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Watt sailing adventure
Family sailing adventure - circumnavigation of Australia with two children aged 16 and 14.
Meet Ratty!
Sue Watt
11/03/2012, Batemans Bay


We see, to have collected ourselves a small and unwelcome visitor - Ratty as we call him - reminding us that he isn't a rodent of unusual size (like in The Princess Bride) but is a relative of the lovable and delightful Ratty in Wind in The Willows.

We first spotted him just a couple of weeks ago. One night as we sat watching TV, Liam said, oh I think I saw a mouse. We were unsure at first - had a hunt where he thought he'd seen it, could see nothing - but then Peter saw it too just for a second and said, That's no mouse! It ran into a hard to access corner and disappeared.
So the hunt was now on.

We have set traditional traps - but the cheeky blighter just helps himself to the tasty morsel we bait it with and eludes the jaws of the trap completely.

He took up residence under the engine at first - in the bilge - what a tricky place to set a trap! But somehow Peter got it done.

He set off both traps one night and then there was no evidence of him around for a week and we thought, hurrah - he got too scared here and found a way out.

Then yesterday as I was cleaning in a cupboard in the kitchen, to my horror I moved something and found - thankfully not Ratty himself, but evidence that he had been there. Urk!

Peter thought it didn't look recent, but still we didn't want to take any risk that he might still be alive and about somewhere.

So last night the traps were all re-set - including the you-beaut one we got when he eluded us with the traditional snap-shut variety.

As the first one up I had prepared myself to say our final good-byes but sadly what I found when I got up was that Ratty had eluded us once more, eaten all the food he must have thought we had put out for him on the traps - weren't we kind? - set off nothing, and quietly retreated to wherever he has made himself a home.

The problem we have of course is greater if he is not Ratty himself but the wife of Ratty and - eeek - eeek - eeeek with child Can you imagine?????

We are loath to use ratsack - a dead rat decaying somewhere below, in a bilge or beneath a floor would be disgusting - but we are at the point where we have little other option. A dead rat, no matter how smelly has to beat a live rat running about the boat! He's only little right now, the size of a large field mouse, but this can't go on!

We have been living on board for more than eighteen months now and happily this is the first creature we have had to deal with - oh we do get the occasional ant - once, in Port Lincoln a spider must have been carried by the wind into the rigging and we woke one morning to find spider webs with tiny baby spiders everywhere! That was fun! But other than the very occasional sea-gull poo and once or twice bat droppings where a colony of bats took up residence in Batemans Bay - that's about it.

What our little stowaway leads me to think of again is the question of a cat on board. Some say a cat would be a great addition to our crew - others say it would be such hard work - we are divided - but having been a lover of Burmese cats all my life - well I do have this deep desire......and now Ratty's presence stirs up thoughts and feelings......maybe...just maybe!



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A year ago....
Sue Watt
10/20/2012, Batemans Bay

Can you believe that it has been a full year? A full year since we set off from Albany, novice sailors ready to give it a go?

This day one year ago we had just arrived at the picturesque Bremer Bay. We had had our first night at anchor in the pretty Two People's Bay just past Albany, and then set off the following morning to sail to Bremer. We thought we would make it in the day but we had our first experience with the strong currents that abound around headlands. Cape Knob was an education for us! It took us six hours to travel just a few nautical miles and darkness fell with us still battling to get around the headland. We then had our first time of really properly sailing at night - our first turns of being on watch. So many firsts.

The dawn broke as we entered Dillan Bay with Bremer Bay lay just ahead of us.

Tying up at Bremer Bay left us feeling such elation. We had done so much, achieved so much and we felt rightly proud of ourselves.
Bremer Bay is so pretty. What an amazing sight to see our wonderful yacht tied up in such a beautiful place!

We spent a couple of days at Bremer. Explored the beach and rock pools. Shopped at the tiny service station store - the only place you could buy anything for miles around, met many of the local fishermen including a recipient of Australian of the Year.
Our adventure had truly begun.

I guess as we remember all we did as we journey from Albany we will feel a little nostalgic, especially as we are stationary right now, but it is quite something to remember the details, the tricky bits and the really cool bits.

Yesterday Peter got to do some sailing on a local, new, and very fast yacht. But with little wind it wasn't going anywhere that fast! Still after a day's sail he did come back exhilarated and happy - albeit sunburned and hungry!

Sometimes, sitting here as long as we have, its easy to forget where we have been, what we had done, what we have achieved. But now it is a year ago, and we can mark the various places we went to, stopped at etc, I think we will be reveling in the memories and the sense that we might not be moving now, but we certainly did a lot to get here!


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Dinghi Dramas!
Sue Watt
10/17/2012, Batemans Bay

It was a stunning 27 degrees here yesterday and prompted by the warmth and the lack of wind, the children decided to drop the kayaks into the water and go for a bit of a paddle.

