7 March, 2007
Palm Beach, Australia
Back to Normal
The first leg of our trip was back to Broken Bay. The winds were again on the nose but light and we thought we would just scoot up the coast and wait
a while in a calmer atmosphere than Sydney. While moored off Palm Beach we again met up with our new friends Lindsey, Tony and Ginger. We were invited to dinner at their restaurant and had a great night of talking about sailing and their plans to buy a Fountaine Pajot in the Caribbean. From the picture you can see how delightful the meal was. Tony isn't in any of the pictures (our fault) as he was doing most of the cooking that night. Tony, you did a great job. It was fantastic! So if you are ever in the Pittwater area then stop at Palm Beach and visit the fish and chips shop. I don't think you will be disappointed.
The next day the weather turned ugly and we decided not to head out. Lindsey came by in his "tinnie" (what Australians call aluminum boats) and the last we saw of him he was yelling through the rain, "remember where ever you travel in this world you'll always have family in Palm Beach". I guess that's the essence of "mateism" that we hear about and experience as we travel Australia. The people are almost always friendly and outgoing.
Well ,we still have this court date in Southport and the weather is not cooperating. We headed out knowing that the winds would be from the northeast but hey, we can make some north out of that. Well, we did make some north but not enough and when one night the sky opened up with the most spectral display of lighting we had ever seen, it was time to buck the 30 knot winds and head to shore at Port Macquarie. Lightening lit the sky, there was not a moment when there was not ten or more streaks jumping from cloud to cloud or to the ocean surface. The storm was concentrated in a small area and was probably six to ten miles away and I could only think that the gates to hell must be located directly below the storm. Any boat near the concentration certainly would suffer several strikes. And it lasted for over six hours! As the sun was coming up we could still see lightening. It was the most amazing display of natural forces I had ever seen.
The entrance to Port Macquarie can produce occasional rogue waves so we slowly made our way up to the cut, noticing the surfers off of our port sliding down large swells. We hailed VMR on the VHF to check the waypoints for entering the harbor and also to see if they knew current conditions. They reported that the swells appeared to only be about a meter or so, so we continued on. The channel is well marked and we took a mooring ball across from the Port Marina.
In Port Macquarie, we have noticed that Australians really wanted to honor Lachlan Macquarie, a Scotsman who was governor of the colony in the first part of the nineteenth century. Macquaire's principal achievements was the construction of the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains. Now the name is everywhere, Port Macquarie, Macquarie Island, Macquarie Marsh, Macquarie River, Lake Macquarie, Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, Macquarie Point, etc. Get the picture? And then there are also streets, cities, universities, banks - all with the name Macquarie. Macquarie may be as overused as Washington is in the US.
That comparison might draw your attention on how differently the English language has developed and continues to develop. Australians like to shorten words. Like for Christmas it was Chrissy, breakfast is breakie, cupa for a cup of anything. Paul Hogan, Crocodile Dundee, colloquialized the Australia language for most of the world and the Australian people followed suit. True to the British heritage, tea is the drink of choice. They don't take coffee breaks, they have morning and afternoon tea. We went to pick up a motor that had been rewound and the guy behind the desk ask if we could, "come back in 20 minutes as Roger was having his morning tea," It seems that we are always saying "thank you". We buy something and to fill the pause we say "thank you". They respond "oh, you're alright". And they do say "G'Day" but most of the time you get "How's yee going?" It takes a while to understand the dialect and expressions but once you get it comprehension improves.
Port Macquarie turns out to be an excellent place. From here we rented a car and drove to Southport for our court date. Within a few minutes in the court room we knew that we would not prevail. First the limits of the court were only for the amount of the work performed in the initial service and not the cost of repairing the mess after the shaft broke and secondly we needed irrefutably proof that the defendant broke the shaft. Well by hiring an expert witness and the services of a metallographic lab it could be done but this is small claims. So we will just mark that up to experience and continue on.
We found the small seaside resort and retirement residence of Port Macquarie to be a friendly location where everything was within walking distance. It was lazy and laid back without a great night life. Even movies started at 9:30 AM. This must be some kind of inducement for the retirees that now live here. Retirees can sell their house in Sydney and replace it in Port Macquarie and make a significant increase in their retirement account. There are great surfing beaches nearby. It is difficult to do the math on this one but we rented a car for $39.00 per day no hassle about insurance and no taxes (the guy actually picked us up and when we were done took us back to the marina). At the marina you could rent a canoe for $40.00 per day and near the beach you can rent a surf board for $50.00 per day. Huh?? It must be something like trying to figure out airfares.
