08/07/2011, Albany West Australia
On Sunday mornings at the marina, well near it, there is a market. It's not a very big market - in fact its really rather tiny - but it is the only Market in Albany through the winter and we enjoy it all the same. The highlights of it for us is that there is a coffee stall and live music to entertain the crowd! So each Sunday morning, at some point, we wander up, get coffee (or chai latte and hot chocolates) and listen to the musicians.
This morning I think it was us who provided the entertainment!
When we do the test for our Skippers Tickets there is a written test and a practical assessment. The practical assessment is about handling our boat, getting off and onto a mooring, steering etc. We do a pretty good job with our yacht, but the actual testing will take place in a small motor boat with an outboard motor. Well I have had NO experience in managing a small boat - and have had no opportunity to get any experience while our dinghy has been being fixed from when we hit it coming in a while ago. It's all repaired now and Peter and I decided that it was time!
So first thing this morning Liam and Peter dropped the dinghy into the water and put on the outboard motor. It was pretty cool and windy and I happily offered for the children to have some practice using it first! When we are travelling and on a swing mooring it will be essential that they can manage the dinghy, but even when we are out sailing, if we want to drop the anchor and explore a lovely beach it will also be a very good thing if they are confident with the dinghy.
Liam was thrilled and soaked up all the instructions Peter gave him for getting in, pushing off and how to sit to balance the boat. Erina had her hair extensions in and was a little reluctant to mess about in the dinghy at first, but soon saw the fun the boys were having and cheerfully pulled out her hair to join in!
Sometimes I avoid things I think I will find tricky. Its not my best trait but I am on to it and most of the time I catch myself doing it and when I realise what is happening I can push myself to face what I am afraid of.
This morning I was feeling intimidated by the dinghy - and needing to manage the outboard motor. I saw the children and Peter having fun and decided to get a grip! So I changed into some old shoes and tracky pants and faced my fears! While I was changing everyone came back and Peter tied up the dinghy. There was a moment when I knew I could quite easily have got away with not getting in, but I knew I had to do it, so I announced to Peter that it was 'My turn now!'.
I think he was quite surprised - but he happily hopped back into the boat and started giving me the basic instructions. I'd been listening when he was explaining all this to the children so I felt quite like I had my head around it all. I actually started the motor first time all by myself. I managed the throttle and after a while even the steering! My docking left a little to be desired - Peter later told some visitors that I seemed to have forgotten where the throttle was at that stage - but I had thought I had slowed down quite well! I managed a neat little turn around a pole in the middle of the harbour and then had another go at docking - with much more success this time!
All this in front of the crowd sipping their lattes and hot chocolates outside the market!
The entertainment didn't stop with me! The children have had the BEST day in and out of the dinghy. Liam at one stage was laying in it, reading as it sat, tied to the jetty, drifting with the tide and occasional wake of a power boat leaving or returning to the harbour. Erina took a camera and stood in it taking photos of whatever caught her eye, and then , as a piece-de-resistance, the children decided to try and pull themselves all the way around the marina in the dinghy! It took them quite some time and I think they decided about half way around that it was perhaps less of a goal than it had previously been!
Their progress was of interest to some of the last of the market crowd as well as all the fishermen who had gathered during the early afternoon.
They spent the entire rest of the day in the dinghy - Liam in particular who seemed quite enamoured of it! He fished from it, figured out how to attach it to the hooks that raise it up to the davit at the back of the boat, and experimented with other ways of securing it to the jetty, copying tie off techniques he'd seen other boats using. We had some visitors later in the afternoon, with two boys around his age. Together, the three of them were a delight to watch, their enjoyment of the dinghy quite palpable!
Next week we hope to sit for our Skippers Tickets and I think I am almost ready!
08/07/2011, Albany West Australia
We woke up this morning and were so surprised to find that it was Saturday! We are quite unsure where the past ten days have gone to but maybe all the storms and storm fronts swallowed them up!
