Monday April 16th 2012
This page is dedicated to the documentation of my sailing adventures along the pacific coast of Central America. During these last few days while my surrounds are still snow capped mountains and I sleep in a big bed on unmoving, solid ground, use a stable toilet, take hot, fresh water showers, and walk away from others when I choose, I make final preparations to begin an adventure into a different world and reality. It is hard to prepare for the unknown.
I am curious once removing so many of life’s norms what will come forth in my mind, body and soul. How I will be challenged and what growth that challenge will bring? I find it interesting to consider that a new adventure for me is actually an old adventure for mankind. From Columbus’ sailing explorations and discovery of new lands in the 1400’s, to my heritage as a white Australian, a country settled by convicts who spent 8 months below deck on ships from England, to my parents meeting and courting through a Sydney yacht club, with the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race perhaps sealing the deal. Ocean sailing is well old, solid, explored, yet an exciting new adventure for me. I am sure I was destined to have a passion for the ocean when my father took my mother, heavily pregnant with me on a day trip across Botany Bay in a speed boat. The water was calm on the way out, but the weather picked up and the waves got huge and rough. My mother said all she wanted was to get off that boat, but there was no getting off. The next day I made my entrance into the world. Perhaps I am more prepared than I realise. I’ll keep you posted.
April 20th 2012
Here begins my adventures with the Bird of Dawning. Today has been a day of contrasts. The damp, misty mountains with a covering of fresh snow lining the drive out of Revelstoke, a heart felt goodbye with my love who I miss already, a sleepy flight, to landing in the hot desert of Mexico. The shuttle from the airport to Cabo San Lucas, first stop the beer store; drinking on the streets and in vehicles seems to be highly encouraged. After some wandering of the biggest boat marina I’ve seen in my life I eventually found the 40ft yacht, my new home. Cabo is a strange place, completely tailored to the wealthy tourist and their money. Enormous resort hotels, an abundance of large boats, nightclubs, designer stores and flashing lights so bright they completely hide the reality and lives of the locals for whom this is home. There is a very distinct divide that has me feeling a little uneasy. The hole that is my bed is 4 foot wide, 5 long and 2 high, shared with another person and most of our belongings. I’m glad she is a best friend already. I look forward to our departure, but also realise I should appreciate the land, people, toilets and shops while they still exist in my reality. Goal number one of the journey: floss my teeth everyday. Day one: success.
April 21st 2012
My first night on the Bird, I drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night. We’ve decided to stay at the marina another night to make final preparations, and provision the boat. I had been concerned about my potential lack of nutrition, but I was proved very wrong today with our massive shop of predominantly fresh fruit and veg. I am very excited to be eating tropical fruit in tropical weather. It is hot; it will take me a few days to acclimatize, but swimming in the warm ocean surely helped. The extent of the massive hotels, malls and boats continues to blow me away, however the local people wear big smiles and kind hearts. I flossed early today, and have decided to attempt to let go of a habit as I take up a new one. Goal number two: Stop drinking coffee.
April 22nd 2012
Slept much better, feeling comfortable in my new home. This morning we’ve finished the final touches on the boat work, sanding and painting, our food stocks are full and we’ve collected water and fuel. It is time to let go of land, and head out to sea. Weeeeeee. I hope my instinctive twitch to check my non-existent phone leaves me soon.
April 23rd 2012
We set sail today – so much new adventure and excitement for me. We anchored just outside the marina last night in Lover’s Bay, where we were able to swim to a gorgeous beach, relax and enjoy the calm waters, yet were still amongst the noise and lights of Cabo.
I started the morning with a solid yoga practice on deck, and interesting twist to have to account for waves and rocking, but I was surprised how much I was able to do. A swim along the beach, a pluck of the guitar, some reading time and we were off. We sailed straight off the anchor and I got a quick lesson in halyards, sheets, mainsail and staysail. As we passed the point of Lovers Bay we said goodbye to land, people, phones, internet and the rest of land life heading south east to open seas.
The wind and swell picked up real quick and I was instantly thrown into fear, a little anxiety and a whole load of excitement – just what I was looking for. With a few sail adjustments we set course, and the wind behind us made for easy sailing. The wind was decent and the swell reasonable, but with nothing for me to gauge it against, it is hard to classify, but enough to evoke fear, so in my reality right now, that is big. I think I’ll find my sailing feet/balance pretty quickly, I feel it is engrained in me from my childhood. No seasickness up on deck but as I sit below now writing this I certainly feel a little queasy. Within half an hour of setting sail I saw two sharks, one swam right under my feet as I was up the bow (front) of the boat, and a breaching whale shortly after. Add that to the seals, flying stingrays, pelicans, fish and in Cabo, and I’d say the wildlife thus far has been abundant. So the schedule of my new life is this. Four people on board, we each do 3 hour watch shifts, as we are traveling 24 hours a day. My shifts are 6 till 9 in the morning and evening. At this early stage being a watch feels quite the responsibility for a novice on day one, but I’m very thankful for BJ, our trusty auto navigator, who does most of the work, we watch out of boats (and dolphins). On my first watch, as the sun set, the land disappeared, stars, one by one filled the sky the waves began to loose a little intensity as I could no longer see them. I sat on deck alone I thought, “Where on earth am I?” Now I must floss, and sleep.
