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S.V Condesa Del Mar
23 meter Herrishoff Schooner built in Wilmington Boat Yard California 1970 onwards. Fittout completed mid 1990's. Mark and Jenny Gaskell purchased Conmdesa November 2011 and crossed the Pacific Ocean in 2012.
Bloody Murphy on tour
Jenny g
11/11/2012, Pacific Ocean

FYI- Bloody Murphy is not related to Bloody Mary's - clearly. Way back in July at bloody Mary's - Bora Bora we had a night of wonderful food and friends that all went all too smoothly for Mary to be related to Murphy. I am thinking Murphy must be a fair age, from what I hear he has been perfecting his role since Adam was a boy. He is no slacker whatever his job description, oh and consistency is his forte.
So in reliving a few of his happenings it went like this.... We were out in the middle of the Pacific and just as we were bringing in the Genoa (the triangle sail at the front) to cut the pace we had built up- Murphy strikes. He, being Murphy picks up one ...yes one, wave to build up enough height at the exact moment we almost had the sail in, and decides it would be fun to fill the ballooning sail with the full force of a wave and watch it blow into shreds.(Well sniggering Murphy don't suppose you saw the spare we had tucked under the forward V-berth below did you?). I think we would have got a double take from him when we changed our plans and returned to Condesa for lunch one day. You see he switched the wind 90 degrees and lifted our anchor out from its 3 day dig, letting us drift close to a reef. But luckily we were back on board and he-who-stopped-humming-mid-hum noticed the change in the motion of the boat and luckily that we were no longer sitting under that tree ashore and we were able to save ourselves and Condesa from becoming a wreck the reef. Two can play this game Mr. Murphy. We like to think of ourselves as kind of 'glass half full' here on board Condesa, so we have room for small error and can count a blessing to be sitting in the bottom of the drained cup. But Murphy whoever you are - it was a very unkind of you to have the oil level drop on the only night I planned a 6 hours straight sleep. I was rather chuffed with myself for swapping for my shift for the captain's shift when he was too sound asleep to disturb. But on the later shift you, Murphy, decided he needs another person (being the first mate) to fill a weenie oil spout in the god dam middle of the motor with messy oil. This is all because "Victor" our auto pilot (Yes everyone names their autopilot) and "Victor" is ours.... well anyway he was starting to squeal. So guess who in a deep sleep state had to get up and play immediately - now that's just downright MEAN! Oh and while I am still annoyed at you for that one, I am going to tell them that it was you who filled our brand new rolled up Genika (another sail that was safely in its storage bag) with hot air from the outside generator until it got to a smoldering state. Yes, I do hold grudges and yes it was back in May and I won't forgive you for something no-one could see coming despite the occasional waft of unrecognizable odour. You must have stoked that heated sail that for ages before we found the source. And having fuel on deck made for a far more threatening issue - not your smartest move. Don't you get bored waiting in the wings for us to find your next trap? Oh look you can play tricks like the handle coming off the trapdoor to a problem area under the floorboards or the surge of water back through a non return valve in the loo - they are kinda funny as they are too ridiculous to be real. Although 'he who' did use some choice words to curse you so don't count on any tune being dedicated to yourself. I acknowledge that you are diverse and skilled in many avenues, but that can be interpreted as a 'smarty pants' and no-one likes a smarty pants. Even when we discovered we were taking on water in the bilge. The quick action of 'he who was white' to jam a cedar plug into the pipe at risk, me, who backed him up to get the information so I could make light of it to our on-board guests, and captain Ron/Pedro who beat me to it and announced with jovial voice to the big eyed guests "Well we are taking on water but..... it will take 4 days to sink and well we are 3 days from our destination so all will be ok!" I don't mind you toying with us but the only time we had visiting crew join us for a leg at sea? Really did you have to taint their journey? However it does make one get up off one's seat and attend to you when you play it like that. Murphy, we are totally aware of you, and I have a small sense of when you are standing back blowing smoke rings in the air waiting for us to notice. Maybe you did help fill a day or two on the journey across the Pacific but you are not getting any younger and so the smarter we get, the less we hope we will hear from you. I could go on and on as the whole 9 months we were at sea you made your presence felt on more days than we care to count. However, I best get back on the game and finish this half glass I have in hand before you think I am too distracted to see you thumbing through pages of your best evers.
And times like this you find remote and hard to get to places to strike again. Here's to you and all your apprentices across the planet - Catch ya never Murphy, even though I know you are with us most of the time. Off you go, take a load off, as we are not so vulnerable here docked in our homeland as we were in the middle of the pacific.
Footnote * I guess I should say thank you for all our lessons learnt on our crossing as they were compliments of "Murphy". There happy now? You have been given credit where credit is due, and I can see still you rubbing your whiskers looking for the next area to strike. That's just the kind of guy you are I guess.

