Friday, December 27, 2013

Back to Work

The day after the waterspout, we we did head over to Riverheads. In June, Bryce interviewed for a short term job in Papua New Guinea. He wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going to back to work but it was easier to think about doing it now and giving us a bit more of a financial cushion, then doing it in a year or two when we were actually out there. So this was six months ago and we had been living in limbo waiting for the final, official approval for the job to go ahead. It finally came this week. We thought we would have enough time to sail the boat back down to Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast so got a delivery of groceries from Woolies to make the trip down. Turns out they expected him on a plane out on Monday (this was Wednesday), which would’ve been doable but stressful. After some research and failed plans, we decided to leave me and the boat on a mooring in Maryborough. In addition to the groceries, which we had delivered to the “Boat Ramp, Riverheads,” we had a courier pick up Bryce’s passport to take it to the PNG High Commission in Brisbane to have a visa put in it. A very handy boat ramp. We also had an unimpressive experience with the local doctor. He basically refused everything we asked for and needed and was rude and hurried us despite the fact that we had booked two appointments. The chemist at “La Farmacia de Riverheads” (Seriously!), on the other hand, was lovely. Francisco is from Chile and is a sailor and was so helpful to us. We would highly recommend visiting him if needed. We had decided to spend a few days back over at the resort before taking the boat to Maryborough. The scripts that Francisco wasn’t able to fill on the spot, he ordered and sent over the resort the next day on the ferry for us to pick up at reception. A great service! 
We headed back to Resort and spent two days relaxing in and by the pool before taking the boat 20 miles up the Mary River to Maryborough. We started out with the intention to sail the trip but it started raining and we were worried about depths and debris that is commonly floating in the river and after the first tack at a shallow depth, quickly abandoned and motored up. It was beautiful trip with only a few stressful points. At one point the depth gauge read that we should’ve been on the bottom but it very quickly went back up again so we were safe. When we got there, we had to to pull up a mooring ball. We had never done this before on Aquabat and it wasn’t the graceful execution ever but we did it. We ended up moving to a mooring closer to the Marina and it went much more smoothly that time. We wanted to run the mooring line over our bow roller so it was a bit of a project to figure out what to do with our anchor. We ended up securing it to the bow pulpit with it resting on the toerail. 
Leaving the boat in Maryborough was a great short term solution, because unfortunately they have flooded at least once in January for the last five years. In last years flood, the water was 10 meters up, so we knew we would need to move the boat when Bryce was back at Christmas. All the boats leave the river but the marina owners stay there on their Catamaran and tie up to the trees once the water get too high as they have to tie the pontoons to the pilings at that point as well. 
I decided to accompany Bryce on his travel down to Brisbane and stay there for a week before heading back up to the boat. Having not done much train travel in the past, Bryce and I really enjoyed the train ride down to Brisbane. It’s a lovely way to travel. Due to visa delays, we had a couple of extra days getting Bryce ready to go and then he was off. The way his contract is structured he is working for three weeks and then coming home for two weeks over Christmas and then is back to finish up in PNG for three months. 

Bryce's job is based in Port Moresby and he will be completing a workforce planning activity for the Village Courts and Land Mediation Secretariat.  Basically, they provide centralised monitoring of grass-roots justice functions.  In essence, these semi-formal justice functions act as a "pressure-release valve" for disputes; ideally resolving them before they escalate into larger acts involving retribution and/or formal judicial processes.  They are undergoing substantial changes (including targets to triple the number of Village Courts across the country) and need to figure out how to respond to that and Bryce is there to help them plan what to do with their workforce. So that's what he's doing...

Despite my initial plans to go back to the boat, after a busy week of babysitting (aka exclusive time with) nieces and nephews, spending time with grownup family and friends and running errands, I got 'comfortable' and decided to spend the remaining two weeks Bryce was gone in Brisbane. I also opened a large can of worms when I took it upon myself to organize Bryce’s mum's craft room (with her blessing). Well, one thing led to another and it kind of became the whole house. I really enjoy cleaning and organizing and living in a small space has definitely fueled the desire to have everything organized and neat. I can't seem to help myself! Organising other people’s spaces and stuff is especially fun and I still have the craft room left to do after Christmas. 

Bryce made it back from PNG and we headed back up to the boat for a couple of day before heading back to Brisbane to spend Christmas with his family. This is a very different Christmas than I am used to but no less wonderful. For starters, despite growing up in Australia, after spending the majority of my christmas’ in Madison, Christmas for me is synonymous with snow (if we are lucky) and being cold and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Part of our family tradition is that we don’t leave the house on Christmas day. Our christmas is generally a very quiet and relaxed event with only immediate family plus three for lunch. In contrast, Christmas with Bryce’s family is loud and chaotic, in a good way, with 24 people present for lunch and varying numbers throughout the day. Having excited little kids around definitely contributes to the chaos with presents flying every which way and excited yells before they toss the present aside and tear into the next one. There was always a willing volunteer to help unwrap my presents. We were able to skype with my family for a while on our Christmas as well as the next day, for their christmas. It was a lovely day. We are mindful of the fact that next christmas (fingers crossed) we will be spending on the boat somewhere exotic! On Boxing day, Bryce and I headed back up to the boat to have some fun.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Boats Work in Mysterious Ways

Back in June, we noticed that a tiny bronze piece from one of cupboard latches had broken off. Since we have an aluminum boat, this was caused a lot of concern as we constantly worry about electrolysis. If a bronze piece were to sit undiscovered in our bilge, it would gradually eat through the hull and cause major problems for us. We searched for it everywhere and could not find it. Instead of driving ourselves crazy, we had to eventually settle on the fact that we couldn't find it and hope that it had somehow fell off into a bag or something and magically worked it’s way off the boat.

