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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.
Who are we really?
Jenny g
12/02/2013, Brisbane Australia

There comes a time when - The Sailing Daydream you had savored for so long starts to fade and you get slotted back into your normal life that you had before you escaped into the timeless and carefree. I look in the mirror and see that the carefree sailor expression (and appearance) is faintly there and the myriad of thoughts are starting to creep in. You don't really want to be unattached forever but it was a dream place. So, just as the days unfold in so do some of the wardrobe from our container that have been waiting patiently and locked away tight. Walking through amid the boxes that I labelled with all importance so I could lay my hands on anything I thought I would need immediately upon our returned. Now unveiling these things wrapped like they were the value of gold I find myself wondering now whether I will have a need for it ever again. It is like I am looking at myself and my life from a distance and seeing what was, what is and what needs to be. Thinking back when packing up our unit I was finding it hard to part with these very things that colored our surrounds and life. Now we have been living happily in a space that is carefree and open to nature and the world and it is time to rethink the importance of this verses that. Funny how the life I led despite being filled with beautiful things, people, places and loads of work was really somewhat undersized in comparison to the vast oceans of living that is on offer. I think the learning about yourself, your vessel and the elements are forever changing and fulfilling. It is hard to explain the contrast and I have seen it in the expression of many a friend face when they hear of our dwelling on the Brisbane River under the bridge. It sounds a tad nomadic but we find it is the freedom from the norm that we love the most. I have to admit 5 years ago we possibly would have had the same reaction. But this life of no reality TV to steal hours from you late afternoon evening, and news reports to laden you down with sadness and helplessness is awash with bliss. So just as our dreams drifts in and out, so do we move in and out of our past and present lives not really sure if the blend of working on water (no not quite walking on water) will dilute or strengthen. One day at a time is certainly the way we go and our plans that were drawn in the sand will either wash away or stay high and dry in our priorities as this current working world ticks along.

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Any Harbour Masters Worst Nightmare
31/01/2013, Brisbane Australia

Should you have closed your eyes you on that afternoon you would have thought you were standing near a landing jet but it was the roaring sounds of the wind that came from afar and bulleted the marina with such gusts that it pitched and pushed the concrete pontoons twisting joins like tussling over a toy, eventually wearing and breaking huge bolts that had withstood the 2011 floods. The sky had an eerie glow like it was gloating over it accomplishments. "Oswald" the cyclone as it was named snuffed out the Bundaberg structure like powder on a brush and did not even wait around to say sorry. He then made way down the Queensland coast and all the previously devastated South East corner residents feared another bout of the same 2011 destruction. Their heartbreak and long recovery has taken it's toll, with some still in the process of rebuilding and settling down 2 years on. What a mind game this one was as those scars don't ever heal easily. Their pain is just beneath the surface and their tears flowed as easily as the rivers filled. This was all new territory for us being water dwellers and our "home", although a floating device was at risk of washing down the river tied (or should I say strapped firmly to the concrete pontoon) should 'Oswald' choose. I looked around us and saw the millions of dollars that would be floating along with us should the marina break apart and shuddered that thought out of my mind and concentrate on surfing the pontoon as it rose and fell with no rhythm just fury. In the blackness of that afternoon "He who was silent" added heavier ropes and as the hours passed he and I both knew that with one belch from Oswald that shoelace would be snapped. But going through the safety motions and all the things we learnt our "Survival at sea" course was being played out in front of us. The reflective stripes on our jacket luminated in the flashlight and added to the seriousness of this moment as the rain came sideways. Self focused and absorbed in the wellbeing of this little boating community on A arm soon became a team effort but that army of people looked as insignificant to Oswald as the heavy lines. Hours of diligence passed and then to be instructed to evacuate the marina arm and take refuge in the offices made it all feel pointless. The energy level drop as there was nothing more to be done. We were lucky enough to have the boys houses to drive back to, but it was to stay dry not so much to gain any sleep. With the menagerie of pets in our care I had visions of the ark should we all have to make a dash. As we drove away from Condesa with ever blurry intersection of flashing lights, the noises eased giving us a false sense of the weather system fading. We both knew it was going to blow up a stink all night on the river as the pressure of opposing tide to wind was going to working away at the industrial strength hardware in place. Oswald even made a joke of the word 'Industrial' where it once meant the biggest and best you can have; it now gave you a temporary feeling in the wrath of his will.
The gloomy grey daylight hours revealed what he (Oswald) managed to achieve overnight and luckily for us the marina withstood the worst of the storm. Some pontoons twisted and loosened but the main structure and pylons where standing strong as was Condesa and her floating fleet on A Arm. So the following days were the hospice visits to see how she was fairing in the river of mud and rubbish logs and debris as 'watching' was all you could do with the conveyor belt of logs coming down stream and getting caught up next to us. Everyone was checking and replacing snapped lines whilst I was below decks where the dislodgment of some items made me understand how she had been knocked around since we had left. So I dutifully straightened and tidied like everything would be alright knowing the force of high tides were still a threat.
Once the Australia Day "holiday" was over the engineers could come and make judgment on what was best for us. The red and white tape blocking the marina gate was removed and the days looked to be returning to normal as then the NSW coast was dumped on heavily with the residual of Oswald's bad mood. We are damage free as are most of the boating community in a lot of ways it is better to float than to try to stand firm against the elements although not too many land-lovers would agree to this. I think I can hear a faint hum as he sees life returning to normal. And he thought the Pacific crossing had us on our guard. "Oswald" now is dead in the water but our respect for weather holds firm as does with the sea.

