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In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

15 July, 2009

Around Australia

By the time Trevor had dismantled, repainted and re-mantled the forepeak and saloon, he was understandably ready for a break. ‛I think we should go and drive around Australia before it gets too hot,’ he suggested. What a splendid idea! We'd been planning to do this for years. I’d been saving up since Panama – and had started to doubt it would ever happen. Australia is an enormous country and although much of its coastline is worth visiting, the real Australia is the interior. Sure, most of its cities are along its shores, but they are not what Oz is about. Our preparations didn’t take very long. We bought a cheap four-person tent, some interlocking, closed-cell foam mats to use as a ‛footprint’, several large plastic boxes for clothes, food and cooking equipment, dug out our propane cooker we use when tramping, sleeping bags, etc and loaded up the car. We went by way of Beelbi Creek, where Brendan and Caroline live, to pick up some things we had temporarily stowed there and Caroline persuaded me to leave behind our sleeping mats in favour of real Oz swags. One of these belonged to Trevor, anyway, and he looked at it with such nostalgic affection, that I felt that I’d better take her advice and do the job properly. For those who have never come across a real swag, they are an arrangement that make a lot of sense in that dry country. Their basis is a piece of proofed canvas a little over twice the width of a sleeping bag. On the bottom are sewn a couple of pockets at each end and these hold the closed-cell foam mattress in place. You can then tuck a couple of sheets and a blanket or two round the mattress – or put a sleeping bag on it – and put your pillow in place. Around the bottom and up one side of the mattress is sewn a zip and this fastens the whole thing up into a sort of super sleeping bag, but with an extension on top, which can be put over your head to keep off the dew or – on rare occasions – the rain. In the morning, you climb out, zip up the whole thing, roll it up and secure it with straps sewn onto the outside. The canvas keeps it clean, you can sit on it, but when you are ready turn in, you simply undo the straps and instantly you have your bed, ready to use. In dry conditions this effectively obviates the need for a tent, but we usually used at least the ‛inside’ of ours, because the floor enabled us to put our clothes down without their getting dusty and kept out unwanted visitors such as snakes. The screen kept out biting insects, of which Australia has a large and varied population. The swag also provides a comfortable seat on which to sit while cooking and eating. Caroline – as usual – had given sound advice.

Travelling around Oz in GEG was often like cruising in Iron Bark. GEG was not into speed, but would doggedly continue when many a more flash and expensive vehicle would have given up the ghost. She had no luxuries, but was essentially comfortable. She was strongly built and simple (apart from her electronic fuel ignition, about which more later). She was neither new nor fashionable, and throughout the whole 20,000 km trip, we would meet people who said, ‛You’re surely not driving around Australia in that?’. (We didn't have extra-wheels, or extra-wide tyres. Nor did we have a snorkel, roof rack or any other of the accoutrements that real four-wheel drive vehicles had. Even the spotlights fell off after the first bit of real dirt road!) However, after she had towed her third vehicle in half an hour, out of a veritable sandpit, one of the rescuees stated, ‛Now that’s a real car,’

and indeed, she seemed to required little more than petrol and the occasional top-up of oil and water. Cheap and reliable – like the ideal cruising boat. ‛Driving off the bitumen’ also resembles sea cruising. You give passing vehicles a friendly wave. You start fretting about where to spend the night a couple of hours before sundown and occasionally end up in less than ideal surroundings – gravel pits in this way of life –

rolly anchorages in the other. You try to avoid expensive marinas, a.k.a caravan parks, and seek out a free and secluded berth at night. Time was, when cruising in Scotland, that you could go into an hotel and request a shower: while land cruising in Oz, we did this at roadhouses, and often the hot shower was free or paid for by a ‛gold coin’ donation ($1 or $2) to the Flying Doctor. Believe me – hot and dusty needs a good shower as much as cold and salty. When roadhouses didn't oblige - or after a particularly dusty day, we did as we do aboard and used a ‛Sunshower’ to sluice ourselves off.

