Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Take the Tour

Our friend Heather - long-time blog reader / indefatigable blog commenter / first reader of unpublished sailing narratives - recently had a good idea for the blog.  I see a bit of art on the bulkheads, she said.  How about a tour?

So here it is, the Galactic visual arts tour.

First, the best - our two tapas from Futuna:

 Tapa is one of the core traditions of Polynesian and Melanesian culture.  As far as we can tell, Futuna is known for the standard of its tapa making.  We found a great collective of women making and selling the stuff there:

(Note to the yachties coming after us - tapa might seem like a much better souvenir a few years after the fact than will that Polynesian tattoo on your ankle.)

OK, next on the tour - this shell and grass fan, a gift to Alisa from Matasa, on Penrhyn, in the Cook Islands.

Our great mates on Pacific Bliss wrote about Penrhyn so well - check out all three of their posts about the place.  Reading them, just now, I'm seized by the desire to go back...

And finally, in the traditional Pacific arts department, there's this tiki from Fatu Hiva:

Hey, if you're reading this with the idea of sailing to the Marquesas next year, do yourself a favor - ignore the rules and go to Fatu Hiva first, even though it's not a port of entry.  A finer landfall in all the world cannot be imagined.

(And, as a perfect metaphor for cultural disassociation, I can't do better than the image of Jacques, the carver of this tiki, who I believe took the pattern from a volume on the ethnography of the Marquesas.)

And well, there's more, of course, but brevity is the saving grace of any tour.

But before I close, I'll note that we make room in our collection for the odd Impressionist:

 And of course lots and lots of prelapsarian works that seem to speak of a happy childhood:


Along those lines (sort of), I'll mention that Elias' reading ability has recently hit the stage of exponential increase.  Not to be too precious about it, but I think that if you're one of those people for whom books have been at the very center of things at some point or another, watching your child step into the world of the written word is a wholly uncomplicated joy.

Take a look at this scene from yesterday - doesn't this look like a happy fatherhood?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In The Water

It's 11 PM as I write this (or 2300 hours for anyone out there who is standing night watch).

Alisa, at this very moment, is out in the cockpit, greasing and assembling a winch after its annual strip and clean: 

Sailing dudes of the world, continue to eat your hearts out.

Now, if only she could stop breaking the $70 plastic winch parts that just arrived in the mail (that jagged section in the back was smooth until a little too much torque was applied):

On another domestic front, we just got rid of all the carpet in the saloon.  The ultimate cause was spring, of course, but the proximate cause in this case was the pizza that Eric threw all over the saloon while Alisa and I were occupied with the four-handed job of replacing the windlass switch all the way forward.

I'm going to miss this phase where we greet every big kid mess by just chucking another section of carpet into the dumpster.

So, a lotta little domestic moments like this for us lately.  But, fear not, much bigger things are on the horizon for team Galactic.  The Royal Hobart Show is tomorrow, and Elias has a four-day weekend as a result.

(Before I continue, let me take a moment to wonder why oh why Australians use the adjective "royal" when they want to make the point that something is particularly wonderful.  All the monarchial carryings-on here really get tiring.  The only upside to this nation's anachronistic fetish for all things Queen is that it allows me to simultaneously be a liberal in America and a republican in Australia.)

But, anyway, back to the sailing blog.

We've got a four-day break from school.  Both kids have diarrhea.  The forecast is for bucketing rain and 20-30 knot southwesterlies as a couple of lows pass over the state.

Given that set of conditions, what else could you possibly want to do besides go sailing?  That's very much our plan, assuming that it isn't too breezy to get out of the marina.

But, alas, deus ex machina: the engine isn't doing its thing.  We've had the injection pump rebuilt and, after it was replaced, first off the engine wouldn't fire at all.  That one took the mechanic two hours to figure out.  Now we start, but get no revs.  No bets how long that one will take to set right.  No complaints at all about the mechanic in this case, just a note about how weird things happen when even a professional dabbles in the black art of boat repair.

So, we're here at least until someone figures out the donk, and until Alisa can get new winch parts to replace the other new parts that she just broke.  And that means we'll have plenty of time here at the dock to observe Eric's latest not-so-cute behavior.

