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While Elaine enjoyed a lazy Friday morning, Roy was up early to head back to the condo to finish the repairs to the sliding door. Elaine also took the opportunity to catch up with friends in England as well as look after the children to allow Brooke to get some grocery shopping done. By then,  there was still enough daylight left to enjoy another visit to the park before we headed out to meet friends for drinks and dinner at the Ginger Monkey in Chandler. It was a lovely surprise to see faces we hadn't expected and thoroughly enjoyed the time together with friends we haven't seen in a number of years.

Yesterday Roy looked after all the children while Elaine and Brooke enjoyed a "girlie day" out, which included lunch and a very successful shopping spree using a host of gift cards, complements of our credit card rewards. While Elaine and Brooke had a great outing, Roy definitely looked worse for wear by the time we got home and needed a few headache tablets to help his recovery.

Today, while Roy enjoyed a lazy morning to himself,  the rest of us headed to church. After lunch we caught up with family in Ireland and then took the children for a long walk and yet another trip to the park. A barbecue sealed the evening,  but it was a rather late night for us,  since we needed to stay up to fetch Keenan from the airport. With the whole family back under one roof tonight,  we await the adventures of tomorrow!

Yesterday morning, after a cooked breakfast complements of Brooke,  it was time to get some fresh air.  With the twins in the stroller and the rest of us in our walking gear, we enjoyed a family walk around the neighbourhood and then the grandsons got to spend the rest of the morning playing in the park. 

While Roy spent part of the afternoon ordering  all our yacht parts, spares and consumables which we'll take back with us and Keenan in charge of the children, Elaine and Brooke took the opportunity to get some grocery shopping done. We'd no sooner got home when it was time to fetch Capri from school. So, with everyone piled into the Expedition we set off to collect her and see her for the first time in nearly a year before heading to Costco to purchase the all important disposable nappies / diapers. 

Unfortunately,  once we had returned home for dinner and while we were entertaining William in the park for the second time yesterday,  Capri informed Brooke that she wasn't feeling well and further investigation revealed a red rash all over her torso. Next stop, the Urgent Care. We all sighed with relief when it proved to be nothing serious,  but she did get to spend a day at home today.

We were,  however,  not so privileged.  We were up at 0430 to take Keenan to the airport so that we could have the use of his truck while he is away working. A breakfast of coffee and banana loaf from Starbucks helped us get through a very long day at the condo, before heading to the bank, inquiring about alternative storage facilities and obtaining quotes to replace the carpets in the condo.

It was very frustrating that, after all the money we paid the property management company to restore our condo, we still had to spend most of the day doing a more detailed cleaning of the garage, the front entrance area, the balcony area, the baseboards, doors, lights, toilets, kitchen cabinets, closet and door tracks, appliances, etc, as well as paint the entrance / front door area, the door to the master bedroom, the door frame to the garage and the electric garage door. The corker was also having to undertake a few repairs which the property management company charged us for,  but didn't actually carry out, including repairing the sliding closet door in one of the bedrooms. Having to unravel the cords on all the blinds as well as position them properly was the point where Elaine wanted to give the previous tenant a piece of her mind.

While it's always difficult to stage an empty area, we think having the place look more "cared for" after our efforts today will, no doubt, set a better tone and new carpets will definitely be the final touch. Lets hope we have a sale soon! Time with all the grandchildren this evening though, melted away the stress of the day!

All in all, we had a very uneventful journey all the way to Arizona.  Everything was on time and ran like clockwork. Flying first class on the international leg of the journey, complements of Keenan, was a definite bonus, but we weren't expecting the miserable, overcast and rainy weather we encountered in Sydney. Fortunately the hotel for our overnight stat was right at the international terminal, so we didn't have far to walk in the rain.

After Keenan and Brooke collected us at Sky Harbour airport, we enjoyed a light lunch in downtown Scottsdale,  before saying our goodbyes to Keenan as he was still working and had an overnight flight to Detroit. Then, it was time to see the grandsons and what a welcome it was. William running towards us with his enthusiastic "hi grandma", "hi grandpa" and the twins crawling as fast as they could. Being able to eventually hug and kiss them after nearly a year was beyond words!

While Keenan flew back home yesterday morning, the rest of us lounged around enjoying a lazy morning and afternoon before enjoying a barbecue last night, under the twinkle lights and warmed by the fire pit. Seeing Keenan arriving home in his uniform though was the cherry on the cake!

