09 November 2010
The first glimmers of a new day are forming on the eastern horizon.
It's the last night watch.
And it will be the last day of our voyage.
Australia is waiting for us just over the horizon.
Today we'll be home.
The end of our journey.
The end of the dream? No. The dream will go on.
Ever since i bought my first sailing magazine when I was 12, I have been dreaming of this kind of voyage, this kind of life.
There was an article in that magazine by Laurence Le Guay, about his voyage around the world on his beautiful yacht Eclipse. One picture has stayed in my mind always, of the yacht anchored serenely in Robinson's Cove in Moorea. The signature 'Bali Hai' knife edge peak as a back drop.
That picture conjured up romantic ideas of remote Pacific islands, tropic breezes, sailing, exploring, adventuring.
A perfect lifestyle as far as i was concerned.
I read just about everything i could get my hands on concerning sailing, voyaging, cruising.
Alas, time passed. Life got in the way. But the dream was still there.
Sometimes i thought, 'ah, the padific has changed so much now. It won't be worth going anymore'.
But the dream could not be quenched.
Finally, i got up enough guts ( with a little bit of encouragement from Isabelle) to pack all my things up and just do it! That was the hardest part. Just packing up the accumulation of years and cutting the ties of land based life.
The rest, as they say, is history.
We did make it to Robinson's Cove ourselves. Still almost as in the picture. Maybe not as serene with a road nearby these days. But the real serenity was inside. there is absolutely nothing more satisfying than a dream fulfilled.
The whole cruise has been the dream. Immensely rewarding. Robinson's Cove was symbolic though, of the entire dream.
I knew I'd really made it.
And was it worth it?
The best thing I've ever done.
Not always easy. There are difficulties, challenges, frustrations. But all far outweighed by the rewards. The Pacific is still, definitely worth seeing.
It's the best lifestyle i can imagine. Lots of sailing and messing about in boats, beautiful scenery, wonderful people, adventure. It's not everything. I do miss some of the things from home- family, friends, and dancing.
Unlike a goal, it's not over. A dream can be endless. So there's no reason to not do it again!
Now we face the prospects of being home and re-adjusting to city life. I feel slightly apprehensive about what I will do, and sad that the trip has come to an end, for now.
It's been a grand trip.
I think Eric Shipton, in his book, 'Upon that Mountain', sums up what I feel very well:
'There are few tresures of more lasting worth than the experience of a way of life that is in itself wholly satisfying.'
07 November 2010
Back at home in Melbourne, we have this thing called Target 155. It means 155 litres of water per day per household. A target everyone is dutifully meant to aim for to overcome our water shortages due to the recent drought and an increasing population. (Breaking news: the drought is now over)
Well, here on Dagmar we find the thought of 155 litres a day rather excessive and indulgent!! Our water tank capacity, when full, plus our six water jugs would total a mere 275 litres. Just a days worth of water usage for a couple by Melbourne standards.
This amount of water, if we are careful, can last us three weeks!
Up until we left Noumea, the last time we had filled up our water tank was in Bora Bora. 3 months previously. We had only put in 30 litres of tap water since then. The rest has been from collecting rainwater, from our home-made bamboo gutters on the edge of our shade over the cockpit, and from opening our water inlet on the deck when it is raining and damming up the deck run-off.
So our total water catchment is about 8 metres square. We haven't had torrential rain, just a few rainy days, nothing heavy. Imagine if every home in Melbourne, and all the businesses, caught their own water! There should be hardly any shortages. (Though, to be fair, there were many months there in Melbourne, that it would rain only 10mm in a month for several months at a time!)
How can we use so little? For a start, we don't have a flushing toilet, as such, but a porta-potti. That uses about 10 litres of flushing water in a week before we can empty it at sea somewhere.
For showers we have to just have a wash down, soap up, rinse off. Alternatives are the sponge bath or bucket of sea water over the head followed by a fresh water rinse. Before the trip I was worried about perhaps feeling salty all the time, but it's amazing how refreshing just these simple washes can be.
Having said all that, it really was heaven to luxuriate in hot showers for ages when we got to Papeete. The first we'd had in six months, and no end to fresh water either!
For washing the dishes when we're at sea, we use sea water to wash ( which is very effective) and rinse with a fresh water spray bottle. In port, we're simply careful with how much we use to wash, and sparing with the rinsing.
Often when we are watching a film, we'll see someone go to a kitchen tap say, and turn it on and leave it running while their washing their hands. Horror! Or worse still, leave it running while theyre just talking to someone . Plus they have probably got all the lights on in the house!
That's the other thing. We survive on two 12 volt batteries, for our refridgeration, lighting, navigation equipment, radios, autopilot and laptops.It's about 1000w for a day. Roughly like turning on one 100w light globe in your home for ten hours. ( someone please correct me if my maths is wrong)
To charge these we need to run our engine or generator for an hour each day. If we had solar panels or a wind generator, we could get away for weeks without using fossil fuels.
