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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Now that we are boat owners again, our plans for a lengthy road trip in Australia have been shortened somewhat. We are planning to bring the boat back to Australia from Malaysia in the July-October timeframe, but, haven't finalized dates yet. In the meantime, as we waited for our flight to Malaysia,  we had a few weeks available for a mini road trip. So, we left the Brisbane area with plans to do a loop west from Brisbane via Broken Hill, to Adelaide and then circle back along the south coast to Melbourne where we will leave the van.

First, we headed south along the coast to Port Macquarie, home of the renowned Port Mcquarie Koala Hospital. Most koalas simply pass through here, they are treated and then released. However, there are a few permanent residents that can never be released, like this koala, blinded by chlamydia. About 80% of all koalas are infected with chlamydia and yes it's the same variety that humans suffer from! Untreated in koalas, it has devastating consequences affecting the eyes and urogenital tract.

Koalas sleep most of the time and this enabled us to see them at very close range. When they're awake, they just munch on eucalyptus leaves and we saw them doing that too. Many of the koalas displayed in commercial operations are offered up to be held for photo-ops. None of that here, the koalas don't like being touched. It was enough just to observe these fascinating creatures.

After Port Macquarie, we headed inland, away from the coast. We were on a historic highway leading to the outback mining town of Broken Hill. This was going to be our first glimpse of the 'outback' and we were looking forward to a change of scene. The land started to level out and get drier. This was the view from our first inland campsite.

The next day, the land leveled out some more and became agricultural. We were surprised to see fields of cotton. They looked ready for harvesting.  It was a thrill to see small groups of very large emus just wandering along the field edges. 

Broken Hill was more sophisticated than we'd thought it was going to be. Reminders of an obviously wealthy past were present in some beautiful buildings still remaining.

The other side of a wealthy past was apparent at the somber and well-done miner's memorial, a monument to the horrific loss of life which brought wealth to the town.

Inside the memorial was a wall of memorial plaques. Each small plaque, decorated with a white rose, detailed a miner's death. There were many examples of extremely young men, dying horrible deaths.

Leaving Broken Hill, the land flattened out and now stretched endlessly far, far to the horizon.

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Sunday, 11 June 2017

We decided that, before heading to Malaysia and our new boat, we wanted to have at least a couple of weeks touring in the campervan which we had just fitted out. We had to hang around the Brisbane area for another week while waiting for an appointment to have our clutch replaced (don't ask!) and were casting about for somewhere interesting to go. We thought we'd exhausted all the tourism opportunities around Brisbane, but, were we ever wrong. After a bit of study, we found a few gems close by that seemed to warrant a visit. So, even though the weather wasn't great, with quite a bit of rain, much-needed in drought-stricken Queensland and cooler temperatures which were very welcome after the heat wave of February and March, it didn't dampen our enthusiasm and we headed out.

First, we visited Lamington National Park. High in the mountains (hills really) you could still see Brisbane way off in the distance, but, it was like we had landed in another world. As we are now in the off-season, the park was mostly deserted of people, but, full of wildlife. Crimson Rosellas flitted in the trees around the van. They are a spectacular sight.

This little bird seemed almost tame and hopped right up to us.

The rather ugly brush turkeys were a little too bold with one jumping right into the open door of our van to have a look.

It was delightful to wake up in the morning to find around fifty wallabies, many with joeys, nibbling on the campground grass all around the van!

Later in the day, we did the 'tree top walk'. This necessitated climbing a ladder, surrounded with a metal cage, high into the treetops. The ascent wasn't as difficult as it sounds.

The view from the treetops, thirty meters up from the ground, was worth the climb.

We did a few more forest walks in the area and encountered waterfalls and forest pools.

Even the trees were interesting with examples of trees being slowly strangled by strangler fig vines and even trees with buttresses!

Next, we headed up to the Noosa 'Everglades'. We hired a canoe and went out for the day into the mangroves. Rain again, but, we saw some wonderful birds, including brilliant purple kingfishers and we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the waterway immensely.

After our canoe trip, we headed back towards Brisbane and rounded out our tour with a scenic drive in the Glass Mountains. The day was cool, but, we did the hike up Mount Ngungun anyway.  It started to rain once we got to the summit, but, the view from the top, across the vineyards, was very nice.

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Thursday, 1 June 2017

One morning we decided to walk into Brisbane from the caravan park we'd been staying at. It was about eight km along an excellent walking and biking path that wends its way along river banks and through picturesque suburbs. It was a delightful day and we enjoyed many sights along the way.

