We’re Off to See the Wizard

A while ago, I came across the following definition of cruising in a boating magazine: Cruiser: Someone who sails for pleasure without an exact destination, and in some cases without an exact duration.

By that measure, Eric and I are not entirely cruisers. For one thing, we always have an exact destination for which we plot a course, obtain weather data, and file a float plan with our family. We may not get there—contrary winds and weather have a say—but we always start out knowing where we want to go and the approximate duration of the voyage. We also have a very specific long-term goal to circumnavigate the globe.

The real disqualifier, however, is that part about sailing for “pleasure.” If I wanted unadulterated pleasure, I’d be lounging on the QEII with a glass of champagne in my hand. Instead, I’ve been honest in my blog about how rough our days and nights at sea can sometimes be. But pleasure isn’t our motivation for cruising. It’s the opportunity to travel. We want to see this planet from east to west and north to south. Our bucket list is overflowing with places we long to visit. To that end, sailing is an excellent way to reach and explore many parts of the world.

But it’s not the only way, and we are soon to embark on a new stage of travel. Meet silvery, glittery Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, who will transport us about the Land of Oz.

We have wheels!

We bought Glinda during our stay in Brisbane. She is a 2005 Honda Odyssey 7-seater, in excellent condition, with 198,000 kilometers to her credit. As with our van Sage in New Zealand, she satisfies two important requirements: She can carry us and all our kids when they visit at Christmas, and her seats, folded down and padded, convert her to a no-frills camper. But first, a pause for a boat glitch…

Having noticed that Corroboree’s steering wheel was not aligning properly with the rudder orientation, Eric crawled into the aft cabin to inspect the linkage in the stern. I was preparing dinner in the galley when I heard the dreaded words, “Oh, shit.” I told myself it couldn’t be anything too serious. Hadn’t we just replaced the engine elbow exhaust, installed a new autopilot, and successfully refilled the compass (which Eric had “broken” while “fixing” it, causing a leak and a worrisome bubble under the glass)? Then I heard it again, “Oh, shit” followed by “You better come see.”

The steering wire on the port side was splitting apart and about to break. The culprit seemed to be corrosion, although that area is watertight. Condensation, maybe? Good thing Eric discovered it while we were in port. Though we carry an emergency tiller, it would certainly be no picnic had the wire snapped while we were at sea.

That “Oh, shit!” moment–our frayed steering wire
Eric scrunched into the cockpit locker to cut out the damaged wire
…and install the new one

Embracing the bright side, we ordered a replacement wire from a trusted company in the United States and set off on our first jaunt in Glinda meanwhile. In another example of Aussie hospitality, a colleague of Eric’s had offered us two nights at his time-share at an eco lodge in Binna Burra on the edge of Lamington National Forest. Binna Burra is 100 miles south of Brisbane, and now we had the wheels to get there.

Our friend’s time-share turned out to be a sky lodge with a huge bed, a kitchenette, a sinful spa tub, and a splendid sunset view from the balcony. The forest is laced with hiking trails, and we tramped four of the shorter ones, sighting birds, pademelons (mini kangaroos), and a dingo that popped up unexpectedly among the trees. The dingo gave us a long look, and with the hair prickling on our necks, we practiced out-staring it as we had learned on Fraser Island. Success! After a few moments it calmly trotted away. A ranger we met a little further on explained that dingos don’t normally roam this area, but their usual habitat to the west has been so dry due to lack of rain that they are venturing into the forest in search of water. These mainland dingos are also considerably more timid than their Fraser Island cousins, so our brave stance was probably unwarranted.

Binna Burra Mountain Lodge
Hiking in Lamington National Forest
A red-necked pademelon. These mini kangaroos are just 16″ tall.
Binna Burra sunset from our balcony

On our return to Brisbane, we received our new steering wires and spent a day installing them. We then sailed Corroboree north to Bundaberg, where the marina is more affordable for a long-term stay. It took some patience to obtain a weather window for the 200-mile, three-day leg, as the winds on this section of the Australian coast seem to be all or nothing. Nevertheless, we had a reasonable overnight passage from Brisbane to the southern end of the Great Sandy Strait, where our entry via the Mad Mile was much less tumultuous than our exit had been two months previously. We motored up the Strait, anchored overnight near the north end, and departed at sunup to cover the final fifty miles to Bundaberg. The wind was gusting to 25 knots when we tied up at the marina late in the afternoon, and it blew strong all the next day. At such times, it is sooo nice to be curled up in a safe berth with a mug of tea, a stack of books and puzzles, and a classical music station on the radio.

The Mad Mile

A few days later we took the train back to Brisbane and retrieved Glinda. Boat and car now in one place, we have downloaded our Aussie camping apps and are plotting our first land cruise. It will be short and not too far afield to see how the three of us go. Then we’ll return to Bundaberg, make any necessary adjustments to Glinda and our expectations, and head out for longer spells.

As with our sea passages, we’ll have exact destinations in mind and an idea of how long we’ll spend on the road. We expect to have enormous fun—we certainly did on our camping trip in New Zealand—but we’re not doing it for “pleasure.” When we’re crowded into the back of Glinda with the sun broiling or the rain pelting down, we’ll probably ask ourselves why we’re doing it at all. But the lure of travel beckons, so we’re off to see the Wizard. As with any journey, what you really find, in the end, is yourself.