. We have our routines, and both watch out for the other. He is the Captain because he knows and understands all the workings of the boat. When we started out, I wanted to help and learn… but it turns out, Dick is really good at everything and he is used to working alone and I do NOT want to change the oil in the engine or take apart the boat to install a new widget and then put it all back together. I’ll help whenever he wants a helper, which is not often. I enjoy exploring and being social (he does too, but he is just as happy staying aboard working on this or that). During the last several months of cruising, I would go off to play with friends and would come back to have projects completed. It seems to be a win-win for all. 

Being out here on the Coral Sea, 400 miles from land is part of our journey. For me, the least desirable part, but to get from here to there… New Caledonia (our 10th country to visit) to Australia (our 11th country to visit), the “passages” are necessary. We need to cross the expanses of Ocean to get to land on the other side. I’m working hard on not being miserable while we are out here. It is not a fear of being away from land for me. It is not the thought of being hit by a rogue wave or being shipwrecked. It is the actual passage, the wind and swell or lack of wind, and lack of sleep that seem to be difficult parts. When the boat is rocking and rolling it is hard to do much of anything. When awake, I find it best to be up in the cockpit, and generally for the first day I sit and stare out at the Ocean. There is an adjustment period that happens. Podcast’s help me make it through the first night shift or two and then as I become more accustomed to the rocking and rolling or as the rocking and rolling subsides, I become able to function more. I can write, play word games, sudoku or maybe even read. Today, I cooked an awesome Sunday brunch. As the wind quiets, the swell quiets, but then the loud engine comes on. Even though I sleep better, the ongoing “hum” of the engine can make me crazy. 

To help make it all better I remember what an amazing life we are living. I feel spoiled and grateful for being able to explore and travel to these countries that were never a part of my dreams, but here I am… Currently sailing to the land of Oz, the one country that was my dream to visit since I was a little girl. 

Overnight Monday to Tuesday… We are a mere 154 miles from Bundaberg. We had a full day of little wind, so we motored, but took advantage of the quiet and made water. Sails came out just before dinner, so we had a calm and quiet dinner in the cockpit of garlic rice with broccoli and onions. We are using up as much of our fresh produce as we can and hope to have none when we arrive on Wednesday. The calm and light winds have been nice but are expecting the trade winds to strengthen today with a possibility of some showers. Today it was super clear, beautiful, and sunny and the sky is filled with stars tonight. 

With one day and one more night to go we are super excited to arrive! We have been studying up by perusing our guides, not sure where we will explore first. Been reading about whales and turtles, need to find out about kangaroos and koalas!!!

We had a spirited 37 hours in the Coral sea, sailing from Port Vila, Vanuatu to Drueulu, Lifou, New Caledonia. We departed at 0430 on Saturday, September 28 and once there was no longer protection from land the wind picked up to 19 knots and we came upon boisterous 2-3 meter (6-9 foot) seas with occasional deep rolls (Ugg, not fun). The sea state created additional havoc on Maia and by 0730 we had slowed twice by heaving to. The first time Dick re-capped one of the diesel jugs, the second time we rescued the kayak, that had slipped or had been pulled out of the kayak rack (bars holding it to the rail) by the annoying swell. We also raised the staysail, which was a good move and allowed us to sail more comfortably with the dynamic sea.

The wind and sea quieted themselves along our passage, by Sunday morning it was beautiful sailing weather and we had unfurled the genoa and were sailing at a respectable 5-7 knots. At 1230 we were sailing along the island of Lifou, and excited to get to the anchorage. It seemed we just had a little further to go… we thought just a bit east and then a quick sail across Santal Bay. Finally, at 1720 anchor was down and we were thrilled. We joined the 20 some boats that were anchored with the Loyalty Islands Rally. We realized we were the second to last boat to arrive as there was talk on the radio that Crazy Love with Connor aboard was due to be arriving the next morning, hopefully in time for check-in to New Caledonia!

We had a sizeable dinner trying to consume our fresh food that we expected Biosecurity to remove when they arrived in the morning. (They confiscated our lettuce, bananas, and cabbage.) Down Under Rally director, John, dropped off our New Caledonia entrance paperwork first thing on Monday. By 0915 Dick was picked up and taken to “Songlines” (the catamaran that housed Rally headquarters) where Customs and Immigration were professional, quick and efficient in processing Maia along with the 20 other boats. At 0945 Conner arrived, just in time for the check-in. We set up the dingy and by noon putted over to visit Crazy Love and pick up our stash of chips he brought us from Fiji. (Corn chips were pretty much non-existent in Vanuatu, Laura’s comfort food of choice.)  

