Friday, February 22, 2013

Warp Speed: Move to Manly and Aussie Christmas 2012

Poinciana tree, Oz doesn't have poinsettias... But these are stunning
Traumatic, tumultuous, tears of sadness and joy. So much of importance has happened in our lives over the last months, we have not been able to keep up with ourselves (or the blog). Still, since this blog is our log of our adventures, though we’re actually currently in Mexico preparing for our wedding in 1 week (!), we’ll go back to where we left off… We hope to get several installments on line soon to catch up with the present day.

On Saturday 1 December, we chose to head out of the river. We timed dropping our mooring as the tide shifted from flooding to ebb to carry us out the river to Moreton Bay (and managed to save our space and the space two boats down for incoming Britannia and Convivia with the help of neighboring s/v Celiydah). What started as a mellow motor turned into a relaxing motor sail as we retraced our path under the Story Bridge then the Rivergate Bridge down the river near its terminus. By late afternoon when we reached the exit of the Brisbane River, the passage culminated in a windy/wavy/busy river exit. With current now strongly ebbing out and brisk afternoon winds howling in, steep waves were created in the less than 0.1-nm wide channel. Already a challenge before adding multiple fast large powerboats entering and exiting the river, an incoming sailing vessel under spinnaker, an exiting motoring sailing vessel mere boat lengths behind us, and the final cherry on top, cargo ship traffic. Chris was excited by the adventure and motivated Shawn (a bit under duress having expected a relaxing passage) to short tack upwind in steep seas in the busy reef flanked narrow channel. Memories of short tacking up the fairway in Berkeley Marina flashed through our minds as we worked, Chris at the helm and Shawn on the jib sheets, like a well oiled machine. Tao, of course, negotiated the situation with ease. After several heart pounding short-tacks, we finally made enough way upwind to fall off out of the channel to enjoy a Moreton Bay sail, surprisingly reminiscent of the SF Bay with similar shallow depths and weekend warrior filled conditions.
Brisbane River mouth, check out our dotted yellow tacking track!

Having spent two blissful weeks up the river watching late spring blooms, eating fresh food, hiking around the city, riding the CityCat and CityHopper ferries, sailing Fatty and doing yoga, we decided it was time to point our bow toward Moreton Bay and an available marina space to start preparations for our next steps. After being moored in the flat river (side to nearly continuous ferry wakes), we sailed Tao from the heart of Brisbane out the River into Moreton Bay and ultimately to an available slip at East Coast Marina in a town named Manly. As the sun lowered into the Manly hills, we fired up Yannie and pulled our triple reefed mains’l down as we motored into the huge Manly Harbor. Filled with several marinas berthing hundreds of vessels, we were happy to have confirmed what space was available for us with a map. Winds still very fresh, Chris expertly maneuvered Tao into the tight slip and Shawn proficiently wielded fenders and with the help of friendly neighbor boaters, snubbed Tao to a stop and tied her to her first floating dock since Mexico nearly 2 years prior.

Post wedding dress purchase pizza party!
Though there is so much to do in Oz and so many places to see from a sailboat, it was time for us to start lining things up for our next tranche. Both of us put energy toward wedding planning- the big event (at that point) a mere three months away in Mexico, oceans away physically and figuratively! Chris persistently tediously worked on essay laden applications to Masters of Education programs at Harvard, Stanford, Santa Barbara and a teaching internship at Punahou (in Honolulu, where Obama went to high school). Meanwhile, Shawn busily taught yoga, visiting Brisbane area Bikram studios, figuring out the Brisbane public transport and successfully (with invaluable help from Britannia’s Amanda) found her wedding dress just before Christmas!

Lorikeet! Picture captured by Tucker s/v Convivia
Although connected to the city with public transport trains, ferrys, and buses, strong will was required to leave the quiet non-ferry waked marina to head back the 1.5-hrs into town. Luckily friends and yoga studios drew us to the city as Britannia and Convivia arrived in Brisbane the day after we moved to Manly. We switched off trips with Britannia visiting at each other’s boats and forging lasting friendships. We also joined the Convivia crew for an unforgettable trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where we all acted like kids (okay, maybe just Shawn) and interacted with koalas (FYI they are not actually bears), kangaroos, platypus, laughing kookaburra, lorikeets, Tasmanian devil, wombat, and emu. Until now, these had just been words of strange animals in a far off land.
koalas everywhere!

 Chris and a baby kangaroo. Note the huge emu above the kanga!

 laughing kookaburra and lorikeet

 fluffy chickens and a Tasmanian devil noshing

 This does not look comfortable!

And all of a sudden, Christmas was upon us. It is always fun to celebrate holidays alongside different cultures. We pulled out our Charlie Brown Christmas tree again, and though in our Tao upgrades we removed our everyday LED strings of lights that needed replacement, Chris added some super bright USB powered lights to deck the little tree. With so much to do and the sun out, it sure didn’t feel like Christmas. It felt more like Fourth of July in the States, so we were rather Scroogey. Since the locals flocked to the outer islands and beaches, we planned to just nestle down in our slip and continue to try to get things organized. On Christmas proper, we managed to motivate against the crowds into the city, usually very busy, it was bizarrely still and brilliantly sunny. We joined the crews of several cruising boats in the Botanic Gardens at a Christmas potluck for which we supplied hot buttered rum. Luckily that was in a thermos, but all the open wine bottles littered around the picnic table drew the “Blue Heelers” (the term used for police officer in Australian, after the Australian Cattle Dog, because it accurately describes the personality and blue uniformed appearance of an Aussie police officer). The nice fellows asked us to at least hide all the alcohol in the public park right next to a playground and said “Merry Christmas.” Australian culture is surprisingly different. One moment we will would think we were in the US and the next we’d realize we hadn’t understood a word being said. In Australia, Chrissy = Christmas, lift = elevator, carpark = parking lot, and holiday = trip. These seem easy enough, but people sure looked at us funny when we said “Happy Holidays” since they usually weren’t going on a trip.
Britannia visiting Tao and a mess of Christmas cookie making (note the olive jar rolling pin)

Christmas Eve and Boxing Day dinners

All of this excitement on its own would have been manageable, but add on top of it the most contentious, emotional, and time consuming project of all... (drumroll please)... getting Tao prepped to sell, and the past months have been a roller coaster in warp speed.