Settling into life at home

Having arrived home in early June we were treated to the spectacular events of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. An amazing event and it was great to be home watching it – who could not fail to be entranced and entertained by the sketch with Paddington Bear.

We thoroughly enjoyed a few social events before we were both struck down by Covid – so all our socialising came to a dramatic halt as we kept ourselves isolated to recover. During this time, we had a heatwave with exceptionally high temperatures and that is not what you need when you are ill in bed without air conditioning! Never mind, best laid plans and all that….

Once we had recovered, we organised some work on the house which felt somewhat neglected after 10 years of travelling across oceans with Morpheus. We definitely miss our girl but don’t regret the decision.

Then Richard was suddenly taken ill with chest pains…oh no, not again! I rushed him to hospital, and they admitted him with a suspected heart attack. He remained in hospital for four nights during which time they did lots of tests including an angioplasty. The Australian stent was looking good and nothing else untoward was found so they eventually put this event down to an angina attack but agreed we had done the right thing by taking him into hospital. Phew, so relieved to have him home again with no further ill-effects. We were impressed by our treatment at the local hospital especially in the light of press reports of 24-hour waiting lists at A&E etc but there was some evidence of the chaos in the system when I picked him up because there was a very big queue of ambulances outside waiting to discharge their patients.

First job at home was new blinds and curtains for the lounge and dining room so we had some fun choosing and ordering them.

By now it was time for me to go into hospital. Richard dropped me off at noon (covid restrictions stopped him from accompanying me) and by mid-afternoon I was under the knife having a total hip replacement. I recovered really quickly that night and even made a few phone calls. But the following day things went downhill so I was very grateful that Richard was allowed to visit. I had an adverse reaction to the medication but thankfully, on the fourth day, I was released home. Grateful to be back, it was now time to work hard to regain my mobility and get used to my new hip.

In the meantime, Richard had decided to put his name out there as available for work and, literally within hours, he had a number of offers and started work shortly afterwards. So, he is a commuter again but is enjoying working in London. In the meantime, I stay home and work hard on my exercise regime.

Next job for the house was the facias and guttering which needed a good spring clean. We then organised to have new cladding installed and took the opportunity of having a new alarm system fitted too. Think it looks pretty good. Oh yes and with the huge spikes in energy costs we decided to replace our aged and inefficient gas boiler with a new ‘smart’ wifi system so we can control everything from an app on our phones!

Then the whole country was plunged into mourning with the death of our Queen. Was so very sad and poignant to watch the 24-hour wall-to-wall footage of events which culminated in a public holiday when the whole country shut down to watch the funeral processions and the first rendition of God Save the King. Phew….certainly a moment in history….and no-one does pageantry like we do! So very proud. The fact that people were willing to queue for 24 hours to see the Queen while she laid in state says it all really.

Next job around the house was the conservatory – we wanted to have a proper tiled roof so this space would be a proper garden room which could be used in all weathers. We found a contractor who would also do the licensing and signed the deal. The guys turned up on time each day and thankfully by now I was wandering around the house so was able to be on tea and sandwich duty LOL. We were both really happy how it turned out. Now it just needs painting, decorating and some new furniture…. And the garden is next year’s project!

After a long time of mostly being stuck at home we finally ventured out for Richard’s 65th birthday and had a great lunch in Brighton Marina sitting out the rain.

Afterwards we headed along the prom to pay our respects to Mum and to wish her a Happy Heavenly 92nd birthday. Still miss her so much. It was a really stormy windy day, and the sea was raging, certainly glad not to be on the water!

Moving on we headed to Worthing as we were staying in a small local brewery with B&B rooms. We had a lovely evening, good food, and a great sleep in a huge bed with quality bedding. Sadly, the breakfast was a bit of a letdown in the morning.

We then headed out to Arundel and met up with my nephew Jamie and family who are visiting the UK from Australia – their first time back to the UK in a very long time. So was great to catch up with them and had a traditional Sunday lunch before staying in their Air BnB for the night before we said our sad farewells – see you in Australia! – and headed out to return home.

Our journey home was severely disrupted by the Just Stop Oil protestors who caused chaos by climbing the Queen Elizabeth Bridge which meant complete gridlocked roads in the area. Thanks a lot guys!

So back at home we are planning our next adventures. So far, we have a villa holiday and a short cruise booked for next year. Richard is planning to retire for good on his next birthday so bigger / longer trips are being planned beyond that. In the meantime, I’m continuing the physio, am fully mobile, and really looking forward to returning to my life as a lady that lunches when all the medical restrictions are lifted….

Bye for now, Jan

How we sold our boat in Australia

So, you have made the decision to sell, how do you go about selling a private yacht in Australia? This blog reflects our experience of selling a foreign-flagged boat and is not meant to be a ‘how to do it’ just to give some insight into the process.

Importation valuation

A foreign-flagged vessel cannot legally be sold in Australia unless it has been imported first. This can be done by using a recent bill of sale but, for us, having purchased Morpheus in 2008 the original purchase price was too far removed in time to be of any use, especially as we had done so many upgrades for long-term cruising. So we employed a marine surveyor to value the boat for importation purposes. We had our in-water survey done in Bundaberg, Queensland, and it took about two weeks to get it organised.

Prior to the survey date we were requested to put together some notes to assist the process. We listed the age of Morpheus; age of the installed equipment such as sails; solar panels; electronics; engine age plus hours; water maker; batteries; outboard; dinghy; gas installation eg gas bottles / stove / BBQ; electrical installation eg 110V with step-down transformer to plug into 220V shore power; any maintenance requirements eg cutlass bearing / rudder bearing / stuffing gland / fibreglass waxing and polishing / interior and exterior varnish. We were quite detailed even down to the fact that the galley tap needed replacing….

You should not present the boat in tip top condition as the import valuation will be the starting point for the tax calculation so the lower the valuation the better. The cost of the survey was AUD $700 (November 2021).

We received the survey about three days later. The valuation was a bit higher than expected so we requested a breakdown but were told that this information was between the surveyor and customs only. So, basically, it is what it is! A bit frustrating but what can you do?!? Contact details: QLD Surveys Pty Ltd www.qldsurveys.com.au

Importation process

The next step is to get the duty / tax worked out. The official forms are not particularly straightforward so we decided to hire an importation broker to help us through the process. This broker was recommended by the cruising community and we dealt with her entirely via email and we found her very helpful, responsive and efficient. The cost was $600 which included all the official communication / documentation with the relevant authorities. Contact details: Bronwyn Revell, DMS Global Pty Limited bronwyn@dmsglobal.com.au

We supplied the following documents:

  • Completed / signed Letter of Authority (to deal on our behalf)
  • Photos of our passports
  • British registry documentation for Morpheus
  • In-date control (cruising) permit for Morpheus
  • Wood pratique document (received on arrival into Australia, so don’t lose it!)
  • Valuation survey and receipt
  • Morpheus details – type / age / owners / builder / country of origin / HIN number.
  • Dinghy – age / brand / model and value in Australian dollars
  • Details about the outboard – age / brand / model and value in Australian dollars

Then there are some other details needed:

  • Alcohol – how much did you have on board at the time of arrival into Australia. Yes, seriously! We just said that we did not recall but it was definitely within the duty-free limits in force at the time of arrival.
  • Tobacco products – we had no products on board.

Itinerary

You need to put together an itinerary for the voyage to Australia, including dates, so, for example we listed (just the ports of entry / departure):

  • Departed Bay of Islands, New Zealand, bound for Bundaberg, Australia, on 28 May 2019.
  • Arrived Savusavu, Fiji, on 7 June 2019
  • Departed Lautoka, Fiji, on 8 August 2019
  • Arrived Port Vila, Vanuatu on 14 August 2019
  • Departed Port Vila, Vanuatu on 27 September 2019
  • Arrived Lifou, New Caledonia on 29 September 2019
  • Departed Noumea, New Caledonia on 23 October 2019
  • Arrived Bundaberg, Australia on 29 October 2019

So the last foreign port before Australia was Noumea, New Caledonia (6 day passage). So why is the last foreign port and passage period relevant? Well, the costs associated with getting to Australia are actually part of the taxable calculation.

Sailing costs (all in Australian dollars)

Essential costs: This is where you would itemise the cost of essential navigational items eg charts / tide tables / pilot books etc – but it is PRINTED documentation only. All electronic sources are not allowable.

Quarantine: We had no quarantine costs linked to ourselves or the boat on arrival into Australia.

Crew: This is where you list the crew wages / forage allowance and repatriation costs if applicable.

Victualling: We quoted victualling at $25 pp per day x 6 day passage.

Australian Customs entry fees: We entered Australia as part of the Down Under Rally which included all customs entry fees including the wood pratique, so recorded the rally fee of $495 for this element.

Medical supplies: We had a huge amount of medical supplies on board so simply looked up the cost of a Cat 1 Medical Kit for offshore sailing and recorded the purchase price.

Fuel supply: This was a difficult one! We topped up our diesel tank to full capacity at Total Cap Moselle (duty free) in New Caledonia post check-out. We managed to find transactions on our credit card statements so calculated the per litre cost and then calculated usage (and cost) on passage.

Official overseas cost: We included our marina fees at Port Moselle Harbour, Noumea plus the cost of the clearance and agent fees to depart.

Insurance: Both yacht insurance and personal travel insurance are based on annual policies – so we calculated daily rate multiplied by six day passage.

