Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Back in Godzone

It seems quite surreal being back in NZ after all that we have been experiencing over the last 7 months or so.
We left Bundaberg by Queensland Rail's Tilt Train at 1015 last Monday the 23rd.and had a great journey to Brisbane where we arrived mid afternoon. The Tilt Train, as its name implies, tilts on corners to counteract cornering forces and the train is all electric so was quite silent. The food was average on board but better than airline fare! It started raining as we came down past the Sunshine Coast and then we pulled into the Roma St. station from where we caught an Airtrain to the airport. A quick meal at the airport and then took off at 1830. Uneventful flight to Auckland where we landed at 0100 on the 24th. local time. Our friend Sara from Whangarei had come to Auckland just to pick us up which was absolutely wonderful of her. Bit shattered the next day but picked ourselves up and pottered around town in Jean's trusty Hyundai. We went to the Norsand Boatyard and  said hello to Murray and Jo and also to Noel who viewed Jim's recent haircut with "not up to my standards!". But it was great to see everyone there again after so long. Had lunch at Nectar Cafe which was good as always but a bit strange not to see Giselle from "Monkey Feet" working there. She and the boat are now of course in Mooloolaba where we saw them at Christmas.
The next day we had were feeling somewhat recovered and had a couple of appointments including one with our doctor to review our health in general and Jim's diabetes in particular. There don't appear to be any problems and it seems to be well under control, although we'll know more when we have some blood tests. Apart from that, we gave him a shopping list for prescription drugs (mainly antibiotics) to counter and ailments or injuries we may have on our travels. Then it was back to Auckland to Jean's son's new house in Milford. Perry was still in Melbourne - due home the next day. Great excitement from Jean as she hasn't seen him for some months. 
Then there was a red letter day - Jim was applying for NZ Superannuation, as he would be 65 the day after! All  went well and then we found a place to have free hearing tests. Jim's was A1 but unfortunately one of Jean's ears is a problem. We will have further tests in a week or so. Perry arrived home with a new BBQ which we  helped to assemble and then Tracie's mother and stepfather and 2 old friends of Perry's arrived for the first dinner from the new BBQ. A great night was had by all.
We hadn't been able to have a joint appointment so on the Friday it was Jean's turn to front up for the Super. All went well again and now we have to have another appointment to apply to have it paid during our likely prolonged absences offshore and that can't happen until Jean turns 65 on Feb. 18th. so we now have the appointment for the 20th.
In the meantime we returned to Whangarei and are staying with Hamish and Sara. Before leaving Auckland we visited Jim's daughter Rozanne and her little boy, Harry who is now 14 months. He gets around like greased lightning on his backside! A bonus was that his oldest daughter, Amanda was also there doing her "aunty" bit! We also paid a visit to Kerrin Worsfold who is restoring Jim's family's old boat "Jado" but unfortunately Kerrin wasn't home. However, we will catch up again. Back in Whangarei we have been enjoying talking with our former neighbours in the Town Basin Marina and seeing familiar faces around the town. We have also been sorting our storage unit and made good progress today. Tomorrow blood tests and then back to Auckland on Friday to meet a former owner of the Tiare and then Jean will be spending time with her sister and her family while Jim flies to Christchurch to see his daughter Charlotte, Jon and their two little daughters.   
We keep checking on the weather in Bundaberg and all seems OK - no floods or cyclones. So, keeping our fingers crossed although cyclones are extremely rare in that part of Queensland and even in last year's floods the Bundaberg Marina was unscathed.
More on our NZ sojourn as more fascinating events unfold.
Cheers from us
Jim and Gina