And like real cruising, we had to provision for several days without refrigeration,

hunt out laundrettes, watch our water consumption and look out for weather – some of the dirt roads that we travelled would be completely impassable after only a few mm of rain.

Of course, there were a lot of differences, too. It's an incredibly expensive way to travel – we spent more on fuel in 8 weeks than we would spend in 8 years, sailing, although, to be fair, we were travelling between the end of June and the end of September 2008, when the cost of petrol was at and all time high! We covered vast distances at great speed, so that while we saw a lot of the country, it was more like a series of snapshots than a detailed appreciation. On the other hand, if we felt tired of driving, we could stop – we didn’t have to wait until we found a safe haven to drop the hook. Overall, it was a wonderful thing to do once, but unlike cruising under sail, there was not much of a sense of achievement. It was partly for this reason, that driving on the dirt roads is so satisfying – at least there is some challenge to it. The most mundane day sail is positively exacting compared with driving along a well-made, hard-top road – especially in Oz where there is so little traffic. We left on 22nd June and set of NW into the heart of Queensland. Away from the coastline and along the Divide, we encountered well-wooded country and rolling scenery, but soon we were into a much flatter landscape. Horizons are often a long way off in Oz; roads run on to vanishing point,

and I found it difficult to believe that what looked like desert to me, was in fact cattle country – as Trevor described it: ‛a rabbit would take a cut lunch to cross one of these paddocks’.

The real desert was covered in vegetation – scrub that can tolerate minuscule rainfall and fierce, unremitting sunshine.

It was also difficult to come to terms with the sheer size of the place – after driving for a week, averaging about 420 km a day, we were still in Queensland! In the farming areas, the roads went through small towns – often little more than what would be regarded as a hamlet in England – that served a community that covered many square kilometres. We bought Trevor a new hat in Barcaldine. In sunny weather – the norm in this country – he nearly always wears a broad-brimmed hat, and as an Aussie he is a connoisseur. I was told that it was insufficient merely to have a broad brim, the hat must not only be made of felt, but the felt must be produced from rabbit fur. At one time there were many manufacturers of such hats, but now it was difficult to find one in the lower price range. His old hat had unaccountably shrunk and become uncomfortable, so eventually Trevor bit the bullet and bought himself a very flash hat made by Akubra. This one had a final flourish – a small black opal set into the hat band. Trevor looked very handsome in it, but was initially embarrassed to wear it. But it soon became impregnated with red dust and began to look lived in!

These small towns often had English names that conjured up in my mind a completely different image,such as Ilfracombe – a quaint little place,whose main claim to fame was ‛a mile of old vehicles’, which lined its only street. A far cry from the seaside town of stone buildings in faraway Devon.

The drive across the central deserts along deserted and dusty roads was incredible. We saw perhaps a dozen vehicles in a day. Outside Boulia, a crude sign announced ‛Next Fuel 460 kms’.

In the ‛dusty Diamantina’, ’roos bounded along beside us, then, with suicidal tendencies suddenly crossed the road.

Huge road trains swamped us in clouds of dust.

For 8,000 kms there were empty creek beds and no running water. Often the bush was burning, which I found frightening and disturbing, in spite of rationalising the necessity for such an event, in this particular environment. The Australian vegetation has evolved in such a way that regular burnings are a necessity: a number of plant seeds will not germinate until they have been through a fire, and the fires clear out dead trees and plants, which enables new growth. But my imagination was tortured by the thought of the slow-moving animals entrapped in the flames, and the sight of the scorched land was distressing to a mind that associates greenness with health.

For three days we drove along the Donahue-Plenty Highway – the main road from central Queensland to Alice Springs. In many places we had to dodge
from one side to the other to avoid potholes, frequently filled with ‛bull dust’,
a trap for the unwary, because the holes could be half a metre deep, but the soft dust made them appear innocently smooth. It was a strange experience to be barrelling along on the wrong side of the road for several km at a time, seeking out the better going.

