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The Big Silver Bird
02/03/2013, In transit

The adventure nears!

On this Friday , 8th of February, I fly from Pai in northern Thailand, to Chiang Mai. That's a journey in a twin engined job of just 20 minutes. After a few hours wait in Chiang Mai where I shall have a hair cut, visit my favourite Jappo restaurant at Airport Plaza (Zen) and relax for a few hours in a hotel room, I will then get on a slightly bigger plane and head for Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea.

I will have 8 hours there and perhaps will get quickly into the city for a gander around, or I will hire a sleeping cubicle at the airport and have a shower and a lie down. I love flying but I have never been able to sleep on aeroplanes, so every chance I get for a nap on the ground will be eagerly exploited.

Then I fly to Los Angeles and hope that the pilot manages to avoid any stray missile testing intitiated by North Korean serial dickhead and fashion icon, Kim Jong Whackjob.

I'll spend a couple of days in LA, checking marine chandleries, before flying inland to Phoenix where I will get serious about eating steak and sampling a sports bar or two for some serious culture, and where one can indulge oneself in the true bull-artist's calling with those in the world who can truly be branded 'professional'.

Two days later, or thereabouts, I will head down to San Carlos in Mexico. Perhaps I will fly. However, if I can find a coach that will drive the 10 hour trip in the daytime, I will book a seat. I would like to see the countryside, despite my abhorrence for any form of road travel where I am not the one on the helm.

I guess that should get me to the boat on about the 15th of February.

I am excited!

12/27/2012, Thailand

I'm now starting to look for flights to take me across to the USA and Mexico. I'm in possession of a 5 year visa for the US, and I can get a 6 month visa on arrival in Mexico. My local visa expires on the 13th of February, so I expect to leave Thailand around the end of January.

There are several options for flying out of here. I want to leave from Chiang mai (mainly because Bangkok and its airport are awful places) and do not know yet which way to go. I can go through Japan (I love Japan), Australia (I love Australia), I can go through the Philippines (which is not one of my favourite places but I can get a JAL flight from Manilla to Los Angeles for $630, and JAL has plenty of leg room) or I can go 'around the back', through London to Miami and then to Phoenix. Once there I can fly onward to Guaymas and take a taxi to San Carlos. I will start seriously looking for flights this week.

I'm looking forward to catching up with some friends in the US and I am excited about buying new bits for the boat which will make the Pacific crossing more relaxed and comfortable.

When I get on board, I will start to put my manuscript together. 'Dancing Backward Through Fairy Circles' exists in the form of 30,000 words of notes at the moment. It's a big job to put it together and there's no guarantee it will ever be published...but, here's hoping!

Cowes week 1966

This is my boat, under the control of the gent who commissioned it's building. The photograph was taken, so I'm led to believe, during Cowes Week in 1966.

I will stay here in Thailand for Christmas and will leave for the US and Mexico by 13th of February. In the meantime I want to visit a city called Pha Yao. I will ride there with a few mates and, following my recent sortie up to Vientiane in Laos, I want to go back there for a look at several geographic locations which were of strategic importance during the war which never happened. Y'know the one where the Kissinger and Johnson went nuts and tried to bomb the country out of existence before leaving and betraying the population.

I have my US visa stamped for six months. The process of getting a visa in the post 9/11 climate has been tedious and, it must be said the officials were, to an extent, obstructive. I guess it had something to do with me going in on a one way ticket. They reckoned I might not leave and seemed to be uncertain about me leaving via the Mexican border, rather than by the big silver bird out of LA.

Anyway all is sorted and soon, I will be afloat again. Yay!

Meanwhile, I have met some more great people at the guesthouse. JD (who wants to avoid the 5th dimension..Don't ask) from Utah and his lovely girl: and Jorje and his lovely girl, both from Mexico (whose Thai recreation involved a face plant from a motorbike). The world is full of really pleasant people. My personal philosophy regarding the entire race is proven once again to be a powerful tonic.
There are only two types of people in the world. There are good people and bad people. Cultivate the good and avoid the bad and you can't fail to have a good life.

10/26/2012, Mae hong son

I have deferred my travel to Mexico for just a short while. I am anxious to get to my gorgeous boat but, after studying weather patterns for both Mexico and the South Pacific, I see it will be best to commence the crossing in the first half of next year. Obviously I want to sail a little in the Sea of Cortez first...and I am now genuinely considering the pre sailing option of hiring a motorbike to ride along the Western coast of the USA, before heading for Tahiti.
Meanwhile, I have met many more wonderful people in Thailand who are travelling and who, I hope, will stay in touch with this blog when I begin my next sailing adventure.
I have just returned from Myanmar. This blog is not the place to talk about my motorcycling travels but, despite the move to openness by the Myanmar government, the place is a backward shambles.
I long to be afloat once again and staring across the wide blue expanse toward distant horizons.