Spent in Australia on the boat since arrival: This is for new items only not regular maintenance elements. We included (supported by receipts) new solar panels; main sail worm drive bearings; gooseneck bearings; rigging inspection; new genoa tracks; new canvas; refurbishment of outboard; new coolant pump; gas bottle recertification; regalvanisation of anchor chain and new Rocna anchor

Duty / tax calculation

Follow this exact order to get to your calculation. If you supply the details Bronwyn will calculate it for you and let you know liability before proceeding:

  1. Valuation of boat less cost of valuation survey equals $?
  2. $? from 1 above less cost of additions added to boat in Australia equals $?
  3. $? from 2 above less quarantine costs equals $?
  4. $? from 3 above less Australian customs fees equals $?
  5. $? from 4 above less importation brokers fees equals $?
  6. $? from 5 above less 1/11 of this residual amount equals $?
  7. $? from 6 above less total of essential sailing costs (essential sailing costs + crew + victualling + medical + fuel + official overseas + insurance) equals $?
  8. $? from 7 above divided by 1.05 = $? CUSTOMS VALUE

So you pay the following: $? customs value + 5% duty (of customs value) + total of essential sailing costs = VOTI + 10% (of VOTI) = GST

So, as an example: $100,000 customs value + $5,000 duty + $1,500 total essential sailing costs = $106,500 VOTI 10% of VOTI = $10,650 GST.

So TOTAL PAYABLE (on a $100,00 customs value boat) = Duty $5,000 + $10,650 GST = $15,650

Please note: Australia and the USA have a trade agreement to import boats without duty however this is for new boats being shipped or sailed directly to Australia only. USA-manufactured boats who take their time crossing the Pacific are not exempt for import duty.

Selling privately

After importation (about a week or so after all documents have been submitted to the broker) you receive all the relevant customs documentation including a ‘permit to sell’. You will need this to list the boat. We decided to go it alone without a broker having been quoted 7.7% by a boat broker. As Island Packets are not particularly well known in Australia we didn’t think they would add any value to the process.

Important note – if you sell the boat within 90 days of the boat being imported – the customs can come back at you for the differential between the import valuation and the sales price you achieve. So you need to build this into your timelines to avoid any problems.

We then got busy doing all the improvements/maintenance in preparation for Morpheus being listed. In no particular order we varnished, waxed, polished, had new standing rigging installed, painted a new bootstripe, antifouled, serviced engine and sails etc etc. In our spare time we did lots of research into online advertising and decided upon BoatsonLine and YachtHub (which come together in a bundle for $34 for a year). We hired a storage unit nearby and cleared the boat of all our unnecessary clutter. We then cleaned cupboards, did some interior varnish work, cleaned upholstery, replaced taps, shower head, installed fresh water head for the toilet etc etc. Finally ready for viewing we took a selection of photos to go with our advert.

We drafted the advert, loaded up pictures then decided on the final value we would place on Morpheus. Quite difficult as Island Packets are not commonly available in Australia we checked out similar boats in the USA (although most were not to the same high specification as Morpheus) and then added the costs of importing the boat (ignoring the cost of actually getting the boat to Australia). Happy with our decision we published the advert and crossed everything flexible.

During our research we came across issues about gas and electrical installations. Electrics were fine as we had a ‘safety’ certificate and our leads were PAT tested despite not being Australian. As we were selling in Queensland the boat needed to have a gas certification (this is not the case in other Australian states). We were pretty irritated that we would have to strip out a really good quality fully-operational Force 10 cooker as part of the process as it didn’t have the right Australian label! If we didn’t sell Morpheus we would not be changing any of this so we made sure to add the clause to the advert that ‘Australian compliance would be at the purchaser’s cost’.

Within 24 hours we had a viewing….at this point we were on the hard without any rigging…but the couple were very keen. They turned up – hippy chick / influencer types – and clearly knew nothing about sailing. They gushed about Morpheus but we weren’t keen so didn’t contact them again. And, as expected, we didn’t hear from them again either.

Then we had another viewing and the guy said ‘don’t sell in the next 10 days, I want to bring my sons to check her out’. Very interested and quite hopeful. Oh yes and we had a couple of nutters who wanted to send us the money straight away if we shared our bank details….

It then went quiet and we heard nothing for a week or so…. The interested guy didn’t come back to us so we called him for feedback and he said that his wife had talked him out of it. So we finished our chores, got Morpheus all beautiful, and then decided to go out and about visiting friends.

After another week of radio silence we decided to drop the price and immediately got a flurry of new enquiries. By this time we had completed the boat refit, amended the advert to include new shiny photos, and based ourselves in Hope Island Marina for the viewings.

In the meantime we had received quite a few questions about how to safeguard the transaction for both the seller and the purchaser. We had contacted some lawyers about an escrow banking facility and the legal paperwork but they never got back to us – so we employed a boat broker just to do this element for us for a flat price (which equated to less than 1% of the sale price, as opposed to the 2.2% we had been quoted elsewhere). Really worth doing as he walked both us and the purchaser through the legal elements. We also, at this stage, updated the advert to reflect this facility. Highly recommend using this service. Contact details: Ian MacKenzie www.mackenzieboating.com.au sales@mackenzieboating.com.au

Finally we had a potential purchaser who wanted to make an offer and negotiate the price down by 10%. We explained our reasoning behind the price and the fact that we had already discounted the boat from original asking price so declined the offer. Think this was a bit of a shock to him but, eventually, he accepted our price as we explained that, if the survey found anything, we would negotiate from there.

We then did our paperwork with the broker who outlined the sales process. In Australia it follows the following format:

  1. Offer is accepted and deposit (usually 10%) is lodged with broker in escrow. Paperwork is drawn up. At this point we were blindsided as it is illegal to sell a boat without a gas certificate – we weren’t aware of that – we thought that this compliance element would be done in preparation for Queensland registration. As we had a full asking price offer we took the hit and managed to get it sorted out within a week.
  2. The purchasers come on board for a sea trial which we did the following weekend.
  3. Then the following week we hauled Morpheus out for a full structural survey (at the purchaser’s expense). The surveyor found nothing although he spotted the electrical sockets and the purchaser wanted to change it all to Australian standard. Fine we said – pointing out that we had paid for the gas install – and that the advert said it would be at the purchaser’s cost so he agreed to pick up that bill, we shook on it, and the deal was done.
  4. On a set date – about a week after the survey – the offer goes unconditional which means that the purchaser loses their deposit if they pull out. Then on a set date the deal is done, the money exchanges hands, and we left the boat.

In terms of our timings – we advertised originally 5 February and the money hit our account on 21 April – and we left Morpheus behind. We returned to the boat to do a final handover on the following Saturday and we were done! Time to learn to love being a land lubber again…. Hope you have found this latest blog useful and informative.

As an aside we are thoroughly enjoying our time at home so far seeing friends and family and, on a personal note, I’m having hip replacement surgery in August. So that’s it for now – once I’m back on my feet we’ll be planning our next adventures – so have a good summer everyone and watch this space!

Jan

Sydney to London and home!

After a couple of days at my nephew’s house in the Central Coast, NSW, Richard was still struggling to shake off a cold which he had picked up in Tasmania, so we decided to get tested for Covid (24 May). We had to have a negative test at the airport before we would be allowed on the plane to come home so thought it was the prudent thing to do. The guy at the clinic said that it was possible Richard was positive as although he didn’t have the traditional symptoms of loss of taste / smell etc his cold could be the sign and, as we were living in someone else’s house, he should isolate immediately until the result was known.

So we went home, told the family what had transpired and – absolutely confident of a negative result – they said it was fine for Richard to come down to have dinner with us. But we decided to be cautious and he stayed upstairs so got dinner delivered to his room, watched a few movies, and I joined him later for the night.

At just gone midnight the phone pinged and, stupidly, I picked it up to check. OMG Richard was positive! Thankfully I was negative…. What a damn nightmare….. So I woke him up, told him he had to isolate in this room for seven days (according to NSW rules) and I moved downstairs to share the sofa with Budd for the rest of the night. Stressed out by the news I certainly didn’t get much sleep.

In the morning I spoke to both Jamie and Hayley and offered to move out as we didn’t want to put the whole family at risk. They were happy for us to stay and quickly tested everyone and they all came up negative! Phew….so very grateful to them for letting us stay in the circumstances. But that meant Richard was stuck upstairs being fed and watered whilst I had to finish all the packing…. First, though, I checked the airline rules and it was definitely a negative test to get on the plane or, alternatively, a doctor’s note to say that the patient was fit to fly which required more than a week’s gap. So I phoned the airline to see whether we could just move our flights out by a week – and the answer was no! They couldn’t find an alternative route and they couldn’t offer us a flight until the end of June. OMG Australia really didn’t want us to leave! Very distressed by all this the family were amazingly supportive and Jamie and I sat down and worked the internet hard to get a resolution. We found one – rang up again – to be told that we couldn’t change airlines the credit was only with them and no refund at this late stage… So absolutely devastated yet again.

So I decided to put all my efforts into the packing and organising and, finally, managed to get it all sorted within our (original) luggage allowance. Feeling a bit better having achieved something, after dinner, I had an early night and did actually manage to find an alternative routing home – with the same airline – for the following week. But it was nasty! A 12 hour layover in Los Angeles is not anyone’s idea of fun…. Anyway, by this time, Richard was feeling much better so we did a RAT test. And it was negative!