Alice was a sad town, filled with unhappy-looking, Aborigines,too many of whom were waiting for the grog shops to open. I saw one elderly man, very distressed about the loss of his wallet, being treated with rudeness and contempt in the shops that he went into, enquiring if anyone had found it. After he left one establishment, I heard a woman remark, ‛It’s no use him asking us. You can be sure one of his friends stole it.’ He was a quiet and dignified man. I wondered how she could be so certain.

Alice has a horrifyingly high rate of crime and is on the ‛not recommended’ list for tourists in many countries. That the Aboriginal people are in a sorry state would be a masterpiece of understatement, but no-one seems to know how to give them back their sense of purpose. You can hardly blame them for preferring to eat out of tins rather than to spend days searching for food that is barely sufficient to keep body and soul together, but like most people, they need some purpose in life. There is a confusing double-think at all levels: ‛No-one is asking them to become black white fellas’ is something I heard frequently, and yet the same people would say, ‛We need more and better jobs for Aboriginal people.’ And yet surely working at a job from 9 to 5, five days a week is exactly what white fellas do and not at all what black fellas did. It’s not lack of money, that’s the problem, it’s that life has no meaning for many of them. And problems of the spirit take a lot more fixing than problems of the bank balance.

White Australians, with their belief in ‛ a fair go’ are confused and embarrassed by the situation, but I also found a surprising proportion very racist. I can understand that the word ‛Aboriginal’ is a mouthful and I enjoy the Aussie way of shortening words for convenience, but even so, I could never hear people say ‛Abo’,without wincing. No doubt one could say ‛nigger’ without meaning to be pejorative, but it’s hardly respectful.

There are two reasons for going to Alice: it is the centre of this vast country,
and it’s the gateway to the famous Ayers Rock, or Uluru as it is now more commonly known. Rising out of apparently limitless spinifex plains, it is a startling sight – a huge, red monolith in the middle of nowhere.

Trevor tells me that its sacredness to the Aborigines is somewhat moot, because the people who originally lived round here moved on or died out many years ago. However, anyone can see why they might take offence at the
constant stream of tourists, hauling their unfit and overweight bodies
up the side of Uluru, by a rope, held in place with large stanchions hammered into the rock itself. It was not a pretty sight and we didn’t join in, but contented ourselves with viewing it from the roadside and driving on. It dominated the landscape for several hours until the scrub blocked it from sight.

One of the things that I had not expected in Australia, was the vast number of trees that cover so much of the country. While there were many scrubby little bushes growing no more than waist high, much of the landscape was covered in trees that were far too tall to see over, and in many places positively grand in their appearance.

After Uluru, we were on the Central Highway, which in the Northern
Territory was little more than a rough track. While no part of it actually required us to use four-wheel drive, a less robust vehicle would have struggled to survive its ruts and corrugation. As we crossed the Great Victoria Desert to the gold fields of Western Australia, the road improved dramatically and we stopped to look at the litter of abandoned mine workings – old and new – that dotted the country,

and on to Kalgoorlie, with its gaudy, ostentatious,19th century pubs.

We spent a week in Perth with Trevor's family and then headed up north
through the Pilbara and Kimberley. WA is even bigger than Queensland
– and this northern part is remote and untouched. Red rock and spinifex,
aboriginal rock art,

boab trees, wonderful birds and, in the Kimberley, masses of running water – a delight

after all the arid country we had traversed. Although it was mid winter, the sun was hot enough that it was glorious to be able to swim - or even to wash our hands,

crocodiles permitting. Saltwater crocodiles are fearsome beasts and can travel a long way up the rivers. Even their small freshwater cousins grow to 2 metres.

We rarely saw the sea in the Kimberley and Top End, because big tides and mangroves keep the road well inland.

We travelled along the Gibb River Road, notorious for the number of punctures it causes. GEG didn't survive unscathed, but we drove this road with old tyres and the one that shredded itself was so worn, it was probably illegal.

