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Visitors from Home

Written by Cathy Siegismund
January 2004


We had a relatively quiet January in Mooloolaba. We had some work to do on the boat, and started watching the progress on our house via much appreciated weekly photo updates from Daniel, our realtor.

   

January progress on the house

We caught up with people at the marina including GB and Sarah from Djarkka, Brian and Sue from Nepenthe, and of course Nik and Jenn from Green Ghost. We also moved into the townhouse we had rented in nearby Alexandra Headlands and moved a great deal of stuff off Felicity. Since we were now committed to going home, we had to seriously look at our options for getting Felicity back to the States. We had decided to ship Felicity home rather than sailing. There are several reasons for this. To sail to Australia from Seattle is relatively easy taking you through the tropics in mostly downwind sailing. The return trip either involves a lot of "up-hill" aka up wind sailing, or a trip through the North Pacific. Neither of these options really appealed to us, so we started looking at shipping options. This will cost several thousand dollars, but will take a fraction of the time and alleviate a lot of wear and tear on the boat. Our first choice for shipping is Dockwise yacht transport. Dockwise is a shipping company that among other things has a yacht transport division. It has specialty yacht transport freighters. These specialty transport ships have several advantages over shipping a boat as deck cargo on a regular container ship. Dockwise yacht transport specializes in shipping yachts vs. a container ship that does not. Dockwise also does not require the owners to pull the rig, nor have to work directly with stevedores or find people to build a cradle. Dockwise ships are filled with water, boats are driven into the "bay" of the ship.

 

Yachts being loaded and off-loaded into the flooded Dockwise bay

  

Next, underwater welders build a cradle under each yacht. When all of the yachts are loaded, the Dockwise ship is drained of water and sets sail to its next destination.

Dockwise ship underway full of yachts

There are many benefits to Dockwise, but there are also a few downsides. The bread and butter of the Dockwise Yacht Transport company is mega yachts not little 31 foot sailboats; and therefore the mega yacht business will often dictate the sailing schedule. Dockwise has a scheduled sailing in August from Brisbane to Vancouver, BC. This couldn't be a more perfect schedule for us. However, this sailing was also scheduled the previous two years. One of these sailings, on which our friends on Rainsong had been booked, was outright cancelled because of the mega yacht business heading out of Auckland after the America's Cup. The following year, the August sailing from Brisbane to Vancouver was cancelled and boats booked on that trip were delayed until the following January and routed to Vancouver via Florida. We have friends aboard Bonheur from Port Townsend who sent their boat on this sailing after a lot of hassle and late night phone calls to Dockwise.

We have decided however, to go with Dockwise. Our expectations are low, and we are prepared to be very flexible on timing. So far we are booked on the August sailing from Brisbane, through Auckland to Ensenada, Mexico. There Felicity will be transferred to another Dockwise ship and taken to Vancouver, BC. The tentative arrival date is September 2, 2004. It will be amazing if that actually ends up all working out, as we sailed out of Neah Bay on September 2, 2000 headed for San Francisco. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed.

After a busy month of getting settled into the rental townhouse and other projects, I was very excited about a visit from two of my best friends from Seattle, Keli and Ellie. I had been working on them for a couple of years to come visit in Australia. The OZ Chick Fest was going to be for two weeks. I was going to fly to Sydney to meet them. We then planned to take the train to Melbourne to spend a few days exploring. We then were going to fly to Brisbane and spend the rest of the time enjoying the beach and local attractions around the Sunshine Coast.

On February 8, I caught a very early flight to Sydney from Brisbane. I met Ellie and Keli, who were a bit bedraggled from the long flight from the States. Ellie, was particularly knackered after the Seattle - Salt Lake City - San Francisco - Seoul - Sydney flight from hell. It was a hot and sunny day in Sydney. As we had all been to Sydney before, we were only going to spend one night there before we left for Melbourne. We took a cab to the hotel, dropped off our bags, and waited an hour or so until we were able to get into the room.

Ellie and Keli relaxing on the roof of our hotel after their long flights

After we were able to get into or room, we changed into cooler clothes and went down to the market held every weekend at The Rocks. We wandered the market and had lunch.

Ellie and Keli having lunch on a sunny Sydney afternoon

We wandered down to the Queen Victoria Market shopping mall and explored several Australian art galleries. I picked up an Aboriginal basket and an Eva Hannah painting.

Eva Hannah Painting of Sydney Harbour

We were all tired, so we grabbed some light food for dinner and couple of bottles of wine. We returned to the hotel, where we drank wine and talked until we all crashed. The next morning we got up early to catch the 7:30am train from Sydney to Melbourne. We had purchased a first class ticket, which got us a private compartment. The train ride was a relaxing way to travel and gave us lots of time to catch up on what we'd been doing and talk about plans for the rest of the trip.