We had a long conversation and decided to take a gamble and stick with our original flight plans praying that Richard would return a negative result on the official airport pre-flight test. Jamie and Hayley were happy for us to return if we didn’t make it onto the flight so at least we knew we had a roof over our heads if we needed to unpick it all. In the meantime the Sydney rental car company had rung and insisted that I return the car as it needed servicing and it’s registration was expiring…yes, seriously! Oh no, I said, not going to happen. Not going to drive two hours into the City – incurring lots of tolls – when it was their error. There are local offices nearby so I’ll go there and swap the car out. The girl was going to drive the replacement up from Sydney and offered to drop it off but I didn’t want to be constrained by timings so decided to go to the nearest Central Coast office instead. When I got there they tried to palm me off with a VW Polo – I refused! I was driving a mid-sized VW SUV and needed the room for our luggage….so I sat outside while they all ran around like headless chickens and finally found me a MG SUV. Not great, bit basic, but at least it was big enough…. Was not impressed to be honest!

So the rest of the week was taken up with cooking for the invalid, delivering ice creams on demand LOL, and trying to take the load off Jamie and Hayley as they were both working pretty hard. So I kept busy and did a few trips out to the shops and even to the Gosford waterfront just to chill for a little while when the rain stopped and the sun came out.

On the Monday morning Richard was finally let out of quarantine so we had lots of hugs with the family and took some photos before we said our sad farewells.

Budd looked completely dejected but it was probably because he realised that he wasn’t going to be able to scrounge another doughnut out of me. He has definitely mastered the starving hound look so very well under those big eyebrows LOL.

We drove to the airport and were pretty nervous about it all – although we had both returned another negative result the night before. We parked up in the car rentals area, walked into the terminal, and went straight to the testing centre.

We had our tests and then went and had coffee and a toastie whilst we waited. After 30 minutes we got the amazing message that both tests were negative! OMG I was so damn relieved – we just looked at each other and I nearly burst into tears all over again. This had been a really difficult time for me emotionally – especially as I’m used to being with Richard 24/7 and it was just plain weird with him not being there constantly….. This old girl is definitely turning into a bit of a wimp!

Elated we returned to the car, having nabbed a couple of trolleys on the way, and proceeded to the airport hotel. We were lucky that our room was ready early so we checked in and dumped all our gear then, whilst I was uploaded all the tests results etc onto the airline app, Richard took himself off to return the car keys. OMG we really are going home! We had already decided not to eat at the hotel – the last time wasn’t great – so later on we wandered into the terminal and treated ourselves to a McDonalds. Yes, seriously! Then we returned to our hotel room and lazed around enjoying a celebratory glass of wine.

Tuesday 31 May we left the hotel very early and were in the international airport terminal by 7am. We had to queue to check in (online system had fallen over) but that was fine. The airport wasn’t as busy as we had anticipated and we got through the whole security system and near to the gate by 9am having stopped for a bite to eat along the way.

We then flew Sydney to San Francisco and were relatively impressed by the United Airlines Premium Plus Cabin – only three rows, good seats (like domestic US 1st), and enhanced food offering on china with proper cutlery. So pretty happy. We arrived into SFO and made our way through the long immigration line, got checked in, picked up our huge array of bags and, with the help of a sky cap, re-checked the baggage for our next flight.

We then sat at the next departure gate for a long while before finally boarding for the flight to London. Again Premium Plus and everything was the same but the servers were nowhere near as nice and we had to physically go and get drinks as they didn’t answer the call buttons. Oh well, never mind!

Arriving into Heathrow – absolutely shattered but very happy – we gathered all our bags up, cleared the immigration line (which was pretty long and tedious) and shuffled our way through to the arrivals area. And there we had the biggest shock with our friends Ron and Carolyn waving “welcome home” banners waiting for us. Well we had been in Australia for 809 days!!! What a wonderful surprise – felt quite emotional yet again LOL.

Finally we were crossing the threshold of our home after 54 hours travelling. Had been an epic journey and it was lovely to open the door and just go to bed! We were so grateful to Clive and Val who had spring cleaned the house for us so it was ready – thank you both so much!

Since then we have been relaxing at home and really enjoyed watching the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee coverage. Loved the pageantry and who could not have enjoyed tea with Paddington Bear? Such a special weekend of festivities – felt very proud!

So, finally, after purchasing Morpheus back in 2008, leaving her in the US Virgin Islands until we finally went cruising in November 2012, we have sailed 33,466 nautical miles. So we only reached Australia but it is only 21,600 nautical miles around the world if you follow the equator so this puts our travels into a bit of perspective. We obviously miss Morpheus but the time was right to say goodbye and we have no regrets…..

We have had the most amazing adventure of our lives – we have definitely lived the dream – and we have many more dreams and adventures waiting for us around the corner once we get our ageing bodies fixed up a bit LOL.

Right now we are very excited about seeing all our friends and family again and looking forward to all the amazing reunions ahead of us. There will also be some sadness about those who passed away during our travels and whom we never had the opportunity to say goodbye to. So lots of change and I’m not sure how we’ll cope with being land lubbers again for a while but, have to say, am definitely enjoying the unlimited hot water, the access to a dishwasher and washing machine very much so far LOL. Oh yes and got very excited at Sainsbury’s where I could buy alcohol in the same place as our food! And, then of course, there is the delights of M&S food – and only fellow Brits will understand this one….

So that signs us off for this season. There is one last blog to come as I have had lots of questions about how to sell a boat in Australia without a broker – so will do that at some point. In the meantime just going to enjoy being home!

Bye for now

Jan

Our Tasmanian adventure – part 4

Tuesday (17 May), on a beautiful sunny day, we drove to Coles Bay for a catamaran cruise to Wineglass Bay. We went along a coast dotted with sparkling white sandy beaches, explored the inner passage of remote Schouten Island and then headed into the Tasman Sea towards Wineglass Bay. Along the way we spotted sea caves, blowholes and waterfalls amongst the sheer granite cliffs. We then headed into the beautiful Wineglass Bay with a stunning white sand crescent beach and inviting shallow turquoise water. Much of this area can only be reached by boat or a very long hike so we felt very privileged to get to see the area up close and personal especially as we saw a couple of albatrosses and fur seals. As there was a bit of a swell running we didn’t have our lunch onboard at Wineglass Bay, instead we moved to Bryans Beach which was a bit more sheltered. We had a lovely boxed ploughman’s lunch before finally heading back towards Coles Bay. Was a great day although a bit chilly when we went on the bow to take in the view.

After we left the boat we drove further into the Freycinet National Park to visit the Cape Tourville lighthouse. By now we were pretty cold so we just did a quick walk to admire the scenic views towards Wineglass Bay and some interesting cloud formations before heading back to our lovely hotel in Swansea.

Back at the hotel Richard had a hot shower and rested up in bed whilst I had a leisurely bubble bath in the spa tub. Later on, thankfully, completely warmed up we headed over to the Piermont’s Homestead Restaurant where we had reservations at 7.30 pm. The award-winning chef here is noted for his collaboration with neighbouring organic farmers and winemakers to put together a daily changing set menu to celebrate the region’s diverse flavours. The menu is decided by the chef and not published in advance so we were interested to find out what we would get.

First up was Ranoch Farm quail, koji waffle, black sesame and pickled carrots.

Followed by Cape Grim Black Angus Porterhouse, pumpkin, sunflower, spring onion, zucchini accompanied by Ras el Hanout cauliflower, herbed goats curd dressing and pepitas.

Finished with double chocolate torte and vanilla bean ice cream.

Have to say it was all absolutely delicious. If we had any criticism it would be that it could have been a bit hotter (and bigger LOL). We had a lovely evening before we returned to our fancy room for the last time and enjoyed a glass or two from our Tamar Valley wine stocks.

Wednesday morning we checked out early to drive to Port Arthur. Quite a twisty bendy road but we were a bit surprised when Google Maps took us towards a gravel road – so we did a u-turn and drove on – expecting it to find us and correct the route. So obviously this gravel road was a short cut across the mountains but we definitely preferred to take the longer made-up road. This route was stunningly beautiful although a bit greasy at times as there were constant rain showers but it did give us a lovely rainbow…

Arriving at Port Arthur we were a little early for our guided tour so we grabbed something to eat and drink before having a look around the fixed exhibit. Some were interactive and we were decided to find out if any of our distant relatives had been transported to the penal colony. Richard put his surname in first and came up with a few from County Cork….hmmm….interesting! So I tried next – putting in my maiden name – and came up with nothing. Not one – Richard thought that we were probably the jailors LOL.

Anyway, time to meet our guide and did a whistle stop 50 minute walking tour. Have to say he was a bit like a gazelle and, being a bit slow on my pins, I often missed some of the stories by the time I got there. But enjoyed hearing about the history of the Port Arthur penal station, established in 1830 as a timber-getting camp using convict labour to produce sawn logs for government projects. From 1833 it was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies. It was built on a philosophy of discipline and punishment, religious and moral instruction, classification and separation, training and education. Many men were broken by the system whilst others were left rehabilitated, educated and skilled.

In complete contrast to the brutal conditions for the convicts, the community of military and free people lived their lives where parties, regattas and literary evenings were common with beautiful gardens created as places of sanctuary. This must have been psychological torture for the convicts too. Enjoy the stroll back through history….

We then headed to the pier to go on a boat trip – it was pretty miserable, cold and raining – so we just took our seats and listened to the commentary. Really not much to see unless you had booked the Island of the Dead walking tour – the island is the last resting place for convicts and free people alongside each other. The main difference is that the free people had gravestones whereas the convict graves were left unmarked as there was no-one to pay for any lasting memorial. Very sad… We had decided not to do this tour as it was just more walking and I was pretty much at my limit – and was glad we had made that decision when I saw some of the windswept people battling the elements to get back on the boat! We were quite smug sitting there warm and toasty with a cup of hot chocolate LOL ….