A few days later GEG's electronic fuel ignition ceased functioning. After 3 days of fiddling, Trevor got it going long enough for us to limp back to the bitumen. We needed a tow truck to take us the 100 km to Katherine, the nearest town, where he spent 4 days sorting out the problem with help from experts mechanical and electrical, and a computer program. At the end of the process, poorer, wiser and with bloody knuckles, Trevor said that he knew what the F in EFI stood for! As always: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

There had been plenty of rain in this area, and our days were enlivened by creek crossings, some deep enough to lap over the door sills.

Now we needed our 4WD and high ground clearance. The Kimberley was amazing: rushing water and abundant life contrasting with arid hillsides. To be there in the Wet when the summer rains cut off much of this country for weeks, must be an unforgettable experience.

On across the north of the country almost to Darwin, before turning south, back into Queensland. The lovely wetlands and tumbling rivers were left behind and water was again a rare commodity. We stopped by a grateful oasis on the Diamantina, alive with parrots, pelicans and spoonbills. This was the billabong

of Waltzing Matilda and we camped 'under the shade of a coolabar tree'. A few thousand more kilometres, and we were back to Iron Bark. Our sturdy little home seemed very luxurious after 2 months living in a tent and cooking on wood

fires. But now we need to get on with the chipping and painting.

03 April, 2009

Tasmania to Queensland

From Tasmania to Queensland

We left Port Arthur on Friday, 4th April – Trevor scoffs at superstitions such as not leaving on a Friday. A pity, really – I rather like these old traditions. The end of Tasman I was an impressive sight as we sailed past.

There was some debate about our route: Trevor was feeling jangled by the gale and wanted to wind off latitude, while I, ever the optimist, was convinced that the change from summer to winter would be gradual and was concerned about getting stuck in high pressure north of Tasmania. As usual, Trevor won the argument and we went for latitude, but still with quite an easterly component because we were hoping to visit Lord Howe I. That evening, we had a wonderful display of Aurora Australis – just to make us wonder if we really should be heading towards the Tropics. We were soon close hauled and this continued for day after day as the anticipated westerly wind failed to materialise and we started to feel the effect of the SE Australian current. It was interesting to watch our progress through the water as against that shown on the GPS screen. While the compass pointed resolutely NE, our course made good varied from due E to due W! On one occasion we hove to for repairs and although we were apparently drifting at about 110° at a knot or so, the reality was that we were being set 170° at about 3 ½ knots. The net effect was to keep us close-hauled and making little progress.

On the morning of 8 April, we got into a favourable eddy: this kicked up a nasty sea, but at least we started reeling off some miles in the right direction. We were now somewhat harassed by discovering a leak – not what you either want or expect in a steel boat. At first the windows were blamed, but later Trevor traced it to corrosion around the exhaust pipe. During a calm spell, we hove to on the port tack and he hung precariously over the side with a tube of silicon rubber and managed an adequate temporary repair. Our favourable eddy died away and we were back to plodding away against wind and current.

By day 6, we were bored with our lack of progress and as we’d never sailed into Sydney, decided this might be just as interesting in its own way as visiting Lord Howe I. and a lot easier; so we altered course accordingly. The following night we picked up the loom of the city lights – over 100 miles away. The wind headed us again and the morning found us close-hauled once more and not laying our course. This was getting to be something of a habit! A series of afternoon thunderstorms affected the wind in our favour and the buildings on the cliff tops grew noticeably larger. However, as we sailed through the heads, just before dark, a tremendous thunderstorm came sweeping down on us with torrential rain. This promptly killed the wind and blotted out all the landmarks and most of the lights. We started the engine and Trevor steered into the rapidly deepening gloom, while I dodged from chart table to hatch, identifying lights as they appeared, for the impatient helmsman, and trying not to drip too much on our cruising guide.