Over the last ten or eleven days we have had eight cold fronts come through, bringing with them heavy rain, some hail, and huge winds. The highest wind gust we recorded on the wind instruments on board was 100km per hr. And all of that of course has kept us in the safe haven of our harbour marina. Beyond here there have been towns that have experienced what are called mini tornado's, all sorts of damage. It has been quite something - especially when you live as much of an outdoor life as we do - in and out all the time! But when the sun shines and the sky above our heads is blue - well we appreciate it so very much! We sit outside, we eat on the deck, we walk without our jackets.
On Monday we sold our car. This was yet again so easy. I had put a 'For Sale' sign on the car a week or so before and one day at the shop someone had approached me and asked about it. The next day they came and said they would buy it and on Monday paid us and drove off.
It was quite a potent moment for us. Not because we had sold the car, but because this car was the last thing we owned that held us to the land. We needed to sell it before we left Albany and while we hadn't been in a hurry to sell it as we were not planning on leaving before the end of September, the selling of it marks our total commitment to our adventure!
Watching it drive off Peter and I looked at each other. One of us, I don't know who voiced it first, said, 'Wow - that's it then,' and we both knew that that indeed was 'it' - nothing but the weather prevents us getting up in the morning and saying, 'let's go then'. It's a thrilling and slightly daunting thing all at the same time but definitely more thrilling than scary!
Of course selling the car also means we have no car! Duh! Now we have to walk everywhere, but then of course this is how things will be for us when we arrive anywhere else, so again it simply reminds us of the plan and the future we are sailing into! Still this was perhaps not the best week to begin a life without a car! It poured every day and while for the most part we can organise ourselves to pop out to the nearby shop in a dry moment, at least once we got caught in an unexpected downpour. We arrived at the places we each needed to go to quite the worse for our drenching!
On the days that the weather has permitted anything outside Peter has been replacing the 'rat lines' that go up to the masts. They were made of rope and suffering quite a bit of wear. After talking to Darren, the shipwright, when the boat was slipped, and considering all the possible options, he decided to replace the rope steps with solid timber ones. There are 13 steps up to the top of one mast and 14 up to the other (we have two masts). That's quite a bit of timber to measure and cut - but of course the really tricky bit is getting them up there! It took several days of work when the wind was low and the sky clear, but I am happy to report that there are only three steps left to go. Peter has the steps all cut but we have run out of the bolts needed - having bought all the fixtures the local hardware shop had! We have to wait now for them to get some more in - or walk the ten or so km each way to the Bunnings store across town! I think we will wait!
While Peter has been attending to the mast climbing steps, I have been organising our wet weather gear. While there was some stuff on board, most of it didn't fit me or the children, and what fitted Peter was not serviceable - broken zips and elastic that has lost its 'give'. So I have walked to local suppliers, sourced appropriate gear for the kids and myself and then fixed the really good wet weather gear on board that fitted Peter. I am quite pleased with the result of my repair job - the gear is pretty costly, so to be able to take out and replace zips etc represents a good saving (which, by the way I put to excellent use!!!).
My next sewing task is to learn how to repair sails. I have all the right gear, but I can only repair sails when there is no wind, so looks like it might be a minute before I can start!
The other thing which has taken up a lot of my time this week, during the rain, has been trying to get our internet fixed. It has been the biggest hassle. I won't bore you with the details - I can tell you though that if I did you would groan and sigh with me - but I am happy that for now at least, it seems as if our problems are resolved. I have at this point made a formal complaint to our supplier and am thinking about contacting the ombudsman but I think I will wait to see what happens with my complaint. It's been two months of hassle and I really hope it's over!
We have only a few jobs left to do to feel prepared to leave - little things mostly - it's quite a fantastic feeling to be so close to actually beginning what we came to do!