The little guy has been saying the oddest things during the night-time lately.

Things like: mommy, don't throw me in the water!

He gets going on that theme and won't be talked out of it.  Over and over he insists either that we're throwing him in the water, or that we're letting him fall in.

Yes you are, he says.  You are throwing me water.

We think/hope it just has something to do with the sickness that he's been fighting.  But for someone like me, who has always been very open in my view that superstition is a profoundly important part of going to sea, hearing the little fellow say such perfectly unlucky things, again and again, is just a bit unsettling...

The Last Winner

OK, we've got the winner drawn for the last book giveaway - this copy is heading to Edwin, in Liverpool, New York.

And once again, it was great to hear from so many readers of the blog - but note that the galactic.seas email was just set up for these raffles, so if you want to get a hold of me it's probably best to comment on the blog....

And thanks again to New South for the giveaway copies!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Only one thing to notice about this picture, really.  The hatch is open, letting in some wholesome fresh air.

Five months ago I put plastic insulation over all the hatches to keep winter condensation at bay.

Now it's warm enough that we've taken the insulation off the hatch in the saloon.  All the others are soon to follow, I'm sure.

In May we also laid pieces of carpet over the sole.  It kept the boat nice and warm when the water temperature dropped.

It takes the water longer to warm up in the spring time than it does the air, of course.  So we'll keep the carpet for another week or two.

So far we've only gotten rid of one piece from our cabin.  But that had to do with Elias coming back in the middle of the night to use our head.  He was still asleep enough that he just stood in the head and emptied his bladder into his pajamas, then walked out without realizing that anything was wrong.

The carpet wasn't worth saving after that.

The really welcome sign that spring has arrived is that the never-ending chest colds that kept Elias and Eric barking through the nights of winter have finally left us.

The not-so-welcome bit is that the chest colds have been replaced by fevers and diarrhea.  Childhood is not for wimps!

It's all just the normal run of things, of course.  But Eric, who has been particularly hard-hit by the fever, has responded by waking up screaming bloody murder three or six or eight times a night.  Which has been a little tough on the parents involved.

Remember when you were so young that the most comfortable position for sleeping was on your knees with your bum in the air?


Peace, Out - Galactic.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Last Raffle

I flew up to Queensland last weekend to speak at the annual literary lunch for the Ipswich Friends of the Library.  All in all it was a good time - there was a good turnout, I got to visit with some of the Queensland family, I was able to remind myself what it's like to wear the Australian uniform of board shorts and thongs, and I met a reader of the blog.

Going up to Ipswich to talk about South From Alaska was also a bit of a homecoming for me, as my Dad's family is from Ipswich - if he'll forgive me, I'll share a photo of him from a few years back as an Ipswich school boy.


So, going up to give this talk reminded me that it's time for the fourth, and last, giveaway of a copy of South From Alaska.  As before, all you have to do is email and put the word "book" in the subject line.  I'll choose the winner randomly one week from today - that's the 23rd of October, Hobart time.  Postage is on me, anywhere in the world!

(And, I'll close by mentioning that someone told me the price of the book on the US Amazon site has dropped from the ridiculous levels it was at, so if you don't win this last time, you might have to break down and buy a copy!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What We Always Do

When we were out sailing over the school holidays, Alisa and I got to talking about the things that we always do when we're on the boat.  Pretty simple stuff, really, but these things have become part of our routine afloat.  

We always: a light when we're at anchor...

...put a snubber on the anchor chain (regardless of how calm the anchorage is)...

...hang our dinghy from a halyard at night rather than leaving it tied up off the stern where it can get into mischief...

...lock up the outboard (had to learn that lesson twice!)...

...put life jackets on our kids when they're in the dinghy (though we got a bit slack about that in the tropics)...

...put harnesses and tethers on the kids when they're out of the cockpit...

...leave channel 16 on when we're sailing...

...stay on the windward side of a passage and well away from lee shores.

All those things are either required by the rules of the road, or just good seamanship, so they're not really remarkable in a sense.  But they can also all be optional in one situation or another,  but we've found that it's easier, and safer, to do them every time rather than wondering if they're required or not on a particular day.

And there are a few items that you might expect to be on the list, like always keeping a lookout, or always checking the weather forecast if one is available, that we cheerfully admit to skipping now and then.

