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Friday, July 14, 2017

Surprised in Port Angeles

Port Angeles, Washington. Dungeness crabs, just caught by our friendly neighbors Kurt and Donna at Boat Haven Marina.
Shaken and stirred from the square current vs wind waves from San Juan Island to Port Angeles, docking took us two shaky passes into Port Angeles' Boat Haven Marina. "Take whichever slip looks better, P29 or 31, then let me know where you land" Jerry told us when we called in.  We bailed on our first choice slip because we couldn't tell if there was sufficient room to share the slip with the decrepit pilot house fishing boat, as its tarp cover ballooned in size with a fluttering gray.  On our second try, Serendipity's bow tapped the pilot house boat's dinghy, protruding off the adjacent dock finger. 


Kurt agrees to pose to show off part of his catch.  Boat Haven, Port Angeles, Washington.
On this cool gray morning, we looked up at a row of corrugated of boat garages, a patchwork of jagged metal, fraying fiberglass and unfinished wood.  Clearly not on the guest dock, we wondered just what kind of place we'd arrived at.  A few minutes later we noticed a couple peering into our boat.  Admittedly at that moment I was not feeling particularly friendly, but their curiosity overcame my crankiness.

Thus began a series of correcting my mis-perceptions about the denizens of Port Angeles Boat Haven.
Kurt and Donna, just part of the incredible boating community at Port Angeles Boat Haven Marina.
First there was Kurt and Donna -- the curious couple.  They moved up to the area after retirement from Salinas, exchanging their California home for a home, a boat, a boat house (water garage for a boat) and a big truck.  Their boat house was a stone's throw from our slip and a cousin to their trawler.  We invited them aboard to scope it out -- boat owners like checking out boats similar to their own in almost the same way same species dogs give each other's butts a friendly tip-to-tail whiff.

From there Kurt and Donna gave me a lift to the distant marina office for a gate key, a quick tour of the town in their truck, plopped a quarter into my hand for the shower and offered to take us crabbing the next day.  We already had plans to join friends Robyn and Marc, cruisers who chase perennial summer by bouncing between Whangarei New Zealand and property in Squim Washington USA.  We last Robyn and Marc them about nine months prior in New Caledonia.
Cal, a live-aboard on a sailboat next door to "our" slip at Boat Haven Marina.
"No need to plan dinner!" was the cheery text subject line accompanied by a gorgeous Dungeness crab picture.  Clearly, Donna and Kurt scored, as there were several takers for their crab catch before we were in line for one.  In fact, they landed 9 crabs, each as beautiful as the next.  We read their text whilst chomping down on a generous brunch at the equally friendly Empossible Eden Cafe, heartily recommended by Kurt and Donna.  One of the waitresses raced out into the cafe parking lot as Wayne nearly pulled away without his hat.

"Err, we don't have anything big enough to boil them in," we lamely confessed, when Kurt proffered us some of their beautiful freshly-caught crabs.  We're still in the process of setting up our galley, and planned to wait until we arrived in Portland to complete the process.  

While Donna scrambled for a large enough boiling pot, Kurt tracked down a two live-aboards -- spry 93-year-old Elmer and his fishing buddy Cal.   Cal set us up his crab boiler - on the spot.  That way we didn't need to make arrangements return Donna's pot after they headed home.

Meanwhile, Kurt grabbed his bucket of crabs, home-made mallet, knife and cooler and set off to the dock's fish cleaning station.  
JulieAnne, from Forks, crabs she caught skittering in her kayak.  She and her brother visit her Gram at Boat Haven.  
There, we chatted with JulieAnne, the adorable and fish-savvy grand-daughter of marina resident Julie.  JulieAnn alternated from the docks to her kayak, netting minnows for crabs, catching crabs for the feeding herself or some of the marina's other non-human locals.

Meanwhile, quick as a wink,  Kurt got to work -- all 9 crabs were split with a mallet, rinsed, stripped of their carapace, gills, tails and "butter" and rinsed again.  Kurt gave us two crabs.  
Cal's crab cooker set-up.  Boat Have Marina, Port Townsend.
Cal's propane tank and stand with huge seawater-filled pot atop it was boiling for us when we returned.  

