Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Back to the Garden

We were in good form on the departure from Sydney.  Up at 0430, slipped the mooring easy, and motored out of Port Jackson at first light, right as a cruise ship was coming into port, the passengers' flash bulbs sparkling on the observation deck while Opera House and Harbour Bridge were revealed at dawn.

We were starting the 220-mile trip to Eden, the southernmost port in New South Wales, and our jumping-off spot for Tassie.  The early start gave us the chance to do the trip in two days and a night.  As we tied into our coffee and oatmeal while Galactic started making miles south, we were feeling smug over our perfect start.

Then Eric started throwing up.  And he threw up, on and off, for most of the day.

The poor little guy still gets seasick.  And even though the winds were light, they were in our face, and a strange confused swell was rebounding off the cliffs south of Sydney.  It was enough to make Alisa and me queasy, and it sent Eric over the edge.

But that too passed, and by dinner time on the first day he was completely well.  And on the second day the winds built, as advertised, and we had a rippin' sail (above) that got us into Eden before dinner time.

We were in Eden two years ago, on our first trip to Tassie.  Only one kid in the crew that time, though Alisa was seven and a half months pregnant, and we've been joking about how this will actually be Eric's second crossing of Bass Strait.

So now we're sitting in Eden with a southerly gale blasting through the anchorage, putting all thoughts of sailing to Tasmania on an indefinite weather hold...


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Home Country

When you've been traveling for long enough, the oddities of the home country really start to stick out on your visits back.

Oddities like these signs in Anchorage.

The idea that everyone should walk around with loaded pistols hidden in their clothes is ascendant in America.  If you run a bar, or a performing arts center, and you don't want to have people coming in with loaded pistols hidden in their clothes, you have to put up a sign to that effect.

There are all sorts of backstories about the popularity of carrying hidden guns.  Like the enduring racial paranoia behind gun politics in America.  Or the remarkable number of Christians who pack heat on a daily basis.

But people who chuck it all to go live on a sailboat get a pass on thinking about that sort of stuff.  So when I saw these signs sprinkled around 21st century Anchorage, I mostly just thought of the home country's continuing capacity to grow into a strange place.


In these years that we've been sailing we've met some really remarkable people who are also out sailing the world.  We form friendships that are intense, and also fleeting - we move on, and they move on, and at this point we have a set of wonderful friends who are somewhere on the other side of the world, where we'll likely never see them again.

But then there are our friends on Akimbo.

We first met Peter and Vanessa in the distant recesses of time - back in December of 2008, when we were so new to Australia that we hadn't even discovered Iluka yet.  They have been living on board Akimbo... well, roughly since dirt was young.  And they're based in Pittwater, just north of Sydney, so they're something of a stationary target.  They go out sailing for six months, or however long seems right, then come back to Pittwater to work and enjoy life there.  And of course this is our second stint of sailing the east coast of Oz, so just before we went back to the States we had the treat of rafting up with them on their mooring in Pittwater and having a good visit for a few days.

Akimbo is the only boat that we've ever rafted up with - both on this visit and our previous trip through, on Pelagic.  It's a great way to visit with kindred spirits - the other boat is literally a step away.

If I had to tell you just two things about these guys, they would be: 1) that they've got that particular twinkle in their eyes that you see in a few long-time sailors who are still having the time of their lives, decades into it; and 2) that Akimbo might be the best-kept cruising boat that we know.  Peter and 'Ness apparently just see the flaws and neglected tasks when they look at Akimbo, just like any sailors looking at their own boats.  But to our eyes their boat gleams, and everything seems to be functional and well thought-out.

So, it was a great catch-up.  But with Galactic heading off to New Zealand once our year in Australia is over, and the Akimbos hatching their own plans to sail far off in a different direction, it may be a while until we raft up again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Great Land

First of all, there's the light.

I was just in Alaska for a work trip.  This is the middle of the northern winter, of course, and that's a great time of year to go back.  In January the sun just hangs low over the southern horizon for the few hours it's up, and the light is always a rich amber color as a result, as if it were ten minutes until sunset for the whole day long.

I got lucky with the weather.  It was cold as hell and I loved it.  I rented cross-country skis when I was in Anchorage and went skiing on the trails near my hotel after the conference I was attending was over each day.  It was my first time on skis in the four and a half years since we left Alaska.  

There is absolutely NOTHING so invigorating after a day of listening to scientific talks as going skiing in -25° C weather:

And then of course there's the grandeur.  This is the view of the Chugach Range as you fly out of Anchorage:

But more than anything, there are the people.  Alisa had me take pictures of all of our mutual friends that I ran into on the visit.  The results make a great cross-section of our social universe in Alaska.  Right now, home is wherever Galactic is.  But this visit was a great reminder that when our sailing years are over, we'll have another home waiting for us up north.