April 24th 2012
My small amount of writing below deck last night sent me straight into a physical understanding of nausea and not being able to get off. My stomach felt weak – like something inside was trying to get out, yet it was still deciding whether it should exit the top or bottom of my body, the boat rocked like crazy. My flossing was my fastest yet as I raced to lie down hoping the feeling would disappear. I had flashing memories as I lay in my small hole in the bow of the boat, bouncing up and down, rolling side to side, the noise of ropes whipping and waves thrashing against the hull, of my childhood car sickness. I would sit silently and breathe deeply in the hope the feeling would go away, not wanting to be an inconvenience to my family. But I knew I only had to say “I feel sick” and in an instant the car would stop and I’d be out and safe, it was easy. There are no magic words to get me out of this, no getting off, I’m in all the way. I closed my eyes and willed myself to sleep. I dosed in and out of consciousness through the next three watch shifts, the intense sounds of changing winds, waves, ropes and sails intertwining amongst my crazy dreams. As I was woken at 6 am for my morning shift, we started the engine as the wind had dropped off and I happily moved on deck to a beautiful sunrise.
Pretty nice to have the sunrise and sun set both over the water. I still felt a little queasy earlier this morning, but it has fortunately since passed. We’ll see how I go when the weather picks up again. I’m happily nourished on our diet of tropical fruit and salads. We’re had no bites on our fishing lines as yet, just a few flying fish leaping into the cockpit, pity they are two small to eat. So time between watch is spent staring out to sea, sharing stories, deck yoga when calm, writing, reading, although the rocking of the boat tends to knock me to sleep when I read. I think I’ve had four mini naps today, which is perfect cause I have nowhere to be. Starring out to the endless sea brings me an amazing feeling of contentment, like the whole world has disappeared, and that is okay. We are on course for some small, uninhabited islands off the coast of Mexico, which we should hopefully reach tomorrow some time, but right now I feel as if I’d be content to never see land again. I have no doubt that feeling will change.
April 25th 2012
I woke for morning watch from a dream in which I was desperately trying to find a parking spot for my car in the busy city for my three hour shift, but all the spots were two hours or less and I didn’t want a fine. As I rubbed my eyes and stepped on deck I was greeted with calm seas, vast expansive water, dolphins playing and the sun rising.
I was very happy to be awake in reality rather than in the dream world. I utilized the calm water to do a nice slow yoga practice on deck with my only distraction being dolphins jumping, seals rolling, stingrays flying – such beauty. The sight of islands on the horizon didn’t excite me the way it might after weeks at sea, but we enjoyed checking them out as we passed by.
There appeared to be some buildings and vehicles visible through the binoculars on one of the islands, which we found interesting as we were under the impression they were not inhabited. We all had guesses as to what was there, and we’re all a little shocked to see a boat coming our way with flashing red and blue lights. After 2 days of seeing nothing but ocean, a boat carrying camouflage dressed Mexicans shouldering guns coming our way was not the first sign of life I expected to see. They approached, told us to stop so we pulled the sails down. One jumped on boat and in an interesting mix of Spanish English we were informed we were in protected waters, and illegally there. They check our paperwork, searched the boat, while we tried to make jokes to ease the tension. Apparently the island is a maximum-security Mexican prison, probably not a place we want to get too close to. We were told to stay 12 miles off shore as they watched us sail back out to sea.
Lucky we didn’t drop anchor and swim ashore like we had initially planned. Ahhh the unexpected adventures. We are now in route to Puerto Vallarta on the Mexico mainland, hoping to find waves. The current lack of wind and swell perhaps suggests we won’t.
26th April 2012
We arrived to Punta Mita this morning, hoping to find waves. Alas nothing. So we headed south to Puerto Vallarta. Navigating a marina full of massive luxury yachts is quite the challenge after seeing nothing but ocean for 3 days, (apart from our authority encounter). We filled up with fuel – light winds has meant we’ve motored a bit that last day or two -got ice, a cold beer, and found a birth to tie up to. Stepping onto solid ground is a very strange sensation. For the last two hours it is as if the whole world is rocking. And as for the people, shops and real world….sensory overload. We are staying here the night then heading back out to sea. From hear heading south, perhaps all the way to Nicaragua, so we may not hit land again for a few weeks.
April 27th 2012
Twenty-four hours in port was plenty for me. If it hadn’t have been for the persistent rocking of the land I may have desired longer, but feeling that the whole world is swaying back and forth is very distracting and slightly nauseating. I did however find the land rocking slightly relieved after drinking a cold beer, it all must be linked to the balance center of the brain. Arriving at a new place is different on a boat to the norm of car, bus or air travel. Firstly the challenges of finding a marina, then where to dock, maybe throw out an anchor? Once onshore, others in the marina are friendly and helpful, and locals treat you with a lesser desire to try to constantly sell to you when they realise you came off a small boat and probably don’t have much money. They interact more with a curiosity about your insanity. We caught up on land life necessities like laundry, internet (yes mum, I’m alive), fish tacos and showering. It wonderful to have a fresh water shower, but being sweaty and sticky again five minutes later in the heat, made the whole experience seem somehow futile. Interacting with other people has a new element of excitement, particularly practicing my Spanish. The locals in Puerto Vallarta were all lovely, and despite being quite a touristy place, most of the tourists were Mexican, and the lack of other tourists made for good bargaining options. While the boys worked on the boat, Jo and I decided we should check out the nightlife, experiencing sensory overload with the many bars and clubs. We somehow felt more comfortable sitting outside watching the masses of young women negotiate the cobble stone streets in very high heels and very short skirts (I don’t get much of that in Revelstoke or at sea)– some more competent than others, all amusing. Falling asleep in the marina was a little more challenging, without the sounds of banging waves and ropes, and the oceans swell to rock me to sleep. We did a little boat maintenance, fixed the navigation nights (essential for being seen by other boats at night) and got a new name printed and stuck on, then said goodbye to land, and our new friends and heading back to the now familiar open ocean.