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Fitting back in....
02/11/2012, Brisbane Australia

There you have it, the day came when we said "yes" to exit Port Bundaberg and head off 250 odd NM to Port Brisbane. Of course we use the weather as our guide to choose the right time to leave, but then again it is all in the interpretation of the report. Don't tell he who hums, but I now realise that they (the sailors) can read into it whatever they want. If you walk the marina and chat to them, half will say it is good to go and half will say it is not good. Either way, another week has flown by us up here and 'someone'.... who hums a short tune was getting toey. The day we got the weather we took a while to digest the options but over dinner you could read that he was already untying the lines in his mind and working his way out of the channel. Making a run with no wind didn't sound right to me (ps I call this is a 'blue' decision not a 'pink' one), but by Saturday 3rd November there is more ugly weather forecast from the south. So! Things to consider before you pull up anchor and make the dash back to life as you knew it.
FIRST: Are you able to talk to more than one person at a time?; Are you ready for the work phone to start ringing?; Are you ready to pack away the sailing survival kit and pull out the office supplies; Are you ready for the clock alarm to replace the bilge alarm?; Trade the thongs , beach hair, 5 o'clock shadows, block out traded for makeup, dingy ditched for a car and sundowners replaced by the 6 o'clock news Ugggg!...... and it goes on as there is much more to think about prior to returning back into your life and the closer it comes the more you can't deny that the experience has changed you. I guess it is time to hang up my catering hat; Pedro can ditch the mast harness and his Super Pedro cape; and Captain Humming can take off his Captain's hat and that weight belt labelled 'responsibility' that he has had firmly buckled on since we set sail in Mexico. You my captain (and Pedro) have managed to get us all home safely.... in one piece and no scars to talk of (except the black eye I have from the window latch in the shower). My Hummer you can now free yourself for some new light tunes as you have accomplished all you set out to do. So TICK that box - we have sailed 1/3 of the way around the world together in this space AND we still love each other! When we first stood in front of the 'larger than life' world map 2 years ago I knew when he arced his pointer across the wide spanse of Pacific Ocean before he paused at a minute dot of an island that we were in for hell of a sail. But we had no concept that this journey would entail so many diverse experiences, so many wonderful friendships, so many cultures, nationalities, cuisines, languages, and repairs ha! I think we knew about the maintenance as you could not expect 24 hr Murphy to miss the boat. I guess we best we set the alarm as we have got people to see, places to go, and things to do here in hometown Brisbane and they are just as awesome and diverse. And luckily we have "Condesa" our familiar and new home, to come back to every night to ween ourselves back into city/river living. It depends who you are speaking to when describing Condesa, but we say she is 60ft+ Schooner however the "+" is actually another 14ft so that makes her 74ft really truly. Therefore she is not easy to find a place for as she swings a very wide circle of love. For now she is bound for the Gateway Marina in the Brisbane River where we can complete the required pest control work to be totally cleared. Speaking of larger than life - I think you Captain Humming are taller than before we left home and rightly so. Well done - so proud of this achievement...... it wasn't all about lying under palm trees, sipping cocktails and writing postcards. I actually got used to chatting to your bum when your head was in the motor and I almost let you get away with wayward hair because you were too seasick to care, along with the 10 o'clock shadow when it was too rough to do personal maintenance .....and, I do stare at that little patch you wear behind your ear when I whisper sweet nothings to make sure it is still in place for you. I can't wait to sketch out our next dream in the sand. Oh and in case you didn't know I will be your wing man any day.

