About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi

"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Back in Time.....crossing the Nullarbor

We left Esperance and continued east, heading for the vast expanse of emptiness otherwise known as the Nullarbor Plains.  The region encompasses over 200,000 sq. km. (77,000 sq. miles).  But like most "blank slate" desert type landscapes, the Nullarbor offered some fascinating bits, including a great deal of Australian history from the days when rugged characters did their best to carve a life in this inhospitable region of the country.

Bit of a squall building at Cape La Grande

But before hitting the Nullarbor, we headed over to Cape La Grande National Park on the coast.  Known for it's beaches, some of the best in Australia, as well as the friendly kangaroos, we had to check it out.  And it didn't disappoint!  Though the weather was a bit stormy at first, the beaches were indeed spectacular, and the roos, well, check 'em out.....

Park installs and maintains anchors for fishos to tie off while fishing on the rocks....the tag shows test records!

The sun finally appeared, and the beach became a roo side show.  These rascals obviously had been interacting with two legged beach goers for a long time.  And the mostly European crowd loved it!

These cheeky characters found a lunch, complete with tasty bananas, left unguarded by some unwary swimmers.  Left quite a few little round business cards to let the swimmers know who had been there!!!

After soaking up some rays, hiking, and camping in the park for a few days we headed off for the Nullarbor.  But first, a quick hike up Frenchman's Peak for terrific views of the area.

View from the top, looking off toward Lucky Bay.

Saw several cool lizards on the hike:

Shared the boardwalk near the car park with this full grown monitor lizard.

Took a tough 4wd road, the Parmango Track, to reach the Nullarbor.  Rutted and corrugated, the remote track passed several old homesteads.

Went through this whacky farm gate which somehow had become a shrine of overland explorers over the years...lots of underwear, motorcycle parts, and other bits and bobs.

Crossing the Nullarbor (Null=no, arbor=tree.......you got it, "no trees") has always been a hurdle facing travelers in traversing the southern part of Australia.  The old Eyre highway used to be a tough ribbon of dirt, though the newer version is well paved.  Food and fuel are limited to "roadhouses", sort of pub/gas station/motels that appear on the horizon every few hundred clicks on the odometer.  On first inspection, there's just not much else.

Break in the karst bedrock yields access to a major cave system.
But the geology of the region is quite amazing.  Made up of a thin crust of limestone "karst" overlying the soil (it's the largest such single exposure of limestone bedrock in the world) there are cave systems below the surface which go on for several kilometers.  One cave, known as "The Old Homestead Cave", is made up of 34 km of tunnels and chambers on four levels.  We had our headlamps out, and would have loved to explore, but the entry was locked to those without a permit, requiring proper equipment!!!

Remains of the old telegraph station at Eucla, being reclaimed by the dunes.

One quirky roadside attraction in the Nullarbor is the Skylab Museum at the Belladonia Roadhouse.  Back in 1979, the Skylab space station crashed into earth here.  The shire (like a county) sent the US a $400 bill for littering.  Jimmy Carter sent a letter of apology, which is on display in the museum, along with lots of pieces of the debris.  The word is, though, that the fine was never paid!!!

We got off the main, paved road several times to drive on the old dirt highway.  Great sense of history as we found a few old homesteads.  It really gave a feel for the isolation and harshness of life out here in the Nullarbor, which John Edward Eyre, the first European to cross it, called it "the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams"!!!

Main house of Koonalda Homestead. 

Shearer's cabin

Graveyard of old cars, whose Nullarbor journey came up a bit short here.

Toward the end of the Nullarbor crossing we crossed back into South Australia from Western Australia, where we've spent the past several months.  As we had some time before our scheduled ferry crossing to Tasmania, we decided to hit a couple of great national parks.

Gawler's "Organ Pipes", columnar basalt formations.
First up was the Gawler Ranges.  Somewhat remote, and completely empty at this time of year due to the summer heat, the park is a 4wd heaven, with most of the park requiring a 4x4 to really explore.  We literally had the entire park to ourselves, and went from campground to campground without seeing another person!!!  Eerie, and beautiful!!!

Black-shouldered kite watches over her nest of fledglings.

We could see two babies in the nest, there may have been others.

The booming town of Quorn, gateway to the Flinders Ranges National Park.

