UMAi Dry Charcuterie

Have you been wanting to get into home curing your own charcuterie, but lack the space to hang the meats to dry? Well, now there’s a solution. And it works fairly well.

I don’t remember how I came across this product, UMAi Dry®, but I thought I’d give it a try. I have a dedicated refrigerator for hanging my charcuterie to dry, but I sometimes have trouble maintaining the right humidity in there. Too much humidity and things go wildly moldy; too little and they have case hardening.

I’ve now done two projects in the UMAi Dry bags, a Lonzino and a Coppa. Both have had a bit of case hardening by the time they had lost 30% of their weight. The meats taste good, but the Coppa seems a bit under seasoned. I followed the recipes that came with the bags. Next time I’ll just the recipes I’ve been using since #CharcutePalooza in 2011.

To use the UMAi Dry system you cure the meats in the normal way: rub the cure on and store in the fridge for the allotted time, about a week or two depending on the recipe. At the end of the cure you vacuum seal the meat in the UMAi Dry bag using one of their VacMouse pads sandwiched in between the bag layers. I’m not clear what these do, but they’re deemed essential by UMAi Dry. Then you put the meat on a rack in the fridge until it’s lost it’s 30% of weight. In my projects that was around 3 weeks. I found that I needed to put a paper towel on the rack to prevent discoloration of the meat.

You can also dry age steaks with the UMAi Dry system. The bags are specially made for allowing airflow.

My biggest criticism of the system is that their website contains only instructional videos. I don’t want to have to sit through a 20 minute video to find the answer to a question. They don’t have a troubleshooting page either to help me with the case hardening issue. Their customer service quickly replaced my lost order and let me keep the extra when it finally showed up several weeks later. That was awesome. However, when contacting them about whether I could use the bags in a curing fridge their answer was curt, bordering on snotty. I realize they can’t endorse using the product outside what it’s designed and tested for, but they could have said that in a much nicer way. Finally, they need to delay asking for a review of the product until there’s been sufficient time to actually cure something.


Lavender & Crystalized Ginger Whoopie Pies

This month’s not official #Baketogether is Whoopie Pies. The grand nieces were visiting so I enlisted their “help”. I didn’t have any buttermilk in the house and I needed to steep the lavender flowers in hot milk to extract their flavor. From what I’ve read heating buttermilk isn’t a good idea. So, I used regular milk and buttermilk powder. The lavender flavor is mild in this version, so feel free to up the quantity of flowers for a more intense flavor. The ginger was also a bit subdued, so I might try adding some ginger powder to the filling if I made these again.

Lavender & Cyrstlaized Ginger Whoopie Pies
       Makes 14 filled whoopie pies

For the whoopies

2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk powder (optional)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract
1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lavender flowers, or more to your taste
purple food coloring (optional)

For the filling

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
4 oz butter at room temperature
3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup crystalized/candied ginger cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder (optional)

Make the whoopies
1. heat the milk and lavender flowers together just until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain out the flowers
2. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line three cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners.
3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, buttermilk powder and salt in a medium bowl until well blended and no lumps remain. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well blended and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended between additions. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Add food coloring. Do a better job than I did. I ended up with a purplish gray. Stop to scrape down the bowl and the beater as needed. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Add the milk and mix until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.
4. Using a small mini scoop, shape the dough into balls and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until a pick inserted in the center of one whoopie comes out clean, 9 to 11 minutes. Move the sheet to a cooling rack, let the whoopies sit for 10 minutes, and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Make the filling
Beat the cream cheese and butter together. Add powdered sugar and ginger powder. Add enough so that you have a fairly stiff filling. Fold in the ginger.

Fill the whoopies by spreading a generous amount of filling on one half and topping with another half.

Potato, Leek & Spinach Soup

Yesterday we got a box of produce from a new service in the Bay Area, Full Circle. It’s all organic, delivered to your door. It arrived just in time for a Meatless Monday, which we don’t do often enough. In the box were, among other things, leeks, potatoes and spinach. I made this soup, which turned out nicely. It’s a bit subtle in flavor and you can certainly up the spices to your liking. Sorry for the crappy photo, but it’s all I took. Lazy me.

Potato, Leek & Spinach Soup with Indian Spices

1 pound leeks (about 2)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes diced (optionally peeled)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 pound spinach, well washed and roots trimmed, keep smaller stems
1 lemon
2 tablespoons of cream, half and half or whole milk (Optional)

Optional step: Slice the green tops off the leeks, wash them throughly and combine in a pot with the stock and water. Simmer for 10 – 20 minutes to flavor the stock. Strain and set aside. Discard leek tops.

Slice the leeks crosswise and wash very throughly. Using a big bowl of water changed at least a couple of times works well. Heat butter & olive oil in a large saucepan. Add leeks and sauté over medium low until they’re very soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Add the broth, potatoes and remaining spices. Bring to a boil and simmer covered until the potatoes are very tender, about 10 – 15 minutes. Add the spinach and cook an additional 3 or so minutes, until the spinach is completely wilted and the stems are very soft.

