Notes From A Small Island…..

Major apologies to Mr Bill Bryson for this major plagiarism for the title of this blog. (If that means nothing to you – check out his great book which I read in the mid 1990’s – a fabulous read!)

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28.Notes_from_a_Small_Island

There has been a major hiatus in my blogging, mainly due to major life changes, meeting up with too many friends, (and making so many great new ones) as well as becoming an olympic downhill skier amongst other things!

I plan very soon to write a blog detailing my time in the UK, so please call back!

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Battons, Buckets and Bowlines – sailing with the experts…….

So it is that I ended up on a boat with Roderick and John, my sailing companions for nearly two weeks.  I am so grateful to them both for welcoming me into their home and sharing their holiday with me.

They have made such excellent company and I love listening to them both chat about boat problems, solutions, tales of people they have met during the last 11 years they have sailed in the Caribbean together.

Roderick eventually stopped apologising for the fact his boat was very basic, and I think came to realise that I meant what I said when I told him that the people I was with was far more important than the facilities on the boat.  That didnt stop me teasing him of course, as I inspected the boat as one would an exhibit in a museum!

As we come to anchor, we bring up the echo sounder and squint our eyes to try to see the depth

Despite its archaic look, it works really well, as does the VHF, and Roderick chuckled when I asked if it was Bakelite!

The winch on the other hand didnt bring too many chuckles

If you know how to sail, you will know the effort you have to put into moving sails up and across and the importance of the winches.  I was trained using self-tailing winches – not so on Furore as you have to pull hard onto the lines whilst winching and secure the lines when done with a cleat.  I wonder how it would be with a boat with electric winches!  I gained the title “Wench on a Winch” on Furore!

I came to love Furore however, a lovely little boat, despite her age and weight (sorry lass!!) she moved well through the water, and didnt complain a bit when she had to wear a dragon – Wales got its mention in the Caribbean!

Furore wearing a great flag!! Thanks boys for respecting your new Welsh crew!

I also very quickly came to love the company of Roderick and John.  They really took me under their wing and were such fun to be with (more details to follow in another blog….)

John has told his wife that a woman joined them on the boat, and described me as “a grey haired spinster”  Naughty boy!  I think Ann knows differently!

Why the title of this blog you may wonder – well, I think it is only really John and Roderick who would possibly know its meaning, and it is a little tease………

I’m a newcomer to sailing, and every day is a school day as I have said many times before.  I’m pretty hard on myself when I make mistakes and hope to get better, so it is lovely to spend time with guys who have spent most of their lives on boats and see that they get things wrong too.  Letting your 11 year old bucket go over the side for instance, not to mention having trouble with well placed bowlines……

During our stay at the beautiful island of Union, we met a lovely guy there called George.  He was the skipper for a boat called Adventure which was a multi-forces boat which enabled guys from Army, Navy, Airforce etc to take trips around the world, as a relief from their assignments around the world (hope I got that right George).  He had with him 14 young men from the army.  A lovely group of people, and George was great company.  As we raised the anchor from Chatham Bay , Adventure too prepared to leave.  I can imagine George saying to his lads – “watch this guys, this is how the professionals do it…..”

I had this in mind as the anchor raised, the sail was hastily raised, flapping around with no lazy jacks to keep it under control, when one of the reef lines slipped through its professionally constructed bowline (mentioning no names…..), escaping through the boom.  This required us to drop the main and anchor once more!

I never thought my midwifery skills would be called for onboard a small yacht – but my fingers, well used to manipulating babies out of small spaces helped tease the line back through the boom, with a little help from a long piece of wire Roderick had kept for many years in case it came in handy – it did today

Reef line reinstated with an extra hitch behind the bowline, sail once again raised – this time, a baton managed to find its escape, its now living somewhere in the Caribbean, and so it was we limped away………..

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Rub a Dub Dub, Two Old men and a Harlot in a Tub….

Well, Ive given up trying to look for the jacuzzi, dishwasher and microwave on this non-luxury yacht, as I feel so content with the company of Roderick and John, my sailing companions.  They say they are happy to have me on their boat, and, as I have told them many times, I really don’t know how they have managed without me all this time!!

John

Roderick aka “Rasta Granddad”!

