Beautiful Island (Lord Howe Island, Australia)

May 18, 2017

Lord Howe is a small tropical island that, due to some magic of weather and currents, exists well south of the tropic zone. Except for the two huge monolith mountains on its south end and a couple smaller mountains to the north, it’s an island of low hills. The vegetation is lush and varied: palm and banyan trees co-exist with tall columnar pines. There are forests, flowering vines, and sweeping areas of mowed lawn. There’s also a turquoise lagoon, coral reefs, tropical fish, and beautiful beaches.

Inland, a narrow blacktop road winds through the island. Small resorts and houses, limited in size and height, lie tucked into the vegetation and mostly out of view. This leaves all the viewing areas (and there are many) accessible to everyone, and access is encouraged with lawns, sitting benches, bike racks, and–at some of the beaches–bbq grills stocked with wood for cooking a picnic meal.

There’s a central restaurant, the kind that’s open all day and into the evening and has internet access. There’s also a well-loved cafe at the very impressive little museum. Otherwise you can book a meal at one of the small resorts that dot the island or buy food from one of the small markets.

Although it’s possible to rent a car, most visitors travel by bike or on foot. Quite deliberately there is no cell phone service as this is a place that encourages people to relax and unplug from the world. If you want to book an outing or make a dinner reservation, there are free public phones scattered throughout the island. The locals also enjoy the more peaceful way of life that comes with not being tied to an ever-present cell phone.

As far as the locals, the number of people who can live here is strictly limited–you pretty much have to be born here or have close relations to reside here. The number of visitors is also strictly limited; so the island is never crowded, even during high season. It also means there’s more than enough work for the locals, and guest workers come in to take temporary jobs and enjoy a taste of the life here.

Overall, this place has a certain kind of affluence, not the mega-bucks kind but the kind where people have enough of what they need. Many of the jobs are part time, and residents can take more than one if they wish. People here have an enviable lifestyle, and they know how lucky they are. They seem particularly happy, helpful and friendly–this place definitely has a small town feel. Guest workers also feel lucky to get the chance to be here (wistful at the knowledge that their time here will have to end), and visitors seem very relaxed and happy.

While it’s a very laid-back place, I wouldn’t call it sleepy because there is so much available to do. There are hikes at all levels, beaches, snorkeling, diving, fishing, golf, lawn bowling, various tours and outings, and a couple of very nice day spas. The museum has frequent evening presentations, and the resorts have special meal nights. We’ve been here more than a week and still there are lots of things we haven’t done (and sadly probably won’t get to do–we’ll just have to come back!).

Finally, Lord Howe is about as beautiful as any place on earth can be. (If you want to see for yourself, just check out Google Images.) It’s a paradise not known to many people outside of Australia yet must be booked ahead (I’m guessing well ahead). We would urge anyone traveling to Australia to consider a side trip here. And for a honeymoon, this is ideal! In all, I’d say this is one of the most magical places we’ve been in our 5 years of cruising.–Cyndi

Below, a few photos from our time here (click to enlarge/scroll).

More on Lord Howe Island…

Our Brief but Memorable Life on Lord Howe Island

Where are the Legacies?

We’re at Lord Howe Island!

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Where are the Legacies? (Lord Howe Island, Australia)

May 12, 2017

A funny thing happened to us on the way to New Caledonia: We got stuck at Lord Howe Island. What we thought would be a couple of days here is going to turn into a couple weeks by the time the weather is right for moving on. And what a wonderful place it is to be “stuck!”

“So what is there to do at Lord Howe?” you ask.

Hiking, walking, riding our rented bikes all over the island, more hiking, eating, more eating (great food), a massage, more hiking, wet dinghy rides to the launch ramp, more bike riding, more hiking, more eating. You know. The same old stuff (but with a lot more exercise! Maybe too much exercise!). Here, see for yourselves…

The pictures above are from either Ned’s Beach (beach and feeding fish pictures) or our hike up Mount Eliza (the aerial views). We thought the Mount Eliza was strenuous but it was nothing compared to our walk up to Goat House Cave at the other end of the island. Here are some pictures from that misguided adventure (misguided in that it probably requires a level of fitness that I don’t currently possess and I’ve been paying for it in the coin of pain ever since).

Why so many pictures of that raven-like guy? It’s because he seemed to be leading us the mountain and encouraging us when we needed it most. He seemed to say, “Look, this is easy. Just a little further.” Easy for him and his wings maybe! He’s (or she’s – I don’t know) a currawong. At first we were intimidated by that big, pointy beak, but he (she) was friendly. We wondered if better prepared hikers brought food along that they shared with the birds. We didn’t even bring water. Not smart.

