Steen Rally

Follow us on our sailing adventure from France to Australia

30 December 2015 | Sydney
29 July 2015 | Sydney
15 January 2015 | Sydney
22 December 2014 | Sydney
21 November 2014 | Cairns, Australia
02 November 2014 | Cairns, Australia
21 October 2014 | Port Vila, Vanuatu
01 October 2014 | Fiji
20 September 2014 | Fiji
08 September 2014 | Fiji
24 July 2014 | Neiafu, Tonga
06 July 2014 | Tahaa. French Polynesia
23 June 2014 | Moorea
23 June 2014 | Moorea
15 June 2014 | Papeete, Tahiti
14 May 2014 | Marquesas, French Polynesia

Sydney for Christmas

22 December 2014 | Sydney

3 years, 5 months, 2 weeks and 6 days.

That is how long it has been since we left Australia to embark on this sailing trip. I remember the day when the boat dealer casually mentioned to Terry that he had “the perfect boat for him…except you would have to pick her up from France!” The seed hardly needed planting and a few rainy days later, we had decided to pick up kids and boxes and go!

The adventure ended last week with our return to the Sutherland Shire, our berth at the Cronulla marina awaiting. Not before making our Australian landfall in Cairns in November, where we had lived for many years and longed to see again. 1 week turned into 3, courtesy of Australian customs taking its time to assess the boat for importation and we used the delay to catch up with the many friends we still have there. Dave and Denise, Graeme and Terri, Polly and Pete, Phil, Pam and Darryl…it was heart-warming to see all your familiar faces after all these years away! The weather was perfect (read warm and balmy), the town was buzzing with tourists and new business projects (a far cry from our last visit in 2009), and as we took the kids around the places where they had spent their early childhood (none of them remembered a thing!), we were reminded of how easy life is in FNQ. To the point where we nearly decided to settle there again!

Once we received the all clear by Customs, we set sail for the Whitsunday islands, where we wanted to revisit Hamilton Island. “Hammo” holds a special place in our hearts, as we used to do the 30- hours passage from Cairns, every chance we got, back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. We have loved it from our first stay in the late 1980’s when its first developer (Keith Williams) poured millions into it to create his vision of a world class resort. A major tourist complex by Australian standards back then, it still had a quaint village atmosphere catering for cruisers like us as well as high heeled tourists. In fact Terry and I enjoyed the place so much that we had our wedding there in 1996. Unfortunately Keith Williams money ran out and banks took ever. They tried to turn things around and must have decided to stick to banking rather than running a resort, eventually selling their interest to the Oatley family (of wines and competitive sailing fame). What the new owners have achieved in the past 11 years is nothing short of remarkable, turning a quaint but by then old and tired beach resort into a world class destination! I could ( and probably will) write an entire post on the changes and impressions left on us, but for now let’s just say that it was a bittersweet trip thru memory lane and soon the time came to move on. South it was, to Brisbane.

Terry is our weather expert and I generally accept whatever call he makes. The forecast was for a southerly change within 48 hours, meaning a hard slog to windward in 25 knots of breeze on our way to Brisbane. As much as I wanted to spend another day in the Whitsundays to check out Whitehaven beach (my absolute favourite in the whole world!!!!), I took the skipper’s advice and turned left out of the marina. It turned to be the wise decision, as planned, we enjoyed a smooth ride the first day, then 72h of hell, crashing and banging into 4 meters swells. We tried to push on, as we wanted to catch up with cruising friends before they left Brisbane, but eventually safety came first and we made a much appreciated stopover inside Fraser Island waiting for the wind to drop. Cruising and schedules do not mix. The final 24h sail to Brisbane was blissfully smooth and uneventful.

Our cruising friends, Philippe and Virginie on Mowgli, had arranged for a berth next to them at the Dockside marina, 15nm up the Brisbane river, and honestly I could not think of a better place to stay: minutes to the CBD by free ferry, a short walk to Fortitude valley and its trendy shopping precinct, a stunning view of the Story bridge by day and night…Marc commented that the place looked like NYC! The week flew by, filled with meetings (now that we are back on home soil, we seem to spend a lot of time talking to finance people), early Xmas shopping, and catch up with friends not seen for 4 or 5 years. “Brisvegas” is such an easy city to get around, we walked nearly everywhere, marvelling at how neat the place was, with a big city look and country town feeling (great for some, not for others…). Had it been closer to the beach, it may have won Terry over as the perfect place to live.