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What's a Mother To Do
jenny g
28/10/2012, Bundaberg

When you finally get to lay eyes on your parents after an 8 month adventure at sea you are surprised at the grief stricken look they wear, mixed with relief, and tears of happiness. You then get a rush of guilt for putting them through such pain when you have been out there enjoying the Pacific and all it has to offer. No matter how many posts you upload that you are happy healthy and careful, it only takes a television news break of high seas and strong winds that has a boats within it's grasp to wipe any comfort you have given. However, the last 4 day dash from Noumea to Bundaberg was exhilarating from the minute the lear jet swooped low to take a good look at Condesa as she surged onwards out of French waters homeward bound. The last half of the crossing had us race the weather into the Bundaberg port. All forms of contact with land regarding weather updates were under way as we counted down the nautical miles home. At first we sailed... then we motor sailed ... then really we really motored and really sailed to try to make it to land to enable us to hide from what was coming our way up the Eastern coast. It goes without saying that our 2 boys also carried that concern but never let on throughout the journey that was. It was 18months ago I recall them both informing us that you could put Condesa on a transport ship and get her home without the risk. But it was the journey, the experience, the education, the lifestyle we were yearning and the adventure and achievement was foremost in our minds.
So back to the weather the anxiety and the concern. As the shifts in weather occurred, returning home became more of a challenge. On the 4th day I woke at 6am to the increase sound of the engine intensifying. The VHF was broadcasting the next weather report with volume up to override the engine noise. The 2 boys also were texting and ringing through many changes as they had obtained more information about the massive high and low coming out of the Tasman, predicting 6-7mtrs seas. We know this coast with can be both fast changing and unrelenting - no more 'pacific', clearly. We had already altered our course from Bundaberg to Brisbane and then back to Bundaberg to make closest point of land from sea. The pressure was building in more ways than one, but we knew what we had to do and were outwardly calm onboard. We had come so far in a myriad of conditions and mostly beguine; it now appeared we may have been going to be put to the test in the last leg knowing what was coming our way. I surfaced and saw 'he whose hum was on the back burner' and Pedro heads together doing the maths on distance and speed over ground and thought that something like comfort food was in order. They watched.... we watched... everybody watched as Condesa stomped through the confused and rising seas with the big wind in her main and the motor piercing her heart reminding her to hurry us back home.
To embrace! ..... Finally embrace that moment of our return - it was so heavily weighted just as it was for our departure. We had hoped it was only us onboard and our informants who knew what was out there but we could see that pressure had built on land too. Little by little the pressure inching it's way into minds as the many months sailed by both on land and sea.
La Condesa Del Mar, in all her glory made it into the Bundaberg seaway just in the nick of time. The familiar Australian accent on radio welcoming us and the clear ongoing procedures was like the end of an era had come; and was as warm as a mother's hug. However before I wrap up, I have to tell you that she looked magnificent coming in through the narrow leads heeling over as the afternoon sun wrapped her 4 full sails in sunshine trying to counteract the chill in the air. We were so proud to bring her into Australian waters. She stoically sailed by the other yachts who had also dropped anchor and awaiting next steps. She silently drifted on parallel with the Bundaberg Port Marina and turned her face up into the breeze and gave one last shimmer before all 4 heavy and overworked sails dropped in effortlessly and unison to the wet salty decks. Now here with anchor dropped safely we still have on the forward decks the last of the emergency fuel drums almost done reflecting the half full/ half empty emotions we had inside.

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Crew find
Jenny g
21/10/2012, 24 20'S:154 51'E, Just off Bundaberg- Australia !