Before we even left the caravan park, we spotted these incredibly colourful rainbow lorikeets. It's always exciting to see them, but, usually they fly so fast it's just a glimpse. We were lucky to spot this one feeding in a bush.

There were many well-cared for, charming 'Queenslander' houses to enjoy along the way.

A very large flying fox (bat) colony flanked the riverbanks at one point. I think most Australians consider them vermin, but, we still find them fascinating and rather beautiful. This species was red-headed!

Once we reached Brisbane an unexpected piece of Canadiana showed up.

Once we reached the downtown the street art was fun.

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Friday, 12 May 2017

Here she is, our new (to us) boat!

We are very pleased to be able to announce that we have purchased another boat! After being without a boat for fourteen months (we sold old Gjoa in January 2016) we were beginning to despair of  finding anything suitable ever again. Please welcome a new Gjoa (the boat formerly known as Momo-Sailing and most recently, Momo-Saruwa). Strangely, it is another German designed and built boat, just like old Gjoa.

We knew we wanted an aluminium hull, preferably unpainted and were not willing to compromise on that. We had toyed with the idea of buying a catamaran and even went so far as to put an offer on one. Aluminium catamarans are few and far between (or horrifically expensive) and we had some reservations about their handling and ocean-crossing capabilities, so, we started looking at monohulls again. As they say, sometimes the 'devil you know' is the best choice. We had our eye on a couple, but, frankly, they were old, needed work and were rather ordinary. We were heads down into our campervan conversion when something interesting came up and caught our attention. We read the listing avidly until we came to the part about its bilge keels (two small keels) and we were no longer interested. The only bilge-keeled boats we'd ever seen were in the UK, usually sitting forlornly askew in the middle of a tidal mud flat. They had a reputation as rather 'slow pigs' and we didn't want anything to do with one. We decided to keep looking.

A couple of weeks later, I was browsing again and had a closer look at the listing. As we studied it we realized that, other than two keels, this boat had just about everything else on our list of desired attributes. We decided to do a bit of research into twin keels, could they really be so bad? A couple of papers we read convinced us that maybe twin keels weren't so bad after all and actually were even possibly better than single keel boats in a number of ways. For the interested, here is a link to one convincing piece on the 'advantages of twin keels'.

Higher sailing speeds were an attractive advantage and this seems to be borne out by a survey done on Momo-Saruwa which indicated sailing speeds of  7-8 knots in 18 knots of wind. We'll believe it when we see it, but, if true, it will be a nice plus. It's interesting that maybe we've ended up with something that's not a catamaran, but, not a traditional monohull either, something almost between the two. We should have higher sailing speeds, a shoal draft (only 1.55 m)  and the ability to take the ground like a catamaran, but, with the solid construction, good tracking capability and righting ability of a monohull.

As mentioned in our last post, we had to travel to Langkawi, Malysia in order to view the boat and meet the Swiss owners who were leaving in a few days to return home. The boat lived up to its pictures in all but two cases and actually we almost didn't go ahead due to the inadequate (for us) sleeping accommodations. The forecabin was built just like on old Gjoa, with sleeping accommodation for 1-1/2 small people and storage for an army.

The aft cabin (centre cockpit) was reached by a passage that had headroom, but, was very difficult to navigate due to the uneven corridor floor. Once there, the bed was barely adequate, large, but side entry which requires climbing over each other to get in or out. A redesign and rebuild of the forecabin (just like we had to do on old Gjoa, but, this one is larger) should make the sleeping accommodation work well without sacrificing much storage and give us a comfortable home that also sails and performs well.

We paid top dollar for the boat, but, were able to rationalize this based on all the new equipment onboard. Hopefully, our maintenance bills should be fairly low for the first few years anyway. There is a brand-new engine and gearbox, Yanmar 75hp 4JH4G-TBE (only ten hours on it!), new 600ah house bank batteries, a new Panda Fischer 8kva generator installed in 2015, new electronics 2015, full insulation (so important, but, impossible to retrofit well in a boat), diesel heater and a full array of creature comforts which we've never had before. With added comforts, though, comes increased complexity and maintenance. Over time, we may try to simplify the boat, but, for right now, we're willing to put the work into learning and maintaining a boat with 12v, 24v and 240v electrical systems along with the aforementioned huge generator that powers an electric cooktop/oven/microwave, 70 lph watermaker, washing machine, hot water, pressurized water, a shower, freezer, fridge, twin autopilots, bow thruster and many other things. The learning curve will be very steep. There is solar and wind power, but, their input is minimal. Tankage is great, 1110 litres diesel. Some of the equipment choices are not what we would have chosen and we'll either get used to them or replace over time.

