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A brief account of what we are up to when not on GHOST, when we are landlubbers. For our "sea" based blogs, check out www.sailblogs.com/member/ghost The link below shows our most recent photos but for other photos go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/bradmcmaster1

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Landlubbers no more

Well that’s it for being landlubbers. A little disappointed that I didn’t write another blog here to cover what we've been up to in the UK for the last month but we/I just sort of got lazy! Basically it was time spent with Kat’s folks which was great, catching up with friends, in Devon, Bristol and London. Plenty of curries, not too much booze, a few run, a few days of the flu for me (not the pig variety) and loosing £xxk on the stock market, but we’re not talking about that!

Now we are back on Ghost and boy is it good to be home. This pretty much means we’re signing off from this blog. It has a chance of cropping up again some time in the future if we choose to hang out in the Americas for a year after the Atlantic but before the Pacific, but that’s a decision for later in the year or perhaps early next. In the mean time we will be much more diligent at updating the original blog, http://www.sailblogs.com/member/ghost/ So keep an eye on it, drop us a line from time to time and if you’re so inclined consider coming out to spent some time with.

B&K

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Time to follow the sun ...

Well the time has come. With all haste we booked our tickets back to ol’Blighty last week once we had managed to tie up a few loose ends. We fly out of Melbourne on Wednesday evening and after a nasty 6 hour stop-over in Abu Dhabi we arrive in London for a solid month of catch ups, time with Kat’s family, a chance to meet Kat’s sister’s new man (!), perhaps some sailing with our good mate Stu on his new boat and perhaps some boarding in Davos with Brendan (well he’d be skiing but we’ll forgive him for that!!)


The picture is Hugh's surprise birthday dinner with Diane's 3 sisters.

Wow, it has been 6 months in Melbourne with Mum and Dad. It’s been great to spend some quality time with them but now it is time for change of pace, space and direction! We arrive back in Turkey on the 7th of May ready for a little rudder work before the boat goes in the water on the 12th. Then it is MORE Turkey, and then Greece, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, Ceuta, Gibraltar and then on to the Canaries for an Atlantic crossing at the end of the year. So while I reckon we’ll make a few more comments on this blog, shortly we’ll no longer be landlubbers and hence it’ll be back to the boat blog site at http://www.sailblogs.com/member/ghost/ so jump on let us know ya thoughts, especially if you’re thinking about coming out to join us, and above, all stay in touch.

B&K

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Disaster!?!

After a few weeks of strict eating, regular exercise and even a trial Tri around Hastings to get the hang of doing the respective sports one after the other we were ready to go, bikes in the car, loaded with carbs when ANOTHER tummy bug struck. Kat was first to be taken down with a bout of the runs, then at about 1am on the morning of the event the mass exodus began from my internals too. Must have done something to piss my stomach off as it shortly found a second exit for my dinner. So after a few hours of regular toilet visits and throwing up we had to admit defeat, the fun tri just wasn't going to happen. Alas. Well at the end of the day the motivation as to be a little healthier and lose a little extra weight which has been achieved so it wasn't a complete waste but disappointing nonetheless.

The source of the stomach upsets is still unknown, at first we thought it was potentially self inflicted with something we'd eaten, but since Mum had it, and Dad got it a couple of days later, it suggests that perhaps it was a bug from the kids. Suzy came down from Sydney for a long weekend visit with the kids so perhaps the little petri dishes brought it with them!!

Regardless, having the kids down was fun, i had some helpers when cleaning the bikes



Dad had a little helper with the watering!



Still waiting on the news that will let us book flights back to the the UK, but still no word. But i do have another new Xbox game so i reckon I'll be able to hold out for another week!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brad is now content

After wondering around like a lost boy Brad has finally found something to keep him busy - I've lost him back to the xbox and a new LOTR game! He's knee deep at Helm's Deep, but at least he is busy!

Training continues as we start to extend the length of our road rides and runs, but the weight loss has definitely plateaued - very frustrating!

And my work is also frustrating in that we still don't have any clarity over what the timetable for the next few months is. But it's certainly getting colder here and we want to keep following the sun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why are we waiting, slowly going crazy!

Well it feels like the seasons have definitely changed now. The last couple of days have seen loads of very much needed rain (I think all the fires are out now!) and a constant wind with a chill in the air. Actually put on tracky daks and a jumper yesterday!!

