12-December 2012

Hot, hot, hot!

After several years in the tropics you would think that one would get used to the hotter climes. However, Brisbane is hot and I can't seem to get used to it, this is December after all! The UV index is on a scale from 1 (low) to 11+ (extreme) and Brisbane is continually on level 13!! (Similiar to New Zealand). This is very high and we need to be careful about protecting ourselves from the suns damaging rays. The humidity level is also high averaging between 70 - 80% humidity. Luckily for us we live on the water and by the afternoon on most days, the wind starts to blow and we get cooled off. I guess it is better than frostbite.

Christmas is coming.....

Even though there is no snow to speak of, we are getting into the Christmas spirit here, one day we biked up to Wynnum for "Wynnum Up Late" where all the stores were open late (big excitement in these parts!) and they were giving out candy and free gifts, there was a clown making balloon animals and Santa was around but we didn't spot him. I also found a cafe that I must return to some morning.

One night there were Christmas carolls in the park and they showed a movie up on a huge inflatable screen: "Home Alone". Our first spotting of Santa was tonight, he came in a boat and starting throwing candy everywhere, it was mayhem!

The Trailer Club had a very fun Childrens Christmas party one Sunday afternoon. Santa showed up in a small motor boat again and there was lots of activities for the kids. Santa gave them tickets to Dream World, an amusement park 1 hour drive south of Brisbane. Now I am really starting to get into the Christmas spirit, time to get out our Christmas decorations and start decorating!


We drove the one hour south to the Gold Coast, the location of the amusement park DreamWorld. It was really great because all three kids were tall enough to go on all the rides. I was surprised that Cari was up for all these rides that even I was too chicken to go on. Here they all are (except me ) on "The Claw".

More my speed was the Wiggles area, where we got to drive in the Big Red Car! and sing Hot Potato! Hot Potato and yell "Wake Up Jeff" (much to Andrea's horror). Now, that was amusing.

Near the end of the day we met two teenagers who were very keen to ride the big thrill rides. Chris and I had our fill of being thrown upside down and around and around, so they took the kids around the park, running from one ride to the next to try to get on them before the park closed. Hundreds of school kids leave the park at 4:00 p.m., the park closes at 5:00p.m. so there is one hour of no line ups. All the kids went on the "Giant Drop". The Giant Drop, was officially declared the ‘tallest, vertical free-fall ride in the world’ by the Guiness Book of World Records in 1999. Standing 119metres high (39 storeys), The Giant Drop is now a legendary Australian landmark.

Sometimes complaining works... after complaining about the heat, the weather turned and Brisbane hit a record - the coldest December weather in 123 years. We took a rainy blustery day to head to the water park at Dream World. It was fantastic as what could be a 60-90 minute wait was a 5 minute wait. We managed 2 hours before our shivering bodies needed warmth, but we got to go on all the rides and we definitely had our fill.

Here is a picture of the Green Room: named from surfer vernacular, the deepest, most awe inspiring part of a wave. After walking up 20 metres of stairs, four people can ride sitting in a cloverleaf tube, 66m of enclosed flume spewing the riders into the funnel. It's great fun and a good step aerobic workout to get back to the top!

Manly getting geared up for Christmas

The weekend markets are right outside our door and are fun to walk around and peruse the handmade crafts and treats on a Sunday morning. This is the last market before Christmas. The kids were delighted with some candycanes that were being offered!

Brisbane's Chinatown

Chinatown is a precinct in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Chinatown mall is a major destination for Brisbane residents and tourists. Our goal was to find a dim sum restaurant for Sunday yum cha and we did succeed. We found a restaurant called the King of King's and it had one of the best yum cha's, we all agreed.

In 1996, the Chinatown mall was used in a scene in the movie Jackie Chan's First Strike. The scene featured a car chase though a shopping mall resulting in an elaborate stunt where by a car smashed though a second floor window into the pagoda thus resulting in a massive explosion. The destroyed pagoda was subsequently rebuilt and remains a feature of Brisbane's Chinatown Mall to this day.

Saying Good-bye (Again)

I think I have mentioned before what a big cruising community there is out here sailing the high seas. We have met a lot of people and families and made new friends along the way, we now have friends all over the world! There does however come a time when boats point their bows in different directions and it is time to say fair winds! Bye Oso, hope to catch up with you again sometime!

School Days on Stray Kitty

We do school everyday that we are at anchor or at a dock - if that means doing school for 12 days in a row or over Saturday/Sunday or a special holiday that that is what we do. This is because we don't do school when we are on passage or if we have a special day trip planned (field trip!), or if we have guests aboard. We use an extremely comprehensive correspondence program out of Canada, each student has a teacher and I am the home facilitator, they receive a report card three times a year (when the teachers aren't on a province wide job action (like right now!) which means we have certain

timelines where completed assignments must be handed in (this has been a very good thing for us or we would probably be two years behind). Here in Australia we have a great internet connection so we can easily send things in online, this means for me, scanning all their completed school work and emailing into the school. I like to add some extras like a daily travel journal, art projects like the drawing the different flags of the countries that we visit and extra math work. We love Jump Math out of the Univeristy of Toronto and online, the Khan Academy. The kids must get up on their own, have breakfast and their school work must be out and their buts on their seats by 8:30 a.m. sharp. School is normally over by 1:30 p.m. then we are free to go ashore, and tour around.