My first morning aboard their boat Furore in Carriacou, John brought me a cup of Earl Grey tea in my cabin, arm stretched through the doorway to preserve my privacy at 06.28am with a deep voice saying- “sorry this is late”!!!  Of course I didnt winge at all about the early arrival of my brew but made a little suggestion that 07.13 might be a better time!

As I write this, I have now spent 5 days with these two gentlemen, and, despite their advancing years, I’m feeling quite worn out – they certainly know how to party!  They are great company, chat easily about pretty much anything, very knowledgeable, particularly about boats, the sea and sailing and I’m learning so much from them.  One of these conversations one evening was about gender equality, Roderick felt that women had now achieved equality, I said I had to disagree.

So it was the next day, we sailed from Carriacou to an island called Union

and I trotted along with Roderick to customs and immigration.  We were met by a customs official who felt that his job title gave him the right to lecture me on my wanton ways as a woman – I kid you not!!

Its hot here in the Caribbean, hence I pretty much wear shorts and a vest top most of the time, and as I entered the customs building, I was wearing just that, along with my smile of course.  When you arrive in a new country the skipper has to attend customs and immigration, taking with him the boat papers and passports of any other crew member, I just went with him as I’m so nosey!  I regretted this move as my welcome to Union consisted of this “gentleman” asking Roderick “is that woman was with you?” – he didnt even address me directly.  When Roderick informed me I was, he said I couldn’t come into the building dressed like that, so I concealed my frustration, turned heel and walked out and waited for Roderick to emerge.  Twenty minutes later he did, and whispered to me that the customs official had asked for me to come in as he wanted a word with me.

Believe it or not, I was a good girl when I was in school, needing very little disciplining, and  never being called to the headmasters office for a good telling off.  The experience this gentleman put me through was the closest thing I can imagine to this.  I stood at his desk whilst he gave me a lecture, he spoke very slowly, in a completely condescending manner and said something like –

“I have a mother, she is a woman, I have a wife, she is a woman, I have a daughter, she is a woman (I’m biting my tongue during this lecture on anatomy……) and I think that women need to know how it is they should behave.  I think there are many women who should learn how to be better examples and understand how it is a woman should be.  More women need to spend time reading their bibles and learning to be good.”

Can you imagine how sore my tongue is becoming as I am biting hard onto it to stop it saying exactly what I was thinking, with pictures of Emiline Pankhurst chained to railings in my head.  I thought carefully, as I stood to attention at his desk while he delivered his 15 minute lecture on the failings of women and how they should behave about wondered how best to respond and try to stop his rant. I said that I had clearly offended him in some way and for that I was sorry, but informed him that I was a good woman, a mother and a professional with good standing in my community.  Roderick had been sitting listening to this, and I knew he was cross too, but we were both in a vulnerable position – immigration and customs is not a place to get shirty after all!  However, Roderick took my lead and informed him that my job is as a midwife and I have attended the births of many babies.

This suddenly made quite a difference to him, as he informed me his daughter wanted to go to the UK to train as a midwife and suddenly this wanton woman might be a great contact for her.  I would of course help his daughter for I’m sure she would love not only to train as a midwife, but to put as many miles between herself and her father as I’m sure she had been the brunt of many of his lectures!

So readers, I’m fit well, happy and off to bed to study my bible – goodnight!

Happy Lady of Good Repute….honest!!

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Jumping ship!

Its common in life for things not to go to plan…..the first 3 and half weeks of my Caribbean adventure consisted in preparing a boat to get into the sea, one sail, then awaiting a boat part and staying anchored off one place.  This wouldn’t be so bad, but I only have 5 and a half weeks, and felt a little captive on a 36ft boat with a guy you have to tread egg shells around who clearly missed the social skills module when he went to school and no outboard motor to easily get to the shore.  I found my fins, mask and snorkel came in rather useful as I would hop off the boat and go for a swim for a couple of hours.  This is an unusual method of networking, swimming from boat to boat and going for a little chat, but it was a method which worked rather well I found!

So it is that I find myself on another boat!   I met a lady called Susie whose boat is aptly called “Spirited Lady”.

Lovely making new friends!

She is a kindred soul  with the same energy and enthusiasm as I for a party, so she invited me aboard her absolutely gorgeous boat to head to another part of the island for a beach party, and needing no persuasion whatsoever, two newly networked friends of mine – Bob and Neil collected me from my prison and took me over to Susies boat.