Its fantastic that they can do that. I watched as they pulled the kayaks up on to a nearby beach and went exploring.

Meantime Peter popped the dinghy we bought recently into the water too and went for a bit of a row.

It was peaceful and I settled in for a bit of a quiet read. I had a cup of tea and then went for a short walk.

I returned to the boat to a curious sight.

Peter was lying in the dinghy, looking a little the worse for wear.
'Are you ok?' I called out, perplexed and a little concerned.
'No,' he replied, 'I might have broken my leg and I'm soaked.'
I was alarmed then - though he likes to mention broken limbs whenever he hurts himself so I didn't jump to any conclusions!

What on earth had happened?
He explained.
He had been trying to climb back onto the boat, using the ledge he always climbed up on but slipped. He'd caught his leg awkwardly then and overbalanced, resulting in him slipping further and of course then he landed beside the boat in the water. As if that wasn't problem enough, he then couldn't get a grip anywhere on the boat to be able to try to climb back out.

He had tried to swim to the other side of the boat where we have a ladder for climbing in and out of the water when we are swimming - but the children hadn't put the ladder in when they were getting into the kayaks - they had no need of it and so that option wasn't available to him. He swam back to the dinghy knowing that the best he could do was to try to hurl himself in.

It tipped but righted itself and that's how I found him, having just got back in. Flat on his back, soaked and in pain.

I was able to help him a little then to get back on board, and we assessed the damage. No the leg wasn't broken - he did have a sizable gash and a lot of swelling - which would later reveal itself as bruising to the lower leg - but other than that he appeared intact.

It was an interesting exercise for me in what to do should he ever, God forbid, ever go overboard while we are at sea.

It has long been our practice to always be harnessed on and tethered to our life lines - but despite our every precaution, we know that accidents can happen - a moment's inattention could lead to - well to something terrible. I have told Peter before that if he goes over he should just wave goodbye. I'm joking of course - my intention is to impress on him the need for him to take every precaution every time - but the truth is, if he did go over I really might not be able to get him back on - especially if he was really injured.

Yesterday, unexpectedly, we had the opportunity to see how we could get him to safety if the worst should ever happen.

We could use our new dinghy - which we chose for its toughness as it will not tear if in proximity to oyster shells or coral and for its stability - turns out it is the perfect kind of dinghy to roll into if suddenly you find yourself in the water with no way to climb out!

Thank goodness for its stability.

There is no way, Peter said afterwards, that he would have been able to roll himself into the old inflatable dinghy. He would have remained in the water until I returned to the boat to help him. However the new dinghy tilted enough for him to get in easily. It has, in my mind, already paid for itself! Being able to get in and then rest his damaged leg was a godsend.
But my excitement increased enormously when I realised its potential in the event of a man-overboard scenario at sea. If I could get back to him I could lower the dinghy (leaving it attached to the yacht) and he could get into it. I know this wouldn't resolve all difficulties - if we were in big seas he would still have to get back into the yacht eventually etc - but I suppose it just gave me one more strategy to add to the things I had already considered I could try.

Of course it is our plan, and we are very clear about this, that no one goes over. It's essential. We wear harnesses all the time. We are always locked on. It has been that way since we began. This is just a back-up plan.
It took a bit of guts to get back on board yesterday. Despite the dinghy making it a little easier, there was no other way that no climb on the rail and up. But he did it. He got out of his sopping wet gear and then it was time for some first aid. Luckily I don't mind a little injury to look after - it looked like it could maybe use a stitch but after I cleaned it, steri-stripped it, applied anti-biotic cream we decided to not worry. Today it looks good. I gave him some panadol for the pain and a nice cup of tea (sorry, I'm English!), and then, not to diminish any of the yukkiness of it, we had a little laugh.

So far only the boys have managed to fall in. Despite my sometimes wearing heels, and despite Erina's frequent but apparently well-placed wild leaps, neither of us has suffered the ignominy of a splash! Liam slipped in after we'd been at the boat for only a week or two and for quite a while gave me cause for anxiety. Happily he has never repeated that mistake. Now Peter has slipped in. We think that makes it boys - 2, girls - 0! And we are definitely winning!



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The Day it Began!
Sue Watt
10/04/2012, Batemans Bay

It has been almost one year since that incredible day when, horns blasting and friends cheering, we finally set off from Albany!

It was the 19th October. So this time last year we were busily preparing. Provisioning and equipping ourselves for all that lay ahead - most of which was as yet completely unknown to us.

We didn't know what we had to learn! How could we? We had to start somewhere and we always knew that the bulk of the learning would happen as we sailed - and despite our desire to learn as much as we could before we left, sailing isn't a subject to be learned on land!

