The Voyage


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

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Back from Hunter Valley

Posted by: melissa
Spectacle at the Dock in Newcastle

Spectacle at the Dock in Newcastle

We spent Sunday night at a nice and pretty famous inn called Peppers in Pokolbin, where we had a surprisingly good degustation menu for dinner … scallops, quail, and veal, all very nice.  We also enjoyed delicious dessert called “Night at the Movies” with savory popcorn-flavored sorbet, Coca-Cola jello, malted milk balls, sweet Sprite sorbet with pistachios, and a couple of other chocolate items with creative twists on candy treats.  Very yummy!  We then passed out watching an Australian 60 Minutes special on the American Amish. 

On Monday, we had breakfast, did some wine-tasting, and met three guys, all Ph.D. candidates in math, in the area after a convention in Sydney … one from South Africa, one from Colombia, and one from Switzerland.  All three were wickedly smart and super interesting.  We had a lovely late lunch together, and then Andy and I drove home to Newcastle.   

Back in Newcastle, we took advantage of having the car, drove around a little just sight-seeing in general, and ended up at the local brewery at Queen’s Wharf for some televised rugby league, beer, and burgers.

Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia

Posted by: melissa

Andy was pretty out of it from having the night watch, but I got up early, put on my running shoes, and set out to see the town.  The high winds predicted by the weather warning were in full force, but it was still warm and sunny. 

The entrance to the marina in Coffs Harbour is a little tight.

The entrance to the marina in Coffs Harbour is a little tight.

Originally called Korffs Harbour, Coffs Harbour was settled in the late 1860′s and the jetty was erected in 1892 for the logging industry.  Honestly, there’s just not that much to it … lots of retirees, families on long weekends, lesbians and owners of mountain bikes that cost more than a car.  I walked the main parts of town, browsed the shops, had a coffee while overlooking Coffs Creek … that’s about it.  I understand that during the summer, there are probably more outdoorsy things to do, but otherwise, there’s just not that much to it.  There’s also a zoo, botanical gardens, and other family-friendly activities, but we’re just not into stuff like that.  The small harbor is pretty nice, and I had the entire public jetty and the small beach all to myself.  I tried to sit and read, but that didn’t last very long since it was quite blustery.

Evidently, Coffs Harbour’s main attraction is a gigantic banana statue thing, but it’s too far to walk from the marina, so we didn’t go.  We probably should’ve, but I just couldn’t force myself to spend money on a taxi to go see a giant banana.  Plus, we all know how Andy feels about bananas!  

This evening, we went to the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club for TGIF Happy Hour – AUS$3.00 schooners and free munchies between 5:45 and 6:45.  It was actually pretty fun.  The telly was on, and the sports segment of the local news was running highlights of the Coffs Harbour lawn bowling club.  Is that local news, or what?  We then went to the main strip in town where there’s two Thai restaurants, two Italian restaurants, two seafood restaurants, and two Indian restaurants.  We made the mistake of going to the one Chinese restaurant which was pretty bad.  It was obviously a mistake to go to the restaurant lacking a local competitor in its genre.

So, Coffs Harbour is nothing special and the weather warning has expired.  We’ll probably head off tomorrow morning, although we need to check the tide tables and the depth at the channel entrance.

So Long Scarborough, Hello Mooloolaba Surf Club

Posted by: melissa

Finally shoving off from Scarborough was a wonderful feeling … even if we were only motor-sailing in light wind a couple of hours to nearby Mooloolaba (pronounced muh-LOO-luh-buh).  We grabbed our good buddy, Graham, and headed out with a case of Toohey’s New for the uneventful passage.  Graham is a born-and-raised Queenslander and frequent visitor of the Sunshine Coast, yet he has never seen that stretch from the water and was mightily impressed. 

On one of his famous Queensland driving tours, Graham has taken us to Mooloolaba twice already, so it was already old hat when we arrived.  We were also pretty hungry.  During the passage, I tried to light the stove to prepare our lunch and the propane tank is dry.  Grrr … if it’s not one thing, it’s twenty others — we just got the stupid refrigerator going!

Caloundra from the sea on the quick passage from Scarborough to Mooloolaba

Caloundra from the sea on the quick passage from Scarborough to Mooloolaba

We parked the boat in Mooloolaba Harbor in the mouth of the Mooloolah River which is well-sheltered in the lee of Point Cartwright.  Immediately we saw a familiar boat and sure enough, we were greeted by Cutty Wren, who we haven’t seen since Moorea (and Fatu Hiva and Cartagena before that).  We checked in with the marina, walked the beachside trail to town (complete with turkey vultures and magpies), hit the Mooloolaba Surf Club for some beers and shrimp cocktail and sat on the verandah watching the surf life-saving club train in their red swimsuits. 

With so many examples from popular culture like Baywatch and the Beach Boys, most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that the beach lifeguard culture was born in Australia around 1907 as a response to several drowning accidents at Sydney-area beaches.   Surf lifesaving clubs are a very popular tradition throughout Australia with some 305 clubs patrolling over 400 beaches with 24,968 members as of 2004.

A “Lifeguard” is a paid employee patrolling the beach.  A “Surf Lifesaver” is a volunteer who provides additional support during periods of high beach traffic (summer, unseasonably warm weekends, public holidays, etc.), organizes community programs such as swimming lessons, and sponsors festivals and competitions.

Established in 1922, the Mooloolaba Surf Club is one of the oldest surf and life-saving clubs in Australia.  It’s the epicenter for the town’s social calendar and even publishes an annual report.

Ooh Ah, Mooloolaba

Posted by: melissa

Although Noosa is my favorite Sunshine Coast destination, Mooloolaba is really nice as well.  To put it in Southern California terms, if Noosa is like a small Laguna Beach, Mooloolaba is like a small Huntington Beach.  The beach is absolutely amazing and the Esplanade is very charming.  We found a fantastic Indian food restaurant, although with AUS$9 Kingfishers, we racked up some pretty hefty tabs! 

The Beach at Mooloolaba from the Boardwalk

The Beach at Mooloolaba from the Boardwalk

With a population of about 10,000, Mooloolaba is 60 miles from Brisbane making it an easy beach getaway.  The word, Mooloolaba, is probably derived from the Aboriginal word “mulu” meaning snapper fish, or “mulla” meaning red-bellied black snake.

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.