Time to cut the umbilical cord!

23rd March, 2019

Well, all we need now is fresh bread and veggies! French Kiss is prepped and ready. Born in Cherbourg, France, registered as an Australian, ‘FRENCH KISS, GLADSTONE’, she is ready to cut her umbilical cord and start her long journey home.

Our position: Latitude: N 49 degrees 38.840′ Longitude: W 1 degree 37.201′

I love that Longitude …. 1 degree W (west)

Greenwich is situated 5 miles south of London on the River Thames. Greenwich Meridian is 0 degrees known as GMT or now, UTC time. Coordinated Universal Time which is the standard that regulates world clocks and time. UTC starts at 0 measuring the Meridians of Longitude. Brisbane time is UTC 10+ meaning 10 hours ahead of Greenwich. Our Queensland coast sees the sun 10 hours before Greenwich\London.

15 degrees = 1 hour. 15 degrees x 24 hours = 360 degrees (circle) divided 180 east and 180 west of Greenwich meeting at the opposite side of the planet is the International Date Line. Gladstone’s Latitude is 23 degrees 50.35′ South and Longitude 151 degrees 16.6′ East. That’s 15 degrees x 10 hours from Greenwich and slightly inland = 151 degrees.

The Equator is 0 degrees and from here measures the Parallels of Latitude. The North Pole is 90 degrees N. The South Pole is 90 degrees S. Gladstone is 23 degrees south of the Equator and 67 degrees north of the South Pole so I am excited to be 1 degree west of Greenwich where it all starts.

Our first passage plan is to cross the Chanel to the UK and sail up the west coast to Conwy in Wales. 1st June we will attempt, through the Scottish Caledonian Canal, Inverness and Shetlands to reach Tromso in Norway then higher still to Svalbard, reaching the 80th parallel. This is approx. 600 nautical miles south of the North Pole.

I am unable to upload photos at the moment but will add when I can. The biggest sentence I have learnt in French: je voudrais un taxi a la marina s’il vour plait! I would like a taxi to the marina, please! Bonjour, merci beaucoup, and au revoir! Very few French speak English. It was a difficult country to get anything done or make appointments. Philip and I used our iPhone translator all the time.

All the French people we have met have been extremely friendly. We have lived here for nearly 4 months and thoroughly enjoyed the food, wine, cheese and experience. Cherbourg has heaps of history including the Titanic’s last visit. Napoleon’s statue stands in a park by the main road dividing the city and the marina. A monument to the French Resistance stands on opposite side of the street. With a forceful glare, Napoleon sits tall on his horse, his hand pointing seaward where is 93 war ships would have waited in the Grand Harbour originally started by himself….later finished by Hitler. Did you know, Napoleon always wore his hat sideways? Hats were worn with the corners pointing forward and back but he wanted to be instantly recognisable on the battlefield so wore his hat sideways. This is a fascinating place!

Tanzanian Serengeti – Hakuna Matata!

26th February – 5th March, 2019

It’s always good to be back in Africa. This trip we met up with friends, Jennifer Martin from South Africa and her sister Caroline Van Rensburg from Scotland all meeting at Nairobi International Airport for our flight to Kilimanjaro.

So excited to see our friend and guide Solomon Mkumbo (Solly) who was waiting for us. We stayed the night at River Trees Lodge where we had a very pleasant night with Solly’s beautiful wife and my three Tanzanian grandchildren. The following days we drove through the Central and Southern Serengeti, spending the last two nights at a lodge near the Ngorongora Crater.

Philip and Solly – Nyumbani Camp

Solly made sure we saw the Big 5, the Great Migration across the southern area where half a million wildebeest calves are born and a quarter of a million taken by lion, hyena, jackal, vultures and other predators. Not comforting to see, a few tears shed by us girls when a baby springbok was caught by a female hyena and her cubs, though no different to the poor creatures trying to cross the Mara River during our last visit, being taken in such a gruesome way by crocodiles. Life here is just eating and breeding. Every living thing is food.

Jenny and Caroline overlooking our tented camp below

Our entire trip was wild. Lunch was had out on the Serengeti plains surrounded by mainly wildebeests, lions, hyena, zebra and gazelles. Our tented accommodation was unfenced only protected by Masai Warriors. Lovely people living a simple life. They take nothing from the earth. All plant life is for their cattle which is a show of wealth. They eat only meat for breakfast and dinner which has been preserved in sheep fat. They drink milk and only when celebrating do they mix it with blood. Masai can have many wives. Their children sleep with the mother until the age of approx. 10 when they are taken away for 2-3 months to be taught how to be men, protect their village from predators especially lions and finally to be circumcised with any available knife. Once they are healed they come home to stay in another mud hut for young men their own age.

Nyumbani – The happiest people and camp in the Serengeti.

Solly is well educated and experienced with African wildlife, flora, birds, Masai and tribal customs; even gave us a star gazing session one night with his laser light. An amazing man! He answered every question we had and said no question is a silly question, we could ask anything. Philip didn’t think so! He said some questions are ‘kak vra’! In Afrikanse, a really crap question and an award should be handed to the worst ‘kak vra’. Well, what happens on holiday stays on holiday and we won’t mention names but someone asked why our Masai Warrior had strips of leather standing up on his shoes.

I guess the only way to answer a ‘kak vra’ is with a ‘kak answer’.

Solly replied, ‘It’s an antennae for his WiFi’!

You see ….. Solly knows everything!

Swahili words learnt: Jumbo means ‘hello’. Asanti means ‘thank you’. Hakuna Matata means ‘no worries’. Simba means ‘lion’.

Preparing for our trip!

