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Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Archive for June, 2010

World Cup and Scheduling Difficulties

Posted by: melissa

One aspect of our adventure that separates us from most circumnavigating cruisers is that we will alter our schedule at the drop of a hat to experience something else that interests us.  Case in point: the 2010 Soccer World Cup.  Andy has been a big-time soccer tragic since 1993 in anticipation of U.S. hosting in 1994.  He follows the English Premier League quite closely as a long-time (and long-suffering) supporter of the Tottenham Hotspur, and I love international sports competitions of any kind as well. 

Unfortunately, South Africa hosting the World Cup this year is a serious challenge to watching matches live in our current time zone.  Most of the matches are on at midnight or 4:30 a.m. local time.  The pubs are closed, we don’t have any friends in Mooloolaba to impose on, and we, obviously, don’t have broadcast television.

Plus, we have other scheduling dilemmas as well.  Our flight to Los Angeles for my brother’s wedding is on July 14.  We wanted to go all the way to Cairns by then, but we also don’t want to rush through all the great stuff on the way – most notably, the Whitsunday Islands.  Plus, the weather has not been great lately and the forecasts don’t look much better – high winds, volatility, lots of fronts and lows, etc. 

To add even more complication, we’re not totally sure what our next stop will be as there are several candidates and several routes.  One option is that we could go inside of Frasier Island which is a popular cruising area full of bays and inlets including the raved-about Tin Can Bay.  This option would dump us out in Hervey Bay well-positioned to stay over in Bundaberg which is famous for sugar cane and rum.  Hervey Bay (pronounced “Harvey”) is perhaps the whale-watching capital of the world. 

Otherwise, we could go outside of Frasier Island, sail a proper passage and make some distance instead of anchorage hopping.  We could still hit Bundy, but it would require going over the top of Sandy Cape and backtracking into Hervey Bay.  Fifty miles north of Bundy, Lady Musgrave Island is a navigable coral lagoon, although there’s nothing to do there but drop anchor, admire the beauty, and hope for consistent wind.  Recommended by several of sailing buddies, Gladstone is an industrial port that has a rough blue-collar history, but has undergone a renewal of late with a nice marina and boardwalk.  We’ve also heard nice things about Keppel Bay and Rosslyn Bay, and with a good enough weather window, we could just go all the way Mackay.

Furthermore, Andy is keen to go to Rockhampton which is Australia’s beef ranching capital and home to the Great Western Hotel, which is famous for its bar with a rodeo ring (not the other way around).  Plus, the rodeo takes place on Fridays only which puts another wrinkle in the plan. Decisions, decisions.

Andy was walking down our dock yesterday when he noticed a motor yacht with a television.  He is so desperate to watch U.S. versus England that he knocked on their door and asked if we could sneak in at 4:00 a.m. to watch this historic match.  The Captain said yes, and of course, in true Australian fashion, he invited us aboard for a couple of beers and we chatted the afternoon away.  Like thieves in the night, we snuck aboard, watched a battling 1-1 performance by the US (complete with a gift from Robert Green), snuck off and went back to sleep.  Our host didn’t even get out of bed.

The Passage to Rosslyn Bay

Posted by: melissa

It was a real treat to get to watch the U.S. versus England match on the neighbor’s television, but we couldn’t keep crashing his yacht at all hours of the night.  After missing a lot of great soccer, we decided that we would try to get to our next destination to catch the U.S. versus Slovenia match late Friday night. 

After more research, we decided on Rosslyn Bay as our next stop which would give us easy access to Rockhampton, which hosts the rodeo on Friday night.  Thursday morning, the weather seemed to be calming down a bit and Andy was confident that we could get to Rosslyn Bay by early Friday afternoon.  Rodeo and soccer and a nice location?  I love it when a plan comes together.

