Can You Use Sand To Make An Outdoor Flower Arrangement Lord Howe Island Getaway

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Lord Howe Island Getaway

Night has suddenly fallen on the small yacht, an insignificant speck on the turbulent Tasman Sea. The ominous clouds closed in and it rained heavily. The same three- and four-meter waves that had been so exhilarating during daylight surfing had become menacing monsters, intent on dumping tons of foamy water onto the Levi’s deck and into her cockpit. The sails were double furled in anticipation of a stormy night.

We left New Zealand’s picturesque Bay of Islands seven days earlier aboard my yacht Levitation, a Cavalier 32 bound for Queensland, Australia. I arranged to clear customs at Lord Howe Island, which is popular with many yachts that cruise between the two countries.

My crew: Orit, a 24-year-old Israeli, bright traveler with no sailing experience. After school, she was in the army and wanted to become a marine biologist. And 50-year-old Nick, who has sailed and crewed in Queensland coastal races for most of his life, although never owned a yacht of his own, fancied himself an expert in marine navigation.

Orit and I were on guard all night. Searching for darkness through the heavy rain, we eventually made out the black triangle known as Balls Pyramid and the towering mountains of Lord Howe Island.

I thought it was strange… I didn’t see any navigation lights… just the ever increasing size of the black land mass. I looked on the map for the crimson flashing marker indicating the lighthouse and found none. I couldn’t even spot the light that should be on top of the mountain for air traffic. Throughout the night I occasionally call channel 16 on the VHF. No answer.

It finally dawned, gray and cheerless, with brisk 25-30kt winds from the southeast whipping up the sea. At 06:00 the radio came to life and I made contact with someone outside our little world. What a relief, I couldn’t wait to get the marine weather forecast. I was told that weather conditions and tides were not favorable for navigating through the narrow entrance to the reef, but by mid-afternoon the situation was expected to improve.

Exhausted, we all wanted to get inside before nightfall and the fatigue was making us nervous. “As soon as my feet touch the ground, I head for the nearest McDonalds, a Big Mac and a fat shake,” Orit mused. “For me, it’s a long hot shower, clean hair, dry clothes, and then I settle for a glass of cold chardonnay,” I replied. Nick was quiet! Darkness set in as the harbor captain guided us through a narrow coral inlet where the wind was still whipping up the whitecaps on the calmer waters of the lagoon. He focused his high beam flashlight on the two unlit triangular navigation aids and aligned them. There were no left or right marks and what I thought was a guiding light turned out to be a lone light on the shore. The mooring was close to the coral entrance and the chain was difficult to raise and secure in the still stormy conditions.

The island was dark and forbidding. Where was the city, lights of any kind (navigation, street, car!) and all the familiar signs of life that we were used to! That was really strange to me. I have never experienced this in all my travels. It was far from what we imagined our tropical island getaway to be.

The sun rose to a new day and so did our mood. We were in awe of the majestic twin mountains of Gower and Lidguard, their peaks shrouded in mist. The enticing emerald and turquoise waters of the crystal-clear lagoon meet sun-kissed sand and lush tropical forest. Ivory foam was falling over the world’s southernmost coral reef. We feed schools of fish by hand.

We waited impatiently for the wind to drop before climbing onto my inflatable boat and balancing 3 garbage bags with damp and smelly laundry. After a long line, we dragged the load down the boat ramp. Terra firma, what a wonderful feeling it was. A barefoot customs officer, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt (the back of a quad bike) awaited us in his office. I paid the A$150 fee and made an appointment for a quarantine inspection.

Now was the time to indulge our desire to explore. Nick headed to Wilson’s Bike Rental. From time to time we spotted him, head down with a multi-colored helmet on his head, hawking furiously. Orit and I decided to go on foot.

We ate a meal of freshly caught fish and garden salad at Aunt Sue’s garden restaurant. What a luxury after the last eight days. Leanda Lei Apartments allowed us to use their laundry room. Orit and I rowed back to Levi. Nick was still doing his thing and decided to get acquainted with some of the locals at the Bowling Club.

As night fell, the wind raised the lagoon waters. Levi wobbled alarmingly, sometimes recovering. Gusts of wind accelerated down the mountains at incredible speed, swinging us and pulling us towards our mooring. I was afraid that the chain would break and we would end up on rocks or coral. In a lull, we put on our seat belts (yes, at the mooring) and drove out, securing the boat with rope and chain. Our first night was very restless. Throughout the night I periodically checked the GPS and waypoints to make sure we weren’t drifting.

In travel brochures, Lord Howe is described as “not just another island, but another world.” And it is! Discovered in 1788 and settled in 1833, Lord Howe is one of the first three islands in the world to receive World Heritage status and is stunning for its natural beauty, marine and plant life. It is only 11 km long and 2.8 km wide, 700 km NE of Sydney, Australia. Two volcanic mountains dominate the island, overlooking the reef-fringed lagoon and its undulating waves.

Many of its 300 residents are descendants of the original settlers. The Wilsons, who have operated Ocean View Apartments for over 90 years, have collected many memorabilia from visiting yachtsmen and travelers during that time.

Nick unsurprisingly decided to fly home. Orit stayed with me and we settled into a quiet lifestyle while we did repairs and waited for a favorable weather window.

One night we walked without fear in pitch darkness, as there is no street light to the bowl club under a ceiling of thick tropical foliage. The keys are left in the ignition of the cars and the doors unlocked, no one steals them wherever they go. Car accidents, the worst I was told was when he crashed into a tree drunk after leaving a bowling club. The speed limit is 25 km on the entire island and bicycles have priority.

We enjoyed happy hour at the bowls club, live music at Pine Trees Resort and playing Bongo drums with some locals strumming guitars and singing.

No, we didn’t find a McDonald’s or even an ATM. Tall buildings, large hotels, cinemas, shopping centers and marinas were noticeably absent. But then there were also things that can only go with development; pollution, traffic jams, high crime rates and stress.

What we found in abundance are the most important things that nourish the soul. Lord Howe is pristine and peaceful, a paradise for rare and beautiful birds, a mecca for anglers. You can dive or snorkel in the crystal clear lagoon and deep sea fishing is available beyond the reef. It’s a place where you can escape the fast pace of life… And lazily embrace beauty and simplicity.

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