Home sweet home

We have internet! A big change from Deal Island.

After 45 hours of solid travel, we made it home. Our flight off the island was rough. It was windy and the pilot warned me my head might hit the ceiling. It didn’t and Tim managed to get a beautiful parting shot. One of my favorites. It shows the magnitude of the cliffs, the sea and the beautiful lighthouse, now partly painted.

We spent a day on lovely Flinders Island. It really is as beautiful as Deal Island, only with a few more people.

Next stop Launceston, Tasmania, where we visited old haunts: the Cataract Gorge, The Aquatic Center, Museum and the best hamburger joint around (twice). I also had my first flat white not made by me! So pretty.

Then our journey began. We flew to Sydney where we had a nine hour layover. We made good use of our time. We visited my favorite dumpling place and then we toured the Harbor. Never fails to delight.

Then 20 hours of flying…Followed by a six hour drive home. And we made it. After a week, I am beginning to adjust. And home is pretty sweet too.

Ihave hundreds of photos from Deal I was never able to upload. I will gradually get them online, until our next adventure.

Guest blog from the other caretaker

Guest Blogger—WHY WE’RE CARETAKERS

We have now volunteered on five islands for a total of more than two years. Each has been an adventure, sometimes hard work, and endless fun. A new island is on the horizon.
What makes island caretaking so fulfilling? Partly, it’s living in the moment. We sometimes slip out of the present and into the future but it’s a limited time frame since none of our stays has been longer than four months. Mostly, we live day-to-day, focusing on the task at hand, listening to the wind and birds, or marveling at the 360-degree beauty. There are very few outside distractions.
We enjoy greeting visitors and making new friends. Indeed, welcoming those who arrive by boat is one of our most important tasks. But, we enjoy nothing more than the solitude, peace, and meditation of having the islands to ourselves.
Four of “our” islands have lighthouses which guarantee world-class views. The fifth, the one without a lighthouse, was no exception, situated offshore between the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
We are always keyed into weather and listen to the forecast on our VHF radio or download it with our limited internet. Fog (sometimes triggering the fog horn), strong winds (blowing down trees and branches), downpours (creating sand slides), and sunny forecasts become an obsession. As I sit writing this, we await a gale gusting to 60 mph with rain, hail, and thunderstorms over four days. We once weathered a storm lasting more than a week with constant 70 mph winds, gusting to 90. Bad things on land are always worse at sea, however, and, as sailors ourselves, many are the nights we’ve been gratefully tucked into our comfortable caretaker houses.
Caretaking isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t want to do it by myself and Lynne is the perfect companion. We find joy in each other’s company, day after day. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the key and we try to reach a consensus on most decisions.
Lynne possesses endless reserves of joie de vivre. Her incredibly eclectic choices in reading reflect her approach to life. She enjoys everything from Marcus Aurelius to Isabel Allende, often focusing on books about the area where we are staying. Similarly, she undertakes endless and varied projects and her skills range from imaginative cooking to weaving to wielding a chain saw. In short, Lynne is the best caretaking companion I can imagine. She never gets bored.
We learned the following dictum from some fellow caretakers. Every day we try to accomplish three things: do something for the island, engage in creativity, and exercise. There is always something to do for the island: mowing, clearing trails, small engine maintenance, building simple furniture, hosing off seagull poo, painting, and on and on. I have no problem with the second because I practice two or more hours a day on my electronic keyboard. Number one often takes care of number three but on those days when I can’t kill two birds with one stone, there is always hiking, swimming, or jogging.
We share our islands with more permanent residents. In Alaska, we marvel at whales swimming sixty feet offshore. In Tasmania, wallabies hop all around us, penguins cry and whistle half the night, and dolphins dance in the coves. In Washington, we spy on napping seals and watch forty bald eagles watching us. And, in Maine, we listen to lobster boats grumbling through the thick fog.
We’ve been doing this off and on for ten years and I’d like nothing better than to do it for ten more. That said, we’re looking forward to coming home.

Pink contrails?

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Could it be the contrails are pink in Tasmania. I think not since no planes fly overhead. Our time here is quickly winding down. Roofing is almost complete and there should be another adventure with the barge, boats and ATV’s next week. In the meantime, we continue to relish our final days.

 

Happy tools

You cannot tell me this tractor from Czechoslovakia is not smiling. It should be sad because it may be leaving the island soon.

Tim thinks this laundry pole is meant to look like a wallaby.

And look at this chess set. Someone with time on their hands carved the entire set. Up until we found this, I thought the handmade cribbage board (Tim is killing me there too) was ingenious. But look at these pieces. Each one is hand carved, the bishop has his face shield carved. And the knights are Cape Barren Geese. Might as well have a smile while you work. The queen has a flower nailed to her head and the king has a star and a screw. So clever.

