November 18, 2012

Our 1st Ozziversary—things we love about Brisbane

We just celebrated our first Ozziversary on November 15. It was one of those milestones that snuck up on us—it seemed so recently we were immersed in trying to find the hardware store, grocery store, nearest good beach then suddenly I had the answer when strangers asked for directions or tourists asked for ideas about what to do. I know where Albert Street is, I can suggest good ways to spend an afternoon. I actually know what people are saying to me now…

Time flew past while we were caught up with our own routine, but as this season’s boats were wrapping up their Pacific crossings, new cruisers were heading off to Mexico and those ahead of us are exploring PNG, SE Asia or closing in on Africa, and it became impossible not to acknowledge the fact we’ve been here for a whole year.
the jacaranda tree near our boat--my new favourite tree
When you’re used to moving all the time (Maia spent the past five Halloweens in five different countries) staying in one place for an entire a year of seasons feels a bit strange. The surprise of the jacarandas blooming has given way to the expectation the flying foxes will return, and the mild sunny spring days are starting to grow humid, with thunder and lightening storms arriving to cool them off—a sure sign our tropical summer is just around the corner.

Being in a place for a year though also means we’ve developed a bit of a list: things that are good, things that are bad and things that just confuse the heck out of us. But because this is a celebratory post I’ll stick with the good. So in no particular order—here are some of the things we love about Oz:
it's easy to gather friends when parks come with BBQs and shelters
BBQ’s—Almost every park has them. Free electric or wood BBQ’s where you can sizzle your sausages while enjoying lunch at a nearby picnic table. Early on we learned the etiquette. If the barbie is busy queue up your meat and enjoy a bevvie while you while away the arvo waiting your turn.

Bubblers—Forgot your water bottle but refuse to buy bottled water? No worries mate. There are bubblers (water fountains) almost on every corner (and even on a few hiking trails).
City Ferries—We love the public transit system here and the free city hopper ferries are a great bonus. They are slow, and don’t run that frequently but they work for some trips and they are fantastic entertainment.

can you spot the koala?

not a crime scene--this is known as a bloodwood tree, I think...
Flora and Fauna—This is a country full of fantastical creatures and weird plants straight out of a nursery rhyme. The other day a wild kangaroo came up to us in the park mooching for food. A kangaroo! And last weekend we saw our first wild koalas. Seriously, that never gets old.

this is a chook, not a chicken. honest.
 The Lingo—So I’m pretty sure we understand most of what people say to us now. Occasionally I’m still stumped—but now when someone tells me to rug up or suggests we wag off I don’t assume the worst.

Australia Day--just one of the 365 things people in Brisbane appear to celebrate...
Fun, fun, fun—There’s a celebration for that. Could be our city, could be Oz, but there is a festival on right now. And there was one last weekend. And there will be one next weekend. I'll reckon that whenever you read this there will be a festival on.

Public art, parks and spaces—Brisbane prides itself on the amount of public art that’s around the city—in fact it has policies which require new buildings to provide a certain amount of public art or public space. The city also has heaps of parks, pathways and trails—this means we don’t need to leave the city even to find new places to explore. And the playgrounds... Oh, to be a kid.

Farmers Markets—I love markets—especially ones I can walk or dinghy to. And happily we have several excellent options every week. Our favourites are Saturday morning in the West End—a 10 minute dinghy ride away. Or Wednesday afternoon in library square. Cheap, fresh & local. Mmmmm.

The Beaches--Could go on and on and inlcude the hunderds of pics we have but I'll just say the water is warm, the sand is soft, the colours shift through a rainbow of blues and green, and Austraila has 11,761 of them. We're working on finding our favourite.

November 11, 2012

The Day Job--storm story

Because I'm pretty sure most of you don't care where Scarlett Johansson might go for a romantic escape, or which Olympic stadium was the coolest--I don't normally link to the stories I write for a living on this blog. But this one for Cruising World was one that I first wrote about here--way back in Feb 2010. So I thought it fit.

Safety at Sea: When Fury Overtakes a Cruisers’ Safe Haven

Anchoring lessons are learned, some the hard way, when a freak winter storm blows into Mexico's Bahía de Banderas.
by Story and Photos by Diane Selkirk 
La Cruz, Mexico

David Norton
The harbor off La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, in the northern part of Bahía de Banderas, on Mexico’s Pacific coast near Puerto Vallarta, is a popular anchorage for cruisers. In winter, it’s known for providing protection from north winds, though it’s exposed to the south.