We exited the Mooloolah River to find very rough seas, which got even rougher once clear of Point Cartwright.  Since this was our first real passage in many months, we were both a little rusty and popped a couple of seasickness tablets right away. Sadly, it was too late for Andy, who had a minor barf.  The conditions calmed down a lot after a couple of hours getting away from shore, and we settled in for the quick overnight passage.  Around 1:00 a.m., we crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn officially re-entering the tropics.

Andy could not sleep and took the graveyard shift, so I had a luxurious night’s rest.  When he woke me at about 5:00 a.m., I was rested and refreshed and ready for a lovely day of sailing.  Spectacle was humming right along in a comfortable beam reach with a following current.  I had a cup of coffee, enjoyed an absolutely incredible sunrise over Keppel Bay, watched a cadre of container ships disembark from Gladstone, and read J.M Coetzee‘s Age of Iron — a truly spectacular morning.

Sunrise over Keppel Bay during the passage from Mooloolaba to Rosslyn Bay.

Sunrise over Keppel Bay during the passage from Mooloolaba to Rosslyn Bay.

The approach to Rosslyn Bay and the Keppel Bay Marina was a piece of cake.  We tied up, checked in, showered up, rented a car, and headed for Rockhampton.

Rockhampton and The Great Western Hotel

Posted by: melissa

Nicknamed “Rocky,” Rockhampton has a population of almost 78,000, is situated around the banks of the Fitzroy River (Queensland’s largest river), and is 395 miles northwest of Brisbane.  Rockhampton was established in 1853 as a river trading port.  It shot to prosperity with several nearby gold and copper discoveries in 1858 and 1882 which can be seen in the town’s many Victorian-era buildings.  While ranching continues to be the primary industry in Central Queensland, Rockhampton is considered the beef capital of Australia with about 2 million head of cattle grazing within 150 miles.  The many large cow statues around town are pretty good tip as to how important ranching is to the community.

Cow Statue in Rockhampton

Cow Statue in Rockhampton

The Great Western Hotel is owned by Australian country music star, Lee Kernaghan.  Its marketing material describes it best:

“Located in Rockhampton, Australia’s Beef Capital, The Great Western Hotel is one of Australia’s most renowned and iconic hotels.

First Licensed in 1878, the 130 year old Great Western Hotel has been the meeting place for many generations of Central Queenslanders and tourists alike. Now in the 21st century it is a national tourist destination. Built on 4115 square meters, the Great Western Hotel pays tribute to contemporary Australian bush Culture with its walls showcasing the history of local people and surrounding areas.

The Great Western Hotel has always been known for providing great steaks and cold beverages. It features 4 Bars, an award winning Steakhouse, air-conditioned Gaming Saloon and Boardroom along with a Western Retail store. The undercover entertainment venue is the largest in regional Australia with seating in excess of 2,000 people.

The Great Western is the only known hotel in Australia with a covered rodeo arena and entertainment venue. This makes this unique hotel a constant hive of activity with Rodeos and an ever increasing array of entertainers.”

Honestly, our steak dinner was not that great.  The concept of the steakhouse/watering hole is so exceptionally well done in Queensland (I mean exceptionally well executed, not well done since I’m a medium rare gal myself!), so an average steak really stands out.  But, we grabbed a couple of XXXXs and established a beachhead for the rodeo festivities. 

The buckin’ broncos kicked off at 7:00 p.m. sharp, but the people-watching kept us more than occupied before the show officially started.  Andy and I were both struck with the authenticity of the entire atmosphere — how familiarly rural and country-western.  The travel guidebooks describe The Great Western Hotel like the movie set of a spaghetti western.  But, it was just like being in Ft. Worth or Amarillo or Tulsa … right down to the hats, belt buckles, rodeo clowns, the down-home announcer, and even the advertisements for country music radio stations, auctioneer services, earth-moving rentals and quarry supplies.  This rodeo ring is not just entertainment or schtick, but a real stop on the international professional rodeo circuit – we’re talking about competitive bull-riding!  A Friday night at The Great Western Hotel can make or break a rodeo cowboy.

The Infamous Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton, Queensland.

The Infamous Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton, Queensland.