It had been suggested that I might be a bit of a jinx on a boat (the outboard motor was working perfectly well before I got onto the previous boat!!), this is a claim I totally refute.  So it was that Susie, her rock star lookalikey Swedish boyfriend Roger and I prepared the boat to set sail to our party.

We prepared the boat beautifully, even placing the life jackets on both her dogs then attempted to raise the anchor……..oops, the windlass wasnt playing ball.

A windlass is a winch which raises the anchor, and the posh boats have a motor with a little up and down switch. Of course Susies boat is a very posh one, and my suggestion of raising the anchor manually fell on deaf ears (I have no idea how heavy her anchor actually is of course!).  As I have already mentioned, Susie has a zest for life, and this new jinx didnt deter her in the least.  We packed a bag and headed to the shore in her tender, walked across a part of the island, hailed another boat on the VHF, I got a ride in my own tender with a rather attractive German, and we landed on a little island ready to party!  Phew!

Party on a beach, Caribbean style!

Yachaties arrived from everywhere, many with dishes of very tasty salads, curries, chicken and other delectable goodies, and I had a bottle of gin……Roger thankfully helped me with this which saved a little on the hangover the next day.  So, a party on the beach it was, followed by spending the night on the boat of someone I never met before, a walk back the next morning and ready to prepare for jumping ship.

A joy of traveling, as I have mentioned before, is the fact you can meet such lovely people.  So it was that Roderick and John came into my lives, and the next part of my adventure is taken with them.  They offered to take me North with them, suggesting I come and visit their boat first as it “is very basic”. Both gentlemen have been sailing most of the 70+ years of their lives so I knew the boat would be seaworthy, any more than that, I didnt really care as they were offering me a chance to move on – and, by the twinkle in their eyes (I think they both still have their own!) I knew we would all have fun together.

Yes, the boat is basic, but she is seaworthy and we had a beautiful sail up to Carriacou and she slipped into a perfect groove on the water.  Frederick has moved out of the fore cabin as a true gent and he and John sleep in the saloon.   I told them I wasnt a princess and was very happy with basic accommodation, but I’m still looking for the jacuzzi – perhaps it is with the microwave and dishwasher?

This is just what I needed, two easy going gentlemen, (they clearly had the social skills module in schools in the 1940’s!)  I did suggest they only let me on their boat because I am qualified in CPR, but of course it’s really because they are salt of the earth characters!

Roderick is a potato farmer in East Anglia, he has a ready smile and a sense of fun and loves tinkering around on his boat.  John is a harbour master in the same area, and, if have been a follower of my blog as I sailed around Britain, you will know how impressed I was by harbour masters around our beautiful country.  They treat me with the utmost respect, appreciative of my cooking, let me take the helm at times and laugh at my jokes.  My adventure is back on track!

Salty Sea Dog

Its a beautiful morning here in Carriacou and I’m planning two dives today in what Ive been told is the best divie site in the Caribbean – watch this space

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Underwater world of Grenada

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Grenada really is a piece of paradise.  Two thirds of my luggage allowance was used by bringing my dive equipment with me for this sailing trip – I like to explore the countryside, the coastline as well as the gorgeous underwater world!

I spent many days scuba diving, limited only by the money needed to pay for the privilege – however, in Grenada, you can see some stunning things just by snorkelling

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Here are some of my shots doing so from this stunning little cove

DSCF7059 DSCF7068 DSCF7069 DSCF7073 DSCF7075 DSCF7093 DSCF7084 DSCF7097This is the marine park from just outside its capital, St George.  Its full of sculptures made by a British guy called Jason De Caires Taylor, and the most recent addition is the cyclist you can see above.

The water was beautifully warm – around 29oC which, if you are a scuba diver, you know it is toasty warm!  Teeming with life

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Cant wait to dive elsewhere in the Caribbean!!  Meanwhile, I completed a Rescue Diver course and am now thinking about working towards Dive Master………..will have to get back to work soon though!

 

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The Island of Spice – Grenada

Grenada is so beautiful, a rich fertile island with waterfalls and crater lakes and warm welcoming people.