Although we were both still feeling jetlagged today, we had to deal with a few landlubber matters relating to our condo, but it was a very productive day otherwise.  Roy and Keenan overseeded the lawn early this morning, did some grocery shopping, replaced the brake pads on one of the cars, while simultaneously smoking a brisket for dinner. The results were definitely well worth their efforts as dinner was delicious, excluding the few charred bits, given that they were multitasking and a few flames had to be extinguished at one point. It was also a tad chaotic this evening after a parcel arrived from Ireland for the twins birthday which contained sweets and chocolates and had everyone vying for their favourite treat. Now, it's movie time, then early to bed.

The past few days continued to be busy with getting ourselves and Paw Paw ready for our return to the USA. On Thursday morning we moved Paw Paw to her new home for the next few weeks and, fortunately, we were enjoying a visit from Plastic Plankton ( Kathi and Wolgang) at the time, so they were able to help us with the docklines.  Once that was all done,  it was time to get the laundry done and start packing. In between all that we booked our internal flights,  investigated the public transportation system to get us to Brisbane Domestic Airport,  booked our hotel in Sydney for our overnight stay there, purchased the additional medical insurance coverage we need for visiting the USA, installed the two new house batteries, replaced the "Damp Rid" in all the cupboards to, hopefully,  prevent an issue with dampness on our return, pickled the watermaker, cleared the cockpit,  secured the mainsail and sheets, treated the water tanks and defrosted the freezer to prevent any science projects sprouting during our absence.

We did, however,  enjoy lunch at the Tedder Avenue bakery yesterday, as well as sundowners at the Mirage Marina shopping centre to stretch our legs,  but we decided on dinner aboard just for a change. It was Roy's trip to the local barber though, that has cemented his views on Australia. Drinking a beer, while having his hair cut by a very attractive female barber left him in awe, to the point that he had great difficulty in attempting to regale his experience to Elaine when he returned to the Southport Yacht Club.

And now, after sailing halfway around the world, we're on our way back to where we started, using every form of transportation except a yacht - We were up early for our five minute walk to the Tedder Avenue bus stop, where we caught a bus to Helensvale Station, then a train to Brisbane Domestic Airport and are currently awaiting our flight to Sydney, after enjoying a very efficient public transportation service and a very friendly clearance through airport security. So refreshing!

Just one more sleep until we see the family. Can't wait!!!

It has been a hectic few days, leaving us both feeling a little worse for wear, but we've had a lot to sort out. It hasn't helped that we're both bright eyed and bushy tailed at the crack of dawn every morning with the very early sunrises here.

This morning we "slept in" until 0530, but then it was time to get ready for the day, walk to the tram station that took us to Surfers Paradise, collect our hired car and then drive out to Jacobs Well, where we had planned to leave Paw Paw on a mooring ball owned by Storm Dancer (Del and Craig), who were kind enough to offer it to us as they are not using it. We did stop for breakfast though, in the Tedder Avenue village centre en route to the tram station.

With assistance from the Volunteer Rescue Services, who took Roy out on their boat to locate the exact mooring ball, we discovered it occupied by a large barge and a huge houseboat anchored almost on top of the ball. Since no one knows who the barge belongs to and who put it there, we clearly can't use the mooring ball now, so it was a mad scramble to find another place to leave Paw Paw while we return to the USA to see the family.

Every marina we called was full and their swing moorings under long term lease. Fortunately the Southport Yacht Club found a berth owner who can rent us his berth for a few weeks as he's sailing his yacht to Sydney. Of course, this came with its own complications, in that the longest period a transient can stay in the marina, is a month without becoming a member and we've already been here nearly a week, not to mention, that since this is the creme de la creme yacht club in the area, it's costing a small fortune. We were, nonetheless, definitely grateful to find somewhere to leave Paw Paw. So, with the time constraints associated with the berth, we then scrambled to get all our international flights changed to leave sooner than planned and are now in the process of sorting out the public transportation system to get us to Brisbane, as well as our internal flights, hotels, etc.

Yesterday was just as hectic getting our propane tanks filled, purchasing an additional two house batteries and purchasing yet another starter battery for our starboard engine - the second one in as many months. We uncovered a fault during our passage to Australia, but unfortunately at the price of another battery.

