Extreme Shark Dive

shark dive

Well that’s another tick on the list.

On Monday I went on a shark dive at Manly. Advertised as an “extreme shark dive”, its an introductory scuba dive in their tank with about half a dozen grey nurse sharks. Not quite as dangerous as it sounds but still a great experience. There were three of us on this dive, a student and a teenager who’d received the dive as a birthday gift. After watching an intro video (whoever edited it thought the theme from Jaws was a great soundtrack) we were kitted out in a wetsuit. Being middle of winter I was glad for that, kept a bit of the chill out!

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The Lost Treasures of Infocom – iOS

Exciting adventures await you :-P

Exciting adventures await you !

It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

If this sentence ever struck terror into you then like myself, you probably have fond memories of text adventures, or interactive fictions games from the early 1980s and spent many hours plotting maps on grid paper or trying to “hit the troll with the elvish sword”. Well now you can relive those memories with the release of “The Lost Treasures of Infocom” for iOS.

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Solar Eclipse in Cairns

Cairns Eclipse

Solar Eclipse in Cairns 2012

In 1976 Sydney experienced a partial solar eclipse, I was 5 years old at the time and I recall seeing the sky darken and  people on TV watching totality through special glasses. Back then I thought how cool it would be to see a total solar eclipse although since then I’d never really gone out of my way to do something about it. In 2002 there was a total eclipse over Ceduna in South Australia, way out on the Great Australian Bight and one of the guys I worked with drove out there to experience it. For him it was more about the rave party  during the eclipse than anything else, but again that briefly rekindled in me the thoughts of wanting to see a solar eclipse “some day”.
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Flying at Luskintyre

Tiger Moth

Tiger Moth

Today I went flying. It was good.

One of the former cadets at Air League, Mick Leonard is now an F/A-18 Hornet pilot in the RAAF. Today was a family flying day for wives and families of the pilots and Mick and his father Rod invited me along for the day. The original plan was to go up for DH-82 Tiger Moth joy flights, I’d long wanted to fly in a vintage Tiger Moth and this was my chance.

The Tiger Moth is a pre-war vintage biplane so its pretty basic, tube and canvas, simple instrumentation and so on. A very enjoyable flight. Then one of the pilots asked me if I wanted to go for a ride in a Nanchang. Stupid question. The Nanchang CJ-6 is a Chinese made basic trainer with a 260hp radial engine and is fully aerobatic.

Flying

I climbed in with the pilot Dan and we took a flight across to Cessnock for fuel. Enroute we spoke about my flying and he offered me some stick time on the way back – can’t say no to that!

Because of its origin much of the controls and instruments in the aircraft were in Chinese – the basics were now labelled in English but in the rear many were still in Chinese. The altimeter was also in metres – this confused be at first as I thought “300 ft is a bit low… oh, 300 metres. That’s not too bad.”

On the way back to Luskintyre I had a go at flying the aircraft, it was like a little fighter with stick and throttle quadrant and was very responsive. I was a little hesitant about doing aerobatics, but Dan assured its like riding a bike – you never forget. Sure enough – I did some loops, rolls and wing overs and it all came back. With 260hp and 140kts indicated there was no need to build up speed in a dive and Dan gave some positive feedback on my aerobatics which was good for the ego.

It was all over too soon as we landed in the late afternoon sun, Rod had a go at the Nanchang and Mick and I discussed flying. Soon the sun was setting and I was driving home. Definitely an awesome day – gotta get flying again soon.

Day 7 – Cairns

Aloft

Aloft

Today is the last day of my journey. Actually no its not, yesterday was. I’m writing this sitting at the airport waiting for the plane to take me home. Yesterday was such a packed day that today has been the first time I’ve had a chance to stop and put my thoughts down.

To start with we had the 0200-0300 watch which meant an early start. Fortunately these anchor watches are easy, you are only on for an hour and there isn’t a lot to do really. The watch is split so there’s 3 of us at any one time and it’s in your watch order, so 1,2 and 3 on the first watch 4,5 and 6 on the second watch and so on – or we might go backwards so it’s 11,10, 9 etc. Basically we spent the shift sitting around telling funny stories of the voyage etc. So much fun was had we actually ended up staying on deck for another hour talking to bouncy and the next watch, Eddie came and went on deck a few times and nick came up once or twice to tell Sam she was too loud 😛

By 0400 we decided to call it a night and returned to our hammocks, I’ve finally worked out I was sleeping too far up in the hammock and what was happening was the hammock was tight and was squashing my shoulders so that I was sore in the morning, by sliding a bit further down in the hammock I got a much better nights sleep.

