Sunday, 27 January 2013

Wild weather

We've been hearing with disbelief the non-stop accounts of the damage that has been caused all down the eastern Queensland seaboard by ex tropical cyclone Oswald.
It originally formed over the Gulf of Carpentaria and then headed towards Cairns. However, by the time it passed here about 30 miles inland it was very mild and had been downgraded to storm status. We only had maximum wind gusts of 35 knots and not much rain. We were very lucky. As it has progressed south it has gained strength and just north of Brisbane there have been reported wind gusts up to 70 knots. But, worse than that has been the rainfall. The Queensland Premier has said that the whole of the east coast of Queensland is in fact a flood plain, and how correct that is. The catchments are huge and therefore the rivers that drain those catchments are very subject to prolonged flooding. Often the flood peaks don't occur until the rain has passed and several days can go past before the flood peaks hit the coastal urban areas and settlements with devastating results.
Rockhampton, Gladstone, McKay, Bundaberg and Maryborough and many other centers have all been badly affected. We particularly indentify with Bundaberg which is on the Burnett River as we spent many happy months there from Nov. 2011 to April 2012. We were aware of course of the 2010 flood and well recall going into a health store in the city and asking how high that flood came to. They showed us a mark on the wall only a few inches below the ceiling and it seemed absolutely incredible to us that any flood could get that high. Now they are facing a flood likely to peak tomorrow (Tuesday) some 1.5 metres higher than that. We recall our 2 km. walks to Burnett Heads and the Lighthouse Tavern for very welcome refreshment and wonder how they have fared with the tornados that ripped through there yesterday. We have also heard that the marina where the Tiare was moored has been badly damaged with some piers completely broken up. That marina (the Bundaberg Port Marina) survived the 2010 flood unscathed. We reflected on the fact that this time last year Tiare was in that marina and we left her there for 3 weeks while we were in NZ. It is absolutely ironic that we have been concerned with the possibility of cyclones in the tropical far north and so far we are more or less unaffected whereas the area to the south that was considered safe has suffered to such an extent. Still, we shouldn't be complacent because the cyclone season is far from over.
To say that we are unaffected isn't completely true. There is no mobile phone coverage for the entire west, north west and far north of the state because two Telstra fibre optic cables have been broken well south of here. This means that the emergency number 000 is inoperative so our only contact with the outside in the case of an emergency would be by radio and declaring a Mayday! In addition there is no internet for the same reason so not sure when this email will be sent. We can't send it through the Sailmail radio system either because we still haven't had this computer set up to interact with the HF radio. The other thing that's likely to affect us and everyone else in the far North is possible shortages of food. Supermarkets typically only carry 3-4 days of stock and all communications to the south of here are cut. The Bruce Highway is badly damaged in places and still completely inundated in others. There is no rail service anywhere. One 126 yr old bridge with heritage status has been moved sideways by a small amount with obvious effects to the rail line. This is just one of many examples of damage. We have heard that Cairns Airport is closed - possibly because of the loss of internet and communications.
Yesterday before we lost phone service we heard that an old friend of Jean's, Joy Agar had died very suddenly. This was quite a shock as she was around 6 years younger than us. Jean composed a brief obituary to be read at Joy's funeral but now we can't send it until comms are restored so it may be too late. Here's hoping.
Also yesterday on a lighter note it was Jim's birthday and we caught a bus to Trinity Beach and had another great lunch at our favourite restaurant. A lamb and feta dish for Jean and curried prawns for Jim all washed down with a Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris.
We have been having quite a social time. Our friend Max invited us and 3 other old friends of his to dinner at his home on Saturday night. We were very kindly picked up from the marina by David and Marianna and we had a great time. As it was Jim's birthday the following day we took a Tiramisu cake and it had "66" sparklers on it. As if Jim needed reminding!! Then, because of alcohol consumption our lift wasn't available, so we had a 3 km. walk to Sheridan St (the main road north) where we eventually caught a bus home. We arrived around 2 in the morning!!! All in all a most enjoyable night with an unusual ending!
For now though we must just await the outcome of these terrible floods. Our hearts go out to the people of Bundaberg in particular and with the despair that comes with facing the same situation within 3 years. Apparently previously the worst flood occurred in 1942 and with this one the flood heights exceed both of those. North Bundaberg is particularly affected and there has been an order for compulsory evacuation. As all ground routes are submerged, the only way out is by air and there are numerous helicopters employed picking people off rooftops. Farms and orchards are also well inundated and they are saying that as the force of the water flow is up to 40 knots, in the worst affected areas houses and businesses could well be swept away completely.
We just feel very thankful that we are in Cairns, even with the cyclone threat.
With love and best wishes from us..........
Jim and Jean

