Monday, December 19, 2011


Who da thunk it….certainly not me but there I was fishing the Great Barrier Reef!

On our previous trip to Cairns James and I booked a fishing trip to the Great Barrier Reef. There are many boats that do this and fish the estuary but the last thing I wanted to do was fish a “party” boat with people that did not know how to fish.

As many of my friends know I’ve been fishing the vast majority of my life, it is a passion with me. I’ve fished rivers for trout, lakes for trout, bass and pike and the ocean for marlin, dorado (mahi mahi), tuna, roosterfish, yellowtail, sierra, bass, halibut and whatever happens to bite. Most of my fishing in the ocean has been off the coast of Southern California and Catalina Island. I’ve also had one fishing trip to Costa Rica and I’ve fished for 20 plus years in the Sea of Cortez both from the Baja side and mainland Mexico. As I said it is my passion.

And now I find myself fishing the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns, Australia. The boat and guide James and I hired was exactly what I was hoping for, an experienced guide and a 20-foot center console Southland, which is very similar to a Boston Whaler.

The Rhapsody of the Seas...
My house is Cairns, Australia

It took about 45 minutes to reach the fishing grounds. James had never fished before and it was my hopes that he would tie into something of descent size. At our first stop it would use an “iron” and jig in approximately 90 feet of water. It did not take long for James to get the hang of things.

As luck would have it I was hit first. It happened just as I felt the bottom and lifted my jig. I knew it was a fish immediately and could feel the head shake from side to side.

I called out to James this one is yours. It took a few minutes or so for James to get rigged with a fighting belt and during the time the fish took two or three very nice runs and the line screamed off the reel. As soon as he was ready I handed the rod to James.

Fish On...

James fought the fish for a good ten minutes and brought a nice sized Blue Trevally onto the boat. It weighted about 17 pounds and the guide said it was the second or third biggest Blue he had ever brought on board. It was a really great fish to be James first and it put up a good fight even making a few more runs for James.

17 pound Blue Trevally...
James first fish ever

I think now James has a better idea how hard it can be to land a “good” fish. The one he fought was nice size but there are, as the saying goes “much bigger fish in the ocean”. James also confided that it was harder then he had expected which is the case for most people. Many think you just reel a fish in and bring on the boat.

Those of us who are hardcore fisherman, and fisherwomen know this not to be the case. My largest fish was a 200 pound stripe marlin off of San Carlos, Mexico. My longest/hardest fight was a 70 pound yellowfin tuna that took me over an hour to land on 30 pound test line. Fishing is a skill and hard work. It is also known as hours of boredom broken up with minutes of chaos.

A little later in the day I was hit another time with a Bludger Trevally while jigging and a Gold Spot Trevally on the troll, which I also handed off to James. They were nice fish but neither was near the size of the Blue Trevally we landed earlier. I also miss a strike from what seemed to be a very large Coral Trout or what we call a Grouper. That came while popping a lure in shallow water over the tops of reef structures.

After a bit more fishing it was time for lunch. So it was sandwiches and what is better to drink then an ice-cold Mexican beer when in very hot weather on the water. As we drifted around the reef during our lunch the reefs beauty and the clarity of the water amazed us. There is an old saying of something being “gin clear”. This is absolutely the case for the waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef.

Coronas on the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

James doing what he does best...nothing...

After the day of fishing was complete it was another 45 minute run back to the boat. Luckily the seas were relatively flat though there were some nice bumps along the way and to definitely had to hold on. When we returned to the bay our guide Brendan took us through a side channel right across from the ship. His reason for doing so was another thing James and I were hoping to encounter and we were not disappointed. Within minutes we spotted a 10-foot saltwater crocodile sunning himself on the bank. This is the reason why nobody in Cairns and Airlie Beach swim in the water…there are things that will eat you!

10 foot saltwater crocodile

So that was my day on the water and yet another thing that can be checked off my bucket list…fishing the Great Barrier Reef!

And the net result of the day...a few nice fish, cold beers, James face looked like a tomato and my forehead looked and felt like leather...we got fried on the GBR!

Monday, December 5, 2011


During our last stop in Noumea James and I were literally sitting with our feet in the sand only feet from the waters edge catching up on emails.

As it turns out James noticed a couple feet away was rap star Shaggy.

James, Shaggy and I hanging on the beach
in Noumea, New Calendonia


Well this week we went to a couple new places one being Vila, Vanuatu and the other Mystery Island, Vanuatu.

Vila, Vanuatu
James had the day off as well so we headed to town to explore. From the ship it was a $3 taxi ride per person after you told them you would not pay the $10 they were asking.

stalls filled with the typical tourist stuff right at the dock.

Vila reminded me a lot of some of the places I’ve been in the Caribbean. It happened to be a rainy day or at least on and off.  It was not a hard rain but enough to muddy the roads. James also commented that it reminded him also of the Caribbean and Jamaica in particular.

