First Days In Japan

  As I write our first blog from Japan we are sitting in our traditional robes looking out at the stormy sea at The Earth resort.  

We began our trip by flying out of Vancouver to take advantage of the Canadian exchange rate to buy our airline tickets.  By staying over the night before at an airport hotel, it made our day of flying very calm.  Everything was done and all we had to do was eat breakfast and take the shuttle to the airport. 

The most difficult part was getting all of our luggage from the shuttle drop off to check-in.  This isn’t our usual “pack light” adventure.  We are skiing at the end of the trip after two weeks of touring in a winter climate.  But we made it with plenty of time to spare and the Vancouver Airport is quite nice, with an artificial forest stream in the waiting area and a large aquarium. 

 Jim was excited to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with its large windows and better air circulation.  The only oddity was that the reclining seats in our flight’s Business Class didn’t lay down flat (as they did in the two Delta Airlines 777’s we have been on).  Instead, our seats almost reclined flat but then left us at an angle something like Frankenstein’s table in the old movie.  Still we were able to sleep for a few hours of our nine hour flight to Tokyo.

The service from Japan Air Lines (JAL)  couldn’t have been better and I transitioned to my  Japanese cultural experience by ordering the  

 Bento box for dinner which was really quite tasty for airplane food.

After landing our first experience in Japan was fast and efficient.  The luggage came right out and customs was a breeze. Interestingly, Japan takes finger prints and photos of all foreigners.  We were not offended.

Our driver met us, sweeping us and our luggage to his car.  Our 2 large bags, 2 small bags and massive ski bag was on a cart.  We panicked as he approached the escalator only to learn that the clever Japaneese have created carts that adjust so that they can go up or down escalators without a problem.

Once again we chose a wonderful travel agent to plan our trip and we weren’t disappointed at our first quick stop in Tokoyo. The staff took care of all our needs including helping us ship our ski bags on to Myokokogen and our larger bag on to our Kyoto hotel.

After getting our bags settled we headed out for a nearby walk to see a bit of downtown Tokyo. Our travel agent gave us lots of walking and touring suggestions.  This evening we headed out to find a local SIM data card for our IPAD. On the way we walked past the beautifully lit Tokyo International Forum  

  

 building built on the former site of  Edo Castle.  Bics Camera store was a hopping potpourris of technology and although no one spoke English well and we don’t speak Japanese at all, we all spoke technology and quickly procured a SIM card which the staff tested and is working beautifully.

From there we went to a nearby building that offered a variety of international restaurants.  We settled on some Tapas because they had a no smoking section and made it through a meal and the walk back before collapsing in bed.  Other than the large number of smokers, the Japanese are very clean — there is no graffiti, almost no litter of any kind anywhere, and yet there are almost no public garbage cans.  On our 90 minute drive from the airport to downtown, we didn’t see a single dirty car or even a dirty truck!

Breakfast was lovely and our job was to take a walk to Dimelers department store and their food section to procure Bento boxes for our train trip later that day.  

  The variety and beauty of the culinary selections was truly overwhelming.  We decided on a Japanese style bento box and a salad for our travel food.

Back at the hotel the staff was waiting to walk us to our train.  Although we felt a bit lazy and self-conscious by this service, we thoroughly enjoyed the stress-free transfer.

  The trains in Japan are exceptionally clean, comfortable, smooth and fast, and run like clockwork, especially the “super express” bullet trains.  We boarded and left promptly only carrying our overnight bags as instructed.  Jim loves trains and this trip will be full of train travel.

Our excursion southwest along the coast took us past Mt. Fuji, lasted most of the afternoon and included one transfer, which thanks to detailed instructions we navigated on our own without a problem.

After 2 mores shuttles (one big and one small), along a surprisingly narrow and winding coastal road (and by many oyster operations) we were welcomed with Japanese bows by the staff at “The Earth” healing waters resort.  Our room is amazing, the views of the ocean and rugged coastline are vast, and the food is artistic and scrumptious. 

    

   
Originally, we were supposed to go for a train excursion on Monday to a local important shrine.  But we decided instead to just stay here, enjoy the healing waters and watch the big wind storm that blew in overnight, raised the surf to over ten feet of loud crashing waves, and then gave way to a sunny late afternoon. 

We ended our day yesterday with a facial for me and a shiatsu massage for both of us.  Here in Japan facials include massages, because your face can’t relax if your body isn’t relaxed.  The shiatsu massage was very different.  Two people swept into our room pointed to the bed where we both told to lay down with our clothes on.  They then proceeded to press very firmly on every pressure point in the body. They never touch you directly, there is always a cloth between us and them. It was different, but surprisingly relaxing after it was done.

Very few people spoke any English here and we were the only Americans.  But we felt totally welcomed and well cared for at all times. Here is a young lady, Shinba, that practiced her English with us while we were here and was delightful.  She lives near Mt. Fuji but works here and stays in the staff housing. We are soon to be Facebook friends!

 Today we are on the move again, this time to Kyoto.   We send you all our love and hopefully a little of the “healing waters” Japanese energy we have experienced so far.

We end our first blog with a beautiful sunrise from this morning. 

 

Fun with James and Jasmine & our change of plans!

After leaving Blind Channel we cruised the short distance to Dent Island. Dent is back in the land of cell service and as the dots appeared the messages came in and we got the news that Jim’s dad was in the hospital. We decided he should fly back and we quickly arranged for a seaplane flight home for him that evening.

Jim’s dad got better during the day and a half Jim was with his dad, so Jim decided to fly back to the boat for our preplanned time with Jasmine and James. However, after Jim returned, his dad became worse again so we decided to head home early. Dick is back at Mirabella now and is doing better. But we wanted to share this last blog post with you.

While Jim flew to Seattle I stayed at the Dent Island marina and was lucky that our friends Stan and Mary Harrelson happened to be there too, so I had a great dinner with friends. Joining us at the table was an interesting collection of boaters and fishermen. I met a lovely couple, Richard and Michelle Glickman, who own Gorge Harbour. They were celebrating their anniversary at Dent. Since I was alone, and determined to catch a fish, Richard offered to take me fishing (this gave Michelle the opportunity to sleep in).