Back to the car we drove a short distance to our accommodation at Stewarts Bay Lodge a selection of self-contained cabins amongst the trees. We checked in and found our cabin – we were surprised to find it was fully equipped with a kitchen / diner / lounge plus the bedroom and large bathroom. It was a bit tired but very clean and had everything that we could possibly need for one night. So we turned the heating up, settled in and sat on the sofa and watched TV for a while.

Later on we walked down the hill to On the Bay, the only licensed on-the-water restaurant in Port Arthur. We thought it might be busy – so we had booked a table – but actually the place was pretty big and easily accommodated everyone. We put in our order and enjoyed a very simple dinner.

I struggled a bit on the return uphill walk to our cabin but at least we walked some of the calories off LOL.

Thursday morning we checked out early on a bitterly cold day with driving rain – we drove up to the top of the hill to be collected for our next boat trip along the spectacular coastal wilderness of south east Tasmania. To be honest we didn’t think this trip would go ahead – there were 50 knot gusts being recorded at Tasman Island along with 7m swells – especially as it was in an open-sided boat. The direction of travel was directly into the teeth of the strong winds so the sea state was going to be rough. When we checked in at the visitor centre they confirmed this would be going ahead just that the itinerary might have to be adapted according to weather conditions. He said that the latest gusts were 72 knots. OMG!! We expect to get very wet and very cold…

We piled into the bus down to the dock and realised that they had split the group into two boats – which meant that they were operating at 50% capacity. We quickly realised that this was for safety so that they could support each other in the challenging sea conditions. Not sure many of our fellow tourists realised that. Big foulies donned we took off at significant speed. The skipper – and his first mate – explained that we were going to hug the coast line to get protection from the westerly winds.

So we enjoyed running down this beautiful wilderness coast – seeing caves, blowholes, albatrosses, seals sleeping and fishing, an eagle, waterfalls, and huge towering dolerite sea columns crafted by the wild weather that this remote island is subjected to. Many Tasmanians say that you can see all four seasons in one day and we can certainly attest to that! As we continued the sun tried to come out and, although still dull for most of the trip, at least it stopped raining. We stayed on the leeward side of the island for most of the trip – certainly not able to make it over to Tasman Island – although we did get a glimpse around the corner of the conditions out in the full force of the wind. OMG I have never seen spume whipped off the top of breaking waves that swirl like tornados. The power of nature is absolutely awe inspiring. So enjoy some of the pictures from the day. Fabulous experience!

After the boat trip we collected our car and drove back to the Vibe hotel in Hobart where our Tasmanian adventure had started. We got ourselves warmed and, later on, headed down to the on-site restaurant as we didn’t feel like venturing further. The meal was pretty average but it filled us up before crashing for an early night.

On Friday morning we drove to the airport, returned our hire car, navigated the chaos of check-in, bag drop and security before finding a couple of seats to have some breakfast. The whole airport was chaotic with many flights – ours included – being delayed. We just sat it out until time to board and then we were off. OMG what an adventure we had had – Tasmania is stunningly beautiful and there is so much to see we have barely scratched the surface on our whistle stop tour. We really hope one day to return and explore some more….but perhaps in summer LOL.

Arriving back in Sydney we picked up our new hire car and drove to Jamie’s for another family reunion. Was lovely to be back – albeit a few hours later than planned. So that’s where I’ll leave this blog…. We have been busy organising ourselves for our return home and, tomorrow Monday 30 May, we head down to Sydney airport to get our covid tests before we fly out on Tuesday (fingers crossed!). So I’ll bring you all up to date on our return home. Bye for now and see you all very soon!

Lots of love, Jan

Our Tasmanian adventure – part 3

Sunday morning (15 May) we had breakfast in the hotel before being picked up for our Tamar Valley Wine Tour on a miserable grey drizzly day. First stop was Hinton Bay – a small family-run vineyard who only make two wines (in the French style) of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We were treated to pretty decent-sized glasses to try whilst we had a chat with the owner in his lovely dining room. We also met his wife who runs a cookery school from the premises as well as a luxury retreat overlooking the most fantastic scenery. Who wouldn’t mind waking up to that view, eh? Lovely wines and great people – what a good start! Clearly the Pinot Noir went down very well with our group as they purchased 36 bottles between them to be shipped back to their home addresses. Definitely a hit!

Next stop was Iron Pot Bay Vineyard. Another family owned vineyard who have been making cool climate wines for 30 years. We visited the Cellar Door and tasted five of their offerings – including a rose and a lovely sparkling wine. I enjoyed the sparkling wine so much I did actually purchase a bottle when we left. But the tasting was a bit lack-lustre in respect of the operation – yes we were delivered a range of wines, but there was very little information about them and the woman didn’t really stay and interact with the group.

Next we headed off to visit the Legana Estate to taste their Velo wines. Some interesting flavours here but some were not really to my palate – the only place that I actually poured wine away in between servings…. Never mind. Also the cellar door surroundings were a bit tight for a group of our size and we had to move glasses up and down the table as the woman doing the tasting wasn’t able to actually circulate around the table to pour. Again a brief explanation but little else although I did enjoy a couple of their offerings and I thought the Reisling was absolutely lovely so bought a bottle for later LOL. The Rose was also really quite good.

Moving on we headed to lunch at The Ducks restaurant which was serving a variety of local wines and there was a complimentary glass offered with our lunch. At this point Richard didn’t feel like any more alcohol – as he had tasted all the wines offered including the reds which I had declined (as the tannin doesn’t agree with me) – so I chose the Iron Pot Bay sparkling and got two glasses as Richard ordered another one for me. Result LOL. Great food offering here too with great service. A really nice place.

After lunch we visited the Tamar Ridge Winery. This was a large commercial operation and very different from the small family-run vineyards that we had visited previously. The property has a very smart cellar door / restaurant. As well as a great tasting – with a very knowledgeable and personable woman – we were given cheese and biscuits to wash it all down with. Very nice indeed! I had already found the Tamar Ridge Sauvignon Blanc in a number of places so bought a bottle to take with us… It was clear that the enthusiasm of the woman leading the tasting had the desired effect on our group – I think everybody bought something and one couple purchased 12 bottles. Was such a shame about the weather – it was pouring down by now – as the scenery would have been beautiful I’m sure LOL.

Leaving Tamar Ridge we walked down the car park to the gin factory – which makes the flavoured gins in the style of whiskey – where the group had another tasting. Not for me, I just had water and watched. Was interesting to note the different flavours and this was clearly another hit with the group as quite a number of bottles were sampled and purchased LOL.

Finally we returned in the minibus back to our hotel. We had been well fed and watered so we just spent the evening in our room relaxing.

Monday morning, after another hotel breakfast, we drove away from Launceston towards Swansea. Thankfully the rain had cleared and there was even a glimpse of a blue sky through the gaps in the clouds. Couple of interesting things along the way the first was a blue tree. Not sure what that was about – looked a bit bizzare – but having done the research it turns out it is The Blue Tree project which says that by spreading the paint they spread the message that “it’s OK to not be OK” which will help break down the stigma that’s still largely attached to mental health. So a really worthy project.

Then we came across some sheep being transported…

We had lunch out in Swansea at The Salt Shaker on the waterfront. It was an interesting menu and I spotted the Indian chef so opted for the curry of the day. Richard had fish and chips. My lunch was absolutely stunning but Richard was disappointed in his slightly slimy fish… Oh well, never mind. The place was very busy and most food looked really good – think Richard was just unlucky.

We were too early to check into our next hotel so went off to explore Nine Mile Beach. We went for a cold stroll on the beach in the wind and then suddenly were accosted by a couple of dogs – without parents! They ran up to us with one of them holding a bit of driftwood – dropped it at our feet – and excitedly encouraged us to throw it. Well, of course, we did as requested. They were clearly having a lot of fun so we carried on for a little while until the owner turned up to take charge – she said that they were very good at training humans to do what they want LOL.

Leaving the beautiful windswept beach behind we then went to visit Kates Berry Farm (sic) where we enjoyed some coffee and got a bit carried away purchasing some blackcurrant jam and a number of jars of her hand crafted chocolate coated items – namely liquorice and crystallised orange for me and almonds for Richard. Naughty but very nice!

We then went to The Piermont Retreat to check into our room. Well we were given driving directions to our apartment through the extensive grounds to a semi-detached cottage. It was pure luxury with a huge king-sized bed, large TV, spa bath and two sinks plus the walk-in shower in the bathroom, coffee machine, balcony, sea views and all. Wow just wow, simply beautiful.

We rested up for a while then got ready to go out again as we were heading to Bicheno which was a 45 minute drive away where we had booked in for a Penguin Tour. So this was probably our only chance to see Fairy Penguins (the smallest penguin species) in the wild. In the 1990s the local penguin colony in Bicheno suffered lots of dog attacks. This inspired the people who run the penguin tours to “use business to protect nature”. They understood that with careful landscaping, education and land management they could restore the local penguin position from a low of 40 up to almost 600 penguins today.

So they developed the area and built lots of dens for the penguins. Then they bathed the area in red light. Penguins are scared to come ashore if it is too bright as it makes them more vulnerable to predators. The red light and people being around also keeps the predators away so gives the penguins a safe route home each night as they come ashore after a hard day fishing. So we were taken on a magical tour of the area and sat down and listened to the penguins story and waited patiently. Eventually we saw a couple hop out onto the rocks, huddle together, before they pushed each other along as they came up the paths towards their dens in a line only breaking away at the very last minute. This meant that their route varied each night and, the evening we were there, they walked (waddled?) straight through a pile of excited (but stunningly quiet) spectators and even walked across their feet. In total we saw 25 penguins and heard lots of shrieking and callings – for such little birds they certainly can make a noise LOL. It was full moon so that probably put some of them off, it is not unusual for them to stay at sea during the night if they feel like it. Was an absolutely amazing thing to have witnessed.

