And so we commenced a season of living on the Burnett River, awaiting the end of the hurricane season, which was soon to threaten the waters away to the north.
Although the current ran swiftly on the flood and the ebb, Suka sat quietly to her moorings, and compared with some of the rough seas we had endured, this felt as though we were on land. Life at sea had ingrained in us the habit of sleeping sporadically between watchkeeping, day and night, but now we reverted to our former land-bound habit of sleeping undisturbed throughout the night. And only the person who has spent many days at sea can fully appreciate the luxury of being able to set utensils on the table and not worry about them sliding off. Quickly and easily, then, we forsook our seafaring ways, and established residence on the peaceful river.
A visit with a cactus expert.
Shucking scallops. Suka in the background.
Sunset on the Burnett River, with the Australian trimaran Ricochet and her crew Ross, Yvonne, and Micah.
We planned to remain here several months, and I relished the feeling of permanence. Our new home-town was quiet and very much to our liking. Suka's neighbors were yachts of many sizes, descriptions and ensigns. At her stern was the newly built Australian trimaran Ricochet. Her crew, Ross, Yvonne, and small boy Micah became our friends, and it was they who first introduced us to the Aussie lingo.
Rainbow Lorikeets, brilliantly colored wild parrots.
In a letter to my family, I wrote:
We are settling in to life on the river here in Bundy. The nights are peaceful and calm, until about 4:30 in the morning when we wake to the squawking of the Rainbow Lorikeets, brilliantly colored wild parrots. They fly over the river in scores, their bright plumage flashing in the early morning sunlight. Next, the river prawners start their daily runs up and down river. These scaled-down versions of the large, ocean-going beam trawlers drag their nets along the muddy river bottom. The prawners continue throughout the day, and it's surprising the number of prawns they collect in their nets; we wonder that there are any prawns left. At 6 a.m. the surf-rowers go past. "Stroke-2 -3 -4! Stroke! Stroke! Come on you bloody dimwits. Stroke! -2 -3 -4."
It's fun to listen to the Australian accent, although we're still trying to decipher some of the slang. A person waving goodbye says "Tah-dah." Often we hear "Tah," which seems to mean "thank you." Jokingly, Ray will request "coffee instead" when our Aussie friends invite us for "tea." Then after "tea" we'll have a "cuppa." "Fair dinkum" is difficult to interpret. We've been told that an Australian has never been known to lie if whatever's being said is followed by the words "fair dinkum."
“Yvonne said she was cooking a chook. I was hesitant to ask what chook was, until two year old Micah yelped with delight, "Froggie!”
A few days ago Ross and Yvonne invited us to tea. Yvonne said she was cooking a chook. I was hesitant to ask what chook was, until two year old Micah, whose vocabulary is yet limited, pointed in the pot and yelped with delight, "Froggie!" At that point I had to have a look for myself: it was only a chicken.
Souvenirs of our Pacific crossing.
Decorative monkey fist, tied by rj.
Early morning kayak practice on the river.
Touring the Outback with friends.
A few days after our arrival in Bundy we telephoned our parents, taking into account the eight hour time difference to avoid rousing them in the middle of the night. Not only was there a difference in time, but there was also a difference in days. Our day was a Wednesday, but theirs was still a Tuesday.
One of our first tasks was to scrub Suka inside and out. By hand we scraped, sanded and revarnished the brightwork topsides. We cleaned the sails, and washed the salt-encrusted halyards and sheets. And we removed the broken self-steering gear and the lightning-damaged sat-nav antenna for repairs. Belowdecks, we scrubbed the teak interior with a brush and cleaning solution, then we rubbed in lemon oil, which helped restore the wood to its former luster.
Completing our first year of cruising, we celebrated with a party.
Fist Year anniversary Party
November 2nd, 1983, marked the end of our first year of cruising. To celebrate, we hoisted aloft the ego flag: a colorful banner 25 feet in length; then we invited our many river friends aboard for drinks and anniversary cake. The affair was a convivial one. With about 25 people on board, Suka wallowed noticeably, and her waterline rose a few inches. Tied to the taffrail astern was a flotilla of dinghies. These were a comical sight, tugging at their painters in the fast flowing current like a dozen eager pups on leashes.
A flotilla of dinghies tied to the taffrail.
In Bundaberg, the month of November marks the end of the sugar cane harvest. Smoke from the cane stalk fires produce vivid sunsets, and at night the horizons are aglow in orange cane fires. Ash fell from the sky like black snow, and trying to brush it overboard only created stubborn smears. A small amount of the ash even found its way belowdecks onto the soles and salon cushions. But within a few weeks the sugar mills had crushed the last cane for the season, and the mills now lay deserted and quiet. The bustle of activity focused instead downtown, as the locals commenced their holiday shopping.
Having decided to dine at a restaurant one evening, Ray and I motored the dinghy to the jetty, then after a leisurely meal we strolled back to the wharf. A few dinghies were tied there, but ours was not among them. The dink could not have come untied of its own accord, as we always tied it with two painters, each made fast to a different rail and using strong bowline knots. We rushed to the police station to report the stolen dinghy. The sergeant shrugged it off, telling us not to worry, as such thefts occur regularly (!). In most cases, she added, local youths merely "borrow" the dinghies for joyrides, and usually the boats are found a few days later somewhere along the river. We left the police station in disgust.
Wasting no more time, we began searching the banks on foot, but without success. We borrowed a neighbor's dinghy, tied to the jetty, and rowed out to a different neighbor's yacht and asked to borrow their tender. After returning the first boat to the jetty we set off downriver with the current. For four hours we searched the muddy banks, detouring into mangrove coves and swampy feeder creeks. We snooped around the fleet of prawn trawlers and fishing boats moored together at their docks. A few white objects gleamed in the moonlight, but our inflatable, with its white kicker, was not one of them.
The next day at first light we rose and assembled our collapsible 2-person kayak, stowed in its locker beneath the forecastle berth since our paddling forays in the Marquesas. We worked with such a sense of urgency that later our Japanese neighbors aboard Puka Puka II told us they thought we were practicing a fire drill. We paddled downriver again, fearful that if the dinghy had been abandoned, it would have washed to sea with the outgoing tide. Two hours later we returned; our search in that direction had been fruitless. We continued upriver, crossing under the traffic bridge and steering for Harriot Island. While paddling against the current my arms ached from the unaccustomed exercise. Yet each curve and river bend lured us on, ever hopeful that around the next corner we would discover our dinghy. And discover it we did. High and dry on the bank, caught between boulders and coated in mud, lay the dinghy. One oar was missing, and the outboard had been damaged. Fortunately for us, one of the painters had become tightly wrapped around the propeller shaft. This must have killed the engine before the thieves had much of a joy ride. This dinghy was our only link between shore and home, and we were thankful we had it back.
The dinghy was our only link between shore and home, and we were thankful to have it back.
The outboard engine was in need of repairs, so in Suka's cockpit Ray dismantled it. Thereafter, we resolved to lock the dinghy to the jetty with a stout wire cable whenever we went ashore, and to keep the boat in a condition less inviting: dirty, somewhat deflated, without outboard motor, and with only a rough board lashed to a broom handle as a replacement for the lost oar.