16 February 2014 | Laos
I was asked, “Why do you ride; why do you sail”? In that moment I answered “Because I enjoy riding and sailing”. I realised at once the inadequacy of my answer, but failed to offer anything better.
Occasionally the brain is a little slow to offer the mouth a considered truth. Once the moment has passed, it becomes of no importance to anyone else. However, the two most prominent joys in my life deserve better recognition. An inadequate answer which flies away on the wind, or falls like an autumn leaf to become an anonymous and insignificant part of the detritus upon which we walk; but which is pertinent to something magnificent and grand, still, can never be resurrected.
I want to give a worthwhile answer to the question which reverberates in my mind, just in case there is a certain latency among others which may be interrupted and perhaps stimulated by a considered truth that has deep personal meaning.
The path which I have followed for many years is unimportant to anyone except to me. My reasons for journeying along this path may be similarly unimportant and have no consequences for anyone else. But then again, there may be a resonance which elicits a nod of the head, a knowing smile or indeed a revelation which could cause just one person to re-evaluate their own direction.
I sail and I ride as often as I possibly can and do either one or the other of each, every day of my life because:
Tomorrow is promised to no one.
I wish to spend my life, living!
It inspires my friends.
And, adrenaline is better than coffee, booze or drugs.
15 February 2013 | Mexico
Why is it still so cold?
The little boat shown above was my first sailing boat. It is an Endeavor 23', with a stub keel and steel centreboard. It marked my transiton between power boats and sail. I had a lot of fun in that little boat, at a time when the end of the millennium was still a long way off.
It is due in no small part to that little ship, that I am now preparing for a crossing of the Pacific ocean. I will be in San Carlos today to step aboard Sandettie on the hardstand at Marina Seca, San Carlos Marina.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed a night at the Holiday Inn Express in Guaymas. The last time I stayed in a Holiday Inn was in the 80's and it was a fairly daggy place with service to match. The current temporary address is much different. For less than $80, I am so impressed. A beautiful room with a fabulous, huge bed with excellent and abundant pillows, a soaking hot shower almost powerful enough, I imagine, to drill holes through concrete, quilted, soft toilet paper (It's important okay?) and the hotel is clean, well maintained and staffed by the friendliest bunch I have come across in a long while.
Also the spicy beans I had for breakfast, and the coffee, were superb..except my mouth is hot, hot, hot!
However, my first experience with interacting with the locals was a warning. The taxi ride to the hotel was about 4 kilometers. The taxi was a filthy broken down rattle trap. The back seat was threadbare, the boot lid had to be propped open with a stick, there was no meter and what I have since discovered was a $2 taxi ride, cost me $10. Thieving prick!
Mein jew, it's all a part of the total experience and taught me a lesson which, apparently, I'd failed to properly learn in Thailand.
Okay time to shower, pack a little, exchange some $US for $MEX and find a different taxi to take me to the boat. I also have some practice to do..Ola, uno cervesas por favor...Ola, uno cerv......
10 February 2013
Say what you will about the USA on the world stage but, make no mistake, they know how to cook a steak! Aussies have access to good steak and mostly it is well cooked. But, here, I have eaten at the bar and grill style eateries each night and the food only gets better. Last night at Black Angus Bar and Grill, I had a 12oz rib eye with potatoes au gratin, mushrooms, green beans and shaved bacon and a couple of Coors Light beers. Unbelievably good! Excellent service and the bar staff was easy on the eye as well. (Well Steve was a bit ordinary, but Brittany, Bobbie and the buxom Cheryl were definitely more viewable than DJ at 50 Satang in Pai).
So, I have ordered a new satellite phone. An Iridium doodad along with a package of prepaid minutes. 500 minutes for about $675. It seems expensive, but it is a great way to communicate when one is a squillion miles offshore.
The satellite phone has arrived and will become active on February 14th-ish. The number to dail is 881 632 612 784. Meanwhile, I have to go to West Marine today to look at dinghies and outboard engines, EPIRBs and safety gear....and, of course I will be stopping into Barbeque Bob's Bar and Grill tonight. (Yee-haaah).
I had an interesting taxi ride this morning. Clinton expounded at length his christian beliefs (and showed me his bible...and asked me if I wanted to read it whilst I was in his cab), he explained the only reason he owns a mini arsenal, including an M1 assault rifle, is because he believes one day the US Government is going to send the army into his home as part of the imposition of a new, national political regime, and he wants to be able to fight back. And when I left the cab, despite telling me his socialist views, he still expected a tip and told me he hoped I will have a nice day. And y'all thought tuk-tuk drivers in Asia were an odd representation of the human race.
My room is currently being serviced by a cliche. Rosa is large-ish Mexican 'lass', she lives with her 'Moe-derr' and her four 'bebbies'...and wonders if I am here to obtain a green card. Also she asks, "Do dey spik henglish in Ous-trellia"."No", I replied, "We speak Strayan". "Oooh" she giggled, "Spik some of it weeth for me".
"G'daymate,didjaavagudweegend. I see we clobbered SriLanka in th'crigettlastmonth ". I replied with some buoyancy. This brought forth another round of effervescent giggles as she asked what I had said. "I was merely wondering", I said, "Why it is that all Mexican women are so beautiful"?!
And that, my friends, is how you make someone's day.
The Big Silver Bird
03 February 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!
27 December 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
18 December 2012
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.
26 October 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.
24 September 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?
10 September 2012 | Thailand
Hot and wet
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!
31 August 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
23 August 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..............
23 July 2012 | Thailand
Raining but warm
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.