"How long do they cook?" we asked Cal, then had a hard time tracking the twelve minutes Cal told us it would take as we were so handily entertained by his feeding pregnant lady Waldo the sea lion and her mate, Archie.  Cal fed them fish scraps, enticing them to first splash-clap for them, then pull them off the dock or from his hand, when he didn't drop them directly in the water.

Lady Waldo the sea lion drops by Cal, who she knows has a soft touch for her and her mate Archie.  Port Angeles, North Puget Sound.
"These will be the best crab you've ever eaten, promised Cal.  We're looking forward to proving him right; even brought along cocktail sauce in the hopes of some crabby serendipity; just didn't expect them and the use of a to boiling pot to be part of our Port Angeles adventure.
Cal explains to Waldo what he expects from her in order to be fed.  
Waldo eyes Cal's fish offering with great interest.  Port Angeles, Washington.
It took far less time for Kurt to clean 9 crabs and Cal to cook them than for us than for this post to be written!

"Are you sure you don't want to just take the next year off?" Wayne asked, plaintively.

Tough call, but we gotta get to work so we can be in a position to pay forward all this incredible kindness.  It's a tough act to follow; we hope we're up to it.

Come to Port Angeles.  For a mere $1/foot, you'll find about the friendliest folks ever and all sorts of delightfully unexpected entertainment.
Waldo agrees to clap (or as Cal calls it - splash) for dinner.  Yes, in case there is any doubt --
both Waldo and Archie got plenty of eats from Cal!
Location Location
We're in Port Angeles, Washington, N48.07.575 W123.27.272.  Tomorrow, all too soon, we plan to head South toward Portland, where we'll dock Serendipity.  We're tentatively planning to start at oh-barely-light-hundred to hug the shore on the way to to our probable next stop, Neah Bay, 50-something miles toward Portland.

Watch for more posts on our short but sweet time in the San Juans as well as more on Serendipity.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Unbelievable Serendipity!

Puget Trawler "Jacari Maru" in British Columbia, owned by Larry and Nancy.  Starboard aft view.  Photo provided by Larry.
Our cruising was done, for now, and it was time to settle down, as "dirt dwellers" in Portland Oregon.  We mollified ourselves with visions of dishwashers amidst full kitchens, cushy recliners, a queen-sized bed, endless hot showers, easy-streaming wifi... basically, the life most of my friends, family and colleagues take for granted.  

Yet for most of the last 5 years, we gave up these mainstream modern conveniences in exchange for our nomadic life, ultimately traveling halfway around the world via a small sailboat.  Our living space was about 150 square feet.  We got rid of nearly everything when we left, except for a few boxes, mostly photographs.

Yet Portland's giddy real estate market left us feeling a bit shell-shocked, with a month-to-month rental starting point of $1,500+/month for a 2-bedroom apartment in a crummy neighborhood.  That's twice what it was when left the area in 2010.

And then... in came a most unexpected message from some friends....


Pacific Northwest Cruising friends, Larry and Nancy.  Photo provided by Larry.
We met about 6 years ago when the fellow I crewed for some pre-cruising experience dropped anchor a bit near to the only other boat in "our" anchorage in British Columbia. The anchorage was particularly deep, with few spots shallow enough to for even somewhat ample anchor chain to comfortably reach.   After much heated back-and-forth discussion between the two captains over the VHF radio, we reached anchoring detente; both boats stayed put.  

As is oft the case, we were on a similar cruising track, and the other boaters, Larry and Nancy on the Puget Trawler Jacari Maru, came by to break bread; initiating our friendship.  In the several days that followed, we continued to meet.  When I asked Larry and Nancy how they met, their long, entertaining answer spanned two days.  They were very supportive of Wayne's and my plans to sail the South Pacific. They too planned some adventurous sailing, though enough years had passed they contented themselves with cruising the Pacific Northwest.

Recently, much as Larry and Nancy loved their 1978 40' Puget Trawler, they decided after 10 years of cruising Jacari Maru through the Pacific Northwest, and even into Alaska, it was time to downsize.  They purchased an almost-new 2015 trailer-able 27' Ranger Tug.  Meanwhile, the monthly La Conner marina (about a 4 hour drive North of Portland) and insurance payments for their now unused 40' Puget Trawler continued.

