Author Archives: Marce

Antidote to the downsideb

We are budget cruisers, as you all know. We can’t afford to make yearly trips back to the States to visit family and friends, especially now that we’re on the other side of the world from most of them. To add to the complication, our peeps aren’t all in the same place and most of them don’t have room for overnight guests, making any visit an exercise in couch-surfing imposition at best, or an expensive tour of motels at worst. Add to that the distances we have to cover to see everyone and you understand why we just stay on board and keep in touch via phone and social media. And thank goodness for that! My family and most friends are closely connected and I don’t often feel out of touch. Like most people, we have a few holdout friends who “don’t do” social media for some reason, and who consequently complain they never hear from us, but by and large we’re grateful to be traveling in the modern age of instantaneous communications.

That’s especially true of my immediate family. In any given week I can chat with my sister or my son and know what they’re up to on a day to day basis, and they know what’s on our minds and what we’re doing. This kind of close communication was unthinkable even ten years ago.

But the truth is, it’s not the same as being together and while I’m never “homesick” because my home is here on Escape Velocity with Jack, I do miss Sunday dinners with our son and daughter in law, long weekends with my sister and brother in law, Thanksgivings with cousins, bike rides with friends and the easy conversations you have when you’ve no place to go and all the time in the world to be with the people you love.

Last year my sister and brother in law came to Sydney and we had a glorious visit just being together, not doing much of anything special except being in each other’s company. They are the best boat guests, understanding when the watermaker won’t cooperate and we have to go into conservation mode, patient when any activity involves a dinghy ride ashore, and appreciative of the different kind of life we choose to live.

This week we’re thrilled that our son and daughter in law managed to carve out enough time in their unwieldy and demanding schedules to travel halfway around the world to see us. They couldn’t take too much time from their work but we’re grateful for even this short visit just to be together and share the kind of deeper conversation that doesn’t happen in chat or email. We haven’t over-planned or scheduled and we’re just taking each day as if comes, wandering the city together, spending time in cafes and markets, letting weather and serendipity be our guide. And since Drew and Ericka are struggling with jet lag, and Jack and I are generally on the cruisers’ rhythm of up-with-the-sun/down-with-the-sun, they have plenty of time in the evenings to go off and have their own Aussie experience.

It’s great to have them here. We’re so happy!

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From then to now

We’re adding posts in date order so scroll down to see what we’ve been up to. We have a lot to share and we’ll try to bring this party up to date as soon as we can. 

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On the beach

During our time in 1770 I’m spending part of every day planning our trip to Bali. That includes finding a safe place to leave Escape Velocity somewhere close to an airport. We settled on Gladstone, a big shipping port for coal (a very big minus because an industrial port will be noisy and dirty, and this one particularly with coal dust) but with a cruiser friendly marina not far from a regional airport and with a free shopping shuttle for reprovisioning when we return. Once we made that decision we could book flights and hotels. Normally we travel without firm plans but the only one-day flight combination we could find puts us in Bali very late at night after 15 hours of travel and we want to maximize our time in Ubud, our ultimate destination, instead of spending the first night at a hotel near the airport and half the next day getting to Ubud. I booked a driver to get us to Ubud and found a guesthouse that will wait up for us to arrive about 1 a.m. Done. Now it’s time to enjoy more of this odd place called 1770.

As Jack says, it’s mighty shallow in here, and at low tide a huge sandbar dries out. We’re keen to explore. 

We’re still amazed that Cook poked his nose into this little corner of Australia but that’s its claim to fame. That and a good surfing beach, a big campground, hiking trails and as much territory for kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding and other water activities as you need. Plus these deserted sandbars at low tide. 

What looks to us like piles of poo are egg casings for sand worms or something. You can see the piles all over the bar. 

Omnipresent around here are soldier crabs, looking for all the world like scurrying blue marbles. They march in the hundreds of thousands and are hard to photograph because as soon as you get within ten feet of them they dig into the sand and within seconds they’ve all disappeared. 