At times there were several currawongs that’d land on branches very close to us. We think they might have been betting on us making it to Goat House Cave. It was three to one against at the steepest part where you have to pull yourself up the almost-cliffs with ropes.

Below are some random pictures from more sane times that I wanted to share…

Where is all this stuff? Here’s an interactive Google map.

Mount Eliza
Ned's Beach
Legacy's Mooring
Goat House Cave

More on Lord Howe Island…

Our Brief but Memorable Life on Lord Howe Island

Beautiful Island (Lord Howe Island, Australia)

We’re at Lord Howe Island!

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West Marine Chairs

May 9, 2017

I’ve been meaning to mention these for a long time and I’m finally getting it done. We bought two of these chairs before we left the US. West Marine sells them.

They’ve been great. They don’t last forever, but then they aren’t that expensive so I guess it evens out ($150 US now – they were $100 when we bought them). Pictured above is our second set, now over three years old. They show some wear, and one arm’s broken, but they’re still very usable.

We bought a second set to replace the worn out originals from Cater Marine in Opua, New Zealand. They ordered them from West Marine (Port Supply) and got them for us quickly and for a very reasonable shipping cost. (That was when Bob was there and I’m not sure the situation is the same anymore.)

We use these in the cockpit for sundowners as well as at our chart table where we keep watch. They recline, are pretty light and provide surprising support. The reason I mention them now is that it’s time to start thinking about how we get our third set. That, and as we go north and it warms up a bit, we’re starting to spend more time in the cockpit. -Rich

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Marlborough Sounds, Nelson and the Abel Tasman Wrapped Up!

May 7 2017

A Note about the post below: About a year ago I had an impulse to jump ahead in our timeline and do this whole series about the Marlborough Sounds, Nelson, and Able Tasman National Park because there’s so little information about cruising these areas. I figured it might take a few weeks; it took much, much longer. I’m not sure why I feel such urgency to do things like this; I just have a compulsion to light up the dark areas, especially if I feel like they’re needlessly mysterious. I hope these posts help other cruisers in the future; we’ve heard already from a vessel who’s been inspired.

This entire series of posts can be easily accessed. You can select the “Cruising Info” menu item and go to the New Zealand page or click here to see all these posts.

So with this segment of our cruise wrapped up, I’m hoping to do a couple of posts from our current location in Lord Howe Island, then a couple of Tasmania reports before going to pick up where I left off in our timeline (so long ago I’m too embarrassed to say where that is right now). –Cyndi

 

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Good-Bye Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds (South Island, New Zealand)

June 4, 2016

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said we’d be leaving before dawn. These were the last views we had of Nelson. Note the expression on Rich’s face in the final photo: that’s not happiness to be leaving. (Click to enlarge/scroll through any of the photo galleries below.)

I will say things started looking up as the morning progressed into a calm, sunny day. By now we’d resigned ourselves to making this passage and were starting to enjoy it. It was fun going through the wild swirling waters of the French Pass again and nice that we could lead the way for an intimidated boat who ventured in behind us. (The French Pass is so notorious that some of the people here are afraid to go through it.)

Coming out of the pass I looked over at Elmslie Bay where we’d previously picked up a mooring, waiting for ebb tide, before heading south through the pass. It had been so windy and unappealing then; today it looked beautiful and serene. It would be nice to remember it like this.

Later we passed the huge dry bays of the north coast, ticking off landmarks as we passed. At sunset we ducked into the Queen Charlotte Sound, and what a joy it was to return to one of our favorite anchorages: Ship Cove. I was also nice to drop anchor in a new (to us) area of the bay, a wall of lush vegetation (pictured in the two right photos in the top row).

The next morning brought another calm sunny day, and we had an uneventful crossing of the Cook Strait and then 2 days motor-sailing up the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. We arrived at Gisborne early in the morning on the 7th. Below, a map of our route from Nelson to Gisborne.

Nelson
Gisborne

By now we were excited to take our boat into Gisborne, a place we’d only seen by car. Best yet, we caught up to our Nelson cruising buddies there! We’d go on to enjoy a few days with them in Gisborne before making another jump up to Opua, but that will be the subject of future blog posts. For now this will be my final post for this cruising period. –Cyndi

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On Our Way!

May 1, 2017

With three days to spare on our Oz visas, we found weather (good enough, we hope) and we’re on our way. We’re heading to Lord Howe Island (wikipedia page). After a few days there, or maybe a week, we’ll head to baguettes and brie (New Caledonia). But with us, who knows where we’ll actually end up.