As we inch closer to Australia we are all reflecting on the journey that was, and counting our blessings that Condesa found Pedro and.... Pedro found Condesa. It is a good story about a competent sailor and a competent boat - both dreaming of doing the �"coconut milk run�" across the Pacific Ocean. The fact that it was all a last minute arrangement was all the more amazing as it turned out to be a perfect match. So as Captain Humming and I bring this chapter to a close I wanted to do a snap shot on the perfect crew member any sailing vessel could wish to have. NAME: Pedro (Peter) Cookingham; Although he thought his name was �'lil s�--t�' for the first 5 years of his life, he now has earned the title of �"Super Pedro�" . SKILLS: Blue water sailor; Carpenter; All round boat seen-it /done-it Mr Fix-it; Caveman; Monkey Man; Action man; Salvage man; Solo-man; Avid reader; Story teller; Historian; People person. FAVOURITE PASSTIME: Beer ? HE IS: Of Nordic decent ; American from Washington State; Living in Mexico for the past 30 yrs when he is not out on the water. QUOTE: �"Nah living with the stress on land...when you could be out here on the water? Why would you?�" HOBBY: Beeeer ? WHERE : We found him in Marina De La Paz Mexico - Pedro had just returned from 3 years sailing South America, Brazil, The Horn, the Chilean Fjords, and The Caribbean. After completing the carpentry work for Condesa, Capt Humming threw out the lure to do the �"Coconut milk run�" across the pacific with us. WHY: Beer ? ...No just joking - he has always dreamt of doing this crossing himself so this was an opportunity to have a look first hand and plan his own crossing. Which will then just leave him a trip �'over the top�' to complete a full circum navigation of the world, and he will. BONUS: We can thank Pedro�'s family; especially his dad for he had him out on the water doing boat transfers from the age of 10yrs and progressed to doing salvaging work later in his career. Pedro being the youngest of 4 of boys, we too can thank them for toughening him up to the point that nothing, and I mean nothing fazes him. (OK Maybe sitting on the curl of a breaking wave does bother him somewhat) Being the brunt of pranks, jokes and all round brotherly love he is prepared alert and ready for anything that comes his way. And, his sister clearly made it easy for him to hang around with me over the mags/books, movies or doing running repairs. He seems to know someone at most anchorages from his past trips, and everyone recognises him immediately. Not sure if it is the blond braided �"wind rope�" down his back that gives him away FYI-(if it is wet/it�'s raining; if it is flying/it�'s windy; if it is frozen then it�'s cold) or could be if simply that he i s recognised by his story telling voice followed by his easy laugh. Either way, it seems if you have met him you�'ll never forget him. We will definitely miss having him aboard Condesa when we finally tie the lines in Brisbane. He and Captain Humming have spent the last 7 months working with the same goal. His cabin (cave) has been his only since we have owned the boat. The card table will be missing my doubles partner and the coffee pot will remain redundant every morning. No more 3am wake up calls where he is poised �"on-my-way�" ready... (I guess that is easier than being tossed out the window into the snow as a wake up call for school). No more silent negotiations with the universe on top deck; no more weather requests from his mates (passed) for our need. No more body guard waiting for me when I surface from a village; no more minder for our Condesa happily sitting at anchorage for our return whenever, wherever he deemed it a necessity. PURPOSE IN LIFE: To make people laugh ............ CONCLUSION: His mission well accomplished!

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Our Last Leg
Jenny g
16/10/2012, Noumea