Puree in a blender in batches. As you do you can optionally strain the pureed soup through a fine sieve. I like a really smooth sauce and I usually do this, especially if I didn’t peel the potatoes. Reheat on medium heat. Stir in cream if using. You may also chill the soup at this point and serve it cold. I had it that way on day 2 and it was possibly even better.

Serve with a small drizzle of lemon juice to brighten the flavors.

Optional garnish: a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, croutons, fried cubes of paneer might be nice too.

Rain, clouds, wind, Sydney

We left Cairns yesterday with the hopes that things would get better away from the mainland. We sailed upwind easily to Fitzroy Island. It’s big compared to most of the islands around and afford us some protection from the wind and waves. We moored at a blue ball and Susan I went in for a snorkel. The water was a bit murky and filled with very small cone jellyfish (they don’t sting) right by the boat. The snorkeling was very interesting even though the conditions weren’t great. The coral heads were amazing and the variety of fish large. On a clear, sunny day it would have been stupendous.

As we sat at our mooring the current and wind couldn’t figure out what to do with the boat and we ended up banging up against the mooring ball. That won’t do for sleeping so we moved to anchor where we thought we’d get a bit more protection from the swell. It was a somewhat rolly night. The boat creaking loudly at times, and the anchor chain grumbling. I didn’t sleep well.

The weather forcast holds out no hope for improvement so we moved on and are currently in Half Moon Bay Marina at Yorky’s Knob, a little north of Cairns. It’s dead quiet here until the planes landing at the airport go over. There’s no hint of the wind and waves going on outside th marina.

Howard and I are abandoning Susan tomorrow and heading to Sydney. I’ve changed my flight to head back to Hawaii early too. We had a flexible schedule and Susan is fine leaving the boat up here. She’s going to hang out for another week waiting for sun and then possibly come back too. She’s confident that she can do more single handing and anxious to try. A trip out to Green Island is certainly something she can handle from here if the weather co-operates. I hope she gets the chance.

They say the same thing to tourists here that we do back in Hawaii when these weather conditions prevail: “This is unusual.” Oh well, another time.

Kuranda Village

Up in the mountains an hour north of Cairns, surrounded by rainforest is Kuranda Village. It’s a tourist town, but a lovely one. It’s quite charming. The attractions are deliciously fun too. Three of them are affliated and we bought the all access passes for $39 Australian.

Our first stop was Butterfly World. It’s a large enclosure with 2,000 or so butterflies buzzing around. One variety is bright blue and black. They’re the hardest to photograph, of course. The most amazing thing was that a buttefly landed on this guy’s backpack and started laying eggs. They collected them before he left.

The second stop was Birdworld. Boy was it fun. We bought a small bag of food an quickly had exotic birds all over us. The native Eclectus Parrots were very friendly, landing on us and even stealing Susan’s earring. I got it back out of his mouth. The non native Sun Conures were also agressively friendly. Many other birds also landed on us for a handout. My favorite Rainbow Lorikeets weren’t among the friendly though. They came close, but ignored us. The Red-tailed Balck Cockatoos finally came down for a bite to eat also. The one in the lobby was eager to have his head scratched as he sat on Susan’s shoulder.

Meat pies were on the menu for lunch, Howard’s first.

Large bats called flying foxes are all over Australia. We saw a big group hanging out in the trees at Billabong Sanctuary when we were there. In Kurada there is a rescue organization and they have a free exhibit. This was our next stop. The woman who runs it had just shut the gate, but opened back up as we arrived. She showed us three kinds of bats and to Susan’s disappointment didn’t let us touch them. They’re smarter than dogs and the ones she can’t rehabilitate, that are permenant residents, know their names. One of them was begging to come out of the large enclosure. She got her way.

Kuranda Koala Gardens was our final stop. As we stopped to look at the koalas a handler came in and one was particularly anxious to be choosen to be held. You could tell she was thinking “pick me, pick me.”  Howard was reticent to hold her, as she had just pooped when the handler came to pick her up. Chibby was her name. I talked him into cuddling her for a picture and I’m sure he enjoyed it. Here they let you hold the koala a lot longer than elsewhere and Chibby was quite a bit bigger than the one we held at Billabong. After his offical shot they let us take our own pictures and then join in for a group shot. Chibby was happy as a clam to be held. We were encouraged to pet her after the pictures, the whole time Howard holding her.

We took the long way home through the Tablelands. It’s a high plateau with lots of farmland, with sugarcane, corn and other stuff growing.

It was a terrific day.