It's good to be so closely aware of what resources we are using and also what it takes to replenish them. It makes us much more aware of sustainability, or not, and makes us take more responsibility.
While going cruising is not directly solving the world's envioronmental issues, we do think that budget cruising is a pretty low impact form of living. Low impact on the planet. One of our friends remarked at how good it is to spend so little. That got me thinking. That surely must mean that we are using less of the planets resources.
I know it's much easier to do all this when living on a boat. Still, it does put us in touch with what one needs to live comfortably, and also what is superfluous.
The Last Leg
05 November 2010
Well, we've come to the last leg of our long voyage. 8000 miles. And now just the last 800 miles from Noumea to Brisbane. We can't believe that we have nearly reached our destination. It is quite an overwhelming feeling really, mainly joy and excitement but a little regret that it is coming to an end.
We're sailing in company with our friends on Syzygy. There were many boats waiting in Noumea for a good weather window to sail to Australia, but most had more time, or a different view of the weather synopsis, and wanted to wait. Everyone seemed concerned about a trough lurking halfway between Australia and New caledonia. Not so, Syzygy and us. We agreed that the weather outlook was acceptable so we did some last minute stocking up of fine French wine and cheeses, and we're on our way. We've found it much better, and less worrying to make our own decisions on the weather rather than to listen to everyone's opinion. We just gather as much information as we can, and take our own responsibility.
The wind was quite a bit lighter than expected yesterday but from the expected northerly direction. We were expected a wind change to the SE but it snuck up on us out of the darkness. The night was pitch black, with no moon and heavy cloud cover. Actually very pleasant sailing in a nice breeze. But then, a blacker patch of black started raining on us. Then heavier, and before we knew it the wind had turned to come from straight ahead of us, and the rain torrential. So followed a night of sail furling and unfurling. Wind, no wind. Confused left-over seas and lots of motoring.
We lost Syzygy in the darkness but as dawn broke we were able to make out their sails about a mile distant. It's quite nice to have company out here for a change.
The sky is starting to clear now, at noon on the second day. It's hard to concentrate on reading because there's these magnificent birds flying around. ( I wish I knew what they were called. Next time we must take a Bird book with us). Dark brown and moderate size, they are masters of their domain. Flying with wing tips down, they skim the surface of the waves, seeming to ride the wind pressure wave on the wave faces. They can fly for long distances into the wind without a flap in their wings. Endlessly glide along the faces and then scoop up and over one and swoop back down for another hair's breadth ride over the surface. Sometimes they'll bank a sharp turn with one wing tip tracing the water, just like a speed skater will run his fingertips on the ice to measure his turn. I can spend hours, watching them in awe and fascination.
26 October 2010
James and Isabelle
We arrived at the island of Tanna, in Vanuatu, after a three day sail from Fiji. We had two days of beautiful sailing in calm seas, spinnaker up, sunny days and moonlit nights. Then, after a period of calm, the wind started building and the last 24 hours was fairly rough but quick.
Tanna is an island down near the bottom of the chain of islands that make up Vanuatu. Captain Cook, in the Resolution, came here to the bay we anchored at, Port Resolution.
The island is one of the most primitive we have seen. The villagers nearly all live in thatched huts still. Oddly though, many have mobile phones ,having made the leap straight from no phones to mobile phones, skipping land lines in the middle. Huge Banyan trees dominate the forests with sprawling branches and canopies, and endless root systems shooting down from the branches. They reminded us of the trees in the film Avatar. The Island is known for having one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world and at Port Resolution the villagers were able to cook some of their food in the hot springs, boiling eggs, yam and other vegetables.
We came here mainly to see the Volcano 'Yasur'. We went at dusk yesterday. It's about 350m above sea level. We drove most of the way and then it was a short walk to the rim. As we were climbing up, there was a deep rumble in the earth below and we saw a rock flying out sideways from the top! Walking up towards the crater, the earth was strewn with boulders which had been spat out at an earlier stage, just a little disconcerting. It was all black sand/dirt and rock, desolate. Like you'd imagine the moon to be.
Standing on the rim, we watched smoke billowing up and then heard a roar like a jet engine followed by a boom, felt a shock wave and then a shower of molten rock came flying up from the central crater. Enormous amounts of lava would fly high into the air, and we saw big, glowing blobs of it separating in mid-air like toffee on a confectionary hook. It was incredibly spectacular. Awe inspiring. The sonic shock waves kept hitting every 30 seconds or so. Sometimes it was quiet for a while and then there'd be a great big rumble, boom and a huge explosion. Sometimes a mushroom cloud of ash would drift towards us causing our throats and eyes to sting with sulfur.
Our local guide told us that they rate the activity of the volcano on a 1 to 5 scale and the day we went was a 2. He said if it had been a three, we wouldn't have been able to go.
We just kept thinking, we would never be allowed to do this if it were in Australia. The guide told us of a number of tourists who had been killed visiting the volcano. One just last year.
