28 November 2009 | Bocas del Toro
10 November 2009 | San Andres, Colombia
05 November 2009 | San Andres, Colombia
01 November 2009 | San Andres
26 October 2009 | Cayo de Alburquerque
22 October 2009 | Cayo de Alburquerque
16 October 2009 | Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
08 October 2009 | La Fortuna, Costa Rica
05 October 2009 | Bocas del Toro Marina
01 October 2009 | Isla Bastimentos, Panama
28 September 2009 | Isla Bastimentos, Panama
26 September 2009 | Crawl Cay, Panama
23 September 2009 | Cayos Zapatilla, Panama
21 September 2009 | Escudo de Veragus, Panama
17 July 2009 | Chichime Island, San Blas
04 June 2009 | Cartegena, Colombia
13 May 2009 | Portobelo, Panama
11 May 2009 | Balboa, Panama
23 April 2009 | Balboa, Panama
19 April 2009 | Jicarita Island, Panama
Back in the Northern Hemisphere!
17 October 2012 | South China Sea
Just a quick blog, because it's been a long time since we have been sailing in the northern hemisphere. We crossed the equator today en route to the island of Batam, Indonesia. It has been almost 3 years since we left the northern hemisphere (in the boat) and it felt great to cross back into it. I feel just that little bit closer to home now. It may sound weird, but it's true, especially with the fact that Tara and I are soon going to be back in North America with family and friends for a while. So, with our ceremonial offering of coconut brandy to Neptune, we crossed over.
Thanks to the southern Hemisphere for an incredible three years.
Person Of The Forest
14 October 2012 | Kumai, Borneo
Gary & Tara
The island of Bali was our introduction to the "other" side of Indonesia; the side with tourism, action, noise and [TRL: more] pollution. It was also the side of age-old culture. We rented a car and spent a few days driving around the island. We stopped in Ubud and watched the ceremonial Legong dance at the Ubud Palace; it was amazing. The incredible choreography and movements snapped and twitched and played out to a musical rhythm that was almost mesmerizing. As we drove throughout the island, we passed beautiful green rice terraces and numerous temples. It seemed a million miles away from the busy tourist pack streets of Kuta beach, with an endless amount of tourists and hawkers to match. Though, like all things, it was a must to see.
In Bali we met up with our good friend Jeff from Canada while he was touring around Indonesia. It was great to be able to spend a couple of days swapping stories about each others travels and stories from back home also. Jeff has been traveling around Central America, Australia and Indonesia for the last couple of years and has become quite an accomplished surfer along the way. He gave me my first lessons in surfing and I think I may be hooked. Maybe when we get back to Pursuit I'll buy a surfboard?
We left Bali finally and headed for the island of Borneo. Tara and I had started talking about how things may get harder with her progression in her pregnancy, so we asked a friend we met in Australia to join us for the trip to Malaysia. Chris had some sailing experience and was a traveler and the thought of seeing Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia was something he wanted to do, so it worked out well for him. I would like to say that we had a great sail to Borneo, but as we get closer to the equator and the season starts changing from the SW monsoon to the NE monsoon, the winds are getting very light. So, we motored; pretty much the whole way. OK...the whole way; 420 nautical miles. What a drag. But we have to keep moving.