By the time we left the area we were pretty cold so put the car heater on full blast as we drove back to our luxurious hotel room. We drove pretty slowly in the dark through the twisty and windy roads as we were conscious that this was when many of the animals would be active and we didn’t want to add to the roadkill toll. We arrived back to our cottage safely and enjoyed an early night in bed watching the TV and indulging in a bottle of Tamar Valley wine and some hand-crafted chocolates. How decadent LOL.

And that is where I’m going to leave this instalment, so please check back soon for the next one.

Bye for now, Jan

Our Tasmanian adventure – part 2

Thursday morning we had a leisurely start before driving through the mountainous roads to Cradle Mountain.

We had already pre-purchased our National Parks Permit so we drove up to the barrier but it refused to let us through – hmmm – so we did a U-turn and returned back down the road to the Centre. Showed them the ticket to find out that entrance to the park is by shuttle bus only. A signpost to that effect would have helped! So we got our bus tickets, parked the car, and headed out. We particularly wanted to spot wombats in the wild and we had heard that Ronny Creek was a hotspot for them. How do you tell when wombats are around?!? Well, you check out the poop laying around – their faeces are cubed. We started wandering along the fixed boardwalk and, within 10 minutes, we spotted a wombat on the hill above us. Woo hoo! Very excited we continued to walk and then came across one chomping on the wild grass next to the path. We stood and watched him for a little while – he was completely indifferent to our presence – before then turning back towards the bus stop. On the way back we saw another one. Really fantastic to see these great creatures in the wild.

Back on the bus we headed to Dove Lake where we checked out the views across to Cradle Mountain. We continued to enjoy the scenery of Dove Lake but didn’t venture further as the Dove Lake Circuit is a 2-3 hour walk which is much more than I can manage sadly.

We then returned on the bus to our car and drove up the road to our hotel – the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. The Lodge itself was quite impressive and we received a great welcome at reception. We picked up our cabin key and drove the car round. OMG this looks like a wooden shack and, first impressions on opening the front door, didn’t dispel the concern. But, of course, this was just the ‘mud room’ to remove your outdoor clothing etc. We then opened the inner door to be met by absolute luxury – a huge king bed with crisp linen sheets, a gas fire fitted into the wall with log effect managed by a remote control and that’s not to mention the coffee machine, mini bar, day bed, comfy chairs and views over the lake…. Wow could stay here for a while!

Having settled in we went for a couple of more walks in the immediate vicinity. The Enchanted walk gave us views of rainforest, a small waterfall and lots of wombat poo but no critters which we then followed with the Waterfall walk which gave us a lovely cute wallaby and a bigger waterfall. I couldn’t make the steps so stayed about half way so Richard went down on his own to check it out….

Back to the lodge we got ourselves cleaned up and and got ready to go out for the evening as we were heading to the Tasmanian Devil conservation area to watch the night feeding. As we drove through the car park we came across another wombat just doing his thing – all that exploring to find one and here he is just outside our cabin LOL.

The Devil conservation centre was very informative and we saw lots of devils as they chased each other around and made some horrendous noises as they had constant spats. Definitely see why they got their name. At 5.30 pm our guide came out and we started the feeding – this put off a few people because they were fed with dismembered critters (not road kill) – whilst we learnt about why the devils are critically endangered. They don’t have many predators but, unfortunately, there is a type of cancer that has been spreading and killing them off. Unfortunately a lot are lost to road kill too – we can attest to that fact – and, if they are infected and other devils feed on the carcass they can also become infected. So there are great efforts to breed the devils and re-introduce them into disease free areas. Really interesting tour and we were treated to seeing some quolls too who are also being bred in this facility. This centre has no central funding so relies on visitors to continue with their work.

Back to the lodge we had dinner in the on-site Bistro which was really good. We then headed into the guest lounge to sit in front of a real wood fire with a bottle of Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc.

We were thoroughly enjoying the moment until suddenly I spotted something crawling across the carpet. Thought it was just a slug until Richard realised it was a leech and that my ankle was bleeding. OMG completely freaked out! The damn thing had been sucking my blood and had only detached because he was full up. He was quickly despatched to hell in the fire but my ankle wouldn’t stop bleeding so we had to ask the hotel for some antiseptic and plasters. Yuck! Drama over, we finished the wine and headed to our room to enjoy the luxurious bed and we definitely needed the heat of that gas fire during the night….

Saturday morning it was raining, hard. We had heard it during the night pounding on our cabin roof. Oh well, guess we had been lucky so far with the weather. By the time we had finished our hotel breakfast it was torrential so we checked out and started the drive to Launceston. This was pretty tricky in the rain up and over mountains on pretty slippery greasy roads so we were pretty relieved when we finally arrived at our next hotel in Launceston, the Grand Chancellor.

Being too early to check in, we dropped our bags off, got a secure car parking ticket for later on and then, in between showers, we headed to Cataract Gorge.

Tasmania was once ruptured by earthquakes as violent as the earth has ever seen when the surrounding hills were torn and fractured. The South Esk River followed the depression formed at the time widening and deepened the gorge as it eroded the shattered rocks. There is a chairlift which spans some 457m with the central span of 308m believed to be the greatest single span of any chairlift in the world. Between showers we parked up the car and bought return tickets. We clambered onto the chairlift and enjoyed the spectacular views. OMG how amazing is this! Fantastic…. Arriving at the other side we wandered the grounds, checked out the peacocks, the huge trees, beautiful gardens and then dropped down onto the boardwalk which was constructed in the 1890s along the cliff face. We had a snack at the on-site cafe, saw a wedding going on in the interpretation centre, and then headed back to the chair lift in between heavy showers.

Back at the car the heavens opened – phew that was lucky! We returned to the hotel and checked in. This was another historic building with a pretty dated interior but was clean and comfy so we had no complaints. We decided we really fancied a Chinese so checked out the reviews, made reservations for the best one, and then rested up for a few hours.

Heading out a few hours later, as the walk to the Chinese was about 30 minutes or so, we had left early to visit a historic British pub on the way. As we wandered away from our hotel the area seemed to deteriorate slightly and we certainly didn’t fancy the pub when we got there. So we continued straight on to the restaurant and, thankfully, they were able to accommodate us earlier than planned. The decor was pretty ornate but sadly the ambience and food were just average. Never mind, you can’t win them all!

After dinner we returned to the CBD in a taxi and headed to a new place called Bar 2. It was absolutely tiny, boutique and pretty expensive and the guy said we could have one drink as he was planning on shutting up, unless he had more ‘walk ins’. So we just had a single glass of wine before walking around the corner to the Royal Oak Hotel, which was actually quite a nice pub, where we enjoyed a final drink before heading back to the hotel for the night. Had been a fun but long and tiring day.

And that concludes Our Tasmanian adventure – part 2. Come back soon for the next instalment.

Bye for now, Jan

Our Tasmanian adventure – part 1

Sunday (8 May) was Mother’s Day here in Australia so Hayley was awakened with gifts from the boys whilst I prepared a large late breakfast for everyone to enjoy. Feeling very full, around noon, we said ‘goodbye for now’ and drove down to Sydney. The traffic was pretty heavy but the extensive underground tunnel / toll system enabled us to make it to Sydney airport in a good time. We navigated our way to the international airport car rental returns car park and found a Hertz space – but the booth was unoccupied. Not wanting to just drop keys into a box we took photos of the ‘full tank’ and the mileage done then walked into the terminal to deposit the keys at the rental desk. All done we then headed to the Rydges Hotel which is literally just across the road from the terminal. At this point we were glad we only had a small amount of luggage to drag with us LOL. We checked into the hotel, got ourselves sorted, and then headed to Smithy’s Bar for some dinner before having an early night.

Monday morning we made a very early start and was on the courtesy bus to the domestic terminal by 7am in preparation for a 10am departure to Hobart. We were only supposed to be there an hour before the flight but we thought we’d rather have breakfast once we had checked in and got through security. On arrival we were met by absolute chaos. First we had to join the queue to get to the self-service check-in desks to get boarding passes and baggage labels. After shuffling along we finally made the front of the queue, printed off our tags, and secured them to our bags. Then we had to join another queue to get to the bag drop off desks. More shuffling along amongst a pretty irritated group of people.

Bags dropped off we then joined the security line which was also long. Eventually we were through – woo hoo – and had a chance to grab a quick cuppa and breakfast bite to eat before boarding our flight to Hobart. And, of course, after all the queuing the flight was delayed by over an hour but, hey ho, guess this is the new ‘normal’ of flying anywhere. It certainly wasn’t much fun!

Finally on the plane we took off and, after a couple of hours, we saw our first sight of Tasmania. The first European to land on the shores was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642 and the island became known as Van Diemen’s Land until 1856 when it was changed and became known as Tasmania. Due south of Tasmania, across the infamous Southern Ocean, is the Earth’s southernmost continent of Antartica. Really can’t quite believe we are here!

We landed into Hobart on a brilliant clear day with blue skies but pretty chilly. We found our pre-arranged car and were taken direct to our hotel The Vibe. Despite the documentation saying a 2pm check-in, the hotel confirmed it was actually 3pm. So rather than waste any more of the day we dropped our bags off and went for a wander.

