Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Update from the boat

We´ve been at sea five days and having a great time. Long days, setting sail as the son rises. Making about 50miles a day to get up the coast. Did a bit of snorkeling but it was murky and windy and nerveracking. Caught two tuna so far which are deliscious and have kept our food stocks up. Only drama so far was waking up with a thump in the middle of the night as we crashed into another boat. the anchor drifted 200m and our chains got tangled. bit of damage but nothing serious, but a lot of stress untangling it. had to do anchor watch all night to check we didn´t drift further. up at 5am everyday and asleep by 9. all the fresh sea air. got a good rhythm though. no internet on the boat but i can update through the captains ´seamail´ account so will update if anything more eventful happens, otherwise it´s everyday long stretches of sailing where it´s too rough to do much else than watch the waves and play the guitar.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The sabbatical

Our first night on the boat, sabbatical, still moored in Cairns marina. It's entering a new world, with all people in the Marina who share a language, terminology, lifestyle. Swimming everyday, fishing, sailing. Magical

Captain Piet

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Flying back over the outback. There's nothing down there!

The planes are big airliners flying hundreds of miners in and out from four major airports


Damien from couchsurfing who fixed up the show for us. Thanks mate - you're a legend!



I did a few runs on a truck with Bella here



Breakfast at the mine

Huge. Amazing. All free for everyone that works here. They spend $500,000 a month on food.


We arrived in cairns Friday evening and it was clear that it's a party town. Lots of bars and clubs and hotels (although the loss of Japanese tourists and the cyclone have slashed the number of visitors this year). It's the gateway to the barrier reef and surrounded rainforest. Port Douglas in particular up the coast is an A-list location, with the oldest rainforest in the world, and half of Australia's animal species live in it.
It took two hours to get do the 8km to our couch surf (two buses with a long change) as public transport is bad here. We stayed with a guy called Mike through couchsurfing and was right by the coast at yorkey's knob beach and we went for a dip every morning.
The first day we went to the local fete and the second day we hitched up to Port Douglas and played the market there. We didn't make much dough so hitched back to Cairns in the afternoon and did some night busking which we've found to be much more profitable if you have a busy street with drunks after 10pm. It's mostly drunk girls in Cairns. The ratio of women to men is 5-1 as most men work at the mines. We get good tips with Maria's great dancing and I sing really loud after all thus busking, from up the street it sounds like I have a mic.
Before busking we got a text from Piet to say he was at the Marina so we went to confirm and discuss and see the boat. Hard to believe it's for real. He left holland 5 years ago and has been sailing around the equator. 5 years without once needing a jumper.
Maria is even happier than me because she has a boat back in Italy and it's long been her dream to sail around the world, and now it's come true. I think it's karma because she gave up her flight back to Rome to come cycling with me, which she struggles with on account of her knee, but she'd have done it fir me, and now I end up sailing with her. Who knows, maybe we end up sailing rather than cycling around the world, I'll roll with whatever. It's exciting to think we'll be as good as qualified sailers after the trip, because Piet's a sailing instructor and can't not teach.
The boat is really nice. 45 feet and teak and built for comfort not speed. We have our own cabin. Really luxury because most boats are packed with people I think.
On the last day before we stayed at the host in Yorkey's knob and I'm the evening had a strange experience where we got ditched by our host.
Luckily after an hour on the Internet we found a couch right by the airport with Moggy from England who was a great guy, super high on life. After 16 years as an occupational therapist in London he was reborn in Cairns. The job there was working with disabled people for social services. In the roughest area in London. Gang fighting. In the week before he left for example, twice two different 13 year olds brought guns into the social services building. He said London sucks the soul out of you and with all the budget cuts it's spiralling downwards out of control and england is turning into america. He's really seen the worst of it there.
In Australia his job is working with remote aboriginal communities. It was his first day at work flying our there next day and he'd heard that it would make the London gangs look like primary school. Everything goes on out there. Broken communities. Tribes that hate each other but were brought together by the missionaries and have still not been separated (the govt policy now is not intervene in that way). He's happy though because living in Cairns is a dream for him. He raved for an hour about the area and it was a pleasure to listen to him, sitting on his balcony which looked out on a unesco world heritage sight. He'd spent all day on the reef and was saving the rainforest 100km up the coast until he has a week there because it's so amazing.


Townsville itself wasn't the hottest place but we had a good time there. The couchsurf at Celine's was really nice, at the bottom of Castle Hill (3m short of mountain classification) and we hiked up there a few times before breakfast with her big dogs (which we managed to lose once when we were looking after them, luckily they came back.) We packed in a few things while we were there, including the show at Celine's, a radio gig, Maria had a dance class. There was no dumpster diving unfortunately (bins locked up) and no busking at the supermarket (they moved us on after one song). The highlight of the stay there was the twilight sailing. Rupert's trimaran was one of the fastest boats I've been on (including the ones with a motor). Even without that boat it would have been magical, sailing in the race as the sun went down. I wanted to help with the sailing and he gave me a rope to let out, which I let go of when he said 'let it go (faster) and almost lost a hugely expensive kite sail. He didn't ask me to do anything else after that ;) but we still one by a km.

