Together again

Never sail against a deadline, they say. It’s folly to try to coordinate weather and plane timetables and vacation schedules. And so we didn’t. But that meant we were cooling our heels in Coffs Harbour when my sister and brother-in-law arrived in Sydney in early December. It’s been two years since we’ve seen any family at all, but it’s not for lack of trying. Nancy and Dave were scheduled to visit last year in New Zealand but unexpected circumstances scuttled that idea at the last minute, and while we completely understood and sympathized, we were mightily disappointed. We are very low-budget cruisers and our bank account doesn’t allow for the cost of flying back to the states every year as many people do, especially from this distance. 

This year we hoped for a full-on family reunion with not just Nancy and Dave but also their daughter and our son and daughter-in-law. But again, it was not to be. For a variety of reasons, only my sister and brother-in-law could make it. Luckily we live in the age of skype and FaceTime and Facebook so we don’t feel completely disconnected like we would back in the days of post restante and aerograms. But a live and in-person actual visit had us nearly vibrating with anticipation. 

But there we sat in Coffs Harbour, with a rig issue that kept us from hoisting the mainsail beyond about halfway, and southerly winds that made a trip south impossible. I could feel my limited time with my sister ticking away. 

Finally we got an opening, and rather than daysail our way down the coast as most people do, we headed right out to sea for a two-day passage to Broken Bay, just north of Sydney Harbour. Along the way we navigated ourselves into the East Australian current and picked up a few knots of speed. That put us ahead of schedule and our well-planned early morning arrival turned into a midnight entrance into a strange bay without our usual double redundant chart backups. We took the easy way out and dropped the hook as soon as we turned the corner into Broken Bay to wait until morning. 

A round of phone calls with Di from Toucan during our morning coffee resulted in a convenient mooring not far from them at the head of the bay and by 2pm we were tied up and paid up and happy to finally be temporary Australians. 

Meanwhile Nancy and Dave were hosted by an old friend on the far side of Sydney more than 40 miles south so our reunion was still a few days away. Back in the day — way back — Dave came to Australia soon after college to teach high school biology for a year and he always wanted to return to see the people and places he came to know. He and Nancy were enjoying reconnecting with friends and visiting old haunts, so Jack and I spent a few days catching up with Toucan, whom we hadn’t seen since we left Fiji. 

We were also finally able to address the real reason our blogging dropped off: a dead iPad. Yes, we do have a laptop, and we do have another iPad, but the one that died was completely set up for blogging and handling photos, and unencumbered by the many navigation programs we use except for chart backups. We lost no data because I’m fanatical about redundant backups to various inhouse and cloud locations, but without my primary electronic brain I felt helpless. The nearby authorized Apple repair shop duly pronounced the iPad deceased and sent it off to Sydney for replacement. A few days later and a little lighter in the purse I had a new iPad and Jack and I parked ourselves at a comfy coffee shop to restore the backup file. And again the next day. And the next. Ninety gigabytes of data take some time to download it seems.

Wendy, Nancy and Dave’s host, offered to drive them up to Pittwater for an afternoon visit on Escape Velocity and to drop off the bags of items we’d been sending to their house for a few months. Every friend or family member of a cruiser quickly learns that visiting a  boater means schlepping many pounds of marine parts, seasonal clothing, hard-to-find treats or other needs halfway around the world. Lucky for Nancy and Dave we didn’t need any boat parts so they got off lightly, although I don’t think it seemed so to them. 

Finally, after two years and a few disappointments, my sister and I were in the same place. 

There were a lot of tears and laughter. Despite being in nearly daily contact in one form or another, nothing beats being able to hug each other and just be together. After a happy few hours we said goodbye again for a few days. They would be  moving to a hotel in downtown Sydney and we were sailing the final leg into Sydney Harbour. Finally we’ll be in the same place and then — stand back! We’re taking the city by storm! 

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