Well the date that we had been waiting on to give us clarity as to when we could book flights back to the UK and back to the boat came and went with very little new news. Kat's client is now meeting again on the 24th which will hopefully see a decision made and then a plan laid. In the meantime we are kind of just hanging around. Kat has some bits of work to do to keep her busy and reads loads but I'm a complete spare part. I've taken to trawling the web for blogs and articles on anything to do with sailing. Started making lists of things to do when we do get back and even started planning our intended route, but this is the same stuff i was doing last week, and the week before that and the week before that!!!

However under the current global circumstances I can't complain, things could be a darn sight worse. We are both getting into a bit of 'training', doing some runs here, some rides there and a little bit of swimming, but with this recent foul weather motivation is slipping a little.

Well that's about it, nothing exciting happening down here. Now I'm off to the 'office', I have a ceramic soap holder to replace in Mum and Dad's shower!! I've secretly been looking forward to this all weekend.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Well the seasons here change like clockwork. Summer turned into autumn at midnight on the 28thFebruary! It rained a little on the Sunday, more than welcome in and around Victoria considering the lack of water and of course welcome relief for the fire-fighters. The rain continued sporadically throughout the week with a decent 6mm on Wednesday. Lee and Sal came to visit on Wednesday afternoon and we are now convinced that Sal is the Rain God! They were due to go camping down Wilson’s Prom way but it is closed and nearly burnt out due to the recent fires, instead we hit a couple of wineries and drank a little too much.

Kat and I are trying to be a little healthier and get a few training miles under the belt so that we don’t completely embarrass ourselves on our mini triathlon on the 22nd of this month. We had hoped to be doing a little more by way of training but the trip to Sydney and the stomach bug kind of got in the way. However yesterday we made amends with a 20km ride and 5km run.

Not only did the seasons change on the 1st but so too did our, or at least my, attitude to getting back to the boat. I had been feeling quite static and it now feels like we are on the home straight so to speak. Mum is doing really well and beyond the next course of treatment, in about 5 weeks, they are going to reduce the dosages again and will only require a hospital visit every other week versus once (sometimes twice) a week at the moment which is great news. She has shown such courage and determination in the last 15 months and finally it is all starting to pay off, she really deserves it.



It’s been great to spend an extended period of quality time with Mum (and Dad!?!?), helping them achieve a key goals, namely get a larger house and finally getting all those last remaining items out of storage, whipping Hughie in to shape! But I guess there comes a time when you have to move out of home … again! We are both keen to get on with the adventure and get somewhere (god knows where) to finally settle down for a bit.

As I said the weather changed rapidly here in Melbourne and with a new season (we only do seasons that start with an S!!), motivation to be back on Ghost went through the roof. We are now gathering our thoughts for our impending return, making lists (well Kat is), organising work and additions to be completed in Turkey before setting off, researching and reading more advice on recipes for longer passages, the useful life of different fruit and veg (and other info that most of you would be bored stupid by!),plotting an intended course to see us through the Med and onto the Canaries for the beginning of the ARC on the 22nd of November and even reading about events further down the line like transiting the Panama Canal and new findings on the inter tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in the pacific islands. Needless to say we are pumped!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Camping Oz style

Well we left Suzy’s and Sydney on Tuesday to the sounds of coughing and fatigue. Poor little Alistair had been tested for whooping cough and we later found out that the test was positive and that Sammy had it too. Suzy was also ill but that was later found to be a form of cryptosporidium, a nasty parasite that gives you diarrhoea, which she had picked up from a swimming pool. We were feeling OK and hoping that we too didn’t have the whooping cough for fear of passing it on to mum.



We headed out of Sydney with expectation of getting to Canberra again for another dig at their great mountain biking parks and trails. Kat was slightly off colour and we quickly buckled and headed for the coast instead. On the coast we headed to a small bay called Pebbly Beach north of Bateman’s bay and a state park camping ground armed with chicken burger ingredients and some beers!



The campground wasn’t exactly as expected and the weather cooled off but it sufficed and the kangaroos on the beach, the chance to light a fire and a visit from a curious young Kookaburra and some Rosellas the next morning didn’t disappoint. What a perfect introduction to camping in Oz for Kat.



For more pics click here

The next day we drove further south on route to Eden, still on the NSW coast with a stop off at Mystery bay. This is a lovely little spot that Suzy and Michael regularly visit because dogs are allowed on the beach. It was here that we heard that Alistair indeed had whooping cough and hence we had fears that we too might have been infected.



