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Blog of Jack and Jude
explorers, authors, photographers & videographers
Back to home base
Wow, we’ve been back at the shack three weeks now and are still more or less confined to ground zero. It’s been a disaster so far. Here’s our news.
The flight couldn’t have gone better. With lots of good friends, an easy trip across the island, a superb goodbye party in Hobart, made the early flight next day and smooth change over in the mainland city, even getting our weighty rucksacks accepted straight through. Family waiting at the airport whisked us away to their place for never ending catch-up cuddles and kisses from five littlies with wet noses dribbling who wanted us to sleepover. Nah, must go. Got to catch the food store and open up our shack while there’s still a skirret of daylight.
We didn’t make it. And here’s where the good ends and the bad starts. Driving up to our place in pitch darkness, I fumbled through every pocket but couldn’t find the keys. It’s never easy changing headspace after six months. Lugging heavy bags after a nervy 24 hours, whoopee, the door opened, lights went on – all looked sweet even if a bit like an abandoned cathedral full of spider webs and dead cockies tainted by a slight smell of dead rat.
Torch in hand, water tank turned on, then into the pump shed. There, water is pouring onto the floor. Hmm! That’s not right. But no worries I’m thinking. Probably just needs a run. But flicking the switch was like Hoover Dam bursting. Water’s not pouring out, it’s gushing.
Back into the shack, taps are jettisoning bursts of air like a ramjet trying to take off. While back in the pump shed, it’s awash. The pump seal must be had so I shut it down.
“Looks like we’ll bucket water tonight’ I tell Jude who encouragingly quips, “Hot showers in the morning?”
Next morning, first task is to borrow a big pipe wrench to remove pump. All my good tools are on the boat of course. Disassembling the pump, the skirt on the ceramic seal is rotten. I ring around, “A seal for a 1980s pump! You got no hope, sonny. New pump here. $700. For you, make it $650.”
Being long term cruising yachties and now pensioners to boot has trained us to go easy on the folding stuff so I surf the net and find a Chinese look alike at Hardware Direct for $300 delivered. Needing more supplies, we decide on the long way round to town to avoid paying the ferryman until we can buy a season ticket on Monday, and as a good excuse to check out the neighbourhood. Lovely drive, green hills, everything seems bigger and busier. The recently completed highway bypass seems to be bringing more cars into our coastal hideaway. Oh well, suppose that’s progress. We scout the hallowed halls of our local Bunnings, so big it dwarfs the Pentagon. Up and down rows of stuff, but they’re out of stock of pumps. Damn! We used to have five hardware stores, now it’s just Bunnings and an old one trying to hang on, but still not a pump in sight. “Who uses them anymore? Everyone ‘cept the peninsula has piped water.” Decide to order online, we’ll live by the bucket a few days longer.
Second morning home we’re early at the pool with the littlies for swimming lessons laughingly cavorting around in the water with eight tagging rides. Wet faces and dribbling noses, we had a wonderful morning then celebrated by flashing out for a much needed play set. With five kiddies under ten and another about to squirt out we reckon it a wise investment.
Busy week follows ordering pump, cleaning shack and trying to gravity feed water into it, which didn’t work. So, no washing machine. What! No shower. Heck! We’d rather be pumping the toilet out on the boat, but instead, must use buckets. The pump is not due until Thursday.
Thursday comes. Pump doesn’t arrive. I ring Hardware Direct. “Where’s my pump?” I ask a rather bored voice that sounds awfully high or just plain dumb. After much waiting, he responds, “Well. It’s here.” And Mount Vesuvius explodes in my head. “What! There’s a long weekend coming!”
“Yeah, guess you’ll get it next week.” Now, Hardware Direct boasts low prices, but their ad doesn’t mention poor service.
“Tracking number?” I ask.
“You’ll get one when it ships.” Paying peanuts get monkeys.
In desperation I squirted some boat sealant into the broken pump seal, reassembled it, and gave it 24 hours to do its magic. Jude’s in need of water to finish cleaning the shack, which, by the way is looking pretty good – only one broken window from a suicidal bird. The new shed is still standing. While we were away it survived its first fifty knot blow down the river, so pleased us being dry inside – but the roller doors needed un-sticking. The garden and grounds look fantastic and lush, the new hedge doubled in size, reflecting the copious amount of rain and the care of good neighbours after all the hard work we’d put in before leaving.
But, after a week on buckets, life became rather tedious. Missing our boat, the mountains, the big trees, and the silence.
The Friday night before swimming again, Jude starts hacking a snowstorm that becomes a blizzard, vainly trying to cough up thick gooey stuff. By morning she’s pale like death. The floor covered in white tissues. One has bright blood flecks. Swimming’s called off for us. Jude stays in bed sliding further downhill. Isolated in the riverside ward she’s feverishly hacking painfully, popping panadol and gulping foul tasting cough syrup, while I quietly prance around hoping I’m impregnable.
The long weekend passes. It’s beaut weather and warm but we’re inside in isolation. Tuesday arrives and we wait for a tracking number as if for a Governor’s pardon. But it doesn’t come. Wednesday early I’m calling Hardware Direct. After bucket living for two weeks I’m not getting off till I have a number or my money back. I get a number. Be here Thursday. It comes, but to the wrong address. I receive my Chinese look alike on Friday. By which time my nose is running like a tap and my chest sounds like a broken church organ. But I work all day planning the changeover, buying the plumbing bits. By nightfall we have water in the shack, albeit with a few small leaks.
