Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Nov. 5,2009 -Scarborough, Queensland, Australia

In Brisbane
Nearing Noumea,New Caledonia

We are safely tied up at the dock in Australia. We’d love to be driving in the outback but we are at a marina getting the boat ready for storage. We fly to Maine November 11, then to Seattle on November 18. We can’t wait to see family and friends. Hear about what has happened in your lives. Share our stories. Find out what’s new and learn what has disappeared during the Great Recession. Just imagine having been on a desert island for a year. Best way to reach us is at rasamanis@gmail.com.
Three weeks, three countries. Very fast for us! From Vanuatu we sailed for two days to Noumea, New Caledonia, where we spent four days. “New Cal” is a French Overseas Territory (as close to a colony as you can get in the world today.). For the French it is as far away as you can get from home and still speak French. Nickel mining is the big industry. We spent a good share of our time there undergoing bureaucratic formalities and replacing the food the quarantine officials confiscated. But it was worth the fun we had meeting up with lots of cruising friends at the dock and a nice rest from passage making.
Noumea was the headquarters for the US Command in the South Pacific during WWII and there is a monument to that right across from the downtown McDonald’s. In the Western South Pacific you get a bit of a feel for America’s commitment in the Pacific theater. Vanuatu was the main staging area for the Battles of the Coral Sea and Guadalcanal. One area – where James Michener was stationed and wrote parts of Tales of the South Pacific – housed 100,000 troops, 100 Navy ships, six airfields, 54 cinemas, and an immense Navy yard including the largest drydock in the world at that time.
We looked for tours, museums, photos, books – any signs of this massive effort. Of course, this was Vanuatu so there was wasn’t much for a tourist to see. One airfield is now an airport, the rest are jungle. There are remains of old bridges on the sides of mangrove swamps, concrete roads on an almost empty island, bulkheads along the channel, a few Quonset huts. Underwater there is the wreck of a large US transport ship that was sunk by a friendly mine and a spot where the Americans dumped everything surplus from tanks to cases of Coca-Cola at the end of the war.
The passage to Brisbane was another 5 days. The trip was uneventful with the full range of normal sailing conditions, from no wind to 25 knots on the nose as we made landfall. The most interesting part was the last night - seven hours in the very busy, very shallow shipping channels of Brisbane’s harbor, giving all our new electronics as well as the trusty old VHF radio the workout of the season.
Brisbane weather has been splendid – much more comfortable than the humid midsummer heat we experienced here in January. The marina is about 20 miles from downtown in a very quiet seaside suburb.

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