We then spent a night at Eden an old favourite from my trip around Australia some 16 years ago but unfortunately the beach-side campground that I remembered was no longer. Nevertheless a walk on the beach, a quick swim (bit chilly) and another BBQ was all good.

Heading back into Victoria we stopped off in Lakes entrance and contemplated staying the night but decided to move one and head straight home. 550kms later we arrived, still feeling OK albeit a little tired. The high risk fire day on Friday thankfully didn’t materialise but a stomach bug did. It turns out that the pool we went for a swim at in Sydney was contaminated with Cryptosporidium so we’ve both been making regular trips to the thunder box! Thankfully we didn’t have whooping cough and hence a reduced risk to mum but it still knocked us around a bit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A hectic week in Sydney, with too much booze and rain

Well the drive up from Canberra was relatively short and it was great to arrive at Suzy’s house and see our nephews. They are so cute now and Sam is walking and getting into even more mischief, he seems to particularly like the dog bowl and dropping his milk bottle in the loo (putting the lid down now is a must!).

After a bit of time with the kids we headed off with Jo (my mate from school), Mark (her fiancĂ©e), together with some of their friends (all English) to go sailing in Pittwater (about an hour North of Sydney) where we had hired a catamaran for the weekend. It was a really beautiful spot but unfortunately the weather was just dismal – we haven’t had this much rain since we left England middle of 2008! Despite the weather, we think we want to sail/keep GHOST in such a gorgeous place.

As sunbathing was out of the question we consoled ourselves with an extraordinary amount of food and drink and spent a hilarious weekend playing various games and generally laughing until our sides hurt. It was great to meet some more English ex-pats and we really felt we had met some new friends. Sydney appears to have nosed in front of Melbourne again in the battle for our future residency!

After the sailing weekend it was time to help Lee & Sal with the wedding preparations and it was a very hectic week organising the various events. The first challenge was creating and running the treasure hunt stag do with Lee dressed as a gnome, but it seemed to go well even if he got lost with one of the clues and wandered the city centre in his outfit, effectively the same result!



Next was sailing the day before the wedding in Sydney harbour, with Sal’s family and lots of wedding guests, luckily with gorgeous weather this time! Though due to the recent shark attacks the swimming was fairly brief!



And the final challenge was with Brad as MC trying to help co-ordinate the wedding as there was a tight schedule to keep to and worse than usual Friday afternoon traffic out of Sydney didn’t set us off to the best start! The wedding was out on the Hawkesbury river north of Sydney, at a fantastic venue called Pete’s Bite which was only accessible by boat, with the most gorgeous views across the river. The weather cleared in time and the final approach to the venue was interesting/exciting with the boat load of guests racing the seaplane with the bride on board! The timing worked out OK, we got the guests ashore just in time to take seats as Sal flew in on a sea plane, looking absolutely gorgeous of course! The food and the band were great and all of the guests (including grandmas and a cardboard cut-out of Lee’s youngest brother Sam who couldn’t make the wedding) were dancing around enjoying themselves.



Since then we’ve been recovering and spending some more time with Brad’s family, taking Sammy for a swim on Sunday which was good fun. Soon it will be time to head back South where we plan to do some camping and biking on the way back to Melbourne.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Biking in Canberra

Well pretty cool day today with some biking at Stromlo mountain biking park just outside of Canberra. Great facility that recently held some world championship XC races. It is all custom built and has some great flowing trails, jumps and downhill (quite serious downhill actually that we started but bailed on!!!). After all the heat recently, our ride started with some rain but that soon dried up and the sun beat down again.



Kat saw her first snake in the wild, a decent 2m one, potentially a brown or something. Luckily she managed to cycle behind it as it slithered across the trail!





Above is a video - click to see my first see-saw!

We finished off early arvo and came back into town to shower before heading out again for a ride around "Civic" as the locals call the center of town. We then toured around the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and back via a supermarket for a couple of dozen prawns for the BBQ tonight.

Mountain bikes are so fab for exploring a city - you can just go anywhere! Canberra is a strange place, very well planned but quite sterile in a way. Tomorrow we're off doing the tourist bit.

Vic Fires

Well we have been keeping a low profile in the last couple of weeks since getting back from NZ. Just a couple of catch-ups with mates (Muzza and Claire and baby Delia have finally moved back to Oz), the occasional bike ride & run as we train for our very-mini-triathalon (only a 300m swim, 10km bike and 3km run), and generally getting ready to head up to Sydney for Lee and Sal's wedding on the 20th Feb.