Howard arrives

About a half an hour late, Howard arrived at the Cairns airport yesterday. His luggage came off very quickly and we headed back to town. The airport is close so we were back at the boat in no time. Howard commented on some of new things on the boat, like the railings around the mast, which are a great help when working on the main sail.

After he unpacked the three of us when walking around town, in and out of tourist shops. Our last stop was at Woolworths. It’s not a dime store, it’s a grocery store. It has Walmart “Rollback” signs too. I’m not sure they are affiliated. Woolworths is a great store with lots of interesting things. I’ve enjoyed going down every aisle looking at all the interesting things. As everywhere else we’ve been, there are many more ready to eat items on the shelf; full meals to milk and cream in boxes. We just picked up a few things, leaving our big shopping for later.

Back at the boat there was lots of relaxing/napping and then we went out to dinner at Pesci’s. It is a fish restaurant right next to the marina in a hotel complex that sports 7 restaurants. Howard had paella, which was delicious. Susan chose the swordfish, which she loved. I ordered the bugs. They’re small slipper lobsters. They were fine, but the texture was a little mushy. Not firm like Maine lobster. I don’t know if that’s the way they are or if it was the preparation. Under the 3 split lobsters was a tasty paw paw (papaya) salsa over baby salad greens.

Back at Honu it was early to bed. Today we’ll go take in some nature and let Howard see some roos and koalas. There’s a town up in the rainforst, Kuranda, that has 3 different nature parks.


We sailed all day yesterday and all last night, pulling into Cairns early this morning. So, we’re here 24+ hours ahead of Howard. I’m sure he’s relieved we’re here. We are.

Last night was the usual sucky night watch. It was cold, sometimes rainy and tiring. It’s cloudy and scattered rain today. The weather doesn’t look so great for the next couple of days either. Good thing I have a rent-a-car reserved. There are more opportunities to hold a koala.

Susan napped this morning while I did laundry and then walked Cairns. It’s got a nice mall that’s walking distance and two movie theaters. Oceans Thirteen is opening today. Maybe we’ll see it. The rest of Cairns is filled with tourist shops and travel/dive/snorkel shops. It’s kind of like Waikiki (more Kuhio than Kalakaua) or Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Still, everything we need it right here and open on the weekends.

Now it’s my turn to try and nap. Not sure I will after all the caffeine I’ve had.

Bye Bye Townsville, Hello Mud

We left Townsville today around 2:15, but didn’t get far before going aground in mud. Our fatal mistake was not checking the tide charts. Luckily the tide was coming up and we only had to sit in the mud for about 45 minutes before we got going again. Townsville just didn’t want to let us go.

We’re now safely anchored in Horsehoe Bay at Magnetic Island, right outside of Townsville. The systems seem to all be working.  We’ll be leaving for Cairns early in the morning, sail all day tomorrow and all night, arriving Friday. Howard flies in on Saturday.

It’s not the easy day by day trip we had planned, but then I wouldn’t have held a Koala Bear if it had been.

It’s weird being in an anchorage with good wireless internet access. We’d paid for two weeks of time and this is the last place we’ll be able to use it.

Time to make some dinner…..

Hiking Queensland

The concept of hiking here is a bit different. We found a park about a hour north of here that we thought we’d visit and get in some hiking. Up a winding two-way, one-lane, road is Paluma National Park. Near the top is the village of Paluma. It’s tiny and we stopped in for lunch at the Heaven’s Kitchen. It’s an odd place, as it’s decorated with all this Native American stuff. There are dozens of laminated poems for purchase. They’re by a Chief Gray Cloud, a local resident. They’re genuinely awful. When we arrived there were four tourists clamouring for t-shirts from the establishment. Why, we couldn’t fathom, as they were kind of tacky. They spent a great deal of time picking out just the right ones and probably bought close to a dozen.

Our hike started right there. The first lookout was a good 500 feet from trailhead. The second probably 1/2 mile. The view was all the way to the ocean.

We moved on to the second hike that was supposed to be 1-2km. We got there and it was 500 meters, about 3 football fields long. Oh well it had a nice cascade waterfall at the end.

Back in town we went for Gyros sandwiches and Greek Salad. Something I learned was that real Greek Salads don’t have any lettuce. I’ve never had one that didn’t. It was delicious.

Later, we went off to the movies to see The Curse of the Golden Flower. Howard and Tim saw it while I was in Ohio last time. It was beautifully shot, with wonderful cinematography. I found the story boring. Susan liked it though. It was very Shakespearian, with everyone dead at the end.

This morning finds us waiting for our mechanics to return. I’m off to the airport to return our car. Fish just “attacked” the boat. There a big silver fish in the water that we only get fleetiing views of as the rapidly burst to the surface near boat hulls. It makes quite a noise. We think they’re some kind of trevally. We never get a good look at them. Also in the water are Archer Fish. They’re so interesting. They shoot water up into the air to knock bugs down to eat. We haven’t seen them do it yet.