FlagAround 0715 we got the wakeup call and started to congregate around the deck, however I was on kitchen duty for the last time with Lucy and the other 7s – today’s breakfast was a rather more leisurely affair with all watches served at the same time so I was working my arse off with the toaster. Lucy took over for a while so I grabbed some breakfast and joined the rest of our watch up on the deck where we got to eat breakfast in the open air as a last day “treat”. I couldn’t hang around for long before I had to head back down to help clean up after breakfast. So busy I didn’t even have time for a coffee 🙁

Again we lounged around the deck, while the professional crew had their meeting (what goes on behind closed doors for so long? Laughing about the voyage crew? Special brekkie treats we don’t get? A real happy hour?), some of us started to pack and donn our voyage shirts that we needed to wear into port. Captain Ross gave his last morning meeting with the whole crew and we were filled in on the planned proceedings of the day. We would be motoring into port as we weren’t allowed to sail in, and the voyage crew could optionally go aloft to the yard arms. Naturally we all took that offer up! So once we were in voyage crew shirts and harnesses we waited on deck while the ship apporached Cairns. By now the 18th century deck was kitted out with all the stuff from the museum – our little home at sea was no longer ours 🙁

Bouncy told us that four of us would go to the top gallant yard and the rest to the top sail yard – TG was popular so I offered to take the top sail. Stupid me. I got them confused and TG yard was RIGHT at the top, the little one. I never got to go this high on voyage. Oh well – shit happens. Anyway I secured my camera to my harness and up we went. Anne and I picked the wrong ASAPs and had to go down and switch, but we were still ready in plenty of time to get into port. Loooking around us the view was pretty awesome, a crowd has started to form to see us and Ally fired off the cannon. Swinging around I got some great shots of us all aloft and Ally again fired the cannon which I caught on video – pretty cool 🙂 What was also cool was Richard’s kids were on the dock yelling “Ahoy Daddy!” – it was so cute. A pity Deanne and the kids couldn’t come up to see it, but as teenagers Adam and Jackie would probably be thinking “meh” and texting someone…

Before too long we were docking at the wharf and we had to come down for the last time, hand back our safety vests, grab our stuff and disembrak (after a few slow locals figured out how the gangway went together!) It was a little sad that it was coming to an end so quickly – the voyage was definitely too short and I knew I’d miss the rest of the foremast watch, amazing how quickly a group of people can bond when thrown together. This was definitely an amazing experience. Once ashore we had the opportunity to buy voyage souvenirs at a discount so I grabbed something for Deanne, me and the kids, and a few things for Andrew and Michelle’s kids after I’d stayed with them. One funny thing was the local TV news crew ambushed me for an interview and despite telling them I was a little camera shy they proceeded to ask me a few questions. One of them was what the highlight of the voyage was, I told them that it was the way the watches had gotten together so well – turning to indicate the watch only to find Sam duck out of view while Bronwyn, Fiona and the rest tried to get out of the way!haha

We’d already exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and we planned to catch up with those staying in Cairns for dinner, so we decided to check into our respective hotels first. Those plans came slightly undone when I noticed there was a pub across the road – after 7 days at sea a beer would be nice so I convinced Sam to have a drink before we went – Geoff and Troy and a few from other watches were also there so we had a beer together before heading off. I was booked into the Gilligan’s Backpackers – I’d never done the backpacking thing when I was younger so I thought I’d do that too while I was away. Holly had told me months earlier that the professional crew would also be staying there so it made sense anyway.

The place we went to dinner was called Rattle & Hum, the food was pretty good, and I had a few more beers although I tried to pace myself and stick to the light stuff to start with – I’d hate to miss my flight today because I was hungover and also didn’t want to get too wasted 🙂 Not long after dinner finished the professional crew arrived, most of them came along which was cool. The night was pretty good – Bouncy, Eddie and Ally settled into singing sea shanties until eventually management asked them to stop. Party poopers. 🙁 Ended up staying out ’til quite late – didn’t get home until the early hours.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound

This morning I woke early – forgot to set my alarm later so I got dressed and went out for breakfast. My flight isn’t until 1.30pm so I went for a bit of a walk – had Maccas for breakfast then wandered down to the marina. Its a pity I won’t get to see the rest of Cairns – Deanne and I will have to come back some time. I found a cafe on the water (they also did breakfast – damn I should have had a real breakfast there instead of Macca’s shit) so I sat and had a coffee wihle watching seaplanes fly past. That was really cool – maybe I should complete my commercial license and we move up here and I fly seaplanes, that would be awesome.

I headed back to Gilligans and decided that because of the shit going on with the Chile volcano I’d check out and headed for the airport early. I’ve got a few hours to wait so I’ve grabbed another coffee and I’ll have some lunch soon, then I should be home to Deanne by 5pm – missing home a lot.