We’ve shifted watch times, now I’m 9 till 12, so as we sailed away from the diminishing lights of land life, I thrive on my alone time on deck. A clear still night, the water nearly glassy, the moon and stars lighting the big sky, phosphorus in the water making the boats wake glow bright green. Pure magic, there is nowhere else in the world I’d like to be.
I’m curious how at sea so many of life’s regular stressors and fears disappear. With so much time to think, I find myself amongst just happy thoughts. No stress of being late – there’s nowhere to be, no stress of money – none to be spend out at sea. No phone calls to return, emails to check. I miss my love lots, but all of us on board miss our partners, we are in the same boat on that one (excuse the pun). It is an amazing feeling of contentment to need nothing more that what I have right here, good food, good love, just enough room for yoga, amazing nature, water, expansive space, solitude, and the freshest fresh air.
April 28th 2012
The wind picked up this morning and we’ve been cruising along nicely. A head wind means the boat has been keeled over about 45 degrees which makes doing anything very interesting, particularly cooking, using the bathroom, and general moving about the boat. One’s legs need to be spread as wide as possible, knees bent taking on the impact of the swell, and at least one hand attached to a stable point at all times. Deck yoga is out of the question but lying on the downhill side reading a book is a very appealing activity.
I seemed somehow pinned to the couch for a solid read/nap/read/nap for a good part of the afternoon. I finished a book; The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost, a very comical look at life in the Kiribati Islands of the South Pacific, I highly recommend it for a good read. It certainly only increased my desire to visit the massive expansive ocean of the South Pacific. The winds slowed this afternoon, enough for me to manage a very rocky yoga practice, and I saw my first big ocean turtle. We got word of swell about 100 miles south so are heading pretty close to the coast to see if we can find a wave to surf.
April 29th 2012
It was suggested to us to check out a place called Barre De Navidad, so we cruised close to the coast to see what we could find. We’ve begun to see other boat traffic, some other sailing yachts, and now a steady stream of massive ocean liners, heading up and down the coast, probably from Panama canal. Interesting side fact, last year alone over 1300 shipping containers were accidentally dropped off ships and lost at sea. I find this concerning for two reasons. Firstly I tend to ship belongings across the world from time to time. I’ve never considered they may fall of a ship and end up bobbing around at sea, and will probably think more about insurance than I have in the past. Secondly, there are many thousands of containers floating around in the ocean, sometimes just under the surface, if we hit one, we’re screwed. Lets hope we don’t, or we might be finding out about living in a life raft, that would certainly make for some exciting blog posts!
Today we pulled in our first fish, when I say we, I guess I mean they, since I slept through the whole event (sleeping is one of my specialties). But I woke up for Trevally for breakfast.
We arrived in a bay with what looked like a small town at either end of a long beach and could see waves breaking. Woohoo! We headed toward the southern end and found a break wall into an inlet, a wave dotted with surfers, a lake with a handful of yachts, and what finally looked like a real little Mexican surf town.
Heading in toward the lake and other boats was slightly challenging, as our depth sounder is broken so we don’t know how deep the water is. I tested out our new (yet age old) depth detecting technique of throwing a line with lead on the end, feeling for it to hit the bottom, then measuring the length of line to know the depth. About 30 seconds after my first throw and my claiming it never hit the bottom, we ran aground, driving the keel into a sandbank. I’d say I’m fired as the new depth sounder. Not the nest situation to be in, we tried backing up, but were firmly planted. The tide was going out, again not ideal, as this has the potential cause the boat to fall on it’s side once there is not enough water to support it. Fortunately for us some friendly yachties in there dingy drove by and we able to push the bow off the sand bank, and they guided us through to the lagoon with there fancy hand held depth sounder. We need one of those. We put out our anchor, and looked around, finding our elves in heaven.
No big marina, no American dollars, not many tourist, and waves…yeah! Jo and I had our swimmers on and boards ready real quick, we headed over to the beach in the dingy, where we yet again run aground. Much less concerning in a dingy, we got dropped of, and paddled out. It was a nice mellow wave (perfect for my sporadic surfing) and the line up was all Mexicans and very friendly. We took a water taxi back to the boat, very happy to have gotten wet. In the afternoon we all jumped in the dingy, to head to the beach only to find the propeller had dropped off the outboard motor. Probably caused by hitting the sand bar. A real bummer as finding parts is not easy, and we were now without a dingy motor, which is an essential part of life on a boat, when anchored. Grateful for the water taxis, we were able to head into town to check it out. A beautiful, mellow little surf town with friendly locals, and cheap food made us all happy, although we weren’t able to find a new propeller. I’m glad the land doesn’t seem to sway for me anymore.