Anyway, we arrived up river in Kumai and were greeted by a cloud of smoke that enveloped the whole river. One of the major industries, besides illegal forestry, is palm oil. Palm oil is a relatively recent industry addition to Indonesia. The burning comes from the need to create vast tracts of cleared agricultural land quickly. The rainforest is logged and then the remainder is set ablaze. This burning causes incredible smog to form over the whole area and spreads many miles offshore. These massive clouds of smoke can even reach as far as Singapore, causing problems with the shipping traffic. Some cruisers have even claimed that they heard foghorns during the day, because visibility was so poor. It was so bad in the morning and evenings before the wind picked up, that we couldn't see the other boats in the anchorage, even though they were only 100 metres away. Horrendous! I cannot even imagine living there. Unfortunately it is the place we had to go in order to travel up the river to the Tanjung Putting National Park. It is one of the only places in the world that one can still see wild orangutans (which comes from the Indonesian word for Person of the Forest) and it was a fantastic experience. We chartered a traditional Indonesia klotok boat, complete with captain, cook and guide to take us up the Sungai Sekonyer to see the orangutans in the wild, and it was wild. As we chugged amongst the walls of pandanus that fringed the river, we stopped at several feeding stations along the way and got real close to the semi-wild orangutans that get re-introduced into the wild, as well as seeing many wild orangutans while cruising up the river. In the evening we would pull to the edge of the river and just tie off to the palms and listen to the night in the jungle unfold. The jungle was full of sun bears, proboscis monkeys, gibbons and 200-plus bird species. Around 15 proboscis monkeys congregated in a tree above us and watched us as we watched them. It was unbelievable. We were awoken in the morning to them starting their day with huge leaps and feats of acrobatics. Sadly, after returning to Pursuit, we couldn't wait to leave that decimated area. The Indonesians are slowly destroying an amazing habitat. The illegal cutting of hardwoods and the rainforest burnings is destroying island and atmosphere.
Again with little wind we are motoring towards Batam. The final island and where we will check out of Indonesia, and from there onto Singapore, then Malaysia. There are a few little islands that we are going to stop at along the way in order to break up the passage, so hopefully there will be some good snorkeling and swimming soon. After the dirty little area of Kumai, we need it.
So, the engine hums along and the continuous white noise it makes lulls everyone on boat to sleep. It's my watch and I am just sitting in the cockpit watching the night go by. Off in the distance I see the glow of approaching ships in the shipping channel and occasionally there is a flash of lightening in the distance. Let's hope both stay far away! This life on the sea is rarely dull. I try to enjoy these moments as much as possible, because I know that in the next couple of months I'll be back in Canada. It is exciting, but I can't help but be sad about leaving Pursuit stored on the hard, waiting patiently for our next adventure to begin.
27 September 2012 | Bali, Indonesia
Gary & Tara
We had a long sail up the coast of Australia to Thursday Island, where we finally cut the strings with Australia and jumped into another world. The winds were high and coming directly from astern but fortunately the seas were relatively calm due to the protection from the 2600 km long Great Barrier Reef, which runs all the way up the Queensland coast. The Great Barrier Reef was beautiful to cruise through, but incredibly busy with huge tankers and cargo ships churning down the coast. We would be notified of our closest point of approach to these behemoths though our onboard Automatic Identification System (AIS), but with a 900 foot tanker barreling towards us at 20 knots and weighing in at over 200,000 tons, even being informed that it would come within half a mile, felt too close at times. We knew that the rules of the road in this area are: the biggest ship has the least maneuverability and smaller ships get the hell out of the way. Needless to say it would make for some tense moments, watching them approach in the middle of the night, knowing that we would meet at a narrow point, not quite 5 kms wide, and have nowhere to move should they deviate from their track. They don't turn on a dime! Once, we were sure an approaching tanker, with a closest point of approach of less than half a km, would have to turn in order to avoid a reef. They were heading for the reef and we were in between both. We waited for them to turn into safety. The closest point of approach once showed us on a collision course. It was heading right towards us. It held its course and we held our breath. There seemed to be nowhere safe to turn. We finally had to make an evasive move towards the reef. At a snails pace we were inching out of harms way. Finally, it altered course, our closest point of approach started to increase rapidly and we quickly headed back to safety. Finally, after a week of sailing, we were clear of the reef and open seas were ahead of us [TRL: no more jibing (turning the boat) every hour!]. Next stop, Indonesia!
We arrived on Tanimbar Island on the eastern edge of the Maluku Island chain, historically known also as the Spice Islands. Although the majority of Indonesia's population is Muslim, the eastern islands are predominately Christians. I guess it was tough for the missionaries to get to the over 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia. Now we had to check in and we had heard that it was a exercise in patience to do so, but we were fortunate when a local, named Wito, paddled up and helped me locate some authorities on shore; unfortunately, not the right ones. They don't have Customs, Immigration or the Navy present on Tanimbar Island [TRL: contrary to a Presidential Decree from Dec 2011 that states it is a full international arrival port! Aaahhhh I love the third world], so a proper check-in would have to wait. Wito was getting married the next day, so we joined him for a celebration with his friends the following evening. It was fun to share sopi (a wine derived from the coconut flower) and fried fish with his friends. When we arrived, one guy had already passed out in the corner, so the party was well underway. The next day Wito took us around the island to the open markets and villages, which specialize in carvings, and also the small village, which is the major manufacturer of sopi for the island. It was a lot of fun.