Oh we listened, intently to everything we could pick up from our highly experienced and wonderfully skilled Mark (of Southern Ocean Sailing) from whom - well from whom we learned everything. It would be his voice we heard when needing to make decisions, his voice and wisdom that would encourage us when things went wrong, even occasionally his, real, voice when we were very unsure and rang!

But despite all the learning - there could be nothing to match getting out there and doing.

And so we set off, filled with that amazing mixture between fear and excitement! We were so thrilled to finally be on our way, so nervous about things that might go wrong.

We soon learned that headlands play a role in sailing. We quickly discovered that we sailed slower in the ocean with currents and waves than in the calm waters of King George Sound and that most of our calculations would be out! We learned how to drop the anchor successfully and what the anchor alarm sounded like! And that was all on the first afternoon!

Oh but we had fun!

And we kept going and learned more and more each day.
On our first night we felt so proud of ourselves. 34 Nautical Miles and 2500 more to go!

But on that first evening, as we sat on deck in the picturesque Two People's Bay just to the east of Albany, eating a simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs, I think, listening to the sound of the waves gently lapping the hull and the birds in the trees on shore, it was more than a sense of achievement. There was such an awareness that we were going. That we had begun. That all the preparation, all the organising, all the learning, all the equipping, had all come to fruition. It was like a wedding, a birth, a graduation. We had been expectant and now, well now we were on our way.

In the morning we woke early - after being awoken during the night by our highly sensitive anchor alarm going off even though we had not moved - ready to get going again. In the distance on the beach we saw the headlights of a car. It was Mark, come to check that we had arrived safely and that our anchor was set right! How we loved knowing he was watching out for us!

We have come a long way since that first tenuous sail - we've had struggles and successes, but what we began on that momentous day has never waned in our minds. We became sailors on that day and have never stopped loving the sense of excitement and adventure that this life has brought our way.

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10/05/2012 | colin williams
Hi Sue, can't believe it's been a full year, been a pleasure following you, even though you got stuck in Batemans Bay. Look forward to the next chapter in your circumnavigation. We are almost finished with our work project, we've sold a house so were good to go in 2013. Still got to find a boat though then we go through all the stuff that you went through a year ago
10/17/2012 | Sue Watt
Hi Colin - great to hear from you and especially to hear that you are getting so close to starting out yourselves! I look forward to reading of YOUR adventures!
Yes, a year since we left - well in two more days anyway! We shall be partying as we recall each leg of our journey so far - it has been quite an accomplishment as many of our friends keep reminding us!
Have fun finding a suitable yacht!
warmest regards,
Sue
Horror Movies?
Sue Watt
09/23/2012, Batemans Bay

Yesterday I made a fatal mistake - I allowed Peter to 'pop' down to the video store in Batehaven alone.
We often hire movies - we go down together and come back with a few. Watching movies is something we all enjoy and while there is a picture theatre in town, we enjoy relaxing and watching movies all together way too often to make that practical!
But yesterday something went badly wrong in this process. I knew once the trip had taken more than an hour that something was amiss. The extent of the problem would soon reveal itself to me. An hour and a half later, Peter returned. He had taken Liam to the basketball court at the local high school on the way - and Liam had played and then walked all the way home before Peter made it.
He walked in and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
'Where have you been?' we all chimed together.
'Just at the video store,' he replied, smiling and showing us the movies he had brought home.
'Just look', he continued.
And that's when we all realised the toll not being able to go out sailing often enough has taken on him!
He had six movies.

I will list then for you so that you can see what I mean.

1. Blackbeard;
2. Moby Dick - the two part recent double-disk (and of course double-length) version;
3. The Sea Wolf (the Jack London story);
4. Deep Water (the story of the first round-the-world solo yacht race);
5. River Kings (an Aussie movie about life on the Murray steamships) and, thankfully,
6. Muriel's Wedding.
Do you see what I saw?
I sighed! 'How have you spent that long and come home with only movies about the sea? Oh, and Muriel!' We had reserved Muriel's wedding as we had never seen it before. What a relief that that had come in while he had been there or we might have all found it necessary to fling ourselves overboard!

I have, since yesterday, suffered through I don't know how many hours of sea movies, storms at sea, constant remarks about the superb lines of the schooner in the movie, what actual boat was used in the filming, where it is now and how much he'd like to see it. Thankfully, because of Muriel, we did have a brief reprieve last night and watched some footage that had not a single boat in it! I have been patient but when the credits rolled for the last disk of Moby Dick - the last of the movies to be watched - I cheered!