April 30th 2012
The four of us were stoked to rise early, grab our boards and head to the waves for a morning surf. It is pretty exciting to be in the water and surfing finally, physical exercise is challenging when confined to a 40-foot space. The waves were fun, the line up un-crowded, and those that were out, super friendly. Coming out of the surf and being handed a fresh coconut to drink is something I could get used to. After lunch we hit the road again, negotiating the sand bars with care, as we sailed out of the bay giggled out loud thinking wow this really is the best way to travel. No traffic, no people, no buses, no planes. Just the ocean and us. We planned to head to Manzanillo to try to find a new prop, but the winds sent us out to sea, so we’re going with it and heading further south. We picked some lucky lures from the fishing box, I gave one a kiss and asked for a yellow fin tuna. No tuna today, but we did pull in a mystery fish, followed by a couple of hooks that got away, then later a Mahi Mahi. I’m claiming the Mahi Mahi as my catch since I spotted it on the end of the line. Keith does a great job of doing the dirty work with the fish, something I’m working up to, I’m just watching and learning for now.
The Mahi dinner was delicious, fish about as fresh as it comes. With my first two sailing goals coming along nicely; I’ve flossed everyday, and have had just one coffee (it was included with my morning breakfast in Puerto Vallarta, it would have been throwing money away to say no). Something strange has also happened, and those of you who know me well, and witnessed the way chocolate somehow disappears in my presence may struggle to believe, I’ve lost my desire to eat chocolate. We have some on-board, and while I had a little the first few days, I’ve started saying no. Very odd indeed. So my next goal, to learn to tie knots properly. I’ve got a few down already; I’m going to practice a bunch every day so they are cemented in my memory. So far I have reef knot (the only thing I remember from girl guides), bowline, clove hitch and truckers hitch. Tying a mattress to the roof of the car in one of my many moves shall never be a challenge again.
May 1st 2012
Lots of reading today as we cruised with the wind behind us. It appears we have nearly run out of fresh water, so are on rations until we reach port again. At this stage we can still drink what we want, but the dishes are now done is seawater, and showering (as it has been all along) is done on deck with a bucket of seawater thrown over the head. I love the bucket shower, and fortunately being covered in salt makes me feel at home. We are hoping to reach Zihuatejao tomorrow sometime, with our priorities being water, food and a propeller.
May 2nd 2012
“Wind picks up, wind dies off, wind picks up, wind dies off. Eat, read, eat, sleep, watch, read, sleep, eat, read, throw bucket of water over head, eat. Looks like another fish on the end of our line, someone pull it in.” Life is sweet.
It seems our timing would have us arrive in Zihuatejeo in the middle of the night, which isn’t ideal, especially without a depth sounder. My car travel instinct tells me we should pull over at a rest stop and have a sleep, but there are no rest stops out here in the ocean. If you are not moored or anchored, you’re moving, with the wind, or currents or swell, so best to be in control. So instead we drop one of the sails to slow us down, in the hope of arriving in the morning.
May 3rd 2012
We pulled into Zihuatejeo in the morning, and found many boats moored in the bay. We managed to find an empty mooring close to shore, hoping no one would mind borrowed it for a few hours, which is much easier than dropping the anchor. We are all now refining our rowing skills since we’re still without a propeller for the dingy, and I find memories of 5am starts and rowing training with Spencer Grace from my teenage years come flooding back. Somehow our small inflatable dingy doesn’t go quite as fast or smooth as our race rowboats did, but it gets us to shore. Again we find a town that looks like it does have tourists, but there aren’t many around. Jo and I went exploring and found the local markets and stoked up on fresh fruit and veg, and a big stack of fresh pressed tortilla, for more fish tacos.
People keep trying to sell us fish, but we’ve got an ocean full of them. We refilled the water, realized there were no waves, nowhere to find a propeller, and the water was dirty, so decided to sail on out of there. On route for Acapulco, 110 nautical miles down the coast.
May 4th 2012
The wide-open ocean, rocking boat, small living quarters, tying knots and the bucket shower are all the norm now. Our power from solar panels and our propulsion from the wind feel very right. The one thing I’m still working on is steering the boat, which I would probably be better at if I practiced more often, but it somehow makes me nervous. We have autopilot, so Keith plots out our route on nautical charts, programs the GPS, and the autopilot does the steering, we only need to tweak it to account for wind direction. The autopilot’s name is Baby Jesus (BJ for short). He is our savior on many occasions. He can be a little squeaky when the swell is big, but we all love BJ, he makes our lives very easy. However, I am making an effort to practice a little steering everyday, to improve me skills, cause I’m sure one day I’ll need them.
With all the fresh food, daily yoga, reading, plenty of rest, and no advertising, facebook, stress or negative input, my body and mind and beginning to unwind and loosen. This brings on many amazing conversations about everything and anything; weather, swell, the earth, the state of the world, physics, chemistry, ancient history, cultures, quantum physics, mathematics, astrology, planets, education systems, time travel, anything goes, and everything is somehow more understandable at sea. Not to mention the fact Keith is a master of much knowledge, I feel I may have learned more the last few weeks than I did my whole high schooling. Both Keith and Mick have years of sailing experience and many adventure stories to share as well. There is never a dull moment.
Tomorrow is Cinco De Mayo, Mexican Independence Day, should be a good day to hit Acapulco.
May 6th 2012
Land, land crazy land, especially in a city. Acapulco is interesting, the most interesting thing is that all the taxis are old-school VW Beatles. Painted all the same, white and blue, there are thousands of them. They must have imported them from all over the world, it is a very funny sight.