Merry Christmas 2011!!

December has been sunny and warm although all the Aussies tell us that the weather this year has been abnormally cool which is fine by me. The kids went for a Christmas sleepover at the PCYC which is equivalent to a Canadian YMCA. They had an absolute ball. They started the evening with Pizza Hut pizza, then they all got into the bus to view the Christmas lights around the area which we were told were really amazing. Then it was back to the PCYC for more snacks and a Christmas movie marathon. Some kids, if they slept at all, slept on the trampolines and others on the mats. Andrea was up all night talking. Now they are back home eating their candy canes, Mars bars and all having a nap!

Christmas seems so laid back here compared with the more frenzied attitude in the Northern Hemisphere. People get together and have barbies at the park or at the beach. We did some last minute Christmas shopping on the last Friday evening before Christmas. We went to a mall and a liquor store. We found parking spots right away, there were no line ups for any of the stores in the mall, including the grocery stores and everyone was in a great mood!! Unbelievable!!

We have our Christmas lights up in the cockpit and the kids have made us a Christmas tree this year. Merry Christmas to everyone, love from all the kitties, down under!!

A Christmas Cruise

Our friends Grant, Vanessa and daughter Alexandra, 3 from New Zealand came to visit us on Boxing Day. Shortly thereafter we untied the dock lines and headed off on a week cruise. We have never been at the dock for this long so it was with great excitement that we headed off out into Moreton Bay and down along the inland waterways.

Our first stop was Deanbilla Bay where Chris put on a huge Christmas feast, with Christmas crackers too.

We stopped at the "sliding sands" anchorage for lunch. It was really fun to slide down the sand dunes straight into the water, however I would recommend using one of the for sale signs that are there for that purpose instead of your boogie board as we trashed a few of ours when we hit the water.

The anchorage at the Jumpin' Pin looked really nice, of course we were here at the busiest time of the year, there were boats lined up down the shoreline as far as we could see. We decided to stay here the night. Part of our group went on shore and saw some wild wallabies. You can walk over to the sand bar and go to the windy side of the island and boy was it ever blowing hard. It was blowing so much that all Queensland beaches were closed, even Surfers Paradise because of ex-Tropical Cyclone Fina which was whipping up large swells.

Later that afternoon as we were all relaxing on board, the skies started darkening, then out of no where the wind started blowing, then all hell broke loose. The rain started pelting down so hard it felt like hailstones, the wind increased to 37 knots and it was kaos at the Jumpin' Pin. Stray dingies were floating by, but what was scarier was that very large motor vessels were drifting as their anchors didn't hold in the strong winds. Two floated by us at high speeds as they were trying to get their engine started, and thier vessel under control, thankfully they stayed clear of us . We felt very fortunate that no one rammed into us, a very vulnerable situation indeed!

There were a couple of people who got thrown off their jet skiis and were hurt. Our 33 kg rocna anchor (which I can't say enough good things about) held completely, we didn't budge. After about 15 minutes, the sky started to clear, the rain stopped and the winds settled back down like nothing ever happened. This anchorage was beautiful but the current was very strong so not a great choice, I wouldn't recommend it for an overnight stop.

Surfers Paradise is a famous Australian landmark, we had even heard about it when we lived in Canada so it we were looking forward to a visit. The waterway became busier and busier with every kind of vessel you can imagine the closer we got, the anchorage at Southport-- Marine Stadium is otherwise known as Bums Bay because of all the boaters that hang out there. It was really busy as well, but we managed to squeeze into a great spot for a couple of days. The beaches had been reopened but the swell was still large and it was very windy blowing sand right into your face. The downtown is a bustling hub of activity. It is often compared to Miami Beach.

After our fill of Surfers, it was island time! We headed over to an anchorage that was between three little islands: Lamb Island, Karragarra Island and Macleay Island where we met up with cruising friends on Merlin. We cruised with them in the Pacific so it was really great catching up with them in this anchorage. The weather turned but we perservered like true Aussies and had a barbie even though it was pouring rain!

The next day the kids played and swam at the beach, flew their kites, and we all had a fun game of bocce. Here is a pic of Andrea and Chris using Merlin's sailing dingy. She's a natural!

It was also Grant's birthday so we spoiled him a bit.

**Read Grants take on our week at his blog http://www.nauticed.org/blog/bareboat-charter/coastal-navigation-and-anchoring-in-inland-waterways-of-australia/

The last party on Stray Kitty, for 2011!!

Happy New Year Everyone!! Hope 2012 brings you only health and happiness.