07/28/2011, Albany West Australia
It's a study day aboard Argos today. It's windy and wet outside after a very stormy night but having had a lovely sail yesterday we don't mind too much! We are snug and comfortable on board, our lines are secure and the hatches all closed but in this more protected harbour, and on a floating marina there is less stress on the lines anyway so we are riding the storm in a much more comfortable way than at the marina we were previously at. The wind is whistling through our rigging and outside the window we can see the chop of the waves and the occasional white cap. That's all.
Inside, we are all hard at work.
Erina is working on her year 8 work, Liam his year 5 and Peter and I are working on our Skippers Tickets.
I've heard it said that the best way to ward off the onset of Alzheimer's disease is to learn something new - a new language or something equally challenging and stimulating. I don't know if there is any truth in that assertion, but it is clear that learning new things when you are older stretches you brain and memory and that's got to be a good thing, don't you think? Well learning 'boat' definitely qualifies as that for me - there has been so much to get my head around - reading the wind, what sails are what and when to use them, learning about weather patterns. But there was to be more....
When we first came to West Australia we found out while in NSW and ACT you are only required to hold a Skippers Ticket if you are in command of a powered vessel and if the power is greater than 10 horsepower, in WA things are different. When we arrived we were told that since we were heading back to the East Coast, we could comply with the NSW rules and told not to worry about getting our certification. But then we spoke with others who said that there was a lot to gain by getting our Skippers Tickets so we looked into it.
It's actually fantastic.
I can't believe now that we ever thought it would be okay to do without! In fact the reality is that there is so much knowledge and skill associated with attaining the proficiencies to get the Skippers Ticket, that we are clearly the winners in terms of confidence and ability by doing it!
The Skippers Ticket covers all the rules and regulations for boating, rules about collision avoidance (who has right of way, how channels are marked etc), maintenance, safety issues like what equipment is required, radio operation and when and how to make emergency calls, handling of emergency situations and basic things like trip planning.
There is a theory test and a practical test of competencies. Mooring - leaving and arriving are part of the practical test so that's one we can tick off straight away!
For me, the best part of doing the preparation is how much more I feel like I know things. I know what a Cardinal Marker is now and what direction to go around it - no more questions about what that means for me! I feel as though I have gone from being the wife of a sailor to being a sailor myself! I feel like I can handle so much more than I could before. But it's more than the practical things I can do it's a change in my mind set that is really different. I suppose it's the difference from being active to passive - I don't just sit back and follow instructions - I can think for myself what everything means - what needs to be done etc.
Of course when we are sailing, Peter is the Skipper - and it's really important that one person has the final say - otherwise our sailing would deteriorate into democracy and the chaos that goes with that! We sail as a team but a team with a captain! What we have to work on with the captain is that he believes in telepathy - but the rest of the crew don't seem to be very good at it! So he is learning to say things out loud so that the crew knows what he wants! It's so much easier for us all!
When we have completed our Skippers Tickets we will move on to getting our Marine Radio Operators Proficiency. There are a number of different radio bands and some that can be used by anyone - however it's another area in which we can gain more knowledge and competence - resulting is us being generally safer and more skilful in all that we do.
The fellow who we are doing our Skipper's Tickets with can assess us for this licence too.
So while Peter is off at the bow of the boat in our cabin reading and reviewing, the kids are sat at their work in the saloon with me. It's been quite the hive of activity - not silent - never that! But it's industrious and rather fun! However, it is now 3pm and the children are telling me its afternoon tea time and everyone should have a break! The wind is picking up outside again. Peter just turned on the autopilot which tells us the wind speed even when we are not sailing. It's gusting at 30 knots right now - but its swung around from the North to the West - and the barometer is rising again so it looks as if things might improve sometime later on this afternoon.
07/27/2011, King George Sound
Our Mooring Moments - when we stuff up everything and struggle to get our yacht docked - have well and truly turned into Mooring Magic! We are so good at it now that even Erina, who used to stress and worry that we would miss a catch or drop a line, announced that we were 'Pro's' at it now!