So the bringing home of 'La Condesa Del Mar' to Brisbane Australia is not far away and our preparations for the 7 day passage happening today seem surreal. Having seen some family and friends in the last half of the trip certainly has helped- he, to hum louder and me to, well....make it happily through this amazing experience. Having my special friend Tracey Tognini fly in for 4 day stopover of Noumea was the smartest move a girl could ever make as the meals prepared for the last leg have been done in a blink of an eye and we will have the flare and flavour of a floating restaurant. However Noumea has turned on some rain and wind to make it easier to leave but hard to get our visitor out on the bow sprit. I am secretly counting my blessings that it wasn't the perfect island stopover or we would find hard to come home. The best birthday gift cannot be surpassed that being the exit papers - who would have thought that, would be all he needed to hum his own birthday tune. So in this message we want thank you all - the family and friends who have come along on this journey with us via cyber space. All your love and support along the way has been appreciated and felt. I have tried to share this whole experience through our eyes less all the technical jargon. Things we talk about like dodgers, push pit, sheets and washboards (no, not the laundry), lines that are ropes, tethers, and hanks (not Tom Hanks) just the clips for the sails so as to have them pulled tight and not to Luff (not as in Col) and a Code Zero (no not an emergency term) but the Genika for downwind sailing that we managed to completely ruin early in the trip. I realise I have learnt so much since we left in February and when he calls for the 'winch' I know the boy (not buoy) is not calling me but the thingy to help bring in the sail. No but really- as for the knowledge of the channel markers - well I am so grateful that we have Pedro and Captain Humming aka "Team Condesa" on the job. It seems it is the French seafaring people who do it really well. You can sail in and out of their harbours knowing that you will be accurately guided by their markers. However we have learnt in past countries like Fiji that sight of a crooked stick in the distance may very well be an important marker alerting us to a reef below; but as to which side of it is danger is still patchy. Oh and I can use the VHF radio with confidence now and not sound like Sonny Hammond's sister reporting news from Skippy. We, He who hums, Super Pedro and I will remain focused and serious about getting the ship home the last little step but will continue to learn, laugh and enjoy whatever Murphy (as in Murphy's Law) delivers us on the way. Did you know that Murphy is on watch 24/7 and he never ceases to amaze us of the weird games he likes to play. So....... until we hit Bundaberg we bid farewell and eagerly await the familiar faces in our home land. Well not hit exactly but more sail her gracefully into the Bundaberg harbour in the sunshine of the Queensland coast. Thanks again for sharing this part of our journey, but I have to tell you I haven't shared all of what has happened as Murphy was responsible for bits and pieces. Maybe I can fill you in another time.

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Last little visitor
Jenny g
16/10/2012, Noumea

Our good friend Tracey Tognini swung by bringing sunshine into Noumea when it was 4 days of rain. We didn't even notice we hadn't had the bikinis out

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Jenny g
12/10/2012, Tanna Island Vanuatu