Finally, we worked our way into an anchorage in Rose Bay as the rain eased off. The hook went down at 1950 – 9½ days and 773 miles after leaving Port Arthur, although Trevor reckoned we probably sailed at least 300 more through the water. We were heartily tired of the contrary winds and currents and joined the ranks of those who rate sailing in the Tasman Sea as one of life’s less enjoyable experiences. A couple of hot whiskies, some cheese and salami and a pile of pasta and pesto, washed down with plenty of good, cheap Aussie wine, restored our tempers.

In the morning, we took stock of our surroundings. We could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which Trevor informs me is nicknamed ‛The Coat hanger’ a few miles in the distance and the shore line was covered in large, and undoubtedly very expensive, houses. Unfortunately, with one or two exceptions in the style of an Italian palazzo, they were hideous, vulgar, ostentatious and, all too often, all three of the above. With so much wealth and with a new country untrammelled by historical precedent, it seems a great pity that Oz architects have failed to rise to the challenge of providing houses that reflect their country. Indeed, the older, vernacular architecture, is the stuff worth looking at: many houses built by ordinary people at the turn of the last century, are attractive and appropriate to the landscape. It is even possible to live in them without the need for air-conditioning – which can’t be said for most of the contemporary designs!

Rose Bay is reputedly one of the more expensive suburbs in Sydney, and certainly the prices in the shops were sky high. Apples and bananas were nearly $13 a kilo and one shoe shop had its sale prices at over $250! We found the streets noisy and full of traffic that had no time to let pedestrians cross in front of it. The bay was busy and noisy with ferry traffic and light seaplanes,

so the next day we moved to a more attractive and interesting anchorage. The sail was filled with interest: it was easy to see the appeal of the harbour area as a home. Islands and inlets abound and there are miles and miles of waterfront, some covered in luxurious houses, some in factories modern and decrepit, some in native bush. With low hills around many parts, it can’t be difficult to find a home with a view of the water. Sydney is truly centred around its harbour and ferries provide a huge amount of public transport. It makes for an attractively lively scene, with an endlessly fascinating array of craft: bustling passenger ferries, tugs, cruise liners, high speed ferries, launches and yachts sailing in all directions at every speed. We felt like country bumpkins in the city, and hugged the coastline, trying to keep out of everybody’s way. It was strange to be sailing with yachts that simply ignored us – just another east-coast Aussie boat among thousands. Iron Bark had come home. Tasmania may officially be part of Oz, but to me, Sydney felt like a very different and new country.

Under an overcast sky, I found the Opera House a disappointment, drab grey instead of the

gleaming white of my imagination, but we anchored right next to it between the Botanic Gardens – noisy with cockatoos – and the CBD with its myriad skyscrapers. The shoreline was walled in stone with nowhere to land a dinghy, but it was a wonderful place to sit and watch as continuous stream of joggers passed, isolated from everyone else with their headphones and solipsism.

The next day we sailed under the magnificent bridge to a small bay called Balls Head Bay, where we could anchor within an easy walk of a station. As we went ashore, we met a couple who recognised Iron Bark as a Wylo II design. It turned out that Ian and Robin knew Nick Skeates (who designed and built the original boat) very well, from when they all lived in New Zealand. They, too, were planning to go into the city for the day, so we went up to the station together, bought tickets and got on board the train. This took us over the bridge, with a splendid view of the shipping below and then into a very modern station, which our new friends told us was the best situated for visiting the waterfront. It was the first time that I had been in a city in years and it was rather overwhelming. We made our way to the waterfront area, which, like in so many cities has been transformed into a recreational area. Everything seemed very expensive and the city appeared to be awash in money and leisure – certainly there was no shortage of people enjoying the facilities and a large number of the voices we heard were Australian. Our day turned into something of a busman's holiday, because the four of us spent hours on the barque James Craig, shown over by David, one of her crew, who had joined the project in its early days and was still filled with enthusiasm for the lovely old ship – mentioned in one of Alan Villiers’ books. She had ended her working life on a beach in Tasmania – oddly enough in an anchorage we had visited only a few weeks previously – in the 20’s. A devoted party of people managed to get her afloat and to Sydney, where she languished for many years while they collected the money necessary to rebuild her. David told us that an astonishing amount of her plating, frames and deck beams were original, pointing them out to us when we went below. She had however, been completely ‛refastened’ with hot rivets, each one put in by hand using volunteer labour. A tremendous job. She is now a fully-functional sailing vessel, with the original rig, but 2 large engines. Because they want to keep her looking more or less as she did in her working years, she cannot be permitted to sail very far offshore because of the vast, open hold not being subdivided with watertight bulkheads. OK for cargo, but not for paying passengers (I suspect that many other things would be needed, too), so she has never been able to go back to Tasmania. However, she travels up and down the coast so many Australians have been able to get a taste of those more humble working ships that we hear so little about, unlike the tea clippers or warships. I'm not generally very interested in larger vessels, relating much more to fishing craft and pilot cutter type boats, but I found James Craig absolutely fascinating. A few days later, I re-read one of Villiers’ books and it all meant so much more after having been on this wonderfully restored barque.

