Wednesday, October 28, 2009
We've been sailing into the wind to make sure we're there to meet them.
And we've taken a bit of a floggin'.
Day after day we get up at 0400 and sail all through the sunlit hours at a thirty degree angle, tacking back and forth into the wind, dodging spray in the cockpit and sopping up water on the cabin floor, and at the end of each day we find we have made 30 miles.
Sailing to windward is uncomfortable enough for the non-pregnant, but Alisa is approaching that part of her pregnancy where everything is uncomfortable. And Elias is, well, three, and doesn't necessarily understand why he has to sit next to us in the sloping cockpit for hour after hour, reading the same books and singing the same songs, and why he never gets to go ashore.
But, we've also been getting into the adventure of it all. We will be in Iluka on the appointed day to meet my parents! Suddenly, we're not aimless vagabonds - we have a mission! So we have pounded into the weather day after day, the only concession to pregnancy and early childhood being the compromise of putting the hook out each night instead of slamming into wind and waves around the clock. And when a brief spell of easterlies arrived, we jumped on it, sailing and motoring for 40-odd hours straight to get south while we could.
We figure that it's better to rush things now instead of in January, when we'll be trying to make it to Tasmania while Alisa tries to steer her six-months pregnant body around the boat.
Alisa has been great through it all. Her do-what-it-takes attitude about being on the water has come through strong. There really are very few sailing partners out there who would sail to windward day after day, while pregnant and caring for a three year old, with no complaints at all.
Cruising dudes of the world, continue to eat your hearts out.
And Elias has been the nearly perfect trouper as we arrive in anchorage after anchorage too late in the day to go to the beach. But he has started to express the desire to go stay in a marina for a few days.
We're getting a little worried.
Right now, we're on the home stretch - sitting inside Wide Bay Bar, only 211 strait-line miles from Iluka. The forecast is for southerlies for the next week or so. So there's clearly no sense in waiting for favorable weather to come along - we're just going to keep slogging into it.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
More to the point, we needed guaranteed mobile phone coverage for a consult with the obstetrician.
Mackay was the next town on our way south. No anchorage there, so a night at the marina was called for.
I was hosing off the decks in our marina slip when a passerby chatted me up.
-You heading south or north? he asked.
-South, I said. We're going to Tasmania.
-You'll be here a while. It's gonna blow from the south for a week.
-Well, we'll just sneak out and hole up somewhere until it comes around north.
His little smirk said that he'd been walking up and down this marina dock long enough to hear a lot of itinerant sailors talking bravely about "holing up somewhere" at the outset of their weeks spent at the marina, waiting for a northerly wind.
-Good luck, he said.
Well, forget that, I thought as he walked away. He doesn't know team Pelagic. We're not gonna hang around some marina waiting for perfect conditions. First thing tomorrow, we're outta here.
Our plan was to leave in the morning and run the 24 miles to Goldsmith Island, where we could get a secure anchorage to wait out the southerly blow. We celebrated our night in town with a very Australian dinner of lamb and potatoes.
Alisa woke the next morning to find a big hunk of lamb stranded under her gums, between two molars. We'd been through this situation before - if the lamb morsel didn't come out, swelling and pain would follow.
So I played dentist, fishing around with dental floss and random sharp objects from the tool kit. Elias found the situation hilarious:
I could see the lamb, but I couldn't get it out.
-Do you mind if I try the Dremel tool? I asked.
-I'm going to a dentist, said Alisa.
It was hard to find a dentist open on a Saturday, but Alisa did. He spent an hour digging around until he fished the entire hunk out of her gums. Later that night, a new aquaintance at the marina explained why it took so long.
-On a Saturday? said Graham. That wasn't the dentist. That was the janitor.
By the time Alisa returned it was early afternoon. The southeasterly wind was shrieking in the rigging of all the marina-bound yachts. A "why are we going to set off in this wind?" attitude prevailed. Alisa went to the office and paid for another two nights.
The outlook is for 20-30 knot southeasterlies as far out as the forecast extends. So here we sit, on Pelagic, in the marina, waiting on the wind.
Friday, October 16, 2009
The idea was for me to spend a month of concentrated time writing in Townsville before we started sailing south for the summer. I wrote every day for the first two weeks, though typically only during the morning, with the afternoons given over to boat work. By the final two weeks boat jobs had taken over completely, and the writing was set aside. Sigh.