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Its known as the “Isle of Spice” and nutmeg is their main crop,

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but everything grows here – coconuts, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass, mangoes, pawpaw, yams!

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Hurricane Ivan in 2004 tore up much of the island and ruined about 80% of their crops.  This hit the island very hard, with much of the population just eeking out an existence with no welfare state, however, it is now regenerating and alot of the crops are now coming through again and the rainforest is now looking more than a tropical garden!

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I toured the rum factory, with much of the work, with the help of a 200year old water wheel, by hand.  It contrasts starkly with the tour of the rum factory I made in Bundaberg in Australia, with all conditions being strictly monitored, automated, and visitors having to wear special shoes so as not to cause any static electricity!!

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This amazing place runs pretty much as it did in the mid 1800’s, with hard manual labour from crushing the cane to scooping the hot juice from “copper” to copper with huge wooden scoops

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Tasted 75% proof rum at the end, and had a little understanding about some of the behaviour Ive seen!

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Cocoa beans grow here, they look amazing when you pick the seed pod and open it up,

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and a visit to the Grenada Chocolate company is well worth the trip, seeing how the beans are transformed into the most delicious chocolate using very basic and age old methods including people powered dance!

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The people are as warm as the country, welcoming, funny and love nothing more than showing their beautiful home to its visitors.  Saw this poster which made me smile!
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Hmmmm….maybe I will enter?

Grenada is a beautiful place, but I am keen to explore the rest of the Eastern Caribbean and I have to be in Guadeloupe by 17th December to catch my flight back to the UK.  We have been waiting for a part to arrive for our outboard motor……things take time in the Caribbean!

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Time for a new adventure!

After many months of thought, contemplation and breath holding, I decided to leave Australia and make my way back to the UK.  This has not been an easy decision as I loved living there, the people as warm as the weather, living close to the sea with spectacular scuba diving and sailing each week.  However, such is the draw back to Blighty that I set about the mammoth task of moving country yet again.  Not only had I to sort out finalising all my work, but I also had to find someone to take over my lease on my unit, sell all my furniture, sell my car, complete my taxes, arrange my super annuation,  and sorting my finances to make a move back.

However, although I have had a great time in Australia, I only took 2 weeks holiday in a year, and worked what felt like such long hours with being oncall a big chunk of the time., so it didnt feel right to head straight back to the UK, not in November when all I read from my UK facebook friends is how awful the weather is.  I felt I needed an adventure! So it is that I find myself in the Caribbean!

Let me explain – I found a website called “findacrew.net” I had heard it mentioned during my Round Britain trip by one of the skippers, but at the time paid little attention to it, but so glad I looked – this is a sweetie shop for sailors!  I posted my profile, and when I looked the next day I had received 16 offers from boat owners around the world to come and sail with them.  Within a couple of weeks, I had over 50 offers. Some were charging a fee, most were free, with just contribution to costs (some even paid for your food and your flight out to them!) and some were paid positions as working trips on charters.  Very, very exciting!

So, with all these offers, I felt tempted to take a couple of years to circumnavigate, but knowing I have made a commitment to return to the UK, I decided to just have a “mini adventure”.  With all these wonderful offers to come crew on boats, I sat down one evening and looked at the map of the world, and, naively felt that the Caribbean was halfway home from Australia to the UK – well, take a look at the map yourself and you will see what I mean!  However, following a 32 hour journey and 4 flights, I arrived in Trinidad at midnight the same day I had left.  Sadly, only one of my two bags made it with me, it was steamy hot, I was desperate for a shower and change of clothes – all of which were still in my bag somewhere between LA and Miami, including any cosmetics, but I was happy that all my scuba gear had arrived!

I was met at the airport by my new skipper and my new companion for nearly 6 weeks.  I found him on the internet as he wanted someone to join him on his boat to crew for a short time and our dates fitted perfectly!  Many people said it was a brave thing for me to fly to Trinidad and join someone Ive never before and sail with him for 6 weeks.  Hmmmmm.  Well, I’m not quite as stupid as I look.  We had communicated for at least 3 months before I went, and I had asked for 2 referees both of whom I spoke with.  One of these was a lovely woman called Sigrid, and I had the pleasure of finally meeting her

I finally met Sigrid!Just take a look at the name of her boat!

Just take a look at the name of her boat –

The “Lucky Bitch”!!

