Singing the Technical Blues…

The Sun must be in Scorpio or the Moon in the seventh level of Hell, or something, but we are cursed with technical misfortune at the moment. My uncle would have said it less politely, but I must have run over an electronics technician recently.


We’ve been without internet since we moved into our new place. NBN was the recommended way to go (the new, much hyped National Broadband Network, for non-Aussies), so we chose a service provider, paid the money and waited. About two weeks later the modem arrived, the NBN box was installed, and the nice techie even connected the modem for me. There it was, flashing away seductively as we slid the cd into the laptop and opened the instructions. All 158 pages of them.


Suffice to say we couldn’t get past number 1. Instruction number 1, not page, that is. After sending messages for help to the provider (who is impossible to contact directly) we finally had a callback which revealed that a crucial button on the modem wasn’t switched on. Simple! No, of course not. It’s still not working and we’re waiting for another call back, and another booking for another technician.


The day after that, our brand new Smart TV stopped working: no signal, or else a picture like shattered china wrongly glued back together. Antenna problems it seems, so now we have to navigate real estate agent>Body Corporate>technician… still waiting for a callback.


Lex has been using a mobile remote to connect, but that’s gone on the blink. And his computer is showing signs of joining the rebellion.


This morning I wanted to write a short piece about old stuff. I have, and use, my grandmother’s old rotary beaters, a worn but working piece of egg and batter beating equipment that needs no electricity, batteries, instruction manual or warranties. They were first made in 1932, and hers is probably an original. I thought it would be good to take a photo of it, for the youngsters who’ve never seen one. Yep – my trusty (and only 6 months old) Lumix digital camera won’t download the photos. It sits there dumbly, not doing anything.


I’m at my local café, using their internet. In the New Yorker today, in a serendipitous bit of synchronicity, there’s a cartoon with the title “Apple Comes Up with Phone that’s Impossible to Unlock” and beneath it is an old black Bakelite telephone with a dial and a handset. Just what I need. My mobile phone will probably be next…


A little rave about Tassie…

We’re constantly struck by the beauty of this island. It seems that every time you turn a corner, there’s another breathtaking view of mountains, rivers, channels and islands, gentle rolling hills, grapevines, crop-striped farmlands or forests, and sometimes all at once. Often all at once! People we meet are friendly and welcoming, and the food – especially the fresh seafood – is excellent. Below is the Coal River, which flows beneath the beautiful Richmond  Bridge.

Read more »

Officially Homeless!

When we sailed out of Darwin in July 2008 on board our first yacht Malaika, we were off on an open-ended voyage across the world with our youngest daughter, Ali. We’d sold our house and had no fixed address, so we were granted “long grasser” status by the Electoral Office. Now, seven years later, and in a different boat, we’ve gone a step further and today we’re officially homeless as well.

Lex, with our daughter Ali on Malaika in the Similan Islands, Thailand in 2008

Finally, it’s time for the big announcement. We’ve held off making it until it was completely signed, sealed and delivered, and it’s taken all of three months to happen, with falls at every jump along the way. We have sold our beloved Tramontana, our home since late 2009. Superstitious and (as it turned out) well-deserved paranoia kept us from making an announcement about it, fearing that if we spoke too soon it wouldn’t happen. Settlement on our buyers’ property actually collapsed twice at the last moment during that time. However we knew they were the right people to take over the custodianship of this boat. Being very experienced sailors, they knew a great boat when they found one and they’d fallen in love with her the moment they saw her. So we waited.

Tramontana at the Spit Bridge, Sydney 2015

We sailed to Newcastle NSW last week to finalise the sale and the handover. Just to keep the tension wound tight, settlement was delayed for the third time, by the biggest storm the east coast has seen in years. Our last night on board was memorable for the worst weather and the strongest, loudest winds Tramo had ever been in, but we were safely tied up (and triple-tied at that!) at a berth in Newcastle marina. While canopies and sails were being shredded all around us, she suffered no damage at all. So, after numerous delays, yesterday morning, 23 April, we handed Tramontana to Jenny and John, her ecstatic new owners.

Lex checking the mooring lines at the Newcastle marina during the gale

So what’s next? We’re not really sure. A year ago, we decided it was time to change tack and sell our boat, time to do something different, so we set out for Tasmania last October, hoping to find a buyer along the way, but without any real plans past that. Why Tasmania? Maybe it’s an overreaction but after 40 plus years in the tropics, we wanted a change of climate. A Tasmanian winter should sort that out! We’re going to be house sitting for a few months – a month in picturesque historic Richmond, in a house that’s 188 years old, and three months in a lovely place high above the D’Entrecasteaux Channel near Kettering, on the coast south of Hobart.

Different kinds of waterways beckon now…

Darwin remains home – even if we don’t have a house there at the moment – and we’re sure we’ll wind up back there. Three of our four children and most of our grandkids are there, plus four decades of friendships, so we’re treating this as a sabbatical rather than a re-location. In the meantime, we’re going to explore Tasmania as thoroughly as we can, and I’m going to get the next book written!




Writing in paradise…

We’re still floating around this beautiful waterway – Broken Bay, just 16 nautical miles north of Sydney. It’s a huge harbour, full of long, wide arms (called creeks), with snug little coves and quiet anchorages off each of them. This is the Hawkesbury region, one of Australia’s earliest settled places after Port Jackson. Read more »

Tea, anyone?

When people write about sailing, it’s usually about the dramatic stuff – storms, near-disasters, actual disasters, exciting or terrifying experiences. But in between those fairly rare events, sailing is a lot more comfortable and safe. Often there’s not enough wind, let alone too much. You’ve tried all the possible sail combinations to keep the boat moving and sometimes you just have to give up and start the engine. Read more »

Middle Percy Island to Scarborough, Qld

One of the things I’m enjoying about cruising down the Queensland coast, is the early dawn. After nine hours of night, which are very pleasant when all is calm and moonlit, but not so pleasant when it’s black, windy and turbulent, the discerning of a faint glow in the east is cause for celebration. 4am on a cloudless morning sees the eastern sky starting to pale, and by 5am you’re wondering where you left your sunglasses, because you’ll need them in another half hour.

We usually up anchor and leave by 5, and get a few good miles under the belt before breakfast. On a good day we can cover over 100 nautical miles, even sailing to windward as we have been so far. The conditions have been varied on the voyage – a lot of strong winds around 35kn and some heavy seas, but the boat handles it well (a lot better than me!) I’m not a fan of speed and strong winds, but I’m improving. I think. Read more »

Cairns to Middle Percy Island

I now understand that old sailors’ maxim: “A gentleman never sails to windward”, although I think they were more concerned about spilling the drinks. It’s certainly a lot more work sailing into the wind, requiring more tacking, hauling on ropes and grinding away at winches. My hands, gone soft and smooth after years of city living, have callouses again which appeared so fast I think they were just lying dormant under the skin.

Cairns was a welcome respite after the slog from Cape York. The genoa and staysail needed repairs, so the moment we tied up, we pulled the sails down and rang a number we found on the internet. Read more »

Cape York to Cairns

Entering Torres Strait

Lex and I sailed out of Darwin on 8 October, arriving at the Torres Strait islands after a non-stop seven day passage. The biggest discovery about the Straits was the wind! Rarely stops blowing, and had a lot of yachts hemmed in for a while. After exploring Thursday and Horn islands, we set off for Cairns on the 19th October…


31 October – Hooray, Cairns! We motored quietly into the marina yesterday morning just after daybreak, at the end of a 24 hour sail from Lizard Island. It’s been a long haul from Horn Island. Read more »