The Flinders Ranges was a terrific park.  Like Gawler, it was mostly deserted due to the heat.....and it was H-O-T.  Temps were hitting 43C (110F) in the heat of the day.  One ranger told us that if we wanted to hike, we needed to hit the trail really early, "before the sun boils the piss outta ya!!"  He had that right!  We hit the trail by about 6:30 for a climb to a beautiful lookout.  Really great views rewarded us for the effort....."Valle la pena" as our Spanish speaking friends would say....."worth it"!

Adding a rock to the summit cairn

A dramatic lightning storm hit us one evening.  Kind of a PITA when you're sleeping in a tent, but it did provide some fantastic clouds!

Adam got a bad ankle sprain on one of our Flinders hikes.....x-rays at a local hospital confirmed it was not broken, but looking at the images, the doc remarked, "wow, this foot has had a hard life"!!!!   Well, yeah, I guess!!!  Hopefully the ankle heals quickly.

We finally arrived in Melbourne, where we started this Australian odyssey.  (7 months on the road so far).  We were welcomed by our good cruising mates Don and Deb (s/v 'Buena Vista'), and took the train downtown for Australia Day celebrations.  Good fun, with a multi-cultural parade highlighting the city's ethnic diversity.

Also took in a fantastic David Hockney exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria, displaying over 700 works from the last decade.  The artist has long been a favorite of Adam's, and his current work, drawn primarily on the iPad and iPhone, showed this creative master still at the top of his game at 79, embracing the new digital media as few others have.

iPad drawings taken to a new level!!!

Part of a beautiful series in Yosemite National Park

Series of portraits of family and friends

Full room display, "Blue Benches".

Now on the ferry to Tasmania.  Will rendevous with Don and Deb who have rented a camper van, and head out in search of Tasmanian devils.....adventures await!!!

Melbourne recedes in our wake as we head south to Tassie.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Western Australia Catchup, Part 2

After storing Tojo at Barry's place (a friend of friends Don and Deb) outside of Perth, we flew to New Zealand for a few weeks.  NZ allows visiting yachts 2 years in country before they have to be "imported", paying duty and fees (north of $30K in our case).  Bravo's time was expiring in November.  (Hard to believe it had been 2 years since the last time we sailed into NZ waters!)  Our plan was to splash Bravo back in the water, carry out sea trials, and get her ready for the sail across the Tasman Sea to Australia.  It's a tough bit of water in the best of circumstances.  We had been watching the weather for several weeks, and saw an endless series of fronts heading up the Tasman from the southern ocean, about one every 2 or 3 days.  As the trip is about 8-10 days, it was pretty easy math.....getting a good window would not be easy.  An email to weather router Bob McDavitt confirmed...."this is the worst time of year to make this passage.....if you could wait until March or April you'd be much better off".

Given that, plus the fact that Cindi's wrist x-rays still showed some "non union" of the bone graft (though it is MUCH better), we successfully appealed to NZ customs for a 6 month extension.  We now have until mid May to get Bravo out of NZ.  So the plan is to return to NZ in March to prepare to sail to Oz.

From NZ we flew to Seattle for a whirlwind quick Thanksgiving visit with friends, and the usual litany of doc and dentist checkups.  Ughhhhh.....  It was a quick trip indeed, and we missed catching up with several mates and family members.....for that we apologize.....will do better next trip.  But Thanksgiving up at the Hawkens annual 4 day bash was great as ever

Kevin had us covered for (in??) beer, laying in a good supply of stout, cider, pilsener and ale

Cindi and Hazel enjoy some quiet time

Fred mashes a mean spud!!!

Grey and Carolyn.....nice.....

Good times indeed!

After Seattle (and a quick trip for Cindi to an ASHP conference in Las Vegas), we came back to Perth to resume Tojo travel.  Perth seems a thriving modern city, one of the most remote large cities in the world.  

Great wineries in the area (Swan Valley and Margaret River) gave us plenty of chances to refill Tojo's empty shiraz tank!

Tojo looks right at home in the vineyard, don't you think???  Notice how folks tend to give us a pretty wide berth!!!

The old shipwreck museum in Fremantle was a great visit!  All sorts of info and displays on many of the ships which met their end on the cliffs of Western Australia, as they headed up to the spice trade in Indonesia.