A less than hospitable welcome to Trinidad with a missing bag and a very nonchalant response to this from the American Airlines rep (it clearly happens all the time!), made worse by being met at a service station on the way to the boat yard by a man asking for money with a broken bottle in his hand (I felt grateful for the fact I had packed my squealing anti-rape alarm)!  Welcome to Trinidad!!

So it was, escaping danger, we made it to the boat.  He had arrived the day before, from his home in Belgium and his boat had been “on the hard” in a dry dock in Trinidad during the hurricane season.  So many boats out of the water, so sad to see them all lined up, many of them having work done on them, some just being neglected.

Ive spent a year living in the Tropics of the Southern Hemisphere, and now I swapped that for the Northern Hemisphere – very much the same, hot, humid and loads of mosquitoes who were enjoying their new dish of the day – me!!

I spent the first 4 nights on the boat in the dry dock whilst we worked on the boat and made it ready to enter the water.

When I say “we” I mean the skipper, he is pretty used to doing everything alone, and I watched as the work carried on. He was helped a little by a colourful local called Raole.

I did manage to sample some of the local cuisine, including “Doubles”

and the delicious “Roti”

 

Watch it being made –

Even the local Iguanas liked them

They somehow knew when it was “Roti Time” and appeared from nowhere!

It was so hot in the boat yard, and the mosquitoes did bite me relentlessly but the local beer did help a little…..

 

What a joy when we finally got the boat onto the water – feeling we were finally on our way, and enjoying more breeze being on the water and making a better job of avoiding the mosquitoes!

 

Skip keeps his boat meticulously maintained

 

It is approximately 20 years old and was built in Sweden.  It is complete with most things you would find essential when circumnavigating, the usual chart plotter, VHF, satellite phone, EPIRB, life raft, but he also has a “water maker”, solar panels and a windmill.  The boat is very comfortable for two people, with 2 cabins, mine is located in the bow.  Skip has spent much of the time on his boat sailing solo, but he is now inviting crew onboard.  I’m his first from findacrew, as he usually invites friends when he does have a crew.  I’m certainly his first English crew, as, although his English is excellent, he doesnt know many of the English names for many of the boat parts. At one point sailing, he shouted from the foredeck to let go that thing there.  Luckily I knew the main sheet needed easing – his English vocabulary is expanding!

We had planned to leave on Monday night or Tuesday, then discovered there was a big celebration, a public holiday indeed, on Tuesday 13th for Diwali!  This surprised me in the Caribbean, as I thought it an Indian celebration, little did I know that a large proportion of the population of Trinidad originated in India and were Hindu.  What a fantastic celebration of light – a town given over to celebrate Diwali

 

the poorest of people put out candles and a display and the whole town was lit up, cars decorated and fitted with enormous speakers booming out music.

I had a wonderful time wandering the streets, sampling local foods handed out from women who had cooked in their own homes, and not a broken bottle in sight!

The next day we prepared to set sail to Grenada.  This was an 80 mile trip, so we left Chaguaramas and found a beautiful anchorage where we spent the evening ready to head off at midnight.

A beautiful sail to Grenada, 15 hours in total, just five and half hours of this in the dark, watching the dawn break.

My favourite part was when a huge pod of dolphins joined us and rode our bows for about half an hour!  Magical!

 

I sat right up on the bow with the dolphins jumping and nearly touching my feet!

Grenada is so beautiful, a rich fertile land and warm welcoming people, more about Grenada later, this island certainly deserves its own blog entry!

Approaching Grenada

As indeed does the scuba diving in Grenada which is lovely!

Ive been in Grenada for 9 days so far, we had planned to move on, making our way gradually North, but the outboard motor for the tender is broken and we are awaiting a part to be sent from Florida.  We are at the mercy of Fedex and aware that Thanksgiving has probably slowed the process.  So we are stuck here until it arrives and its been fixed  So, here I am, in a little piece of paradise – not a bad place to be “stuck”!

Cheers!

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Having A Whale of a Time in Australia!

Whale Watchin

One of the things I was excited about living in Australia was the whale migration, to think that thousands of whales would be swimming down past my door, well, not literally, but you know what I mean!

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Making the best of being in Australia!