There wasn't much time left to look round much more of Sydney, so we bid good-bye to Ian and Robin (whom, unfortunately, we never saw again, because I stupidly forgot to get their telephone number), and I dragged a reluctant Trevor up some of the streets to do some window shopping. We spent a fascinating half hour in an opal dealer’s shop. I wanted to look at some of these wonderful gems unset and although the young man who dealt with us realised straight away that we were not in the market to buy, he very kindly got out several different trays and explained the good and bad points of the stones, told us a bit about how they were mined and explained what a jeweller would look for when selecting a stone for a particular piece of jewellery. Like all true enthusiasts, he was very interesting and I learnt a lot. The day had been both exciting and exhausting and as we sat in our double-decker(!) train passing back over the Harbour Bridge, I was rather glad that I didn't have to do this every day.

Hicks that we are, we soon tired of Sydney and the impossibility of buying sensibly-priced produce, so decided to press on north, back out into the Tasman. Again we had contrary winds and current. Not enough that you could say we battled against them, but enough to

make progress tedious. Then, on 26th April we sailed into the Coral Sea. It greeted us with a boisterous WSW wind, but this sent us bowling on our way with surprisingly little sea. The breeze gradually moderated and the barometer started to climb. Although the wind and current hadn’t quite finished with us, the weather was definitely improving, instead of mollymawks skimming over the wave tops we saw flying fish and the sky was patterned with puffy little Trade-wind clouds. We debated sailing into the south entrance to Wide Bay, but there was a more attractive alternative, strongly endorsed by these new, Trade-wind conditions. We could go to Lady Musgrave Island – a platonic coral atoll, just off the coast – and watch boobies and noddies while enjoying blue sea, warm sunshine and the sense of isolation that such anchorages bestow. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

Winter days are short, even this close to the Tropics, and as so often happens, we had to heave to until daylight made it safe to enter the lagoon. Our (old) chart showed that the nearby Lady Elliott had a light and its characteristics were confirmed by one of the more astonishing features on our hand-held Garmin 76 GPS (given to me by my old friend Aubs, back in 2001). We were surprised to find that even little Lady Musgrave now has a light – the Australians do not appear to believe that the advent of GPS is an excuse to eliminate navigation aids: on the contrary, they are strewn around with an almost Breton generosity.

The night was squally, as was dawn. We waited for the light to improve and then made sail, perhaps a little over-cautiously, seeing as the the pass is clearly marked. However, it would have been embarrassing to put Iron Bark on a reef just as she was so nearly ‛home’ The wind was blowing straight down the pass into the lagoon and with a vigorous spring ebb against us, our 16 hp engine had its work cut out. Another yacht came steaming up behind us, but slowed down and waited outside the pass when they realised how we were struggling. After we’d anchored and made sure that we were staying put, we were surprised to see that it was someone we knew from Survarov. Later we got together and found that Pat and Marg had spent most of the time since we’d last seen them in Australia. Aqua Magic had been given a refit and was looking very spruce. They had travelled inland and had family to visit them and both looked fit and rested. Now they were looking forward to their next adventure – heading off into the Indian Ocean. It was fun to have a few glasses together and catch up on all the goss of mutual sailing acquaintance.