The weather as usual dictated the next departure time, and this time Terry calculated that if we left on the Sunday we might just arrive in Sydney on time before yet another southerly change 4 days later. It meant cutting our reunion with Mowgli short, cancelling a long planned stopover in Coffs Harbour and running both engines to make sure we would reach safety on time. We were helped by the south bound East Australian Current, pushing us along with an extra 3 knots most of the times and made good speed until we reached the Port Macquarie region and ran into the most spectacular thunderstorms. It rained buckets for hours, the wind so strong it flattened the sea, and lightning so bright it illuminated the night sky as in day light! Needless to say that we all sheltered inside the cabin hoping the boat would not be struck (it didn’t).
As we crawled our way down the coast, I kept thinking of the cruising friends we were passing by: REMI DE on the Gold Coast, ONE WHITE TREE and PACIFIC HIGH in Coffs Harbour, SOUTHERN CROSS in Port Stephens and WINDARRA in Pittwater. Australia is such a big country, and the distance between ports is so great, is it any wonder that people prefer to fly! Most of us parted ways in Fiji, with the promise to meet again in the Sydney harbour for NYE. Fingers crossed we will…
In the meantime, we arrived safely in Port hacking and the Cronulla marina on a glorious Wednesday morning , the wind conspicuous by its absence and the sun shining long enough for us to tidy up the deck and make sure the boat was secure. And just on cue in the afternoon, the announced southerly change materialised bringing in 45 knots winds and freezing rain. It lasted 3 days, during which we all were grateful to be tied up at the dock and able to enjoy the company of family and friends.

So here we are, slowly getting our feet firm on the ground. It has been a busy first week catching up with loved ones and meeting new faces. We have hit the ground running enrolling the kids in “proper” school before the start of the summer holidays, getting our boat paperwork in order (for fear of getting in trouble with the Water police, gearing up for the holiday season and the thousands of weekend boaters about to converge on the harbour!), finding transportation, etc…After nearly 4 years away, 2 of them in relatively remote and “underprivileged” countries, I find the return both exciting and overwhelming. The possibilities are endless, so are the temptations. Everywhere I look, I am offered unlimited choices: from food to clothes, entertainment to places to go…All comes at a price of course, so I am trying to resist being pulled back into the consumer society we were so keen to escape, hoping I can hold on to the feeling of freedom and self-sufficiency a little longer…

On the positive side, we are back with family, the kids will resume their schooling in the same schools they left in 2011, most of our friends and neighbours are still here…From Cairns to Sydney, the welcome back has been terrific, as if we never left. What more could you want for Christmas? Happy Holidays everyone!!

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)

3 ans, 5 mois, 2 semaines et 6 jours.

C’est le temps qui a passé depuis notre départ d’Australie pour partir en croisière. Je me souviens encore du jour ou le concessionnaire a nonchalamment mentionne a Terry qu’il avait « le bateau parfait … sauf qu’il faudrait aller le récupérer en France ! » L’idée a a peine eu le temps de germer que quelques jours plus tard, on avait décidé de faire nos bagages et partir en famille !

L’aventure a pris fin la semaine dernière, lors de notre retour dans le Sutherland Shire, ou un emplacement à la marina de Cronulla nous attendait. Mais ce ne fut pas avant de faire notre entrée au mois de Novembre à Cairns, que nous voulions revoir après y avoir vécu pendant des années. On avait prévu d’y rester une semaine, c’était sans compter sur la douane australienne qui a pris son temps pour la procédure d’importation et nous a fait attendre près de 3 semaines. On a profité de ce délai pour retrouver nos amis de longue date. Dave et Denise, Graeme et Terri, Polly et Pete, Pam et Darryl, Phil…quel plaisirs et que d’émotions à revoir ces visages familiers après toutes ces années ! Le temps était idéal (doux et ensoleille), la ville grouillait pleine de touristes et de projets de construction (loin de ce qu’on avait connu lors de notre dernière visite en 2009), et alors qu’on montrait aux enfants les lieux où ils ont passé leur enfance (ils ne se rappellent de rien), on s’est laisse envouter par la douceur de vivre dans le Queensland. A tel point qu’on a presque décidé de s’y réinstaller !