One thing we did find is Vanuatu is not nearly as expensive as New Zealand or Australia. This was great news as it has been some time where getting something to eat and/or a beer did not cost you an arm and a leg.

We first stopped at one cafe in hope of getting internet and a descent meal. They did have wifi but it was extremely slow and not worth dealing with although the $4 beers were great.

We also came across an open air market filled with all types of fruits and veggies. Also one the the strangest things we had ever seen...coconut crabs.

at the market

coconut crab!

After looking at a handful of other restaurants we ended up eating at one of the first places we checked out and had a great lamb wrap that included a beer for the lunch special. For both the entire cost was $15.

Next we decided to try and find a place on the water and have a couple more beers. Luckily we were able to do just that. It was a great place, right on the water and ice-cold beers. What made it even better is the beers were only $# and they had a swimming pool…SCORE

Chillin' in Vila....

After enjoying our beers and the view we headed back to the ship after I made a couple quick stops to pick up a couple presents for my grandkid.

I am looking forward to coming back to Vila to have a couple cold beers, good food at a very reasonable price and to relax in the pool.

Mystery Island is a very small island that in the past has been covered by the occasional tidal wave. It is a tendered port so I was not able to get ashore until noon but it was worth the wait.

Mystery Island

There is very little to do there other then to shop at some of the stands the natives have erected to sell their wares. Of course much of it is the “tourist” stuff you expect from every port but I was able to find a few presents for my grandkids, a close friend (you know who you are) and a new hat for myself.

Mystery Island Home Boys....

Lobster anyone?

After my shopping spree I took a walk around the island, which can be accomplished in just 2-3 hours if that. Other friends went snorkeling and I was told it was a good place to do so.

Mystery Island Airport

After my walk I decided to befriend a couple natives and here was the end result…almost the end of me.

Soups on...

All in all Mystery Island is a great place to kick back, relax, go snorkeling, take a quiet walk or to just sit on the beach.

The Rhapsody of Mystery Island

The next cruise is back to Sydney, Airlie Beach, New Castle, Brisbane and an overnight in Cairns. I can’t wait for Cairns as James and I chartered a private guide to fish the Great Barrier Reef and to do a little snorkeling.


Friday, December 2, 2011


First a couple more shots from Sydney

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Rhapsody of the Sea
from the Sydney Opera House

Another place we have visited in Australia is Newcastle. It is mostly a coal-mining city on the outskirts but coupled with a nice town. Again I only had a handful of hours off so spent it walk through the small shops near the wharf area where the shuttle buses dropped ship passengers off. The area was very nice with shops interlaced with a handful of cafes. It is much less money to eat here then Sydney. It reminded me a lot of Victoria and of Seattle in some areas.

I did enjoy what time I did have off the ship here and will venture into Newcastle again. You could actually find a number of small cafes that had good food for a fair price, much less then Sydney and New Zealand. There were many places to get free wifi, which is always highly prized by the crew as it is so expensive on the ship.

Cairns is hands down my favorite port so far, especially as far as a city goes. It is not a large city from what I can tell but a city just the same. You cannot put it into the same category as Moorea and Bora Bora as they are tropical islands, but as far as New Zealand and Australia goes Cairns absolutely my favorite.

Shot from the ship of the bay

To make it even better we did an overnight in Cairns. The first day of any port for me is more about exploring to find out what to do next time. This was no different.

I left the ship after seeing patients around noon. Another nice thing about Cairns is that everything is walking distance from the ship. It was only a few blocks to the center of town near the beach. Here the street was lined with many places to eat. What made it so great was the food was actually affordable. You could get just about anything you wanted from $10-$15.

I am always on the hunt for a place to do free internet as well because it is so expensive on the ship even for crew. I did find a nice place that served coffee, smoothies and a few food items. It was air conditioned inside and had outside seating as well with fans overhead, which was nice in the 91f degree weather (33c).

James joined me shortly after 1pm and we both caught up with emails etc. Then it was time to get serious. Literally steps away in the same building was a pub. It also had outdoor seating and what really made my day was Coronas for $3.50 “all day/everyday”. Corona is not my favorite by any means but as far as beers go I love Mexican beers. There is just something about Mexican beer in a hot climate, it just tastes so good. Maybe that is from the 30 years I’ve been going in and out of Baja.

Coronas and tequillas with James...
Heres to ya Irish!

After our first beer it was time to salute our past running mate Irish. So we raised a shot of tequila and slammed it down. It is a running joke with us as I always made Irish do a shot of tequila and he hates it. From that point it was beers for the rest of the day…and night for that matter.

We seldom get overnights in the same port so it was out to one of the local clubs for yes more cocktails and dancing with some of the spa girls. This of course was after a stop back to the ship to shower and a trip to the crew bar for an hour or so.

