Passage to Bangkok

December 12, 2010

To paraphrase an expression used by cruising sailors “Nothing goes to weather (upwind) like a Boeing 777.”  It was an easy “passage” on Thai airlines from Brisbane to Bangkok.  The boat was hauled last Monday and we had been living on the boat on the hardstand for four nights.  It was up and down the ladder to use the bathroom.  We had lots of work to do under the boat but got it done just in time to leave for the airport.

Here are some photos of Bangkok, plus one of Sabbatical III getting hauled.  Click to enlarge the photo:


Long weekend in Auckland with Kelley

Early Friday morning we flew to Auckland, New Zealand to spend three and one-half days with our dear friend Kelley Smith.  Kelley worked with me at Brown for years and, starting in June, was managing a research project in American Samoa.  She took ill there and was medically evacuated to Auckland where she is undergoing treatment.

We had a great time with her in Auckland.  Friday night we celebrated my birthday at a nice restaurant in in the Takapuna beach area. The next morning we took a boat to the island of Tiritiri Matangi, which is a preserve for birds.  The weather was perfect and the scenery was beautiful.  Sunday we went to the farmers market and walked on Takapuna beach along with Jesse who had just arrived from the States to help Kelley through her treatment regimen.  We also had the chance to spend time with Kelley’s parents, Gary and Judy. Gary was also our gracious chauffeur, turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal, as I also tend to do in countries with left-hand driving.

There are some photos of our trip to Auckland:

Birthday meal in Takapuna Beach (on the North Shore of Auckland)
On the ferry to Tiritiri Matangi
Laura and Kelley hiking on Tiritiri Matangi
Tiritiri Matangi
Laura at Tiritiri Matangi
Kelley and Mark
Tiritiri Matangi


Mount Glorious

We finally took a half-day off from boat work to drive inland and explore.  We started in Dayboro (“The Town of Yesteryear”) where we surprised the lady in the tourist office by just showing up, then went north to Mount Mee and south to Mount Glorious.

On the way up to Mount Mee we passed the following offering  for sale.  I thought it worthy of a photo, although I imagined it was just a fine natural fertilizer.  Closer inspection revealed that it is being touted as a way to lose weight.  At least that is what I think it says.

Horse poo for sale
The side of the cart touting the product's use as a diet aid

Another interesting sign:

Sign advertising "slashing". It seems that slashing is preferred to choking in Australia

Finally, the view from Mount Glorious is glorious:

View from Mount Glorious


Some new photos from Vanuatu

These are some new photos from our time in Vanuatu (June – September).  We are only now getting around to sorting through all the photos we took this past season.  The video will probably have to wait until we return to the US. — M.

(Click on first photo in a group and then click forward through the group.  There are two groups of photos.)

Group 1:

Group 2:

Back where we started: Scarborough Marina

Yesterday, we left Dockside Marina in downtown Brisbane and sailed the 30 miles to Scarborough Marina, where Sabbatical III will live until next April.  We will remain in the water at a berth until the first week of December at which time we will have Sabbatical III  hauled.

These are some photos of the local fauna taken at two of our favorite parks in Brisbane — the Roma Street Parkland and the Botanical Gardens.

Iguana poses with the statue of an iguana: Roma Street Parkland, Brisbane
Kookaburra: Botanical Garden, Brisbane

Enjoying Downtown Brisbane

Brisbane Skyline

We have spent the last few days at Dockside Marina, right across the river from the central business district of Brisbane. We really like this town. We bought a weekly ferry pass but wind up walking most of the time. The summer heat has not yet kicked in, and this is a town built for walking. We continue to engorge ourselves with fruit — mostly mangoes, stone fruit, and melon — to make up for their absence in our diet for the past few months. As we walked into the Botanical Gardens adjacent to downtown last night (Saturday), there was a growing horde of people walking with us, all about our age or older. It turns out that there was a big concert in the park — Peter Frampton, Brian Wilson, Chicago, and America, each doing a 45 minute set. It was sold out and tickets where $128 – $168. We were able to hear Frampton as we strolled through the park, over the river on the Goodwill Bridge, and back towards the marina at Kangaroo Point. Lots of 50ish and 60ish people without tickets had set up chairs and food baskets on the other side of the river to listen to the concert.


