Wednesday, November 23, 2011

After the Fact

Here's the before and the after.

In Alameda, California:

And, seven months later or so, in Bundaberg, Queensland:

Quite a bit of living (and sailing!) went on between those two photos.

You often hear that circumnavigators find themselves adrift when they finally make it home and their long-sought goal has been reached.  I'll admit to feeling a little bit of that here in Iluka.  There's the sudden loss of focus - whatever else sailing a strange boat across an ocean with your two little boys may do, it certainly makes you focus.  We had a lot of fun on the crossing, but there were also many days, from the start of boat prep in February to the final passage a couple weeks ago, when Alisa and I were flat out, all day, to serve out twin masters of Family Responsibility and Safe Navigation.  Now one of those masters is suddenly gone.  Galactic bobs happily at anchor day after day, with no immediate need for my attention - no gybing, no plotting, no tweaks to the windvane required.  I find myself awake at odd times through the night, failing to sleep through the hours when I used to do these things.

And then there are the after effects from the effort that it took to get here only eight months after the purchase of the boat.  Alisa and I agree that it was almost too much to take on.  Eight months ago we had a Grand Plan confidently plotted out, something that would keep us busy sailing this boat for years and years to come.  But now we agree that we'll be happy to sail to New Zealand next year, and that there's little point in thinking beyond that.  We know something that we didn't know before, or had forgotten - someday the well of our effort will run dry.

I guess that's not too big a sense of transition for the end of such a big trip!

Meanwhile, it's been a joy to see how easily Elias has slid back into Iluka life.  With some mates to play with every day and lots of space to run, his tantrums have nearly disappeared.

(Not Iluka!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Last Passage

We've been in Iluka, NSW for four days - long enough for us to catch up with our team here.  We've been to a couple barbies, Elias has had a couple of long plays with his mates, and I've been for a surf.  And we had the great treat of overlapping with some good sailing friends who happened to be anchored here, the same people who were sailing in company with us the first time that we came to Iluka, on Christmas Eve three years ago.

It was only when we arrived here that we felt that the trip was really over.


I'll just share a few photos of our 18-day passage from Futuna to Australia, the last passage of the trip, and also the last offshore passage that we're planning until we head to New Zealand in a year.

When we left Futuna we knew that a "squash zone" of enhanced trade winds was heading our way, but we just couldn't talk ourselves into sitting at anchor for another three days to let it pass us by.  So we sailed into it - here we are, with all hands tethered to the boat.  Once the winds piped up poor Eric threw up twice, and after that we kept him in the cockpit, where he doesn't get sick as easily.  Keeping a 1-year-old entertained while he's strapped into a seat all day is a bit of a challenge...

 Once the weather improved, Elias started to spend a lot of time fishing from the rail...

...but the only fish we caught was this flying fish that landed on deck.  Tasted great.

Soon after this picture was taken it was my turn to get sick - I was useless all day, and barely managed to stand watch that night.  Not so easy for Alisa to cover all the bases solo!  And hard to imagine doing a trip like this with someone who wasn't so supportive.

We anchored in Ouvea for the night to get some sleep.  I rigged up a buoy swing on the end of the boom for Elias while we were there.

 Baby sea snakes were attracted to our lights at night.

Elias doing his school work, back at sea.

Sooty/short-tailed shearwaters near the south end of New Caledonia.  These birds split their time between Tasmania and Alaska, and are therefore very close to our hearts.

After New Cal we sailed into a giant wind hole.

On the second half of our trip the mahi mahi drought finally ended - in a big way!  We ate a lot of mahi mahi.

That last fish was caught the day that we made it into Bundy.  By then, we had been sailing long enough that the beginning of the trip was already fading from memory.  Before the fact, I had confidently predicted a twelve-day passage.  Alisa was kind enough to only bring that up once or twice.  We still love long passages, we still felt the peace of being at sea, far from everyday cares.  But we missed the radar alarm on this one - would have been good to get some more sleep!

The end.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oh yes...

..Alisa's hand is coming along fine.