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The view from the back porch

Moonrise at the Town of 1770

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In the pocket

One of the locals in 1770 told us about the Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary, and given that we haven’t managed to come across any kangaroos in the wild on our own, we thought we’d give this a try. For $10 per person, plus an additional $10 for them to pick us up and drop us off at the dinghy dock, I thought this was worth it. Jack was skeptical and we both hoped this wouldn’t be some sad petting zoo enclosure with captive animals living a dreary life. It turned out to be not that at all, and it’s one of our favorite things we’ve done in Australia so far.

You may remember I wrote about our disappointment that New Zealand has so few animals, and even fewer that they don’t consider invasive pests marked for extermination. The variety and abundance of wildlife is one of the things we miss about our own country, and a delight in some of the countries we’ve visited, like Panama, Costa Rica and the Galapagos. We’ve looked forward to seeing the indigenous species of Australia but without a car, and spending most of our time along the watery edges of the land, we’ve seen mostly marine and bird wildlife but not the land creatures.

The caretakers at Horizons have been rescuing and reintroducing Joeys for years, and to help pay for the food and medical care they run a campground and offer a kangaroo “experience.” Denise picked us up and drove us to the Santuary, a beautiful hilly piece of land dotted with campsites. Just to be in such a lovely place on a sunny afternoon was itself a treat. We don’t get around much.


As soon as the car was parked we saw the kangaroos. There is no enclosure and they are all free to roam at will. Most were rescued as very young joeys when their mothers were killed, usually in road accidents. We weren’t allowed to see the very young ones as they’re still bottle fed and housed in a separate place, cared for night and day by Denise and whatever volunteers they can get. The older more ambulatory ones take refuge in quilted pouches hanging on the shaded porch of Gary and Denise’s house.


As other visitors arrived, Gary passed out slices of sweet potato for us to hand feed the joeys, encouraging us to get down to their level for their comfort. Feeding them, touching them, looking into their soft eyes was an incredible experience, as it always is when communing with another animal.




These creatures are gentle and friendly, but lively and full of personality, unlike zoo animals, who always make me sad.
Gary told us they’re free to move on if they want to and if a local wild group will accept them. Some have left forever, some go for a while and come back to visit, some continue to hang around the area.



In small groups Gary told us all about kangaroos, how they live, what they eat, and about the sanctuary and their mission. Both he and Denise seemed exhausted, and he admitted they work day and night to care for their rescues. He’d like to have more volunteers but they don’t get many, I suppose because of the relative remoteness of the location.


Gary drove us back to the dinghy dock, and the bird that hung out on his shoulder apparently didn’t want to be left alone so he rode on the hood of the car until Gary stopped and opened the window for him to fly in. He spent the rest of the trip as a passenger.

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Where do we go from here?


Another reason we had to leave the tranquility of Lady Musgrave Island, aside from restocking our fresh food supply, is that we need to make a plan to “reset” our visas by leaving the country and re-entering, and for that we require reliable internet. Visa regulations — whether or not we need them before we arrive, how much they cost, how long we’re allowed to stay, whether we can renew and if so how and for how long, etc. — are one of the sometimes challenging bureaucratic annoyances of longterm travel that vacationers don’t often have to worry about. In the case of Australia, a country of immigrants and a long-distance destination for nearly everyone who visits, there are pages of types of visas and regulations on the official website, which we miraculously navigated well enough before we arrived last December to get a 12-month, multi-entry visa, allowing us another 12 months on each re-entry up to the date of issue. It’s odd they use the date of issue for the start date and not the date of entry into the country, but that’s the rule, and since ours were issued in early September 2016, we need to leave Australia and return by that date this year to renew for another 12 months. 

Why are we staying so long? Cyclone season! Most cruisers on a “fast” circumnavigation, or who have more cash and stamina than we do, arrive in Australia before the beginning of cyclone season, cruise or land travel until the end of cyclone season 6-8 months later, then move westward into the Indian Ocean. We knew we wanted to stay longer and slow down for a while but that means waiting until the end of another cyclone season before we can venture north again, then west to Indonesia. And that means a total of 18-20 months Down Under, and a different, longer, visa. All we have to do to stay legal is leave and come back. Ha!

