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On June 10, 2004 we arrived back in Mooloolaba where Shear Madness is based during our trips home to the States. The time had come to say a fond farewell to Ron Carlson, our yachtmaster who has sailed with us the past three and a half years. Ron has decided to settle down on land with his new love, Sarah and we wish both of them all the best. Ron has provided us and an assortment of guests great sailing skills, wonderful friendship, and some outstanding culinery delights! He will be missed!
Our new crew member is Blake Ragghianti, from Pittsburgh, PA and he will arrive in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, there are plenty of projects for us to tackle. First is the washing machine, a cute little combination washer-dryer which is common in Europe, but no so well known back home. It no longer will pump the water out after a wash cycle so we suspect a blocked hose or a bad pump. Having a washer on a sailboat is a wonderful luxury, but like most luxuries onboard, it comes with a cost. It's a nightmare to get to it to service it. This unit is crammed very securely into a cabinet that requires several hours of disassembly just to get the washer out. Once it is out, we determine that the hoses are not blocked and that we need to find a repairman. Fortunately, Bosch, a German brand, has a strong market in Australia and we are able to find a qualified service center. They send a man to the boat who confirms that the pump is bad. He is back in two days with a new pump and the washer is repaired. Now it's just a simple matter of returning it to its cabinet and putting everything back together. This time it only takes two hours!
Not to bore you with too many details, but over the next couple weeks we do routine maintenance and work on things like winches, sail covers, toilets, pumps, and several minor leaks. We also have time to catch up with some friends and I am able to play golf several times with some fellow yachties. Though we're stuck in a marina, we still manage to have a good time. Mooloolaba is a lovely place, right on the coast with a beautiful beach. It's a holiday resort town and gets quite busy during the winter, much like Florida in the U.S. It's got a great footpath along the beach, some wonderful restaurants, and a great atmosphere. There is a beautiful yellow lab that lives on a boat two spaces down from us so we adopt him for the duration of our stay. He and I go for walks in the morning and he frequently stops by for hugs and an occasional treat of leftovers.
Blake arrives on June 20 and we pick him up in Brisbane. We're quite excited to have Blake aboard and look forward to helping him learn all about Shear Madness and the cruising life. Blake is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in music composition. He has been sailing his whole life, mostly on the Great Lakes. He immediately starts in on several projects, including a complete inventory of all the spare parts and equipment onboard, which we enter into our Vessel Management Software system.
We planned to take Shear Madness out for a test sail, to acquaint Blake with the boat and to check out all the systems. We also wanted to run some diagnostics on our backup autopilot system and also on our wind instruments, both of which have been having some problems. We had arranged for Stuart, a marine electronics expert, to accompany us on the test sail. But when he showed up and we turned our instruments on - nothing! No wind direction or wind speed information at all. After running a few tests, Stuart determined that the problem was with the transducer at the top of the mast, so up the mast he went. Not too hard with an electric winch! He removed the masthead unit and took it away for testing. Well, even though our test sail was delayed, there were still plenty of projects to work on.
Darin, a friend from the U.S. was set to show up in a couple days, so we kept our fingers crossed that we would have the instruments repaired before her arrival. In the meantime, I played a little more golf and we caught up with our friend Salvadore who had sailed with us down to Sydney last year. We also caught up with other yachtie friends we had met last year in Vanuatu.
As luck would have it, Stuart had the transducer ready to install the same day Darin was arriving so I headed off to Brisbane (an hour away by car) while Bradley and Blake stayed to help. Darin is an old high school friend of Bradley's who now lives in Denver. She has recently begun racing sailboats, mostly on lakes in Colorado. She's looking forward to the opportunity to do some real ocean sailing. After flying from Denver to LA to Sydney and on to Brisbane, Darin was feeling good, so we decided to stop at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin is the famous Crocodile Hunter) where we had a great time seeing lots of Australian animals - kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, koalas, dingos, Tasmania devlis, camels (there are wild camels throughout the outback in Australia, descended from escapess from early cross country expeditions), and of course crocodiles. There are also some new tiger cubs and some elephants (neither native to Australia). Then it's off to Mooloolaba where we hope the weather will allow us to depart for the Whitsunday Islands, 500 miles north.
The weather forecast convinced us to wait another day so on Saturday we ventured to the Eumundi markets, a huge outdoor art and craft fair combined with a farmer's market. It's the largest one we've been to and although a lot of the stuff is not high quality, there are some very nice things there. We had a good time and Blake continued searching for a didgeridoo. He's one of the few people we know who can actually play one! Though he saw several he liked, he can't get the price he wants and decided to keep looking. But we stocked up on plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and decided to depart early the next morning. We covered our standard safety briefing with Darin and secured everything in preparation for an early departure.