Living Large in Brisbane

First, of course I must make the obligatory apology for the lack of posts of any sort since arriving in Australia. After an initial flurry of touristy activity, we settled into a comfortably mundane routine, which you most assuredly so not want me blogging about in detail.

The trip here was pretty uneventful and easy, and the clearing in process with Customs and Immigration was remarkably easy. We’d feared a long bureaucratic process, but the officials were waiting for us on the dock and it was a breeze. We expected a hassle based on accounts we’d read, but the Border Security people were polite, professional and prepared and it was an easy process.


The view from the Companionway. We are IN the city.

Yeah, we’ve been parked in Brisbane for close to three months. It’s easy to do.

The City Council has a number of pile moorings available in the Central Business District, near the City Botanic Gardens. They are available on a first come, first serve basis, and they are quite reasonable at $70 AUD weekly. With the mooring comes access to showers, heads and a laundry facility. And most important, a waterfront spot to enjoy a thriving metropolitan experience.

Simply put…it’s too darn comfortable here. There are grocery stores in an easy walk, dozens of restaurants, a broad arrange of every sort of store you might need, parks, walking paths, public transportation. Domino’s delivers to the dinghy dock for Pete’s sack. You can not get more seductive than that after traipsing across the remote areas.

But than needs to come to an end. Will is coming back to the boat in just over a week, and we’ve got more family coming to visit during the holidays and they’re all flying into Sydney. So today is our last day in Brisbane; tomorrow we get up early in the morning and leave on the ebbing tide.

Playing Tourist

We arrived in Brisbane all in a flutter because it was our last bit of time with Will before he returned to Southampton, England for school. With him heading half a world a way (literally…it’s like twelve time zones) we wanted to make the most of our time with him here in “Brisvegas” as it is often referred to by the Australians.

In the week or so he had to see it, we scrambled to take in the Maritime Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, rides on the high-speed ferries, and repeated multiple visits to Will’s newest favorite burger joint.

How can you not love these things?

Lone Pine

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was one of several firsts for us. It was our first exposure to a lot of Australian wildlife up close, and our first experience on the Brisbane buses.

We headed to Lone Pine for Kathy’s birthday, where we spent the day looking at Kangaroos, Wallabies, Koalas, Wombats, Platypuses, Tasmanian Devils, Goanas, Emus, Echidnas, Flying Foxes, and a host of other Australian snakes, birds and fauna. They literally have hundreds of Koalas at this lovely park, and has in unusual scent from all the eucalyptus the small bears hang about in while eating and sleeping most of the day away.

We all thought that the overbearing cuteness of the Koala was something that was done to death, and they really couldn’t be so huggable in real life. We were wrong. The zoo keepers are the sanctuary handle them constantly, and they pick them up and move them around from tree to tree. The Koalas sit there, grabbing whatever you stick them on just like those goofy little Koala clips we all had. They really do that, you can just pull one of one tree and stick it on another. We sent the birthday girl in for a picture holding one, so Kathy and Danielle got to pet one up close.

We were surprised by a few things we saw. For example, all of us had always envisioned a duck-billed platypus as a fairly large creature, maybe the size of a beaver. They aren’t though, they are quite small. Closer in size to a ferret than a beaver. They are also wildly impractical creatures than swim with a charming wobble and a ridiculous side to side sweeping motion of their heads as they look for food on the bottom.

Tasmanian devils on the other hand were larger than expected, and considerably more charming. In a zoo setting they were pretty laid back. Apparently in the wild their calls and noises belie their relatively benign and somewhat huggable appearance.

Queensland Maritime Museum

With a Naval Architect in training in the family, and us a bunch of sailors that live on a boat, we rarely miss a Maritime Museum. Though the information in some of the displays is often repeated between them (yes, we know what a Fresnal lens by now and how to pronounce it since they all seem to talk about lighthouses!), they still have a lot of interesting information, and of course boats.