The weather has warmed a bit, but the nights are still in the mid to low 60s. The days have been sunny and warm.

Wish us luck getting everything fixed today!

Cotter’s Market & Aquarium

Yesterday we started the day with the Sunday Townsville Cotter’s Market. I can’t figure why it’s called that, even looking for an explanation on the internet. It’s a mix of farmer’s market and arts & crafts market. The usual mix of glass jewelry and hand made stuff abounds. There are some good finds though and true artists. Susan got Craig a gift that is really cool, but I won’t tell you what it is since he reads this. Just you wait Craig.

Next on the agenda was a visit to a gallery that specializes in Australian & Aboriginal artists. I can’t say I was a fan of the art but it was interesting. Upstairs was an exhibit of woven pieces. Some were made from very interesting materials, even kelp. A pair of woven feet were made from the needles of Ironwood trees, like we have in Hawaii.

Off we went to the boat to deposit our purchases before heading off to the aquarium. We rested up a little too.

The aquarium boasts the largest living coral reef in an aquarium in the world. The main enclosure is huge and has large number of interesting fish. Many you would recognize from Hawaii, although some are very close, but have small differences. Then there are the fish we don’t have in Hawaii. I had envisioned that the water would be crystal clear, but it wasn’t. Not that it was very cloudy, but a little. Perhaps they need to keep nutrients in the water to keep all that reef alive. There was also a conspicuous lack of big parrotfish, which would be a normal part of this reef.  They eat coral though.  Some  small ones were around.  For me the best exhibits were the small ones around the sides that let you get in close.

Today we’re headed north for some nature in a national park or two.

Billabong Sanctuary, Townsville

Since we’re stuck in Townsville without an engine or charging system, we decided to rent a car and explore. Just outside town is a place called Billabong Sanctuary. It’s a big petting zoo with Australian animals. It was excellent! We were allowed to feed kangaroos, wallabees and hold a koala bear and pet other koalas. I’ve always wanted to do that. The koalas are as soft and adorable as you imagine. The female we held put up with having person after person hold her. She got a little tired of it by the time Susan got her turn, but still she was good natured about it.

The pademelon wallabees were adorable. They held onto your fingers as they ate. They’re small and redish. We could see one had a joey in her pouch that was jumping around in there.

There were ENORMOUS crockadiles there. The salt water ones are fierce. We certainly don’t want to see these guys in the wild. They warm yachties not to hang their legs over the sides of their dinghys if they’re in croc areas. Mostly they like river outlets in murky water. So, it’s not someplace we’d be in the water anyway.

The dingos seemed friendly. They came right up to the fence wagging their tails. It was about and hour before their feeding time. Their coats were perfect and beautiful.

How funny is this picture of a turtle?

What a great day! Tomorrow or Monday we’ll take in the Aquarium. Then there are other parks and the Queen’s Birthday Festival to visit.

Townsville Day 2

The sun is shinning and it’s cool. About 70. That sounds whiny, right? I was expecting tropics. It is winter after all. The first sun of the trip really. I explored Townsville a little more and picked up some meat pies for lunch.

The diesel mechanic has been here and is coming back. We found out why the engine is overheating: when the alternator’s belt was screaming I disconnected the belt. Well that belt also drives the water pump for the engine. Oops. At least we were smart enough to only use the engine a short time. A couple of hoses need to be replaced too. So, the engine should be ready later this afternoon. We’re not so sure about the alternators. It’s noon and we haven’t heard from the electrician.

We hope to get to the aquarium this afternoon, but that will depend on when people show up with repairs.

Bowen and beyond

Up early this morning we left Tongue Bay on Whitsunday Island and headed
north. We made great time and got to the quaint town of Bowen around
1:30. The radio was silent for the longest time as we tried to find out
what to do once we got here. Luckily another cruiser came to the rescue,
having just left a mooring. She told us where to go. Just not how to tie
up. The operative question.

We had quite a time getting situated, and had a hearty laugh about it
half way through. Most moorings are just one ball at the front. This one
is front and back, on the side sort of. Honu is tall so it’s hard to
reach over and grab the mooring ball, which in this case is a plastic 55
gallon drum. I got it with the boat hook, but had a lot of trouble
getting the line through it. Eventually we previailed and got the boat
tied up. We took the dinghy in showered and then walked right onto a
movie set. Baz Lurhman(sp?) is here shooting a movie with Hugh Jackman
and Nicole Kidman. One end of town is all blocked off, with dirt
covering the streets and 19th Batallion signs and sanbags all around. It
appears to be a WWI movie. No sign of the stars, or even their trailers.
I think the title of the movie is The Lady and the Kilkirin, whatever
that is. I don’t have internet here, or I’d look it up. usually
shows works in progress.

We got a few more groceries, took them back to the boat and had dinner
at the yacht club. It was fine, nothing great. Most items were pretty
expensive, but the special was calimari with chips(fries) and salad. It
was just the right size portion, nothing too big.