Australia is far from everywhere so I’m trying to minimize the impact on our fixed income budget while maximizing the adventure. Our plan is to fly to Darwin, pick up a rental car, do some land touring either in Kakadu Park or further to the Kimberley, then make a quick and relatively inexpensive flight to Bali for a couple of days to reset our visas. All our Aussie friends assure us air travel within the country is cheap and with that in mind, and no small amount of excitement to finally be exploring some of the more far flung areas of Oz, I fired up Kayak and Google Flights to book the trip. 

That’s when I discovered that airfare is cheap if you’re flying from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth. Try originating from anywhere else and you end up flying through one of those cities anyway, and since airfares are based on air miles traveled, the fares from anywhere near where we happen to be right now are just crazy. A flight to Darwin is coming in at nearly $1000/per person. Add on a rental car, lodging and food, plus the quickie trip to Bali, and we’re right out of our budget, which you may remember took a big hit when we had to replace a lost propeller in Brisbane. Rats. 

Ok, we are nothing if not flexible and I’m determined to find a cheaper but still fun way to reset our visas. Looking at a map, the closest places to our location are New Zealand and New Caledonia. We were just in New Zealand for a fab road tour of the South Island, but hang on. What’s so bad about spending a long weekend in Auckland? We could do a little shopping, maybe rent a car and drive up to the tippy top of the North Island, a place we’d missed on our other two sojourns. It goes on the list. 

New Caledonia comes in a distant second, mostly because we weren’t so enamoured the first time we were there. A third option came to our attention when we remembered that while we sat in the marina in Brisbane getting a new propeller fitted we watched cruise ships leave port a couple times a week sailing for Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We remember these ships from Anietyum, Port Vila and Noumea. It’s a regular one-week run and consulting some last-minute booking sites we learned this is our cheapest option by far, since cruises are all-inclusive. No hotels or meals to factor in, no airport transfers to arrange, no muss no fuss and easy on the budget.

 I laid these three options out for Jack and we agreed we should be responsible adults and do the budget friendly cruise. One week on an all-inclusive ship with 2500 vacationing Aussies desperate to pack every moment of their work break with high-intensity partying and shopping couldn’t be so bad, could it? And we liked Vanuatu a lot. My finger poised over the “Book It” key for a long time before looking up at Jack. “I hate going backwards,” I said. “Me too,” he said and we both sighed. What to do?

I shared my frustration and indecision in a Facebook post and not long after a friend replied with this:


Instantly I felt the sharp slap across the face Cher administered to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck and heard, “Snap out of it!” She’s right. Tiny budget or not, we live on a yacht. We’ve been to places most people will never visit. Some of them we never even heard of before we started this adventure. What are we bellyaching about?!?

We came to our senses. We do hate to go backwards. We are on a tight budget. But good grief, you only go around once. We’re going to Bali! 

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Mind the gap

We’ve been absent from blogging for a long time and it weighs heavily on us both. The truth is, we’re in a funk and have been for more than half a year. It has nothing to do with cruising, the boat, Australia, our health and wellbeing or any other personal issue, but rather the ever more disturbing and mind-numbing news we hear out of America. 

Jack and I have always been news junkies and like to keep up with what’s going on in the world and being in a first world country with good internet access means we can read online the daily newspapers we’re familiar with along with our favorite weekly news magazines. In a way we’re grateful we don’t have American TV because the constant barrage of “breaking news” would be far too stressful. 

We know lots of people who disengage while cruising, and happily ignore domestic and world events in favor of a life lived in the here and now. In a way I admire those people and envy their zen bliss. We are not those people and the news from the other side of the world makes us sad. 

Maybe it’s because we grew up in the 1950s when patriotism and love of country reached their apex, when Cold War rhetoric drew a stark contrast between the democratic West and the communist East. Maybe it’s because we always thought of our country as the center of freedom and promise and compassion and refuge for the rest of the world. Maybe it’s because we’re proud of our system of government and how built-in checks and balances prevent any attempt at tyranny from succeeding. 