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Australia on Show
Jenny g
07/01/2013, Rivergate Marina

There have been mixed emotions around town anything thing from withdrawals, to some sadness and a few direct requests for me to pretend I have gone somewhere so I can keep blogging about what I see. And for a minute I thought it was a good enough excuse to untie the ropes and take He who hums off on another adventure. Then I realised that we have been out-and-about ever since we back to Brisbane and I have got to say that if I was elsewhere I would have been telling you about where I had been. So for now let's pretend I am a tourist again and let me tell you how proud I was to be Australia when I took Pedro off to fulfill his dream to hug a koala and hang with the kangaroos while he was here, oh and to eat a Mexican meal.
For starters we had the almighty typical summer storms hit Brisbane the third week home and that was perfect- as we had Pedro repair some porthole seals and we needed to test them to see if he had managed to capture them all. Roll on in grumbling thunder and heavily laden rain clouds as if on cue. And what a stunning stormy exhibition it was. I can't remember seeing summer storms like that since I was a kid. Family and friends feared for us down here under the Gateway aboard Condesa but we were moving with the elements so didn't feel the brunt of it like the high rises and homes must have felt the shudder of that thunder and crack of lightning. The wind gained momentum as the storm raced across the Brisbane sky and buffered the boats around slightly. However we were happy to be moored in next to some of the biggest Super yachts I have ever seen like Dragon Fly and Exlium. They both shielded us from the chaos and fended off the fetching river as it welled up in response to the temperature changes. Then a week or two later we thank Dragon Fly again for the wonderful dock party that He who hums attended. I saw the catering and hospitality being set up as I departed for a weekend at Stradbroke and knew there would be stories to tell when I got home. No expense was spared and you know you have wealthy neighbours when the owner brings his helicopter into the paddock next to the marina to attend his own Brisbane based party in the grand marquee with his crew and fellow invited boaties (us). I can't tell you anymore these big boats like to be does that saying go about if I tell you I would have to kill you. Oh, it is not you I can't trust... it is the people you tell that we worry about. Anyway back on the being proud to be Australian, Pedro got to see the gold coast in all its glory, with beaches that stretch for miles in cool smooth soft sand under foot. I am sure the bright lights and night life also impressed him although relaxing in the high-rise was all he needed and wanted as he too recovered from the focus that took to get across the pacific. I took him off to Lone Pine and as we got out of the car we inhaled the fresh crisp eucalyptus air just 15 minutes from the sleepy Sunday shadows of the CBD. I know from that moment in time that he was going to have lasting memories of our beautiful Australia. After all the rain in the past week we then walked through the lush green and darkened earth along with the busy bush turkeys of the sanctuary weaving in and around all the well kept and 'as close to natural' home like enclosures for all our native animals. Yes he got up close and personal with the Koalas and Kangaroos. We saw the tall and elegant Emu, the echidnas and the platypus ducking and weaving through the rock pools like there was no tomorrow. The little black Tassie Devil and the svelte dingo poised behind wire where they were best to view. Whilst we were sitting enjoying the larger native bird show we were distracted by the boxing kangaroos behind us. I had told him about this little habit of theirs on our way out but never expected them to put on a free bout for us so close. We covered off the sheep shearing demo just in case he should want a sea change down the track he knows what he is up for. The sheep dogs happily wrapped up their job and as we made our way to find the wombats we had to step over the biggest lizards basking in the warm shallow puddles of sunshine. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect representation of Australian wild life if I set the scene myself. As we exited along the river bank and the tall peeling trunks of the gum trees we got a last hooroo from our laughing kookaburras. Is that not what you would want for a visitor? Anyway this was a few weeks ago but thought since there was a request for me to share more I best tell you how good Australia our home town is also.