Une fois le feu vert obtenu auprès de la douane, on a mis le cap sur les Whitsundays, ou on voulait revisiter l’ile de Hamilton. « Hammo » a une place spéciale dans nos cœurs, endroit de prédilection ou on était prêt à faire 30 heures de navigation depuis Cairns à la moindre occasion dans les années 90 et 2000. On a adore dès notre premier séjour en 1988 quand le promoteur (Keith Williams) y a investi des millions de dollars pour créer sa vision d’un resort de renommée mondiale. Un complexe touristique haut de gamme pour l’Australie à l’époque, c’était comme un village pittoresque au charme désuet qui accueillait plaisanciers et touristes aises. Terry et moi nous y sommes tellement plus que nous y avons célébré notre mariage en 1996. Malheureusement Keith Williams y a laisse tous ses sous et les banques ont repris l’affaire. Elles ont tenté de sauver le complexe mais on du décidé qu’elles feraient mieux de s’en tenir aux activités financières plutôt que touristiques, finalement cédant leur intérêt à la famille Oatley (célèbre en Australie pour leurs vignobles et leurs voiliers de course). Ce que les nouveaux propriétaires ont accomplis en 11 ans est absolument remarquable, transformant un charmant mais vieux resort en une destination exclusive ! Je pourrais écrire un post entier sur les changements et nos impressions, mais pour le moment disons que ce fut une visite mitigée, pleine de souvenirs. Puis ce fut temps de partir, direction le sud, Brisbane.

Terry est notre expert météo et généralement, on accepte ses décisions quel qu’elles soient. Les prévisions étaient pour un vent de sud dans les 48h, ce qui signifie une navigation très pénible au près dans 25 nœuds de brise jusqu’ ‘à Brisbane. Malgré mon désir de passer une journée de plus dans les Whitsundays pour revoir la plage de Whitehaven (ma préférée de toutes !!!), j’ai suivi le conseil de notre skipper et tourne à gauche (bâbord) a la sortie de la marina. Ça s’est avéré une très bonne décision : comme prévu, la navigation fut un plaisir le premier jour, puis un enfer pendant 72 heures, ou on s’est fait basculer et chahuter dans 4 mètres de houle. On à bien essaye de pousser, pour rejoindre un bateau ami avant qu’il ne quitte Brisbane, mais la sécurité a fini par l’emporter et on a décidé de faire une brève escale très appréciée à l’intérieur de Fraser Island, le temps que le vent tombe. Navigation et programmes ne font pas bon mélange. Les dernières 24 heures furent merveilleusement calmes et sans incidents.

Nos amis Philippe et Virginie sur leur catamaran MOWGLI, avait organisé un emplacement a cote d’eux a la marina Dockside, environ 15 miles nautiques de l’embouchure du fleuve Brisbane, et franchement, on ne pouvait pas rêver mieux : a quelques minutes du centre-ville par ferry gratuit, une simple promenade vers Fortitude Valley et ses boutiques trendy, une vue magnifique sur le Story Bridge de jour et de nuit…Marc trouvait que ça ressemblait à New York ! La semaine est passée très vite, entre les rendez-vous, les courses de Noel, et les retrouvailles avec des amis perdus de vue depuis 4 ou 5 ans. Brisvegas est une ville facile à vivre, idéale pour les piétons avec des zones aménagées un peu partout. Nul besoin de voitures, on a marche presque partout, appréciant le look d’une grande ville et l’ambiance d’un bourg de campagne (super pour certains, trop calme pour d’autres…). Si Brisbane était située en bord de plage, Terry aurait été convaincu d’y rester.