We’ve scrubbed the boat from bow to stern, top to bottom, stocked up on supplies and water and are readying to leave Mexico and head to Nicaragua. It shall be a 10 day or so voyage, while this doesn’t even come close to our Mick’s longest voyage at sea of 78 days, I am excited none the less. We will be heading away from the coast, as the winds coming down from the Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean, when channeled through thin part of land cause disruptive weather close to shore. We’re heading off shore, to the open sea, to try to avoid them. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks 🙂
May 7th 2012
Back at sea, yeah. I never thought standing under a hose on the end of the dock, I would ever exclaim, “this is the best shower I’ve had in my life”, but I did in Acapulco where the marina was without showers. It is funny how out perspectives change with the expansion of reality and experiences.
Our time on land seemed long, and getting out of immigration longer, it seems ocean immigration are not quite as streamline as airports. We are all very excited for the 900 nautical mile voyage to Nicaragua.
We’re firstly heading due south to get away from the coast in search of strong winds, and then we’ll head southeast. Too much time in port has meant a little queasiness for me upon returning to the ocean, but I know it’ll pass by morning. We pulled in our first Tuna tonight; I wasn’t sure about eating it with how I’m feeling, but I did, and alas, a tuna taco fixed everything. The best fish we’ve eaten so far by a long shot.
May 8th 2012
A lot of sleeping has gone on today (not by me for a change) but the others all seem pinned by sleep, land must have taken it out of us. The new challenge we now face is the heat. It is hot, like really hot. There is a little breeze, but not much right now, and all I can do is dump buckets of water over my head and lay in the shade, open my mouth, stick my tongue out and pant like a dog. I’m not completely sure it is cooling me, but it certainly amusing me for now. Flying squid have been jumping on board and one just flew threw the kitchen window. I plan on filling my next 10 days with yoga, reading, knot tying, writing, Spanish and sleep.
Life At Sea
Her vastness makes me feel at ease, no other place to be.
No distraction from the presence, that’s deep inside of me.
First glance appears there’s nothing there, as far as one can see.
Around the compass, day and night, she seems to be empty.
I still my mind and look again, relax what I perceive.
Begin to feel, to know, to trust, her subtle energy.
The breath of wind that skims my cheek, the swells pulsating roll.
The stars above, shining bright, reflected in my soul.
The world below the surface, the life that lives at sea;
Dolphins, whales, turtles, fish, show their diversity.
Oh to be surrounded, by contented purity.
Perhaps it’s just a mirror, of what’s inside of me.
When I return to land on life, to those I long to see.
I know I’ll take, held in my heart, this love I’ve found at sea.
May 9th 2012
The wind died off last night, and we started the motor. It hasn’t picked up all day, and just now the ocean is the glassiest, clearest blue I’ve ever seen. With the appearance of today’s third pod of dolphins playing at the bow, Keith asked if I wanted to swim with them. I didn’t answer, just leaped overboard hoping he meant it. He stopped the engine and we all swam.
Funny that going overboard in rough seas, could likely result in death, but in the ocean today, it was one of the most beautiful swims of my life. The lack of wind however, could become a problem. We have enough fuel for 5 days of motoring, we’ve now used one days worth. The boys say this weather is like the doldrums. No wind, no swell. While my ignorance, leaves me blissfully at peace, I hope the wind picks up.
May 10th 2012
The wind is yet to grace us with her presence, so we continue to motor along, with bucket loads of sweat streaming constantly out of every pore of the body. Another afternoon swim in what is beginning to feel like a massive, glassy, calm lake. Not the fierce, scary ocean I expected to find, it is a truly surreal sensation. I questioned tonight “are we perhaps in the eye of a storm?” I hope not, but with no communication with the rest of the world (I’m beginning to wonder if there is a rest of the world, past this big, blue glassy lake of ours) anything could be happening.
May 11th 2012
I awoke to the glassy clear blue water again. Captain Keith has decided to change course for Guatemala, as without wind, we don’t have enough fuel to make it to Nicaragua. Naturally as soon as we changed course the wind picked up, and we were sailing….back to Nicaragua. Just a tease though, back to the motor. So to make use of all this power I have been playing on my computer making movies of some of the footage Jo and I have been taking since onboard, to try to share with you a glimpse of life at sea.
And for the dolphin lovers out there. We now seem to be constantly surrounded by them:
May 12th 2012
Glassy blue water, dolphins and turtles. I was hoping to experience the doldrums, which this is absolutely comparable to. Today I made the comment that I also want to experience crazy seas that scare me senseless and having me puking over the side. Perhaps I will regret that request. The dolphins are a constant addition to our life, we are rarely without them, and often if we don’t pay them attention at the bow they’ll come down by the rear of the boat where we’re sitting and leap and flip out of the water there, just to show off. This dolphin chaperone makes me feel safe. My newest fascination is watching them at night.
“Dolphins; weaving, gliding, carving pulsating, their playful dance in the endless wave ahead the bow of the boat. Their bodies are not visible in the black night, yet their every movement is illuminated by the phosphorescent glow emanating from them like the tail of a shooting star. As they gracefully duck and weave, swoop and arc, their path of joyful bliss sparkles and glows behind them. Lighting our way, this beautiful, inspirational magic nourishes the awe and wonder in my heart, confirming I’m the right path”
May 13th 2012
Today is day seven at sea. As I finished my shift at 3am this morning, watching a crazy lightning storm nature was putting on in the distant sky, I went to bed peacefully.