Now back to Cairns itself. The next day James and I got together at the place we found for the internet. After that we decided to take a hike down the water front.

Boardwalk in Cairns

The sidewalk was right on the water and was about 2 miles long. It was lines with a beautiful park on one side a narrow strip of sand and the ocean on the other, actually a huge bay.

At one point James said how great it would be just to throw a towel down and lie on the beach at the waters edge. Literally within 50 feet of making that comment we discovered why nobody was doing this. We came across a big yellow sign stating “Do Not Enter the Water, Do Not Go To the Waters Edge, Do Not Clean Fish…Saltwater Crocodiles Have Been Sighted in This Area”. What I thought was strange was it was the only sign on the entire beach. Later we were told that the locals already know this. But it is my contention now with cruise ship starting to come the area, we were the first, and they need more signs!

James right before a swim...

Well maybe later...

After our hike we were back again near the town center at the beach. It was very hot and we were grateful that there is a huge public swimming pool right on the water. So we decided the thing to do was to sit in the water for about an hour before heading back to the ship.

public pool on the bay

All in all it was truly a great day and a great port. I can’t wait to come back again. James and I have a fishing trip lined up. We are fishing from 6am-1pm and doing the trip stopping to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. How cool is that? I sure hope the rumors are true and we will be here a lot, I really like this place and it would be very easy to live here. If it wasn’t so far from my grandkids that is.

Airlie Beach is a ‘tendered” port which means that the ship is too large to dock close to shore or the port does not have mooring facilities.

Offshore Airlie Beach

This also means, at least on this ship, that essentially guests leave first and then crew can board the tenders to go ashore. Because of this we usually don’t get off the ship until around 11-12pm maybe later. I can understand this as the guests are paying to be here and it is their vacation. This also happens in port on this ship. One thing that was nice about the Carnival Dream when I was onboard was they had a separate crew gangway. We could leave at will when it was our time off.

Now back to Airlie Beach. This was a very typical beach town with places to eat, shops and the like. As in most ports I try and find a to get free internet. By free I mean a place such as a café that once you buy something to eat you are given their password, which is fair enough.

After I ate and finished catching up with emails I walked around the town a bit to see what there was to do the next time I’m in port. Just like in Kauai I found a place to rent scooters and the going rate is $45 for 4 hours, which is a good deal. I will either do that or rent a car for just a bit more with a couple friends and explore the immediate area the next time I am here.

The town itself is right on the water. But one thing I am trying to get used to is nobody goes into the water. Why? Crocodiles! Here just like in Cairns there is what they call a “lagoon”. It is really a large wading pool that is 1.5 meters deep and usually just back from the waters edge and surrounded by grass and some trees. It is also filled with saltwater. Having grown up in Laguna Beach, Ca. it is nothing like what I would call a day at the beach.

A day at the beach...Airlie style...

After a few hours on shore it was time to catch the tender back to the ship. I am looking forward to coming here in a couple more weeks and exploring, having something good to eat and enjoy my time away from work. Something all of us need to do whenever we can.

In Brisbane we dock approximately 45 minutes from town. Top that with the fact that all guests are to be shuttled in before crew and then top that with this morning we had a very long crew drill it is almost not worth getting off the ship.

I did leave the ship this time as I had booked an excursion to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I spent a little over 2 hours going through the grounds.

One of the reasons to go to the sanctuary is obviously to see the large number of koalas there. But the highlight was actually being able to hold a koala. How many people actually get this chance?

Another part of the sanctuary I enjoyed was the free roaming area, though relatively small, of kangaroos. You entered a gated fenced area where there were many kangaroos and you could feed by hand. Again how often to you get to do something like this.

But this too had a sad aspect as most of the kangaroos were so used to people that they just sat on the ground after being hand feed mouthfuls of store bought kangaroo food which were pellets resembling rabbit food. Some of them didn’t even eat and were very lethargic seemingly bored with the “tourists” that came to visit them, myself being one.

Overall I was somewhat disappointed as I was expecting more of a preserve then a zoo atmosphere. In California there is the Wild Animal Park in San Diego and in the past the Lion Country Safari near my hometown of Laguna Beach. At both of these places the animals roam free more huge areas in their natural habitat.

The rest of the animals were in small cages and enclosures as in any other zoo. I’m not really a zoo person, as I believe the animals should not be confined to small cages. Still for what is was and for what they are doing to helping out the species at the “zoo” it was a good thing.

In closing about Brisbane unless some of the staff come back from the two hour round trip shuttle ride to the city from the dock and say this is somewhere you have to see I think I’ll just stay on the ship in Brisbane. From what I did see on our bus ride to the koala sanctuary through the city last time I see no need to go….a city is a city to me for the most part and I am more of a country boy.

Pictures from the Koala Sancturary



Golden Possum


and of course....KOALAS

Enjoy and teh next stop is VILA and MSTERY ISLAND, VANUATU!!!!!!!!!