Author Archives: Marce

From then to now

We’re adding posts in date order so scroll down past my depressed missive 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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The view from the back porch

Moonrise at the Town of 1770

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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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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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T-shirts and shallow water

Garry’s anchorage is the most calm and peaceful place we’ve dropped the hook in a long time. It was so still that I woke up several times overnight thinking maybe we were aground. 

We’re at the southern end of Fraser Island, the largest all-sand island in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This calls for some hiking of course, and we went ashore with Christian and Peter to explore. 

It’s a big island, and while the trails are nice and mostly level, the scenery didn’t change much mile after mile and we spent a few hours mostly chattering away and solving the world’s problems. There are a few destinations on this end of Fraser but much too far to walk. Christian has been here several times and he said most people explore on 4-wheel drive vehicles to see the lakes and beaches. 

At one point we could see a lake in the distance but there was no way to get to it from where we were. So it was back to the anchorage to plan our trip up the Great Sandy Straits to the northern end of Fraser. 

The next day dawned just as still and we poked our way through very shallow water for hours, slowing down through various pinch points, following marker after marker. The Straits are significant, my internet sources tell me, as critical breeding grounds for all kinds of wetlands species and there is a subtle beauty to the landscape but for boaters it’s just a pain in the butt to navigate the distance, watching the markers, timing the tide and avoiding the ubiquitous local fishermen who know the shallow parts like the backs of their hands and zip around with impunity. For Christian, whose boat has a deep draft, it was a tense day. For us, a little less so because we are shallow, but still, it was a long, slow slog to our anchorage just south of a resort before Hervey Bay opens up. 


It’s another quiet anchorage, and no sooner did we get Escape Velocity settled in but our phone dinged. It was Christian on Blackwattle letting us know there’s a dingo on the beach, heading our way. 


At last we’re seeing some of the famous Aussie wildlife right in front of us! 

Christian suggested sundowners on the beach. It was the perfect end to the day, and we finally feel like we’re back to the kind of cruising that made us choose this life five years ago. 


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North to Mooloolaba

Don’t you just love these names? 

For weeks we’ve been hearing a notice to mariners on the VHF radio about the river bar at Mooloolaba. One side is silted up pretty badly and boaters are advised to enter at a steep angle from the other side, avoiding the dredger working at the breakwater. We tossed around the idea of doing an overnighter all the way up to Wide Bay Bar, which would put us much closer to the beginning of the Great Barrier Reef and maybe some warmer weather, but true to form, the winds just aren’t steady enough in a favorable direction to sail most of the way, and the thought of having to listen to a diesel engine for 24 hours doesn’t  suit our style. So the decision was made to continue to day-hop our way northward. Slower, for sure, but quieter. 

From our horribly rolly anchorage at Tangalooma we followed the shipping channel out of Moreton Bay, then motorsailed north to the bar entrance at Mooloolaba. Luckily there were a few boats of various sizes stacked up to enter so we could follow their track in with no problem. Weeks earlier a friend hit bottom at the bar, got off, entered safely then struck a channel marker, doing some serious rig damage. We were happy to get in unscathed. The no-wind part is bad for sailing but mighty nice for crossing river bars because there’re no rollicking seas to contend with at these shallow bars.

It’s a long slow run over thin water past a few marinas to the crowded anchorage. We recognized Blackwattle, our Brisbane neighbor and dropped the hook nearby. 

Jack took up the binoculars to scope for a dinghy dock, as we could use some fresh produce and a walkabout. We haven’t been off the boat since we left the marina! What he saw disappointed us: the cruisers were landing their dinghies on the beach and pulling them up beyond the high tide mark. Ugh. We hate that. Our dinghy is big and heavy and the shape of the stern precludes us getting a set of wheels to help with wet landings. We couldn’t believe that in a town the size of Mooloolaba with so many boats there isn’t a public dinghy dock. 

I did what any self-respecting modern woman does, posted a plea for local knowledge on a private Facebook group for Women Who Sail Australia. Eureka! Within minutes we had a few suggestions on places where we could tie up our dinghy at a dock and avoid the dreaded wet landing. Thank you, WWSA!

Once ashore we babied our wobbly legs and took a leisurely stroll along the Esplanade in search of gelato and found the best we’ve had since New Zealand in April. 


We picked up our groceries and as we headed back to EV we saw that the skipper of Blackwattle was out in the cockpit. We stopped by to say hello and learned that he is in fact singlehanding, but was expecting a friend to join him later that day. We invited them both for sundowners the next day, and what fun we had! They’re both Germans but longtime Sydney residents who met through their sailing club. We also learned that their cruising plans, at least for the next few steps, coincide with our loose plans so we got to share information and ideas and mapped out a plan for the Wide Bay Bar crossing into the Great Sandy Straits and Fraser Island. It’s so good to be in the company of cruisers again! 