When I moved here over 8 months ago, it was all very new and exciting, and it felt as if I was on holiday.  However, within 5 days of arriving here I started my new job, and threw myself straight into full time work, in a new place, new job whilst battling jet lag.  It still felt like I was on holiday, but I had to go to work.  As time moves on, the novelty of being in a new area soon wears off and the reality of life hits home – its not a holiday!

I do have annual leave, and like most normal people, look forward to that time off work.  I took some time off in April, (check out my previous blog!), had a wonderful time, but I don’t have any more holiday for 6 months in November.  When you are working full time in a challenging job like mine, your down time is important.  Coming home from work to an empty home and being oncall for a significant time can feel very down heartening,  and you can’t live life waiting for your next holiday.  So, I make the very best of my days off and try to make use of the local opportunities.

Let me tell you about my 2 days off this week on Wednesday and Thursday.

Its winter here in North Queensland, which means temperatures only reach 24-26oC during the day, and it plummets to almost single figures at night (if you are reading this in the UK in your summer, this will make you feel very envious right now!) So my first morning off started with an alfresco breakfast by the sea overlooking the gorgeous Magnetic Island

Ladies who do breakfast!

You might recognise my lovely daughter in the middle, and joining us is my friends daughter Jasmine.  Its 10 am and the sun is shining and we are planning our day together.  As we ate our eggs benedict, we decided to visit the Reef HQ and see Nemo

We took this educational opportunity very seriously as you can see!

Its school holiday this week, and we showed good example to the kids who were racing around the facility

Can I point out that Tash is 22!

We all did a spot of diving – can you tell who each diver is?

Jas

Tash

The only one with green eyes…..me!

Then a spot of swimming!

Jas is finding Nemo!

Tash holds her breath!

and Ive no idea how Im going to get out of that child sized space!

We did have a scare with a very scary shark

We did check out the living exhibits too, honest –

A gorgeous scalloped hammerhead, but our particular favourite was the shovel fish

OK, in fairness, Reef HQ are making alterations to their exhibits, but us girls were in a very silly mood (can you tell?)

We finished by checking out the local talent……

A bit skinny for our liking!

We headed straight to watch a film at the adjoining IMAX theatre and were expecting a treat

sitting in the dark waiting for the film

It wasn’t the treat we expected, but we made the very best of it and decided to finish the afternoon off by treating ourselves to a gellato!

Yum yum!

Time to head home and get ready for an evening sail.  I don’t have any photos of this as I was far too busy trimming sails, but the full moon rose behind Cape Cleveland and revealed its full glory like a bright red ball.  Absolutely gorgeous!  A beautiful sail in lovely breezes under the light of the moon, followed by a meal at the yacht club with our sailing friends and ready to support Queensland in the final match of State of Origin.

Im used to supporting Wales in rugby, and am getting the hang of League, but for me, there just isn’t enough singing!
Well, Queensland won – the 7th series in a row so the atmosphere in the pub was great

but I had to leave as soon as the match was over, so I left Tash to party the night away with her work friends (this one is a gorgeous tiny little creature called Paula), as I had to be up early as I had a serious date with Nemo the next day!  Yes, I had to be up at 5.30 to drive to Alva Beach to catch a boat out to dive SS Yongala!

The Yongala is a ship which sunk 101 years ago off the coast and it has formed a wonderful reef full of sea life and it has become a bit of an addiction of mine!

Its great to have one of the Worlds Top Ten Dives an hours drive away from where you live and Im visiting it regularly.  I did hope to see whales today, fingers firmly crossed – one did wave its fin to us on the surface when we arrived, but headed off with her calves by the time we got into the water.  There was a brisk wind today, about 20+ knots and 3+meter waves.  This was to much for the majority on the boat, and plenty of fish feeding took place!  Im glad to say that my 14 weeks spent sailing around Britain had hardened my stomach and I didn’t turn green as many did.  It was a relief to be in the water and visit my friends the marble rays again

These rays are huge and so graceful, if you stay still they swim right up to you and glide across you, its a wonderful feeling!  My friend the turtle came for a swim too

Im house sitting this week as my friends are on holiday and Im looking after their dogs and their teenager (taking her on educational visits like yesterday!), I would like to think Im looking after her, but its a bit of give and take, and tonight she cooked for me

Gorgeous Lasagne

I was so grateful for a home cooked meal after a busy couple of days off.  Its now Friday, back at work and oncall all weekend.  Im already planning my next days off, just have to wait and keep smiling………

 

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Welcoming my first visitor from the UK and taking my first holiday!