11/06/2012 | Cap'n Jan
Hello David,

I found your blog after reading some of your posts on the Cruiser Log forum with respect to potential dangers of radar on cursing boats.

An interesting discussion, for certain. I am one of those that refuse dental X-rays even when I am assured that it is 'less than background radiation' by a 19 year old dental tech.

She certainly is not correct, but X-rays are far less injurious than they used to be. They are still X-rays and one of the very few things that is an absolute mutagen.

But then, I've had several badges go black in a former incarnation as a bio statistician in a research lab. That sweet little tech couldn't know that, and I am not going to educate her. But there is a certain sanguinity when it comes to manufactured background radiation that makes me very nervous. I don't like being anywhere near a microwave oven that I haven't personally tested.

That sounds as though I am a terrible 'enthusiast', but I assure you that I am not. Unless it comes to unnecessary microwave exposure.

Any road, I have enjoyed reading through your blog posts and will keep you on my 'visit' list! (By the way, I found you by just doing a simple search of your boat name and Darwin.)

Thanks for sharing your experiences - and for your considered opinions.

Fair Winds and Following Seas,

Cap'n Jan
Doublewide #838
2004 Gemini 105Mc
11/18/2012 | David Fidler
Thanks for visiting. The blog is basic at this stage, but when I get to Mexico I will do more. Currently in Vientiane, Laos. Nice place!
Philosophical Dave
09/24/2012, Myanmar

In the absence of actual sailing, (my boat is in Mexico and my body is in Thailand, a situation due to be revised in just a few weeks), I am spending time preparing lists of things to do and things to buy.

Recently as I pondered the things I want to put in my new medical kit for offshore use, I was forced to consider the notion of tolerance within the cruising community. Generally I think most cruising yotties are tolerant people. Perhaps as many as nine out of ten are easy going, happy people who will listen to others' points of view without voicing serious opposition - live and let live and all that stuff.

The thing is there is the one in ten in our expanded community who creates the average. And, I suggest the average is more akin to 50/50 than to the 90/10 which the previous paragraph might suggest. This is because the ten percent has strong opinions which he, or she, will stridently vocalise with a frequency which often motivates the good guys to weigh anchor and move to the next bay across.

Often the conversation will start without any mention of the common bond of sailing but could contain a variety of the following words in some structured form which leaves the listener in no doubt about the coming direction of the dissertation: Moon landing, conspiracy, government, 9/11, JFK, oil, Afghanistan/Iran/Libya, conspiracy, mushrooms.

These people absolutely know what's going on. No one can fool them, and they probably have spent the past ten years or so alienating their friends and family and turning themselves into antisocial evangelists. Enter the tolerant cruising types. Lots of nodding and smiling takes place before hurried escapes are made under an implied threat of forthcoming disaster concerning blocked toilets, leaking stern tubes or approaching nausea.

But, back to the medical kit: A medical evangelist said all I needed was one particular miracle preparation which would take the place of a whole cupboard filled with proven medicines. Imagine that; just one thing, the universal panacea which apothecaries have been seeking since before Jesus was a lad. This bloke had it and couldn't wait to tell the world.

This isn't about the preparation, (the side effects of which are well documented and often include serious illness and death) but about the people who were party to the discussion. Most sailors were tolerant, listened attentively, scattered a few platitudes across the path and beat a retreat. One, however, needed to argue the point. The discussion became progressively more heated and the protagonists were only approached by the 'Reasonables' when someone suggested to someone else that "I'll punch your nose straight through the back of your head".

In a rare moment of philosophical clarity, I made the connection between the conspiracies, the medical miracle and religion. They are all beliefs. Mostly they are without any form of scientific proof and with only tenuous links to the empirical. But, they are beliefs, faiths, things which work well for different individuals. They are like the horoscope, tarot, dream catchers and incantations. If they work for you they are good for you. But missionaries are generally not well accepted, no matter what the message.

As cruisers we are often in a position where our faiths are tested. We may privately prevaricate over the existence a higher being, but we are not so undecided when threatened with peril and stand ready to invoke any deity whose name comes to mind as the next thousand foot monster breaks above the stern of our tiny craft.