No swimming that Saturday either. Jude’s still not good, and I’m failing fast. But the new swing set arrives to the cheers of many excited small voices. We go up and, surrounded by a band of Indians, try to make sense out of the thousand pieces found in four big boxes using the 50 page manual. Light rain is falling when we put the first bits together.
Nicely wet by dark, refusing dinner I want only my bed. Terrible night. Drenched the bed. Hacking didn’t dislodge the glue in my chest or cement in my sinuses. Fully exhausted, finally sleep, to be awoken early by five high pitched kiddies wishing me, “Happy Birthday Poppi!”
For once I was somewhat pleased to be nearer death so I wouldn’t need to breath. But, a shinning example and trouper, I dress, shove a toilet roll in my pocket and it’s back up to the family to continue putting together the play set. Then surprise! Our other son has organised an evening BBQ. A fun time after belting down a few celebratory drinks. Plenty of kids, who we love dearly. Love wresting, swing high to the sky, plenty of stories and cuddles while holding our breaths. So good, we’re the last to leave.
Heavy to bed for one of my worst nights ever. Jude’s a tiny bit better, holding out hope for resurrection. But by Origin Night, it’s really bleak. Can’t breath. Panadol doing nothing. Cough syrup tastes like bitter poison. Decongestant hardly breaking up the cement. The white flag goes up. Thursday morning we visit the doc. He listens to our chests. Jude’s not good. Bronchitis. Prescribes antibiotics and chest x-ray. Me. I’m one step away from pneumonia. I get the antibiotics plus something super powerful for a couple of days and a puffer so I can breathe. Plus an x-ray to see the damage.
That pretty much brings you up to date. It’s Saturday again. No swimming again. But dang, we’re feeling good enough to break out and go to finish off that mammoth new swing set. Oh yeah, it seems we’re not the Bloody Mary spreading this. Everyone here already has it. Just bad luck we came home in time to get our bit.
A further update, visited doctor again today. Good news, x-rays for both of us are clear. More pills prescribed. We’re better but not quite back to where we began. And the big news is after three weekends, we have finally finished putting the mamoth play set together and aren’t the kids excited!
I’ll leave you with the wisdom of Helen Keller who had a most difficult and amazing life turning adversity into fun.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller
A fleece, three jumpers and a beanie
Last year June to June we sailed nearly right around Australia, notching up lots of miles that were made even more testing by Jude breaking her leg in the Kimberley. This year since Christmas we’ve taken things far more easier. Smelt the roses you could say. Although we did start gangbusters from Adelaide by sailing six hundred miles in spring’s thirty knoters that Garry Kerr nicknamed Banyandah Winds because we only had fair winds during strong wind warnings.
It was all heavy weather sailing to reach west coast Tasmania by Australia Day, just in time for Hobart’s Wooden Boat Festival. The good weather enjoyed at the festival continued during our easy return to Strahan aboard the Jane Kerr with the maestro Garry at the helm. That set up a summer as live-aboard land-folk with loaned wheels alongside a mate’s jetty whenever we were not up the Gordon River tramping World Heritage forests. All up, we made four expeditions into the forests including nearly a week camped in the thick stuff searching for an elusive bridge and historical track.
We notched up another three hundred miles in the protected waterways of Macquarie Harbour and the magnificent Gordon River. As a result many hours of video need editing this winter. We’ll post some clips after we settle into our new environs. Might even produce a DVD of the entire summer and include the best of the Boat Festival’s Sail Past, crewing the Jane Kerr, kayaking up the King River and our walks; Betsy’s Bay to West Coast and from Farm Cove to Mount Sorell’s plateau for magical views. Plus there’s a heap of footage in the forest searching.
After five fantastic months afloat in Tasmania we were wearing at least three jumpers, a beanie, plus the boat heater going whenever the sun was lost or the wind blew fresh. Therefore late in May we booked flights back to home base. Thereafter while securely mooring and winterizing our ship, life began beckoning from a totally different direction and we started planning and dreaming of the days to come. Living voraciously in one direction for nearly half a year then abruptly changing course re-energizes us.
During our last week in Strahan, as tagalong helpers we once again joined the film crew of “Two Men in a Punt” to record additional scenes requested by the producer. Jude was in heaven working alongside Joe Shemesh, who recently was awarded a golden tripod for his filming of cave spiders in sub zero conditions. But he was here in Strahan to produce an educational demonstration of the old Piner way of harvesting a Huon Pine. We landed in three loads on a narrow access road, tight between trees, a tricky spot for a helicopter with heavy loads. Scary inside, spectacular on camera. Great footage was taken over the two day shoot that will be merged into the original footage for a new production run. Going by what we’ve seen, it will be great. We’re one hundred percent behind connecting people to Earth.
Then in one catalytic day we were transported from being afloat at Strahan, now with a fleece coat added to our three jumpers and beanie, to being land based at home in shirtsleeves, cuddled and loved by family, a bonzer sunset blazing across the river. Oh! And a badly leaking pressure pump meaning bucket water until it is fixed.
From a world where everything moves and every action must consider movement, we have been taken to a world where nothing moves. Our platform may have become rock solid, but around us the pace has become hectic and our world filled with muted human noise.
That first night walking our land we visualized dreams only spoken about and quickly became excited by life offering so much. Saturday began early, a day with the kids, first swimming lessons and fun in the pool, then a BBQ lunch followed by little shy Sophie and racer Dylan – We’re Poppi and Nanni again. Love the boys and family. Love everyone in the balmy 22 C temperature and cerulean blue sky, quite still with patchy white and lovely river reflections too. But we do miss the mountains and the daily boat traffic of Macquarie Harbour. But do not miss the grey skies and scudding squalls. 🙂