The interest in boats in our family runs from Will, who can easily arrive at a maritime museum at opening and will need to be forcibly removed and fed to avoid collapse or being locked in, to Danielle (“Another Maritime Museum? Seriously guys?”). Somewhere in between like Kathy and I. But these museums have tons of information not only about boats and shipping, but generally the growth and development of the local area as it relates to shipping, maritime commerce, shipbuilding, piracy, and so on.

But a lot of it is the boats, and there were some cool ones at this museum. Will could have stayed longer if we all weren’t so hungry!

Public Transportation

Coming up the Brisbane  River on Evenstar, one is almost immediately struck by the ferries. With luck, this is a figurative strike and not a literal once, since dozens of ferries ply the river. Since the city is split in half by the river than snakes through town, the ferries are an extension of Translink, the public transit systems, and not a system of boats on their own. They range from the somewhat portly “Cityhopper” free ferries, to the sleek and fast “City Cats” that move in excess of twenty-five knots.

On first seeing a City Cat, Will immediately wanted to ride one. Because, well, Yacht Designer. As it turned out, riding one is no more challenging and expensive than taking a bus!

Meeting Friends

For years I’ve been a participant in an online sailing community. In that time I’ve made many friends around the world. One of the highlights of coming to Australia is finally meeting some of them! It’s really nice to finally get to shake hands with a guy you’ve known through correspondence for almost fifteen years, or be invited to the home of someone you’ve had many pleasant conversations with out there on the internet.

While keeping privacy, I’ll say that meeting some of these folks has been the brightest of visiting Brisbane. One thing I’m looking forward to in Sydney is meeting even more of my Oz compadres.

Taking Care of Business

Brisbane is the largest city we’ve been to on the boat since Panama City in 2013/2014. Auckland is a good-sized city, but it’s smaller than Brisbane, and we never parked the boat there.

Being in the city gives us a chance to get some stuff done. There are chandleries one can take a bus to. Haircuts and shopping, shipping packages, getting things fixed. We’ve been away for a long time from someplace where things were relatively easy to come by and we’ve been trying to catch up. So it’s been new cell phones, new clothes, a grill for the boat, and some repairs when we’ve found parts. There’s always a lot more to do, but we’ve spent a lot of time playing catch up.

Mundane Life

Probably the largest intrusion in to my ongoing blogging is the mundane. We’re parked in a place with great internet, Will’s off to college, and we’re just…living day to day life. Kathy and Danielle are doing school every day. I’m been writing and pitching a book, trying to find an agent. We get water, we shop, we cook, we clean. We Skype with Will and other family. We do repairs, like patching a leaky dinghy or fixing an outboard that keeps stalling.

This is not the stuff of fantastic blogs. It’s not the stuff of interesting blogs.

Except maybe the water. That is an aspect of liveaboard life most people don’t appreciate.

Tied to a dock, one usually has a tap right there in the slip. Topping up the tanks is a no-brainer. We don’t stay at a lot of docks, and we’re on a mooring now. So there’s no water tap. Nor is there a water/fuel dock within miles of this location where we could slip the mooring, motor over, and take on 250ish gallons of water; enough to hold us for a couple of weeks. When we’re not at anchor we usually run the water maker. But the Brisbane river is to…chunky. I tried, the filter clogged in about five minutes.

So we get water the time-honored way boats have gotten water since the first time a boat sailed out of sight of its home port. We schlep it, manually.

At least we’re not moving it in wooden barrels from an unexplored stream on islands with hostile natives.

Instead, there is a spigot on the other side of the river that can be reached at high tide. Most of the boats here fill up from this tap, though the longer term residents are more efficient than we are and have more tanks and cans. We grab our two water Jerry jugs (5 Gallons/20 Liters) and our two collapsible camping tanks (~15L each). As the tide rises, we zoom across the river in the dinghy and duck under the section of the river walk were the tap is, about a quarter-mile from the boat.  There is a hose on it (which we repaired once) and we quickly fill out tanks. We take our roughly seventeen gallons of water and head back to the boat, where we dump it into the main tanks. Lather, rinse, repeat three or four times every couple of days. Shower on land, and don’t waste too much water washing the dishes!

Exciting, eh?

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