We left Yesterday (Sunday) to drive up to Sydney via Canberra for a couple of days biking and hanging out with my cousin Phil. Sunday wasn't a happy day in Victoria with the worst fires since 1983 raging all over the state. Our intended route up through the Yarra Valley and through the Kinglake state forest wasn't to be with the town of Kinglake literally wiped off the map. Several highways were shut and even the Hume highway - the main road to Sydney - had detours. This is what it looked like driving on the Hume Highway by mid Sunday morning (and we were up-wind of the many fires).





We drove through the smoke for 200km, which may give some idea of the scale of the fires. It was enough to sting our eyes while driving and make our clothes smell like we've been standing in front of a BBQ all day. Fortunately we don't know anyone that has been directly affected, but I imagine that many of the people that I went to school with that lived out that way may have been. Pretty scary stuff, thankfully Mum and Dad got a few hours of rain yesterday down the Mornington Peninsula, which was an area that was on the high risk list for a little while and had a smaller fire last week near one of mum's sisters.

At least the weather forecast is only for the 20's this week which will be a relief after the 40's temperatures we've had in the last couple of weeks. We're off now to make the most of this cooler weather to enjoy Canberra's reputation as the biking mecca of Australia and do some sightseeing around "our nations capital"!

B&K

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Zealand

Well if you haven’t heard from us in a while it’s because we were in New Zealand, or more specifically Queenstown, for a good few weeks of hiking, biking and boozing. We flew out early on the 3rd direct into Queenstown and spent the afternoon organising a few activities. After only one night we scooted down to Te Anau so a few of the group could scoot up to Milford sound for a look-see.



Kat and I hung out in Te Anau and did a few hours hiking up the beginning of the Kepler track. After a couple of nights it was back to Queenstown to get hut passes and food for the main reason for the trip, 5 days walking the Routeburn track followed by the Caples track.



We weren’t alone. There was Dave, his elder bro Steve, and mate Phil. Then there was Kat and I plus Jim and Gav. A great cross section of people made for a hell of a good time. The first days’ hike was pretty relaxed. While Dave and I executed a car shuffle to make sure we had a car at both cars parks (the beginning and the end) the others set off. Pretty relaxed walking, with waterfalls, amazing views but the falling temperature suggesting inclement weather was on the way.



To say we awoke to torrential rain wouldn’t be technically correct as I don’t think many of us slept -except for Dave (Greybee) the world’s strongest snorer! - but it was absolutely pouring. The walk up to the Harris Saddle was much like walking through a river and up a waterfall, through river and up another waterfall. Even so this part of the world is still stunning despite the heavy rain and poor visibility.



After the climb we stopped at the top for lunch when the rain finally stopped. The long descent saw us in and out of misty cloud sweeping up the valleys, past around and through water falls and finally down to the Howden hut 7 hours after we started complete with sodden boats and plenty of wet weather gear to dry.





The hut on the second night was a similar design to the one on the first, so to preserve our rest we all banned poor ol’ Dave from the communal sleeping room and he snored away in the kitchen/living area to his heart’s content, although I think I still heard his midnight overture despite two walls and a flight of stairs!

The third day dawned sunny and fine and we set off through the forest at the start of the Caples track. The trail had been closed for a few days due to high water levels making river crossings impassable as the rain the previous day had topped up the already high water levels. Thankfully this land drains remarkably quickly and we had the green light to proceed with extreme caution. The best we could do was extreme humour as we spent half an hour laughing as we all tried to cross the Caples river without sinking up to our waists and meet the unspoken challenge to see who could conquer the crossing with dry toes. Gav made his intentions clear and simply waded in. Then Jim took a dip off a log, one leg up to mid-thigh. Steve, accepting dry boots wasn’t an option but confident he’d have dry knees set of and was soon waist deep. Dave followed Steve’s trench but with a stumble was up to his waist!



At well over 6 feet tall Phil set the standard due to is unusually long legs and simply jumped the larger pools. Kat enlisted Phil’s help for a pull on 3. But Phil’s misinterpretation of the number 1 had her water skiing bare boot before that sinking feeling took over. Finally Brad was left with a wide gap and short legs cursing the lord for inadequate height.



Next was a gruelling 90 minute vertical climb up to the McKellar saddle to a stunning vista of wild alpine flowers and towering mountains. After a good rest (and a chance for Gav to apply some extra anti-chafe talc!) we set off down the valley through forests, crossing more rivers and tributaries until we arrived at the Upper Caples hut.



