What a crazy year 2020 was! None of us could have foreseen what was just around the corner, this time last year.
At the time of writing, in Australia, we are still subject to snap lockdowns, when an outbreak occurs. These usually only last for five days or so. But as short as they are, they make travel difficult. Travellers caught in a “hot zone” are essentially unable to move for the duration, and are required to go into mandatory hotel quarantine (at own cost) for two weeks when they return home. People are generally choosing to stay within their own region to avoid the risk of being caught out.
Deb and I are conscious that many have lost loved ones, and are thankful that the vulnerable within our extended family have come through unscathed. Australia has chosen an elimination strategy, which, for our overseas readers, means we have zero community transmissions. Apart from the occasional outbreak (usually emanating from quarantine hotels housing overseas travellers) it has has largely been successful. But it has come at a fearsome financial cost. At any stage, a region or even a whole state, can be placed into a snap lockdown. The cost to small and medium size businesses has been horrific. As individuals, we have been shielded from the worst, due to generous payments and job subsidies, funded by government borrowings. Our grandchildren will inherit a huge financial debt that will take generations to repay.
We enjoyed our time back in Alice. It was a time of re-connection, after 4 years away. I enjoyed working at Acacia Hill School with special needs children. We have returned to Selah in a better frame of mind than we left. We are physically rested and emotionally ready for the trip. But the heartstrings are still strong, so we knew there would be a few tears when the time came to return to Selah.
Meanwhile, while we were enjoying the warm desert temperatures, poor Selah was enduring a cold Launceston winter, including snow on her deck which made us thankful we chose to winter in Alice. The pictures below were sent to us by Josh, who was keeping an eye on her for us.
On December 30th, almost nine months to the day since Deb & I left Selah at Seaport Marina Launceston, we boarded a Qantas flight from Alice Springs and returned to her. It was a day of mixed emotions. We were excited to get back to Selah. Fortunately, we had already said goodbyes to our daughters and grandchildren. They had departed for their holidays, after Christmas. Haley, Sam & the kids north to Darwin. Kirsty & Justin south to Echuca. We had a lot to keep us occupied, packing up, and last-minute house chores, which kept our minds off the separation.
I was particularly worried about Deb. Usually, it’s at Tullamarine airport when it hits her. We had a five-hour wait for our connecting flight.
As we boarded our flight I cheekily grabbed a quick video of a once-in-a-lifetime sight at Alice Springs Airport. Hundreds of planes from around the world parked waiting for better times. Turns out Alice’s dry climate is one of the best places in the world to leave aircraft long term.
Russ & Jody met us at the airport with our car, before heading home to Port Sorell, and we made our way down to the marina. Here’s our first glance of her after nine months.
Arriving at 8 pm after a long tedious day we were anxious about Selah’s state. Would the interior be mouldy and damp, after being shut up over the long winter? As it happened, it was a waste of a good worry, as she was dry as a bone, with no sign of mould or mildew, and apart from needing a good airing out, she was unscathed after her long hibernation. We even used the same bedding.
Of course, the priority upon returning were trips to Port Sorell and Hobart to visit our family. So after a day to regain our bearings, we drove to Port Sorell to see Rob & Mary, Deb’s parents, then south to Hobart to catch up with my family. They were joyous reunions, after our hasty departure, and the uncertainty of the COVID crisis. When we flew out, in those first few weeks of the outbreak, we did not know who would be around when we returned. Rob & Mary (Deb’s parents) were safe in a quarantined aged care facility, but my parents are still in their own home. The hardest thing for them was the isolation.
We quickly settled back into our floating home, and became part of the liveaboard community in Launceston. We even became involved with a campaign lobbying the local council to “Fix The Mud”. Silt is advancing rapidly in the upper Tamar Basin since dredging and raking was stopped a couple of years ago. It’s become so bad at Seaport Marina where half of the berths are now drying out at low tide, that the marina is making plans to relocate, which would be a great shame for the otherwise thriving waterfront precinct. We became good friends with Andrew & Anna, local residents. Andrew is the chairman of the Tamar Action Group, who are lobbying for the council to recommence dredging.
We got straight back into boat mode, with a bunch of unfinished projects, and cleaning up of nine months of town dirt from the decks.
We were never really happy with our bathroom door which had been installed in a bit of a rush, so we ordered some aluminium door frame material, and re-built it.
We had a visitor to the marina, a full size seal. Surprising, as Launceston is 70 kilometres from the coast, where they usually live.
Tamar Marine chandlery became a major beneficiary of our stay. They were an easy dingy ride, across the yacht basin. One day, we set out to make some purchases. It was a particularly low tide and we found their ramp was high and dry, obstructed by the encroaching mud. We took the dingy under the picturesque bridge, up the river to the Cataract George. The time was filled in, visiting friends and family, and generally preparing Selah for the sea. By now, all the major jobs had been done, and we were down to small catch-up jobs, like additional hooks for towels and such.
Time flies when you are having fun, and before long our lease was up at Seaport and it was time to leave Launceston and head down the river to the Beauty Point area. This will be our staging post, while we wait for the fickle equinox weather to stabilise, before heading across Bass Strait. We decided the 8th of February was the first official day of our trip, marking our transition from builders to sailors. Jody, Bec and Jeremy joined us for the passage up the river. Tim, Dianne and Sam, friends from Alice Springs who are working in Launceston came down to see us off. Kindly they offered to document our departure.
Finally, exactly 5 years, to the day, since we broke ground at the build site, back at Port Sorell, our voyage had begun.