We enjoyed our 3 plus weeks exploring New Caledonia. The highlight was Ile de Pins! We anchored in Baie de Kuto, for 4 nights. It was a beautiful large tropical bay with a large crescent sandy beach, rocky shoreline with large trees overlooking the shore. From our October 18 logbook entry, “Loving it here in New Cal! Have been finding the locals (Kanaks) to be welcoming.”

French is the main language spoken, with little to no French in our vocabulary, we found conversing with the locals difficult. However, our first day at the local market, Max came to talk to us (after he had taken his two large bags of rice to his vehicle). He was very friendly and spoke great English and explained that he had spent time in Oz (Australia) along with other English-speaking countries. He also told us that the big bags of rice were for a “camp” they were holding while the children were out of school. They taught lessons in the morning and then went out in the afternoon to experience those lessons. He also recommended that we only anchor at night in Baie de Kuto, but it was ok to day anchor at other locations. We had been told that there had been some trouble between the locals and tourists in this area.

While in Ile de Pins we decided to rent a vehicle. Connor joined us for a wonderful day tour around the Island of Pines. We picked up our car at 0800 from Nataiwatch and sped off to the Wednesday local market and scored fresh fruit and vegetables. We’d heard not so good things about the market, but it was perfect for us. We got bananas, papaya, lettuce, baby tomatoes and a large bunch of spinach. Dick and Connor also picked up a fresh sweet bakery treat. Next a quick stop at the ATM located just across from the market. Then we were off to explore. A quick stop at the statue of St. Maurice which was surrounded by some lovely pole carvings. We toured past a couple of beaches and then made our way to the highlight of the day, the Natural Pools. After parking the car, we meandered through shallow streams and towering pines, which open into a beautiful turquoise lagoon. We were pleasantly surprised with snorkeling as we found an amazing array of fishes, beautiful clams, colorful coral, and we even saw a sea snake hiding in the crevasse of a rock! Connor tempted us to swim on the outside, so we jumped into the pulsing ocean and enjoyed a quick swim exploring the deep waters with large craters below.

By Saturday, October 19 we were attached to the dock at Nomea Marina in Port Moselle Harbor. This was where we would spend our final five days in New Caledonia. As always when we reach a new city, we enjoyed exploring the area. Wandering around we found a lovely monument “to Honor the US Forces who by their presence from March 1942 to February 1946 during the Pacific War, insured the freedom of New Caledonia”. It has been interesting for me to begin to understand the power of the United States through the history we have seen, which has played a part of keeping the countries of the Pacific free. We took the local bus and enjoyed a visit to the Aquarium del Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie. It was a fun learning experience as they had pictures of the fishes we had seen while snorkeling throughout the islands. It was serene seeing closeup the large exquisite turtles swimming in the outdoor pond, but there was also a woeful feeling.

We decided to use Noumea Yacht Services to check out of New Caledonia. The office is on the Quay near the marina. The agent, Audrey, drove us to customs. We walked into a non-descript building, up the stairs and the women behind the counter looked at our passports, then at us (making sure we were who we claimed to be 🙂 then stamped the passports. Our agent took the rest of the paperwork and we arranged a 1400 meeting at her office. We enjoyed a nice cuppa nearby, completed our provisioning and made our way back to Maia. The next day, Thursday, October 24 at 1125 we were leaving the fuel dock and motoring out of Port Moselle Harbour. We were on our way to Australia!!!!

We left Port Denarau, Fiji on Saturday, September 7. Our passage was quite boisterous to start, with late afternoon & evening winds in the 20-knot range. We had SE cross swell that was in the 6-9-foot range, and it was rocky and rolly. Not our favorite, but as always, we endured!

On day two, the West winds eased and were in the 14-17 knot range, the swell quieted and we had a beautiful sail. At 0100 the winds had diminished, and the motor went on. When I awoke around 0900, there was a strong onion-like, burning smell, when Dick opened the engine compartment the smell became really strong. We turned off the engine and sailed under partial main and genoa.

Dick went into full investigation mode and found the start battery cover dripping acid and battery too hot to touch!!! He disconnected the battery and smothered it in baking soda. The engine compartment seemed extremely warm before the battery was disconnected. We switched to the house batteries, so the engine could still be started. All seems to be ok!? Luckily, a fire was averted!

For the rest of the passage we continued to have light winds, varying between 4-9 knots, we sailed whenever we could, but in reality, we motor-sailed for the rest of the trip.

