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June 10, 2005

Australia Memories

My first liberty port ended on Monday, June 13 and we departed Brisbane, Australia with mixed emotions: sad because we were leaving, but happy because one month of our deployment had gone by.

It was a fun stay despite the fact that 2 of my days there were spent on the boat for duty. But even the duty days were all right and gave everyone time to recuperate. We were moored at a grain pier and had to do a berth shift on Friday to make way for a ship that was due to get loaded out. There was some debate as to whether we would stay another few days or just get underway. Everyone was hoping to stay of course, and it all worked out good in the end.

The piers we stayed at were a major international stopping point for tankers and other large ships to off and on-load their wares. These ships were so big and they just dwarfed our little submarine as they drove by. On my first duty day I saw a 900-foot tanker moor in front of us at about midnight, offload some containers, and get underway at 4 a.m. The side lifters used to take the cargo boxes off are controlled by GPS and setup by grids that the crane will use to offload the containers. Only one guy sits up in the control tower but does not control the cranes. It was pretty impressive.

Brisbane is a beautiful city and the people are very hospitable. I stayed at the Marriott the first 2 nights and then checked out not knowing if we were staying or taking off for the weekend. I had duty Thursday so getting underway the next day wasn’t such a bad deal. When we got the word we were staying I actually lucked out and got another room for the last 2 nights I was there which was paid for by the boat. I had duty on Sunday and it was a long day as we headed out of Brisbane. We are sticking around for a while to play with the Aussies and then we head out for good.

The shopping was really good and I got a few souvenirs for the kids. I had already loaded out on souvenirs the first time I came to Australia in 1999. I did get Jacqui some opals though since they are so cheap here. I didn’t have to pay taxes and got a 10% discount on them too! It will be a nice surprise for here and I am anxious to see her reaction since the only piece of jewelry I have ever bought for her was her wedding ring. A friend of mine bought a didgeridoo and I showed him how to play it at the hotel room. Everyone was amazed that I knew how to play that thing. Boomerangs, music sticks, and even kangaroo scrotums made up the majority of purchases for the boat. A few guys got some rugby footballs and it didn’t take long for the command to say no rugby playing.

There were several tours lined up including an overnight stay in the outback complete with horse rides. Some of the guys went to the zoo and saw the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. The locals don’t seem to care very much for him. The nightlife was really fun there were a ton of things to do. The women really take a liking to American men and needless to say there are a few guys on the boat who have permanent pen pals.

The weather was really nice and it only rained for a little while 2 nights while we were there. It reminded me of Florida weather- 70’s during the day and then it colder at night. I was shivering most of the time walking around at night. I did manage to see the last Star Wars movie my last night out and I loved it. George Lucas did a very good job of wrapping up the loose ends from the other movies and tying them all together. There were a few scenes that were definitely not intended for kids and rightfully so gave the movie a PG-13 rating. Australia bumped up the rating and made it for mature audiences.

For the most part the shopping was reasonably priced and at $1.30 exchange rate our dollar went a little further. I bought a travel guitar for $230 AU, which was a lot lower than the one I was going to get in Hawaii. Although I didn’t eat any McDonalds, a breakfast value meal was only $4AU and they had a deli menu. I thought that was neat. I ate out at a few different places and the food was reasonably priced but there were a few times that I thought it was a little pricey. I got a bowl of Singaporean noodles that cost $14AU. The Australian beef is excellent and some of the guys ate at the same steak house 2 nights in a row. It was called Cha Cha’s and was the place to go. A few guys in my division got tattoos but I didn’t hang around for them when we went out. We used the buddy system exclusively to cut down on liberty incidents and it worked. We made it through without any problems.

Well, that’s about it for now. I’ll send another update as things progress and try to get some photos up. I got some really good ones of sunsets and some night shots of Brisbane’s riverfront.

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