Just as well because in addition to the usual on lookers we noticed someone videotaping our whole arrival today! We still wonder what he did that for!
Each day since we arrived at the Waterside Marina we have watched the Albany Whale Watching tour boats go out in the morning. Each day they are crowded with eager watchers hoping for the thrill of a sighting. Each person paying richly for the privilege!
We have seen so many marine animals in our sailing thus far - pods of dolphins accompanying us, seals and several whales, but only in the distance.
This morning however we were treated to an up-close and personal sighting. We were sailing out into King George Sound, fishing lines out, hoping to catch something lovely for dinner and practice our tacking and then our docking when we returned when I caught sight of something grey just ahead of us. I jumped out of my seat and moved closer to the front of the yacht for a closer view - but the whale had simultaneously moved closer to us at the same time so I was rewarded immediately with a lovely display!
The whale was less than six feet off the side of the yacht (close enough to see but not too close to be scary or dangerous). She (or he - how do you tell I wonder?) was grey, a rich deep grey, glistening as she skimmed just below the surface of the water. She dived down a little and disappeared for a few seconds, only to resurface again giving a spurt as if to say, hello, nice to see you, and then dived down further and then breached right along side us!
Our first serious whale sighting!
Actually, when we were in the Southern Ocean a few weeks ago we saw heaps of whales, but only in the distance and at that time we were more concerned with managing the weather and the waves and not so much with the sea creatures about us! But today was special - and we were delighted and thrilled by our visitor!
Later, after a lovely sail out to Breaksea Island we returned and saw the Whale Watching boat put in the vicinity of where we had had our visit, presumably the whale was entertaining all on board with her friendliness!
When we returned the wind had picked up and was blowing at about 18 to 20 knots. We thought it might be a little tricky to pick up our lines, but as soon as we took up our positions and reminded ourselves of the specific actions we would take and their order, all our practice paid off and we came in perfectly despite the increasing wind.
We sat on deck afterwards, eating our lunch in the warm sunshine of a late July day in Albany and talked about how we would feel when we had just arrived at a new port and were sitting on deck relaxing after our sail! We are looking forward to leaving, but making the most of the time we have here to work on things on the yacht and learn.
07/23/2011, Albany West Australia
I'm writing on a quiet and peaceful Saturday afternoon. The children and Peter are out getting tomorrow's dinner - and when I say getting I really mean catching. So far we look like we are having silver bream - courtesy mostly of Liam and Erina with a little assistance from Peter!
Liam has become quite the fisherman - it seems to be all he thinks of! Yesterday, when we went to BCF to buy some lifejackets we needed, he was out of the car and in the shop before anyone else was even undone! He browses the internet, reading about fishing, reads magazines, gravitates to the fishing supplies in any shop we are in and seems amazingly drawn to it!
You might be interested in knowing what an ordinary day is like for us here. I thought I'd tell you about a day in the life of this family when not sailing.
On days we go sailing, well everything is about the trip, so all other activities are suspended. But we haven't sailed since slipping the boat and we can't until Monday when the last component of the repairs to the toilet/holding tank issues are finally completed. While we have fixed the actual toilet (all thanks to Peter) we have been waiting on a new pump for the holding tank which had to be couriered down from Perth. It came on Friday but the installation couldn't happen until Monday. While we can manage with the marina toilets over the weekend - which are only three boats away from us and ever so much cleaner and nicer than the ones on our previous mooring, and way better than the ones that got locked every evening at Emu Point, we can't sail any distance without a functional on-board loo - which includes that the holding tank is functioning!
So typically, if we aren't sailing, we get up when we wake up! Our day is already delightful! Peter and I walk up to the shower and then when we get back it's kettle on and breakfast to get ready. I have been delighting in wellness to the extent that I can eat grains again after nearly ten years of being gluten intolerant - it is heaven I must say! I sometimes cook porridge, or we eat corn flakes or wheat-bix, toast, crumpets - but the thing that's really nice is that we all eat together and start the day by talking about what we are going to do with it and how we are going to spend it.