On September 11 at 0800 we arrived at the southern-most island in Vanuatu; Aneytium and dropped anchor in Anelghowhat Bay. In the bay is Mystery Island, which is a Cruise ship destination. Vanuatu, formerly New Hebrides, is an archipelago of 83 islands and is around 1,750 km east of Australia. We had received permission via email to check-in to Vanuatu at Aneytium, however, there were no cruise ships stopping in the near future, so we were told we needed to check-in at either the island of Tanna or the capital of Port Villa. We had our quarantine flag flying for several days while we chilled and explored the area. One afternoon we dinghied to the beach and scouted the local village, Keamu. We found the visitor’s center (that was mostly there for cruise ships), a bank, and a couple small shops. Luckily one of the villagers gave us directions to an out of the way shop, where we could pick up a local sim card for cell service access. We also enjoyed snorkeling and walking around a quiet Mystery Island.

We took our time getting to the Island of Tanna, as we were enjoying the peace and quiet of Aneytium (we were the only cruisers in our anchorages). When we arrived in Port Resolution, on September 17, there were several other cruising boats. We launched the dingy and contacted the Port Resolution Yacht Club on the radio as they were to arrange our check in to Vanuatu. As it was late afternoon, we stayed aboard Maia and enjoyed our evening in the cockpit, watching the sunset and then seeing the glow from the Mount Yasur volcano, light up the sky!

Our week in Port Resolution went quickly with our walks around the area, close-up visit to Yasur (what a surreal experience), a bumpy and beautiful drive into the large town of Lenakel, boat projects, including our Go West Rally application and a few gatherings with other yachties. Now that we had joined “the Down Under, Go West Rally” we had a timetable to depart Vanuatu in about a week and continue our sail West.

On September 23, we enjoyed a brisk day sail to Dillions / Williams bay on the island of Erromango. Our max speed for the day was 11.8 knots! & we were sailing with reefed sails for most of the day. As we got behind the Island, we thought the wind was calming, and un-reefed the main, but soon there-after the wind picked up with force. We reefed the main again, (have we mentioned how much we like our Leisurefurl – in boom roller fulling with electric winch?)!

We were anchor down in the large beautiful Williams Bay at 1714. Early the following morning we were welcomed by Davey, a “older” gentleman who paddled out to us in his newly built dugout canoe with an outrigger. He brought us papaya, bananas, and a large lemon. He asked for rice, flour and sugar and offered to take us on a walk on the island. We met Davey on the beach at 10:30 and walked us up a beautifully landscaped path to the “Yacht Club” that he had built himself! Davey introduced us to his wife, and we presented them a few “gifts”. Then Davey took us on an engaging walk through the small village, beautiful forest and to the river where we had a lovely dip at the swimming spot. He was a good tour guide and explained about this and that as we walked. That afternoon he stopped by Maia to pick up some diesel and came aboard for a chat and a cup of coffee.

At 1700 we had the engine on and as the sun set were leaving Williams Bay. We had an ok overnight sail to Port Villa with winds 16-24 knots and rolly swell that increased as the night wore on. We were happy to arrive at 0800 to the Port Villa Harbour.

Whew, we had a blur of a visit to Port Vila. Upon our arrival in the bay (on Sept 25), we called Yachting World marina on the radio, trying to find out if there were any mooring balls available. Otherwise, we would anchor on the outside. We got no reply, so we slowly made our way into the inner harbor, going through the narrow red and green markers, only 5 feet deep! and then under the low wires, whew, we made it! We scouted around for free mooring balls and saw some white, yellow, and black, which were the correct ones? We hailed a dingy, loaded with other cruisers, they said find a free yellow one, and there should be a guy coming to help. As we looked around, we saw the marina guy coming our way. He helped us tie up to a mooring ball and said we could check in at any time. Once we straightened up on deck, it was nap time. When we got up from the short nap, we hauled the dingy off the deck and put the motor on. Then gathered laundry, shopping bags and packs, as we were heading into Port Vila to check a few things off our list. 

As we dinghied in, we noticed Shamata at the fuel dock, (a boat we had met in Mexico and had seen occasionally as we cruised around the Islands). We stopped by and chatted with them and they gave us a quick synopsis of Port Vila; where to go, the best stores, restaurants…. After our quick hello, we registered with the marina, dropped the laundry at the office, and were on our way to start exploring the Port. 

We decided to wander up the hill to the grocery store and Indian Restaurant (run by a southern California couple!) that was recommended. Our trip was successful, as lunch was yummy, the grocery store had just what we needed, and we found a well-stocked hardware store that had the dinghy motor oil that was also on the list. While I grocery shopped, Dick went to the cell phone counter to top off our local sim card. The woman at the counter was not able to help (because of a language difference), but the security guard stepped in and found that we had already paid for additional time, so he updated the phone. Angels are everywhere!