To Iluka

One of the great things about traveling by boat is how you miss the too-quick transitions of jet flight. You have plenty of time, in the days or weeks it takes to get from one place to the next, to digest what you've just seen, and think about what you might find in your next destination.

Suddenly, though, it seems that everything has gone too quickly. We're sailing down the east coast of Australia again, and I'm wondering where the last year went.

We had a great six days in Bundaberg, visiting with relatives and re-immersing ourselves in Australia. A moment of excitement was provided when the swift arm of justice, in the form of 20 customs agents and Australian Federal Police, fell on the yacht two down from us in the marina one Friday night. Seems it's still a really bad idea to use your yacht to import quantities of illicit drugs into Australia.

And now we're on our way to our favorite place in Australia, north of Hobart - Iluka.

Poor Elias had his worst tantrum ever this morning, working himself up to the point of vomiting. I wish someone could tell me how to deal with those scenes calmly. Aside from that, we're back in the passage-making groove - trailing dirty nappies behind the boat and parsing the night into tiny little compartments of sleep that we trade back and forth. Weather and whims of the sea aside allowing, we should be in Iluka Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Futuna Is

Well, if you'll indulge me, I'll backtrack a bit to Futuna, which was the starting point of our 18-day sail to Bundaberg.

Futuna is...

...the kind of place where you go to check in with Customs, and come away with the lei that the Customs official had been wearing.  This has to sum up everything that I love about Polynesia - it's the place where strangers give you flowers.

Futuna was Alisa's very favorite stop on the whole crossing.  It's a little French dependency northeast of Fiji that gets only about 25 yachts a year, and almost no non-yacht tourists.  People were incredibly friendly and helpful and eager to interact with us.

By the time we reached Futuna we were starting to get a little dazed from all the travel we've crammed into the last six months, and our photography suffered from the travel fatigue.

 But I did get a pic of Elias in the back of a pickup on a hitchhiking foray around the island.  We're going so fast, he said.

Futuna is at 14° South, and I found the heat to be a bit insufferable - check out my sweat-soaked t-shirt.

Lucklily, we could swim off the boat every day.

Elias discovered the joys of jumping off the jupe.

And, as always, we had lots of chores to attend to.

I hauled water.

And we made a new cage to keep the escape artist safely in his bunk at night.

We pulled the jib down on deck for a bit of sewing.

And Alisa did some laundry.

With all that to take care of, it's not surprising that I never got around to drinking kava with the men.

Hopefully we'll go back some day when we have a little more time...

The end.

Monday, November 7, 2011


We're in Bundaberg, so this second Pacific crossing is officially a wrap.

The ending of the trip was a T.S. Eliot sort of affair - it ended with a bang and a whimper.

The bang was the sound of the main backwinding as we were running between the flashing red and green entrance markers for the Burnett River late last night.

The whimper was the sound that Alisa made after her hand ended up between the preventer and its cleat when the main backwinded, so that all of the load was taken by her hand.

After she got her hand out of the cleat, she couldn't move several fingers.  Her strained tendons were bulging against the underside of her fingers and the swelling was beginning.

After sailing all the way across the Pacific with really no mishap at all, our only sailing accident came literally in the last mile.

I think a big part of the blame goes to us making the entrance at 0230.  We were sleepy and much less organized about handling the boat than we normally are.

So Alisa went to the hospital and got x-rayed on her first day in Australia.  Nothing broken, but she still hurts and has restricted mobility.  We're hoping that time will be the cure.  Meanwhile, the only good bit was that it wasn't her dominant hand.


We finally dropped the hook at 0300 and collapsed into bed.

The boys, considerately, woke up at 0450.

Elias started the day overjoyed at the prospect of being back in Oz.  Can I go up and look at Australia? were his first words of the day.

Things went downhill from there for him.  It turns out that his beloved headdress from Nuku Hiva - the one that Yolene gave him, and that he puts on whenever he feels like busting out a Marquesan pig dance - is made of banana leaves.  And nothing made of banana leaves is allowed into Australia.  So Quarantine confiscated it.