While enjoying this little community we discovered numerous social clubs. These membership clubs sponsor lawn bowling, crocket, bingo, and a variety of gambling activities mostly based of "pokies" or a type of poker machine. The food is priced reasonably although not four star. Whilst talking about eating it brings to mind that there is no tipping in Australia. The minimum wage is $13.00 AU and tipping is not expected although no gratuity would be turned down. Many clubs and neighborhood restaurants are self-serve. You go to a counter and order your food and when it is ready your buzzer goes off and you go pick it up. The staff of course busses the tables but you have to hustle around for condiments and silverware and napkins if they are available. We have found that Americans have an over dependence on napkins, or so it would seem. We always look for napkins and in some cases we have the opportunity to be the guest of Australian friends and when the meal came, no napkins. These were urbane people who took pride in the meal they prepared but hey no napkins?
The current that takes you down to Sydney at ten knots plus is the same one that is making the trip north a real slug. It is difficult to catch more than a day or two of southerly winds and the rest of the time it is on the nose. Be prepared to burn a lot of fuel en route. The marinas are now charging $1.59 AU per liter. That converts to $4.83 per gallon US. Coff's Harbor is the start of banana country. It is testament to the mild winters since this is the furthest south bananas grow. We got into the harbor in the early morning, anchored outside the breakwall and then took the dinghy into town to check it out. After lunch we headed back to the marina when we heard someone calling out our name. We turned around and saw Andrew and Carolyn from the vessel Revision II waving to us from the dock. They had been in Coffs about a week and were heading to new jobs in Sydney where they plan on working for a few years to rebuild their cruising kitty. Originally from London they already have the English dialect down. We haven't seen them since Bundaberg where a group of us went one night to watch the turtles come in to lay their eggs.
The next morning we headed into the fuel dock. You have to wait until the fishing fleet completes fueling so we were told to come in around 8:30. Even this late the dock we occupied by fishing boats. After one pass near the narley boats and unfriendly high dock we tied up on an end dock and decided to jerry can the fuel to the boat.
Our new generator is ready to be installed so we need to get back to the Gold Coast We left in light winds from the south so we had the sails up and the engines running to combat the current. Eventually the wind came around to our nose and we rolled in the jib using our motors only. The Coast Guard just issued a high wind warning but we should make it to the "Spit" before that hits.
Back to the Gold Coast
We came through the cut at South Port early on Sunday morning and anchored only 4 hours before the high winds hit. They blew for a couple of days at 25 - 30 knots. The contractor scheduled Thursday for the installation of our new generator so we made our way to the Gold Coast City Marina 10 miles up the Coomera River. We anticipated going in on Thursday and being ready to leave by Friday afternoon but of course things never work like that. It took most of the day Thursday just to find a place for us to tie to. A boat scheduled to leave didn't so we ended up spending all of our time at the fuel dock. Friday morning we backed up and a crane dropped our generator in and then back to the fuel dock. Now it is Friday afternoon and they didn't schedule the "sparkies" (electricians) until Monday. So we took the challenge from our friends, Tom and Amy on S/V Sandpiper, and met them at "Dream World" amusement/water park on Sunday. We careened down all the water rides and then headed off for the amusement park. Rene, Tom and I climbed aboard "The Claw" which is a big twirling swing designed to simulate the weightlessness you might feel if you were being swep away by a gaint Pterosaurs. Next Amy and I rode the "Drop" which as the name implies you are hauled up in a bench, which free falls after sitting some 250 feet from the ground. Before departing we went to see and IMAX movie about the animals of Australia. Since the buses stop running early,Tom and Amy slept over on Shiraz and we dined on pizza.
The "sparkies" did show up Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. and by Tuesday evening we have the genertor running. No problems. So Wednesday morning we do our laundry with dock water and start the engines. But now the port engine won't start. I check the things that I know to check and call the engineering company back. I told them that I thought it was an electrical problem but instead of sending the electricians they send the mechanic and ended up changing out a fuel pump. So after a couple of hours they called the "sparkies". To make a long story hopefully a little shorter, the electrican severed a wire to our fire suppression system while pulling the cables for the generator. Once we figured that out, we flipped a switch to override the system and the engine started just fine. I will rewiring this at a later date but for now we just want to get out of the marina and get away from anything that has GOLD in the name.