The children usually will shower then, and Erina it seems takes longer than anyone else to get herself beautiful - mind you I think she need do nothing to achieve this! Since our storm-sailing experience it has taken her even longer. That's because after those days out we decided to give the children a little treat to say how well we thought they had coped with it. Liam had chosen to get a fishing rod. Erina, who aspires to being a hairdresser, asked for hair extensions. She already knew where to get them, how much, what colour, what style she needed so it was a simple matter. While she tends not to wear them when we sail, on non-sailing days, they are a part of her ordinary routine!
Often after breakfast I will pop on some washing. The machine is in the amenities block and is good and fast. At this point the children will be cleaning up from breakfast and Peter generally starts working on some maintenance. Today he was pulling out wiring that was no longer in use. There was quite a bit. Seems like over the years people have added new wiring for things but no one had ever removed obsolete or non-functioning cables. It is like spaghetti in the engine room - so quite a task to assess what needs to remain and what is useless, involving tracking each wire back to its source. He has also been wiring in some new things - giving me more power outlets in the galley as well as installing a wind self-steering system.
On school days this would be when the children get out their books. Distance Education is working out ok - though I insist that they don't put books and this kind of work ahead of the amazing natural learning that comes with the life we are living and so far the schools seem okay with what we have done. Both Erina and Liam are motivated and independent about their school work so there is no stress in it. I also turn my mind, when everyone is busy, to writing - what I will talk about and how I will do so. I have several blogs plus other material that I am working on. I also ensure that I spend as much time as possible reading - making sure that I am feeding my mind with good words, nurturing and encouraging the writer in me to grow!
At lunch time we again all sit together and eat. Around the table on our horseshoe shaped lounge - different things each day - but for me it's delightful just to eat a slice of fresh bread!
Typically, today we walked after lunch - to the shops. We needed something nice for dinner - I was planning on a roast - but also some ice blocks as it has been so warm here today. Often we go out to the post office where we get our mail sent to - to check if we have anything. As far as shopping goes, we have enough room in our fridge and freezer for three or four days of fresh food. So I shop twice a week and then only go to the shop for something essential - like milk. Of course, because we have time, we do also find ourselves wandering over to the café's and have our favourites - ones where the coffee is close to being how I want it! There are quite a few in Albany and in some of the other towns and villages we have visited as tourists! Liam is very fond on milkshakes and he and Erina are keeping a book listing their ratings for the quality of the milkshakes in the various places we will visit!
I've enjoyed cooking since we arrived in a way I have not for a long time. It's so much nicer when you don't get in from work tired, when you have the day to think about what you feel like doing, and when those you cook for appreciate what you've prepared for them! We eat well, and again, together.
Actually we do pretty much everything together. For the most part this is fantastic. We learn from each other, listen to each other, play and have fun with each other. We read, share what we are reading watch movies, TV, fish, sew - all together and all enjoying each other's company. Of course there are times when someone gets cranky, or says something that upsets someone else. Living so closely this is bound to happen - especially at first - but we are learning to manage this too and we know that after living a more outside-the-home life for so long it's simply different to be together all the time. But it's a great life. Even when we aren't sailing! I can't tell you how good it is to wake up because I've had enough sleep. To be free to write when I want, cook what I like, read, spend time with the children and Peter. Every single day!
Yes, it's a good life!
07/21/2011, Albany West Australia
I'm sitting back at my table next to the beautiful window in the back of Argos, typing away, listening to the gentle, soft lapping sound of the water as it casually moves past us. We are back afloat!
This morning Darren, the Shipswright and his capable assistant, brought the huge lifting crane once again up to the boat with the slings open. After positioning them perfectly beneath her they were closed and Argos was carefully lifted back up. The crane moved off and slowly moved back to the slipway where she was cautiously lowered back into the water.