As it got darker it became even more spectacular. The best fireworks show we've ever seen.
19 October 2010 | Somewhere between Fiji and Vanuatu
The first time I got really bad sea-sickness was last year when we made an attempt for the Galapagos, planning to cross the Pacific in all of five months. There was no wind on the west coast of the Americas and we were being thrown all over the place by the swell just outside of Panama. I was violently ill. It was horrible. Jamie couldn't stand to see me so sick and so he turned the boat around and took me to land. We headed up the coast of Panama planning to cross the Pacific next year when there would be better winds in the ITCZ.
This year we made the leap and all went well. I tried taking Kwell tablets but found they made me even sicker. I was sick for the first three days of our crossing but only mildly.
Between Central America and the Tuamotus there weren't any completely protected anchorages and so going to sea again wasn't such a big deal for me because my body was already acclimatized to the rolling motion of the waves. But as soon as we began to anchor within the lagoon protected anchorages, I began to get sick when we left them.
It was in the Society Islands that I began to dread going to sea. The thing is, it's not just the sea-sickness you have to deal with but also lack of sleep. We keep watch so that someone can always tend to the sails if there is a change of wind but more importantly to prevent collision with another vessel, mostly cargo ships.
We usually do three hours on, three off during the night and it can be rather tiring on the body. Sleeping is one of those things that I love doing but am dreadful at. So even if we say we are getting three hours sleep, I tend not to fall asleep for at least the first hour, and thereafter there is so much motion that I sleep only lightly.
Jamie on the other hand can fall asleep when he chooses to and doesn't get in the least bit sea-sick. Lucky him but lucky me too for having such a travel companion. But of course these aren't the only things that make him a great companion, he is also an extremely skilled sailor, fun company and when at sea he has a glow to him which I am convinced comes from the fact that he is doing exactly what he has always wanted to do. His date scones are also a plus.
Anyway, although I kept telling myself that all these wonderful places are worth getting a little sick for, I couldn't escape the feeling of dread at going to sea as my sea sickness was getting worse.
I told Jamie of this and he suggested I try some different drugs. So I did. In Fiji I bought some tablets called 'sea-legs', active ingredient 'Meclozine Hydrochloride' and lem'me tell you, it works!
This passage is going splendidly and I have not barfed over the side once.
The moral of this story, Take more drugs.
Eyes Wide Shut
14 October 2010
How sad. That's what I thought when I realised that I've become a blasé traveller. I'm really too well travelled. I often don't batter an eyelid when something happens that (in consideration of where I come from and my native culture) I really should find strange, hilarious or at least amusing.
Here in Fiji, I have made a conscious effort to be a normal Australian in a foreign land and I have two stories and one photo to show for it.
I go to the shop to buy some weet-bix and tokens for the washing machines. I approch the counter with the weet-bix and stand there waiting to be served. The lady is two feet away and facing me but she does not look up from her book. She has dark skin, short black frizzy hair and like most over 50 Fijian women she is wearing a traditional looking dress. She has served me the past few days with a smile but not today. I'm still waiting. 20 seconds later I say "Hi". She keeps reading for a few seconds then looks up at me with a frustrated face and says "I'm nearly finished! What did you want?" I tell her I would like three washing tokens and to pay for the weet-bix. She begins to rummage around in a drawer. "You know, I am nearly at the end of my book but no-one will let me finish!" "Customers can be a real nuisance" I remind her. She looks up at me and shakes her head. "There is a girl who saw the dead body of a man. The dead man had been killed by another man who the girl happens to run into and this man knows that the girl is the only one who knows the man is dead so he tells her to go into the barn. When she is in there he locks it and lights it on fire. There are some little kittens and she puts them in a bag to protect them from the smoke and is looking for a way out and then you come and ask me for some washing tokens!" I can't help but laugh "I'm so sorry". She holds up the cover of the crime novel for me to see, puts the tokens on the table, takes my money, says thankyou, sits down and opens her book.
I am in a shop wandering around quite aimlessly. I happened to be walking past a stand of lipstick when a shop assistant pounces on me. She is Indian with a strong accent and is wearing a sari "I think this colour would suit you" she holds up probably my least favourite colour, which is a pale vomit pink. I find it hard to hide my disgust but she doesn't notice, in fact she looks encouraged. "Yes" she nods, looking at me in a quizzical manner and I can see the artist is born and there will be no stopping her now. She picks up a black pencil "You see this" she asks. "Quite clearly" I wearily reply. "Well, you can use this to draw your eyebrows on with!" I look at the pencil, then at her. "But... I already have eyebrows!" I am truly puzzled. She looks at me and lets out a high pitched laugh "Oh no, those won't do, they are the wrong shape! You need to shave them off and draw them back on with this pencil. I have a friend who can shave them off for you if you like". I look at her and I'm lost for words. To my horror she goes to pick up some other cosmetic, but before she says another word I've realised that I'm late for lunch and have left the shop.