I warned Richard that my fishing success rate was dismal. Despite that, he took me out, gathered a yummy breakfast for us, and gave me a great fishing lesson. Although our summer of heat and sun has been a constant this trip, my fishing day was cool and drizzly. Richard was a great teacher, and we did catch a couple of salmon, but they were too small to keep. Our only keeper was a medium sized rockfish, which later became yummy fish tacos,DSC_7533 but no large catch for us. Ah well. We shared great conversation, I learned a lot and I look forward to seeing Richard and Michelle again.

We got back to Dent just in time to meet Jasmine and James arriving by seaplane. Although it was cloudy they had a fun seaplane ride. “Just a little scary,” James said of the end of the flight.  After they arrived we headed to lunch before taking a nap.

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Because it was a rainy day we spent most of our time playing in the boat. But, Grandma was prepared! I purchased a great jigsaw puzzle at Blind Channel that was perfect for James. IMG_3618Although it was rated 3+ he rose to the challenge and really enjoyed working on the puzzle repeatedly over the next few days.

After a good nights sleep we woke up, enjoyed a hardy breakfast, some rock throwing IMG_3623and then all worked on our boat chores preparing the True Love for the Captain’s return and our cruise south.

James was a big helper, filling the water tank and washing the boat.

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The Captain arrived at noon and we headed out. The second mate fell asleep almost immediately, exhausted from all his chores,DSC_7462 but we heard on the radio that there was a pod of orcas just north of Dent. So we turned around and headed to see them. Jasmine had never seen orcas from the boat. The orcas positioned themselves perfectly to feed on the salmon as the current funneled them through the narrow channel. We counted over 12 including some really big orcas.DSC_7504

Because we decide to return early to Seattle we changed our plans to take Jasmine and James to Pendrell Sound and instead headed for Gorge Harbour. Richard and Michelle have done a great job with the area and James really enjoyed the heated community pool.IMG_5288

One of our favorite memories of the trip was sharing Mary Poppins with James for the first time. We watched the first half on Saturday night while anchored in Gorge Harbour and James was mesmerized.DSC_7586

From Gorge, we cruised on south to one of our favorite stops: Egmont. It worked perfectly as a stop on our way to Pender Harbour, where Jasmine and James had rescheduled their flight back to Seattle for Monday.

James was excited to see the end of Mary Poppins, which we saved for after dinner. The day ended with a beautiful sunset and moonrise. DSC_7602The next morning we took the tender out to show Jasmine and DSC01305James the Skookumchuck Rapids DSC01306 and then took a walk to our favorite little bakery in the woods. James enjoyed a yummy, mini cinnamon roll and ran around the grounds and the deck. DSC01318 DSC01313 DSC01312Jasmine, Jim and I also enjoyed the yummy baked goods and breakfast sandwiches while we watched James play.

After leavingIMG_3625 Egmont, Jasmine and James napped during the cruise to Pender Harbour, where they awoke rested and ready for their gorgeous seaplane flight home.DSC01325 DSC01332

Even though it was 2:30 PM, after plotting our course and estimating our time of arrival, we decided to take advantage of the long days and temporarily calm winds to cross the Georgia Strait. We then cruised past Naniamo to a new stop, Pirates Cove in the Southern Gulf Islands.

It’s sweet and funky; a shallow little anchorage with shore ties to keep the boats from bumping into each other. Our 57 foot boat was a little oversized for the area, but it was late and we made due. DSC01358 (1)Because it was such a low tide, the Captain was a bit concerned with our position and we had to reset the anchor and the shore tie.DSC01347 The next morning it was clear that our concerns were valid. Our clearance to the bottom was under 3 feet. But a fellow boater had totally miscalculated and was high and dry.

The island surrounding the moorage is a marine park with lots of trails so our days started with a fun little hike.DSC01363 DSC01354 The area is lovely, but unfortunately it was really buggy. Usually, I’m protected by the Captain’s natural appeal to the biting critters, but not this time. Jim didn’t get any bites, because he was protected by long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. I was munched. Over 20 bites! Oh well!

From Pirates Coves our cruise south took us through calm waters and sunny skies all the way back to the USA and to the little town of La Conner. I used to be the person at the helm when docking the first True Love because I couldn’t jump from the high stern to the dock to secure the lines. But since we have owned the Navigator I hadn’t practiced docking. It became clear after we thought I might have to Captain the boat back this trip, that it was time for me to practice docking, “just in case.”

It’s tough for the Captain to give up the controls, but we switched roles, Jim on the lines and me controlling the helm. It’s a little tricky maneuvering in the strong currents of the channel in La Conner, but the Captain was pleased with my docking. I must say the True Love maneuvers beautifully. The next day I took the helm again at the nearby fuel dock.

Because the low tide and the currents we waited until noon to head to Seattle so it was another long day heading home. We were treated to beautiful weather once again and enjoyed watching lots of navy aircraft flying in to NAS Whidbey for fleet week.

As we approached Seattle a skywriter was practicing for Seafair.DSC_7615

We are home now for a while. Our next adventure will be the birth of our second grandchild in late August or early September! Stay tuned!

Until our next adventure!

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The Captain and First Mate of the True Love.

Thompson Sound: whales, dolphins, bears, Trapper Rick and his new guide, Rees Wilson

Traveling south from the Broughtons back to Campbell River and Desolation Sound is much more comfortable when the typical NW winds blowing down Johnstone Strait are “light” (15 knots or less). Unfortunately, the typical NW winds blowing down Johnstone Strait are “Gale” (35+ knots) or “Strong” (20+). On Sunday, the wind forecast for Johnstone Strait for Monday morning were “light” so we decided to make our way back to the south part of the Broughtons so that we were set up to enter Johnstone Strait on Monday morning. On our way we hoped to see a bear on the beach looking for crabs or clams at low tide.
We stopped first at the Kwatsai Bay Marina to check it out and use some of the best internet in the area so far. It’s a really pretty little bay, surrounded by high mountains, and run by a lovely family although the docks could use some newer planks. The marina was fully reserved, but there was an open spot at the dock where we were allowed to tie up for a quick visit. It’s definitely a good stop for the future. 

 At Kwatsi we got a much-needed Grandparent fix by trading quick text videos with James before leaving to find our anchorage for the night. Based on descriptions in the Waggoner Cruising Guide (our go-to reference text), the Captain decided to investigate the head of Thompson Sound, about 10 miles away. Although the waters of Thompson Sound are so deep that there is almost no place to anchor, the cruising guide said there there was a small area at the very head of the Thompson Sound where a few boats could anchor. 