Larry saw this post and with Nancy's blessing, decided to make an incredible offer....


Puget Trawler "Jacari Maru" bow view in British Columbia, owned by Larry and Nancy.  Photo provided by Larry.
"Would you like our Puget Trawler as a live-aboard?" asked Larry.  "We can sign the title over to you if you're interested."

I was flabbergasted by the sheer generosity of their offer.  So was Wayne.  At the same time, we were keenly interested. At the same time, while one adage advises to "never look a gift horse in the mouth" another describes boats as "large holes to throw money into."

Wayne and I looked into Portland marinas where live-aboards were allowed and were pleasantly surprised to discover there was ample slip availability.  Covered slips with extra live-aboard fees would run a little over $600; far less than an unfurnished apartment and in a far safer neighborhood.  Besides, unlike apartments, live-aboard boats do not need furniture; it's already all built in.

We still needed to make sure the boat would work for us as a live-aboard if Wayne was working a swing-shift and I was aboard when he was trying to sleep.  When we had a similar scenario aboard our sailboat Journey in Jacksonville, Florida. We were not at our finest.  Every time I stepped aboard or tried to cook, I woke Wayne up.  We needed to take a good look at Puget Trawler together, and assess its suitability for us.

We hopped into the car we bought the day before to pick up a few items for our trip North, and discovered one of our car cylinders was shot.  We limped the car back to Wayne's parent's place, who kindly loaned us their truck for the weekend.  Of we went. 


Port view of Jacari Maru, Puget Trawler in British Columbia.  Photo provided by Larry.
Fortunately, the Puget Trawler had a very different layout from our former sailboat, an extra bedroom (cabin / stateroom), an extra bathroom (head) and easily 2-3 times the interior living space.  Unlike Journey, where the entire boat living areas were all on the same level, the staterooms  and bathrooms were all a half-level lower than the kitchen / living / dining room area.  Not only were the staterooms nicely separated from the main living area, Wayne could at long last reclaim his "man cave!"  Watch for interior photos in a future post.

We decided to take Larry and Nancy up on their incredibly generous offer.

We spent two nights aboard and did some preliminary provisioning.  Larry spent hours walking us through the boat's particulars and followed up with many emails.  

Wayne and I made up lots of to-do lists and did some preliminary boat provisioning, including buying 2 knives, forks, spoons, bowls, and plates Goodwill while we had a vehicle by the boat.  We plan to take the train up to the boat in a few days, to avoid the complications of having to retrieve the car later after bringing the boat back to Portland.  

Wayne and I contacted our insurance agent - coincidentally the same company that Larry used -- for a boat insurance quote.  ""Do something big for the 4th of July," encouraged Walter, our agent.  "Oh, wait a minute - you already are!" he added.

We met again with Larry and Nancy and signed the title agreement.  When the time comes for us to sell the boat, we'll give the proceeds less expenses to Larry and Nancy.  It's only right.

"Our new boat is Jacari Maru," Larry said.  "We're keeping the name, so you're going to have to re-name the boat.  I already even stripped the name off the Puget Trawler."   With Journey, the prior owner named the boat, and we kept the name. 

Sure, we figured eventually we'd get a boat again.  Never in our wildest dreams did we expect it to happen this soon or in this way.  Given the nature of how the boat came to us, we've decided to re-name the boat Serendipity.  Thank you Larry and Nancy for this incredible, unexpected and wonderful opportunity!
Serendipity's current home.  We'll relocate her to Portland Oregon soon.  Image pilfered from La Conner Marina's website.

Location Location
At the moment, we're back in Portland Oregon wrapping up a few loose ends before we return to Serendipity in La Conner (N48.23.47 W122.29.48) this Thursday or Friday, July 6th or 7th.  The plan is to get us and Serendipity ready as quickly as possible for a brief cruise in the stone's-throw-from-La Conner San Juans before bringing her down to Portland.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Limbo-land

Portland Oregon railroad bridge, as seen from our temporary digs, at Wayne's folks, looking East.
What's it like when you're done cruising, if you go minimalist, like we did?  It's a little weird.