Fast forward to August when we were driving Dingbat back from the Library and Bryce randomly found this small tiny piece in the bottom of the dinghy. We were estatic. Thinking that now that we had the piece, I could repair the latch, I put the piece in a “safe” place for when I could get around to it. Of course, I forgot where that "safe place" was and we could only go back to living with the uncertainty of it being in the bilge somewhere. 
A couple of weeks ago, we were going through some of our spares and in a ziplock bag marked “random,’ we again found this tiny little piece. We do need to replace all of these latches at some point soon, so to avoid any future confusion we both watched as I ceremoniously dropped it overboard.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Midge Hell

Photo credit: CDC PHIL
While we were anchored at River Heads, we were attacked by sand flies. Sand flies aka midges or no-see-ums in other parts of the world, live in mud flats and mangroves, their reproductive cycle is linked to the moon and the tides and love the absence of wind. This was this exact situation we were in: mud flats & mangroves, full moon and absolutely zero wind. The day that was the worst we opened up the hatches and it was like the midgees were all waiting to be invited in. We made a tent out of a sheet and spent the morning hiding out. To no avail as I got completely devoured.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Middle Percy Island

No, we didn't actually make it this far north. We were recently sent this photo from our friends Paul and Annie on S/V Dema. They took this picture for us while visiting the Percy Islands, which are Southeast of Mackay. 

We are definitely the only Aquabat originally out of Byron Bay so this is something for our history books! We had vaguely heard of a shack in the Percy Islands where visiting yachties can leave momentos of their visit. This was it. Not knowing much about the shack or the island, we did some research and the island actually has quite an interesting story. I would never be able to do the story justice in summary so click here to read the full story as it was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Hopefully someday we will be able to notch some more years onto the tally.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Bean Sweet Potato Spring Rolls

You may remember the story of our hilarious provisioning trip when we arrived at River Heads for the very first time. While we were looking around the very small and overpriced shop, I was trying to find something fun for a treat. The best I could come up with was Spring Roll Wrappers. 

Provisioning results.
Once a very long time ago, I had actually tried to use spring roll wrappers. Turns out in this instance, what I was actually trying to make was rice paper rolls, I just didn't know it at the time and so upon steaming them, the wrappers disintegrated and they became a sloppy mess. In my defense, this was so long ago that googling it wouldn't have been a thought. I was determined to succeed this time. We did try some traditional spring rolls with a cabbage filling but we fell in love with this black bean sweet potato filling. This would also be an awesome filling for quesadillas as well. Unlike spring roll wrappers, tortillas don't need to be refrigerated and will keep indefinitely which makes them more desirable on board. You can also relatively easily make your own tortillas. The spring roll wrappers do keep easily in the fridge though. These spring rolls are really easy to make as I had cooked the beans and sweet potato for something else and intentionally made extra for these, so it was just a matter of mixing everything together.

I tend to overstuff everything, rice paper rolls, tacos, burritos, you name it so these were no different. This just made them a little more tricky to roll but rolling them is essentially the same as a burrito. See notes below about how I roll them. We tried baking them in the oven but this took longer and we ultimately preferred the texture of pan frying them. These topped with some creamy chipotle sauce and we were in heaven.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Spring Rolls

2 c sweet potato; cubed & cooked
1 1/2 c black beans; cooked, drained & rinsed
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chili
Salt, to taste
8 spring roll wrappers
Oil, for pan frying
Creamy Chipotle Sauce
Cilantro/Coriander, to garnish

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
2. Roll spring rolls. (See notes below)
3. Coat hot pan lightly with oil. Cook spring rolls on both sides until crispy ~ 3-5 min each side.
4. Serve with Creamy Chipotle Sauce and Coriander, and Enjoy!

To roll Spring Rolls:
- Remember: I am no expert at this, and I'm sure there are better, more traditional ways to do it but this is how I did it.
- Make sure you keep the wraps from drying out. Take out the quantity of wraps that you are going to use and put the unused ones back in the fridge right away. Cover the ones to be used with a damp cloth or paper towel. 
- Place one wrapper out diagonally in front of you. Place a couple of spoonfuls of mix in the middle of the wrapper. Tuck the corner closest to you over and under the filling. Tuck in the two edges and roll away from you, keeping the edges tucked in, until the roll is complete.
- Keep a small bowl of water nearby. Use it to wet your fingers to dampen the wrapper in order to seal the roll.