I have learned a few things I this. Of course, the most important thing is to never again let Peter go to the video store alone! Clearly this is not very time-efficient, to say the least, but then of course it's not just the time he took, but the fact of what he was looking for that is the problem! He searched every section twice or three times looking for movies about sailing - I'm pretty sure he found them all! The other lesson to learn is to see the warning signs for sailing-itis a little sooner. People around us speak of going out on their yachts - ones with a shallower draft that can get across the sand bar at times other than high tide. People invite him to join them. I must encourage them to get moving - clearly this is a man who is missing the thrill and delight of getting out into the ocean again!
Is there a cure? Well yes, I believe there is, but we can't access it yet - but when we can sail again I know I shall have a very happy husband!

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10/02/2012 | Drew
I know how Pete feels Sue; I know how he feels..
10/04/2012 | Sue Watt
Yeah - I do too - I really do!

I'll tell him he's not alone!

Cheers, Sue
10/04/2012 | Laurie Mckay
I can sympathize with you Peter; us 'dudes' can never pick the right videos to watch!
I'm afraid it has to do with that superior female mind. :-)
May I recommend "Captain Ron" with Kurt Russell. It reminds me so much of your situation, and the comedy you must be experiencing.
Spring!
Sue Watt
09/03/2012, Batemans Bay

It seems that the weather in Batemans Bay knows how to read better than in any place I have lived in or visited before! Right on cue everything has burst into life and the days have warmed up beautifully, the bulbs have popped their heads up, found the weather delightful, shook off the winter blankets they had been hiding under and dressed themselves up in their resplendent colours and shapes! Yes spring has sprung!

The bats have finally departed, taking with them the aroma-de-bat-pee that had descended, making our evening strolls unpleasant and abandoned! All of a sudden the evening air is filled with the heady scents of the blossoming trees and bushes around us and once more we can indulge the desire to go walking outside in the evenings!

It seems like it is time for me to start the task of swapping clothes around in the lockers, find the shorts and tee shirts and pack up the winter things.
That of course is one of the fun things about living on board the yacht - the fact that there isn't always quite the space you might have in transitional times in a house. With only a couple of drawers each we really have to keep out only those things we really wear all the time, the rest are still here, but have to be packed up and stowed away in harder to access places - like beneath Erina's bed. Getting to them is tricky - first of all we have to be able to get into the room (hahah, not always easy with a teenage girl!), then we have to be able to get through the assortment of things that accumulate on the beds to be able to get the mattresses off, and that's another little bit of work, and then remember which of the four under-bed lockers the item we are looking for is in. Having found the right one, sometimes the entire area has to be unpacked to find the elusive item. Its always pretty exciting when you find what you are looking for, as you might imagine!

To make this task a little easier, I have the lockers all numbered. When filling them I use plastic bags and write on them the contents of each one, and then, because I can sometimes be highly efficient and organised, I record in a little book which locker contains which bags.

Like with many things, it's all good when it works, but unfortunately sometimes things get packed away in a hurry and I forget to write it all down. Sometimes a late addition goes unrecorded. At the time I say something like, I'll go back and write it all down later, but later never comes! That's what happened in the early part of this winter, and as a result things are all a little higgledy-piggledy and I have the opportunity to do a bit of 'spring cleaning' - get everything out, sort through, pack away (nicely labelled and recorded of course!) making access easier next time there is a seasonal change!

Its funny really managing with such limited space. I think we are doing pretty well overall. Peter has a little principle, which he tries hard to enforce - if something new comes on board, something has to go off to accommodate it. We do ok for the most part - regularly sorting through and taking unworn clothes to the op-shop if we've got something new - and if we can't, well we try and pop it on when he's not looking!

Seriously though, this style of living means we simply can't accumulate stuff. I get tempted now and then - I was very tempted by a cute red polkadot tea pot on Sunday when we visited the little town of Tilba Tilba - but I already have (don't tell Peter!) three teapots on board which is probably more than is absolutely necessary and I actually couldn't think of a good enough reason to replace one or add to what I already had! But it was so cute! Ah - well with Christmas coming perhaps I will go back and buy it for someone else!
I did buy a little espresso machine recently - a little pod-style machine that was on a super sale. My biggest criteria for the purchase? Not the quality, or brand - no just its size! It was small enough to fit on the little bit of available bench space I had! I am happy with it though, it has been a good little addition and has earned its place on board. If it dies too soon I think we can replace it, knowing that it fits so well! And the coffee is great!

Living on board a yacht means that life never gets too cluttered. You can never keep clothes that might fit one day, or that you like just a little. You make different choices. For me this is a good thing. Our life is more simple. We recycle a lot at the op-shop (yes, I have been browsing and thought I quite liked something only to realise it was me that had donated it and no, it wouldn't come back!) and we pass things on to others around us. Our life is not only less cluttered, but in a way more present. We have what we are using now, not what me might use one day or did use before, we only have space for what it relevant in the present and there is something I quite like about that.


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