As I said all my goodbyes in the UK before heading to make a new life in Australia, many of my family and friends all pledged to come and visit me at some point.  Little did I realise the first person to do this would be my exe boyfriend Mick!  This came as a bit of a surprise but was fabulous news.

I had lived in Australia now for 6 months with no time off, and after so many changes in my life, I was exhausted and ready for a holiday and I was keen to explore this beautiful country!  It is such a vast place that you can barely scratch the surface in 2 weeks off, but I would try my best!

I prepared for the arrival of my first visitor with my usual enthusiasm and penchant for coordinating and planning , and set about producing an itinerary.  Then I remembered how I felt when I first arrived here following the long flight from the UK and the jet lag which hit me and worried I had planned too much, particularly as this visitor was 6ft 3, nearly 20% taller than little ol’ me!  However, he was only here for 16 nights and I didnt want to waste a minute.  I was also keen on exploring a piece of Australia for myself too.

Here is a little diary of my first holiday since moving here, will try to keep the text to the minimum and let the pictures tell the story!!

Mick arrived bang on time and within minutes we arrived at Castle Hill which has a great vantage point for Townsville

A cosy night in that night, and ready to start our Australian mini tour – time for one of our first dips – Crystal Creek.  A beautiful area in Paluma Range, just 45 mins drive north of Townsville, a beautiful clear river, waterfall

 

and rocks you could slide down

 

The day out was finished off beautifully by making use of one of the public BBq’s where we cooked kangaroo burgers and risked being imprisoned by drinking chilled wine in public (see previous blog….!)

We made it back to Townsville just in time to set sail on my usual Wednesday night twilight sail – what a beauty!

We headed once more into the Paluma Range the following day and made it to the top and found a 10oC difference in temperature from the coast to the hills – Mick found this a blessed relief, but, having lived here for 6 months now, dropping from 31 to 21oC was a shock!  It was beautiful up there, with a gorgeous dam (which feeds water to Townsville) and camping area – something to keep in mind for another time!

The finish of a beautiful day, heading back to Townsville to attend a Trivial Night for my dive club.

I take things seriously you know, and took a team with me, we didnt win the quiz, but I won a prize for bringing the most non-members with me – thanks Mick,  Mick and Val, Andrea, Sean and Jack!

You can’t visit Townsville without popping on the ferry and visiting Magnetic Island.  I have been here before and sailed around it too, but you can never have enough of maggie Island.  We stayed at Bungalow Bay, and, being in holiday mode, upgraded at the YHA (I know how to live!!)

It was perfect, a view of the pool, and had its own bathroom – not bad for a hostel, fabulous value.  A wonderful spot for relaxation

 

A quick walk the following afternoon up and around the fortresses completed the trip, stunning views even though we didnt see the resident koala along the way

View from the forts on Magnetic Island

 

before heading back to Townsville – we had a race the following day – around Maggie itself!  We managed a night with my friends Mick and Val, and were just a bit tidily (or was it jet lag?) when we got home!

Time is moving very quickly so its time to leave the local area and head north – we drove to Port Douglas.  This involves following the Bruce Highway – the motorway (Hmmm……well, a single carriageway with passing places every few miles or so) to Cairns then follow the Captain Cook Highway (this could only be Australia!) Most of the Bruce Highway is really boring to drive – Ive now driven every bit of it now so I can attest to this!  However, the Captain Cook Highway up to Port Douglas is absolutely stunning!

 

 

Port Douglas is a gorgeous place

 

Its a 5 hour drive to take us to a beautiful place and close to the Great Barrier Reef – we came here to scuba dive!  Mick hadnt dived since June last year, and we only had one day to dive during this trip so we hired our own guide from Blue Dive in Port Douglas and had a great day diving with Jorg

 

 

 

Can you see the shark??

 

 

 

We were keen to explore the area north of Port Douglas, but I had a lovely surprise ready and didnt want to spend too much time traveling, so we spent a couple of hours at Mosman Gorge.