The Australians are world leaders in reconstructing old wrecks, including saving both metal and wood from from further decay.  Amazing processes taking many years to stabilize each part.

Preserved, reconstructed stern of the Batavia wreck

The spring wildflowers in Western Australia were fantastic, with many species found nowhere else.  Folks come from all over the world for wildflower tours in the area.

After all of this tourist sightseeing, we were itching to head back bush again.  The WA coast has so many little National Parks and spots with beach access for 4 wheel drive rigs.  You can hardly see them all in one trip, but we did find our share!  Here are some random shots as we made our way south down the coast.  (we haven't been bogged (stuck) yet, but came close a few times!!!  all part of the fun!!!)

There's got to be a story involving a kayak here!!!

Adjusting tire pressure for rocks and sand is an ongoing task

Cape Leeuwin, the most southwesterly point of Australian mainland, where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean

Even on nice days, the power in these southern ocean swells is fantastic!

These little blue-tongued skinks are common, sunning themselves in the road

It's mostly a bluff for the little guy, but it does get our attention!!!

This swimming hole, near Drafty's Camp on the Warren River, did not suck, at all

Some of WA's national parks have some amazing limestone caves open for exploration.  This one is Jewel Cave, a beaut!

Flies in Australia are, well, FLIES!!!  And there can be lots of them!!!

New addition for Tojo:  we found this mesh "fly box" that fit our awning.....SWEET AS!!!

In one of the parks we did a beautiful drive (the Heartbreak Trail!!!) through a region of magnificent old growth karri forest.  Karri, a specie of euclyptus, is the tallest hardwood tree in the world, reaching over 80m tall.  In the 1930's and 40's, eight of the tallest trees in this region were selected as lookouts, to allow rangers to spot forest fires.  Three still exist, and are open to the public to climb!!!  Quite amazing, really, as these trees are in the middle of the forest, with no one around.  I guess they figure, if you fall from that height, there's not much anyone can do to help you out!!!  We had to give it a go, and found the tallest one, the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, over 75m high to the top platform.  The pegs are lengths of steel rebar driven into the tree, and they spiral around to the upper reaches, where they change to a series of ladders climbing from platform to platform.

What could possibly go wrong???

We really liked the historic town of Albany.  Nice downtown area, surrounded by great beaches.  Albany has a very well protected harbor, and was the place where the New Zealand and Aussie troops assembled to load aboard troop transport ships, headed for battle in WW 1.  The most well known battle, of course, was fought at Gallipoli, commemorated by Anzac Day.

The National Anzac Center Memorial Museum has recently been built in Albany.  It's a beautiful, understated piece of modern architecture, designed by award winning architect Peter Hunt.  Overlooking the bay from where the ships departed for the war, the place and its exhibits are indeed a moving tribute to the soldiers from here and New Zealand who fought in "the Great War".

View of the King George harbor in Albany.  Must have been quite a sight as the 38 ship convoy departed in 1914.

There are plenty of great hikes here in SW Australia.  On New Years Eve we were in the Porongurup National Park.  Did a fun hike up Nancy's Peak, Hayward Peak, and a scramble up Devils Slide.  The day was misty and cold, but it was a good to get out before New Years Eve festivities at the caravan park.

Cindi nears the top of Devils Slide

The next day we moved to the Stirling Range.  This park includes the highest points in Western Australia.  The tallest peak, Bluff Knoll, had a good trail up one side, and more than 200 rock climbing routes on the other.  We had no gear, so opted for the trail.  The views from the top didn't disappoint!!!

Bluff Knoll from a distance

Tojo parked in the car park below

Gotta love a trail crew with a sense of humor!!!  (stakes found w/ other trail maintenance paraphernalia)  

The beaches of south Western Australia are world famous, and we see the reason why.  For those with a 4 wheel drive rig, willing to let the tires down a bit, the beaches are truly pristine, and go on for miles and miles.  Fantastic!

Well, we're now in Esperance, and have finally caught up on the blog!!!  We're getting prepared for the trip across the Nullarbor Plain, a vast, flat, desert like area running along the Great Australian Bight coast.  New tires for Tojo, refill the shiraz tank, add about 10 days of food, and we should be good to go.  The next big adventure begins tomorrow!!!