Comme d’habitude la météo a déterminé notre départ, et cette fois Terry
a calculé que si nous partions dimanche on arriverait à Sydney juste à temps avant un autre front froid dans 4 jours. Ça voulait dire interrompre nos retrouvailles avec Mowgli, annuler une escale à Coffs Harbour et faire marcher les 2 moteurs pour s’assurer d’une arrivée à Sydney a temps. Le courant nous a aidés, contribuant 3 nœuds supplémentaires la plupart du temps et nous avons fait assez vite jusqu’a la région de Port Macquarie ou nous sommes tombes dans une zone orageuse spectaculaire. Il a plu pendant des heures, le vent si fort que la mer s’en est aplatie, et les éclairs si vifs qu’on se serait cru en plein jour ! Inutile de dire qu’on s’est tous refugies à l’intérieur dans le carre en croisant les doigts pour que le bateau ne soit pas frappe par la foudre.
Tout en longeant la côte je n’ai pas arrêté de penser à nos amis voileux en escale ici ou là : REMI DE sur la Gold Coast, OWT et PACIFIC HIGH a Coffs Harbour, SOUTHERN CROSS a Port Stephens et WINDARRA à Pittwater. L’Australie est un pays tellement immense et les distances entre ports tellement grandes, ce n’est pas étonnant que tout le monde prenne l’avion ! Nous nous sommes tous séparés à Fidji, en nous promettant de nous rassembler à nouveau dans la baie de Sydney pour le réveillon du 31 décembre. J’espère que ça se fera… En attendant, nous sommes bien arrives a Port Hacking et la marina de Cronulla un mercredi matin radieux, le vent étonnamment absent et le soleil brillant juste assez longtemps pour nous permettre de ranger le pont et nous assurer que le bateau était bien amarre. Et comme prévu dans l’après-midi le changement de vent du sud s’est matérialisé, produisant des rafales de 45 nœuds et des pluies glaciales. Ce temps a duré 3 jours, pendant lesquels nous étions bien heureux d’être amarres au quai et pouvoir retrouver famille et amis.

Donc nous voilà à terre. Ce fut une première semaine très chargée, entre les retrouvailles et les nouvelles rencontres. On s’est tout de suite occupe des inscriptions scolaires avant la fermeture pour grandes vacances, des papiers du bateau ( à mettre en ordre au cas où la Police Maritime fasse du zèle en cette période de fêtes), trouver un moyen de transport, etc.…Apres presque 4 ans passés dans des pays relativement isoles et défavorisés, je trouve le retour à la fois excitant et bouleversant. Les possibilités sont sans limites ainsi que les tentations. Tout autour de nous on nous offre des choix illimites : que ce soit de la nourriture, des habits, des divertissements ou des destinations… Tout cela a un prix bien sûr et j’espère résister à l’appel de cette société de consommation a laquelle on a tant voulu échapper, en essayant de m’accrocher à cette sensation de liberté et autosuffisance un peu plus longtemps…

Restons positifs : nous sommes de retour en famille, les kids vont rejoindre leur ancienne école, la plupart de nos amis sont toujours là… De Cairns à Sydney l’accueil a été phénoménal, comme si nous n’étions jamais partis. Que rêver de mieux pour Noel ? Bonnes fêtes à tous !

