Friday, December 26, 2008

Iluka Xmas

We spent this, our second Christmas aboard, in the little town of Iluka, on the New South Wales coast. We arrived with our expectations high, as so many people we have spoken to have described this place as a throwback to a different era in Oz, before the fun little beach towns were all commoditized and over-developed. So far, we've been happy with what we've found here.

We arrived in Iluka early in the morning on Christmas Eve. Here is the Rose, sailing past the Gold Coast and Surfer's Paradise at the start of our sail to Iluka. Check out all the highrises in the background on the beach. We spent more than a week in that area, waiting for good winds before continuing our trip down the coast. My Dad camped on the beach here during Christmas holidays with his family in the 40s and 50s. Fun to hear him talk about this bit of coast when there was nothing more than the beach and a few holiday campgrounds.

And here are some highlights of our holiday:
Christmas Eve dinner in the cockpit.
Elias is now old enough to grasp the idea of Santa Claus, which of course gave Alisa and me a great new focus for the holiday. Elias had asked Santa for a book named "Harry the Dirty Dog". Luckily, Santa delivered.

Our eucalyptus Christmas tree. Elias and I gathered it off the beach and hung it up on the long-disused cabin heater, and Santa decorated it while we slept.
We have been in Iluka three days now, and have gone to the beach three times. This is a ratio that we like very much. The day after Christmas, Elias had his first surf session.

The beach at Iluka is long and beautiful and lightly used. And there is a little side beach just inside the breakwater for the river entrance where the water is calm, which is perfect for the little bloke. That's where this picture was taken - note the Hang Loose sign being flashed...

Monday, December 22, 2008

21 December 2008: Happy Solstice from Down Under

Since our arrival in Australia two months ago, there have been a few things for me to get used to. Southerly winds are cold, not warm. Christmas is no longer white with winter snow but instead is full of bright blazing sunlight. And along those lines, the December solstice is the longest day of summer, not winter. I vividly recall the first three winter solstices I spent in Fairbanks; they were a token of strength and endurance for me. I would not fly to the lower 48 to see family for Christmas until the day following solstice, as being there on the darkest day marked that the hardest day of the year was past and it was important for me to experience it. I can remember sitting in my cabin and in just three hours watching the sun rise low on the eastern horizon and slink into sunset before my eyes as my rocking chair kept time. Those winter solstices in Fairbanks were bright with moonlight on snow and the hail bop comet burning in the sky amidst northern lights. It was a gorgeous frosty experience and I would throw back my parka hood and eagerly anticipate the return of the warmth that comes from the sun. Those days are long past, and now I am faced with a December solstice that is less sensational. It is so strange to come straight from the beach, sand in my hair, and walk into the supermarket to the sound of Christmas carols. The lack of winter makes the holiday season feel flat and oddly misplaced. My holiday traditions of baking and cooking huge feasts with lots of butter will not be repeated in Australia. We celebrated Thanksgiving by having a day at the beach and then a grand BBQ of lamb and kangaroo kabobs, a new tradition. I wonder what new traditions will surface for Christmas…right now I think it will be a lazy Christmas for the crew of Pelagic, with a long day at the beach enjoying the surf and sand. Hey, maybe I’ll get used to this, afterall.

Another mental hurdle for me has been the use of the English language. I’m not talking about the (now) obvious ‘thongs’ for ‘flip flops’ or ‘ute’ for ‘truck’. I’m talking about me being at Mike’s Uncle’s house, trying in vain to control Elias who is running everywhere. Mike’s Auntie and Uncle must have said to me a dozen times ‘don’t panic, don’t panic, he’s fine’, and I kept thinking “I’m not panicked. why do they keep telling me not to panic. my voice is calm and even. this is not panic, they should see me panic”. In the car driving home it dawned on me that ‘don’t panic’ translates to ‘don’t worry’. Similarly, ‘no drama’ really caught me off guard. The first time Mike’s cousin told me ‘no drama’ I had been explaning when we might be able to join them for dinner. I immediately thought ‘do I sound dramatic? do I sound frantic or overwhelmed? why did he say no drama? I can be dramatic, and this is NOT dramatic”. I felt much better when later in the evening Roy said ‘ah, yeah, no drama Mate’ to Mike. Best I can tell, it is an innocent saying that translates roughly to ‘no worries’. Of course ‘no worries’ means ‘you are welcome’ and can also be confusing at times. But the longer I am here the more I realize that the Australians all seem to have hearts of gold and if they are guilty of anything it’s of being too lackadaisical with the English language. Maybe it comes from growing up in the beach culture. Maybe it comes from celebrating Christmas in a bikini and seeing Santa in his togs.