First stop was the harbour and docks area – particularly Victoria Dock which is the home of Hobart’s commercial fishing fleet and has a selection of cafes, bars, galleries and boutique stores along with some interesting statues. So was a nice place to spend a few hours and was surprised to see the number of fishing boats that were using traditional fishing baskets. We were also very tempted by the small seaplane doing 30 minute tours over the area but, unfortunately, was not tempted by the price LOL!

Heading back we admired the mix of historic and modern architecture – and the odd quirky item – before we returned to our hotel and finally checked in.

After resting up for a little while, we headed out to the historic Salamanca Place where we found a bar called The Den for a few drinks followed by a lovely Italian dinner at The Maldini restaurant. What a great start to our trip!

Tuesday morning we had hoped to go to visit the iconic MONA (Museum of Old and Modern Art) but, unfortunately, its opening hours had been reduced for the winter and was now only open at the weekends. Oh well, never mind. Instead, we found a nearby cafe for breakfast where we did a bit of research online and came across a hop-on / hop-off double decker bus tour to see the city. Perfect! So we booked online and then headed down to the bus stop on the waterfront to start our day out.

We enjoyed the sights and sounds of such iconic places at Battery Point, the modern marina near the casino, and beyond with many of the properties looking very ‘English’.

We hopped off the bus at the The Cascade Brewery. This is Australia’s oldest brewery but, unfortunately, no guided tours were available so we just enjoyed a few local cheeses washed down with some tasters of their brews. Their lager was actually really quite nice!

Moving on we took the Hobart Rivulet Walking Track to the Cascades Female Factory which was a penal colony for women.

We walked the site and watched some re-enactments on a really informative video. The conditions the women were held in were pretty shocking with many of them also enslaved to local houses as housemaids and returned to the prison each night. The saddest fact was that those who got pregnant (in a women’s only prison remember!!!) had their children forcibly removed from them immediately after birth to be given to local ‘free’ families. We also learned that, although convicts (including men, women and children alike) were sent from the UK to the colonies for the smallest crimes – such as stealing a loaf of bread or pick-pocketing – transportation was not the penalty for a first offence so these were all repeat offenders. Increased transportations, in part, resulted from less death sentences being handed down by the courts which strained the jail system so the numbers of convicts being cruelly despatched on a nightmare boat trip to the bottom of the world increased. Was sobering to find out more about this part of our country’s history. All quite shocking really…. There was, in some penal colonies, an element of rehabilitation with the prisoners being taught how to read and write and perhaps a trade such as carpentry giving them a better chance of staying out of jail on their release. But that was the exception rather than the norm and has to be considered against the backdrop of inhumane torture and food deprivation. Those released back into society having served their sentences were largely dumped back onto the unfamiliar streets with no money nor accommodation so often turned to crime to support themselves and the downward spiral continued.

After this visit, we wandered back to The Cascades Brewery to pick up the bus to find out that there had been a bad road crash so the schedule was significantly impacted – so we had another brew while we waited. Back to the City we hopped off in the shopping district and picked up a few things we needed, including a pair of secateurs…seriously LOL! No, actually, what had happened was that one of our suitcase padlocks had broken in the locked position so Richard couldn’t access his clothes. So we needed to break it open and we couldn’t find any pliers – no hardware stores were within walking distance – so we bought secateurs as the only local option. We also had to buy another padlock to replace it. Mission accomplished we returned to the hotel and managed to break open the suitcase so we got ourselves cleaned up and headed back to the waterfront for dinner and enjoyed a lovely meal in Lower Deck Mures on Victoria Dock before having a final pontoonie at the historic Hope and Anchor Pub before an early night.

Wednesday morning we headed back to the local cafe for breakfast and then walked to the car rental pick up office. Not really happy when they gave us an MG3 as we had found this model to be a bit basic previously but, sadly, we didn’t find out until it was too late so we just went with it. At least it was small and would be easy to navigate the winding and mountainous roads on this beautiful island. We drove back to the hotel, checked out, admired the view from our room for the last time, picked up our bags and headed off.

First stop was to Mount Wellington where we were lucky enough to be able to admire the amazing views despite the very cold wind…. Richard climbed to the highest point he could… We were so lucky with the weather – absolutely fantastic spot!

Leaving Mount Wellington behind we then drove towards Strahan – through mountains, chicanes, hydro-electric power stations, copper mines, feeling very at home with the names of the small towns and rivers as we navigated the five hour drive. We took it easy and thoroughly enjoyed the sights along the way although saddened by the amount of road kill of indigenous animals such as wallabies, Tasmanian devils and wombats….

Arriving at Strahan Village, we checked into our hotel room which was within a lovely historic old building. The room was comfy and clean although was a bit shabby chic. We then wandered the old town, found out where to pick up our river cruise the following morning, and had a couple of drinks in Hamar’s Bar and Bistro while we waited for a table to become available in the restaurant next door. Eventually we were paged so we had a simple meal before heading back to our room for an early night.

Thursday morning, up very early, we had breakfast at The Coffee Shack and then picked up our tickets for the cruise aboard the Spirit of the Wild catamaran up the Gordon River.

We boarded – allocated seats for the whole trip – and we left the dock heading first out towards the Southern Ocean.

The conditions were very cold but the sea state was serene with not much wind so we were able to stand outside on the bow as we navigated through the narrow channel at Hell’s Gate and out from Macquarie Harbour into the Southern Ocean marvelling at the 3km long training wall to stop the entrance silting up which is an engineering marvel of the 1890s. OMG never thought we would do this so definitely another tick on the bucket list. Bearing in mind this was a very light wind and low swell day, check out the breaking waves… Can’t imagine the horror of trying to make your way through this narrow entrance in a large tall sailing ship in bad weather, guess you can easily understand why they called it the entrance to Hell! Certainly there was significant loss of life from a number of shipwrecks here….

We stayed outside on the bow for far too long – getting really cold – but we didn’t want to give up any of this experience! Once we had passed safely back through Hell’s Gate into the Harbour we took our seats and warmed ourselves up with a hot chocolate… We then headed up the Gordon River during which we did a quick visit to the bridge to chat to the captain.

The captain then turned off the boat’s diesel engines and we moved silently under generator power into the UNESCO Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area learning about the history of this area.

We then disembarked for a Nature Walk at Heritage Landing and did a boardwalk through the forest admiring the local flora and fauna. Amazing how mushrooms grow on the old wet tree trunks.

Leaving the rainforest behind we had a buffet lunch on board before we disembarked for a walking tour on Sarah Island which was Australia’s first convict settlement at the bottom of the world This was guided and was really interesting although not a lot of the buildings remain it was clear to see how brutal and inhospitable this place (which doesn’t even have a natural water source) would have been for both the convicts and soldiers alike. Sarah Island was primarily for convicts who re-offended in Australia after their original sentences had been served and, under the watchful eye of a shipbuilder, they were eventually utilised to build a large number of sailing ships out of local pine to service the colony.

We then returned back to Strahan Village and visited the Huon pine shop which had some spectacular pieces of workmanship but, sadly, nothing that would fit in our luggage LOL. During our boat trip we had found out about a play called The Ship That Never Was which tells the dramatic and hilarious true story about the last Great Escape from Sarah Island in 1834. These convicts did actually steal the last ship before it was quite finished and, with hand pumps to keep the bilge dry as the boards had not been properly sealed, managed to sail all the way from Australia to Chile through the Southern Ocean (against the trade winds and current) where, eventually, they were recaptured and returned to Australia. An amazing feat!

We purchased a couple of tickets and after a warming cup of soup in our hotel room we headed out to the open amphitheatre for the performance. We weren’t expecting much, to be honest, but thought it would be a good way to spend a few hours. Well, we were blown away by the whole performance, including audience participation, where Richard was responsible for the often required rousing chorus of ‘What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor’ during the performance. Absolutely hysterical and so much fun – would definitely recommend this to anyone who visits Strahan in the future.

After the play we headed back to Hamar’s Bar and Bistro for dinner before having another early night. Goodnight Strahan, what a great day!

And that is as good a place to finish the first part of our amazing Tasmanian adventure. The second instalment will follow soon.

Bye for now, Jan

Family reunion in NSW

Tuesday (3 May) the weather was inclement so we had a lazy day indoors while the family were at school and work so, trying to help out a bit, I prepared the family dinner for the evening. Having eaten we had a quiet night in.

Wednesday morning we awoke to a nice day so Richard and I headed out to Soldiers Beach to have a look out for humpback whales as they have started their annual northerly migration. Sadly none were spotted but we enjoyed just watching the water, the surfers and the kids having a surfing lesson. Lots of fun was obviously had by all.

Moving on we headed around the coast to Avoca Beach. We were surprised by how busy this beautiful spot was but then realised that teachers, employed in state schools in NSW, were on strike so the kids were enjoying an unexpected day off LOL. We watched some intrepid kids jumping off the rocks into the water – they were clearly having a lot of fun too. And check out these youngsters heading out to sea in their kayaks to go fishing – they start them young here! Eventually, having walked for a while, we had a late lunch out on the waterfront before heading back to Green Point.

Back at home we welcomed the family back from work / school (the boys were not impressed that their teachers didn’t strike LOL) and had a movie night in.

