Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shopping and boat repairs.

After over a year of sailing in places with no decent boat part supplies we arrived in Cairns like two kids shopping for Christmas. Australia and Canada seem to be copies of each other so we really feel at home and they have a store for everything you may want to buy. There is one major exception though in the fact that Australians drive on the wrong side of the road. This is not the first country we encounter like this but they were small islands with barely paved roads and our brains had no problems dealing with it. However, Australia looks so much like home with modern paved roads, traffic lights and access ramps that all our life conditioning kicks in and systematically every time we cross the street we get caught finding a car arriving on us from the left! Very disturbing and very dangerous. We originally planned to rent a car but this frivolous idea was quickly discarded! Chocobo badly needed some taking care of and we were able to get repair parts at the same rate our bank account was sinking! We spent the entire last week, from 8am until 6-10pm every day, walking from one store to another and replacing the broken parts. We also had to shop for food as Australia has the strictest quarantine rules in the world and basically all meat, vegetable, dairy, egg or any kind of seeds or beans were taken away by the quarantine officer. They even took away our spice necklace we bought in Grenada even though each seed was pierced and run through a lace! Here you can see a slice of bacon we bought at the grocery. When they mean bacon they seem to be very serious about it!

Other than changing the autopilot wheel, reinforcing of the gooseneck and changing the anchor chain and the house batteries we finally changed all the moving parts of our boomvang which we called the boomBang as every part sets itself as goal to commit suicide during our Pacific crossings. We now have a new 6mm stainless steel cable, two rugged blocks, whole new screws and bolts and a new tightening line each of which can now sustain over 6000 lbs (2700Kg)!!! If this breaks we shoot ourselves! We also had to change the two shrouds, which are the two stainless steel cables holding the mast on each side, even though we bought them a bit more than a year ago while we were in Puerto Rico and they were supposed to last 15 years. The tricky part about this is to change them Danielle had to hoist me at the top of the mast and then I had to remove the cables and put the new ones. We are talking about removing the cables holding the mast here! I hope nobody from my life insurance company is reading this blog. Of course we had safely secured the mast with our running back stays, other cables running from the top of the mast, before I went up. I am sometime stupid but not that much!

How do you like our new Canadian flag? Danielle just finished making this new one as the old one was getting embarrassing. We moored Chocobo at Marlin Marina in Cairns and there is a boardwalk running along the dock where people, mostly tourists, take a walk all day. It seems that many Canadians are in vacation in Cairns and they all seemed to stop by and say hello to their fellow Canadians not forgetting systematically to remind us how run down our faded and frayed flag was. But our patriotic status was restored every time once we told them that the flag in question was only 5 months old!

If you think cruising is like a long vacation; think again. We had to buy all the cruising guides required to cover the other half of the world as these books become impossible to find elsewhere. Danielle always spends countless hours going through all that literature to plan our daily itinerary and to find the points of interest everywhere we go. I personally almost gave up reading these travel books, which are sometimes as interesting as reading the dictionary, and conveniently find something broken to fix on the boat every time it is time to look at them…

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Arrived in Australia.

We arrived at the city of Cairns in the province of Queensland in Australia, from Port Vila in Vanuatu, on August 10th, 2010 after a passage of 1320 nautical miles (2455 Km) that took us 9 days, 5 hours and 15 minutes for an overall average speed of 6.0 knots.
This long passage now displaces our passage from Bora Bora to Samoa, which was 1179 nautical miles long, as the second longest passage in our trip. We had a relatively smooth passage even though we encountered two cold fronts coming from Australia and heading east. The cold fronts bring with them shifting winds and rain but nothing Chocobo couldn’t handle. But more important is that reaching Australia achieves two major milestones for us. The first one is the completion of the Pacific crossing. We started in Panama, at the beginning of March, and travelled through 5 countries, Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu, covering more than 8810 nautical miles (16387 km), which is one of the longest sections of our circumnavigation. The second milestone is that we reached Australia. To understand this one you have to look at our trip from the perspective of a born Canadian. Since we were little for us Australia represented the other end of the world, this is where they walk with their head upside down and have 4 foot squirrels jumping on their rear legs! Take a terrestrial globe, put one index on Canada, the other one on Australia and you’ll see that they are pretty much opposite. Now if there is some merit in travelling 24 hours by plane in sardine class to reach Australia you can imagine how proud we are now that we covered half the earth on a sailboat, our sailboat! Although technically we haven’t yet reached the furthest point from home in this trip, which is going to be just a few miles off our entry port in Indonesia as soon as we leave Australia but that is just semantic we are at the other end of the world and very proud of it!