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Get me outta here! 

After a week of boatwork and watching big ships squeeze under the Gateway bridge and sail downriver we were eager to get back to cruising.


We’re happy — happy may be a poor choice of words — to pay good people to do their work, but boy do I resent having to pay a premium for a marina berth with very little to show for it. No bar, no restaurant, no friendly cruiser community. Nothing within walking distance. On the plus side the office staff are friendly, the dockmaster went out of his way to help us get our propane tanks exchanged and we got to do laundry and take hot showers but we were so ready to stop the meter running on the expensive berth and get EV back at anchor where we belong. 

Again the fast running tidal current dictated when we could safely leave the dock but at least now we have two working engines and we got off on our own without having to rely on dockhands to maneuver the tight turn. Slack tide came too late in the day to make it all the way down river and across the bay so we dropped the hook just upstream of the rainbow-lighted Gateway Bridge. It felt so good to be swinging again. 


The next day brought a cold rain and we decided to wait for better weather. By evening an unusually thick fog moved in putting us in an eerily self-contained Twilight Zone where even the bridge disappeared. 

Finally the fog lifted and we made our way back past the shipping port and across the bay to what has to be the rolliest anchorage we’ve ever experienced. I don’t know how we got any sleep, especially since a boat that was in front of us cranked in his chain in the middle of the night and moved behind us. We can only assume he was dragging — we certainly weren’t — and he ended up moving again before dawn. We were only too happy to move on the next day to Mooloolaba. 



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The view from the front porch

We had an unusual convection event here in Brisbane that was reported on the evening news. It caused the enormous bridge right beside us to completely disappear. 

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It’s not all coffee and pastry

Sometimes it’s ice cream too, you know. With our new propeller due to arrive in a day or two we spent one last afternoon wandering Brisbane. We’ll definitely come back on our way south in October and most definitely pick up a pile mooring for safety and security, assuming we eventually have two working engines again. From a mooring we’ll feel better about leaving the boat for longer days of touring farther afield. Maybe we’ll even finally see kangaroos in the wild. I can’t believe we’ve been in Australia this long and haven’t seen any outside the zoo in Sydney. 

Again we have no plans other than following our feet wherever they take us. Waiting at a cross walk we saw a reminder of our ex-home. Seems wherever we go, Pittsburgh pops up. 


Never mind the levitating guy in gold. What the heck is the golden casket in the background?


Our final mission is of course to find good gelato. We found ok gelato but any gelato is better than no gelato. 



We found a pretty little arcade and drooled over the Mont Blanc display. Well, I drooled over it. Jack like the hydroplane model. 


Back aboard Escape Velocity we watched a police boat approach. Uh-oh. Jack thought maybe they’d make us move because without Blackwattle anchored in line with us it might appear that we swing out into the ferry channel twice a day. We think we’re well within the channel markers but some of the ferries have been cutting it a little close lately. 


Sure enough they told us one of the ferries complained that we’d dragged (we hadn’t) but the police said they’ve been keeping an eye on us and we’re fine. We told them we’re disabled and waiting for parts and they responded with the usual “no worries, mate.” After that they just wanted to chat. Where are you from? How long will you be here? Where are you going next? They said they’d continue to watch over us until we left. Whew! We weren’t in the mood for trying to reset the anchor again. And anyway, it looks like we’ll be on our way soon. 

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Family affair

Unexpected and unbudgeted boat repairs are always depressing but that’s the price we pay for this life of constant adventure and new horizons. We can’t imagine what would cause two of three blades to suddenly fall off a propeller. They were installed last year in Whangarei by a mechanic we loved and trusted after some shaft work, so it certainly wasn’t any fault of installation. We hope to find the answer when the hub is removed whenever the new propeller arrives. 

In the meantime there’s nothing to do but suck it up and go have some fun. We heard there’s a Sunday market in the botanical garden just ashore and any kind of market always perks me up. 

The garden is peaceful and beautiful and the market is on the far side from the marina and dinghy dock so we enjoyed the long amble through the trees. 

The market is small this time of year with only a few craftspeople and food vendors. 


We timed our visit for lunch and while we waited for our orders I heard an unusual a capella version of one of my favorite songs, Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. At first I thought it was recorded but soon realized there was a live band playing at the other end of the market. We claimed a seat on the steps of a gazebo and settled in to enjoy a wonderfully talented family band, five sibs aged from 18 to 26 (their poor mother, I thought!) who’ve been singing and playing together petty much since birth. Consequently they have great vocal blend and their material ranged across styles from folk to R&B to pop. We don’t often get to hear live music, concert tickets being out of our financial reach these days, so when we come across this kind of venue, or good buskers, we always stop to enjoy and support with our dollars when we can. We stayed through both sets of the Fergies and we’d go see them again any time. 

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