As we sailed along the northern coast of Flores Island, we were treated to the rugged volcanic beauty of Indonesia. Often while sailing by a volcanic island (and there were plenty) we'd see large plumes of smoke arising from the crater. It was erupting. What a sight! The days were sunny and the stops along the way beautiful. We stopped into a small, secluded bay along the way and were greeted by a nice little boy from the village named Rian. He rowed out in an old dugout canoe. We wondered how he could manage it, but it is their way of life. Everyone paddles and they start them young. He didn't know much English, only coffee, sugar, and pens. I'm sure they're some of the words the family knows in order to trade with the few sailboats that come through annually. We have a small translation book, so we enjoyed an hour or so of putting together words and sentences to communicate. His two older brothers joined Rian the next day, and the process of communicating began again. They brought out coconuts and we gave them some t-shirts, hats, pens, pencils and of course, the precious coffee and sugar. It was a great interaction filled with lots of laughs.
We finally made it to Komodo Island and were excited to see the world's largest lizards known locally as Ora. Komodo dragons grow as big as 3 metres long and can weigh up to 100 kgs. We found a guide at the park and he walked around with us carrying his pitchfork type stick should he need to fend off any dragons. He was very informative and shared a lot of information on the Komodo dragon, including a scary story of how he was almost killed 3 months earlier when one of the larger males attacked him, taking him down by the ankle and then going for his throat. He was lucky and got away and was able to climb a tree and wait for over an hour until help finally came. He spent the next ten days in the hospital getting pumped full of antibiotics while fighting off infection. The Komodo dragon generally does not kill large prey, such as deer and water buffalo, instantly. Their saliva contains 57 different strains of bacteria, and the ensuing infection brought on by the bacteria, is what eventually does them in. The Komodo dragon then tracks the prey down dues to its keen sense of smell, which can locate a dead or dying animal from a range of up to 9.5 kilometres away. Needless to say, after hearing his stories, we kept our distance....mostly (see photos).
Eventually we made it to the Bali Island area and we were immediately submerged in a frenzied mass of tourism and fellow cruisers. We had escaped it for as long as possible while sailing through Indonesia's more remote islands, but Bali is where it finally starts. We plan on renting a car and getting into some remote areas so we can truly enjoy the culture! Hopefully the next blog wont take over a month and a half to post. I do enjoy them, but damn, I can be so lazy sometimes.
27 September 2012 | Bali Marina, Indonesia
We have spent the last two months sailing about 2,500 miles from Cairns, Australia to Bali, Indonesia at a pace far faster than we are generally used to [Gary will blog a bit more about our travels up until now so stay tuned]. We are now happily parked at the Bali International Marina (which sounds a lot fancier than it really is) but will be moving on to Singapore (another 1,000 miles) and then northern Malaysia (500 miles) by the end of October.
Sometimes it feels like we haven't seen as much as we might usually have, except for LOTS of water, a little bit of land, and some very large lizards.
Why are we blowing by everything so quickly? Well, we're expecting a new crewmember in late January 2013! The new swab probably won't be of any use for several years, but you have to start somewhere, right?
I will fly out of Singapore towards the end of October, and Gary will get Pursuit into Malaysia (with the help of a friend) where they will ready her for long-term storage on the hard. We will both be in the Seattle area for November and then will migrate to Toronto for December and the immediate future. We don't have much of a plan other than to eventually return to the boat. See you soon!
Cairns…or Cans. Whatever.