The weather was now warm enough, thanks to clear blue skies and enough O-zone depletion, to warrant a plunge into the freezing glacial waters of the Caples River for a quick wash. Dave and Steve tried some fly fishing to no avail and as the hut consisted of only one room we spent a restless night listening to his un-dulcet-like tones. Given the unique nature of his snoring prowess there was a small crowd of onlookers come morning videoing and photographing him in his natural environment!

Then followed perhaps the best walking day of the trip, in beautiful sunny weather we walked down alongside the Caples River across the glacier-carved meadows between towering mountains. It was quite simply stunning and as the day was considerably shorter we spent the afternoon swimming and reading next to the river.



Gav decided he couldn’t face another night socialising in the hut so walked the remaining 3 hours back to the car and spent a night on his own in Queenstown dinning on Fergburgers. Unfortunately he missed one of the best nights of the trip, a fantastic view and 2 separate bunk rooms with 6 bunks at either end of the hut, so we gleefully split into snoring and non-snoring factions, though Jim somehow covertly slipped through the anti-snoring net but was rumbled in the wee hours….

The final day was relatively short and leaving Dave, Steve and Phil fishing we headed back to Queenstown, for beer and Fergs (possibly the best burgers in the world!). Wow beer tastes good after 5 days without….. but perhaps we slightly over-indulged…

As some of our group were leaving the following day we enjoyed a lovely lunch in Gibbston Winery followed by a BBQ that night, enjoying the bounty of Dave’s successful arvo on the river - a decent brown trout. After that Jim, Gav & Phil headed off to the airport.

Steve and Dave then tried their fishing luck again and were rewarded with a rainbow-trout that they put back in the river. Kat and I had a fantastic couple of days biking with our mate Greg (who owns Fat Tyre biking and who we first met on our honeymoon). The first day was a regular gravity-assisted ride out Cromwell way followed a wicked helibike the next day. Doesn’t get much better than flying up to 1600m then pegging it down to 200m!



Steve flew back to Melbourne and then there were three - we headed down to Stewart Island for the last few days of our trip. We decided we were fed up of student-like accommodation and instead booked a rather nice apartment in the only “town” on the island. Unfortunately the 4 days of rain were not that conducive to leaving our rather comfy home (with Sky TV) and cold beer but despite the lure of more movies we managed to head out to visit Ulva Island which is supposed to be the most pristine part of NZ, representative of how it used to be before the introduction of non-indigenous species such as rats and deer. As they have no natural predators the birds have no fear of humans and appear tame, and we were particularly lucky to see some particularly rare birds nesting. Even when back on Stewart Island the variety of bird life is amazing and we had a constantly entertained by the Ka Ka’s on the decking.



Like all good things through the trip had to come to an end but not before Kat and I spent a night out at Greg’s for a bang up BBQ and wine, while Dave loitered out front of Ferg’s for one last time!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Christmas and New Year

Christmas was relatively busy, with Brad's sister Suzy, her husband Michael and Alistair (3) & Sammy (1) over from Sydney. The kids certainly keep you on your toes, Alistair with a constant appetite for play, and Sammy with a constant appetite! It was good fun having the kids around and we now know all the words to Bob the Builder - Can we Fix it? Yes we can!

On Christmas day Brad's Aunt Pam (who now only lives about 20 minutes away in McCrae) cooked an enormous traditional English roast for all 3 of her sister's, and various nieces and nephews and as usual we all ate and ate and ate.... thanks for looking after us so well Pam!

Unfortunately we all then got a really bad cold from the kids so the next few days were a little restrained though we all enjoyed the benefits of living down on the Penninsula (about 1 hour south of Melbourne) with trips to a nearby winery, walks, biking and several visits to the penguins on the local beach! The garden cricket pitch was also much used and Brad lovingly tended to it daily on his John Deere tractor-mower, don't worry Hughie you'll get a go one day...

Last night we had a fab New Year seafood barbie at the family beach house of the soon-to-be-Mrs-Nagy, based down near Sorrento (about half an hour away from Hastings further down the Penninsula). As we munched through about 8 delicious seafood courses we gradually drank the evening away in the very merry company of the Hardman family and friends and finally retired around 3am. A big big thank you for such welcome hospitality!


Today we had a brisk walk down to the beach nearby in attempt to clear our somewhat foggy heads, then spent the afternoon sleeping, doing a last few jobs in the new house and packing for the trip to New Zealand as we leave the day after tomorrow for around 3 weeks of walking and biking.

Happy New Year to you all!