What a bonus.  The extra three days in Airlie that arriving early afforded us were just what the doctor ordered.  The weather was beautiful and I had a lovely room with a balcony that I didn’t need to leave if I didn’t want to.  I was self sufficient, as it had a full kitchen including laundry facilities.  And I am very pleased to report that the tattoo didn’t make it.  It was vaguely visible until the first shower – and then kaputski!  What a shame!  It was fun whilst it lasted, but there is no way on earth that it will become a permanent appendage.  Somehow think that I may still be referred to as “Bad Ass” for some time to come though….

The first night was only a bog standard hotel room – I was only in it for about four hours!  We all had to be back on the boat for 9.30am for the beginning of the deep clean.  There were some sore heads!  I had a full four hours sleep, so it was better than a normal sleep in between night watches. It was also only just over 10 minutes walk away, and what a beautiful picturesque walk it is.  This is the first stopover that has been truly “resort style”.  The hotel is sea facing, as is my balcony, and it makes you feel relaxed right from the word go.  That is if you are there, of course.  The first day on dry land means not!  A full day on the boat, mainly doing the inventory of the food left over – of which we have quite a bit as we were so early.  Not that I am complaining of course.

But it is so hot – too hot to work.  The lunch break at the cafe on the marina was almost two hours long.  No-one wanted to go back.  But go back we did – well most of us.  A few had other ideas!  Most of the deep clean was completed by the end of the day.  Michael had his wife and family up here, and they had cars.  What a treat.  He dropped me off at Woolworths so that I could do a little food shopping (warming up for the big event!) for my apartment.  I then got a taxi back, and checked into my new room.  It was beautiful.  For some, a room is only to lay your head.  For me, especially on this trip, it is somewhere to escape, enjoy my own company and put my pyjamas on at lunch time if I want to.  Interspersed with all the tasks we have to do that is!
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Monday was a day at the boat also.  I had planned to start on the shopping spreadsheets and menus, but it just didn’t happen.  That boat just sucks up time!  The walk to and fro is a delight though.  Much further and I would be on the verge of perspiration overload – as soon as you go outside your clothes seem to vacuum pack your body.

Tuesday went the same way – I can see that the “days off” we have been allocated are going to be spent on the computer.  We decided to go to the shops and buy the bulky stuff like toilet roll and kitchen roll, so that we would have more room for the food when we did the main shop.  Emily cadged a lift, as she wanted to find a bag to put her foulies and sleeping bag in for the flight back home.  Craig came as well, as he needed to change a tarpaulin that was bought the day before and was too big.  He bought the measurements he was given – and was not impressed!  Kat had found some fans that work on a usb power pack, so quite a few of us have bought them – just need to buy the power packs.  Good job Craig came – he turns out to be the expert in what we need!  As well as that, we found the “Prickly Pineapple” grocers.  All the vegetables were ordered for a Sunday delivery, and they also did the best mango smoothie that I have ever tasted.  Apparently, the town of Bowen not far from here is reputedly where the best mangoes in the world come from.  So if you are ever offered a “Bowen Mango Smoothie” take it!!

Tuesday evening we had a “Welcome to Airlie Beach” at the Abel Point Yacht Club.  It is a brand new yacht club, and is part of the overall new look of the marina.  About 31 million dollars have been spent on upgrading and improving all of the area.  It has had a good job done to it.  And the weather helps of course – everything looks better in the sunshine!  We then all went to a Mexican Restaurant, Cactus Jacks, to say goodbye to seven of the crew that will be leaving us this leg.  There were three that were only on for one leg – Lauren, Sandra and Rob – but we are also saying goodbye to Sergej and Amanda who were on for two legs, and Emily who has been on since London.  Also Michael will be leaving for this leg only to have his hernia operation.  Hopefully he will be joining again in China.
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It is all rather sad really – a bit like saying goodbye to family.  Only you don’t know when and where you will be seeing these people again, if ever.  Some of them make a huge impression on my life onboard, and it will leave a massive hole in day to day life.
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Let’s hope that the new people joining are going to be characters larger than life that will help to fill the void.  Spookily, two of the new joiners had messages from people I know back home.  Pete booked his flights with Crown Travel – the owner of which, Charlie, I met on a Canadian trip a couple of years ago.  Charlie introduced him to my blog!  Phil, it turns out, is godfather to the daughter of one of our long standing clients.  What a small world.  We also have An from Danang who is joining us from here to Danang only – he is a tug boat driver from Danang who won a sponsorship for a place.
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He tells us that we are local heroes – and Wendo’s face is on the side of busses.  Should be a good stopover!  We also have Tony from Tenerife joining us again (he was on leg one) – a late entry.  I think our recent Sydney Hobart win might have had something to do with it!  A lovely young man called Chris is also joining us, Shona from Adelaide and one other whom we are yet to meet.