Back at the boat we’ve been planning on how we’re going to get to
Cairns. The next two days are about 40 miles each with an anchorage at
night. First is Upstart Bay, then Bowling Green Bay. Townsville is next
after that. From Townsville we’ll go to Orpheus Island, Dunk Island,
Moresby Inlet, Fitzroy Island and then Cairns. That schedule means no
dreaded night passages. However, if we get behind for any reason we can
go far doing two full days and one night.

The bay outside Bowen is a dugong sanctuary. We didn’t see any coming
in, maybe going out tomorrow. My fingers are crossed.

No luck sending this via the sat phone. So, I’ll add to it. We left Bowen
this morning in some big wind and rain. Everything is settled down and
we’re flying along around 6 knots under jib only. The watermaker is going
and I’ve got Sting on the stereo. Susan is up keeping watching on an oil
rig jetty that comes WAY out from the mainland. Our course takes us around
it anyway. It’s still raining on and off. We should be in Upstart Bay by
4:00 or so.

So, our best plans have been waylaid. We’re safe and doing fine, just not
that comfortable. We’re pressing on to Townsville, as we’re still having
some engine/charging problems. The remaining alternator’s belt started
screaming as we started up the engine and we smelled something
hot/electrical. Not good. Then the engine overheated. We shut it down right
away and changed course away from our anchorage at Upstart Bay. Finally, we decided to just go for Townsville where we’ll have a chance to get stuff
fixed. We’ve spoken to the wonderful volunteers on the radio who assure us
it isn’t a problem getting there in the dark. I took the belt off of both
alternators and we added water to the engine, which seems happier now,
although we didn’t run it very long. We did run it longer than it took to
overheat before.

OK this is getting really long, so I’ll stop. I hope it goes out this


We got up this morning and carefully moved to the marina. The engine did fine, but we sailed most of the way into the marina from the anchorage outside.

We’ve had showers and the electrician has been here already. We’re waiting for the diesel mechanic. I got the laundry done too. We haven’t had a chance to see anything but the marina, but we’re happy to be here and snug.

It’s still overcast with scattered sprinkles. It’s not raining at least like it was last night when we were coming in.

Everyone here has been genuinely nice and friendly.

More later after we know something.

A Full Day

Today was a very full day. We started out at Hamilton Island and got Mark from Sunsail to look at the alternator. He got us going. It’s not the best solution, but it will work until we get somewhere bigger.

The cockatoos visited the boat with a little coaxing. Crackers were the bait. Then I noticed what they were doing to another boat and decided their presence wasn’t really welcome. They were actively shredding a line(rope) on the boat’s main sail. So, after snapping some pictures I got rid of them.

With our charging system charging again we left Hamilton Island. It was a charming place. We enjoyed our short visit. It was raining on and off all the way to Whitehaven Beach. I drove most of the way, even through the strong
current passage. Today the current wasn’t very strong, but at times it would grab the rudder and try to turn us sideways.

Susan and I switched normal roles and I drove while she set the anchor. It’s good experience to switch. We quickly got the dinghy, now named Bato, blown up and in the water with the outboard motor Betty Davis II mounted on the back. I had named the old outboard after the film star because it was temperamental to say the least, but once it got going great things happened.

Whitehaven Beach is a very long stretch of very white sand. It would be blinding on a sunny day. Our overcast day continued as we walked down the beach. We encountered two dying fireworms, Pied Oystercatchers, sea eagles, some litle sandpiper birds we’re still trying to indentify and the dens of several different kinds of crabs. The sandpiper like birds had chicks that looked like bugs walking on stilts. Our cockroaches in Hawaii are that big, but with shorter legs. The parents both did their best to lure us away, rushing us, running in front of us and playing at being injured. It was cute. One of them stayed with us for a long time luring us down the beach. This beach is
also known for it’s squeaking sand. At just the right spot is does squeak as you walk. The sand cant be too dry or too wet for this to happen. Much of the sand is packed down and wet and is like walking on cement.

After Whitehaven we motored over to Tongue Bay, a short 45 minute ride away. We just missed getting a mooring ball, so again we anchored with Susan operating the windless. We took the dinghy in and hiked to the top of the hill to see Hill Inlet. It’s the third most photographed thing in Australia. It’s beautiful and the camera doesn’t do it justice. Each day the tide comes into this inlet and completly re-arranges the sand. As the tide goes down streams
and pools form. The inlet is etherial and colors are amazing, even on a cloudy day.

Walking on the sands of Hill Inlet we encounter an enormous army of Soldier Crabs. They’re so cute; their color variations are light blue to bright blue to dark blue. They’re everywhere, thousands upon thousands. If you walk
long enough behind them they bury themselves in the sand spiralling in. They also walk forward, which isn’t usual for crabs; most walk sideways. One would think there would be thousand of birds around for this easy feast, but there are only a few. Beach Stone Curlews and Silver Gulls are there but just a few.