After the competitive riders finished, the ring opens up to kids (tons of help and supervision, very cute too) and drunk patrons (hysterical).  Evidently, America’s litigiousness and love of personal injury attorneys hasn’t made it to Central Queensland yet.  A couple of guys from New South Wales had apparently a lost a bet on State of Origin and their punishment was public ridicule while lasting about a half second on the bull.  Luckily, we needed a designated driver so I was sober, but I fear if we were both on the sauce, Andy would’ve taken a spin.  What could possibly go wrong?

The rodeo kids were hysterically cute.  I loved this guy going for the style points!

The rodeo kids were hysterically cute. I loved this guy going for the style points!

After the rodeo festivities concluded, we moved inside to watch the U.S. versus Slovenia match.  At that late hour, only hard-partying locals were left which was interesting and stereotype-reinforcing.  We got some pretty strange looks from this crew … evidently not much of a soccer crowd! 

With about 30 minutes left, the score was Slovenia 2 and U.S. 1, and the bartender decided to close and kicked everybody out.  We jumped in the car and raced to the after hours bar about 5 blocks away.  At 2:30 a.m., bad drunken karaoke was in full swing, but the match was on the television so we elbowed our way to a good view.  The U.S. tied it up (and had the winning goal wrongly disallowed), and Andy thwarted two different pick-pocket attempts … definitely time to head home.

A Leisurely Day in Yeppoon

Posted by: melissa

I had the rental car for another couple of hours so I decided to head into the nearby town to explore and grocery shop.  Yeppoon is a really small seaside town … not much to it, but not completely without charm either.  I walked up and down the main street, browsed through several little shops, and sat down for a leisurely lunch that was perfectly adequate.  All in all, quite enjoyable.  Next I hit the Coles, and since I had the car until 4:00 p.m., I bought a ton of groceries.  It’s a real treat to have a working refrigerator!

Rosslyn Bay, Queensland

Posted by: melissa

The last couple of days have been fairly quiet … lots of reading, cleaning, sleeping in, relaxing, etc.  Rosslyn Bay is pretty sleepy, and I’m diggin’ it.  Keppel Bay Marina is really great … nice people, calm water, reliable power, public transportation, cheap rental cars, clean facilities with good water pressure … we’re enjoying it.

Spectacle happily tied to the dock at the very nice Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay.

Spectacle happily tied to the dock at the very nice Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay.

The Rosslyn Bay resort is just down the road situated on the very picturesque Kemp Beach.  I’ve had the entire beach to myself several times this week.  The resort has a restaurant with pretty good wood-fired pizzas. 

Andy went to switch over the propane tanks and found a bigger problem than a mere empty tank.  It’s clear there a leaky hose/connection in or around the place where the tank connects to the boat.  Unfortunately, I just bought a ton of groceries, many of which are perishable and require stovetop preparation. 

We are thinking of getting a hotel room at the Rosslyn Bay Resort to watch the U.S. versus Algeria match.  Access to the kitchenette is another argument in favor of that otherwise frivolous plan.  I mean really, who gets a hotel room down the street from their house to watch television?  I just hate throwing food away … such a waste.  But we’ll watch the match, cook dinner, Tupperware some meals for later this week, boil the eggs, swim in the pool, etc.

But the best part of this marina is that the restaurant is fantastic!  The Waterline Café wins all kinds of restaurant awards, which, frankly, isn’t saying much here in Queensland, but at least it shows some effort and pride.  Between the culinary wasteland of Scarborough and the busted propane line rendering the stovetop useless, we really appreciate the Waterline Café!  Poached eggs and grilled toast for breakfast, chef’s special Panini for lunch, and braised short ribs for dinner … lovely!

Yesterday, we jumped on the ferry to Great Keppel Island which was a fun daytrip.  An easy 45-minute hike deposited us at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  We sat there all day completely by ourselves … a fantastic afternoon.

One of the many gorgeous and secluded beaches on Great Keppel Island.

One of the many gorgeous and secluded beaches on Great Keppel Island.