No home.

No car.

No storage unit.

No furniture.  No appliances.  No electronics (besides what phones, Kindles, iPads and laptops were still usable).
Columbian River canoeist, Portland Oregon, as seen from our temporary digs, at Wayne's folks, looking West.
"Wow!  I can't believe you pretty much got rid of everything.  So many of us have talked about doing it, but you did!" exclaimed a former HP colleague when I bumped into her in downtown Vancouver.

Indeed we did.

We sold our house at a break-even price in the real estate bust of 2007, renting until we left. 
Columbia River Gorge as seen from Crown Point; what drew me to the Portland Oregon area from the very beginning.
Once we left, we didn't know for sure how long we'd gone, and when we were done if "home" would be the US.  Thus, we didn't want a storage unit.

Before we left the US, Wayne's folks in Portland Oregon kindly stored our legal paperwork, some clothes, keepsakes, art and a tiny bit of camping gear.  Fortunately that camping gear included a queen-sized airbed, so we will have a bed temporary bed once we move into an apartment.
Our final box as it was received in Portland ~three months after we sent it from Australia.  Not everything survived shipment.
When we sold our boat in Australia, we mailed some tools and a few souvenirs.  We took a subset of our clothes, electronics with us for driving tour of Australia.  Nearly everything else either was left aboard our boat for the new owners, sold via Gumtree (Australia's Craigslist equivalent), given away or thrown away. 

When we flew back to the US from Australia, we pared down further still, including our remaining cookware and camping gear with the sale of our Landcruiser.

Since January when we readied our boat for sale -- for 6 months -- I have not had a space to call my own.  Life has been out of suitcases and boxes, often scattered hither and yon.  No dressers.  No cupboards.  A few inches of closet space.  Shoes hopefully out of sight under our borrowed bed.  Dirty clothes tucked away in the corner, until washed using someone else's machine.

We're lucky.   

One of many tents we see marking "home" for Portlanders, under bridges, overpasses, in traffic medians and elsewhere.
Whenever we go into town, we see the many Portlanders who've set up residence in tents, or lay sprawled, blanket-wrapped, across sidewalks and tucked into doorways, often in the shadow of condo high-rises, whose residents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to tower above the have-nots for the convenience of a chi-chi natural grocery store and a movie theater a block away.

Our in-laws let us move temporarily into their guest bedroom -- their sewing room, really.  They let us invade their kitchen.  Take up residence in their favorite chairs.  Hog us their bathroom.  Ride the coat-tail of their internet.  Wash our dirty laundry.  Borrow their cars. 

When living in someone else's space our goal is to alternately add value and become invisible.  It's an odd state of being.  A somewhat impossible one whilst everyone tries to be considerate of sharing a space normally enjoyed by two, not invaded by two more who often have little idea of how things are normally done.  We've grossly violated our ideal visit time of three days.

This prosaic explanation of Portland art harkens to my puzzlement over our current state:

'My chosen form is an ordinary flower - some might even call a it weed. A universal childhood memory that becomes a metaphor for a child's lost innocence and joy.  To a child, it is a flower full of wishes. But, to an adult, it is a weed that must be eradicated.

I wanted to make the flowers invisibly large and powerful so that their emptiness gives attention to how they hold space.  They become templates of the possibility that wind and air filled them once and that they have left a mark in your life.

Lastly, this piece also represents Portlanders, who are continuously finding the beauty in what is often perceived as ugly.'

-Deb Hiller

Slowly, though, we're making progress.

Thanks to one of Wayne's former colleagues hand-delivering his resume to a former employer, he has a handshake offer to get his former Portland job (otherwise he'd still be waiting).  The required prerequisite criminal check may take as long as month, so no start date yet,  Now at least, one of us knows where they'll be working. 
We're not the only unofficial temporary dwellers in the marina.  Only a window separated us from this other interloper.
We're reluctant to go with any long-term lease until we know where I'll end up working, given how bad traffic can get for Portland metro commutes.  We don't want to repeat the mistake we made in Everett, where only one of us had a sane commute.  