When Captain Cook sailed the vessel "Resolution" into this Port, I wonder if he saw whites of many eyes amongst the paradise of the New Hebrides. S.V. Condesa - Capt Humming, Pedro, I and our visiting crew -friends Larry and Gay were in awe as we sailed in through these pre historic headlands of Port Resolution with the billowing (...well puffing) volcano behind. We all thought, that the active volcano was going to be the highlight of this island stop.
That night, the smell sulphur and hot ash filled our noses as we dug deep for breath with each ascending step we took towards the luring glow in the sky. The friendly chatter ceased when the low guttural growl of the volcano built, it sends shivers up your spine that ignites another level of excitement enough to help you make it to the top. We all paused and looked to the sky for the orange lava globs to be thrown high. Once there, the massive gaping hole of broiling heat has a mesmerising effect on you. You feel the need to lean to see the monster labouring over this mammoth potion of molten rock. I wonder how many lives have been changed over the years and will continue to change by this phenomenon. It was hard to step away from the fiery pulse, despite urges from he who hums. It is like you are willing for some earth shattering finale to happen as your cue to leave. He, whose hum was no competition to the volcano's heavy breathing, was wondering how he was going to explain my absence as I looked to edge closer to the open inferno, loving every ounce of the pent-up energy below. To feel the earth move under your feet literally is something else and not for the faint hearted. No barriers to be seen only the one your instincts create. We all took lots of photos; as if it was the last images you would see of us before we had to jump into the back of the open truck and return to the cool and invigorating safari home. This equally exhilarating ride an hour through the narrow bush track led us back to our latest cliff address where Condesa was chained firmly to the seabed below.
The next day was meant to be the general ritual of checking into Vanuatu and replenishing our fresh produce from the town markets. The only transport on Tanna was at 5.30am. A local's truck will take you for the 2 hour jaunt across the island to the "town". Lenakel is a one-bank; one-travel office and one coffee shop, dirt road that run beside many hidden and enticing villages. Once again, we took to standing in the back of the truck, gaining speed on the better tracks through the lushness, ducking low branches when required and dropping into 4xW when we hit rough terrain. We passed by the occasional school and clusters of people starting their day on foot as the sun rose... who knows how far they walk. Then, we drove out from a thick plantation and we all witnessed the astonishing ash basin of the volcano open up in front of us. In utter disbelief we flew across the dry grey spans of nothingness; yet everythingness that transformed this earth into a moonscape experience. With scarf and hair flowing behind and a firm monkey grip on the roll bars around - imperative if you wanted to live to tell the tale. We were all leaning into the breeze with our eager faces, inhaling the "ride" across this ancient island that has paused in time. The only sombre moment was viewing the mother with her sick baby in the front cabin, and I am sure she was willing the humble dwelling for a hospital to emerge every second of her journey. Once she and her family took their place in the early morning queue on the bench seat outside the basic structure, we then retraced our path to join the road to town, stopping to cram more families into the back of the truck (current record =28 people). The quick-to-smile little ones clamber in around you and happily take any treats you offer them. I could go on and on with the richer than volcanic experiences we shared with these beautifully happy people and their abounding island, but I'll save it for another time.
By the time Larry and Gay departed they took away with them the "unexpected", as the exciting "expected" became second to the everyday life here. Like us, I am sure the eventful 4 day passage aboard Condesa has been diluted by this primitive island encounter. But being anchored in their bay we got a view of this paradise from afar. We could see their incredibly rich soil and hutted villages dotted amongst the darkest of green trees. As we clambered up the cliff face to the nearest village to seek and find. We added our footprints to their dark trodden paths and made our way to the ancient Banyan tree that sat in the centre of the freshly groomed village clearing. We explore further and saw the humble Tanna Yacht Club hut that we could just make out from where we had anchored below and the little thatched huts dotted beside it that can be rented for minimal vatu. Not far from here, the school edged the sheer cliff face where we mingled with the kids in the bright sunshine (and absolutely no fear of anyone jumping off the 150ft drop here) - and why would you? We are lured along a track through lush thick grass and stopped at the cute one table Cafe hut and sipped tea, seeing the locals resting in the shade, little ones reclined in soft warmth. I am sure someone there had an eye on us but you never felt that. As the week flew by we were welcomed into every aspect of their lives and we have many more memories than we ever thought possible. Anyone and everyone would invite you into their lives from The Village Chief; The Fishermen, The School, The Church and the families for anything from a spit roast to a chat with the kids. Perfect hand-made gifts were forthcoming and we tried to reciprocate with items of use to them that we could easily replace in the next stop. Their easy flowing generosity seemed too much, as we got to enjoy their unique and traditional lives within their villages......and their hearts. But the 4 little sandy islanders who eagerly came out to see our boat and lifestyle after we had shared lunch in their village snuck into our hearts. We filled their afternoon with treats they had never witnessed, and without knowing it they filled ours with the same. When it came time to take them, their freshly patched knees and their teenage minder back to shore; she stated ...we lived in "paradise", and then asked if she could come with us. I was surprised that she was so unwilling to leave our enclosed dark saloon for her fresh open space life! I thought how odd it is that the whole world over we look and see "paradise" elsewhere. They taught us a thing or two with their ready smiles, trusting natures, their firm traditions and not succumbing to the influence of the visiting outside world over the many years. However our 19yrs old guest eventually got up with a bag of girly magazines and some ridiculously bright nail polish that cured her teenage curiosity. But it seemed so wrong to spoil their raw beauty with these things when I looked at the hand woven basket of fresh off the tree fruit and vegetables she had left us. So, I watch the scene of our stark white dingy, he who hums, his 4 little dark shadows putting back to the whiter than white coral beach with great black boulders lapped by sparkling waters and the rich greenery jutting from the cool cliffs above. I am appreciative of the small part of our lives that were exchanged here in 'Paradise'.

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