Sunday, 15 January 2012

More telecommunication frustrations - and watermaker

Since we last commented on this issue we must tell you the latest developments - although on reflection that's hardly the right word!!
Telstra - we have finally ascertained for sure that they will not accept international credit cards for recharging prepaid phones. In order to do this it took a 2 hour phone call by mobile on their free calling number. After about 4 operators all of whom spoke Asian English and who all assured us that they could fix the problem it was finally admitted that that was the problem and that was that. The inability to recharge with a credit card is of course difficult for us as we may at times be unable to source a voucher (which you can pay for with a credit card!!) and it would always be inconvenient.
We then decided to check out Optus. A person in their retail shop in Bundaberg told us they don't accept ANY credit cards but no less than 4 people from their website enquiry page have said they do - including international. Who do we believe??
Maybe we shouldn't worry about any of this because when we go north there is almost no coverage in any case!!
The owner of Open Ocean Watermakers, Opua, NZ has been in recent contact with the Australian company supplying our new high pressure pump to complain that we have been slandering his business. He really must have something to hide - to be that worried about an insignificant little blogsite like ours must mean that he is very sensitive to criticism. And definitely with good reason. The old saying "methinks thou protesteth too loudly" comes to mind.
We are doing boat maintenance, although not today because it's pouring with rain and blowing about 20 knots from the SE. We are looking forward to seeing everyone back in NZ during our all too brief stay when we arrive there in a week's time.
Cheers again from us,
Jim and Gina
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
P.S. - Anna and Clyff, finally worked out how to send BCC emails. You also need to click on the BCC box before entering every address!

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On-going maintenance

It's now the morning of a very wet 16th. Jan. here in Bundaberg. Unfortunately it means that our re-caulking has come to a temporary end but we are hoping that there is an improvement in the next couple of days to allow us to do another 1 or 2 deck seams before we leave for NZ in a week's time.
The re-caulking is a bit of a business. The process is first using our Fein Multimaster power tool with a custom made U shaped attachment specially designed for cutting out the old caulking material. This saves hours of work compared with the old method of scratching the old caulking out by hand. Then it is necessary to hand sand the seam (about 5mm wide by 5mm deep) to clean up the sides and bottom. Then both sides of the seam on the deck need to be masked to protect the deck from excess caulking overflowing the seam. Then the seam must be sealed with a special primer - $50/ 250ml. bottle!! Then (usually the next day) the new caulking (a black rubberised compound and very potentially messy!!) is placed in the seam via a cartridge held in a gun which squeezes the stuff out of the nozzle. As the black stuff sqeezes into the seam it is then necessary to knife off the top surface so that a nice smooth surface flush with the deck is the end result. Hence the need for masking as otherwise there would be an unholy black mess all over the decks. Once the new caulking has sufficiently gone off after 6 or 7 hours the masking is then removed to reveal a smooth pristine and waterproof deck seam!! We are getting more and more proficient as the hours of practice continue.
We are looking forward to our upcoming travel. We leave Bundaberg next Monday at 1015 by Queensland Rail's tilt train which as its name implies tilts on corners to counter the effects of cornering. It's about 4 hours to Brisbane, then we catch a suburban train to the airport (about half an hour). NZ should learn a lesson from the Australian passenger trains which are well patronised because they offer such a convenient and comfortable service. We'll tell you all about it after the experience.
Then we fly by Virgin (code sharing with Air NZ) to Auckland arriving just after midnight on the 24th. Our Whangarei friends, Hamish and Sara will be in Auckland at the time and have very kindly offered to pick us up from the airport and drive us straight to Whangarei in the early hours. Then after a bit of tiong and froing between Whangarei and Auckland, we hope to fly to Christchurch to see Charlotte before flying from there back to Brisbane and some more train travel! Should be back in Bundy sometime around mid February and more deck caulking!!
Cheers from us and here's hoping all is well
Jim and Gina (Jean) 