So began our magical adventure in Thompson Sound. I decided to take a quick snooze so to recover from my late night star gazing the night before when Jim spotted “Wanda” the Whale breaching in the middle of the Thompson Sound, about a mile in front of our boat. 

   

 We spent the next hour watching Wanda, becoming amateur biologists by counting the number of breaths between each of her dives. The typical pattern was ten breaths: 8 lounging on the surface before bowing her powerful body on the 9th and then diving down strongly after the 10th, showing us the pretty white underside of her tail (which is how we identified Wanda as a humpback whale). Wanda typically remained submerged for 5 minutes (presumably searching for food) before repeating her routine.

The head of Thompson Sound is a glorious place, surrounded by mountains and including the Kakweiken River, where salmon run and bears hunt salmon. The Captain and I had not seen a bear yet, but this was prime bear habitat, so we were hopeful.

The head of the sound had one boat anchored in the little area where anchoring was possible, plus a small shack and a little dock about a mile away. The depths shown by our depth sounder were very different from those on our charts (much shallower in the areas closer to the mouth of the river, and much deeper in the areas farther away. Later we would learn that there was a huge rock avalanche last year that had really changed the river, the shoreline and the nearby bay.

After anchoring a kayaker paddled our way from the small shack and the dock. He introduced himself as Rees Wilson and said that he and his boss had the “wilderness license” for the area and offered bear tours. He seemed like a sweet young man but his first price was much too high for us. After paddling back and conferring with his boss (he referred to him as “the old man”) we soon negotiated an acceptable price, and set the time for our “tour” for the early evening when it would be cooler.

Now we assumed Rees and his boss would be taking us on a boating trip up the river. We assumed wrong. At the appointed time we took our dinghy to their dock where we were introduced to the “old man”: Trapper Rick. Now Trapper Rick is lanky man who looks like he has been in the Canadian outback for decades. It turns out that our young kayaker, Rees Wilson, was training with Trapper Rick to become a licensed “bear guide”. In Canada you must first apprentice with a guide for at least a year before you can take the official bear guiding class. Although this seemed backward to us, we assume the government is just trying to reduce the average class size in their bear guiding school.

Assuming our adventure used a boat and not our legs, we wore our “chako” hiking sandals, not hiking shoes, and Jim didn’t bringing his hiking poles. Nevertheless, we just went for it when Trapper Rick suggested we just put on some bug spray and follow the two of them up the trail from the little dock to a truck that was apparently parked about a half mile away. The trail was once a road, but the road was destroyed by last year’s rockslide, which also washed out a bridge and other parts of the road.

Truck? Huh?

At this point we guessed that we would be taking a truck to a boat that was on the river upstream, and then using the boat to go see the bears. Wrong again.

Along the trail I turned around and looked at Jim smiling and mouthed “OMG”. 

Rees was carrying a can of gas. It turns out that was for the old, very used truck. Because Rees and Rick had no funnel, the siphon method was used to put a couple of gallons of gas in the truck before we drove off into bear country.

As we began our drive up the logging road, we learned that we were Rees’s first official clients during his bear guide training

We were honored to be Rees’ first clients, but glad that Trapper Rick was in the truck with us.

  Trapper Rick gently instructed Reese from the back seat as we made our way up the logging road where we had our first encounter with a grizzly bear: Emma or just “Em”. Rick had named most of the bears over the years. Emma responded to Rick talking to her from the truck, window down, which really made Jim nervous. But, Rick said not to worry, Em could break into the truck easily regardless of whether the window was up or down.

Grizzlies are big bears, even from a distance, and Emma was a female and thus smaller than all of the males.
The logging road abruptly came to an end where an old bridge across the river was now missing. So, we got of the truck walked on a trail followed the river upstream. This river meanders up the mountainside, with occasional small waterfalls. The truck ride took us 600 feet above sea level. 
Once again we were walking a trail, in a line, late in the day in Grizzly country, just Trapper Rick, Rees, me and then Jim. We learned that Trapper Rick, thank God, carried a big 45 caliber handgun and, less comforting, that Rees had a big can of pepper spray. But we were all having a good time and Trapper Rick and Rees certainly seemed confident in their abilities and leadership.

Jim later told me that he was thinking about the old saying: “you don’t have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than the people you’re with” as we walked the trails. Unfortunately for Jim, even though Trapper Jim had a bad leg, he still was pretty fast for an old guy, so Jim felt he was the definitely the slowest in our group. Of course, Jim was counting on Trapper Rick to take on a bear with his gun if needed while we made our escape, giving Jim a short lead at least in getting back to the truck! I never had these thoughts because I assumed I was at worst the second fastest in our group.

Now we thought: it must be time to get in the boat. And there was a boat! 

  Unfortunately, it was a sad little rowboat, with no engine or even a paddle, at the bottom of a steep embankment. The old boat was tied to a rope crossing the river and was used like a small river ferry in old westerns movies, where the passengers pulled the rope to traverse to the other side.

  
OK! 

So we climbed down the embankment using a ladder to reach the lower riverbank. We got into the old boat and Rick and Reese pulled us the 30 yards across the river. Again, this all happened on a salmon river in grizzly bear country. Let’s just say that if we had seen a grizzly bear there, it would have been very intimate, but also a bit unnerving.

Safely across the river, we climbed out and headed to Rick’s mountain cabin about a half mile away, situated right next to a 10 foot waterfall and an old concrete salmon ladder. The cabin, like every other aspect of Trapper Rick’s Wilderness Bear Adventure Experience, needs some work. But the location was amazing: the salmon were beginning to run, the sun was about to set, and Trapper Rick thought our chances of seeing grizzly bear were excellent. 

OK! 

  We walked a short trail from the cabin to the riverand hung out for about 30 minutes on the river, next to the fish ladder, while Rees watched for bear and Trapper Rick fished for salmon with a rod and reel. 

Jim later told me he was preparing his escape route down one of the weaving concrete chambers in the fish ladder where he figured the bear couldn’t squeeze through. But Jim’s escape route was unnecessary, as there were no bears at the fish ladder while we were there. 