Not fifteen minutes later I was throw into the wall as the boat was knocked sideways, and the call came “crew on deck”. An intense squall had hit us suddenly and it seemed all hell had broken loose. The winds were howling at 35 knots, rain was pelting sideways and the boat was nearly pinned to its side as we stumbled on deck in the dark desperately trying to get the genoa sail (at the bow of the boat) down, which with wind trapped in it was pulling us over. As she came down and I crouched on deck tying the sail, I thanked Mother Nature for answering my request, and then silently prayed it would please stop, as I was scared out of my mind. An intense storm is exciting, particularly when you can watch it safely from inside you stable house. But here, you are a part of it; there is no separation, just us, the rocking and rolling boat, crashing swell, deafening wind, pelting rain and hail, and the reality of the intense force of nature.
Quite the contrast to the glassy blue lake we’d been floating on the 4 days prior, and the change seemed to come in seconds. We got all the sails down before the gust blew them out, tied things down, secured what we could, all while holding on for dear life – literally and let the storm do as it would while we bobbed around feeling complete vulnerability. Once it calmed a little we reefed the main sail and held course, while watching some of the most amazing lightening I’ve ever seen, we put the bits and pieces of the boat that had been flung everywhere back together. The dolphins never left our side through the whole ordeal.
Two hours later we were under control enough that I headed to bed wet, cold, shaken and nauseous. As I passed Keith, he grinned at me and simply said “be careful for what you wish for”. As I crawled into my bunk in the bow, I tried to sleep to the crazy banging, heaving and rolling. I had memories of being a kid on a swing and pushing it so high, the chains slackened to provide the sensation of dropping through the air. Every time we launched up a wave that feeling hit as the bow of the boat dropped through the air until hitting the water below. Today we’ve been sailing, and that is a nice change. We hope to hit the north of Nicaragua in two days.
14th May 2012
We are now very aware of how low our fuel supply is, and with more miles to port than fuel available we are attempting to sail as much as possible. We have what is in our tank calculated for hours of motoring, and containers lashed to the deck, as back up to get us into port. We have wind today, but it is a head wind and head swell, which means we are tacking back and forth across our desired route, with out make much ground. It is frustrating sailing and we’ve run out of fresh fruit, I noticed my mood change, as did everyone’s. I am, for the first time, ready for some land. All my clothes are salty and damp, my spine hurts from constantly being rocked side to side and the accumulation of bruises all over me from banging into things looks very suspicious. But I wanted this experience, all or it, good and bad, so I feel content. As evening fell we noticed more lightening and storms brewing on the horizon in every direction. We ran through the drill of what needs to happen should one hit, then attempted to gain as much ground as possible with the wind.
I marveled at the lightening, noticing the bolts often crack across the sky instead of down. As the wind picked up I woke crew and we got the genoa down and reefed the main, feeling ready. Things calmed again, so we put the genoa back up and attempted to keep gaining ground, but with the wind direction constantly changing it felt like we were tacking in circles Then, out of nowhere, we were hit hard by a fierce squall and were instantly within inches of being on our side. Knowing the game plan we ran on deck, pulled the genoa down again but the heel of the boat, howling winds, and massive waves washing across the whole deck made it hard to do anything but hold on. We estimate the winds at 60 – 70 knots, and with the two attempting to tie the genoa down, which was being picked up by the ferocious wind, I stumbled back to the cockpit, squeezed my hold so tight and watched as Keith handled the boat and steering with such calmness and grace it gave me just a tiny feeling we would be okay. If the boat went over, which we were so close to, we would most likely loose the mast and the rigging, and find ourselves stranded in the dark, angry sea. I would have to say I have never been so scared in my life, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t know what to do but to hold on and beg over and over again for it to stop. Massive waves were continually crashing across the deck and through the cockpit; we were still pitched nearly sideways, and stuff starting breaking and flying all over the place. We finally got the main sail down and the intensity of the pitch lessened, but the waves and wind kept coming at us. We started making assessments of where we were at.
The dingy was coming loose, we tied it down, the lower railing and the board that our reserve fuel was tied to had broken and washed overboard, a halyard was flapping in the wind. I finally managed to calm myself enough to breath and we started to put things back together. All bodies were okay (physically anyways), the boat was in tact, but unfortunately the lost fuel and the fact that our GPS had also been washed overboard was upsetting, as we are reliant on it for navigation. I sat quietly in shock for quite a while, feeling so much adrenalin pumping through my cells before I was sent to bed. My bed was drenched, so a lay rolling and rocking, wet, raw drained, trying to sleep, but instead let my mind wander.
“Maybe I’m not cut out to be a sailor. Why do I freeze from fear? What exactly was I scared of? How the hell do I get off this boat? How come I can’t put into action all I’ve learnt and taught through yoga of breathing, contentment, accepting this moment for exactly how it is, when it really matters? What is fear anyway?”
I pondered this; fear/excitement, two sides of the one coin. Why I seek this in my life, and difference between the fear of dropping a cliff on my skis or singing in front of an audience to this fear, and realised it is the element of control that is the differentiating factor. I can control how big a cliff I drop, I can also walk away. But here, in the ocean is the ultimate opportunity to learn to trust, because there is no control, no ejection button, just presence, acceptance and nature. Perhaps I am more of a control freak than I realise.
I would like to apologise to mum and dad, and the others who love me and do possibly not want to read this aspect of my adventure, but I promised myself a real, raw, truthful account of my experience at sea. I really am safe and well and happy, and promise I’ll be home soon.