In Oz, Santa uses kangaroos to pull his sled which gives the caribou more time to rest for their turn in the northern hemisphere. Here are a few pictures of Elias and his cousin Kali making sure the ‘roos are well fed and energized for the work that awaits them on Christmas eve.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Last weekend Alisa and Elias and I went out to Rocklea Showground to watch "the trots". The central rule of harness racing is that the horses must trot, and cannot gallop - a throwback to the days when the horse and buggy was a standard way of getting around, and horses pulling buggies trotted instead of galloping.

The races were a family deal - here is my cousin Scrubber in the third race. Notice the distressing lack of competitors to the rear. They have dropped him like a bad habit. Things went better in the second race, when Scrubber came from way back to finish third.

In between the "real" races they hold pony trots for kids 16 and under. My cousin Debbie's three girls all raced. Here is Danielle.

And here is Jade, with her second-place trophy.

Harness racing is a big family tradition for the Litzows. Scrubber wears the colors that my Grandad wore when he raced in Queensland in the 1920s and 1930s. The family story has it that my Grandad picked up some of his considerable horse knowledge from a member of the gang that ran with Ned Kelley, Australia's famous bushranger ("outlaw" in American). My uncle Darryll kept the harness racing bug going, and so have his kids. Great for me to see them in action. The trots are also very much a throwback to a different era, when Australia was a rural nation. Rocklea Showground is a former bit of country now surrounded by the sprawl of Brisbane. And the Showground that used to be heaving with spectators twenty years ago is now 3/4 empty, as people prefer to watch on TV and bet from home...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fraser Island

"What are you going to do with the blog, now that you've arrived in Australia?"
We've been asked that question a few times.
I think I've come up with a new blogging approach for this new phase in our sailing lives. I'm using my writing time to start on another project, so for the foreseeable future there won't be any more long essay postings. But I am going to try to get a quick post up every week or so to keep all our friends and fam who are stuck in the Northern Hemisphere up to date with our life down here.

We're in a pretty momentous-feeling period right now. My family has gone back to the States after a great visit, and we're starting to think about what will be involved for us to settle down in this new country. Lots of important questions are up in the air. We're watching all of those questions with great interest, wondering which ones will fall to the ground showing "yes" and which will come down showing "no".

Those big questions will likely all sort themselves out over the next few months. For now, here are a few pics from our trip to Fraser Island with my Dad.

My Dad was on Pelagic for about ten days as we sailed from Bundaberg, our first port in Australia, down to Mooloolaba, where we had our family reunion. The highlight was our visit to Fraser Island, which my Dad had last visited in 1962.

Motoring down the Burnett River at the start of our trip with my Dad aboard.

Putting up the main. Dad is watching the masthead telltale to make sure he's keeping us pointed into the wind.

Three blokes and a gum tree, Fraser Island.

Our first anchorage off Fraser - check out the shoals in the foreground and background - pretty different from the deep water navigation we were used to on the Pacific crossing.

Motoring through the Great Sandy Straits, between Fraser Island and the mainland.

Dad rowing the family ashore.

We had some incredible thunder storms. This is Tin Can Bay, a little town that we visited to get the election results. Australian Broadcasting carried Obama's victory speech live.

Dad kept asking what he could do to help. Finally we said, "well, there's the dishes..."