It took about two hours all up from the moment the crane was switched on until the moment when Darren told Peter he should fire up the engine and move her out. Two hours of tiny and sometimes not-so-tiny adjustments, with, of course a gathering crowd of fascinated on lookers!
I can't describe fully how elated I felt to be climbing down the ladder for the last time. It was such a relief! Especially after yesterday.
While at the slipway we have had access to very few amenities - actually barely any! There are public toilets - with decidedly chilly stainless steel seats - ones like they use in prisons! There are however no showers at all - they did have an arrangement whereby people using the slipway services could use a local caravan park's amenities, at a small cost, but I had decided to take the children to the local swimming pool each day and then shower there after our swim. This way the children got in some swimming as well as us being able to shower. On board we couldn't use our toilet, sinks or shower and obviously therefore couldn't really use water much. We did have access to power though so it wasn't all gloom!
The biggest problem we experienced was that due to issues with vandalism, the council has a policy of locking up the toilets over night. On the first night we were slipped this didn't happen and we didn't realise it might. The second night they didn't seem to lock them until very late, but the third night, when Peter and I went over to use them they were all locked up. This was not a happy moment for me, or for Peter. But the icing on the cake came last night when, as was our usual practice, we all walked over to the toilets before bed at 9pm only to find the toilet-locker-uper had been very zealous and had locked them already!
With a sinking feeling we trudged back to the boat, discussing options. The boys were ok but Erina and I really had no alternative but to seek out another toilet. So we hustled into the car and drove off looking for open doors! To our dismay we discovered that the same diligence had been demonstrated throughout the whole area and there was not an open toilet to be found. We ended up at the sparkly new marina where our keys opened the door to clean, available toilets.
It was a relieved family that drove back a few minutes later.
Then of course we went to bed, and I for one hoped that I wouldn't wake up needing to go, but could make it till the morning when the toilets would be opened again.
Coming back to the marina today has been quite liberating! Firstly because the boat has been painted and anti-fouled, the holding tank release problems have been sorted out with a new pump and a few other smaller, but essential jobs, completed. We have other things to finish but these can be done in the water. Everything we needed to do on land has been finished.
It is so lovely to be back where getting on and off the boat is a snap, and where we have washing machines, dryers, showers and toilets so close and just for our use.
But I couldn't talk about the day without mentioning our mooring. We were kind of hoping that 'Other Peter' would come back with us and give us a hand as we had to bring the car back again. But he was away and when we heard from him it was with a sense of anxiety that we discussed how we could manage on our own.
We did some really good things.
We started by talking about how we felt and what worried us.
We practiced throwing ropes. Darren, the Shipswright came over. He had brought his wife down to have a look at Argos before we left and we'd had a great chat about their life sailing with children and traveling the world. He noticed us throwing and catching ropes and offered some suggestions. He showed us a technique for throwing ropes much further - using a double hand strategy which was very useful. We practiced this for some time, until we felt comfortable with it, and then discussed our mooring plan.
We realised that one of the things that has gone wrong for us at moorings is not having had a carefully thought through, and stuck to, plan. So we not only discussed who would do what and when, but practiced it too. Everyone still felt a bit of anxiety, but not as much as if we hadn't done these things.
Once again I set off in the car and waited on the marina to see the masts and tell-tale green sail covers approach. I had readied the ropes - had them all coiled correctly - and sat and read while waiting. It wasn't long before we got the chance to put all our plans and practise to good use. I am proud to say that we moored perfectly - with no stress. Liam and Erina caught ropes, held them and tied them off as instructed. There wasn't a moment of anxiety. It was wonderful. I have no doubt that on windier days it will be a bit trickier but with every success comes a little more confidence and each time we get just that little bit better at it.
It's been a peaceful afternoon, enjoying tea, getting hot showers, fishing, reading and relaxing. And the boat is so happy to be back on the water - looking gorgeous and loved and closer to being ready to take us where we want to go!