Photos from Huon and Chesterfield Reefs

These are a few of the photos from our visits to these uninhabited reefs. Click on the first photo to enlarge and to continue to the next.

Wombats, Crabs, Sharks, Eels, and Us at the Reefs

Turtles at Huon Reef:

Birds on the Reefs

M. & L.

Clouds of birds

Chesterfield Reef is quite a beautiful place. Although there are turtles mating and nesting on the tiny small islands of Chesterfield Reef, as on Huon Reef, the highlight here is the birds. The island across from where we are anchored has a perpetual cloud of birds over it. Going ashore makes the cloud even larger as hundreds of birds take wing and squawk at the interlopers. A thousand more of the smaller birds stay on the ground guarding their eggs or fledgings. Unlike Huon, there are “trees” on most of the small islands. They stand only 5 to 10 feet tall and are filled with gnarled branches, perfect for the nests of larger birds who fear that the crabs will eat theirs eggs or babies. Frigate birds and boobies of an unusual variety (tan heads, blue beaks, pink facial coloring, and bright red feet) nest in the trees. The attached photo is of one of the boobies.

Frigate birds nest in only a handful of places in the world (we visited their nesting site in the Galapagos) and they are incredibly acrobatic flyers. However, it would be easy to despise them. They live only by predation. They cruise slowly at a higher altitude than the boobies and terns, and when the other birds dive into the water and catch a fish, the frigates dive and attack them in a vicious fashion. They go for the wings, forcing the attacked bird to drop its catch and sometimes breaking the wing of the victim. Breaking a wing is certain death. When the victim of the attack drops its fish, the frigate catches the fish even before it hits the ground. The frigates even look evil up close. They have a beak like a vulture and, except when they are still chicks in the nest, they lack the pleasant demeanor of the boobies and terns. Yet, boobies and frigates nest in the same trees, just feet apart.

It has been very windy since we arrived, consistently in the 25-35 knot range. Along with “Wombat of Sydney”, we have been unwilling to anchor close to the islands and fringing reef because of the prevalence of coral bommies. The consequence is that we have about 2 miles of fetch, that is, there are two miles of open water between the nearest protection from waves and where we are anchored, and a considerable wind chop builds up in those 2 miles. The islands with birds are less than one-half a mile away, but they are not in the direction that the wind is blowing.

We were the only boats here when we arrived, but to our amazement, a boat called on the radio the night before last asking for help getting through the pass and into our anchoring area. Entering this place in the dark is just not a reasonable risk in our opinion. Chesterfield Reef is barely charted — almost the entirety of the lagoon area is greyed out in the charts, meaning you are on your own. In the dark, one cannot keep a watch for the coral bommies that litter the area. A boat has to come straight into a 30 knot wind and a steep wind chop to get here from the pass. Sabbatical III, a bigger than average boat, pounded up and down in the seas for the 8 mile trip and averaged less than 4 knots coming into the wind and seas. If a boat pounded onto a coral bommy in these conditions, she would surely be holed. The entering boat was very lucky that Mike of Wombat was willing to guide them to safe anchorage via VHF radio by providing a course into our anchorage that avoided the coral bommies we encountered during our trip in. We tried to follow the boat’s progress on radar but could not pick it up. Turns out it is a small wooden vessel with almost no radar return.

It is now one month since we left Noumea and headed out to uninhabited places. So we have not reprovisioned our food supplies in all of that time, except for the wahoo I caught during the passage here. The wahoo is now gone after providing 5 meals for the two of us. We are down to our last 2 oranges and then it is just canned fruit for us. Still have lots of canned food and frozen meat. Also lots of rice, crackers, chocolate, yogurt (in packets that we make every few days with a yogurt maker) and cereal.

We are looking for a weather window for the trip to Brisbane, Australia. As of now, it looks like Saturday is a good day to start that 3 and one-half day passage. As I write this blog, the wind has fallen to only 20 knots, although the seas are still in the 3.5 meter range outside the reef.


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New Photos: Fran and John Visit Sabbatical III

September 12, 2010

It took awhile for us to find good internet, but we finally have. So now we can post some photos of the visit of my sister Fran and her husband John to Sabbatical III last month.

We are still in Noumea trying hard to get some things done and organize ourselves to venture into the New Caledonian lagoon, Soon, we hope.