 As the sun was setting we made our way back the way we came: trail past the cabin to the boat, boat across the river, trail to the truck (where Trapper Rick briefly couldn’t find the keys because Rees hid them in the ash tray instead of “leaving them in the ignition in case of an emergency” as he was told), truck down the logging road (it was getting dark, and the headlights weren’t working), truck to the end of the road and finally trail to the dock. 

Halfway down the logging road Rees said he sensed that we would see another bear and we did. The biggest male bear in the local area ran across the road in front of us. Grizzly sighting number 2!

We were all tired and hungry when we got into our dinghys to head to our boats. Yes, Rick and Rees were staying in the other boat in the small anchorage. Probably a good idea given the grizzly bears living in the area!

We said our goodbyes at the dock and drove our dinghy the short distance back to the safety of the True Love where I cooked up some chicken legs on the grill and heated up a package of Trader Joe’s gnocchis. We washed those down with some celebratory champagne. After much needed showers we shared some ice cream on the upper helm while looking at the glorious stars and reliving our big adventure in GrizzlyLand.

What a crazy, wonderful, unexpected adventure. Both Trapper Rick and Rees love what they are doing and where they are working in this beautiful land. Trapper Rick stays in the area in the winter and hunts sable in the winter. His life has taken him from Nova Scotia, to Los Angeles (where he was briefly a member of Hell’s Angels before witnessing a murder), to working as a welder in Northern Canada to his current gig of Wilderness Bear Guiding in Thompson Sound. 

The sounds of seals splashing in the water filled the air as we fell into a long, deep sleep. The next morning it was low tide and we hoped to spot another bear at the beach during low tide. Rees paddled over to say goodbye and while he was aboard we all saw Emma on the nearby beach.

  
It was a little tricky bringing in the shore tie because the seaweed on the surface had tightly bound both the incoming and outgoing lines together. We’ve never experienced this before. It wasn’t impossible to detangle, just tedious.

Because of the problem with our shore tie and the lovely morning bear sighting, we left a little later than expected which led to rougher seas than we hoped as we cruised south down Johnstone Strait. On our way out of Thompson Sound we passed some  more Dolphins. 

   

But fortunately, the winds and seas were going in the same direction as we were, and the True Love and its crew made it the 20 miles to the next safe harbor, Forward Harbour, without a problem. The calm bay was a bit crowded with boats gathering to prepare for the trip north to the Broughtons the next morning.  But we found a good anchorage, took the kayaks out for a spin and slept in the next morning before heading down to one of our favorite spots: the “Crawford Anchorage” next to Erasmus Island, near the Blind Channel Resort. It was as perfect as we remembered, so we stayed there for a couple of days before meeting up with Jasmine and James at Dent Island. 

  Crawford Anchorage is a practically perfect location with room for just one boat, fantastic views, eagles and a short tender drive to Blind Channel. 

  
Blind Channel is one of the nicest places in this area with a yummy restaurant for dinner, little store, fuel pumps, internet and overnight docks. Last night we went there for dinner. Their salads are beautiful with edible flowers and yummy fresh greens. After more than a week out we are out of fresh vegetables, so I was craving greens.
Today we are going to do some provisioning back at Blind Channel, kayak, fish and edit these blogs so that we can share our most recent adventures with you! 

True Love Adventure copy editor hard at work!

From the Lethargy Zone to the Southern Gulf Islands

First, it appears I forgot to post these wonderful dolphin photos from our encounter near Fredrick’s Arm last week. So here they are!

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 It’s Monday night and we are at anchor in Reef Harbour between Tumbo Island and little Cabbage Island. The sun is still pretty high in the sky at 6:35 PM. It’s high tide now, but in the morning we should see the reef clearly marked on the charts appear around us. We are nearing the end of our journey. We can see Point Roberts, Bellingham and Anacortes in the distance to our East and South. To our north and west we can see Vancouver. We even see the Cascades. DSC_5255 DSC_5280This is a special spot to end this year’s True Love Cruise Adventure. It isn’t often that you are on the edge of the Strait of Georgia and there are no winds. Supposedly this spot is protected in a SE wind. But it certainly can’t be a big wind. Tumbo Island just isn’t very big or tall and Cabbage Island is much smaller.

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The Lethargy Zone of Nanaimo:

We spent the last few days winding down after arriving in Nanaimo late on Saturday after a 10-hour cruise south.DSC_5236

We were pretty tired and shifted into the True Love lethargy zone. After sleeping in we walked to breakfast in “downtown” Nanaimo. Nanaimo, whoa, whoa, whoa. Nanaimo . . . you get it. On our way to breakfast at the recommended Tina’s Cafe we heard our names. Believe it or not, but Jim’s cousin and colleague at Dick’s Drive-In, Ron Schmeer and his son Kian family were walking down the road a block away.   Ron, his wife KC, and their two kids Kian and Maria had just spent the night at a Nanaimo hotel on the way to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Small world!

 

After breakfast we searched for a bicycle shop to procure a working pump for the hydraulic repair. It wasn’t easy to find, but after circling the area we stumbled upon their sign that led to a cute shop in an alley. Well fed and properly equipped we headed back to the True Love where we used the plentiful water for cleaning before entering fully into the “lethargy zone” at the “Dingy Dock Pub”. We’ve been to Nanaimo many times, but always in transit never allowing ourselves the luxury of approaching the “space time continuum” that leads to the do-nothing-chill-completely-relax zone. No one really realizes how much they need some time in the lethargy zone until they’re in it. Our cruise has been amazing, but we needed a respite from the adventure, the fishing and the visits.

 

The Dinghy Dock Pub was suggested to us by Stan Harrelson, on a comment he made on my Facebook post. Thank you Stan and thank you Facebook!

 

We stresslessly took the tender to the bar, planted our hinies in perfect seats along the edge of the bar where we drank and ate, on the floating Pub with a 180 degree view of Nanaimo’s Harbor. We were intermittently blessed with the warmth of the sun and gently cooled by the occasional clouds. As we lounged we saw the BC Games’ small sailboat race. The BC Games were underway in Nanaimo. They are the equivalent of the Junior Olympics. Some of the sailboats were extremely little — young elementary school child small.photo It wasn’t busy at the Dinghy Pub and we didn’t rush. When it was the perfect time we loaded the tender and headed gently back to the True Love, only 5 minutes away, where we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in bliss. While lounging, a huge 150 foot sailboat docked almost in front of us and just behind the stunning , century-old, 100 foot classic yacht owned by the Foss Tugboat company. The True Love was in extremely good company. We listened to jazz, ate cheese and watched people gawk at the two stunning yachts in front of us.

