Saturday, August 27, 2011

In the land of Koalas and Kangaroos

We made it to the land of koalas and kangaroos. Though we didn't see these adorable creatures in the wild, I wanted to share some photos we took at our venture to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

Say hello to this mom and her joey who is gathered together with her mob. When the joey is born, he's tiny, pink and hairless and only about one inch long. Somehow the babies manage to crawl into their momma's pouch and stay there for as long as fourteen months.

Kangaroos and koalas are marsupials; they have pouches for their babies to hang in. The kangaroos is a macropod, and you can see why they're in the big feet family. We watched them run, by hopping on their hind legs and steering with their tails.

They look a little like a deer, but they're super sociable like dogs and like to be petted and fed.

Maya is petting one of the red kangaroos, the largest marsupial in the world.

We also saw the cute koalas, who sleep 75 percent of their day, just like sloths. The word "koala" is aboriginal for "no drink" and that's because they get their water from eucalyptus trees, which contain 50 percent water.

Koalas are endangered here in Australia and it's predicted that in the next 20 to 30 years, they may only survive in the protected parks. Sadly, about 4000 koalas are killed each year from cars, dogs and other predators.

A special treat was cuddling with the koala who seemed perfectly happy to wrap his arms around our neck.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hot Oil Treatment

August 4th. We really should have been sailing to Australia, as we had a perfect weather window. But we wanted to spend some time exploring New Caledonia and I didn't want to be at sea on my birthday because I thought it was bad luck. The last time we were at sea on my birthday was in 1995 when Ruth and I sailed our old boat, Capella, to Cartagena, Columbia and our mast fell down due to rigging failure. We managed to limp into Cartagena without a mast. The boat was a mess, covered in hydraulic oil. Well, somehow fate had oil wrapped as a birthday present this year as well.

For my birthday we were in a small island, Ilot Maitre, just a few miles from Noumea, New Caledonia. The wind was strong ideal for a morning kiteboarding session. When I launched my kite at 8 in the morning, there were only two of us, by the afternoon more than 30 kiters cruised on the water. Well most of these French kiters weren't early risers. But they missed out, because I had the opportunity of kiting with a pair of dugongs. Dugongs are sea cows and look like a cross between ... a cow and a seal.

I tried to go slowly and quietly to get near them, but they were a bit shy and scared of my board. I kited near them for 5-10 minutes in shallow water...probably waist deep. They eventually swam off the edge of the reef into deeper water where I lost sight of them. Just before they dove into the deep the bigger one raised his head out of the water with his big long nose and gave me a long hard stare...was he curious, angry or did I interrupt a romantic moment? Maybe he was trying to warn me about the cruel fate in my near future.

The following day, we prepared to leave. We had just a few errands: buy French baguettes, cheese, TimTams (Kai's favorite cookies) and other groceries, check out of the country, and change the oil. Well as usual chores always take longer than you expect. By the time we arrived at the Capitaneria for check out it was 11:15am. The secretary said he was closed from 11am - 3pm for lunch (those French know how to live). But because we wanted to leave, she would do us a favor and see if the Port Captain would interrupt his lunch including his second bottle of wine and give us the formal stamp. The aged Captain shared a few sailing stories, gave us our clearance and returned to open his 3rd bottle.

So finally we returned to Kamaya for the last chore of changing the oil. I've always struggled at changing the oil without making a mess. The problem on a boat is, unlike a car, you can't just open the plug at the bottom and let it drain, because it will all end up in the bilge. So you pump it out the dipstick. I'm usually able to do this without too much mess, but then the oil filter always seems to drip a bit before I get it off. I've experimented with several variations and I thought I'd found the best one. This one involved a little help from Ruthy, which was the fatal flaw. She hadn't given me a birthday present yet and perhaps her mind was thinking about hot oil treatments and massages. Anyway, while I'm leaning into the engine compartment holding the oil pan and guiding the pump hose, she's carefully pumping the oil into a nearly full gallon container. Somewhow, well she's not really sure what happened, but suddenly the container leaped out and hot oil flew right onto my head. My screams of terror awoke the kids who snapped a few photos, but I don't think they really show my big mess and horror. As Maya said, "This might be grounds for divorce."

Well, it's probably very good for my dry skin, but I definitely won't be doing this again in a hurry. Maybe next year I'll get a massage treatment to go along with the hot oil for my birthday. Ruth promised to stay away from the engine, and now with a little distance, we can all laugh at my birthday present. So glad it wasn't as bad as my birthday in 1995 when we lost the mast. Cheers, Tim, the Tin Man with an oil overdose.

Looking Back

It took me more than seven years to turn our blog into a hard covered bound book. At first, I was leery of wrapping up our adventure because...