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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!

Some thirty years ago and a few years before our son was born, we sold up everything - house, cars, furniture we didnt need, etc, rented a small townhouse and used company cars for transportation. With both our job offers in Sydney finalised, we awaited our final documentation to immigrate to Australia.

Then, both Elaine's sisters gave birth to a son each a few months before Christmas of that year and she realised she didn't want to move country, away from family and friends. Although exasperated, Roy went along with the decision not to move to Australia and our lives took a very different path. Two years after that decision we had a son of our own and a few years later we moved country anyway. In fact, we moved country five times after that, ending up in the USA before moving on to Paw Paw and becoming full-time cruisers nearly four years ago. There is definitely a surreal feeling at the idea that we're now sailing to Austr alia all these years later.

Reaching Australia is a momentous occasion for any sailor on a circumnavigation, since it denotes halfway, but for us it feels like we're coming full circle.

On this, our last day at sea before reaching our destination, the winds and seas have moderated substantially from yesterday, thank goodness. We started today sailing in light north-westerlies, then motoring in light westerlies, but as the wind swung back to the southeast at around 0800 we enjoyed another fabulous day of sailing at 8.5 Kts in 12 Kts of wind and flat seas - It doesn't get much better than that! Tonight we're "drifting along" on a slither of a head sail, since we have to wait on the flooding tide tomorrow morning before we can cross the sand bar at the entrance to Southport.

In many ways this passage has reminded us a lot of our Pacific Ocean crossing, with the exception of yesterday, wher e the very tumultuous sea state reminded us of our New Zealand to Fiji passage. Fortunately it was only for a few hours and not days. Our praise goes out to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and their extremely accurate forecasting, which allowed us to plot our course for the most favourable conditions, something which has been hit and miss using the other available weather forecasting services. Having accurate information to make our decisions has made the world of difference!

For now though, reaching Australia and getting settled as soon as possible means we get to fly back to the USA to see our family, especially our beautiful grandchildren - nearly a year from our last visit has been far too long!
In the early hours of the morning the north-westerlies kicked in about six hours ahead of the forecast which resulted in us having to alter course before reaching our preferred position. We weren't too far off though, in the grand scheme of things, passing just 30NM to the south of our theoretical "mooring ball". This earlier course change brought with it the stronger winds and higher seas as expected, given that we were sailing around the tail end of a front.

While the skies remained sunny all day, the conditions were a total contrast to those we experienced yesterday. Today we were sailing with a third reefed main and a double reefed headsail in anything from15 to 23 Kts of wind and in at least a 2.5 to 3 metre swell. The good news is that these conditions were forecast to moderate and subside overnight into tomorrow, as we approach the Australian coastline, which they have. We're now sailing on a double reefed mainsail with a full genoa. We'll probably be back to motor-sailing by tomorrow, no doubt.

The "feast or famine" weather conditions have continued unabated this sailing season, as they did last season, which is definitely something we are looking forward to taking a little break from. In the interim, we still have a few cargo ships for company and we're trying to get as much rest as possible, but definitely looking forward to "land ahoy".

With the latest forecast still showing the frontal weather to the south of us, but starting to clear by tomorrow afternoon, the winds have shifted to northerly and dropped to below 10 Kts as expected. As a result, we motor-sailed through the night, then switched off the engines this morning and have been dawdling along under sail at 4.8 Kts.

This slower pace will take us to our revised theoretical "mooring ball" by 1000 tomorrow morning and negate the need to hove-to overnight, following which we can alter course and set sail directly for Southport, taking advantage of the northwesterly winds behind the front. The marina has confirmed our spot on the quarantine dock as well as a berth for approximately 5 days following our arrival. That'll give us plenty of time to become familiar with our new home for the next few weeks, before we head back to the USA to see the family and then to Sydney for the holiday festivities.

All in all, it's been a very peaceful and relaxing day under sunny blue skies and flat seas, so we decided to enjoy a barbecue for dinner and use up the last of our fresh vegetables. We also got to speak to Keenan briefly and spent the rest of the day reading and catching up on sleep.

Today was another gorgeous day under sunny blue skies, with winds around 12 - 17 Kts out of the southeast. Perfect sailing conditions on a beam reach for Paw Paw, allowing for speeds of 8.5 to 9.5 Kts in relatively subdued seas on a single reefed main and full genoa.

Other than a few birds, a cruise ship and a number of cargo ships, we haven't had much company, but we are in contact with other yachts that are also underway via the SSB/HF radio nets and with family and friends via email.

As expected though, we ran out of wind around 2100 as we entered the calm area of the high pressure system and have slowed down as planned. We've altered course to avoid the Kalso Bank a few miles north of us and we'll then set a course for our theoretical "mooring ball" in order to remain north of 25S and east of 155E, where we may have to hove-to for 6 - 12 hours. This is a contingency option to allow the worst of the weather associated with the tail end of a low pressure frontal system that is passing south of us. Our hope is that Mother Nature will clear the way sooner and allow us to alter course without delay directly for Southport.

In the interim, with cruise ship, Pacific Aria, for company and Paw Paw surrounded in bioluminescence under a waning moon, we're continuing westward.

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