It was instructive talking to our friends Ashley and Brenda, who have sailed the world on the same boat since 1973 - when Alisa was one year old! They spent the bulk of the winter in Townsville, and plan to sail south for the winter a few weeks behind us. As they reached the one-month point on their pre-departure countdown, Ashley could occasionally be heard fretting about the amount of work they still had to finish before they left. In other words, even if you spend a lifetime sailing, you'll always be pushing up against the amount of work that it takes to keep an ocean-going boat seaworthy.
It's nothing but work that gets us from one place to another. Lots and lots of work!
Here's me checking the specific gravity of the house batteries while I'm equalizing them with a controlled overcharge. Love that bubbling suplhuric acid - my expression says it all!
We've now been sailing south from Townsville for a week or so, and we very much like being on the move again. But we're not at all on a carefree wander along the Australian coast. We're dealing with lots of logisitics and plans and non-boat work and child rearing as we try to make this crazy lifestyle work, and there are deadlines of being in this town for a scheduled medical appointment and that town for a much-anticipated family visit and this far south so that we're poised for a weather window to get out to Lord Howe Island for Christmas and then down to Tasmania by January so that we're poised for our big April deadline. Coastal sailing is slow, and a bit of a grind, as we wake at 0500 and sail all day against light headwinds to make an anchorage at dusk and then wake early the next day to repeat it all.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
-Come on, be serious, said Alisa.
-I am serious. What better gift to give your son than naming him Romeo?
-We're not going to use it. Here's a good one - I saw it on a boat today. Ramblin' Rose.
-That's a great name!
-I know, it's a great name.
-Who would have ever thought I'd own a boat with a name from a Grateful Dead song?
-But we can't use it. It's already taken, end of story.
-Boat names are hard.
-Baby names are hard.
-Boat names are harder.
We paused and thought.
-I've got it! I said.
-What? asked Alisa.
-Ha ha ha. Actually, it did work the first time.
-But what a way to give Elias a complex.
-Pelagic is such a good name, said Alisa.
-Yeah, it's a name you don't mind answering to for sure.
-But we could never do Pelagic II.
-I agree. Never. How about Tall Cotton?
-I know. Get this. Stranger.
-I like it! It works on two levels.
-Yeah, right. We're always strangers in a new place. Plus the other meaning.
-That could work.
-That's good too. I thought you said boat names were harder than baby names.
-OK, baby names. How about Thelonious?
-Not since your sister's mother-in-law turns out to have a dog named Django.
-How come you're not suggesting any baby names?
-Because mine are serious, so I want to save them and see how they feel first.
-Pelagic is such a great boat.
-I know. I hate to think of selling her.
-Dave and Jaja sailed high latitudes with three kids on a 33 footer. It's not like it's impossible.
-But I don't think we could do four people on Pelagic.
-I know. I need a door I can close behind me as it is. I just can't take sharing a single room with a three year old twenty four seven.
-Much less a three year old and a six year old, said Alisa.
-Much less, I agreed.
-So I guess we'll try to swap boats while we're in Tasmania?
-It makes sense, I said, we have to spend some time ashore there anyway. But I want to get back on the boat with the new baby as soon as we can.
-Back on the new boat with the new baby, said Alisa.
-As soon as we can, I said.
-Right, as soon as we can, agreed Alisa.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
One of these days we have to get a picture of Elias' reaction when we land a big pelagic fish - you've never seen such pure excitement.
As I started filleting, Alisa said, "I wish I'd bought a new pressure cooker in Townsville." Pressure cookers allow us to can fish, but ours gave up the ghost somewhere on the Pacific crossing last year.
Meanwhile, I was thinking of all the people out there who would love to go fishing for wahoo, while I was the one doing it, even though fishing has always bored me.
We made some other sailors very happy at our anchorage that night when we came over with fish meat to share.
In Townsville we got a fancy new inflatable to replace our nesting hard dinghy that is not aging gracefully. I love it! The new boat is easy to get into the water, so we can have Elias ashore on some delightful beach a half hour after we anchor Pelagic. The nesting dinghy was such a pain to put together and launch that we usually didn't go ashore if we only had an hour or two in hand.
We've named the new dinghy Smooches.