Thursday was a bit of a rainy day so we stayed at home sorting out more of our belongings in the garage – still puzzling over what to do with the dive gear – and sorted out clothes in preparation for our holiday to Tasmania. We also did some admin and chased up the Hope Island hire car company as they had not refunded our bond – they said that our card had been declined (really, for a credit not a debit?!?) so we supplied another card and this went through. Phew! And that was about it for the day apart from a bit of shopping and cooking the family dinner again…

Friday we awoke to another lovely sunny day – although a bit chilly in the shade – and headed out towards Terrigal. As we walked down the drive we realised that there was a kookaburra sitting on the postbox. He wasn’t bothered by us at all so we sat and watched him for a little while before he flew away. Just lovely to see him…

On the way to Terrigal we visited another laundry in Kincumber to get our fleeces and winter clothes refreshed in time for our trip down south.

On arrival we wandered the board walk followed by the promenade and stopped for a drink overlooking the bay just enjoying the views plus some lovely pelicans. Checking the horizon it was obvious that the sea was running really hard so we checked out the swell to find it was 4m which would make pretty feisty conditions out there, so didn’t miss our sea-going days at this point LOL. Was a really lovely day.

In the evening we had a fun time after dinner watching Adam – who was playing with his new hoverboard. It was so funny – Budd didn’t know what to make of it so backed off when Adam approached him – then peeped round the corner and chased him until Adam chased him back and then Budd run off again. Absolutely hysterical! Here is the young man having fun….

Saturday morning we did some packing in preparation for our departure tomorrow for Sydney airport whilst the family took Budd out for a long walk. Here he is enjoying the view out over the water.

On their return we all headed out to the nearby Japanese botanical gardens for a look around – fed the koi carp and tried not to feed the very greedy ducks; enjoyed the serenity of the place; encouraged a bit of silliness; and admired the local art and pottery exhibited before having a bite to eat in the on-site cafe. And Richard definitely made the best choice with his huge piece of cake LOL. Was a really nice way to spend a few hours with the family.

Back home now and the kids are reconnecting with their friends online, Richard has washed our hire car, and Hayley and Jamie are on a clearing out spree! Tonight is take away and movie night so looking forward to our last family night here in Green Point before we leave here tomorrow to go to Sydney Airport; return the hire car; and check into the nearby Rydges hotel. Monday morning we fly to Tasmania. Woo hoo – I am very excited about this trip. We will be gone for 12 days and with a pretty full-on itinerary I’m not proposing to blog while we are away, although might tease with the odd photo on FaceBook LOL. So this will be it for a little while – more blogs to follow on our return to New South Wales.

Take care everybody and see you all very soon!

Jan

Queensland to New South Wales

Sunday (24 April) we headed out with Sandra and Nigel for a drive up to Tamborine Mountain. Was a bit chilly but we enjoyed a stroll down the Gallery Walk and took a quick peep inside the local brewery – was a bit surprised by some of the colours of the liqueurs in the fancy bottles. Think some of them looked more like bath salts than alcohol LOL.

We then continued up the hill to the local hostelry called Fortitude and enjoyed a local craft brew whilst listening to the live music.

On the way back we did stop hoping for a scenic view but the dodgy weather had other ideas. Despite the weather, though, we had a really nice day. On return to Hope Island we had a quiet night in and perhaps a few drinks LOL.

Monday we all headed over to the lock up and did some more sorting including some tough decisions to dump stuff. Sandra and Nigel were really great to help us out with this. We then returned to their apartment and unpacked and stowed everything before chilling out for a little while.

Later on we headed along the waterfront to have lunch with Helen and Lester. So funny, we had been to their property before in their car, but never realised that it was just round the corner from where we were staying. So we walked there….on a rainy, overcast sort of day, chatted to some parakeets on the path, said hello to SV Joule on her pontoon before enjoying fantastic food and company.

They have a dream apartment and I love the fact that they are able to look down on their boat from their balcony. Just proves Island Packets have nice lines whatever angle you look at them from LOL.

Was so nice to see them for a final time and we really hope they will come and visit us in the UK before too long so we can return their kindness and hospitality.

Eventually we returned along the boardwalk for another quiet night in with Sandra and Nigel.

Tuesday morning we were up pretty early and drove to downtown Brisbane. We had to collect another hire car as the current one was for Queensland use only so we needed to get a one-way vehicle to finally drop off in Sydney. So up the motorway we went and it was pretty busy – have to say Australian driving habits leave a lot to be desired, particularly their tendency to undertake at high speeds! Eventually we found the Ace/Hertz office and went to pick up our vehicle. We had originally booked an intermediate vehicle but had already realised that it might not be quite big enough, so were quite pleased to be offered an upgrade to a Suburu Outback for a very small additional daily charge. The car has NSW plates so think we are probably doing them a favour in relocating this car back to Sydney, so that probably explains the very good deal they offered us.

We then drove in convoy back to Hope Island and returned the local car. Afterwards we headed to The Boatworks to say our final farewells to the staff and some of the tradies. We had been treated really well by everyone and it felt like saying goodbye to family – particularly in the office where hugs were the order of the day. So chocolates delivered we were finally on our way….

Back to the lock up for a final sort out and then home to Sandra and Nigel for our last night together. We decided to have a Chinese takeaway which was great although, of course, we did slightly over-order! And then it was time to say goodnight.

Wednesday morning we said our farewells to Sandra and Nigel. Not sure when we will see them again either in Australia or in the UK so it was quite emotional. They had been so kind to us putting a roof over our heads whilst we sorted the boat sale and now it was time to leave Queensland for the last time. But we were going away with a celebratory bottle of bubbles and a Bon Voyage card. A lovely touch, thank you both.

Slightly tearful we headed around the corner to the lock up and proceeded to pack the car. OMG it was a good job we got the bigger vehicle – it was full to the roof! We then started our drive to Armidale. This trip we had decided to follow the ‘hinterland’ route rather than down the coast road so we had a six hour drive ahead of us. The scenery was beautiful and it was so high up in The Tablelands (otherwise known as New England) my ears popped on the drive up into the mountains.

However, one of the towns we went through was Lismore, which had been devastated by the recent floods not once but twice. All the shops, the petrol stations, the malls, the large supermarkets, the car dealerships etc were closed and sealed off with tape while they assessed the damage. Lots and lots of personal belongings littered the verges outside homes that had clearly been inundated by the water with many looking abandoned. This awful aftermath was terrible to see and we saw lots of people just wandering about looking quite desperate having lost everything. Was a very sobering experience. The picture below is from a news agency, we didn’t feel it right to snap away in the circumstances.

Carrying on, the roads were pretty clear of traffic so were able to just meander our way through the chicanes and simply enjoy the scenery. We had lots of roadwork-related traffic hold ups with most of the construction appeared to be flood-related damage. Lots of pretty serious roadslips in evidence. Clearly we were in beef country as the majority of the homesteads had grazing cattle and not the normal Brahman-infused breeds we had got used to in Queensland but more usual ones such as Hereford and Aberdeen Angus. Guess these breeds worked better in the cooler climate here. Thoroughly enjoyed our drive down although, unfortunately, the rain continued to follow us!

We arrived into Armidale and found The Tattersalls Hotel. Well, we thought we had. Expecting an art-deco building we found an older colonial style property so parked up and I tried to find the entrance….well, the place was locked up and virtually derelict! What?!? Here is a photo of the property dated back to 1924.

A tad concerned we rang the number on the booking form to find out that the actual car park was just down the road (150m) and the hotel access was pedestrian only. Anyway, we continued down the road and there was the guest car park behind the hotel which looked pretty smart. Phew!

We parked up and took our valuables and small overnight bags into the hotel (leaving the car full of the rest of it) and checked in. We had been upgraded to a family room – so a much larger room than expected with a fantastic huge rainfall shower – so very nice thank you very much! We sorted ourselves out and relaxed for a little bit before heading out into the pedestrianised street that our hotel frontage was actually located on. We went literally just down the pavement a few yards and ended up in a hostelry sitting in front of a lovely open fire. But this public bar was like something out of the 1950s and clearly hadn’t been cleaned since LOL. Seriously it was pretty rough so we decided to drink up and moved on.

We continued walking and ended up at Charlie’s Last Stand which was a small wine bar. We enjoyed some smoked trout pate (bizarrely served with crisps) and a nice sauvignon blanc before heading back to our hotel. This sleepy town was pretty deserted and it was only around 8pm. At the hotel we went into the ‘Ladies Lounge’ which is in keeping with its Art Deco renovation. Great staff and, again, we sat in front of a nice fire enjoying a lovely glass of wine before retiring upstairs for the night. OMG the bed was absolutely amazing with fabulous crisp linen – definitely getting used to this land-lubber life again quite easily!

Thursday morning we enjoyed a complimentary continental breakfast which we weren’t expecting – guess it must have come with the upgraded room?!? Definitely not complaining. Afterwards, we were heading out to visit the waterfalls at Wollomombi which are in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New England. We had chosen these waterfalls to visit because they are the highest in Australia with the water cascading 220m down into the gorge below – plus, of course, we needed easy access to the lookout without a long bushwalk to get to the views. This place ticked all the boxes and we thoroughly enjoyed being the only people at the lookout. Fantastic!

Leaving the falls behind we headed towards Dangers Falls but the trek down to the viewing area was too much for me, so I waited at the car for Richard to return. Looks pretty nice.

We then headed towards the historic town of Hillgrove which is an old gold mining town situated on a granite plateau 1,000m above sea level. There are a few old properties here although most were just ruins but delighted to find a great little church intact. We were surprised, however, to find a working gold mine at the end of one lane – obviously we had to turn around at this point. Leaving the gold mine behind we realised that lots of the accommodation in the town was transient with lots of cabins etc which probably houses the current workers.