The trick is to believe as you will. Believe in all the conspiracies you choose to consider; believe in the miracle cancer cure, believe anything you want as long as it makes you feel safe. But remember, if you become a missionary, if you become one of those streetwalking, tub thumping religious salesmen, you are invading someone else's reality, challenging their beliefs and telling them, if they hold a different view, that they are wrong, ignorant and liars. This is not the recipe you need to use to win friends and influence people.

It's not your beliefs they become angry with, it's the manner in which you berate their beliefs and the refusal common to all evangelists to countenance an alternate opinion whilst forging ahead with no regard for the feelings of those within earshot

Here's a tip. If the bloke on the opposite side of the table is starting to turn a funny colour as you rabbit on about your pet theory, take heed. He's a ninety percenter who's about to cross to the dark side and it's time for you to check your dinghy is still tied to the stern cleat. You can apologise on the VHF later in the day!

What is a sailor?
Hot and wet
09/10/2012, Thailand

Is there a psychological profile which typifies the average sailor? In considering this, one firstly needs to define the average sailor. Under the term, do we include boat owners who spend their weekend's faffing about in their craft, which remain permanently affixed to the dock by ever deteriorating dock lines?

Initially, I thought I shouldn't. But then, I remember a period when my boat remained in the marina for four whole years during which time I visited every few days and carried out maintenance and improvements, but work and other important considerations kept me from sailing. Yet with a lot of miles previously under the keel, I never considered myself to be anything other than a sailor.

Is that then also true of the 'experts' who own and live aboard craft of doubtful seaworthiness which take up space on hardstands around the world, while they booze it up in the sailing club bar: All the while offering advice to people who really care about their boats and the art of sailing and who realize the difference between brass and bronze?

Maybe they're more trailer park dwellers than sailors but, in a perverse sort of way, they are living a de facto cruising lifestyle. They live on a boat, they don't work much and they are always grubby and wear crappy clothing. The more enthusiastic of those encompassed by this sub-genre, will start drinking when they get out of bed, smoke fit to create their own local biohazard and know more about the theory of sailing than do most practical sailors.

The activity which most defines sailors is, not surprisingly, sailing. There are racing sailors, cruising sailors, weekend recreational sailors, live-aboard sailors who don't really ever sail and the aforementioned quasi sailors cum bar-flies.

Is there any one thing which is common to sailors apart from the obvious? Are we generally gregarious or loners running away from, or toward something? Are we people who don't want to participate in the hurly burly of daily life; or who have had enough of cynical politicians, taxes, motor cars, barking dogs, Sunday morning idiots with lawnmowers, loud music and potholes in the road?

Are we just average people who are a little more motivated that the others? Is it that we just seek adventure, or want to travel in our own mobile home? Or are we adrenaline junkies whose lives are improved by frightening the living daylights out of ourselves by occasionally putting ourselves in some sort of marine peril?

Are you a lifelong sailor or a mid life crisis convert? Did you buy a pair of moccasins when you bought a boat; or a silly hat with an anchor on it, or do you walk around with a riggers knife on your belt even when nowhere near the boat.

Is there a significant proportion of yacht owners who can be classified as 'typical'? Perhaps not. My personal attitude toward my peers is to make friends with the good guys and avoid the bad. If you do that your life will be much better than it would be otherwise.

Presumably one typical shared interest is the love of boats. How we use them is perhaps what makes us different and who is to say what is right and what is wrong in the manner we express our appreciation of the object which ties us all together?

Owning a sailboat doesn't make one a sailor....sailing it does! But how often must you sail and what level of competence must you have to be considered a sailor?

Thanks again Fatty!
08/31/2012, South East Asia

It's no big deal to have a letter published in a magazine or newspaper...usually.

I came back to sailing after reading some books by sailing journalist Gary (Fatty) Goodlander. If someone has a positive effect upon your life, it is important to let them know this; that way you go some small way toward returning the favour.

Years ago I used to read Mr Goodlander's features in one of the world's premier cruising magazines, Cruising World. He's a funny bloke with an obvious sense of humour and a writer's ability to see things from a different perspective.

I had, for one reason or another, sold my boat and decided upon an early semi retirement. It was a good plan which would have done most people well, but I missed cruising. I missed my boat.

With wisdom gained from time and with the assistance of books written by the venerable Goodlander bloke, I bought a boat. If you want to understand the brief history of this, read back through this blog.

Meanwhile, I sent Fatty a note of thanks. He subsequently wrote to me saying it was the nicest letter he had ever received. 'Sure', I thought. But I was subsequently asked by the Editor of CW if they could publish the letter after Fatty had passed it across to them.

