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Townsville, Queensland
May 27, 2007

(Steph) Back to civilization. As happens the first few weeks of every cruising season, despite a steady month of working on the boat before setting out, a bunch of things went kaput and we needed to stop having fun and work. Don't they say that cruising is all about working on your boat in exotic locations? Well, it's true.

During our three week cruise from Bundaberg up through the Whitsundays we compiled quite a worklist:

  1. Outboard: dead

  2. Genoa: 3-foot rip at foot (again)

  3. GPS: dead (luckily, we had a spare)

We also wanted to stock up on groceries, do some laundry, and get rid of the trash we'd been carting around. Having been to so many national parks, there hadn't been anywhere to dispose of our trash. We were starting to feel like those poor dogs you see walking around with their doodoo tied to their collars, until their owner finds a trashcan. (Well, at least we don't have to carry our ... okay, I'm just going to stop there.)

An hour outside of Townsville as we were coming in at 8:00 am, I was rinsing out our coffee cups and discovered that we had run out of water. Oops! I guess we didn't plan that very well, but at least we didn't run out of water at some remote island! We were ready for Townsville, for sure. We were just hoping that Townsville was ready for us.

I was determined to get in and out of Townsville as fast as possible, because we are on a tight schedule to get up to Darwin by July, and we are notorious for getting too comfortable and staying too long sometimes. By the end of that first day, the genoa had been picked up by a sail repairer, we had an appointment with a GPS service guy, two loads of laundry had been done, and we found out that every outboard mechanic in Townsville was backed up by at least 3 weeks. Ouch. We called around, and found a guy who could work on the outboard this week, an hour's drive away. We rented a car for the next day to drop it off with him. We also filled the tanks with water, but then realized that we hadn't been low on water -- something in our system was not working, therefore we weren't able to get fresh water in the galley (the head sink worked fine).

The outboard was a priority, however, because when you are on someone else's schedule it's in your interest to get them started ASAP, because inevitably you'll be sitting around twiddling your thumbs, waiting for them. So, we took the outboard to Ayr, a tiny little one-street town, and with the car I did a huuuuge grocery run so at least we could scratch provisions off our long to-do list.

Castle Hill in Townsville

Thus began, on our third day, a few hours of plumbing diagnosis and repair. On Mico, we have a suspicion that the first owner built up a plumbing system and then built the boat around the plumbing. It is nearly impossible to make repairs to the plumbing -- hoses make weird 90-degree turns that shouldn't be possible in this dimension, and they are stuffed behind bulkheads and deep within lockers where there is absolutely no access for a screwdriver or even a few small fingers. Our first guess was that the galley pump needed replacing, despite the fact that we had put in a new one just two months ago. But after fitting the spare, we realized that wasn't the case. Then, we thought maybe our water filter wasn't doing the job, but Warren was able to suck water through the filter just fine, so that wasn't the problem. Then we thought maybe we needed to replace the fresh water hose between the tank and the pump, but I was able to suck water from that hose, so it seemed there weren't any leaks and that the hose was in fine condition. Hmmm, back to square one after several hours and still no fresh water in the galley. Frustration was getting to some record levels, because no fresh water in the galley is one of those deal breaker things -- we aren't going anywhere without it. Eventually, we decided that all problems pointed to a broken galley pump, and that our spare might be broken, too. So we took a gamble and I went up to the chandlery and dropped $70 for a new one. We fit it, and it didn't work. ARGH! But then we took a closer look at and realized that the O-rings were askew. We adjusted them, fit it again, and presto! Fresh water in the galley had been achieved! What a relief.

After that trying day, we decided we were due for a break. The next day we got up early and hiked to the top of Castle Rock, a huge red cliff that overlooks Townsville. The hike was pretty challenging, but apparently it's just another form of exercise for many Townies -- while we were huffing and puffing up the track with our backpack full of water and snacks, tons of people in their cute little exercise outfits went blasting by us, and in fact passed us again on their descent. We made it to the top, reveled in our victory, and then went down the mountain and got coffee at a cute cafe. Then we moved on to the reef aquarium. It's difficult to keep coral alive in captivity, but they've done an amazing job at the aquarium here, so we enjoyed a huge variety of reef fish and corals.

Then it was back to work. We had a few items on our list to pick up from the chandlery, so we thought we should secure them so we'd be ready to go when the outboard was done (by this time, the GPS had been fixed and the repaired genoa had been returned). We needed a 2-foot section of sanitation hose to replace a split one in the head. We had discovered a section connected to the pump-out system had cracked, so we weren't able to manually pump out the holding tank. We don't usually use the tank, but we do need it in marinas sometimes, so this was something we'd need to eventually fix. Well, we should have known better -- we were talking plumbing, after all, so pretty soon we realized this wasn't going to be a 10-minute hose-replacement job. I won't go into the details (I'd rather forget it myself; remember we were working with sanitation hose, which should get your imagination going), but we ended up replacing several lengths of hose and the entire pump itself. That was two days of work. If anything is going to kill morale on a boat, it's working on the plumbing in the head. I was threatening to get a hotel room for a while there. And Warren said, "I give up!" a few times, which I don't think I've ever heard him say. But eventually, we fixed the problem. It's more like a work-around, but for the moment we're happy.

Warren attempts to be a total American Mensch and lasso a bollard as Ragnar from the Maritime Museum looks on in ...

After that project, we decided we were due for another vacation day. We toured the Maritime Museum here, and then went to see the Pirates of the Caribbean III. The museum was interesting, the movie not so much. We are now officially stuck in Townsville, waiting for the outboard, so today we plan to visit the Sunday market and go to Magnetic Island, an island just across the bay via ferry, for a hike. We were planning on sailing and anchoring there, but we are officially behind schedule now, so when we finally leave (we're hoping for Tuesday, just 8 short days after pulling in here) we are probably going to try to get straight up to Cairns, the next big port, where we have mail waiting. After that we'll have a little more breathing room.

Koala in the wild on Magnetic Island near Townsville




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