11/17/2009, Brisbane, Australia
Picture: Your Author at the top of the mast in Bora Bora.
As I approach the deadline to hang up my sailing gloves to return to the real world, I want to share the small bit of wisdom I have accumulated over the course of the year. Not surprisingly, cruising offers different challenges and issues for women than it does for men. There are many technical manuals and professional sailing books out there for men to prep for their trip but not much in the way of a guide for the woman unsure of what to pack or if she is crazy following her husband on such a hair brained scheme. When I received a couple of emails from women preparing to go cruising after my hair care article, I knew I had an audience (of at least two).
What will follow is a series of blogs entitled A Guide for Chick Cruisers but first I want to introduce myself by way of a few bullet points that will help you ascertain if my advice might apply to you in any way. I am not your average cruiser, the older retiree following her husband around the world till death do they part. I am not old fashioned and was in no way used to traditional gender roles. I am young, love big cities, require manicures & pedicures weekly, spend 10% of my income on hair care (or so my husband estimates) and basically I loved my real life in San Francisco. I was not looking for escape but just an adventurous long vacation and the chance not to be average. Hopefully the following background, as it applies to the cruising lifestyle, will enable some insight on all of my future perspectives. So a little about me...
1. I had minimal sailing experience going in. I had been on two sailboat trips: one with girlfriends off the coast of Croatia with a professional captain and one in the Caribbean with my husband Seth and his family. Other than that, Seth and I had sailed around on his family's little sailing race boat but only a few times. I had a lot to learn.
2. I love my husband and this is his dream. It has been amazing and difficult, rewarding and frustrating as I guess all things in life worth anything are. As we near the end, I have no regrets having done it and feel a large sense of accomplishment. Cruising across the Pacific Ocean is not like a yearlong stay at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora as the public at large might believe.
3. My husband and I are best friends. This proved to be more and more important as we lived aboard a 38foot boat and faced challenges. Relationships are hard work always but living in this space and spending this much time together is like the Olympics of Relationships, so be ready!
4. I love the water. I swim like a fish and enjoy snorkeling, diving and surfing. I love the sun. I know sun bathing has gotten a bad rap in the last 20 years or so but boy does it feel good! I love being on the water in a boat (as long as the weather is perfect and the waves calm).
5. I love fashion. Not only did I work in fashion in San Francisco (the perfect job which was very, very hard to leave to go on this trip) but I also I love to shop and I love to dress up. Being over dressed for most occasions is not a new phenomenon for me and in cruising it was only magnified by the blatant disregard the majority of women cruisers show in regard to their appearance. Much, much more on this later.
6. I loved my career. I loved working toward goals and overcoming challenges to create product that I was proud of. Lacking this kind of motivating work was one of the biggest misses in this last year.
7. I did not cook much before this trip. In SF, I cooked a few times a month and never had a grocery bill over about $80. No one in their right mind would have hired me as a Galley Manager but unfortunately since my diesel repair skills are even lower, this is the job I got on board.
8. I love exercise. I used to walk 40 minutes to and from work most days and go to either a yoga class, spin class, or cardio-weights combo class about five times per week. The lifestyle on the boat proved very sedentary and I had to work at making an exercise routine work with life aboard.
9. I was not scared. As I prepared for the trip, many people expressed many concerns for my safety. It just is not part of my personality to think of all the horrible, extremely unlikely things that could happen and focus on those. My Mom did that enough for the both of us as I was growing up and thankfully my worrying skills never developed.
10. We had a set end date to cruise for just over one year. I knew exactly what I was getting into and for how long; we always planned on returning to real life.
So stay tuned - the Guide for Chick Cruisers will follow...
Pictures: Tobe and Elizabeth checking out a sleeping Koala at the Australia Zoo.
Life has been good lately. We're officially back in civilization and are feeling good about it!
We rented a car, albeit we keep turning on the windshield wipers when we try to use a turn signal. We have a new SIM card for our mobile phone, although we don't know how we feel about being "tied down" again (so don't call us at +61 04 1155 3954). We've been to a real live mall and even saw a movie (Mao's Last Dancer, which was very good, BTW). And we've even been surfing, which has been very convenient to access from our new home, the Mooloolaba Marina.