Meanwhile, good news on the planning front for the upcoming season.  Australian Customs has given us permission to keep Galactic in the country until February, the best month for crossing the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.  So that allows us to plan to head out for Port Davey as soon as school ends on December 20th, then come back to town in late January to start waiting for good weather to make the crossing...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Professional Help

OK, here's how you tell if you're a yachtie or an office drone.  

(Nothing against the office drones among you, of course.  Some of our very best friends work in offices.)

A yachtie, I reckon, will be able to tell what is missing from the engine in the shot below:

Give up?  It's the header tank and injection pump.

(Don't worry if you didn't get the answer - you might not be an office drone, just one of those poet-yachties that you hear about...)

So, anyway, said picture was taken just minutes ago, and it shows the state of our donk after those two really important bits were taken away to some place where they can be made well.

And that also gives you the answer that we've come up with to this winter's much mulled-over question - to replace the donk, or not?

We figure that, at this point at least, new donks are for office drones with steady paychecks.  So we're going to fix two out of the three outstanding problems with the current beast and just get on with things.

I certainly could have taken off the header tank myself, and the injection pump, too, for that matter.  But we decided that this was an instance when a little professional help would be in order, so we had an actual mechanic do the job.

We've had almost no professional work of any kind done on our various boats - I usually just muddle through myself, semi-demi poet-yachtie that I am.  But every now and then you just want to pay someone else to make a job go away.

We always get an incredibly satisfied feeling when we decide to pay someone to cross a cantankerous item off our list.  And then, in our experience, we get a really rotten feeling when the "professional" stuffs the job up for us.

I'm sure that won't happen this time!

South From Alaska - In Ipswich

If you're in the Brisbane area, mark this coming Saturday on your calendar - I'll be giving a talk about South from Alaska at the annual literary lunch for the Ipswich Friends of the Library and Information Service - 10:30, October 6, Ipswich Library, 40 South Street, Ipswich.

Would be great to meet some readers of the blog there!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Almost a Devil

This weekend we set out on a land adventure with a Clearly Stated Goal: to see a Tasmanian devil in the wild.

You might remember that devils are carnivorous marsupials whose population has been decimated by a communicable facial cancer in recent years.  The 20th century extinction of the Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, still resonates with Tasmanians, and the increased risk to this other iconic Tasmanian animal has become a huge conservation concern.  There is also some possibility that the historical inability of introduced foxes to become established in Tasmania was due to devil predation on fox kits, which means that losing devils as a common part of the local fauna could have really really bad implications for all sort of small vertebrates in Tasmania -  a number of animals that have been extirpated by foxes on the mainland are still common here.

Seeing a devil in the wild has become a lot harder in Tassie, and it's something we really wanted to do before we left the state.  So we drove four and a half hours to the northwest of Hobart, into that part of Tassie that is still clearly Tassie.

During the drive our two most-often used adjectives were "bucolic":

And "historic":

Our destination was the Mountain Valley wilderness lodge, in Loongana.  (I'm including the link because we completely loved the place, and think that you should visit.)

We first heard about this place from our friends Luke and Wendy, über-naturalists who made a grand tour of the avi- and herpe-fauna of the Australian continent a few years back.  While they were in Tassie, listening for barking owls and ground parrots, they made a detour to Mountain Valley to see devils - the folks who own the place put out road-killed marsupial carcasses to bring them in.

We shared the experience (and a cabin meant for six) with our friends from Aratika.  You know you really like people when you can share a small space with them (and their kids) without any stress.

While we weren't waiting for devils we were looking for platypus and walking around with the very knowledgeable owner of the lodge, getting to know a little something of the botany and geology of the area. 

The lodge is in a beautiful corner of Tasmania, and the wattle trees were in bloom.

But, alas, no devils for us.  We were a bit cavalier about putting in the effort to see one on our first night, but on the second night we pulled out all the stops - one or another of us stayed up to 3 am, staring out the window at the scraps of wallaby in the front yard.  Our friend Robb got two super-brief glimpses of a very skittish devil, but by the time he had roused us sleepy-heads to take a look, the devil was gone.

So I guess we'll have to try again.