« Pourquoi partir ? Pour pouvoir revenir. Pour regarder l’endroit d’où on vient avec des yeux neufs et d’autres couleurs. Et les gens vous regardent différemment aussi. Revenir là où tout a commencé, ce n’est pas comme n’être jamais parti. »
Terry Pratchett, Un chapeau de ciel (Disque-monde, no 32)
Vessel Name: VOAHANGY
Vessel Make/Model: Lagoon 560
Hailing Port: Sydney
Crew: Terry, Voahangy, Marc, Anne Steen
Terry, 71, skipper, ex-pilot, surfer, aerobatics champion, can fix anything, never sea sick, loves a beer, hates the cold, is happiest anchored off a deserted beach. [...]
VOAHANGY's Photos - Main
84 Photos
Created 20 November 2014
2 glorious months, cruising various parts of Fiji. So many different experiences in one country: lush rainforests, colourful indian towns, blue lagoons, traditional villages, great fishing, fancy resorts... And the best part was sharing the cruising with family and friends. Can't beat Fiji with company! Here is a collection of our favourite moments (and there are a few!!!)
1 Photo | 8 Sub-Albums
Created 12 October 2014
Some of the whales actions we witnessed in Tonga, to read with the Whales action post by Anne!
7 Photos
Created 1 October 2014
Whale watching, snorkelling, bonfires, making new friends...One of the most remote and austere destination, far away from big tourism, with friendly people holding on to their traditions. Weather a bit chilly, but who cares???
46 Photos
Created 10 September 2014
49 Photos
Created 25 July 2014
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Created 25 July 2014
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Created 25 July 2014
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Created 30 June 2014
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Created 30 June 2014
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Created 28 June 2014
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Created 23 June 2014
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Created 15 May 2014
37 Photos
Created 11 May 2014
40 Photos
Created 30 March 2014
1 Photo | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 15 March 2014
The time finally came to leave...a month of celebrations and sadness!
30 Photos
Created 5 March 2014
Another holiday within the holiday! Spent 13 fantastic days in Whistler, British Columbia joined by Aussie friends David and Denise. First time on skis for them, perfecting camps for Marc and Anne, loads of fun for everyone.
70 Photos
Created 8 February 2014
Nothing like having family and friends coming for a visit in the sun. Lots of eating, drinking, swimming, laughing...showing everyone our small paradise.
99 Photos
Created 30 January 2014
End of school year in Puerto, many get togethers before flying off to Paris for a family Christmas.
25 Photos
Created 23 January 2014
Day of the Dead festival, a friend visiting from Australia, Anne participating in her first martial arts tournament,...As usual a lot of eating and socialising!
40 Photos
Created 2 December 2013
68 Photos
Created 6 November 2013
Having visitors means putting on our tour guide hat "Voahangy & Co in Mexico", much exploring and eating: ruins, cenotes, beaches, villages, markets,... . I shared Mexican cooking lessons and was repaid with Dutch baking classes from our French guest. We ate a lot of cakes this month! So much sugar, no candies needed for Halloween this year, just parties...
74 Photos
Created 1 November 2013
This is the slowest month of the year in Mexico: hurricane threats, hot and humid weather, torrential rains drive the tourists away and confine the rest of us indoors. It poured for 22 days non stop! We still managed a dive (in the rain) for Father's Day, a day of all you can eat and drink at the local resort for Terry's birthday, and as usual lots of cooking and eating. Just on cue, the weather cleared at the end of the month for the arrival of Marie Suzanne, a French girlfriend. So lots of touring and catching up. Celebrated Mexican Independence Day all month long (it seems), eating black beans and pork verde!
47 Photos
Created 10 October 2013
No excursions this month. Just hanging around Puerto Aventuras, school, friends, ...Sat thru a couple of storms, torrential rains, big winds...Nowhere to go so more time spent in the galley and writing about it!!!
33 Photos
Created 12 September 2013
Holiday month for everyone: visitors from the USA, kids in and out, parties, US National Day celebration, French National Day celebration, Tulum for a night (bliss...) The start of a new food blog meant a month spent in the galley experimenting. Not much in terms of local food, mostly home cooked French. Chocolate cake anyone?
41 Photos
Created 24 August 2013
Holiday Seasons with old and new friends, provisioning and preparing to leave the USA...
54 Photos
Created 16 July 2013
End of school year performances, lots of baking/cooking for school festivities, Marc hospitalised, first tropical storms testing our nerves, road trip to Belize... Eat ceviche, my latest food addiction!!!
15 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 8 July 2013
Lots on! An interesting road trip to the Chiapas region, wonderful ruins of Palenque, green and lush Tabasco, Anne's birthday, Cozumel by boat, Kids sports graduation...Eat chilaquiles, breakfast with a difference.
26 Photos | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 2 July 2013