 A little piece of paradise, which I would recommend anyone to visit.   Then we took a rainforest walk, unfortunately, we did this without any insect repellent, which I really wouldn’t recommend anyone to do, I was eaten alive!

Our next stop was the Atherton Tablelands, and I had booked us 2 nights at Mt Quincan Crater Resort, near Yungaburra, in a gorgeous treehouse.

Wow, if anyone wants a lovely romantic getaway, this is the place.  The owners Barb and Kerry think of everything and leave lots of little treats, and the cabin has stunning views

 It seemed such a shame not to spend every minute of our time at the tree house, but we wanted to take a trip on the Kuranda skyrail and railway, and I’m so glad we did, it was amazing

Far too much kissing in this blog!

 

 

 

We dashed back to the tree house as soon as we could, and Mick lit a lovely fire, toasty warm we were!

Barbara knits socks for her guests to wear - very sexy!

We really didnt want to leave there, it was so perfect, but we had our itinerary to complete and next stop was Mission Beach, taking a quick dip along the way.  Firstly we took a stroll around the Mt Quincan Crater and had very close encounters with spiders along the way

saw the giant creeping fig

stopped at Lake Eacham, the weather had turned and it had been raining, which meant this place was virtually empty and we had a lake to ourselves

 

A tad cold, but refreshing and we had found a window in between showers.  Next stop was Milla Milla  – a stunning waterfall.  This speaks for itself

 

Again very cold, but we had this stunning place (the most photographed waterfall in Australia) to ourselves!

We looked forward to stargazing on Mission Beach, I guess I could control an itinerary but not the weather!  Beautiful nonetheless.

 

and we met some new friends……

Every cloud has a silver lining, and we had a quick change of plan to take account of the weather – I figured we might as well get wet anyway so we headed to Tully Gorge to whitewater raft.  A fabulous trip – try it if you never have!

Back to Townsville in time for the next phase of our trip – can you recognise where we landed next?

However, it was dark when we arrived, and, despite the panic I had when we headed into the city and I realised I had left my laptop on plane (thank you to Jet Star for sorting this for me!!), we were impressed by the view from our hotel room

and in the morning…

and a view back at our hotel

Ive done good with booking accommodation so far…..

A day of sightseeing

 

 

 

And a day out in the country to the beautiful Blue Mountains

 

and after 2 weeks together, Mick is driven to pushing me off a cliff!

with a visit to a wildlife park

With a  spot of cultural education and entertainment

and even a spot of boomerang throwing

and a quick stop at the Olympic Park

And our time in Sydney ended far too quickly.  Next stop – Brisbane.

A sadness descended us as this was the final part of the trip for Mick and we knew his departure was imminent.  I had meticulously planned this trip, and we had stayed at some lovely places, but I certainly made a boob at the end with the final choice of hotel – possibly the smallest ever hotel room

A good job I only had a small bag as we would never have fitted in there if we both had our full luggage allowance.  An ensuite toilet where I barely had to step out of bed onto the toilet (enough detail!!)

We splashed out on a lovely meal for our last night together with a lovely view of the gorgeous Story Bridge.

Mick seemed to have a good time in Australia, and Im sure he is planning his return here and future career  as a crocodile hunter right now – how could you stay away?  Hope you are not too cold back there in Sheffield!

He had to depart at midnight, I went outside to wave him off and turned back with tear-filled eyes to find my key card wouldn’t work and I was locked out of the hotel, with no money nor phone on me, oh joy!!

Woke in the morning and was glad to check out of my miniature room.  Just in time to meet Lucy for breakfast.  She is the daughter of my old boss from my last job in the UK, and she is due her first baby any time now.  She is gorgeous and reminds me of a young version of her mother (yes, I did like my boss!), then headed to my lovely friend Alis house for the night.

A very early start the following morning and a return to Townsville in time for a weekend of sailing.  A trip to Herald Island and a barbecue on the beach,

Full moon rising on a tropical island with my gorgeous daughter! Paradise!

 

little swim at breakfast to help say goodbye to the hang over

sailing the next day to Magnetic Island and a whole heap of fun

Such a lovely way to end my holiday and help me to get over the departure of Mick, in some part any way!  Missing you Mick!

Which visitor is next?  Does this look enticing enough?

Back to work and to reality, and already planning my next adventure!

 

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