Baring one's soul to the world can be a dangerous thing, but, the letter was heartfelt and if he wanted to publish, then that would be fine with me.

In September 2012's edition of Cruising World, headlining page 18 is my letter under the title 'On Mind-Blowing Happiness'. It is still pertinent. It is truthful and it obviously hit the mark with Fatty Goodlander. So, while I don't believe the favour has been yet fully repaid, it is closer to being so than it was last week.

Only a minor hiccup, I hope
08/23/2012, Thailand

The process of buying a new boat, when one is remote from the point of sale, or even the points of registration (remember, I have bought a US registered ship, currently in Mexico, which I need to register in Australia, whilst travelling in SE Asia) is more tedious than difficult. Emailed copies are generally insufficient and need to be originals, sent to the various agencies (USCG in the US, AMSA in Oz).

Well after almost two months, I now have an official number for the boat and the name is reserved for registration in Australia..But; and there is always a 'but', it turns out that I forgot to date one of the many forms which were notarised to effect the purchase. The Australian authorities have been great and efficient and have sent me an emailed copy of the form which they have asked me to complete and send back. That's wonderful and I thank them sincerely.

Also however, they require more than just the signed USCG registration paper, from the former owner. The AMSA needs to see the official cancellation of US registration before they can issue my final Oz registration. I hope this will not be difficult to organise through the former owner. He's a good and decent bloke, so here's hoping.

However, dealing with US authorities has proven less simple than dealing with those from Oz. I need a visa to transit through the US, and I want to buy boat related items from the big chandleries in the US and maybe catch up with a few mates. So, after visiting the boat in Mexico, I will need to re-enter the US; perhaps once or twice.

I have asked them which visa I need (90 VWP..or Non immigrant) and, despite the fact that their website does not deal with specific circumstances, no person will answer the phone (It's all press button one, etc.) and all their emails simply point me to the website.

I am flying into the US, having a few beers and a look around, then catching a bus to Mexico. Then I will re-enter on more than one occasion, then I will sail out of Mexico across the Pacific. This means a return ticket is unnecessary..but a return ticket appears to be a prerequisite for the VWP program and no one seems either willing or indeed able to assist me with information through a one to one talk which should take no more than 30 seconds.

It's bloody frustrating, but I am sure all will be well in the end..............

Counting Down
Raining but warm
07/23/2012, Thailand

I can hardly believe I have been in South East Asia for almost twelve months. I have had a great time riding through Thailand. The roads are good, the scenery magnificent, the topography also magnificent, the food is great and SE Asian drivers are, I am sure, the worst in the world.

All this has come at a bargain price. An expensive meal accompanied by a beer or three is about $6, a cheap meal of masuman or green curry is about 50 cents. I have never caught any stomach bugs, although some who are not so discriminating when assessing the hygiene in roadside food stalls have not been so lucky.

I have suffered though. I am currently recovering from dengue fever. It is not fun! Dengue is a risk in most tropical areas of the world; it is transmitted by mosquitos and it makes you very, very ill.

I am now counting down the days to when I fly across to Mexico to relaunch the boat before heading back across the Pacific. Interestingly it just occurred to me that the reason why I have chosen to resume the life of a sea gypsy is as the result of reading books buy one Fatty Goodlander. I sent him a letter of thanks for reigniting my cruising desires and, it must be said, he responded kindly and asked if, in the future, he could publish my letter.

Now I am going through chandlery catalogues looking for the bits and pieces I will need, including a dinghy and outboard. And I am becoming more and more excited about my coming intercontinental shift and the transmogrification from mountain dwelling biker, to ocean going yottie.

I can't wait. By the way, the photo is of my old boat. I miss it, but I am sure the new one will be a better than average replacement.

I'd rather be happy!
06/22/2012, Pai, Thailand

We can spend our lives doing nothing more than surviving. There's the mortgage, the kids, the career; all important facets of a successful life. But living for the benefit solely of others, while rewarding on one level, is not the recipe for a truly happy life.

I have been cruising before. Then I went back to a land based, career driven existence. Now I am on the cusp of a new chapter as I ponder a flight to the USA to collect my new yacht which, ultimately, I will sail back across the Pacific.

An event occurred last night which brings home the absolute need for people to get out and do it now.