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Because we hadn’t yet paid for our moorage we picked ourselves up and exited the lethargy zone for a walk to the harbormaster and then a stroll along the waterfront to an extremely bustling dock. It’s hard to believe that this hub of activity was so visible off our pier as the crow flies, but it took a one-mile stroll to actually get there. We passed people walking, running, eating ice cream, fishing, crabbing and throwing food scraps to seagulls and an eagle. Now this eagle is always there at this time of the evening. We have seen it from the True Love before. This is not a majestic wild eagle. This eagle is fat, lazy and happy living in bliss inside the “lethargy zone.” He wouldn’t even grab the turkey leg that was offered to him just before sunset. He was just too full!

 

Sunday morning we set our alarm so we wouldn’t sleep in. A first for the trip. We needed to work off the lethargy, so we drank a healthy protein, kale, spinach and berry elixir and went for a 3 mile run/walk along the waterfront. Next, we used the new bicycle pump to increase the pressure in the hydraulics so the gearshift and throttle would be more responsive. Lastly, we topped off the water before departing through Dodd Narrows at slack tide for our next destination: Montague Harbour.

 

Montague Harbour

Like Nanaimo we had never lingered in Montague Harbor, we just used it as a great anchorage coming or going. But we wanted to stay awhile and explore.   A masseur from Poets Cove had suggested we try the Galliano Island spa. So we called on our way and after some phone issues we were able to schedule massages and a pick-up at the dock. Because the favorable light SE winds we anchored for the first time in relative seclusion on the outer NW arm of the bay in front of a bright white shell beach..

 

The Galiliano Island Resort & Spa was lovely. It’s located on the east side of Active Pass, the main route for ferries between Victoria and Vancouver. We enjoyed our massages, steam and dinner. In the lobby, the little resort and spa has an extremely cool mural made up of individual painted squares that together create a larger image of an orca and calf.   It was commissioned from the local Galliano artists. We returned by car and then tender to the True Love just in time for a quick sunset before melting into bed.

 

Today we woke up naturally and went for a lovely kayak along the SW shore of Galliano Island. The architecture of the buildings, big & small, homes or office towers have become fascinating to me. I wish I had known my interest earlier as I think I would have enjoyed architecture. I also have quite a fascination for big construction equipment and the process of building projects. Ahhh . . . maybe the next time around . . .

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But, I digress; the homes on the cliffs were stunning. They are examples of the kind of architecture I appreciate, with the building and materials blending in with the surroundings, yet taking advantage of the spectacular terrain and views. The architecture, combined with the sandstone cliffs, rock formations and the calm water made for a lovely kayak.

Fish Falling from the Sky:

I’m going to take this as a sign from the eagles above that we should keep fishing. When we returned to the True Love, there was a large, but mostly eaten fish in the tender. It was totally gruesome and quite a mess, but it cleaned up easily.

After cleaning up the mess, I mixed up a 2014 True Love Adventure favorite, capresse salad, for lunch, using small multi-colored tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, avocado, oil, balsamic vinegar, spices, fresh basil (from my basil plant on board) and sprinkled bacon (if appropriate), all chopped it into bite-sized pieces.

We ate lunch on the new upper deck area and watched quite a few boats anchor around us. But no bother, we were about to pick up and head to our last destination in Canada where we now sit peacefully watching the sunset, sharing a yummy, decadent, fresh-strawberry-and-cream cocktail.

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On the way we decided to trust the sea condition forecast and choose the shorter route through Active Pass out to the southern end of the Georgia Strait. We’ve always been a little nervous about getting caught in the narrow passage with one or two of the giant BC ferries. DSC_5255But it worked perfectly and we were able to easily maneuver out of the way as two ferries passed by. The seas were calm in the Georgia Strait and we enjoyed a smooth cruise to our next destination: Reef Harbour (between Tumbo Island and little Cabbage Island.

 

Reef Harbour:

Reef Harbour is very unusual in that it’s only a harbor at low tide. At high tide, the little harbor is almost completely exposed to the Strait of Georgia. But as the tide lowers, extensive shoals are revealed that create a fully enclosed harbor! We’ve never seen anything like it.

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After we anchored (at high tide), we explored little Cabbage Island a bit. The “reference text” suggested this little island of rock and trees off our port was worth the stroll. So we landed and circumnavigated the tiny island on foot beginning on a perfect sandy shore. From there we walked past pine trees, birch leaves rustling in the wind, flowering sea grass and pretty madrona trees. We traversed both sand and rock beaches, as well as a strange conglomerate made of large fist-size colorful rocks in a hard black base. Cabbage Island is so much more than its silly vegetable name: a small cornucopia of flora and geology surrounded by beautiful views. And in this calm weather it’s perfect. As we walked the north side of the island, fronting the Strait of Georgia, the driftwood was spectacularly large. photoOne tree stump was at least 50 feet around, 15 feet high and had a significant root system. Standing perfectly upright on shore it was harmless and beautiful, but I can’t imagine seeing it in the stormy waters it had to traverse to land in its current spot.

 

Now that we’re back on the True Love, the seals are playfully slapping the water all around us, eagles are chirping, perching and occasionally even soaring over the trees.

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Tomorrow we head back across the imaginary border separating Canada and the US. We plan to stop in La Conner for a night and visit the Bow Spady clan before our final cruise back to the Elliott Bay Marina on Wednesday.

 

DSC_5355This morning we got to see our anchorage in all of its “low-tide” splendor. The sun was out but we could see the clouds in the distance so we went for a great kayak to the head of the bay, spotting the local eagle pair close to shore. photoJim found a fun passage that was just deep enough for kayaks through the shoal the creates “shoal harbor” at low tide and we kayaked back on the unusually glassy calm water of the Georgia Strait, passing baby seals soaking up the sun on shore and playing in the water.

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Back in the USA!

Traditionally, during our return to Washington State, it begins to rain just as we return and today is no exception. But we are snug and warm in the True Love’s lower helm, heading back home in some sprinkles with calm seas as we cruise through the San Juan Islands. We’ve cleared customs via phone using our NEXUS cards and all is fine and dandy.