We took a breather from all this mayhem this afternoon to visit the Pacific Fair mall, where we finally got our local sim cards, bought Roy new bed linen and enjoyed a delicious, relatively inexpensive lunch. We've also had the pleasure of Time Bandit's (Anne and Stuart) company as they arrived in the marina yesterday en route to Sydney. We'd completely forgotten it was Halloween yesterday, but enjoyed a dinner with Time Bandit at the Southport Yacht Club over the noise of all the children dressed in their costumes and enjoying the Halloween party at the club. Plastic Plankton (Kathi and Wolgang) arrived yesterday as well, but they've been bound to the quarantine dock, so we haven't seen them as yet. We also bumped into Time Bandit unexpectedly this evening, since they'd changed their plans to stay an extra night, so we headed to the Surfers Club on the beachfront for sundowners. It was the end of two very long days.

It is fair to say though, that having spent the last few days out and about, we never thought we would find a country that rivals America in terms of its infrastructure and amenities, but thus far, Australia definitely does. In fact, there are so many great restaurant choices that we've hardly eaten onboard since we arrived and the mall we visited this afternoon was far superior to any mall we've visited in the USA, which, in itself, is hard to beat. We won't say anything about the state of our budget right now though!

After only a few hours of sleep, Roy woke Elaine at 0430 this morning. At first she grumbled thinking it was time for her watch, but then remembered that we had to move Paw Paw off the quarantine dock and, since strong winds were forecast, we wanted to take advantage of the calmer conditions first thing in the morning.

Fortunately we received some help with the docklines from Paul off EZ GO, as we approached our berth, since he also happened to be awake at this ridiculous hour. We've since discovered that Australia doesn't have daylight savings, so we've resigned ourselves to the fact that we'll probably be awake at this time most mornings, through the summer at least. No excuse now for not taking an early morning walk on the beach.

We got through the day fueled on caffeine from one too many cups of coffee, which is generally something we don't do. However, it allowed us to get through quite a number of priority tasks. First was cancelling our USA cell phone and data service with T-Mobile after more than 15 years and after being strong advocates for their unlimited international roaming services which they provide in 140 different countries. Unfortunately, none of these countries include the South Pacific Islands as well as New Zealand, but it definitely includes Australia and most of the Southeast Asian countries we plan on visiting in the next few years. So, for the best part of 18 months, we've paid for a service we haven't been able to use, but expected to enjoy the benefits again once we arrived here in Australia. Well, to no avail. Some bright spark in the boardroom of T-Mobile decided to half the bandwidth of the data service as of July this year without notifying us of these intentions, which has rendered the sevice completely useless to us now, but prepared to upsell us to the service level we previously had. So, plan B, obtain a local Australian service, which has turned into the most bureaucratic process we have ever encountered and, for our troubles, still do not have a service.

Anyway, we enjoyed a morning coffee at the Southport Yacht Club, before commencing our explorations. First we took a leisurely stroll to Tedder Avenue village centre, where we enjoyed a cooked breakfast and wondered around this very pleasant area of restaurants, coffee shops, boutique stores, a bakery, a convenience store, medical services, etc. By this stage we had also worked out the local bus service route. From there we made our way to the closest tram station which took us into the town centre of Southport, where we started the process of obtaining local sim cards, opening a local bank account, getting some groceries and reserving a car to explore further afield.

Since we've banked with HSBC for more than 30 years, we'd decided that that was probably the best option. What were we thinking. They point blank rejected us, stating that, although we'll be legally living in Australia for the next year or more, we don't have a utility bill or an Australian drivers license, apparently a new policy from this year. Using local transportation or Uber and having our utilities powered by solar and wind wasn't enough to convince them. Fortunately the next bank we approached was far more helpful, although, given that all we wanted was a current account and debit card so that we can use the "tap and pay" facilities that are widely used here, as apposed to cash or a credit card, we still had to jump through a myriad of hoops, answering all sorts of questions that really had no bearing on what we required. After waiting two hours for an appointment and another hour answering all the questions, we eventually walked out with a bank account. Of course, th e next challenge is actually receiving the cards in the mail before we leave the marina at the weekend.

Getting sim cards has proven to be far more challenging. After attempting to sign up to the various options, including ones that we discovered were subsequently no longer available, although advertised in the pamphlets and literature we received, or not obtaining approval based on the "promo code" we entered because we had purchased the card in a store and not ordered it online, the latter of which would subsequently be mailed to us, although we have absolutely no idea how this would even be possible without an online service to order a card to begin with, then holding on for hours on a phone line trying to reach their support centre, before giving up and trying the online Instant Messaging support option. At this point there was some progress after providing passport details, birth date and emailing a form of identification to them. But, alas, we still do not have a service. We're still awaiting approval from yet another department we had to correspond with.