Back at the boat we put away the dinghy and had a simple dinner of pasta with sauce from the jar. I was too tired to even doctor it up.

Tomorrow we’re off for Bowen, a town on the mainland 57 miles away. We have some places picked out to stop, if we don’t quite make it that far.

Peggy’s Cousin & Fireworks

When Susan was in Mackay before she visited a beach an hour away that
had tame kangaroos and wallabies. They’re orphans and there is a
place that takes care of them. She was shy around them, not know how
tame they were until some lady came up and put an arm around a roo
that Susan had been creeping up to. “This is Peggy.” Soon Susan too
was hugging Peggy.

Tonight at dinner we ate one of Peggy’s cousins. It was quite good. I
dusted the kangroo meat with steak spice from the grocery store and
pan fried it medium rare. Susan like it too. It has a very meaty beef
steak consistency and is very low in fat. It reminds me of a New York
Strip Steak. We will certainly get it again, since it’s very
reasonably priced compared to other meat.

While Susan was washing the dishes there was a huge bang. I bolted up
top to see fireworks going off just a few yards away. It was quite a
show, lasting a long time, with lots of them going off. Now, the
bands are playing and the party is in full swing. It’s far enough
away though not to keep us up. Last night we made it to 9:30 before
crashing. It’s just before 9:00 now and I’m not going to last much

Mackay revisited

Our jet lag continues and we’re up every morning very early. Today we
got a very early start out of Brampton Island. Not long after leaving
though, we found that our main alternator wasn’t charging the bateries.
So, after some diagnosis and no solution we decided to head upwind back
to Mackay. About four hours and much seasickness later we pulled into
the marina and back into the same slip. Both of us got green around the
gills as we beat into the wind with side on waves. Even with medication
Susan didn’t feel well. My seasickness ebbed and flowed.

Once tied up we immediately checked in at the office and headed directly
for the electrician’s office here at the marina. As luck would have it,
someone was in. John came over to the boat and played around with some
things, changing nothing and the alternator started working again. Susan
and I had narrowed down the problem to an oil pressure switch that is
used to tell the alternator that the engine is on and it’s O.K. to make
electricity. Apparently he had taken one of the leads off and put it
back on. The were rusty. We’re pretty sure that was the problem. John
further cleaned up the contacts on the switch and everything seems fine.

It was too late to leave, so we went off for a late lunch. It was a
delicious tapas repast. We ordered 8 different things, although I think
they brought us 9. Neither of us remember ordering the pork meat balls.
Everything was great. It was so much food that I didn’t need dinner.

After lunch we got our cameras and headed across the street to see the
lorikeets. We got some nice pictures of these very colorful birds. They
let you get fairly close, but then just suddenly fly away.

Susan went off for a nap and I took a walk down the beach. I very
quickly encountered a sad sight. A dead turtle in the sand. It’s not a
species I’m familiar with. It wasn’t very decomposed, so I don’t think
it was there too many days. The beach is also littered with cuttlebones.
Just like the kind you buy at the pet store for your pet bird. I used to
by them for Toby, my pet canary (well, he lived with Val & Forrest
longer than with me).

Further down the beach is a park and a private beach club of some sort.
There were people in a circle in the park singing and clapping while two
of them did a kind of dance/martial art thing. They were singing in
another language I couldn’t get. It was interesting to watch, but I
really wonder what it was.

At the private beach club there was a wedding ceremony in progress. I
could see the whole thing from the beach walkway. Heading back to the
marina I ran across some raibowlorikeets again sitting on a wall. They
were so cute and colorful. I took more pictures. Then there was the second
wedding going on across the street. Her gown was much prettier.

Two weddings and a turtle funeral.

We will leave early tomorrow and head north and make it to
Tongue Bay/Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. If we don’t make it
all the way, there are lots of places to pull in and anchor.

Whitehaven not

Aloha all. We didn’t make it quite to Whitehaven, but we did make it to charming Hamilton Island. We were motoring into current created by the big tides here all morning. When afternoon came and the ebb tide came we were flying along. At first we thought we couldn’t make it to Hamilton where there is a marina. The reason we need a marina is the main alternator isn’t working again. Discouraging. We can do without it, but we have to conserve energy and hope for no days without wind and without sun. Those combined and we couldn’t have enough juice.