Day 6 – Fitzroy Island

Foremast watch on the dawn watch

Foremast watch on the dawn watch

0400 – 0800 shift again this morning. Actually I should talk about last night first. After dinner we were called up on deck. The officers wanted to get some of the sails in before dark, and Bouncy asked John and myself to go and secure the spritsail. That’s one of the sails that hangs off the yardarm on the bowsprit. This was on dusk, so the two of us had to secure on, then climb out onto the bowsprit and haul up by hand and then secure it to the yardarm with gasket lines. By the time we finished this is was getting dark. Kicking myself that I didn’t have my camera to get photos looking back on on the boat but we were more than a little busy anyway and it was too dark, the flash would have pissed the crew off. But you really feel alive when you are hanging over a yardarm at dusk and the only thing on your mind is getting the sail secure, looking down at the sea below you.

Once we were back on the ship Bouncy said that we did a fantastic job on the bowsprit with little instruction needed. After this we unwound with some work on our sods opera piece and I did a bit more work on the voyage chart. Our sods opera piece is the Beach Boys song “Sloop John B”, we’ve changed the lyrics to reflect the Endeavour and I think it’s pretty good.

Had a bit of an early night, we were up again at 0400 for the dawn watch. That one’s pretty cool because
a) it’s pretty quiet and
b) you get to watch the sun come up,
never get bored of watching that. Did the usual rounds of helm, the fore and aft watch and the rounds. We made huge distance last night with great sailing conditions, apparently we covered 40nm and early in the morning we found ourselves off Fitzroy Island not too far from Cairns already.

Up on the foremast

Up on the foremast

At the end of our shift we found ourselves busy once more as we had to drop anchor again, hopefully this is the last time that we have to handle the awful disgusting tar covered anchor rope. A quick clean up and we were then off to secure the fore top sail. This is similar to what we had to do with the spritsail, where you gather the sails up and make them all nice and neat, then tie them off with the gasket lines except this time we had to climb the shrouds to the fore topsail yardarm and hang over that, and this time there was about 8 of us up there to secure it! We did a pretty good job on that, and then it was down for bacon and eggs for breakfast.

After breakfast there was a chance to clean up and shower, 30 sec shower although at least its hot fresh water. 0900 the professional crew have their morning briefing and then shortly after that it’s the voyage crew meeting. Here Ross informed us that we’d made great progress and that today there would be opportunity to go swimming from the ship. But first – happy hour. Once again we were stuck cleaning the 20th century deck, which meant showers and heads too. If someone told you that you’d pay good money to go on a voyage where you’ll be required to clean the toilets and least twice you think they were fucking crazy, but we did it. Actually it’s funny, it’s the chores like this that build the comradery in the watch – working together towards a common goal which in this case is to have the cleanest area on the ship (which we always do!)

Swimming off the Endeavour

Swimming off the Endeavour

After happy hour I got stuck into the voyage chart and made some really good progress on that, it was starting to look really good. I was interrupted however by “fizz quiz”, basically this is a test on our knowledge we’ve gained over the last seven days and so we did a cram session, trying to memorize as many lines as we could. We didn’t get too far but we soon found that the format of the quiz was that the same number in each watch would be asked to find a particular rope, with points allocated depending on who got it first, second and third. I’m quiet happy to say that foremast watch won, the prize being a box of chocolates. Being the good winners that we are we naturally shared them with members of the other watch, our top man and upper yardman as well as the kitchen staff.

Swimming was after that, basically it was a free time to swim from the boost, once the rescue boat was out there for us. There were a few rules, no swimming around the boat, stick to one side where the rescue boat can see you and no diving off the rails. So we had about an hour of diving from the platforms then climbing back up netting or ropes for another go. Got some great photos and Sam managed to knee herself in the nose – ouch! Fortunately it doesn’t look too bad. The voyage chart still needed to be finished to I dried off and changed before finishing that, then finishing practise on our sods opera piece. I finished the chart just before formal dinner tonight – nice timing, it looks pretty good and I hope to get a copy off Ellie.

The dinner was pretty special with all us on the 18th century deck being served by the officers and professional crew. After this we did the sods opera, unfortunately one other watch also did Sloop John B although I think ours was better. John read a poem he wrote that was moving, I recorded his presentation too.

After dinner it was video time, Ross put on some videos of the Endeavour for us, as well as a few presentations and then we watched a movie on rounding the cape.

I’ve now been up since 0400 and it’s really catching up with me, I’ve also got the 0200-0300 anchor watch so I will go to bed real soon. I got a chance to call Deanne and talk to her and the kids. I’m really missing them, although I’ll also be sad to see this voyage end – it was too short. Apparently 14 days is the ideal voyage length, however I wanted to do far north Queensland and I also wouldn’t have gotten to spend time with an awesome group of people. We’ve lived together for 7 days now and I will be sad tomorrow when we part – probably won’t see them again except the occasional email. We are planning to go out to tomorrow night so that will be a good farewell in Cairns.