In Thailand I met a Canadian girl, and I stress she was only a friend, who at 40+ seemed to have it all worked out. She worked and lived in Canada for five months of the year and lived in Pai, in Thailand for the balance of the time. She had fun. She was mates with everybody. She was enthusiastic when anyone mentioned adventure and she was 'over the moon' when I told her of my new boat and the planned trip.

You could always hear her coming along the road to visit. She was noisy. Happy noisy. And she knew everyone.

She had 'enough' money, friends, a nice little rented cottage with the world's most wonderful mountain views and she had a plan to live a long, happy, fruitful yet uncomplicated life.

Last night she rode her motorbike into the next world. I will miss her and will think of her often as I sail her spirit across the Pacific.

So, is this nice or what?!
06/17/2012, Me:Thailand. Boat: Mexico

People who fabricate lovely things from materials which seem quite incongruous to the form of the finished article, are the superstars of the engineering field.

Any clown can draw a nice boat; that isn't to say the boat will do as it is expected to do, such as float on an even keel with good fore and aft balance. A marine architect can overcome that though, by applying the tried and tested physics of displacement, aquadynamics (hydrodynamics?) and the physical principles which together can produce a boat which will work in a predictable manner as long as someone knows how to get the finished product into the water, as a working sailboat, after merely looking at a set of drawings.

Consider the form of the hull displayed in the photograph above. Someone designed it, drew it then wandered down to the boatworks and said in a Dutch accent "Hey there Hans, can you build this here yacht for the wealthy Pommy sailor"?

Hans obviously said "ja" and dutifully got to work, way back in 1963.
I know little about steel fabrication beyond what I have seen on a weird American show called Orange County Choppers. Apparently it involves a lot of arguing, an even greater amount of horsing around, throwing stuff at walls, sleeping on the job, divorce, and swearing at your kids.

I somehow doubt that Hans used the same formula when he was charged with producing this beautiful thing, but no matter how he did it; he did it well. Compound curves, fine creases and long slow, delicate arcs along the transom, the gunwhales, the coach house and keel. How does one form such smooth lines from steel which, as it is a custom plan, cannot be stamped out en masse?

I reiterate my great respect and admiration for the facilitators. The designer is of course, important. But the truly difficult work, the art, the passion, the sweat....and maybe just a little bit of swearing at the kids or the family pooch, is done by the Hans's of the world.

And those of us who can then sit back and enjoy looking at, or engage in guiding that art across the seas, can honestly say that the artisans who laboured hard and long helped make our lives immeasurably better.
And that is a good thing.

It's in my blood!
06/16/2012, Northern Thailand

People who haven't been sailing, particularly sailing offshore can't conceive crossing oceans. Mention a boat and the first question most landlubbers ask is "How many people can it sleep"? Well, my last boat slept two. LOA 53', LWL 50'. Centre cockpit with a huge aft cabin, two large bunks for'ard, a pilot berth beside the engine room, and two or three spots to kip in, in the saloon.
But, as far as I was concerned it slept two. I don't do well in floating dormitories. I am not antisocial, but gawd a'mighty, give me some elbow room.

Next question is "don't you worry about pirates"? I don't worry about pirates any more than I worry about shark attacks; or getting flattened by the number 17 bus when I cross the road in the morning to buy the newspaper. We sail to suit the conditions and if there is a possibility of pirates, krakens or sailing off the edge of the earth, we take precautions to minimise the risk.

"Aren't you afraid when you get a long way from land"? Maybe I see things a bit differently, but then again, I bet many of you think the same. In 10,000 feet of water there is (relatively speaking) nothing to hit. Whereas sailing around the coast is downright dangerous. There are reefs, rocks, coral bombies, the ocean floor, the coast, lots of other boats, officials, floating junk, scuba divers, little kids in blow up plastic crocodiles and lots of other stuff which lurks, just waiting to snag the unsuspecting sailor.

Nope, give me the open ocean every time. And it gets safer as the time passes, ever since god invented AIS. And let's face it, would you rather be in thirty feet of water, half a mile from the coast with a veering gale stretching the anchor chain into a virtual steel bar.....or, you could be twenty miles offshore, in deep water with the same gale occasionally snapping the cord attached to the drogue off the stern. The thought, which infects those who haven't been there, is simply fear of the unknown.

So why is this subject, in this post? Well, I have announced to friends and family that I am going to sail my new boat back across the Pacific from North America. They worry about me. My greatest fan however, is my father who sailed on dangerous ships in the Atlantic Ocean during the height of WW2. That's his 'boat' above. He's 86, fit as a mallee bull, and he urges me on.
It's a good feeling!

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Who: David
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