Afternoon arrived and we started flying along at 7+ knots. Really fast. When we got to the Dent Passage between Dent Island and Hamilton we went along hitting a high of 8.6 knots. Wow. We made a good amount of milage in one day and got here by 3:15. After tying up one of the marina guys came over and gave us the lay of the land. Apparently we’re lucky to have a slip as it is the busiest day of the year. Today was the Hamilton Island Cup, a paddling race. We saw paddlers from Tahiti, speaking French. We walked around town and up to One Tree Hill, with nice views. Cockatoos were everywhere, including hanging out at the fish and chips shop begging food. I got a nice picture of them all on the table after a group of people had left the remains of their meal. After our walk we saw people at the same shop give a fish bone to one. Another stole it and flew up to the top of a light pole. We walked along and stopped to read about the birds in the area on a sign. “Ker-thawp.” The cockatoo above us had dropped the fish bone. It went right between Susan and I. So, then I had a good opportunity to get a close up as he came to retrieve it.
Town is all set up for a party, which may effect our sleep. It’s sure to be raucous, this is Australia after all. They sure know how to party. Often they speak of nothing else.
Tomorrow we hope to have an electrician, and then head on. Whitehaven and Toungue Bay if possible.

We’re here. We’re off

The flight to Syndey was without much distinction. Time passed more
quickly as Susan rented a Digeplayer. It’s like a little handheld DVD
player, but has several movies and television shows. We shared it back
and forth. I watched Happy Feet & Epic Movie. Both of which did help
pass time. On the airplane’s screen I watched Music & Lyrics with Hugh
Grant and Drew Barrimore. Once again, no great work of art.

Customs & Immigration was a breeze and we took a $14(Austrailian) taxi
ride to the hotel. Our key was waiting for us and we proceeded to room
606. It was a very small room with a double bed and a bunk bed above it.
A very small TV and a clock radio that hovered over small desk rounded
out the room. The bathroom reminded me of one on a cruise ship. It was
that small. The view out the window was of a Krispy Creme. We were in
bed by 8:30.

We awoke the next morning very early. We got ready and headed off to the
domestic terminal which right across the street for our 6:30 flight. We
got checked in and headed off for coffee. I had a large long black and
Susan had a large long white. I think I talked about these terms for
coffee last year. Remember when you come Howard, you want a long black.
We asked as the French man was making them if it was OK to take them
through and he said “Well, yes, it’s just coffee. Wiskey, no. Coffee,
yes. I don’t know why but it’s ‘whiskey, mayday, mayday!'” Or something
close to that. We laughed about he ‘mayday, mayday’ comment.

Indeed they let us through with our coffees and without having to take
our shoes off. We sat at our gate for a while and I realized that there
was hardly anyone there. I looked at the boarding pass and noticed I was
looking at the gate for our connection in Brisbane. Oops. We moved down
to the right gate and boarded fairly soon after that. We got to
Brisbane and got some gooey breakfast items. Mine was pretty good, Susan
wasn’t that happy with hers. Soon after we boarded the plane for Mackay
and noticed it was the same crew as the one that brought us to Brisbane,
even though it was a different gate and plane.

Arriving in Brisbane reminded me of the size the Kauai airport was the
first time I flew into it. It’s small, not Raiatea small, but small. Our
carriage awaited and with our bags we took a 15 minute or so ride to the
marina, which is located out of town.

We ran into the boat’s caretaker on the pier and she told us that it was
opened up and waiting for us. The bottom had been cleaned the day
before. We unpacked and went off for lunch at Ants Cafe. We both had
meat pies. They were tasty if a little soggy. I think they were warmed
in a microwave and the crusts weren’t as crispy as they should be. The
filling was good though. There were beautiful lorikeets by the dozens in
the park across the street. I walked over to see them. I didn’t have my
camera though.

Susan went off to customs and I worked around the boat. I got the old
dead radio out of it’s slot and the new one in. However, the connector
was different, so I left the wiring for later.

We caught the bus into Mackay and got groceries and a fitting for the
hose. Shopping took quite a while, as the boat’s stores were pretty low.
We stocked up a little, but don’t need to prepare for days on end of
offshore sailing. The store was quite fun, but I was a bit tired or it
would have been more fun. One of the cheapest meats is kangaroo, so I
got some. I had to convince Susan a little, but mostly she convinced
herself saying that they have to kill them anyway because of over

Back at the boat we unpacked the groceries and crashed. I was going to
cook, but instead we went for Thai takeaway. There is a nice strip of
restaurants at the marina. The food was pretty good and much more
reasonable since we got it to go.

Bed came fairly early as I couldn’t keep my eyes open much past 8:30. I
had smelled some mold in the v-berth and it started to bother my
allergies. I had to get up, take medicine and move to the center cabin.
I think the culprit was actually the sheets. Today I cleaned the berth
and we ran the sheet and towels through the laundry even though they
were clean when we got here. I think they may have been put away
slightly damp.

Around 10:00 am this morning we decided that we were pretty much ready
to go. So we did the remaining chores of getting water and fuel and left
right around noon. We headed north under motor, but were soon sailing
with just the jib out. The wind was steady which kept us going above 5
knots. Somewhere around 3:15 we arrived here at Brampton Island. We
anchored twice since we didn’t like the first spot we chose. While
wandering around to the second site we saw a nice big sea turtle. It’s
overcast and cool.