Settling down and mixing with the locals: kids are off to school, birthday parties, more of Tulum, unexpected reunion with fellow cruisers. Eat: black bean soup!
30 Photos
Created 2 July 2013
Not much tourism this month. We finally made the decision to stay for the rest of the year. So it's head down with school, get together with cruising friends ( they're passing thru while we stay behind) and switching to "landlubber's" mode. Resolved to eat at home more often, back to healthier diet.
19 Photos
Created 13 June 2013
Exploring the Yucatan peninsula by car, to Uxmal ruins and Merida. More of Tulum. Marc's Birthday. Try Flyboarding. Join in the local community of Puerto Aventuras. Xel-Ha. Discover Playa del Carmen. Eat nachos.
27 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 13 June 2013
Landfall in Isla Mujeres, find our way around our new home in Puerto Aventuras, excursion to Coba ruins, discover Tulum, swim with dolphins, eat tacos...
31 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 13 June 2013
Our last few weeks (even months) have been spent in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico. Not much cruising for us, more like enjoying company of new friends, safety of a protected harbor, and relaxing for a while, knowing we don't have to go anywhere for a while...
25 Photos
Created 2 April 2013
2 weeks in an island where time has stood still for 50 years! Road trip La havana - Vinales- Cienfuegos - Trinidad - La Havana. Cruise down the west coast, beautiful beaches, good fishing, diving,... Warm waters at last!!!!
3 Sub-Albums
Created 5 February 2013
To be enjoyed while reading the post!
43 Photos
Created 31 December 2012
Exploring Charleston and Savannah
1 Photo | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 27 December 2012
2 weeks shore leave, driving to Shenandoah National Park: lots of hiking, eating "country style" food, looking for bears, avoiding bears...Long drive across to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to visit the Wrights brothers memorial and Cape Hatteras.
28 Photos
Created 25 December 2012
Caught up with friends, left the boat on display at the 2012 Boat Show, toured historic downtown and US Naval Academy, watched a football game...welcome to the US sailing capital!
51 Photos
Created 25 December 2012
Unforgetable summer cruising around Block island, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard.
1 Photo | 3 Sub-Albums
Created 16 December 2012
46 Photos
Created 17 October 2012
A leisurely cruise from New York to Newport. Quite anchorages, fresh ocean breeze, ...a million miles away from Big City living!
37 Photos
Created 5 September 2012
July and September in the Big Apple. Cruise, Eat, Shop, Walk,...Look at some of our best memories (work in progress, I am still sorting thru thousands fo photos!)
1 Photo | 4 Sub-Albums
Created 3 September 2012
Museums, memorials, parks, bike trails...the most photogenic city.
85 Photos
Created 15 August 2012
First voyage in July, on our way to Washington DC. Passing thru quaint and historical towns, sampling crabs and oysters in hot summer nights... Returned in September, enjoying all Annapolis has to offer (well, nearly), and the spectacle of autumn foliage.
20 Photos
Created 15 August 2012
Where there are some seriously clever people!
22 Photos
Created 15 August 2012
29 Photos
Created 20 July 2012
Shore leave: Make believe, dreams come true, thrills, fast food...Anything goes here!!!
42 Photos
Created 20 July 2012
Welcome to America! Our port of entry, last moments with friends, base for a mini-refit, and our first taste of the USA...
18 Photos
Created 30 June 2012
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Created 31 May 2012
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Created 25 May 2012
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Created 25 May 2012
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Created 25 April 2012
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Created 14 April 2012
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Created 14 April 2012
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Created 30 March 2012
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Created 5 March 2012
40 Photos
Created 12 February 2012
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Created 12 February 2012
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Created 28 January 2012
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Created 8 January 2012
37 Photos
Created 4 January 2012
40 Photos
Created 28 December 2011
What happens during a transat?
40 Photos
Created 14 December 2011
44 Photos
Created 19 November 2011
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Created 19 November 2011
40 Photos
Created 19 November 2011
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Created 19 November 2011
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Created 19 November 2011
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Created 17 November 2011
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Created 30 October 2011
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Created 22 October 2011
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Created 1 October 2011
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Created 8 September 2011