More personally for Jack and me, even growing up hundreds of miles apart in different cities, was a fascination and deep pride in America’s technological leadership, in the image of a future where discovery and science would make our lives safer, easier, healthier and more colorful. We can still feel the thrill of watching the flights of Alan Shepherd and then John Glenn prove that space travel was possible. The Jetsons was must-see TV. We learned on the evening news about flight trajectories, insulating materials, solar panels, space-age adhesives, and escape velocity. It all seemed fantastical and still does. What’s more, that was our country. Our universities and government recruited the best minds and provided whatever they needed to solve problems and make discoveries. Scientists and engineers were admired, respected, revered. We were the world leaders in scientific discovery and we were so proud. America took giant leaps for mankind, not just on the moon but in medicine, energy, biology, computer science. 

That is how we grew up thinking about our country, as a jet engine of advancement, tackling the world’s problems through education and invention. 

Now it’s clear that we have ceded our leadership in the world to other, more forward-thinking countries. Our scientists are scoffed at, ignored, defunded, or left to work in service of corporate profit instead of public good. We personally know many scientists who spent more than a decade acquiring their specialized education only to abandon their fields because funding only comes through decreasingly available grant money with too many strings attached. These are the best minds we have, now given little or no respect and no latitude for discovery. Our pharmaceutical labs and medical facilities are profit centers, where potential life-saving drugs or techniques aren’t pursued if someone can’t get rich on them. 

We continue to pollute the environment while other countries make policies to protect it. We ignore or suppress renewable energy sources and cling to the mining and burning of fossil fuels that scar the earth and poison the air, all so a few companies can pocket hideous profits. Our leaders denigrate advanced education and paint those who pursue knowledge as “elites.” This is particularly galling to me as the daughter of a woman who worked her way through college during the Great Depression so she could serve her community by becoming a teacher. My mother was not “elite” in any sense of the word, but she fulfilled the responsibility of American citizenship by becoming the best she could be and guiding younger generations through education. In the Sixties we took John Kennedy’s challenge to heart: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” We felt a duty to “make something of ourselves” and contribute to the greater good.

Now we read almost daily of too many citizens who expect their government to do for them. Coal miners, for example, who lost their jobs because of automation and lower demand refuse to see the writing on the wall and move forward into new industries, insisting instead that the government “bring their jobs back.” They’ve been offered training in renewable energy technologies or other fields but won’t take advantage of it because it means doing something different. I guess it’s easier to complain and blame someone else for a changing world than to roll up your sleeves and adapt.

Our city of Pittsburgh is a perfect role model for them, where the century-old steel industry declined and after a period of political protests the steelworkers buckled down and retrained as nurses, lab technicians, computer programmers. Pittsburgh went from being the quintessential industrial Smoky City to an environmentally and technologically advanced city of the future. Instead of learning from Pittsburgh, too many people trapped in 19th and 20th century ways of thinking want our government to turn back time and coddle them with empty promises and special privilege. 

Life moves forward at a pretty fast pace and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But our best and brightest can guide us on our path to the future if only we would let them. It’s a sad state of affairs when the leader of another country offers refuge and resources to American scientists because our own country won’t support and respect their work. This news was a particular gut punch for Jack and me, a humiliating confirmation that our country has completed its move to the dark side, where scientific pursuit is only supported if it results in corporate profit. The good of mankind and the health of the planet we all share is no longer a factor in political decisions. It makes us sad and plunged us into a deep funk. 

Our cruising friends from countries all over the world are astonished at the complete lack of political will to create a system of universal healthcare enjoyed by every other developed country. Why, they ask, do Americans not care about each other? They share our disappointment that America, once a beacon of hope and inspiration, has abandoned its leadership role in human rights, environmental protection and world peace. The image of America abroad is now of greed, arrogance, xenophobia, hate. We aren’t making this up. We’re confronted with it almost daily. It’s been a long time coming, but the final nails are hammered home. 

We’re still cruising. We still love our life afloat. We’re still taking beautiful photos of the places we see and the experiences we have. We’re still welcomed wherever we go. I only wanted to take a stab at explaining our absence from day-to-day blogging. We promise to renew our effort to share our travels. We have a lot to catch up on and we’ll post as we can. It may be all mixed up chronologically but we’ll slot things into date order. I hope you’ll stay with us. Thanks for reading. 

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I submit to drilling

It continues to be peaceful and beautiful at Lady Musgrave, with only the daily tour boat disturbing the calm for a few hours. By late afternoon it’s quiet again.