A huge amount of preparation is required for our next adventure. Selecting crew; courses to prepare the ones not experienced; dental and medical checks; travel documents for all crew; Carmen at HelloWorld Gladstone prepared with all details of crew for last minute flights; Insurance coverage for global rescue (hopefully not required); Insurance cover for high altitude restricted areas; clinics through UK, Norway, Svalbard for medical checks; Arctic clothing; provisions list including a good rum or whiskey to celebrate crossing the Arctic Circle; yacht preparation – a spare for every possible thing that can break; safety equipment all compliant; navigation equipment updated; ability to download weather reports wherever we are; visas and customs entry requirements for France, Wales, Scotland, Norway, Svalbard; return documentation; refreshing our knowledge and reading all books on sailing north; using cameras, videos, go-pro, drones, our IT guy Geoff on-call 24/7 for internet – iPhones, iPads and laptops! Not to mention finalising finances, homes and business here before we leave. Leaving that all up to our son-in-law Grant. All made possible by our son, Aston who is doing a brilliant job of managing the ‘Monster’.

Leaving our two girls, Shona and Ashleigh who we will miss … till the plane lifts off the tarmac in Gladstone!!!

Our grand’children’, Habana and Huxley who we will miss a little further into the flight. See you all in 7 months.

A few ‘goodbye’ drinks at the Breezeway, Curtis Is.

With just 3 weeks to go before we head back to French Kiss in Cherbourg Marina, France, we enjoyed the company of those who love Friday night’s gathering at the Breezeway, Curtis Island. Owned by Alan and Ailsa Smith, the Breezeway bar overlooks the Pacific Ocean with it’s welcoming breeze after a hot humid Australian day. A beer, wine or favourite thirst quencher goes down very well. Good music and company, chatter and laughs is a pleasant way to enjoy the night life. Other night time activities are turtles nesting between October to January with hatchlings pushing their way up through the sand, down the beach to the ocean from January to March. An experience never forgotten by new comers. It’s our best kept secret with a 10km beach, Turtle Street’s beautiful water and bay, grasslands, lagoon, marshes, woodlands and wildlife.

We even have our own Royal Sandfly Golf Course created and maintained by Alan Gardner covering an area over grasslands and mudflats. There you go Alan… you are in my blog!

Mont Saint Michel

A full day trip from Cherbourg to Mont St Michel was an awe inspiring experience. Before the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, according to legend, the Archangel Michael appeared in 708 to the Bishop of Avranches and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. It is approx. 1000 acres surrounded by tidal ocean. On top is God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great hills, then stores and housing; at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fisherman and farmers. It was only accessible at low tide to the many pilgrims to its abbey, but defensible as an incoming tide stranded, drove off, or drowned would-be assailants. The tides vary greatly, at around 14 meters between high and low water marks. The Mont remained unconquered during the Hundred Year War, a small garrison fended off a full attack by the British in 1433. The population today approx. 50. The reverse benefits of its natural defense were not lost on Louis XI, who turned the Mont into a prison. Thereafter the abbey began to be used regularly as a jail. One of France’s most recognizable landmarks, visited by more than 3 million a year (second to the Eiffel Tower), the Mont and it’s bay are now a World Heritage Site.

Walk or take a lift along the new access on low tide
Archangel Michael

World Cup Winners

Congratulations to the French on their triumphant World Cup win in Russia.

Mei, Rick, Philip and I celebrated along with the restaurant staff with great jubilation in the restaurant, on the streets and in the city square.

The French are crazy!   They painted their faces (us too), dressed in anything red, white and blue (us too), chanted, lit flares, rocked cars, jumped on buses, hooted, blew vuvuzelas, climbed and swam in the central fountain.  Anything went while the police weren’t around!

Now Philip says, they have the right to call the English Channel …. the French Channel!!!  That didn’t go down well with the English!



Windows of Cherbourg

Walking the streets of Cherbourg, looking at the buildings and their windows, I felt myself standing on the inside looking out and wondering, who has looked through these windows?  Were they smiling and happy?   Watching the invasion by Hilter and his SS, were they terrified of what was coming?  What stories could they tell?



Philip’s busy day

This is Philip’s normal day on the yacht:  fixing ropes, stitching sail bags, making off his own loops on the ends of the bow, stern lines and springs.

Pass time when work is finished:  fiddle and tweeking, socialising and drinking.

Our American neighbours, Mei and Rick from Silicon Valley on their yacht, ‘Mei Hui’

Sunday – local market day in Cherbourg

Our French neighbours Valerie and Jean-Charles invited us to the local organic markets.  They are both retired journalist.  I wish I could remember all the details of Valerie love of sewing, knitting, crocheting and tapestries which lead them into an incredibly interesting life analyzing the art and writing several books on the subject.  Publishers couldn’t understand what she wanted and refused to work with her so they went ahead and published their own books with great success.   They created galleries with exhibitions that turned what they didn’t expect into huge interest from thousands of people.   A well known Gothic Church in France allowed them to display an  ancient treasure, their alter rug.  Gothic churches were built between the 12th and 16th century, so goodness know how old this rug was.   They turned a hobby into a successful business which they recently sold.  Now its time to enjoy the grandchildren, their holiday house by the sea and all the new adventures with their new yacht will bring.

Market day in Cherbourg with Valerie and Jean-Charles….

How does Philip look with long hair?

Radish’s we later learnt taste better with salt and olive oil

Variety of ancient tomatoes

Chickens, guinea fowls and turkeys

To my family who know … too close to Moosel!!!

Genuine farmer proudly selling his weekly produce!

Guess what’s in the box?
…. one live chicken! Sold!