Monday, 2 January 2012

Christmas and New Year 2011-12

It is now New Year's Eve + 1 and 4 days ago we returned to Bundaberg after a very pleasant Christmas in Murwillumbah with Jean's long time friend Sara and her son Ricardo and Carl. Jean (Gina) had known Sara since they both worked together in Auckland over 30 years ago and they also used to see quite a bit of each other when Sara was married and living in London. Jean travelled there from Hong Kong many times.
We left Bundaberg on the 23rd. and were very kindly given a lift to the airport to pick up our rental car by John and Chris ("Sara II") who had a local rental car. We had a 6 hour drive to Murwillumbah in NSW ahead of us (between 500 and 600 kms.) and so were pleased to have been able to get away by 9.30. The route south from here is by the Isis Highway to Childers where it ends as it joins the Bruce Highway. Still only one lane in each direction but the traffic was flowing well. 60 kms further on we were getting a bit peckish so stopped for an indifferent breakfast on the outskirts of Maryborough but at least it filled the gap. As we went further south there were more stretches of 2 lanes which speeded up the flow. Still, the Aussies don't generally dawdle like they do in NZ so the trip was relatively hassle free. We bought lots of fruit at a stall just inland from Mooloolaba - beautiful mangoes and soooo cheap!! As we approached Brisbane the traffic increased appreciably but by then we were travelling in 4 lanes in each direction. The Gateway Bridge across the Brisbane River was an experience - 2 identical bridges side by side, each 4 lanes. One going south and the other north. As you approach they resemble giant skateboard  ramps or ski jumps as they have to be high enough to allow the passage of ships underneath. Once on the southern side of the river however the traffic increased dramatically as we were now travelling with the holiday traffic leaving Brisbane. Through the back of the Gold Coast it was very slow and also hampered by many roadworks. However, after enduring that for about an hour things started moving again as we got closer to the Coolangata area. Then it was relatively quick through Tweed Heads and Tumbulgum to Murwillumbah. It was lovely to be in Sara's fairly new house overlooking lush green valleys and many trees -quite unlike the aridness and flatness of Bundaberg!
The next day (Christmas Eve) it was up early and Jean and Sara talking nonstop and catching up on the last few years, although Sara and Ricardo had stayed with us when we were in the flat at the Norsand Boatyard in Whangarei, which wasn't that long ago!!! Carl has a property up towards Mt. Warning and he went there to feed his chooks while Jean and Jim went into town to look around and get some more food for Christmas dinner - as if we needed any more!
Mt Warning is a few k's SW of Murwillumbah and is an extinct volcano now 1157 metres high (3506 ft.). Just after it first erupted it apparently was twice that height. It was named by Capt. Cook as it warned him of the proximity of the coast and particularly dangerous reefs off Point Danger (also named by him). It was humbling to realise that we were once again near the footsteps of the Great Navigator as we had been in New Caledonia and no doubt will be again as we head north in April. You can read more about Mt. Warning on www.mtwarning.com
Later Jean and Sara were busy in the kitchen with Jean doing her thing with the stuffing and then very slow cooking of the turkey - all night at 100 degrees C. A very successful way to cook turkey. Christmas Day dawned  fine although Mt. Warning was still shrouded in cloud. In a spirit of Yuletide conviviality we all sat around the Christmas tree and opened presents in turn . A delicious breakfast of fresh fruit - cherries, mangoes, bananas and oranges and we were ready for the rest of the day. Carl, Ricardo and Jim then went up to Carl's property in Carl's bright orange VW Kombi van. He has a substantial acreage just at the foot of Mt. Warning with a fast running stony bottom stream. The house and assorted outbuildings are something to behold. "Quirky" doesn't do them justice and the house is full of memorabilia from Carl's life - an absolutely amazing place. We also went to the carpark at the base of the Mt. Warning track and climbed up a short way admiring the Bangalow Palms (native to the area) and the lush rain forest with bush turkeys and many other birds in evidence.