Lady Musgrave is particularly beautiful ashore, with splendid trees housing hundreds of

Nesting noddies,

and myriad flightless rails pottering around rooting in the undergrowth.

Day trippers come across from the mainland, but the island is a sanctuary and the birds are unafraid. At certain times of the year, turtles haul themselves out to lay their eggs. It’s a little piece of paradise – an outlier of the Barrier Reef proper and a taste of things to come, for those continuing north.

Iron Bark was built in the town of Maryborough in Queensland, and we intended to take her back there for a good refit. There was some corrosion along the stringers, which were inadequately sand-blasted when the hull was still upside down. Three winters frozen in resulted in a lot of water resting on the stringers, causing them to rust. The corrosion had to be dealt with, as did some rust on deck. The yellow cabin sides were looking pretty weary and there were plenty of other jobs, which would be done depending on how energetic we were feeling and for how long we could haul out. The slipway we planned to use can only be accessed on a spring tide and what with one thing and another, the earliest we could hope to haul was the beginning of July. In the meantime, we anchored in the mouth of the Burrum River, at Burrum Heads, whose main claim to fame is that it’s a very popular place for ‛grey nomads’ to spend the winter in their caravans. There is apparently no shelter between the anchorage and Fraser Island (of dingo fame), some 25 miles away, but in fact extensive sandbanks reveal themselves by half tide and we enjoyed superb protection, in spite of there being less than 2 metres range.

The winter weather was perfect, with sunny days and temperatures in the 20s and cool nights. The trees were noisy with rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras woke us in the morning as daylight crept in. It was a good place to get on with those jobs that could be done afloat and for me to meet Trevor’s friends and get to know his part of Australia. Brendan and Caroline O’Brien, whom Trevor has known for about 30 years, live nearby – which, indeed, is the main reason we chose to go to Burrum Heads in the first place – and they made me very welcome. We had free run of their lovely home, with a washing machine and hot showers available whenever we wanted one, true luxuries for those who live aboard small boats

However, living in rural Australia has one severe drawback – a vehicle of some sort is an absolute necessity – so obtaining one was our first priority. With the thought of doing some travelling around the country, we decided to buy a four-wheel drive, with plenty of ground clearance and room to carry a tent, food, cooking equipment, bedding, etc. While we had been in Nelson, some friends had taken us for a day tramp in their Isuzu Bighorn and we had been impressed by the vehicle. So when we saw the Australian equivalent (supposedly made by Holden and called a Jackaroo) we were very interested. It was being sold by a second-hand car dealer, who had had it for some time. Too old and too small to have any cachet, it would suit us very well, although I had doubts about a 2.6 litre engine. I was assured that by Australian standards, this is a fairly small one! The car seemed to have been well maintained and after some negotiation we bought it for AU$4,000. While we went raiding the local cash machines, the paperwork was sorted and in a surprisingly short time I was driving back to Burrum Heads. We called the vehicle GEG from its registration plate, as ‛car’ seemed an inappropriate word and the really vehicle didn’t seem flash enough to qualify as an SUV!

Then Trevor got down to work. Steel needs protection and for a good paint job, Preparation Is All. Ten years ago, The Man hired to sandblast the hull, prior to priming, was – as the Aussies say – a piker. The hull was sandblasted while still upside down and the stringers near the ground were awkward for him to reach, so he didn’t bother to do a proper job. This left us with the abovementioned corrosion problem. Steel craft are a boat-within-a-boat, so the interior joinery has to be removed and the corroded areas chipped and painted: a thankless and tedious task.

By the time Trevor had dismantled, repainted and re-mantled the forepeak and saloon, he was understandably ready for a break.