My job hunt continues, a bit more challenging given my 12-year hiatus from the kind of job I currently seek.

In a few days, we'll rent an apartment and pay the financial penalty of month-to-month rent over a more favorably priced lease that might lock us into someplace I don't want to commute from.  We were shocked that today a two-bedroom apartment in a bad neighborhood is over $1500/month; twice what we paid in Everett 5 years ago in a much better neighborhood (Everett prices were comparable to Portland's). In October, rent controls begin, and with it the expectation that rents will escalate in open, uncommitted apartments.

However, if there's one thing cruising taught us more than anything, we'll figure out a solution, due to our resourcefulness and flexibility.

While we may be done cruising for a while, everyday life continues to provide an adventure -- just of a different kind.

Portland Ports, as seen at sunset from our temporary spot on the Columbia River.
While looking forward to our own place, we will certainly miss these views!
Location Location
We'll be looking for a place to call home in Portland Oregon metro area, though at the moment I am visiting my Mom and Dad in Florida, as it's been 2 1/2 years since I last saw them.  

Up Next
While "Galley Wench" is done cruising for a while, there are still plenty of untold tales yet to tell, with videos and photos.  And for those wondering about what happens when one returns, homeless and unemployed from cruising halfway around the world, the occasional post like this one, will give you a sense for what it's like.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

TONGA: Magical Island of Kelefesia

Kelefesia's long tongue of a beach, viewed from the bluff.  Kelefesia is part of Tonga's magnificent Ha'apai island group.
One of the most awesome aspects of cruising is the cruiser community.  Friendships are quickly formed, information is readily shared.  Even though we're often drawn to cruising by the desire to get away from it all, like the early pioneers, we know we're in this together. 
Steve and Patty, our friends from s/v Armagh, from Kelefesia's bluff -the site of that fabulous view in the first image.
Sometimes, our connectedness saves lives. Other times, it makes the crucial the difference between the mundane and the magical.  This post is a big, belated thank you to our friends Patty and Steve of Armagh; we cruised together from the Galapagos until New Zealand, reconnecting again in Fiji and New Caledonia.  Many of our best cruising memories are times spent with our friends from the good ship Armagh.
Tonga's Ha'apai islands.  Kelefesia -- too small to list -- is part of the Ha'apia island group.
When Wayne was antsy to leave Tonga for New Zealand, Patty convinced us we'd be making a big mistake if we bypassed Tonga's Ha'apai islands.  Thanks a variety of weather challenges, we weren't that wowed with Tonga at that point.  Patty prevailed, pointing us to a post on Ha'apai's crown jewel, Kelefesia,  the southern most island in the Ha'apai group, and only 35 miles north of Nuku'alofa, where we would check out of Tonga before heading to New Zealand.

We agreed to join Armagh, crossing our fingers the weather was sufficiently settled, especially for Kelefesia, which is neigh impossible to visit otherwise.

Luck was on our side!
Driftwood on the beach at Kelefesia, Tonga, a Ha'apai group island.
While Ha'apai's Uoleva was cruiser party central, a place of splendid sunsets and good company, and Ha'afeva was a great place to snorkel a shipwreck and clean a hull, Kelefesia was pure magic.

We should've realized that something amazing was in store for us when we caught a fish (an embarrassingly rare event for us) and flew past Armagh, another rarity.  We found out later our speed advantage was due to Steve's forgetting to pop up the wheels of his dinghy, dragging it reduced their normal boat speed to a crawl.
Where we anchored in Kelefesia.  Ariel image pilfered from Islands for Sale.
In any case, all we arrived at Kelefesia in good light and in calm conditions, a pre-requisite for visiting this reef-strewn spot of  paradise.

Thus, it seems fitting that my first-ever video is on Kelefesia - click here to watch it on Vimeo.