Train trip to Melbourne

With that said, the scenery was rather mundane and about 6 hours of the train travel would have been plenty. After the nearly 12 hour trip, we were more than ready to arrive in Melbourne. We arrived at about 6pm to a nice sunny, non-humid, afternoon in Melbourne. Keli, who used to work for Hyatt, used some of her points to get us a room at the swanky and centrally located Grand Hyatt. Our room had a great view of the river and large park. We really enjoyed Melbourne, though a large city it had a more manageable feel than Sydney. Unfortunately, the weather turned and the next two days were cool and rainy. This put a bit of cramp in our touring plans, but we managed. We shopped, did a little sightseeing, and took advantage of the nice hotel health club. Melbourne has real cafe culture feel to it, with lots of galleries, museums, and theaters.

Keli and Ellie at Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market

Kel "enjoying" some shockingly bad Mexican food in Melbourne. There are many fantastic restaurants in Australia, but not surprisingly not many of them are Mexican

We also toured the Old Melbourne Gaol (jail). The old jail was built in the mid-1800s. Between 1842 and its closure in 1929, the jail was the site of 135 hangings including Australia's most famous outlaw, the bushranger Ned Kelly.

    

Old Melbourne Gaol

On one of our excursions, we wandered by a theater that was advertising a musical called We Will Rock You. We had never heard of it, but it appeared to be all Queen music. We were delighted when we were able to buy tickets for a performance on our last night in Melbourne. We picked up some available corporate seats, that where close to front and center.

We had a great last night in Melbourne. The weather was clearing up, we had a fantastic dinner at a small Italian restaurant, and had an awesome time at We Will Rock You.

Australia's We Will Rock You

The next day, we woke up to a sunny day and caught our flight to Brisbane. We arrived back sweltering heat. Ellie and Keli had thought Sydney was hot. We were all in for a shock, as Queensland was gearing up for the hottest February in 30 years. The girls were happy to hear our townhouse was only a block and a half from the beach, but were a little miffed that it did not have air conditioning.

We hit the beach our first day, working on our tans -- burns in my case and Kel's. We finally put our new boogie boards to use and spent a great deal of time trying to cool off in the surf. Our first big adventure on the Sunshine coast was a morning camel ride and then a walk around the resort town of Noosa Heads. Although, all of us are experienced horseback riders, we were all new to camel riding. Got up early, hit Starbucks and set off for The Camel Company in Tewantin just north of Noosa. We were the first ones to arrive at the camel trek operation. We signed up, chatted some with the guide, and waited for the other busload of tourists who were on the ride to arrive.

   

Kel and a friendly kookaburra

A monitor lizard crawling across the camel paddock

Lead camel in the camel train

Keli and Ellie waiting in front of our camel train

After everyone had arrived and we received an introduction on how to mount the and dismount the camels, we all mounted up and started the trek. The ride was a little over two hours. We first road through the bush full of the many species of Australian gum trees and palms. We then reached the beach. We road along a wide white sand beach. Driving on the beach is a popular pastime for the many Aussies with four wheel drive SUVs. Quite a few trucks and SUVs passed us as we walked along on our camels tied head to tail.

      

Keli and Ellie ahead of me in the camel train

   

Speed limit sign on the edge of the beach

It was a scorching day. After a very hot walk along the beach, the riders and camels took a little rest.

   

Camels taking a rest halfway through the ride


Our guide giving his favorite camel a drink

After the camels had a rest and all the riders had a small box of juice, we all mounted back up and started the ride home. Several of our other camel trekkers were starting to look a little worse for wear after the hot ride; and a couple even suffered some heat exhaustion symptoms. Keli, Ellie, and I were pretty hot, but had dressed appropriately and enjoyed the ride.

Native bush on the walk home

We had a great time, but were ready to find a cooler more relaxing way to spend the afternoon. We headed off to the resort community of Noosa Heads. We changed into cooler clothes and enjoyed a nice lunch in a shady restaurant. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach.

Our next big adventure, was a trip to the Australia Zoo, home of the Crocodile Hunter. This amazing zoo, has recently been named the number one tourist attraction in Australia, crikey!

Keli and Ellie with a Steve Irwin, aka Crocodile Hunter, cutout

See the Australia Zoo photo gallery for more pictures

Some cloudy weather rolled in for the next couple of days. We spent time hanging out at the condo, watched some movies, played several games of dominoes, and went to the Mooloolaba aquarium, Underwater World. We also made a trip up to the Eumundi market, a weekly farmer's and craft market we enjoy about 30 minutes north of Mooloolaba.

We also hosted a party for our friends Paul and Suzette in the condo we had rented. They had come up to Mooloolaba for a visit before they flew home for a few months. The weather was sweltering, but Ellie and Keli and a number of our cruiser friends had a good time nevertheless.

Paul and Suzette, the guests of honor

   

   

   

   

Party at the condo!

Ellie and Kel's visit was sadly coming to end. We did decide to squeeze in a few more things. We took two surfing lessons, which were a blast and celebrated Ellie's birthday.

Ellie all choked up over her "flaming tart" birthday treat

It was fantastic to have Ellie and Keli in Australia for a visit. I think they both enjoyed their trip, despite the sweltering heat of the Queensland summer.

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