We walked back to Maia with full packs. We stopped and picked up part of the laundry that was finished (luckily the sheets had just dried). BTW, it was fantastic to drop the laundry off while we were out getting other things accomplished, especially since we were cramming a lot into a short visit. We stayed aboard for the evening, had a granola making session and enjoyed a quiet evening in the harbor. 

Friday was check out of Vanuatu day, which did not go quite as planned. We stopped by the office on our way in and were told the electricity was out, so the Port would not open until 1:00. We decided to take a walk around town and enjoyed the sights of the city. We walked past the happening farmers market, there were beautiful flowers and lots of fruits and veg inside the open-air market. We took a long walk along the waterfront and then enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch at lovely restaurant.

After lunch we took a dinghy ride across the harbour and tied up to a Customs & Immigration boat. As we walked into the building there was a group of others appearing to also be checking out of the country. We were handed forms to fill out and once those were complete, they were handed in and we were told to go to Immigration, and to Ports & Marinas to pay our fees. As we were finishing up with Customs, I noticed we were the last yachties in the building. I realized we just made it in time to check out before the offices closed! As we arrived at the Fuel dock, they were closing but told us to quickly get our fuel containers and they would fill them. Next time we will be timelier with our check-out procedures!!!

September 28 at 0430 the engine was on and we were on our way to New Caledonia!

July 30 – We are on our way to Suva with a planned stop in Gau. When I came on shift at 2100, it was a lovely clear night, the Milky Way was bright with the Southern Cross visible toward the one end. A few clouds covered the stars for a while, but the sky has cleared again, and everything is shining bright. We are currently heading towards the constellation Scorpious, the sea has calmed, and you can see the star trails across the water. The luminescence is streaming out in waves from Maia, and I’ve seen 5-6 shooting stars. Feeling grateful for the calm weather, even though we are motoring. 

We found ourselves heading toward the big city of Suva on July 31, we could see a band of clouds that seemed to surround it. The clouds and mist stayed with us, most of our time in Suva. We had heard that there were lots derelict boats and wrecks in the harbour and we found it to be true. It is a rather large harbour, and there are lots of large ships around, and not just single ships but ships that are rafted to each other. (Most of these boats look like fishing vessels.) It is hard to tell which boats are still working or if they are all helping each other stay afloat. There are also large 100 ft cargo boats going in and out of the wharf and the harbour. 

Our main order of business in Suva was to go to the American embassy and get my passport renewed. An appointment was made for Monday morning, 0930 with the Embassy. Instructions were given to bring my passport, $110 usd, along with the forms filled out and a new passport photo. 

As always, we enjoyed scouting out the city and found grocery stores, mobile phone sim cards and a place to get the passport photo taken. It was a 20 minute walk into town, but also found the taxi’s reasonably priced. On Sunday, we decided to venture around the city, found a nice cafe for lunch and had a refreshing walk, with a little rain and little sunshine along the waterfront. 

When we originally arrived in Suva harbour, we noticed a large ship anchored with lots of satellite dishes and thought it could possibly be a hospital ship, but that did not seem quite right. While walking around we saw it tied up to the wharf. Dick saw the name and looked it up, it was a Chinese Military ship.   

Our trip to the American Embassy was interesting. We arrived and were buzzed into a small building where we were questioned by security about our business, were required to walk through a metal detector and leave our backpacks and phones. Once we were cleared, we were directed to follow a walkway to another building. As we approached we were buzzed in and entered a large office where there appeared to be local folks waiting to be helped. We were pointed to a closed door and found a small office with a window where our embassy worker appeared quickly. She reviewed the documents and said that we would pay the $110 in the bigger office. Dick took the cash to the cashier, while I waited, in the office. Once the payment was made (this took some time as they had to run upstairs to find US$ change) and the paperwork was deemed to be correct, we were told that within two weeks the new passport would arrive. We decided to have it mailed to the Vuda Marina, as we expected to be stopping thru there in a couple weeks. 

Another must do in Suva was to get our B&G chart plotter fixed, it was shutting off at inappropriate times and we could not scroll in closer than 5 nautical miles. After much time was spent on the phone and emailing with West Marine trying to find out how the warranty would work, clever Dick decided to search online for the plotter problem. He found that the last update could be the source of the problems, so he did the latest updates and fingers crossed the problems will be fixed. (This did fix it for a while…)

After our visit to Suva, on August 8, we headed to Beqa, a small island to the Southwest. As we were approaching the island, we saw a boat on AIS heading in from the opposite direction. Once the boat name came up on AIS, we were not all surprised to see that it was Muskoka. After the big city, we enjoyed being in this quiet, little bay. We took a dingy ride to Lalati resort and around to explore the area and decided to have sundowners that evening at the resort. The resort were very welcoming. 