Fabulous coral gardens await those who visit Kelefesia.  Tonga's Ha'apai island group.
Location Location
This 5-minute video was inspired by Tonga Ha'apai's Kelefesia island, which in researching for this video I discovered is for sale! We anchored at S20.30.132 W174.44.429 October 27-28, 2016.  Kelefesia wins the honor as one of my top 10 South Pacific cruising picks, no mean feat given we sailed over 18,000 miles.  We've since sold our sailboat in Australia.  We're currently in Portland, OR, USA looking for work.  Someday we hope to return to cruising, and to see our friends Steve and Patty of Armagh again.
s/v Journey and s/v Armagh at anchor of the small island of Kelefesia, Tonga.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Oz: Our Biggest Indulgence

Yes, this is the Australian Outback pub where Crocodile Dundee was filmed.  Northern Territory, Australia.  Worth a stay?  Read on....
"Wow!  Five years?!?  You sailed for five years!  I could never do that!"

By far, this is the most common reaction we get when we tell folks why we haven't been around for the last five years.

While we are exceptionally fortunate, for us, great adventures were a conscious choice.  We consciously chose to sacrifice many "normal" pleasures in exchange to see the world.  We could've traveled with far greater comfort, faster, longer and partaken in far more adventurous tours.  
Never Never Tours truck looking far seedier than its famed 1986 film days.  Northern Territory, Australia.
Our budget, however, was a mere $1500/month USD for everything -- food, boat work, fuel, entertainment, customs and check-in..... 

We didn't always hit it -- certainly not with our major repair work in New Zealand, nor when we completed our circumnavigation of Australia by Land Cruiser.  When the fuel costs up to $5.00 USD/gallon, and we drove over 10,000 miles, we knew we wouldn't be able to keep our spending as low as usual, not to mention all the other expenses.  We free-camped a lot (Camps 8 and wikicamps were indispensable aids for finding free places, though most were primitive and "out there" or rest stops just off the highway).  

This comical Dundee Draught sign ticked our funny bone, but not our wallet.  Northern Territory, Australia.
We did stay at paid campsites when we arrived late or just really wanted a flush toilet and shower or it was the only choice to stay in an awesomely cool park (like in El Questro); that generally ran us ~$25 AUD (~$18 USD).  When we felt "really indulgent," we'd spring for a backpacker lodge private room with a communal kitchen and bathrooms; that tended to run us ~$70 AUD (~$50 USD).

How much would you be willing to pay to stay in lovely rooms like these?  Walkabout Creek Australia.
As we neared the end of our travels, given all the bypassed "special days" (birthdays, anniversaries) traditionally BC (before cruising) celebrated with an overnight staycation, we found ourselves really itching for a bed, despite our typically tight budget.  

Ok, there was access to this kitchen included at the Walkabout Creek Hotel.  We kept driving.
We were ready for a big splurge.

We passed up the infamous Crocodile Dundee Walkabout Creek motel as we edged our way out of Australia's desolate and dusty Northern Territory.  We briefly considered staying, but were put off by the "We don't normally rent to people" comment from the proprietor, who meant they generally rented to "tradees" (blue collar workers).  We weren't too sure what made tradees subhuman.   Maybe it was their willingness to rent in such a dilapidated place?  We just weren't up for popping $110 for such a depressing-looking spot, famous or not (though Wayne said the bar was cool).  Instead, we free-camped further down the road that night.

The timing was right for stopping here, at the Blue Heeler Road House, Queensland Australia.  The options were few and far between.
Two nights later, in Kynuna, Queensland, we reluctantly sprang $120 AUD (~$85) for a very rustic room at the Blue Heeler road house.  While the staff was friendly, and I got the eve meal special, a tasty roast beef sandwich for a song, the rooms won the prize for the worst room we've ever had, anywhere - and we've stayed in some real dumps - for half the price.  The walls were corrugated metal.  The floor was soft from rot.  The toilet reeked from sulfur water.  Even if the bed had been clean, the florescent light above the bed attracted huge hordes of kamikaze insects who easily entered the room through the massive gap under the door.  Their death throes ended on the bed.