Wednesday and Thursday were designated as days off, and many of the crew made arrangements to go out to the Barrier Reef, or go on some sort of adventure.  I have had, and will have, enough adventure to last me, so a day doing the menu planning for the next leg was a good enough option for me.  I started – but didn’t get very far.  Because I had so much time to do it – unlike other stopovers – I sat and read for a bit, did some washing, and generally took my time.  Then there was a knock on the door.  Emily was sleeping on the boat, so I had invited her to come and spend some time around the pool if she wanted to.  It wasn’t too far off lunch, so I cobbled together a salad of sorts and ordered a bottle of sparkles from room service.  It happened to be called Emily.  Funny.  We sat on the balcony and ate lunch and drunk Emily, and then went to sleep for a while.  Hmm – looks like the human Emily is about as energetic as me!  Either that or she is just humouring me.
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I really did have to do those spreadsheets the next day – we were shopping on Friday, so there was no choice really.  I decided to put a few cold salad type meals in, as the whole of this next leg up to Danang is going to be very warm.  That doesn’t sound too bad in itself, but it means all the recipe spreadsheets have to be altered to take into account the new ingredients.  It was a good day’s work.  But I got it done.

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Friday we did the shop.  We had Michael’s in laws ute and small car – and we filled both of them up to the brim.  There is an awful lot of groceries involved in shopping for 21 people for 32 days.  But I am getting used to it now.­­­­  I had lots of help – apart from Michael and his wife Chris I had Pops and Kirsty, as well as Shona who is gluten free and who came to make sure what I was buying was suitable and Tony.  We all had a trolley and some – as I said, there is a lot of food needed for 21 people for 32 days.  We got most of what we needed in the first shop, but just had to go and “mop up” in Coles and IGA.  It then all had to be loaded on to the boat, and then packed in the day bags.  There were many hands, but it still didn’t all get done by the time we had to rush back to shower for the prize giving at 6pm.  Unfortunately we weren’t on the end of a prize this time – Mission Performance quite rightly took the Stormhoek Social Spirit Award.  Many thanks to all of you for changing allegiance and voting for them – they were well deserved winners.  And to top it all off there were fireworks.  Allegedly.  I have to admit that I slipped off early, thinking that I would watch them from my balcony.  But I fell asleep, and missed the whole thing.  They were good apparently!

Saturday was another day off!  Except that I had the menu planner to type up still and the put the recipes in the folder.  Never quite get a whole day off – but I won’t complain, as I have had more time to do things in this stopover than ever before.  I did wander into town and get a pedicure – nice to start the next leg with well looked after feet!  I have managed to read two whole books in the last week, so it actually has felt more like a holiday.  Emily and I went out for dinner at a lovely fish restaurant called Fish D’vine.  The food was excellent – except that I had crab which came almost the same as when it was living, and it was too much of a pfaff to crack it open and get out the teaspoon of meat inside.  It was in a lovely thai curry sauce, so not all bad.  It was a pleasant evening – one of the last we will spend together as we go our separate ways from here.  Sad.  We did have a giggle over the movie trailer Paul had put on facebook.  The characters were amazingly similar to their counterparts on Danang.  Spookily so!

As we wandered back along the main (and virtually only) street in Airlie, the bars full to the brim with backpackers were in full swing.  Neither of us felt a need to stop.  This is a lovely stopover Clipper style, but perhaps not one that I will make again.  Perhaps if I was thirty years younger……but probably not!

Last full day in Airlie, we reported to the boat for the 9.30am meeting.  Michael and I then went to buy the last minute bread and milk, and the other odd things we hadn’t managed to get, together will a salad for lunch tomorrow, pasta and sauce for dinner, and some really lovely yoghurt and granola and muffins for breakfast the following day.  A bit different to the usual rolls, pies and pastries.  We will see how that goes.

The fruit and vegetable delivery was a little late, but turned up just before we had to go for our immigration check to get out of the country.  There was loads of it – not sure where it all went!  Let’s hope everyone is hungry and eats it quite quickly.  There are lots of spare vegetables this time, so I hope the “mothers” will take the initiative and make some meals with fresh ingredients.

In the afternoon we had the crew brief for the next leg.  The good news was that there are no cyclones forecast.  The bad news was that we are heading into pirate country.  We have a full pirate brief, and what to do if we are approached by them.  Which includes getting dressed in our orange shirts to scare them away.  A bit like the British did when they painted themselves blue to keep the Vikings at bay I suppose.  If that doesn’t work, we just have to give them what they ask for – they apparently are not the kidnap type, they just want watches and money.  Not sure there is much of either on this boat!!  Let’s hope we don’t meet any.

We then had the final briefing on the boat with Wendo.  All the new crew were present – including Qui who was the last member of the crew we had to meet – and ready to go, along with the “old” lot.  Michael came – I think he is finding it very hard not being part of this next leg.  We all hope that his absence is short, and he will be fit and healthy to join us in Qingdao.  Pete and Phil entered into an outrigger boat race this morning, and got the first place trophy.  A good omen for the start of this leg.  We all know what we are capable of now – let’s hope we can be at the pointy end of the fleet going into Danang to make our sponsors proud.
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