 

This year we enjoyed sharing our adventure in person with some very special people: Liza & Brian Cohen, Jess & Saul, my parents George and Sheila Lederer and their great-grandson Zan, Jasmine, David & James, and of course all of you who read the blog!  It’s been fantastic and we can’t wait until next year’s cruise. Thanks for sharing our True Love Adventures!

 

More Sharing & a Bit of Drama!

james ArrivesWe arrived at Dent Island about 10 minutes before the seaplane we thought was caring the Jasmine, David & James, but they were in another seaplane that arrived about 30 minutes later.   I told one of the guys exiting the first seaplane for a weekend salmon derby that I was very disappointed and he playfully responded that his wife says that to him all the time. 

 I was a little nervous about how James was going to do on the flight.  Seaplanes are great fun, but a bit noisy.  However, when they landed right in front of the True Love, docked and deplane, everyone had smiles and the flight was obviously a success.  Dent Island was a perfect place for James to acclimate to “boat time”. DSC_4861 We enjoyed lunch on the deck of the little restaurant while James explored this new place.

 

DSC_4869DSC_4910DSC_4890After lunch the Captain took us on the tender to see all the eagles at nearby Jimmy Judd Island (we call it Eagle Island because there are always lots of eagles there), and we took another short excursion from there to Big Bay on Stuart Island for some rock throwing into the water.  Rock throwing into water is currently James favorite past time.  He prepares with a rock in each hand.  It’s our job to collect the rocks and keep a constant pile available.  He wind-ups like a pitcher and throws with great enthusiasm and follow-throDSC_4918ugh.  It’s also our job to make sure he doesn’t fall over.  In addition to all the eagles at Jimmy Judd Island we also saw 3 sea lions (a first for the True Love in the area and apparently very unusual there before September).

 

After we returned to the True Love, James took a little nap with Jasmine. DSC_4863 After eating such a late and big lunch we just noshed for dinner.  As twilight set in we noticed the “super-moon” rising.  David and I grabbed my camera and tripod to try and shoot it.  We didn’t last very long, because we were attacked by a swarm of mosquitos.  We still got a good shot.  DSC_4950We ended our day giving James a bath.  I had purchased a portable bath on Amazon.  It was much smaller than the photo (which showed two children in the bath). DSC_4943 Obviously it was photo-shopped or neither child had any legs.  But, it worked perfectly for James on the boat.

 

The next day after a hardy breakfast and some more rock-throwing on Dent Island, we headed out on our cruise to Pendrell Sound in search of warm water for swimming.  James was great on the cruise.  I brought up the tub for some playtime and he enjoyed the new enclosed back DSC_4970deck on the upper deck.

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There was lots of laughter during the three days and two nights we were together, and a great joy to watch Jasmine, David and James play and laugh.  They are great parents and a loving family.  I brought a beach ball on the boat for James and he loved it.  Playing with all kinds of balls is another one of James’ favorite activities.  He loved playing with the beach ball, tossing it around inside the boat.

 

The weather has been extremely hot the last week and the water in Pendrell Sound was extremely warm:  over 78 degrees.  Because we were looking for the warmest water for James we sailed all the way up to the head of bay.  Jasmine and I decided to try securing the shore tie, which was great entertainment for everyone on the nearby boats and the men on the True Love. DSC_4984 I don’t drive the tender very often and I’m just not that good at its subtleties.  We also were anchored too far away from the shore for our line and the Captain had to readjust the anchor chain, which isn’t usually a good idea and would lead to some drama later that evening.  But as we accomplished our immediate task the people on the boat next to us cheered.DSC_5035

We were all ready for a swim!  It was super fun and we all had a blast!  David took bath duty with James while Jasmine and I did one last swim.

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We were all extremely exhausted from the sun, the voyage, the swimming and the playing, so we watched the movie “Bride & Prejudice” (David had never seen it and James loved dancing to the music). 

We ended our day with a yummy meal of BBQ Chicken, garlic shrimp and broccoli, all cooked on the grill.   James was having a little issue with some teething so he wasn’t as interested in eating as usual.  I decided to mix him up a special protein coconut milkshake and that seemed to work for him!DSC_4545

Now for the adventure!

Remember we had to let out more anchor chain to accomplish our shore tie.  Unfortunately, that created too much play in our anchoring system.  Around 1 AM we were hit by some big gusts of wind that moved the boat much too close to our neighbors.  So, the Captain decided we had to start the engine, raise the anchor, retrieve the shore tie and head out.  This is never fun in the middle of the night and particularly when in close quarters to other boats. 

The good news is that we didn’t hit anyone.  Jasmine and David obviously woke up when we started the engine but, unbelievably, James never woke up the entire time.  It was remarkable all around.  Guided by the light of the moon, we headed the True Love over to a spot in the middle of Pendrell Sound where we had anchored without a shore tie in the past.  We also got to use our newly purchased FLIR night vision scope.  We had bought it this year for just this very situation!  When we got to the new anchor location the Captain didn’t feel comfortable with the anchorage.  So we decided to head to the middle of Pendrell Sound, send the kids to bed while we stayed up until dawn when we could anchor more easily.  The Captain and I took turns sleeping and we made it through the night with no problem.  In fact, the True Love never moved much at all while floating unanchored in the middle of Pendrell Sound.  We all decided the next morning that anchoring is clearly overrated! 

 By the time James awoke, a perfect spot for spending the day had become available and we easily dropped anchor and spent the day rock throwing from shore and from the True Love’s swim platform.DSC_5019  We also enjoyed more swimming and kayaking and James took a long nap.  DSC_5022Right before we had to go ,Jim spotted the Schuchart’s boat “Geronimo” entering Pendrell Sound.

 

We hailed them on the VHF and wished them a fun time.  They have brought their boat up and their son and his family would soon be flying up to take the boat back to Seattle.  DSC_5048During the trip David and Jasmine learned more about piloting the True Love.  It will be fun when they can fly up and take the boat back to Seattle too.

 When it was time, we brought up the anchor and headed to Refuge Cove to drop the kids off for their seaplane flight home.   On the way, I created a surprise treat of whipped cream and fresh strawberries.  Everyone loved it! (Thank you Liza for sending the mixer up with Jess!) 

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Refuge Cove was scorching hot and we were all very tired (especially the Captain and the First Mate).  We, unlike Jasmine and David, are not at all used to staying up all night without sleep. But we enjoyed are last bit of time together, drinking iced tea and lemonade and sitting down with cool towels on our necks as we played with the James and the beach ball.