03 August 2012 | Marlin Marina, Cairns, Australia
Gary & Tara
Cairns (pronounced "cans") is certainly a great little city. It definitely is the launching point for the Great Barrier Reef and all the biggest, best and busiest reef tours anywhere on the coast. The city is built around tourists. They arrive to the marina early every morning (waking us up in the process), board their boats, and return around 5 PM sunburned and a little ragged looking. What fun!
It was great to learn we could clear out of Australia here in Cairns instead of Thursday Island, at the top of Australia. Now the pressure of having to get to the top of Australia buy Aug 18th, when our visas expire, is off. It will now allow us to take our time sailing up the coast. According to the powers that be (Customs), we can anchor along the way just as long as we don't go ashore. This works out just fine for us. Everything that we want to see and do now, is reef based, and we don't need to go ashore anyway. [TRL: Unfortunately everywhere north of Cairns is Saltwater Crocodile territory. Add this to the cool water and I doubt either of us will be taking a dip.] So it's time to provision for Indonesia with the things that we hear are hard to find, such as parts, filters, fresh vegetables and, well, let's be honest...booze [TRL: and chips, lots and lots of chips] too. Indonesia has a mostly Muslim population, and Muslins don't drink, so we figure it's better to load up on beer here. They're going to love me!
We have a lot of things to do while in the marina, such as fill up fuel tanks, clean the boat, check over all mechanical/sailing systems to make sure everything looks good and is ready for a lot of sailing for the next few weeks. We also received our Indonesian visas and got our passports back from the Indonesian embassy in Canberra. There are so many other little things too, that can be far easier to prepare and deal with now, while we are tied to a calm dock, instead of in 4 metre seas and 40-knot winds. [TRL: everyone pray this is not the weather we are in for] Boiling water at a marina, good. Boiling water at sea, bad. [TRL: as if he cooks while underway, ha!]
It's also going to start to become harder to do any overnight passages until we get to the end of the Great Barrier Reef. It's because of how dense the reef becomes, how close it gets to shore in some areas, and the fact that there are major shipping lanes taking up every inch of navigable water, that we have to be careful. Sometimes, it's just far safer to do it like Captain Cook did it when he first explored the coast. Just anchor every night! [TRL: clearly he needs a history lesson - google HMS Endeavour and you'll find out what happened to them while exploring Australia]
We will have spent a little over a week in the marina by the time we finally get checked out by Customs. We also have to wait for Australian Customs to return my taser/stun gun, before we can check out. It should arrive here by the middle of the week. The marina is in a really nice spot, right in the heart of it all, and right next to the Reef Casino. Handy! Thanks to the local poker players for picking-up our tab for everything while we were here. Tara and I especially enjoyed the Gold Service scenic train/tramway trip to Kuranda.
We have enjoyed a lot of the scenery and wildlife while here in Australia. The koalas, cockatoos and kangaroos are really fun to see in the wild. Well, fun may not be the right word when it comes to koalas. They really just sit in the trees and sleep most of the time. Some think that they get stoned from eating all the eucalyptus leaves, and that is why they are always just laying around, but with a diet high in gum tree leaves, their digestive system has to work overtime to process it. This leads to them having to sleep 18-20 hours a day, so you generally just see them sleeping up there. We were lucky enough to see a mother and her baby playing one day. The baby koala was like a little animated stuffed toy. The birds are very colourful here in Australia too, and such a variety. The magpies can be a little crazy though. They turn into little kamikazes during breeding season. They dive bomb, squawk and attack should someone get to close for their comfort. Even walking down the road when one is nesting can invoke an intense raid. I wish I could of had a video camera on Tara, as she's running down the road, swatting and yelling to scare away random bird attacks from above while jogging.
Our friend Kirstin joined us for a couple of weeks, unfortunately we had a lot of rain and wind while she was here (see previous blog post), but it cleared the day after she left and we have had nothing but clear skies since. Always the way...
I uploaded a bunch of new photos also of some of what we've seen along the way. Hope you enjoy.
Nothing Nice to Say
25 July 2012 | Cairns, Australia
Gary & Tara
We have been moving up the northern Australia (Queensland) Coast from Brisbane. We've had terrible weather with mostly rain and lots of wind. Our moms taught us if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. So, there you go.