Dick took advantage of the calm water and cleaned the bottom of boat. Once he finished, he was very congested. We were not sure if it was from cleaning bottom or if it was a cold. However, he rallied the next morning to go for a little paddle as the kayak was finally repaired, and we were in the beautiful calm bay. Dick continued to not feel well for a couple days.

By August 13, we were sailing along the South coast of Viti Levu, the “Mainland” of Fiji. The winds have been quiet in the morning and picking up in the afternoon. We have had been enjoying some wonderful downwind sailing. 

As we have been making our way along the coast it has been captivating to watch the swell crash against the reefs. As the swell reaches the reef it arches up and shoots up in a jade green color before exploding on the reef in great clouds of white ‘soup’ that are 2-3 times higher than the jade green swell! Up ahead we see a white haze that almost looks like smoke or a halo coming off the surface of the water, it is the crash of the waves.

One night we stopped at Likuri Harbor, which had a beautiful white sand beach and the Robinson Crusoe resort. That evening we enjoyed the traditional Fijian feast (they even had special gluten free chicken available) and show. The fire dancing was spectacular.

We had heard a lot about Musket Cove and we were not disappointed when we arrived on August 14. As we pulled into the mooring ball area the wind freshened and we had a little difficulty picking up the mooring line. As we were making our third approach, we noticed a guy rowing a small dingy and were thinking, where is this guy going? He is going to get in our way! Well no, he was rowing out to help us! He was able to hand up the line and we tied up to the only open mooring ball.

Lots of Fun was had at Musket Cove. It was awesome reconnecting with Connor, (Sea Casa, now Crazy Love). Jennifer’s (Starlet) birthday party was super with a live band (consisting of cruiser friends), wonderful food, dancing, catching up with old friends and meeting new. We also had a date night at Dick’s Place Bar & Bistro, we enjoyed a fabulous buffet sitting by the pool with a sunset view over the beach. 

One day we decided to head out to Mana Island with some others to go snorkeling. To get there we motor sailed past Castaway. Once we arrived, I bailed as I realized I was not feeling well, I had caught the cold!!! (Dick had had a cold!) We spent an uncomfortable bumpy (mostly wind choppy) night at Mana and headed back to a mooring ball at Musket Cove. 

While tied up, I was feeling pretty miserable, Dick noticed we were not getting any charge into batteries, something was amiss with our electrical system. As it had been a couple weeks since we had applied for my visa and Dick was pretty sure we had a problem with the alternator, it appeared to be a good time to head to Vuda Marina. August 20 we had a nice afternoon sail to Vuda.

Dick worked with Summer Electrical, while I tried to be as low key as possibly as I had definitely caught the cold. Once I was feeling a bit better and the alternator was being re-wound, we took a taxi ride with Gail & Tony (Cetacea) into Lautoka. We had a great day exploring the town, enjoying lunch at a tiny Indian food restaurant and picking up a few “necessities” at the hardware, grocery and liquor stores. 

As much as we were enjoying Fiji, we were ready to start preparing for our departure and sailing further West to the islands of Vanuatu. Once the alternator was back and re-installed, we made another trip into Lautoka, purchasing Vanuatu dollars, buying more food, as we would have a 3-4 day passage and were not sure when we would be in a real town to shop once we arrived. 

As an appropriate weather window to start a passage was not apparent, on August 29, we sailed back to Musket Cove to wait for the weather to clear. Dick ended up coming back down with the cold, this time he got it even worse. I was able to play with others (I had several fun sailing and snorkeling days with Harlequin). While Dick recovered, he also worked on boat projects. It was a surprise to come back to the boat and find another project completed. Dick never ceases to amaze me!

Our final stop in Fiji, was Port Denarau. As we had been out another week or so, we took the bus into Nadi to do our final provisioning before checking out of the country. We also enjoyed spending time with Harlequin and Starlet, it is always hard to say goodbye. The check out process was a little confusing as we could not get a clear answer on how things were going to happen, before they happened. Mid-morning on September 7, Dick dinghied in from the anchorage and ended up bringing the customs guy all the way out to Maia. Clearance forms were filled out, he checked our alcohol stores, stamped our passports and we paid $105 fjd. He let Dick know that we could have come into the Marina and anchored nearby for the clearance. However, in reality, I think he enjoyed the dingy ride, especially the ride going back to the office, as he asked if the dingy could go fast, and fast Dick did go!