 DSC_5055The seaplane arrived and scooped up our last visitors.  Although we were exhausted, I just couldn’t hang at the Refuge Cove dock with the view of the garbage barge.

 So we rallied, cruised south for an hour, and anchored at Grace Harbor.  We found a calm spot and did not have the energy to shore tie.  Luckily we didn’t need to and we slept soundly for 12 hours.

The next morning we decided to head back up past Dent Island to Blind Channel.  We were in search of a new adventure and some cooler air.  As we headed north the water temperature dropped dramatically and the air cooled deliciously. 

 We found a perfect spot on the chart, “Crawfords Anchorage” next to Erasmus Island, and dropped the hook.  The last couple of days we’ve enjoyed lovely quiet, a beautiful setting, and a yummy dinner at the Blind Channel Resort.  We slept soundly and even had to put the quilt back on the bed to stay warm.

 

Fishing and learning our new downrigger Wednesday’s goal.  So after breakfast, we set up the downrigger on the tender and headed out in search of some fish.  We were told there was some good cod fishing nearby.  Unfortunately, we found no fish, (a seal showed us his catch) but we enjoyed our time on the water, floating, watching the eagles, learning our new equipment and reading.  This afternoon we headed out for a good kayak and ate leftovers and a salad filled with greens, peppers, avocado, scallions, pear, goat cheese, flax seeds and homemade dressing.

 Tomorrow, we are going to do a run to the 800 year-old cedar tree near the Blind Channel Resort and then head to a better spot further south for some salmon fishing. 

It was really big, but the picture is in my phone!

 

Learning to Fish

Jim and I believe that an important part of a successful, long-term relationship is learning new things together.  Accordingly, we are trying to learn how to fish.  Last year we hired a guide out of Dent Island to catch a Salmon.  Lets just say it was a very expensive but wonderful salmon and we learned that we needed a “downrigger” to pull our fishing lure down to the depth that salmon like (below 100).  So this year we asked Ben to install a downrigger on the tender, and this trip we gave it a try. 

We headed to a location just north of Dent Island, in Denim Bay, temporarily anchored the True Love, launched the tender and headed out for an afternoon of fishing.  There were lots of other boats catching fish so it looked promising. 

 First, the Captain and I had to get proficient at using our downrigger (the Captain’s job).  We also had to get proficient and baiting the fishing lures (my job).  We definitely had lots of strikes where the bait was taken or munched in half.   But alas, no fish.   Fishing ourselves on the tender is a lot of work.  Many of those with guides around us in their boats barely moved.  Not us!  Working the downrigger, baiting and driving the small tender in the waves was, surprisingly, exhausting.  But we had a great time singing songs such as “Help! We need some salmon, not just any salmon . . .” or  “I dream of salmon cooking on my grill”, but the fish who clearly not impressed.  Another couple in a small tender came out and caught a good-sized salmon fairly close to us, but no salmon for us.  Apparently, we need more lessons!

 It was a little exciting getting the tender back on the True Love in the wind, waves and strong current, but we mastered it calmly. We decided to head through the Dent rapids using the True Love “second gear” to a previous anchorage we discovered on the south side Stuart Island that works well when the winds are from the northwest.  It held perfectly overnight, although the Captain woke a couple of times to check. 

A McGyver Moment:

Yesterday we needed to change the water filters before we headed out.  Our repairs took us a little longer than anticipated because I tried to top of the pressure in the hydraulic system.  It was reading a bit low.  Unfortunately our pump was broken and when we attached it and tried to pump air in, instead all the air leaked out.  So we had to repair the leaky pump.  It took some wire, some electrical tape and of course some duct tape. That accomplished, we were able to pump the system up just enough to proceed.  We will buy a replacement air pump in Nanaimo.

Don’t Trust the Wave Report.

As we headed out the forecast showed calm winds and only small waves in the Strait of Georgia.  With a bit of a storm coming in, we decided to make the crossing immediately, instead of waiting until Saturday.  But the sea report lied.  It was quite choppy, with waves increasing to 4 feet in the middle!  But we made it last night to Nanaimo where we now spending a lovely day.

The Joy of Sharing Continues!

The Donovan’s arrived at Dent Island about a half of an hour after we docked. It’s always a pleasure being at Dent with its lovely facilities and dramatic location, but watching the troops land by seaplane to join made it even better.

We weren’t sure how James would do I. The seaplane and it was reassuring seeing Jasmine, David and James come out all smiles.

Dent was the perfect place for James to ease into boat life. From enjoying lunch on the deck, exploring the grounds he had a blast. After lunch the Captain took us for a tender adventure to Big Bay for some James rock throwing time. On the way we saw lots of eagles (adult and Juvenile), and three Sea Lions (a first for us and apparently unusual before September).

That evening we ate munchies and leftovers with a hardy salad. The weather was unusually hot almost everywhere, but the breezes at the dock were magically cool.

The super moon rose and David and I attempted to capture it on my camera. It was a brief photographic excursion due to the ferocious dusk Mosquitos.

The next morning we enjoyed a yummy breakfast at the restaurant while James had the dining room all to himself to graze and wander. We all gave True Love a quick bath and window cleaning before heading off to Pendrell Sound for some warm swimming.

On the journey Jasmine and I did a crossfit routine followed by stretches on the bow with our glorious views and warm sun. We enjoyed some yummy dips and ham and cheese roll-ups. James was cutting some teeth and not very interested in chewing so I made him an icy coconut milk and strawberry shake with protein. It hit the spot!

Road Trip in Tasmania

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For some reason my last blog entry cut off the end of our Cairns experience and the beginning of our time n Tasmania. As Jim says, there are a few bugs in the WordPress IPad App.
Nevertheless, we had a great flight out of Lizard Island back to Cairns. We got to ride in the small plane with Taryn, Tom, Captain Sam and the first mate, Hamish. The plane gave us a great view of the coastline as we flew down.

As we approached Cairns the tropical rains began and they really didn’t stop. It’s probably still raining there today. Our pilot, Nicki, was fantastic and gave us a very smooth flight with a gentle landing.

After we checked back into the hotel we took a long shower before heading out for a walk around town, some food and a movie. We dodged the heaviest tropical rainstorms by taking refuge in shops and eateries around town. Cairns is a strange town with both high end shops and rundown vacant areas. We saw the Grand Budapest Hotel which is a strange little movie befitting our location.

