24 February 2007


Wow! Yes, it has been awhile since you've heard from Team Sandpiper. We've been busy! Since our last update, my Dad and Grandma got off back to The States. And Tom and I left the following day for a 2-week adventure. We arranged to have the Sandpiper hauled out and cleaned up. We could not stay on the boat during this work, so I planned a trip.

We started our trip the 31st of January, the day after Dad and Grandma left, with a 14-hour overnight bus ride from Sydney to Melbourne. We boarded the Firefly Express, a double decker tour bus, at 7pm from Sydney's city center and arrived in Melbourne the following morning at 8am.

Once in Melbourne, we hopped on the train and headed for the beach town of St. Kilda. We stayed at the Base Backpackers hostel in St. Kilda, just blocks from the beach, with lots of shops, restaurants, and bars. At night our hostel tuned into quite the party place! The great thing was, that as soon as you stepped in the elevator, you couldn't hear anything. We took it quite easy in St.Kilda, relaxing on the beach, and enjoying lots of good food and cold beer.

On Feb. 3rd, we flew from Melbourne to Launceston on Tasmania. Our first hostel in Launceston was the local backpackers. Our room was conveniently located next to the fire escape, which Tom thought, was going to be a problem from the get-go. Needless to say, at 4am I heard a noise. I tried to wake up Tom, but he can't see anything without his glasses. I thought maybe it was a Tasmanian Devil , but it turned out to be a drunken backpacker trying to open our window and use it as a door since 'his mate had the key'. I told the bloke that we would not be letting him use our window as a door and to go away. He seemed to be OK with this and left us alone the rest of the night. Needless to say, we moved to a different accommodation for the reminder of our stay in Launceston.

Over the next few days we explored the town. We walked to and through the Cataract Gorge, took a ride on the world's longest single-span chairlift, and we walked the Alexandra Suspension Bridge.

Monday the 5th was the Super Bowl. And with my Indianapolis Colts playing, it was a must see. So we watched the first half with our breakfast at the hostel. During half-time we did a tour of the Boag's Brewery, and then we finished the game at a nearby pub. The locals couldn't believe how long the game lasted, and they didn't understand what was going on either.

The next day we took a one-day bus tour of the World Heritage area of Cradle Mountain. Our driver was extremely knowledgeable about the area and he loaded us up with all sorts of info, to the point of being annoying.

On the 7th we were picked up at our hostel by the Adventure Tour bus for a 3-day east coast exploration of Tasmania. The bus holds 22 people (20 women and 2 men) and it was full, mostly with women from all over the world. Tom and I got our seats and off we went. Most of the passengers had already been on the bus for four days, so everyone was real friendly and excited to see new faces.

We weren't on the bus more than an hour when we arrived our first stop, the Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm. It is the largest lavender oil producing farm in the southern hemisphere, and it is the only source of perfumed lavender outside Europe. The day we were there they were not doing tours. But I did get to buy lots of lavender products.

We then hit the Bay of Fires for a great stroll on the beach where I scored some Tasmanian sea shells to add to my collection. The sand here is so soft, fine, and bleached white. And the water is crystal clear with beautiful shades of blue. In any other part of the world, you would want to jump right in to the water. But here the waters are very chilly with the Antarctic Circle only 200 nautical miles away. So you can image the frigid temperatures.

We ended the first night in the town of Bicheno where the tour company has their own house directly across from the beach. Meal times with the tour was a group activity, with everyone pitching in to set the table, prepare the meal, and to clean up. That night we went to the beach to watch Fairy Penguins, the smallest penguins in the world, come to shore for a short sleep in burrows in the sand dunes. They sure are cute!

The next day was an early rise to head off to Freycinet National Park and a great hike to Wineglass Bay. We arrived around 8am and had until noon to do the hike and meet back at the bus. The hike involves climbing over 600 rough bush steps (1 hour), and this is just to the lookout. To get to the beach it's another two hours walk from three, involving many more rough bush steps. Once we finally made it to the beach it was beautiful and well worth the walk. Tom and I were the first on the beach that day and had the entire bay to ourselves.

Our friends caught up to us, and while we were resting on the beach, we had our first Wallaby sighting. He came right up the water and had no problems being around us. Once back at the bus, the parking lot was full of Wallaby's. They are very use to being fed by visitors to the park. They let us get right up next to them and get lots of pictures.

After our walk, we drove to Port Arthur, a penal establishment from 1830-1877. Once more, the tour group owns a home here, where we all stayed. That night we did a ghost tour of the prison. It was super cheesy, and we didn't see any ghosts. The scariest part of the tour was the walk back in pitch black darkness. Our flashlight went out and we could hear the Tasmanian Devils fighting in the surrounding trees. The next day we did a guided walking and harbor tour of the prison.

On our way to Hobart we stopped at the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park. The Devils, which you can only see in Tasmania, are currently on the endangered species list due to an untreatable terminal mouth cancer. They look nothing like the cartoon character we know so well. But, they do fight a lot, and are actually quite cute. While there we got to hand feed some Kangaroos.

That night our bus-tour was complete, terminating in Hobart. We spent the first few nights in a hostel, and spent the days exploring Hobart. We got lucky because when we were there for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. It was a great treat for us to check out. It showcases Tasmania's boat building heritage and maritime traditions.

Tom's friend Annie, whom he hasn't seen in 6 years, also treated us to a surprise visit. Annie had been living in Antarctica for the past few months studying seals. It was great talking to her and her friend John about their experiences on the ice.

'Team Sandpipers' has been back in Sydney since the 17th. We got right back into being tour guides for our friends on S/V Shiraz. Today we are back to working on the boat. We plan to leave our current location in Sydney on Monday, the 26th. We are not venturing too far north, as its still cyclone season. But we are anxious to get out and see more of Australia.

On Monday we will move to the town of Manly, anchor for a few days, hopefully catch some waves, then take off for Broken Bay.

Hope all is well with everyone. Keep in touch with us.


Amy and Tom

One more note. You can find photos and a note from 'Team Sandpiper' on the Electronic Latitude web site, with a full article in the March issue.

Note from Ron: Hmmmm.... I have to disagree with Amy on a point. She mentions that The Bay of Fires in Tasmania is only 200 nautical miles from the Antarctic Circle. The bay is at latitude 41° south. The Antarctic Circle is at 66° 33' 39" south, over 1500 nautical miles father south.

To compare, latitude 41 crosses the US near the California/Oregon border on the west coast, and Long Island Sound off New York on the east coast.

The southern most point of Tasmania is South East Cape, at 43° 38'. Still a long ways away, 1370 nautical miles. There a little island that is owned by Tasmania named MacQuarie Island, about half way between Australia and Antarctica. It is the southern most point of Australian terratory. It is at 54° 37', which is still 0ver 700 nautical miles from the Antarctic Circle.

The sea water round Tasmania averages between 12 and 18 degrees Celsius (53 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit), about the same as the water in the San Francisco Bay. Cold enough to knock the breath out of you if you fall in.

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