Our bed, doubling as our couch, Blue Heeler Road House, Queensland Australia's outback.
"I'm guessing that didn't count as one of those luxurious birthday-anniversary hotel rooms I've promised you for the last several years," Wayne sighed, as we checked out of the Blue Heeler.  I concurred, even though it's the most we've paid for a room other than the shockingly expensive (but nice) Great Ocean Road hostel room.  Perhaps the Blue Heeler did inspire Banjo Patterson's unofficial national anthem "Waltzing Maltida," but for $120/night it was still a dump.  And we got lucky - the beer garden outside our door was not in operation that night.

Given the semi-outdoor portion of Blue Heeler's bar was right outside our door, we were grateful that portion wasn't open the night we stayed.
Two for two, famous Australian Outback road houses.... Cool pubs.  Major dumps.  Far too much moola for a couple looking for an affordable, clean bed as a decent respite from camping.  

Banjo "Waltzing Matilda" Patterson Memorial in Winton, Queensland, Australia.
Yet, one half day after leaving Blue Heeler -- Shangri La! Or at least what constituted it for us in Australia's outback.  Arriving in in the small Queensland outback town of Winton around noon, instead of logging another full-day's drive, we stopped, cursing ourselves for not continuing our previous night's drive to end here, at Winston's North Gregory Hotel.  We stopped at the Blue Heeler because we were road-weary and also because nocturnal wandering kangaroos make it risky to safely drive at night in Australia.

North Gregory Hotel's art deco interior, a beacon of cleanliness compared to our usual fare.  Winton, Australia.
After splurging $120 AUD just the night before for lackluster Blue Heeler, it made no sense to even remotely consider another expensive motel the next day -- especially so early in the day.  And yet....

The North Gregory Hotel called to us.  Stylishly art deco.  Clean.  Spacious.

"How much?" I asked.  "$110."  I explained that we really blew it, blowing our budget by staying at the dumpy Blue Heeler for $120 the night before.  I asked if they'd consider a military discount, but that we would stay, regardless.  They knocked $10 off the price for a military discount, especially appropriate given the next day was Anzac Day.

 small portion of quirky Arno's Wall, with everything including the kitchen sink, behind Winton's North Gregory Hotel.
Savoring the overall quaintness of this tidy little historical town, we checked out the town's fun and funky little music fence and   Our only disappointments (other than spending a night and $120 for the Blue Heeler motel prior) were we were too early in the season to check out the Waltzing Matilda Centre, not there the one night of the week the Winton Royal Open Air Theatre showed movies, and one week before the premiere of chicken racing, which might be even more funny than the crab races we saw back in the Caribbean.

Winton's Musical Fence, a fun place to play. Designed by percussionist and composer Graeme Leak.
Given Winston was one of the last places we'd stop before leaving Australia, I wandered the town to pick up a few keepsakes. 

Wayne luxuriated the rest of the afternoon in our sumptuous room, a double bed with an awesome mattress and sweet little fridge pre-loaded milk to go along with the complementary cookies. The room opened out to a long balcony, with Adirondack chairs. As dusk approached, settled into the deck chairs to enjoy a perfect temperatures and nearly bug-free sunset.  

Arno's Wall, right behind North Gregory Hotel. is a fantastical sculptural wall that even includes the kitchen sink.
This is only a small portion of Arno's Wall.  Winton, Australia.
The next morning, we watched the whole town turn out for the Anzac Day parade from the balcony of The North Gregory.  To Australians and Kiwis, their participation in World War I defined their importance as nations in the world.   Just as last year's Anzac dawn ceremony in Whangarei New Zealand emotionally connected me to the essence of Kiwi patriotism,
we'd be hard pressed for a better good-bye for Australia's Great Outback than a bird's eye view of a humble yet earnest small town homage to its bygone heroes.

Anzac Parade, April 25, 2017, Winton Australia, viewed from North Gregory Hotel's balcony.
"Did this one count?" implored Wayne, hopefully.  I knew he meant.  Did he finally get credit for at least one belated / missed birthday-anniversary treat?  Definitely, I assured him.  Most definitely indeed.