Walking the walks

fullsizeoutput_f59My new favorite walk is up to the lighthouse and then back along the Old Squally trail. Old Squally crosses another hill and offers beautiful views of the compound. There is a large cobble on the top of the hill from old Squally and I hung out with another grey fantail for a while.

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The kayakers made a successful crossing to an island near Flinders. In their stead, four boats arrived in East Cove. A family of three generations hiked up the lighthouse with two kids, ages 7 and 5, on bikes. They made it to the lighthouse, the World War II plane wreck AND Squally Cove. What troopers.

Weather has turned nice again, partly sunny and in the 60’s.

This video of dolphins was taken. on another sunny day in Garden Cove. They played near shore for quite a while. For those of you of my generation, they even did a “Flipper” move and skidded along the surface.

Low clouds over the lighthouse

I just missed a fleeting rainbow between the two smaller hills. Clouds scudded by all day as squalls passed. We had 18 mm rain, which means part of the road to the jetty was covered in sand and part of the shoulder fell to the beach. In between showers, I shoveled, worked in the garden and walked to garden cove. Oh yes, and continued to weave on my backstrap loom, wove a kumihimo braid and worked on a sock. Leftovers for dinner!

Clouds over Erith Island

Another beautiful sunset. I could post a sunset view every day, each one is stunning. This was a couple of nights ago. I was closing things up outside, looked for boats in the nearest harbor, East Cove, and saw there were none. Then I checked the propane tanks. We have lashed nine large empty propane tanks to the end of the jetty while we await a replacement shipment. Should be fun loading those tanks on the truck. While I was looking at the tanks, I saw a person walk among them, I checked again for boats, nothing seen,.Hmm. I walked further down the track and saw two tents pitched near the jetty. We have visitors!

Two kayakers, Mark and Chris, are making their way to Tasmania this month. They will have to spend several windy, cooler, and wet days here while several cold fronts move through Bass Strait. They are experienced, well equipped and patient. It’s a good thing because they probably won’t be able to leave until Friday, when the winds move to the northwest and seas settle down. It’s blowing a gale this morning, 40 mph wind, and the sun is shining. So nice to be on land at times like this.

My garden saga continues. The last of the corn has been eaten off the stalks. The peanut butter I put in a trap was eaten but the trap did not spring! Most of the traps are old and maybe the vermin are small. I spent yesterday oiling the traps and resetting the one that tripped. I worry what they will eat now that the corn is gone. And what about us? My seedlings are looking sweet. I can only hope they don’t mind strong winds.

I’ve traveled halfway around the world and the highlight of my week was video chatting with my daughter, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids. Ties that bind.

We are not in Kansas anymore

Although we speak the same language as Australians, our cultures are quite different. This is evident in some of the signs we have run across.

Today’s perusal of the bird book showed they have laughing and peaceful doves, while we have mourning doves.

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There are too many spiders to bother identifying. Just know when to run.

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This sign at the lighthouse warns people with heart conditions not to ascend the stairs. (Although at this time the lighthouse is closed while it awaits repair). The people that read this sign have already walked more than 2 miles and ascended 1000 feet to get here from their boats.

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And then here we are, the happy lighthouse caretakers. We took a similar photo four years ago on the Old Squally Trail. Still a bit of a bush bash, but it has some of the best views on the island.

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Aloft

We followed plan b to the island and took a short plane ride due to sea and tide conditions. It was wonderful to see the island from above. It was a little disconcerting when we had to strap our lift vests on before we even took off but I had been forewarned. The pilot didn’t even crack a smile when I asked if there would be refreshments served on board.

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Our transport

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be prepared

 

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airstrip flock of Cape Barren Geese

One of our jobs will be to keep the landing strip mowed and free of wallabies and geese if a plane is due. I counted 15 wallabies and nine geese there during my walk yesterday.

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there’s our landing strip?

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circling Deal Island

 

 

Shocking AED

The caretaker’s house now has an AED, which is what saves lives in CPR. We were spending the day reacquainting ourselves with the systems and I wanted to check it out. Tim was off in the woods (bush) trying to get some internet. I opened the cabinet door and took out the manual and the AED when out fell Harry the Huntsman! I was shocked and screamed. Maybe that’s all we have to do. I’m sure it was Harry because we couldn’t have more than one huge spider in the house. Well it checked out and we’re good to go.

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After that excitement we checked out the firehose situation. We have to open and close various valves and run a pump to get the pressure up. It worked. Then we repaired a section of fence where the wallabies come and go into the compound. One wallaby was so cheeky, he tried to bash the fence as we were repairing it. We’ll see how long it lasts or if he brings the family to reopen it. We’ve had the island to ourselves and the various critters for a day. One kayaker and a sailboat left on Saturday. A sailboat tucked into the cove last night but was gone by the morning. So we are walking the walks, all of which are in great shape.

We’ve been up to the lighthouse, out to Winter Cove and up Barn Hill. Next up is Squally cove. So much to see and do.