May 15th 2012
I woke, pulled myself together and went on deck. The sea was rolling but the wind nice and mellow. I immediately flossed and brushed my teeth, as last night’s ordeal, let me skip it. Twice today to make up for it. We talked about what happened, and I asked Keith on his experienced scale of scary storms where he would rate last night. He said second scariest storm ever for him. I instantly felt a lot better about my fear, about being on the boat, hopefully it doesn’t get much worse than that. They’ll make a sailor of me yet!
We fortunately have a back up GPS, but are treading a delicate path of motor, wind, desperately trying to make it to land. Probably not till tomorrow at the earliest. I going to start wishing for peace, calm and easy travels.
May 16th 2012
Well with some good old-fashioned sailing, regardless of the wind’s strength or direction we made land, with a couple of litres of fuel to spare. I woke this morning to the sight of green vegetation and volcanic mountains and the sweet sounds of morning birds chirping on land. It feels so good inside. We are in the very north of Nicaragua at a shipping port, Corinto, and are trying to get to San Juan Del Sur in the south.
With just an hour on land, enough time for fuel, immigration and fruit, we’re back on the road – well the ocean. With plenty of wind, we are sailing fast. About time. Yet again with afternoon approaching there are storm clouds forming and lightning beginning. Oh, here we go again.
Right on cue, as my midnight watch approached the storms began. This time, I am taking it on with a different frame of mind. With more confidence in the boat and myself, I am going to accept each moment exactly how it is, not wish it to be something else. So tonight as I sat in the cockpit getting pelted with rain, I appreciated the fresh water rinse. We reefed sails, and were prepared physically, and as lightening bolts were cracking within 100 meters of the boat, I breathed deeply and asked for protection for us and the boat, and didn’t let fear takeover. Instead, I found presence, acceptance and trust.
May 17th 2012
We’re sailing fast today, pitched on our side, covering our last 120 miles, but I don’t think any of us can get there fast enough. We pulled in a tasty Wahoo fish, and grilled it for lunch.
There was a communal sigh of relief as we pulled into the bay of San Juan Del Sur and dropped anchor. We found ourselves immediately greeted by fellow yachties, and felt right at home. After 11 days at sea, I am thrilled to step foot on land, attempt to find a shower and wash my salt drenched clothes. San Juan Del Sur, is a beautiful sea side town with a hippie vibe and an abundance of surf beach in the surrounding area. Possibly what Byron Bay or Tofino may have been like many years ago. I am excited to surf and enjoy some of lands luxuries for a few days.
May 22nd 2012
After 4 very pleasant days spent in and around San Jual Del Sur, enjoying all the luxuries land has to offer, we are back at sea. It was an absolute joy to go surfing, peruse shops, eat everything delicious we could find, drink ice-cold beverages and chat with an abundance of new people. Jo and I spend three days surfing, and I was surprised at my capability, and both of us even more surprised when told we were “killing it out there”, something we would never be told in Australia, with the high level of surfing down under. Everything is relative I suppose.
The beaches were great, the folk friendly, and the land feels stable and secure, especially when watching the evening rain from the safety and dryness of a building. We slept on the boat anchored in the bay, which unfortunately had a short period swell, which sent the boat rocking in every direction, making for a very uncomfortable sleep. I met lots of new people, many of who expressed their desire to do what we’re doing, travel by sea. Many had an reason why they aren’t living that dream yet, and despite me trying to express to them the good and bad aspects of this life, I truly hope everybody that has such a dream, shakes off their excuses and steps up to live it. Yesterday was spent provisioning the boat. Food, water, immigration and a round of massages, then back to our home, the ocean. I hope she is kind to us.
We sailed 55 miles today, accompanied again by friendly spotted dolphins and arrived in Costa Rica to a beach bay. The change in scenery was immediately noticeable, as the vegetation has become very lush and green, with steep spiny ridges dropping into the ocean, I can’t help but imagine skiing their faces.
We weren’t really sure where we landed so rowed the dingy ashore (still no propeller). It is surely an odd question to ask someone on a beach, “excuse me, where are we?”, but there are no signposts on the way in from the ocean; a lot of it is guesswork. We are at Playa Del Coco, and spent the afternoon at the Port Captain and immigration, always a slow process. We shall now look for more surf tomorrow.
I had tended to perhaps get slack on writing my blog, but hearing how many people are reading it, especially those tracking others in the boat, I will stay diligent. I am also surprised by how many messages I have got from people telling me I’ve inspired them to floss more. This I did not expect, I merely mentioned it, because I believe if you announce something to the world, you will more likely make it happen, because the world is holding you accountable. I have flossed everyday since being on the boat, it feels good, takes 3 minutes, and is not hard. I’m not sure why I couldn’t cement the habit earlier in life. Now it is mine, for the rest of time, and all I had to do was commit to it, then do it. What next?
May 25th 2012
I feel like I’ve been welcomed to the real cruising life of day sailing. Since leaving Nicaragua we’ve been making short day passages, anchoring over night as we explore the beautiful Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. From Playa Del Coco, we sailed to Tamarindo, hoping for surf, but unfortunately no swell. On route we dropped “Woody” in, our trusty fishing lure who has caught us so many delicious fish. He’d been in the water not even 2 minutes and the line started whizzing. We had something big, big and heavy. After a long wind in, as we got it near the boat, saw it was a massive Sail Fish, with a long pointed nose, sharp teeth, a big sail fin off the top of it’s back. All up, it must have been 5 foot long, but in real fishermen’s terms at least 8 foot. There was a small discussion on what to do with it, we all agreed that letting it go was probably our best option. The next challenge was how to get it off the hook, those big sharp teeth were right next to the hook. We found gloves and as we pulled it in close to the boat to try to set him free, he used his last burst of energy and with a mighty flick of the body, pulled himself off the hook and slowly swam away. It was one of the biggest fish I’d seen, I’m glad we didn’t have a battle with it on-board.