The turkey and ham were marvellous and as usual we all ate far too much. All in all a very pleasant day filled with Christmas love and goodwill but tempered with an underlying concern for Charlotte and her family as Christchurch had had another large earthquake 2 days previously and we had rung them as soon as we arrived in Murwillumbah. Although they were ok there was an feeling of sadness which we hadn't detected before. We hope with all our hearts that the worst is now behind them and that they may finally get on with their lives with a degree of certainty. At least they were going up to Blenheim and the Marlborough Sounds for a break which will take their minds off it for a time. 
Boxing Day - Jean, Sara and Ricardo all set off for Mt. Warning where Ricardo ran to the top in an amazingly short time. J & S walked about two thirds of the way up before returning to the car. Jean had been to the top before. Jim and Carl remained at the house and variously put the world to rights and talked about recent experiences. Later that afternoon we all went down to Brunswick Heads for a picnic dinner. This is a typical rivermouth estuary with a fearsome bar entrance but passable in the right conditions. Certainly with the low pressure system passing by which has since battered NZ the conditions were anything but "right". Most surf beaches had been closed that day because of the high swells. But a very pleasant time and then home to Murwillumbah.
The next day (27th.) a sad farewell to Sara, Ricardo and Carl and we were on the road once more. Stopped at Tumbulgum for brunch at the pub which was nostalgic for Jim as he had had a meal there 16 years ago during a tourist river excursion on the Tweed.!! Then on through Tweed Heads (grown hugely and unrecognizably) in the intervening time. Lots of slow moving holiday traffic. Thunderstorms and torrential rain behind the Gold Coast so stopped for a while at a one of those soulless motorway stop places before continuing on to Bribie Island where we stayed with Robbie and Jeya in their very attractive house on a canal development there. Robbie is an ex Cathay Pacific pilot who Jean had known in Hong Kong about 12 years ago. We went to the local surf club for dinner and picked up Robbie's mother on the way. She is an amazing sprightly person in her late eighties - an inspiration. Sports clubs in Australia really run great restaurants and it is a major business. We had an excellent meal and then returned to their house and a luxurious bed and space - so different from the boat!! The next day Robbie took us on a tour of Bribie and we walked along a foreshore area where one could observe various wading birds. Then sadly it was another departure and we continued north. Heavy traffic as we approached  Mooloolaba where we had a seafood lunch and then managed to catch up with Kasey, Giselle and the Monkey Feet crew on "Monkey Feet" - a Canadian boat we had come to know well in Whangarei. Mooloolaba was frantic and the traffic was mostly at a standstill everywhere but after a very pleasant time with Monkey Feet on their ship we managed to rejoin the Sunshine Motorway and then eventually the Bruce Highway and hightailed it north again. By then however it was becoming clear that we wouldn't make Bundaberg anytime before dark so we decided to stop in Maryborough for the night. This is a town on the Mary River and famous for its old colonial buildings when it was a sugar port. Jim had an irrational desire to stay in an old Aussie pub so we managed to find one but the experience was not up to the promise that seemed to be indicated by the very attractive facade!! Still, it was clean and we slept well before a very early departure. Over 100 kms to Bundaberg and we wanted to get to the marina at the port so that we could offload our gear before returning the car to Bundaberg Airport at 10 which we did.
Then a meal and some provision shopping in town before returning to the boat.
We've been here ever since and on New Year's Eve we went with John and Chris from the British boat "Sara II" and Buddy and Helen (Canadians who now live in Australia) from "Desire" to the Lighthouse Hotel at Burnett Heads. A pleasant meal and conversation after which we repaired aboard "Sara II" for more drinks until the magic hour when we ushered in 2012. Let's hope it is better than 2011 and speaking selfishly, that it treats us kindly when we leave here in April for the 2500 mile passage to Darwin.
The weather here has been consistent with 20-25 knot SE and fine day after day. So far we have replaced our hot water cylinder and today our galley waste pump. Tomorrow we start on a selective re-caulking of some deck seams so that they hopefully don't leak on the way to Malaysia. One of these days we might actually get round to having a G&T at sundown!!  
More fascinating news of our boat maintenance will be posted in due course!! In the meantime we wish all our friends and loved ones a very happy New Year and may it be everything that you would wish.
With lots of love
Jim and Jean (Gina)