Two notable pieces of good fortune happened to us in Townsville, which you may remember we only came to because qld rail gave us the tickets to it (it wasn't on our route) which only happened because we played on abc radio, which only happened because I couchsurfed with Mary in Toronto who's cousin worked for abc, and stayed in touch with her through Facebook. At Celine's BBQ, one of the CSers worked at a mine and said he would see about getting us a gig there, which worked out. $400 to play an informal set in the bar, flights, food and a tour of the mine. So much for carbon neutral touring, but it would be an education and hopefully I get a song out of it. The tour alone would be worth the trip, as it's not something many people get to see.:

And secondly, at the twilight sailing we asked around in the Marina if anyone was sailing to Darwin and a retired Dutch couple on a round the world trip (it's taken them 6 years to get this far, why rush?) knew of another Dutch guy, Pieter Snel, who needed a crew (the Dutch do this kind of thing, I've heard stories here from people of three different cyclists who made it here across land from Europe and they were all Dutch). We called him next day (he was in hospital with some chronic internal pain) and he was interested in having us. He knows we can't sail (he's a sailing instructor) so asked $10 a day each, which isn't too bad as we will have learnt to sail by the end of it, but is a stretch for our budget as busking at sea is tough. Dolphins aren't big tippers. We'll have to pullout all the stops busking a week in Darwin, and I've arranged show there. It promises to be the trip of a lifetime, sailing up the great barrier reef, snorkelling, fishing, around the Australian coast, the up to Indonesia and on to Singapore - 3 months. And that it's cone out of the blue like this makes it even more trippy. We are really lucky to have cone by Townsville because all the boats are waiting for the Darwin Ambon Rally and sailing up there from south Australia, but we've heard from a guy in Darwin who can't get a boat, that they're already crewed up by the time they get there. We count our lucky stars it worked out this way.

Piet said to meet him in cairns so we called qld rail for the third time (we had already called and got another free ticket to mt isa on the way to Darwin, which we changed to Cairns) talk about freeloaders. Thanks again guys.

End of the night

A few stayed til the end. It was a fun show in the mine but didn't go too late. The miners start their 12 hour shifts at 6am and are breathalysed every morning before work. Maria didn't dance. It could have been trouble.

We had a really fun time there. It was a real insight. Two runs on the truck was enough for me. Very boring.

The bar opens for two hours again at 6am when the nightshift finished. Always on the go.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Port Douglas radio

Port douglas

Busking at the Sunday Market


Our host in Cairns. He threw a CS BBQ on Sunday. Good fun. We're in the tropics at last. Winter but still 25 degrees.

Yorkey's knob

Busked at the fete and played onstage

We played in Townsville's lifesaver club. Fun crowd


Our host in Townsville. A great stay!


Australia has so many amazing trees (fact of the day)

Friday, 10 June 2011

Queensland Rail

A big thank you to Queensland Rail who gave us two tickets to Townsville on the Sunlander train. A special thanks to Nathan from the PR dept for answering our call for help on the radio. It took 24 hours to get up there. 1,300km - a short trip up the coast still in the same state. I played in the buffet car at lunch and dinner, and Clive the train controller was unbelievably nice, giving us food and bumping us up to a cabin. One of the best train trips I've ever had.

Sailing race

The yacht club in Townsville has a weekly race and boats welcome passengers. We were on this trimaran. Thanks to Jasper for taking us. It was the fastest boat by a long way and won easily. It did 10 knots just in the bay with a big kite sale, leaving a huge wake you could waterski on.

A good face for radio

ABC Townsville

Played on the local radio today. Thanks to Ann and Alex for having us on. We publicised couch surfing, the carbon neutral tour, and asked if anyone else wanted a show anywhere while I'm in town.

Townsville couch concert

Celine, a French nurse we met through couchsurfing, picked us up at the station in the morning. We went for a hike with her up to the top of Castle Hill, with a stunning panoramic view of the city, bay and magnetic island. In the evening I played a show for local couchsurfers and some of her colleagues from the hospital here. A very interesting group of people in a beautiful setting.

Morris and Robin

The wonderful couple who let us stay in their Brisbane House for two weeks.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

New album

My new album 'Maria and other adventures' is online with artwork now, ready for download. It tells the story of my last three months around New Zealand and Australia, with songs about cycling, busking, earthquakes, activists, developers, music and romance. If you can help me publicise it by sending the link to friends I'd be very grateful. 

Friday, 3 June 2011

Lone pine zoo

Morris took us to the zoo to meet some of the locals. He's a very interesting guy - very knowledgable - a tree expert. We were housesitting while him and his wife went on a group trek across Lake Eire, which vary rarely is a lake.

Me and Roo

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


I'm working on my newest album. Recording all the songs from the last three months. Another iPod album as I didn't find a studio.