June 30, 2012

Exit Strategy: Moving on from Australia

Exit Strategy...besides being the name of our friends Dave & Jean's boat, an exit strategy is always a good thing to have. Totem has one and we're about to put it into action: we are soon to be on the move! After 20 months in Australia, it's time to start putting serious miles under the keel once more. It's time to find water that looks like this again:

Tropical island paradise
The Cook Islands...in 2010. We're ready.

As much as a privilege as it's been to get to know Australia...we miss the adventure of new places to explore, new people to  meet, new culture and languages to learn.

Plans are still very fuzzy, and as always in the cruising world- they are written in the sand at low tide! We expect to remain in Brisbane for a few more weeks, then work start north. At the moment we're leaning towards exploring a few stops on the outside of the Great Barrier Reef and then on to Papua New Guinea...but there's a chance we'll change our minds and decide to go over the top towards Darwin and check out the Kimberleys.

Watch this space. 

June 21, 2012

Solstice! Winter Solstice...in June.

Just like it seems strange to have Christmas in summertime, it doesn't feel right to have winter solstice in June. When I start to write a "J" for the month, I have to stop myself from finishing it with "...anuary."

But we know it's winter. It's often under starlight that I head off the boat for yoga practice, and it's dark again well before dinnertime. Mornings are crisp: it was 48F/8C on my way to the studio this morning. It's still subtropical, though... our days are balmy. The sun is at its northernmost point, and the days are markedly shorter.

Although we're just a little over 27 degrees south, the latitude is enough for meaningful seasonal changes compared to our recent years in the tropics. It's a joy to mark the inflection point in the seasons, and think about longer days ahead.

Sun bread
Before baking

Mairen got into the spirit a week ahead when she caught me looking at sun bread recipes. She was ready to start....NOW!

Sun bread
Fresh from the oven! No, not the solar oven.

A bigger celebration was planned for the 21st, but Jamie caught a flu bug so we kept it low key. A few candles. A few stories: what the celebration meant in years gone by. How so many have lost touch with the fundamentals. The connection between Christmas and Yule. And we had a sunny supper: a 'sunset' pumpkin and golden potato soup and a salad studded with jewel-like pamplemousse, which looks like little as much as a (slighly lumpy) big sun.

Sun bread
The girls and their sun bread creation

June 8, 2012

What do cruisers do all day?

What do we do on board, to keep busy and have fun?

Totem in paradise- Navadra island
Does this get boring? Well...no. Navadra Island, Fiji

It's an understandable question from someone who hasn't yet had the chance to dip into the cruising life. The way spend our days shifted radically once we started living on the boat. There were a few brief months of living aboard and continuing our "normal" life of work and school routines, but really, it's because the move aboard coincided with departing on our cruising adventures.

Many days, what we do is driven by meeting basic needs. What needs fixing (and how urgently)? Do we need food? Do we need to do laundry? These deceptively simple questions can become complicated and time consuming tasks on a boat that's far from the streamlined shopping cart at home.

I think when non-cruisers ask this question about "what do we do?", this kind of mundane life maintenance is mentally pushed aside- it's an expected part of everyday life fabric, which disappears into the mesh of busy days...and is facilitated with easy power, water, laundry machines, dishwashers, supermarkets and handymen.

Really, though- we do have a lot of time. When Maslow does not press us with urgent demands, we usually choose to explore the world around us: especially, the world underwater.

looking for morays
Niall looking for a moray under a coral head - French Polynesia

I find it hard not to set out on foot, with anyone I can convince to come in tow, and see what lies beyond that ridge or far point.

Isla San Francisco- ridge hike

My most avid pre-cruising hobby was knitting, which fell completely by the wayside. I still love to knit, I just found it hard to get motivated to work with yarn and wool in a tropical climate.

I always need a project

This hat for Laureen's baby girl Aurora as we sailed south to meet her in San Francisco is one of the last things I made... until we reached Australia, where a cool winter in Sydney inspired me to pick up the needles again.

For our first years as cruisers, the children were usually a less involved in the "maintenance" aspect of life- although that's changed as they've grown. 

Helping with the netting
Siobhan helps rig netting on Tintin. Sydney, Australia

Pre-cruising, we had an ample suburban home with  a playroom for the children that was about the same size as the boat...packed with more games, puzzles, space-takers and noise-makers than were at all necessary, but which crept up on us. 95% of it went away and isn't missed. For them, much daily life has been exploring their world with friends.

Buns in the air
They have encyclopedic knowledge of the sea and its creatures

We have found it valuable to keep a myriad of materials for projects and crafting on board

applying crepe
Mairen makes a shade for our cockpit light with papier-mâché

A few good books to help with recipes and ideas for things they can make bring it all together.

Mixing up a batch up Flubber, from a favorite crafty "cookbook"

One of my favorite projects with them has been to build a beaded necklace that traces our journey. Each day is a bead, and charms mark special events (here, sailing through the Golden Gate Bridge at the beginnign of our voyaging).

And... what about sailing? Arguably, sailing was our single biggest pastime as a family. It's still an experience of pure joy, and a favorite way to spend leisure time. 

Sailing the Tinker in the marina
Niall with friends from s/v Whisper in a borrowed tinker dinghy

We had a recent getaway from our parking spot on the Brisbane river, and spent a few days out in adjacent Moreton Bay. The sea breeze coupled with protected flat water made for an exhilarating sail, one that was over all too quickly. And how, then, did we relax in the anchorage later- what did we do?

We rigged a dinghy, and went sailing. Why not?

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist

June 1, 2012

Sharing our knowledge

About a month ago, I started trading email with Dana. We haven't met in person yet although it's only a matter of time! She calls an Amel home and lives aboard with her husband and new baby... also from the US, and currently in Australia. She's percolated a cool idea that I've dubbed The Raft-Up.

Tosio raft up
One of our most memorable raft-ups: with Oso Blanco and IO, Fiji, 2010

Dana's bringing cruisers together virtually, to share our experiences with cruising on a given subject. Once a month, a bunch of us (seven at last count) will take turns offering our point of view on a particular aspect of cruising. By sharing from our knowledge, we hope to create a resource with a variety of thoughts and answers to questions about cruising and the cruising lifestyle.

Why? Why not! This project is for fun, for inspiration, for sharing.

March 2013 update: the Raft-UP project did some kind of weird implosion, and the website we linked through was pulled. Not to worry, though, the spirit of sharing knowledge had already been expanded on by the awesome crew at The Monkey's Fist. Check 'em out for a neat source for topic aggregation for cruisers.