Hang out in any anchorage long enough and there’s a good chance sooner or later someone you know will show up. Jack was snoozing on the stadium seat, as you do, and I was below putzing when we heard a hail not in the distinctive Aussie dialect we’ve come accustomed to. It’s Dream Time with Americans-by-way-of-the-UK Catherine and Neville aboard, world cruisers who’ve been out for ten years so far, and whom we first met in Blackwattle Bay in Sydney last summer. Two boats are fun but three make a party and our time at Lady Musgrave took on a different tone for the next few days.

We’re now the international group we’ve grown accustomed to, representing England, Northern Ireland, Germany and the US. We have a lot to share and catch up on and the rotating sundowner venues add some much-missed variety into our cruising.

Jack is working on his embouchure and getting better every day on the trumpet shell he bought in Fiji. It’s now his sacred obligation to mark the end of the day with two long basso tones. 

The crews of Blackwattle and Dream Time were concerned about my thumb, which was looking pretty gross and which continued to throb from the pressure of the initial bleeding under the nail. Neville seemed eager to break out the Dremel  and show his considerable skill honed from the breathtaking carving he does on found objects, from nautilus shells to emu eggs. How could I refuse an artist with a power tool? With Peter supplying task lighting and Neville grinding away at my thumb Catherine took our minds off the procedure by recounting tales of gross injuries she’s suffered. Never let it be said that cruisers don’t have the best fun.

After a few days Blackwattle needed to move on so Peter could catch a flight back to Sydney leaving Christian to singlehand his way north. We’re sad to lose their company but we know we’ll cross paths again before too long.

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On the reef

This is the first time in nearly a year that we’ve been in a lagoon inside an encircling reef and the memories of all our beautiful Pacific atoll anchorages are swirling in my brain. The only difference here is the temperature, much cooler than our tropical landfalls. We determined the water is too cold for us to snorkel without wetsuits (perpetually on the list but so far not acquired) but we enjoyed seeing the photos the crew of Blackwattle took when they explored the various bommies. 

Our crystalline blue sky weather continues day after day and we’re delighted to have the the sun top up our batteries by noon, and the water tank filled up every day with the watermaker running on solar power. 

Christian of Blackwattle makes himself at home on EV’s stadium seat.


The crew of Blackwattle joined us for sundowners the first night and while I was showing off our well-insulated fridge and freezer I accidentally slammed the freezer lid on my thumb. Ouch! Peter said I should drill a small hole through the thumbnail to release the pressure of the obvious copious bleeding under the nail. Double ouch! Christian countered with the suggestion to heat a heavy needle and burn a hole through the nail instead. Triple ouch! That led Peter to declare that there are two kinds of people in the world, burners and drillers. I decided I was neither and took some painkillers to dull the throbbing. 

Landing on the small island involved a circuitous putt-putt in the dinghy through a marked channel across the reef to a crunchy shoreline. We hoped we’d timed it right, because if we went at high tide the receding water would leave our heavy dink high and dry on the sharp coral. At low tide we ran the risk of the dink getting swamped by the incoming water. We met a young couple with a small child on the beach who had badly mistimed it and were trying to stay comfortable in the midday sun and amuse themselves while they waited 3 or 4 hours for their beached dinghy to float again. 


The path across the island is beautiful but the real attraction is the reef. 

A wide bank of dead coral forms a solid buttress against the ocean swell. At high tide waves tumble over into the lagoon leaving small sea creatures and nourishing patches of live coral. A healthy reef will grow bigger on both the sea and lagoon sides as new coral sprouts and branches. 

We spent lazy days enjoying the relative solitude of the reef. Blackwattle borrowed our kayaks for a blustery tour of the island, and Jack busied himself with polishing the stainless. One night we had a mini dinghy raftup for sundowners just to change things up a bit. This is boatlife at its finest. 


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More Fraser

None of us has the means or interest in hiring a 4WD vehicle for a more wide-ranging tour of huge Fraser Island, so we just hiked along the beach and followed one of the many trails inland. I can see why the island attracts so many tourists, mostly on the outer, ocean side, but we were happy to enjoy the continuing fine weather in our own little world and only ran into a few resort guests on walkabout. 

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