From Tamarindo, we left early and cruised south. Sunny skies and light winds meant for pleasant sailing, as we admired the lush green coastline. As we rounded Punta Guiones, dark clouds loomed, a head wind picked up, and we battened down the hatches, literally, preparing for a storm. As it hit, we realised it wasn’t going to pass quickly and was making for miserable sailing, so we turned around, and went behind the point to anchor in the calm. Now that is more like it, it’s nice to be moving slow, not in a hurry to get somewhere. Jo and I could see a little wave on the beach so paddled in from the boat. It is a different perspective to paddle into the surf from behind the waves, and paddled back out at the end, but exciting. As the sun set, a huge double rainbow appeared over the green hills, bringing a smile to my face.
Another early morning departure saw make the small 12 mile trip to Playa Carrillo by late morning. We anchored in the protected bay, and all marveled at the stunning beauty of the place. The intensity of the lush green bush, contrast to the blue water, is endlessly mind blowing.
We swam off the boat to the sound of monkeys howling in the trees. We took an afternoon row to the beach to explore, and were pleasantly surprised to find mango trees everywhere, with fresh mangoes dropping all over the ground. Throughout some of our longer sea passages we inevitably end up playing “If you could have anything to eat right now, what would it be?” I can’t ever go past the answer “mango”, as I love them so much. So to step on land and collect bags full of fresh, available mangos is surely a sign of the world providing what one needs. We are abundant.
Tomorrow we head to the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, to Mal Pias. We are hoping to find surf, but also a way to access the beach safely, as this is where Jo and I will be jumping off to continue other adventures.
May 27th 2012
It took some hunting yesterday to find somewhere to safely get off the boat. Most of the beaches we approached had too much swell, making it unsafe to row the dingy in with all our gear. We sailed past Mal Pias, past Montezuma, and eventually made it around to Tambour, a bay where it was safe to anchor and row in. We got ashore, and with no idea where we really were walked through the rain until we found life and bus information. We had a quick last supper, and said sad goodbyes, before jumping a bus and heading to Montezuma. My first night in a real bed on flat ground in 5 weeks wonderful. I do miss the rocking. I am excited to enjoy beach walks, restaurants, exercise, communication with lots of people, and all the other joyful things land brings.
I would very much like to continue the journey on the Bird through the South Pacific as my appetite to sail the world has been surely stirred, but it is not the time for me right now. I am glad my brother will be taking on the next leg. For those of you out there following others on the boat, I am sorry I can no longer be a source of their location and doings.
What my sailing adventure has taught me:
Needs and desires are highly influenced by what is offered to you. Many things I think I need and want, simply fall away knowing I don’t have access to them. How, when living amongst such a heavy consumerist society, constantly bombarded by advertising, can we look inside and seek only what we truly need, rather than thinking we constantly need more? Contentment with what we have brings happiness.
If someone, or something annoys you, it is your problem not theirs. Chances are, they are reflecting something in you, and so you better learn to get over it.
It is better to learn and practice essential life skills slowly, visibly, in the day light, under no pressure before you need them in a moment of crisis, for example trying knots or reefing a sail in the midst of a crazy mid night storm. Or expressing difficult emotions in a moment of pressure.
No matter how much we are able to create the illusion in our life that we are in control, it is only that, an illusion. It is only a matter of time before life or mother nature, will remind us we are not in control. So all that energy we waste trying to be in control, trying to tweek people and our surroundings to be exactly how we’d like them to be, would be better spent learning to let go, and accept this and every moment for exactly how it is. Perfect. While we can’t control the moment, we can control how we respond to it. The best response could be acceptance and love.
Plastic sux. It is pretty much the only garbage you see floating in the sea. Glass sinks, and turns back into sand, paper biodegrades, and metal decomposes back into its elements. Plastic stays as plastic and pollutes the animals, ocean surface and beaches. Avoid it!
If your body says nap. Let it nap!
Life away from phones, television and the internet, helps rebuild your brain cells to do things like wonder, imagine, feel and be content with who and where you are.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Eat more fruit. It makes you feel wonderful.
Be careful what you wish for, as it very well may get it. Be sure you want it.
If you want to let go of a habit, or build a new one; decide on it, accept the life change, let go of all external influences, believe in yourself, and do it. Do it for three weeks, and it will be apart of your life, it is easier than you think.
I am amazed by how many sea creatures leap out of the water, and try to fly, quite successfully for short spurts of time. I suppose it is the same as us diving into the ocean and swimming. Try not to be so attached to your surroundings that you’re not willing to leap past that imaginary boundary, to check out what it is like on the other side, that is adventure.
If you have a dream, try to push past the all the excuses that pop up, that suggest you can’t live it. Let them go, give them no power. Set an intention, tell people your dream, and be inspired by others who’ve lived it. It is not a huge leap, you just need to take lots of little steps, and it is easier than you think. I promise. Start it now, cause life is short, and tomorrow never comes.