The little guy was heartbroken.  Alisa had him put it on to do one more pig dance before Quarantine took it away, but his heart just wasn't in it:

The Quarantine guys were very nice about it all, and were obviously wishing they just hadn't seen the thing.  Of course, after a run ashore on the marina lawn and an end-of-the-passage ice cream, Elias felt much better.

So, that was our first day back in Australia - I'm sure everything will look a bit better once we've caught up on our sleep!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Tomorrow will be the 18th day since we last touched land, in Futuna. That makes this passage nearly as long as our two crossings to the Marquesas. The rowdy sailing at the start of the trip seems as far in the past as something that happened last year.

For the last day or two we've been daydreaming about the big lawn at the Port Bundaberg Marina, where the boys can run and run and run. And Alisa has been talking about the delights of the marina laundry room.

Everything going well, we should make it into Bundy tomorrow, though too late in the day to clear into the country.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Slow Good

We're sailing, but we're not getting anywhere.

We have the jib poled out to windward and the main prevented. The windvane, mysteriously, is managing to steer us in the three knots or so of wind that we've been averaging for the last day and more. I never see the wheel turning, but whenever I look up at the masthead wind indicator, it shows us on a broad reach on port tack. The catch is that the wind seems to be "blowing" in a grand circle, so a broad reach on port tack might see us sailing southeast, or north, or dead west, or anywhere in between.

The boat is not perfectly still, but we've been in many anchorages with more roll than what we're experiencing out here, 300 miles from the coast of Australia and in 2500 meters of water.

Alisa and I prefer sailing to motoring, but usually when our boat speed falls to two knots or so we give up and fire up the iron genny. But in this case motoring through the light stuff would just get us into Bundaberg over the weekend, where we'd be faced with overtime charges for clearing in. And there is that pesky coolant leak that keeps me from wanting to run the donk for too long. So we're drifting around on port tack, waiting for the winds to return.

Two nights ago, at three in the morning, Alisa had an epiphany about night watches - something like, why are we standing watch when we're not going anywhere and can barely keep our eyes open anyway? So we both slept through the rest of that night, and, except for a few wake-ups to look things over, the whole of last night as well. We're now 15 days out of Futuna, and, except for our night at anchor in Ouvea, we had stood a continuous watch throughout. Doing that and then keeping up with two under-exercised boys during the day was beginning to seriously frazzle the collective parental vibe. Catching up on sleep has given us a second life - everything looks fresh, and we find ourselves happy for no apparent reason.

The wind will come again, as will the busy shipping traffic on the east coast of Oz, so we'll have a few more sleep-deprived nights before we get in. But for now we're enjoying this interlude of all being together, in this very improbable spot, doing nothing much but enjoying the company of our family. It feels like we've re-discovered one of the joys of life under sail, the occasional interruption of plans and schedules while nothing much happens for a day or two. Given how frantic we've occasionally been in recent months as we worked to pull off our trans-Pacific delivery/cruise on such a tight schedule, this has been a treat we've been well primed to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Hmmm, maybe those 800 miles from New Caledonia to Bundaberg aren't such an afterthought after all... We had westerly winds today, which kept us heeled over, "living on our ear", as the saying goes. Very inconvenient with the kids.

We reduced sail and steered a more northerly course to make the motion gentler for lunch time, and later in the afternoon did the same for a round of showers on deck for the whole crew. Poor Elias was the first one to get a bucket of sea water dumped over his head, and therefore was the unlucky soul to make the discovery that nearly 24° S and a stiff wind make for a frigid bucket shower experience. We all opted for the pre-heated freshwater shower after that.

Elias, by the way, got through the whole day today without throwing one tantrum - quite a milestone for the adults who are sharing the finite space of Galactic with him. He's been averaging two or three daily fits of screaming and crying lately, and Alisa has had to bolster my patience by reminding me of the other five-year-olds we know who still act that way. He doesn't complain about sailing long passages, but clearly he has far more energy than can be consumed in the confines of the boat, and doubtless that's part of the reason for all the histrionics lately.

One of the weather forecasts we've been looking at shows a big high pressure with absolutely no wind at all passing over us during the next 48 hours. Still 470 miles to go to Bundy at this point - looks like we might get part of the way by drifting.