Making a car hire reservation was the last straw after receiving instructions on how to collect the car - "DRIVE along the Gold Coast highway and turn left onto Beach Road". Say, no more! We needed a stiff drink by this stage, so we returned to the Southport Yacht Club for exactly that. By the time we got back to Paw Paw, it was dark, we were exhausted and couldn't be bothered to cook dinner, so we settled on going straight to bed after a cup of tea and a slice of freshly baked cobb loaf.

Through this entire frustrating day we did, however, find the time for freshly baked jam doughnuts and more coffee to keep a cheerie disposition and Elaine decided that a reflexology session was exactly what she needed. This is something she has never tried before, but it was definitely heaven on earth for her tired feet and body.

Returning to a degree of landlubber life for an extended period of time is definitely proving to be more challenging than we first thought, especially the background noise levels everywhere we go, but hopefully our frame of mind today was somewhat affected by our fatigue and all will be well in our world again once we've completed all these initial tasks. We are, however, thoroughly enjoying everything else Australia has to offer. The convenient and modern transportation system, the fabulous malls and supermarkets, the beautiful beaches, the cleanliness, the well-maintained gardens and parks, the extremely helpful marina staff with all the services we need at our doorstep and, mostly, the friendliness of the people. A good dose of patience and tolerance should help us deal with the bureaucracy, but of this we were warned!

At around 0600, Elaine shouted "land ahoy" and, with that, it was "hello Australia". We couldn't have asked for better conditions to transit the Southport Seaway Channel in completely flat seas. In fact, it was so calm it reminded us of our approach into the Galapagos Islands.

Having contacted the Southport Seaway Channel tower on our approach, we obtained directions to proceed straight down the centreline, even though it was an hour before low tide. Finding our way to the quarantine dock in the Southport Yacht Club Marina was just as straight forward. We had arrived safe and sound and definitely in one of the most sophisticated places we have ever sailed Paw Paw in to.

While we awaited the arrival of the customs and immigration officials, we enjoyed our end of passage celebratory drink even though it was 0900 in the morning. Soon thereafter the officials arrived and completed our clearing i n process which was swiftly followed by the arrival of the biosecurity officials and we are happy to report that we received two separate compliments.

Customs were impressed with the manner in which the Small Craft Arrivals form had been completed, given that there were no omissions and that Elaine had taken the time to complete their section for them, providing the information that the officials would have had to ask her for on arrival anyway before they could complete the form. Secondly, the biosecurity team was so impressed at how organised, neat and clean Paw Paw was, commenting that ours was the easiest inspection they had ever completed and rewarded us by not charging any overtime fees for a Sunday clearance. We were also able to disspel quite a few myths about the Australian Border Force procedure, given our experience. They didn't care at all about the condition of Paw Paw's bottom, dairy products, honey or alcohol and our holding tanks have not been plugged, obviously with the understanding that we follow standard protocol in this regard.

With clearance completed, next stop was the marina office to complete their paperwork, collect our security access tags, obtain some initial information on the location of the various services we need and directions to the nearest restaurant; their very own Southport Yacht Club restaurant and what an unexpected afternoon we ended up having.

A delicious meal was followed by dancing to a fabulous live band, which included guest performances by Chris Knight from "Australia's Buddy Holly Show" and various artists from the "Sixties Show". It was definitely a very festive atmosphere and we learnt that this is pretty typical of the various clubs around the area for a Sunday afternoon.

What was completely fascinating and striking about the entire experience was that the club was packed with s enior citizens, all of whom were slim, fit and trendy, stressed in the latest designer fashions, men and woman alike. We'd also learnt earlier in the day that "Millionaire's Row" was just beyond the bridge from the marina, which certainly explained the demographic of the Yacht Club. Regardless, they were all up dancing and having a jolly good time. It was the perfect setting to celebrate our safe arrival, an excellent passage and the completion of our semi-circumnavigation. It's hard to believe we've sailed halfway around the world.

We topped off our day with a stroll over to the beach and had a good giggle at, what we realised, must have seemed like a completely ridiculous question which we had asked Storm Dancer (Del and Craig) after meeting them in Fiji; were there any beaches nearby? Well, there is nothing but beautiful white sandy beaches everywhere that go on for miles and miles. They truly must have thought we were nuts!

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