We flew to Hobart, changing planes in Melbourne; picked up our car, got our bearings and whilst chanting “stay left” we headed to our hotel: The Henry Jones Art Hotel. It’s a former jam factory that has been remodeled into a great boutique hotel, with lots of old wood paneling and sandstone. Our room was originally Henry Jones’ office and our bathroom the waiting room for the conference area.

After dropping of our bags we headed to the bar and drank local scotch whiskey and ate a yummy antipasto plate while listening to a local musician playing Johnny Cash type music.

This area is a bit like Scotland and South England with town names like Glenorchy, Brighten and Devonport.

In the morning we explored more of the wonderful architecture of our hotel. They have added a glass roof to the huge inner courtyard where we had breakfast, safe and warm from the passing showers. The architects did a fantastic job. This is a great concept for Seattle.

Surrounding the courtyard are a few shops and an art gallery. The hotel is decorated with lots of art from local artists. We slept In a bit (no 6:30 wake up call this morning), enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the courtyard, read the local paper and looked at art before hitting the road around noon for a 3 hour drive to Freycinet National Park. We drove through forested coastline, including curvy fun sections, forests of peppermint trees (they look like Dr. Seuss Pom Pom trees), wine country and then along the shore of Great Oyster Bay to the miniature red granite mountains of the National Park that includes all of the Freycinet Peninsula southeast of Coles Bay.

We saw our first “beware of wildlife sign” with an animal drawing that looked like a kangaroo. But, alas no kangaroo sitings today. We did see lots of road kill, sheep, what had to be the world’s largest back Angus bull, a few coyotes and we think what might be wallabies (small kangaroos) in a field.

Check that. They were definitely wallabies and one just hopped around the corner of our cabin as I write this. Cool!

We checked in at the lodge and drove a short distance to our cabin just in time to enjoy the sunset. Tomorrow we are going to do some hiking for sure.

As the sun goes down today here we want to wish Julie Spady a very happy birthday from down under!

We enjoyed a quick dinner at the lodge with a special scotch/whiskey tasting. The local single malt whiskies are quite good. We especially like the Lark. Chris, our scotch whiskey tasting guide was adorable.

Freycinet National Park

We slept well and woke up a bit late and headed out for our buffet breakfast. Really the only bad food we have had our entire trip. But the croissants were adequate and we had some yogurt and coffee. Then we headed out for our hike with some fruit and other snacks along the way.

Freycinet National Park is named after the French sub-lieutenant on a ship sent by Napoleon in 1802 to explore the “Great South Land.” Not bad for a Sub-Lieutenant!

We decided to do the full 11 kilometer (6 mile) hike over the small mountains to Wine Glass Bay on the Tasman Sea, back across the isthmus to Hazard Beach on Great Oyster Bay, and then along the hills above the shore back to the parking lot. It really was an awesome hike.

To begin, you hike up about 1000 feet through unusual red granite formations and interesting foliage including lots of peppermint and tea trees to a spectacular overlook above wine glass bay. Then you leave the crowds behind as you descend down do the beautiful beach of Wineglass Bay were we put our feet in the Tasman Sea and waved toward New Zealand. We saw a very friendly Wallaby, dolphins, oyster catchers and of course seagulls. We sat in the warm sun and ate some snacks before heading for the isthmus trail to Hazard Beach. The bird song was lovely and we heard all kinds of elusive flying creatures. After repeated attempts we did finally get get a fuzzy photo of one of the very large black cockatoos. As we walked through Hazard Beach we also saw a scampering Tasmania Pademelon.

We still had quite of bit of the hike left and as usual for us we were cutting it tight for daylight. It also appeared we were the last ones on the trail. I did pack one headlamp, but left the other behind because of weight, which was ridiculous. At this point Jim and I are both thinking to ourselves (but not voicing out loud) “what were we thinking?”

So, we picked up the pace and made it out just fine while watching the beautiful late sun as we walked above Great Oyster Bay (almost as big as San Francisco Bay but almost completely undeveloped). As the Aussies say “no worries, no drama, it’s all good!”

When we exited the trail we were famished and decided to head past our cabin another 10 minutes to the little town of Coles Bay. We passed a quaint little restaurant that advertised wood-fired pizza with a view of the bay. The proprietor was cleaning the windows and told us he opened in 30 minutes. He handed us a “takeaway” menu (they don’t say “takeout” here) and it looked perfect so we drove on to the end of the road and parked at a little warf to watch the sunset and stretch.

Dinner was scrumptious and the local wine Devine. We shared a thin crust pizza, some local fresh fish and chips, salad and sorbet. Yum!

When we got back to our cabin, we packed for today’s early drive and flight out of Launceston (north-central Tasmania) and then soaked in our tub before bed.

Our itinerary for today told us it was a 2.5 hour drive to the airport and we needed to check in by 9:50 AM. We grabbed some fruit, coffee and croissants for the drive and headed out for a drive along the north end of Great Oyster Bay and then across some beautiful high plateau ranch land on the way to the airport.

It was early morning and the soft pastel light bathed the trees and the countryside. We also so a lot of road kill. Jim coined the game, “Guess that road kill!” Wallaby, Possum, Wallaby, wallaby, unknown, pademelon. Not surprisingly given the large amount of road kill we saw an extremely large vulture-like bird – as big as any giant Condor either of us had ever seen. This bird was much bigger than an Eagle and appeared to be very well fed.

We thought this would be a great place to sell a t-shirt we once bought at a truck stop in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona, that said “Road-kill Cafe – you kill ’em, we cook ’em!” Gruesome.

We made it to the airport with time to spare and avoided adding to the roadside carnage.

We are now on the plane to Melbourne. Our last Qantas flight. As we sat down we were serenaded by the expressive and loud sounds of two very large parrots in the bay behind us. That’s a first.

We are looking forward to our exploration of Melbourne over the next 3 days before driving up the coast to Sydney for our flight to the Cook Islands – our last stop on the way home.

It’s a little overcast here in Melbourne with rain forecast for tomorrow , but we had fantastic warm weather in Tasmania, which is really lucky for that far south in late fall. It should be perfect weather for museums.

We also need to wish John Spady and Alan Middleton a very happy birthday too!

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