Thursday, November 22, 2012

A trip up the Brisbane River

Tao could have kept on going, but after 15 days we needed a break! Rivergate, where we checked into Australia, is an upscale marina where Customs/Quarrantine has fenced off a dock end. After being checked in, the marina folks graciously allowed us to use their facilities where we took the most luxurious clean, hot water showers that we have had in the last year! Late afternoon with winds up from one direction and current strongly moving the other, conditions at the dock were very choppy and all fenders were deployed and working. By evening, however, winds relaxed and tidal swing mellowed creating a smooth environment allowing for great sleep. Very grateful for a safe night of sleep, we did not want to overstay our welcome, so early the next morning after a cup of tea and a brief chat with neighbors on Barracuda (who had landed several hours after us), we pushed off the dock into the Brisbane River. With knowledge gleaned from other cruisers that have visited before us, our sights were set up river under several large bridges toward the Brisbane City center.

The river was just starting to flood, so we moved up the swirly brown current with no sails and needed very little engine assist to travel at 6-knots. We immediately noticed City Cat motor ferries rapidly darting from one side of the river to the other carrying their passenger loads, their drivers unfailingly waved back. A highway ran alongside the north bank of the river and vehicles (on the wrong side of the road, mind you) raced along. Both sides of the river were overrun by fun colored houses, subtropical vegetation, and large buildings with Jacaranda blooming in front, were built literally at the water’s edge. Heading westward, inland, up the meandering river, boats were moored and anchored along each inside bend. After a brief hour, Brisbane City came into view. Large skyscrapers huddled on both sides of the river connected with large metal bridges. We continued on under what our chart called Story Bridge and finally came to our goal: Brisbane City Botanic Garden where we had heard tale of reasonably priced pile moorings.

Unlike any harbor we have seen thus far, there were four long rows (A-D) of pile moorings, each with a boat tied bow to one and stern to the next, with rows in between just large enough for a boat to pass. Since we had arrived on a New Moon, the river was now flooding quickly (with 8-ft+ tidal swings), so we ferried around with Tao as we scoped out the scene. It was very interesting maneuvering Tao on a fast flowing river. Another larger sailboat had arrived just before us and was homing in on one of the few available moorings. They filled us in that the inside “A” row is for smaller vessels and if there are lines between the moorings, even if there is no boat, they are reserved. After circling the four rows and finding plenty of depth (15-ft at high tide) and one space that we believed was available, we decided it was prudent to put Fatty in the water and attach a line to the up-current mooring to make securing Tao in tight quarters with strong current safer. Seeing our quandary, one of the locals hopped in his dinghy and offered us a ride; we were very grateful!

With approximately 50-ft between the moorings, we picked up our floated up-current bow line, and reversed back to attach a line for the stern on the down-current mooring. Yet another mooring situation tackled, we breathed a sigh of relief and sat back to look around. We found ourselves tied up in the smaller, shore side line of moorings, with a boardwalk along the City Botanic Gardens a mere 60-ft to our port, literally in the center of Brisbane! Turns out we lucked out getting a space here, apparently a man who has disappeared had abandoned a small motor cruiser here and it sank just two weeks ago (and was subsequently removed by the city for $45K). After an introduction to the area by several interesting characters rowing by toward the dinghy dock, we made our way to the city office to pay for our space in what the shore-side sign proclaims as the “Garden Point Boat Harbor”. Intended for transients such as ourselves yet mostly filled by local live-aboards, these moorings and their onshore restroom, shower, laundry, and garbage facilities are a steal for a mere $70AUS per week. It is quite special to be located in the heart of this city with our own personal waterfront apartment!

We were surprisingly efficient that first day of transition. On our initial trip ashore we gaped as we walked among the towering buildings. First stop, yummy fresh and fast Asian food to fuel us. Second stop, local cell company Telstra, to purchase a SIM card with data so we can get connected (HAM radio isn’t working in the busy/noisy city). Third stop, a bank to exchange our left over Fijian dollars, though later we saw plenty of street exchanges that may have been more economical. Next, we made our way through the city swarming with people, many of whom were very helpful when we asked how to find the correct department to sign up for our moorings. Finally, we stopped at a local grocery (Woolworths and Coles, both clothing stores in the US are the grocery options here). Jackpot! We bought kalmata olive sourdough bread, T-bone steak, fresh broccoli and clean white mushrooms for dinner to be followed with yogurt for dessert; all items that have been inaccessible to us throughout our journey.

We are a bit shell shocked to have been dropped in the middle of a huge city that seems like it should be the US, but somehow everything is just different… Cut off jean shorts and quasi-80’s styles seem to be the rage. Aside from a lot of smoking, the city is quite clean and full of fun activities for all ages, with a plethora of gorgeous natural areas. Public transport is well established and user friendly. All the amenities of a big city (4 million Brissie and surrounds vs 10 million in LA and surrounds) seem to be packed in a small area with the Brisbane River right in the middle. Straight away we had several days of thunderstorms. Amazing lightning shows with deluges of freshwater and even balls of hail. Wonderfully less scary when there are all sorts of taller masts, trees and buildings around us then out in the middle of the ocean alone. Once connected, we contacted our families, figured out where the surrounding Bikram Yoga studios are all located, and started to make lists of everything we hope to accomplish while here. Each day we feel more recovered, but there is so much to do and see and take care of now that we are on the sidelines of the fast-paced world again. We are daily trying to streamline to get a little efficient with the short time we will have here, while still enjoying ourselves. Thus far we are doing better at relaxing than at being efficient, with the last 2 to 3 days melting away as we do yoga and catch up on the internet. We plan to spend a second week here in the city center before heading back down river and out to a Moreton Bay marina where we can focus on our next steps. We are both extremely happy and grateful to be here just in time to celebrate US Thanksgiving!

No comments:

Post a Comment