Brampton Island is at the lower end of the Whitsunday Islands. It’s
about 20 nautical miles north of Mackay. I’m not sure how long we’ll be
here, but I suspect not long. There are small hikes on the island and a
resort that is exclusive. It is the place Susan saw dugongs, though.
That would be cool! Brampton is also where Susan did her first solo

It was a good first sail for us. The first time just the two of us too.

One week to go.

Well, it’s down to the wire. I haven’t started packing yet! I’ve accumulated some goodies for the boat that I don’t want to forget. I’ve got cake mix for our birthdays in June. And frosting too. I’ve long thought that you had to make cake from scratch until lately. Those box mixes taste pretty darn good. Especially on the boat.

The plane leaves next Tuesday at 12:30 pm our time. We get in at 7:00 pm the next day in Sydney. We’ve got a hotel room at the airport and leave again the next morning on a 6:30 am flight to Mackay (pronounced “ma-k-eye”). We have two weeks to get the boat to Cairns (pronounce “cans”) to pick up Howard. It’s about 400 miles. That shouldn’t be a problem and we should  be able to stop a few places on the way.

Now, I’m getting excited.

Back to Australia

Susan and I are set to go back to Australia on May 29th for more sailing adventures. So, I’ve renamed and re-activated this blog. I’ll be in Australia until July 19th and Howard is coming down for 10 days in June. The Great Barrier Reef will most likely be the highlight of this trip. We were hoping to get the boat to Darwin, but we’re not sure we’ve planned enough time. We’d like to leave the boat at least part way there, but north eastern Australia isn’t very inhabited north of Cairns. (pronounced “cans”.) We’ll see what we can do.

Just about a week left!

Well, there’s just about a week left until I leave for Tahiti. The
details are stacking up. Susan is in Tahiti with Gerard, her boat
mechanic. He comes home on Sunday and has a few things to get fixed
that I’ll need to take back down May 13th. The backup autopilot is
broken and has to be shipped to New Hampshire for repair. We’re all
crossing our fingers that FedEx can get it there and back with a day
in the middle to get it fixed.

The boat is leaking in the cockpit into the head and aft cabin. Susan
had quite the surprise when she got there and the boat was moldy.
Then she found out that 3 generators were seized up. Luckily, they
had taken two new ones down anyway. We still need the one that prop
spins on the shaft while we’re sailing to generate electricity.
Gerard will get all three repaired and we’ll take them all back, two
as spare parts. You can always use spare parts.

I’m making finishing touches on the kitchen remodel. I really wanted
to finish it before I left for such a long time. We haven’t gotten
the countertops done, but that can wait until I get back. We expanded
the doorway into the kitchen near the front door and cut open the
wall that partially divides the kitchen from the living room. It
makes the kitchen feel bigger being able to see into the living room.
We sold the Indonesian armoire yesterday and now that window is no
longer blocked. That opens up the room even more. I’m very happy with
how it’s all turning out. I have more counter space and more cabinet
space too. I’ll have to do a complete reorganization when I get back.
I’ll post some pictures before I go.

The bag

My other piece of luggage showed up yesterday. It came in on a Quantas flight, so that means it never left Sydney with the plane I took. The bad news is that it was handled roughly and two of the three soup bowls were broken. So, the set of 6 is now a set of 4.

I’ve posted the last of the pictures from Sydney. We didn’t take many in Bundy, but I did post one from there.

That about does it for this blog. Thanks for reading.

Still Friday

It’s still Friday. I spent all day avoiding the downpours in Sydney on Friday and I arrived  in Honolulu on Friday morning. I got back that day we lost when we arrived in Tonga. I think it was a Sunday we lost. I’m happy to have it back as a Friday.

I didn’t do much in Syndey during the rain, but shop. That was indoors. I thought about going to the movies, but I couldn’t find anyting playing I really wanted to see.

I did make it to the boat show during a  lull in the rain. I found Susan’s next boat: a $2millon Catana catamaran. It was sweet. There weren’t many cats at the show. I did go into an equally impressive monohull, a Swan. Actually, it probably cost more.

The airport shuttle was 20 minutes late, but I still got to the airport in plenty of time for my flight. The flight itself was uneventful, I even slept a bit. The plane was pretty empty and I could curl up into the seat next to me too. It took a couple of hours before I got it right and then I did sleep for maybe 3 or 4 hours. Which is practically a miracle for me.

One of my bags has gone missing, along with 12 or so other people’s bags. Hawaiian Airlines is looking for it. Half of the French lion head soup bowls Susan bought me are in there, along with my CD of pictures and other souvenirs. I have hope they’ll find it since so many bags went missing

It’s good to be home, I’ve got laundry going already. Clean, unsalty cotton clothes are a luxury.