This time, there was no regrets for our last big indulgence.  
North Gregory Hotel, Winton, Queensland Territory, Australia.  Image pilfered from http://www.northgregoryhotel.com.
Location Location
This post fondly recalls the brief time we spent in Winton, Queensland, Australia, April 25-26, 2017.  Meanwhile, we're still in the throes of "re-entry" in the USA, not yet quite sure where we'll call home.  Currently we are job-hunting for living-wage work that allows us to lead a simple, debt-free life and still save for the future.  At the moment, Wayne's gracious father and his wife are providing a roof over our head in Portland, Oregon, for which we are profoundly grateful.

Would've been a hoot to see these fellas racing in Winton, Australia.  Image pilfered from Ben's Chicken Stampede video.
Up Next
More catch-up blog posts, blog clean-up and video shorts.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Oz, Brisbane: "Bris-Vegas" - Didn't Wanna...

View of Brisbane from Mt. Coot-tha's summit.
Brisbane, Australia is more snidely nicknamed "Bris-Vegas."  Given that, we really didn't expect to like it.

Yet we did like Brisbane - a lot!  Maybe because in many ways, Brisbane felt like "home" --Portland Oregon's sub-tropical doppelganger.
Outside Brisbane's Science Museum.
Why

  1. Brisbane like Portland is a river city.
    Bonus!  For visiting yachties, you can grab a pole mooring in the heart of downtown Brisbane for a pittance
    - $70 AUD/week.  We are kicking ourselves for not tying off there.  We were there for a very short time, and were concerned about riding the current in and finding nothing available.  We found out after we took the train in from Manly* there was plenty of space available, and some room to anchor if not.  Note:  expect river traffic to make the anchorage rolly, so if that's a big issue for you, consider opting out of this otherwise happening spot.
    Brisbane's affordable pole moorings, in the heart of the city.
  2. Fantastic free fun, parks and museums (like this one) and free ferries 
    Brisbane's Streets Beach park.  Fun for all in the heart of the city.  Kinda like Portland's waterfront park fountains.  Well, not quite!
  3. Wonderfully walkable
    1. terrific trail system  - especially in the Mt. Coot-tha area and along the river waterfront and checking out Streets Beach
    2. glorious gardens - also free
  4. Beautiful bird's-eye viewpoint (Mt. Coot-tha offers a Portland Rose Garden-like view [sans Mt. Hood])
    Rental bikes, downtown Brisbane Australia.  Look a lot like the orange ones in Portland, OR.
  5. Readily-available affordable rental bikes in the heart of downtown (Lipton-sponsored in Brisbane, Nike in Portland)

We're fans of mass transit; Brisbane's is pretty good!  This is the train we took from Manly to downtown Brisbane.
*Most cost-effective way to get to Brisbane from Manly is to take the train.  The helpful ticket agent at the train station advised us to buy a pass.  They will buy it back, so the extra outlay for it is not that big a deal.
Manly, Brisbane Australia -- where we docked Journey for two days in November.  Queensland's lightening storms got our attention.  These dramatic clouds harbored equally dramatic lightening.

We do know Brisbane gets outrageously hot.  Apparently the weather gods were kind on our visit, though the lightening storms, common in the Queensland territory in the summertime, definitely got our attention.

Like Portland, Brisbane's retained much of its classic architecture, too.
What we'll remember most about Brisbane is Helene and Steve's generosity -- twice -- when we first arrived in Brisbane, and again in putting us up for over a week as we got our stuff together when we were about to leave the country.  They even connected us with a buyer for our Landcruiser, our last big responsibility before leaving Australia.


Of all the cities we visited in Australia Brisbane is is pretty high on our short list of places we'd choose to live.  Given that, there's a certain sweetness to making Brisbane our last stop before heading to it's unofficial sister-city in our mind, Portland, Oregon.



Currently staying with Wayne's folks in Portland OR, on the Columbia River.
Location Location
From 2012 - 2017, we traveled through 30 countries in our small sailboat, logging over 18,000 ocean miles.  We recently sold our boat in Australia.  We are currently in Portland Oregon.  Home will be where we can land living-wage jobs in a place we like.  We're not yet sure where that will be, though for now, it will be somewhere in the US. 
Portland or Brisbane?  What's your best guess?
Up Next
In between job hunting and catching up with friends, there will be continued blog posts to fill in some gaps on our travels, improve ease-of-search as well as occasional "re-entry" posts.