Bad weather is something we’re prepared for—at sea. But when the passage is over and we’ve dropped the hook, hurricane-force winds and 6-foot seas are the last things we expect. But we realize that extreme weather can happen just about anywhere. We experienced this firsthand when winds in excess of 80 knots ripped through Bahía de Banderas, on Mexico’s mainland near Puerto Vallarta, toppling trees, blowing windows out of high rises, and cutting power to towns around the bay. Over half of the 60 or so boats anchored in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, in the northern part of the bay, dragged or lost their anchors, and dozens more ended up with shredded sails or impact damage. Two boats went aground.

Read the rest of the story here:

November 6, 2012

The Melbourne Cup

Melbourne Cup spirit at Maia's school
 Ever wondered about the difference between on the wag, chucking a sickie, or being crook?
one of the live sites in downtown Brisbane

Probably not, considering most people don’t need three different phrases to describe the fact they’re not at work… Being crook means you’re actually sick, though many Australians push on and head to work whilst crook—not wanting to waste a perfectly good day off. Chucking a sickie means calling in sick, when you’re not. And being on the wag is what you do on Melbourne Cup day—it’s the moment you leave your desk to go to the washroom, change into a new dress and hat and sneak out the door—hoping your boss and co-workers never notice you left. Which in all likelihood they won’t—because they too are off changing their clothes and sneaking out doors.
watching the race
 The Melbourne Cup is a horse race—in its 152nd running, it’s also a nationwide excuse to start partying at 11am and collectively drop $150 million at betting stations that are conveniently found just about everywhere, including street corners. Maia was the only person in our family to lay a bet (ah, yes the Ozzie school system…) though her horse didn’t fare so well and placed twelfth. Her teacher did better in the staff betting pool—and came away with the prize money and a bottle of wine.
street corner betting station
 It’s called “The Race the Stops the Nation”. And it truly is. There were several live sites in the downtown area where the booze was flowing and people were dressed to the nines.

The race may just characterise Australia better than any other event. Skipping work to bet to excess on a sport many know little about (though this gambling excess fits in with the fact Australians are the world’s heaviest gamblers, by a hefty margin) and then drinking to excess—all without apology or a worry.

November 5, 2012

Rescuing a Neighbour

An easy to deploy rescue system is essential on a boat

First a lifejacket drifted past us, then a shoe. We were driving our dinghy down the pile moorings, looking for open slips for a boat arriving from New Caledonia but what we found was our elderly neighbour in the water.

Falling in is always a risk on a boat—and having some easy way to get out again is essential. But we discovered that because most of us don’t practice and test our escape out of the water methods, they might not work as planned.

In our neighbour’s case he had a ladder. But after a quick attempt on his own he realized not only that he couldn’t climb it but he dislodged it with his efforts. He started yelling and a couple from a nearby boat arrived just before we did, but even with help from the five of us it took about 20 minutes to get him aboard.

We had so many precarious moments in the process. None of us could lift him—but our efforts to support him hampered his efforts to help himself. And not knowing his boat (which was a real mess) we weren’t able to find any sort of lifesling system to help us get him up.

Eventually though (one painful step, and a few heart-wrenching slips at a time) we got him aboard. Getting emergency service was something else though. The emergency number here is ‘000’
(which I only recently learned--shame on me) but the automated system for mobile phone users was difficult to activate while actually trying to help someone. So I ended up calling Evan—who then called for help and relayed the information back through Maia.

With the police boat located well down the river from us, we ended up ferrying land-based emergency personal back and forth, and finally (once he was stabilized and in agreement—he’s a stubborn old fellow) we took our neighbour to the dock and to the waiting ambulance.

This was our third major rescue since cruising. And I wondered yesterday how they must affect Maia. The first time we rescued people it was her who heard the faint yells for help in San Francisco Bay. A group of teens had jumped off a wall to swim but two of them got swept away by the current. By the time we pulled the second boy out he was too weak to even help himself. Then there were the two men who had been adrift with no engine, no battery power, and were out of food and water from a difficult Pacific crossing. Evan and Maia took the dinghy out into heavy (for a dinghy) seas to try to manoeuvre them safely into harbour before their boat drifted further away.

The funny thing is I thought being involved in these high stress rescues might make Maia fearful, but instead they seem to make her even more alert to helping other people. Not a bad record for a kid: helping to five people in three different emergencies by the time you’re 11.

Fellow boaters--anyone have tips or links for simple to rig recovery systems that would work on someone else's boat? It retrospect we should have had some sort of line around him--there were so many moments when I feared that even several sets of hands wouldn't be sufficient for hoisting him up.