But the trip of the week had to be Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo. Here we were able to pet kangaroos and koalas, we learned that the Australian crocodile is significantly larger and more dangerous than its American equivalent, the alligator. And we even got to see a few animals that were not part of the permanent exhibit of the zoo, but happen to like the place so much that they choose to live there. These included several wild turkeys and iguanas. One iguana even charged at Elizabeth as it crossed our path, sending a shrieking blonde girl a few feet into the air. It was possibly the best wildlife sighting of the day. If you ever find yourself in Mooloolaba, check out the zoo!
Picture: A clown fish in Tonga. One of the many pictures now loaded on our photo website!
We launched our completed Picture Website today, so click here to check it out... Here you can see a summary of our trip through our favorite photographs by selecting one of the many photo albums at the top of the page.
We will continue to add pictures to this website on a regular basis, so check back again in the future to see more of the East Coast of Australia. We're now in Mooloolaba and will be heading to the Steve Irwin Australia Zoo today (which I am sure will yeild a funny picture or two!). Enjoy!
Picture: Our crew and our 4x4 on Fraiser Island.
We now officially feel like we are in Australia. Where else do they let you go 4x4ing in a National Park? We also saw a couple wild dingo, confirming that yes, we have indeed arrived in that modern, adventurous and sometimes dangerous continent of Australia.
La Palapa has two guests visiting from San Francisco, so together the six of us rented a Toyota Land Cruiser for the afternoon (I know my dad will be proud). After a 32 minute instructional video and a heavy insurance deposit, we took it through sand banks, over ruts and tree roots and got her up to 80 kilometers an hour on the beach (how fast that is in mph is still undecided, but it sounds impressive doesn't it?). In all, it was a blast and we shared the driver's seat so that we would all have ample opportunity to offer 4x4 advice from the back. E did fantastic behind the wheel, regularly shrieking and blaming it on Roger.
Today we motored down the Great Sandy Bank between Queensland and Fraiser Island and staged for an early morning sail down to Mooloolaba. It was a nice motor with light winds and a good two knots of current at our back. We made good time, occasionally hitting nine knots. Tomorrow we cross the bar and head south...
Picture: Elizabeth about to drive on the left side of the road for the first time. Ah, one of the many new excitements of Australia.
Our approach to Australia was markedly different than that of an island nation in the south pacific. Our first give away that we were approaching a new continent were the numerous tankers cruising up and down the coast (one of which we had to kindly request to alter course). We hadn't seen this many container ships since Panama!
But the real give away that we had finally reached a 1st world nation was the massive, red and white, "Coast Watch" airplane that buzzed our mast a good 200 miles off-shore. They hailed our boat name on VHF 16 to ask the usual questions of how many people were on board and where we had come from, but in typical Aussie behavior the conversation was very relaxed and almost cheerful, with it ending in a heartfelt welcoming to his home country. Talk about service!
Upon arrival we encountered a highly professional and proficient Quarantine, Customs and Immigration system. While everyone told us that Australia would be a nightmare to check into, we found it one of our easiest yet. Although they did rummage through everything looking for guns, drugs and termites (and they did confiscate our homemade pizza and popcorn kernels), they did allow us to keep our now amazing shell collection and were off the boat within 1 hour. And since they all came to us at one time, it was one of the easiest entries into a country yet. If you come to Australia by boat, enter through Bundenburg because we found the team very professional and kind. Elizabeth even chatted it up with the girls for good shopping places, spas, doctors, you name it!
My last show of reaching the modern world was found in the Marina bathroom (of all places). When I went to wash my hands I turned on the faucet and nearly burned my hands from the scorching hot water that came out! It was the first time I had noticed it, but hot water was never something available in a public bathroom in the South Pacific, and if it was available it was going to take a very long time for it to get to the faucet. The encounter made me laugh; we had finally made it to Australia and the modern world.
Well, kind of. They do still drive on the wrong side of the road...