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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Tropical cyclone Oswald

Well, we have had our first encounter with an ex tropical cyclone. Oswald formed over the Gulf of Carpentaria a few days ago and then slowly tracked east over the Cape York Peninsula. It then turned south and more or less followed the coast while at the same time it was downgraded from a Category 1 cyclone to a severe tropical storm.
Last night it had turned inland by a small distance and at midnight was on the same latitude as Cairns but about 30 miles inland. We had torrential rain and wind gusts up to 35 knots (about 75 kms) so not so bad. In fact we have had worse in the Whangarei Marina! Had to go on deck in the early hours to remove the foredeck awning before it flogged itself to death.
This morning it's still overcast but no rain and the wind is negligible. Jean's been to the gym on her bike but Jim slept in and didn't go swimming after the night's excesses!
Let's hope that's as bad as it gets but got another 2 months at least to go yet. Watch this space.
Cheers and love from us............
Jim and Jean (Gina)

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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Cairns musings

We had been invited to Bernie's Jazz Bar in town for New Year's Eve and had been looking forward to it; however, about a day before Jim came down with a very bad cold with almost flu-like symptoms and so we had to regretfully bow out. New Year was therefore a very low key affair for us and we didn't even see the New Year in. Instead we retired to bed with (in Jim's case) a large scotch from a bottle of malt we brought back from NZ. It didn't have any effect on the symptoms but at least the patient had a dulled pain response!!
Happily the patient is now largely recovered and thankfully Jean didn't catch it. Surprising considering the close quarters on a 38' yacht.
Since then we've been making plans for our eventual departure from here which now is only 12 weeks away. Sounds a long time but it will loom up really quickly. We have been having discussions re hauling out with the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron (CCYS) who operate their own haulout facility and a commercial operation - Norship. The CCYS is friendly and a bit cheaper but we have some concerns re their professionalism and the fact that you have to arrange everything - even the hire of an access ladder - from outside sources. By contrast Norship has everything in the yard and the whole operation engenders much more confidence. And the CCYS is only just along the road so the odd visit to their restaurant shouldn't be too difficult! So we're hauling out on March 25th. and should be out on the hard for a maximum of a week. Hopefully only anode replacement and antifouling so there shouldn't be any delays. There wouldn't need to be either because hauling costs in Australia are far from cheap. The total operation will cost us a minimum of $A2,000 ($NZ2,500) - another reason we want to get to SE Asia with their much lower cost structures.
We're about to start on a programme of maintenance which we can do in the water including repainting some of the hull topsides. Should be fun balancing in the dinghy with a can of paint! We'll need to start early each morning because beyond about 9.30 the temperature precludes any strenuous activity.
We've also started on our get fit campaign with cycling (in Jean's case) to the local gym at the Campus shopping centre. Only about 5 kms and Jim is cycling to the local pool where they have a 50 metre lap pool - so far he's doing 10 lengths at a time but hopes to increase that to 20 soon. Only been 3 times so far but it's amazing how quickly what had been a bit of a chore very quickly becomes easier with only a modicum of fitness. It's really all flat but on a bike you really notice even the slightest rise.
The wet season hasn't really started yet- just a few showers. Mostly the weather is beautiful and fine but hot!! The aircon on the boat is a godsend.
We are all well and living well. Cheap wine from Dan Murphys and heaps of great fruit and veges. The mangoes are cheap and delicious. We are able to use the marina courtesy car which means we will be really spoilt for when we are anywhere else!
Hope all is well with everyone and that everything is going your way.
With lots of love from us
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III

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