The boat is a 2001 Reinke 13m Special, designed by German naval architect Kurt Reinke and professionally-built at Rehberger yachts in Bremen, Germany with interior finishing done at Friendship, Switzerland. She is hull number 15, hopefully all the design kinks were worked out in numbers 1-14!

She was built in 2001, twelve years newer than our old Gjoa, and we will be the third owners. Both previous owners were Swiss and even though the first owners were thirteen year liveaboards, the boat is in absolutely immaculate condition, still mostly just like new. The Special designation is because she is slightly longer than the original 13m design (13.95m) and slightly wider (3.98m beam) to accommodate the very thick insulation. Different than any other Reinke we've ever seen, this one has a raised saloon table and nav station that provides seated 360 degree visibility, something we also hoped to get with a catamaran and have gotten it in a monohull instead.

The galley is also 'down', our preferred location and has lots of really bright headroom.

There is a 'proper' engine room with easy interior access. A hatch in the cockpit sole lifts up and provides standing headroom access to the engine and generator.

A very solid aluminum hard dodger, integral to the boat, with windshield (and wiper!) covers the helm position for inclement weather. A bimini for the tropics shades the comfortable cockpit and rounds out the design.

Her hull is 10mm, topsides 8mm, 5mm deck and she weighs 15,000 kg. The hull and decks are unpainted (hooray!) with a non-skid paint partially covering the decks. A fully-battened main, twin headsail rig, running backstays, dedicated trysail track, trysail and storm jib complete a large sail inventory. A sugarscoop and swim ladder provide great access to the dinghy and water. There are many ingenious examples of German design onboard, including interior locking mechanisms for the tank fills, interior sliding bars that lock the anchor locker, cockpit locker and hatches and a locking liferaft compartment on the sugarscoop. The deck on top of the aft cabin is a great place to stage a drogue deployment.

I'm sure that the non-sailors out there have their eyes glazed over about now and you're saying 'enough already'! I could go on and on, maybe the pictures will give you some idea. The pros outweighed the cons on this boat and we decided to go for it. I don't think we'll regret it.

Our plans for 2017 will now include less time on the campervan and a trip to get the boat from Malaysia to Australia. We're not sure yet what our timeframes will be. All will be revealed in due course.
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Sunday, 7 May 2017

We were just a couple of days from finishing up the campervan conversion and very much looking forward to spending our first night in what we thought was going to be our Australian home for the next nine months. You can probably guess what happened next. An interesting boat popped up on the internet and instead of enjoying the fruits of our labour, we dashed off to Langkawi, Malaysia to look at the boat. There was some time pressure as the Swiss owners were at the boat, but, were leaving in a few days to go home without plans to return anytime soon. It's always better to be shown a boat by someone really familiar with it. There was also somebody else flying in the following week to have a look. It was a close enough match to our 'wish list' that we decided we just had to go and look at it, or, we might regret it. So, at considerable expense, that's what we did.

Malaysia isn't that far from Australia, but, we had to fly to Langkawi, a duty-free island federal territory of Malaysia, just off the northwest mainland coast. It also meant three flights, Brisbane-Sydney, Sydney-Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) and then a short hop to Langkawi. The routing was complicated and we ended up with a fourteen hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. We didn't mind as it gave us a day to explore this city, on our first visit to a Muslim country. Most people spoke English, so, it was easy to find out what bus to get on. Once in the city, we hopped on to a tour bus and took a lengthy tour. It was surprising. The city was much more bustling and prosperous-looking than I would have imagined.

The architecture was amazing and represented the blend of cultures in the country.

These are Kuala Lumpur's landmark twin towers, the Petronas building.

The people were interesting to look at as well, including the other tourists. I have no idea why this group is dressed alike, but, their colourful clothing caught my eye.

Even their bus was colourful. All the tour buses have very elaborate draperies at the windows.

Once we reached Langkawi, life became a little more rural.

Rice paddies and intriguing water buffalo were in evidence.

Our hotel looked modern and good from the outside, but, there were a few issues inside. It was probably one of the better places to stay though and we were generally happy with it. The best part, it had air conditioning!

The view out of our window at the back of the hotel was lovely.

One day we saw a group of around a dozen very large monkeys walking along the path behind the hotel. It was all very new and interesting.

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