Moving on we drove back towards Uralla (on the other side of Armidale) and had a wander around this historic settlement town – which, is now famous, for being the resting place of a notorious bushman bandit ‘Thunderbolt’ who was killed by a policeman during his final robbery and was laid to rest in this small town. And here he is in all his glory – we couldn’t really understand why they had a statue to a baddie in the town – but guess it keeps the tourists coming?!? Anyway, some nice architecture and some great artisan pies to try from The Pie Mechanic. Even the motorcycle parking was stylish…

Afterwards we headed back towards Armidale – stopping off at an Aboriginal centre and enjoyed looking at some great artifacts and paintings, but sadly no photography was allowed indoors.

Back at Armidale we did a little walking tour of the town. This has quite a lot of pioneer-type original properties plus Art Deco architecture side by side. We had hoped to visit the Catholic Cathedral but there was a funeral going on so this wasn’t possible. There were lots of churches lining Church Street covering all sorts of different denominations. Now pretty tired from a full-on day out we returned to the hotel and enjoyed resting up for a while.

Then we got ourselves spruced up and headed to the hotel restaurant – which is award winning – and were very happy to be allocated a large booth. The menu was extensive and we certainly made the most of it – absolutely fabulous food, couldn’t believe the standard, and think it may well have been the best restaurant meal we have had in Australia. We retired to the Ladies Lounge again for our cheeseboard and enjoyed a Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc to round off the evening. Wow what a wonderful start to our road trip.

Friday morning, after another complimentary breakfast, we drove across the Hinterland again. We eventually started to come down in altitude and the roads straightened up and suddenly we are motorway driving again. But still beautiful until we hit the congestion of the coast road again and we were very pleased with our decision to travel this route. Had been very interesting to see ‘small town’ Australia.

Eventually we arrived into Green Point (where my nephew and his family live) and Budd the giant Groodle was so excited to see Richard again. Was so funny – he virtually pounced on him – and then sat with him on the sofa for the rest of the night. Not much room for the rest of us LOL. It was lovely to catch up with the family again….

Saturday morning it was raining, again! Obviously we have brought the weather with us LOL. We did a bit of shopping and later on decided to stay put relaxing when the family headed to the large mall in Erina. We kept the animals company and just chilled out on the sofa in front of the TV – which is quite a treat having not had one for so many years – and recovered from our journey. In the evening we had a takeaway and started to watch a movie but I couldn’t keep my eyes open so had an early night in the end.

Sunday and the sun came out – the family headed off to Terrigal – and we stayed behind to start sorting through our belongings in the garage. We did quite a lot before calling it a day – including some laundry – and we have now donated all our towels and blankets to the family. We also advertised our dive equipment on the Sydney sites as we had failed to sell them before leaving the Gold Coast. Everyone wants a bargain here in Australia and, despite the very cheap price we are offering them, we really haven’t had a sniff. Looks like they may be coming home with us after all….

In the afternoon both Hayley and Jamie were busy with work and the boys were playing computer games online with their friends so we just chilled – watched some English football – and Hayley and I cooked a full English roast dinner for the family. So at 6pm we had our dinner and it was very tasty, if I say so myself LOL. Here is the family after we had cleared up after dinner and no Budd isn’t being strangled, he just wouldn’t keep his head in the right direction LOL.

Monday morning it was back to work / school for the family. So we left them to their own devices, not wanting to disrupt their daily routine, and had a bit of a lay in. The laundry I had left out overnight was still really wet so, as it was already drizzling with rain again, we headed to the nearest laundromat. This was a bit of a fail as, despite its advertisement, it was a commercial venture. So we continued on to another one and finally found a self-service operation and finished the job. We then returned to the house, had a family dinner, and a quiet night in.

We are very excited about the time we have left here in Australia and am enjoying the family reunion – so great to see them all again. So that wraps up this blog. Decided it was time for another Tasmanian creature which we are hoping to see in the wild next week! So I give you a beautiful wombat – not so cute if you check out the claws LOL. Interesting fact about these marsupials is that they have a backward-facing pouch which means that the mother does not have soil impacting on their young when in the pouch. Enjoy and see you all soon!

Bye for now

Jan

A life changing decision

Friday and Saturday were pretty lazy days with a bit of cleaning and laundry thrown in followed by quiet nights on board catching up on some Netflix content. We did, however, have dinner out one night and enjoyed a fabulous sunset along the way too.

Sunday we had a leisurely start before heading over late afternoon to Sandra and Nigel’s for a typical English roast dinner. Great food, fab company and even a lovely little parakeet on the tree watching us chatting on the balcony. Was absolutely lovely.

Monday morning we packed a bag and headed north to Hemmant to visit with Ed and Yvonne (SV Steelee). Wow, what an amazing home – so close to Brisbane but in the middle of the country. Huge outside deck overlooking beautiful countryside and paddocks. Yvonne put on a great grazing spread lunch for us and we just chatted and caught up. Was so lovely to see them again.

Later on we rested up before enjoying the most amazing BBQ dinner on the deck under a full moon. We even got presents….completely unexpected….to remind us of Australia when we got home. Such amazing generosity.

Tuesday morning we had a great breakfast – OMG not going to eat again for at least a week LOL – before saying our sad farewells. It had been such an amazing visit. We drove back to Morphie and just rested up the rest of the day.

Wednesday we had another leisurely day before meeting up with Ernest and Eddie in the evening and had a farewell dinner at the local Thai. Lovely food and great fun!

Thursday morning and we headed to the Boatworks to sign some documents in front of a Justice of the Peace. What?!? Why?!? OK so it is now time for the big reveal. You might have noticed from recent blogs, as well as lots and lots of socialising, we have spent quite a lot of time just relaxing. Well, actually, in reality we have been mega busy because we had – after many months of soul searching – put Morpheus up for sale. We had imported her into the country (paying import duty and GST to the Australian Government) so she could legally stay here indefinitely. This process resulted in a document called ‘Authority to Deal’ which is a customs declaration that confirms we have permission to sell the boat in Australia so we had decided to test the market.

So the next question is why? Well, we have owned Morphie since she came brand new out of the factory in 2008 and started cruising in 2012 crossing oceans, experiencing lots of unique destinations and cultures having made it half way around the world. We have had amazing experiences and don’t regret any of it. However, Richard’s heart attack in 2020 gave us both a shock and, to be honest, we simply don’t want to head offshore to third world countries where medical assistance in another emergency would not be readily available. Richard is absolutely fine and has recovered amazingly well but these random curve balls do make you think.

Of course the global Covid pandemic has left us “trapped” in Australia for over two years now. We have absolutely loved our time here and recognise that we were very lucky to have avoided the significant lockdowns at home or, like some of our friends, ended up being locked out of the country with our boat abandoned overseas. Looking forward, even though international borders have reopened, there remains significant challenges in continuing with a cruising lifestyle. And, of course, on top of that my hip is causing some mobility issues. To leave Morphie here in Australia in storage is not inexpensive with large monthly bills and we would probably be gone for almost 12 months while I get fixed up. So, decision made, we decided to test the market because going home unencumbered was definitely a relatively attractive proposition.

Boat brokers are pretty expensive here in Australia – 7.7% of value being the norm – so we decided to try to sell the boat ourselves although we did actually engage a broker to do the legals plus supply the escrow account which gave confidence to any potential purchaser that we wouldn’t do a runner with their deposit. We wrote an advert, cleared the contents of the boat to a local lockup, tidied up and took photos. We then published the advert and received some initial calls…. We had a couple of viewers – one hippy ‘influencer’ couple followed by a serious contender. However, he was talked out of it by his wife as they had just had grandchildren and she wanted to spend time with them…. And then it went quiet. We decided to reduce the price to stimulate some interest and this worked – Island Packets are not particularly well known here in Australian and are expensive when compared to what else is available on the market. Discerning sailors will know why but the newbies don’t… So we expected a bit of uphill struggle.

But, unlike many international sellers, we weren’t desperate to sell and, if it didn’t work out, we were very happy to keep Morpheus. Anyway, long story short, we advertised on the 5 February, we got a serious offer and banked a 10% deposit. We did a sea trial followed by a survey which Morphie passed with flying colours…. And, this week, on Thursday 21 April the sale went through. OMG can’t quite believe it. It has been incredibly emotional to say goodbye but we also know that the new owners will love her and cherish her going forward.

So we have temporarily moved in to Sandra and Nigel’s apartment here on Hope Island. Friday was a manic day of clearing out all our belongings and I admit to being very emotional most of the day. But, we broke into our day by continuing to socialise and had a very tasty lunch out on Friday with Lester and Helen (SV Joule). Afterwards we returned to Morphie and said our very sad and emotional goodbyes before heading to Sandra and Nigels where I admit we probably drank way too much!

Saturday we headed over to Morphie and met with the new owners again and did a final handover. And here they are looking very excited and happy with their purchase. This time I managed to walk away without too many tears….

Saturday night we headed out to George’s Paragon restaurant in Sanctuary Cove for dinner. Fantastic food – as always – and a great fun evening despite the problems with getting taxis to and from LOL.

Anyway, we are going to stay in the area for a few more days before we then start heading south to New South Wales to visit with my nephew and his family again. And, of course, there is also our touring holiday to Tasmania too which we are really looking forward to. So yes we are coming home and we are coming home for good! We need to get ourselves fixed up and then we can plan the next adventures! It will be a huge difference for us and we know we will definitely miss our cruising lifestyle but we are really excited to be going home, moving back into our house and, last but not least, catching up with all our family and friends.

Bye for now

Jan