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Living under a Bridge
Jenny g
06/12/2012, Rivergate Marina

So we have been clinging to the pacific Island time for as long as I possible and proud to say that the 9 months of freedom had some effect on my psyche. It is interesting observing the changes in your home town after a year away. As for the new tunnels and bypasses - well I have accidently seen way too many of them since I got home. There is nothing worse that heading sky bound on a brand new highway from hell not knowing what part of Brisbane it will swoop you down into. Worse still are the many tunnels that spit you out into the extreme bright and blinding daylight where you can't focus on any of the flash of signage quickly enough to convert it into a decision to have yourself back on the right track. I hope he who hums doesn't scan down the toll bridge account or he will think there has been a malfunction in the accounts computer, but it was a malfunction with me and my new residence that finds me a new and lengthy route every time I come or go. For some people this is exciting and fun, but for me, getting lost is a pet hate from way back to the days of trying to get my licence. I have also noticed the BCC have a team of workers must be wagging 'Road Surfacing School' as I have crunched few shock absorbers on their new patches of bitumen. Oh and guess what I saw when sitting at a set of lights. I glanced up and saw a sign that read "Behavioural Observation Zone" and not far from that sign was a dome camera running 24/7. Who are we? Now we monitor intersections for manners? Next we will be rewarding good behaviour via these avenues too so as to keep everybody happy. Not like in Mexico, where you need to be responsible for yourself and when the footpath disappears and falls away to a 2 mtr drop, you look and divert, no warning bells or signage to yell at you. Just you, your own eyeballs and brain to tell you how to navigate the hazards ahead. And while we are talking about signage; have you ever taken a good look at the chemist that is warehouse prices? I walked in and saw Fluro yellow and black signs yelling the prices and details on every single item the full length and depth of the isle, every isle that is. A tad too much information to read with the golden halo around me. But I remind myself that none of these things are important in the big scheme of things. It is all business as usual in the big smoke. Our lives have returned to days of working and nights of recalling what we had by dining together, just the two of us with-in the cozy "Irish pub" saloon on-board Condesa. In case you were wondering, we are really enjoying living on the Brisbane River under the violet neon span of the Gateway Bridge, where the sun sets slowly behind the giant bridge every afternoon throwing pink orange light onto our decks as the pretty violet rays light up the river when sky closes in. Twilight is still our favourite time and even more so now as he who hums returns back from work to our little piece of bliss lulling on the river. The nights are silent and breezy with cool winds flowing up and around the bend of the Brisbane river, into our forward hatch then wafting over our bunk and out through the back port holes. As weekends roll over we have the occasional cruise ship drift past, only knowing by the large shadow cast over us as it silently makes it way down the river with a rim of holiday makers edging the rails on every levels. We .... well I wave excitedly at them (he who hums waves on the inside) knowing the beauty and wonder they are about to witness on their cruise. I occasionally get a wave back from a reveller who has spotted the tiny fluttering tea towel on our dwarfed vessel. I know they are about to witness sunrises and sunsets like they have never ever seen before. And then for these fresh escapees from the 9 to 5pm routine, the first night sky that will etch their holiday into their memory forever. I recall the music that locks it all into a dream, the surging waves, the new friends, the lush islands, the white sand, the marine life, the shells, the mesmerizing stars, the milky way, the routine of sun downers, the addictive silence. Just the gob smacking magnificence of nature that is exposed to you when you are away from land have time to see. Living life out "there" in the wide blue wonder is indescribable really. One yearns to be back in the nothingness that offers everything to you in free packages of observation. Lucky Santa is coming; it distracts me from dwelling on "what was" and allows me to dream of treasured time shared with family and friends that I said I would never take for granted again. I have screen savers to prompt me to remain liberated, boundless, and untamed in my own mind. It is a silent fight to keep out what is norm and hold tight to what is abnormal. All in the eye of the beholder really.

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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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