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The Drive Back to Nelson (South Island, New Zealand)

June 3, 2016

The drive between Blenheim and Nelson is lovely, but this particular run was the emotional equivalent of being tossed off a sunny lounge chair into a cold pool. Blenheim had been such a great time out, but now it was time to face the music. This meant facing the pile of errands and chores that had to get finished today, wrapping everything up before tomorrow’s pre-dawn departure for a trip neither of us wanted to make (going back across the Cook Strait and up the east side of North Island was definitely not in our plan!). I kept reminding myself that I’d rather have these problems than some of the ones we had back in land life, but it wasn’t helping. Below, a gallery of photos from the drive both to and from Blenheim.

The Nelson Marina was still full of boats yet it felt empty because everyone we knew had left. The saving grace was having a really nice weather forecast for the next 3 days, enough to make it to Napier or Gisborne, halfway up the north island, before another windy period.

Below, a few orphan photos from the Nelson area that need a good home. I’ve invited them to live in this post. (Click to enlarge/scroll through galleries above.)–Cyndi

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Wonderful Wine Country in Blenheim, Part 4 (South Island, New Zealand)

June 3, 2016

After breakfast, our first stop was Lawson’s Dry Hills which turned out to have some excellent wines, the pinot gris and gewurztraminer especially. This place made us glad we decided not to cut this trip short.

Next up was Villa Maria, one of the major wine producers in New Zealand. Like Brancott, we like to buy Villa Maria wines and assumed we wouldn’t purchase any today. But then along came a wine that we loved that’s not available in stores. It goes to show that it’s worth visiting some of the major players even of you know their wines well.

Our next stop was Highfield Terra Vin. It’s in a big pink hacienda with a lookout tower and probably the most standout winery building in the region, even more so because it sits on a hill. There was a group tasting going on when we arrived so we were invited to climb the tower first. We did just that, probably climbing a good three stories. Our efforts were rewarded with sweeping views of the basin, golden rows of grape vines and grassy slopes around us. Beautiful! After our return we had a tasting of their very nice wines, another bottle coming home with us.

With all our purchases, our car was getting heavier and heavier, and soon this weight would be transferred to our boat. It’s a good thing we’re not into racing!

Legacy, with her waterline raised to allow for more wine!

Our final stop was the mud brick building of the Wairau River Wines Cellar Door and Restaurant. The cellar door felt like a cozy living room while the restaurant was in the mud brick structure, which frankly reminded us a bit of cinder blocks. Not that it wasn’t nice looking, but it lacked the wow factor of other places we’d seen. Since they only had four wines to taste, only two of which I’d be interested in, I opted to just order a glass of wine with lunch. It was nice, but not special enough to buy, proving it is possible for us leave a winery empty-handed. What was special, though, was their seafood chowder! That’s what finally got a “wow” out of us here. We’d come back here to have that again!

It was now time to head back to Nelson, but Blenheim had left a big impression on us. We’ve been to wine country areas much like this, but there is something about this one (aside from the wine) that makes it feel really nice to be here. Maybe it’s the relatively compact size of the area and the fact that it’s fairly flat yet surrounded by hills. Maybe it’s the green and golden grasses with enough trees to make it feel pastoral. Maybe it’s all the sunlight, penetrating and warm even though it was well into fall. Whatever it was gave Blenheim have its own special magic; it just felt good to be there. –Cyndi (You can click to enlarge/scroll through any galleries above.)

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Wonderful Wine Country in Blenheim, Part 3 (South Island, New Zealand)

June 3, 2016

The actual town of Blenheim covers a large area but is so laid back that it feels much smaller than it is. One of its prettiest features is the walk along the river that runs through the town, and the best place to start this walk (at least we think so) is by having breakfast at a place called Raupo.

Raupo has very much the same style as the wineries we’d visited: lots of wood, stone, and glass walls. Our breakfast there was delicious, the river views very pretty. It’s hard to imagine there’s a nicer place for breakfast in Blenheim than this.

Unfortunately there was one fly in the punchbowl. It came for a swim when Rich looked at the weather and discovered that, once again, our next weather window had dissipated. We’d promised ourselves we’d head north if this happened but were still really reluctant to do so.

Rich then emailed Bob McDavitt who confirmed our thoughts: we needed to get further north in New Zealand and find a weather window from there. Crap. And we had a weather window to get north only if we left really early in the morning. Double crap. Our vacation was suddenly over. But wait; this was wine tasting. Wine tasting fixes stuff like this. It doesn’t make it go away; it makes you just not care so much. So we decided to stay with our plan to visit a few more wineries, have some lunch, then head back to Nelson in the afternoon.

We took a stroll along the river to sort ourselves out. It was a beautiful walk but the signs of fall were impossible to ignore, more reminders that it was time to head north. We decided to take the time to enjoy this last day then head out before dawn tomorrow. Below, some pictures of the river walk in Blenhiem. (Click to enlarge and scroll through any of the photo galleries.) –Cyndi

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