Adventures

I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Welcome to the Northern Territory

We made it to NT! Yes, our treacherous passage across the Gulf of Carpenteria was rather uneventful - in terms of sailing. And our welcome to the Northern Territory was uneventful as well, save the potato patch of current and steep seas we hit as we rounded Cape Wessel.

We are now tucked in a nice, calm anchorage at Two Island Bay, which you would have a hard time finding on a map. I made pizza for dinner and Dad made chocolate chocolate chip cookies for dessert (obviously we are on a diet), and although it is only 6:30 PM I am ready for bed. It will be absolutely delightful to have a calm night's sleep without having to get up at midnight for a watch or sleep hanging on for fear of being thrown out of bed.

More to come when I am not feeling like such a zombie.
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At 6/28/2013 8:24 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 11°04.52'S 136°43.73'E

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guf of Carpenteria

First off I would just like to say: FUCK YEAH!! I am sure you have heard but I would like to express how supremely happy and relieved I am that both DOMA and Prop 8 have been declared unconstitutional. It's about time our country took a progressive step forward. Love and equality for all. Suck on that all you haters.

In other news, we have around 20 knots of wind, our current speed is around 8 knots and we have approximately 165 miles left to across the Gulf of Carpenteria. The seas are not exactly the "washing-machine" conditions that they have been known to be and really, we have great weather, but it is still a bit rolly.

Nevertheless, spirits are high aboard S/V Rutea this morning. Wishing you well from the middle of nowhere.
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At 6/26/2013 11:41 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 10°53.44'S 139°43.78'E

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just the Tip




Rutea on the tip of Australia! (AND going 10 kts!)

We made it!  To the tip!  The northern-most point of Australia!  For some reason this is exciting, but I really don't know why.  There is not much up here, and we still have very far to go.  But at some point you have to stop and say, "Wow, we have sailed a hell of a long way.  This is an accomplishment."  Never mind that Darwin is still 750 miles west through some rather treacherous waters.  Never mind that.

Rounding Cape York was fairly exciting.  We sailed through the Albany Passage with 30 knots of wind and a 6 knot current running with us, hitting 11 knots with only the mainsail up.  That has to be some kind of record.  Aside from some serious rapids at the east side of the pass, the water was perfectly calm and it felt more like we were flying rather than sailing. 

We are now anchored off the tiny town (if it can be called that) of Seisia, which boasts of a holiday park (camp sites) a cafe of sorts, washing machines (no dryers), a gas station and a supermarket more reminiscent of a Fijian store than the giant, brightly lit supermarkets of the south.  Yes, northern Queensland is very different from the southern part of the state.  Actually, if you think about it, it's pretty nuts.  Seisia feels more like another country, let alone a different part of a state within a country.

Which brings me to my second point.  After sailing oh, say, a quarter of a way around this country (and continent) I am beginning to appreciate how absolutely massive Australia is.  Everybody knows Australia is huge.  But sometimes it takes an act like driving through the 1,500 mile long desolate desert or, (and more impressively in my book), sailing the 1,700 nautical miles from Sydney to the tip of Cape York with a road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne chucked in there.  It gives one a most appreciative sense of the word "big."
Forgive me for a moment while I inform you that I feel very I have traveled the east coast of Australia very well, with over 2,000 miles of coastline covered from Melbourne to Cape York by car and campervan, but mostly by boat.  To put it in perspective, it's roughly 2,000 miles from San Diego to the border of Alaska as the crow flies.  Ok, I am done gloating (but I promise it wasn't ALL fun). 

Back in Seisia, things are nice -- if a bit rustic.  The soil is as red as bricks and there are more coconut palms than anything else.  I already told you it is like a different country up here, but it makes sense geographically.   The tip of Cape York is 80 miles south of Papua New Guinea.  I could practically swim that!  The Torres Strait, which flows between the two countries, is cluttered with islands, some of which are Australian and some which are not. 

Thursday Island, known as T.I. to the locals, is supposed to be an interesting island full of native history as well as WWII relics, but as it is a foreign country we would have to check out and go through bio-security if we wanted to visit on Rutea.  We saw about taking the ferry over for the day but frankly I, and I was not alone, did not want to go back out to sea on the one day we had for resting -- on any boat.
Yes, only one day.  Tomorrow we leave to cross the Gulf of Carpenteria.  See that little bite taken out of the north-east part of the country?  That is "the Gulf" and it is 350 miles across.  350 miles!  It will take us two nights and the better part of three days to cross, so we spent  today doing laundry and other shore things in preparation. 


Main road in Seisia... looks more like Fiji than Oz, minus the red soil.

One great thing about Seisia (aside from the internet) is the Fijian-like market.  To be fair, we are a long way from anything, and the fact that the store has fresh produce that actually looks pretty good is going to make the rest of the trip to Darwin so much better.  The last time we provisioned was Cairns, over two weeks ago.  We ate the last of the pears and apples a long time ago, nursing our last few carrots and cabbage for the past few days.  Now once again we are chock-full of apples, oranges, lettuce, bananas and all other foods I take for granted when I live within a mile of a grocery store. 

Even though Cape York doesn't have much to offer, I don't really want to leave.  The Gulf of Carpenteria is a notoriously nasty crossing, with wind against current conditions, not to mention very small passes with very strong currents one has to navigate upon arrival.  However, we have to get to Darwin (unless we blow off customs, hang a sharp right and head for PNG) to gear up for Indonesia, pick up crew and check out of the country.  And so, the journey continues!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Country Croc


Just another average hike on another average island in Australia

First and foremost I want to apologize for my previous blog post - that is what happens when I leave posting until the last minute that we have internet and don't bother to edit. At least you got a few pictures, right?!

I would like to revisit Lizard Island briefly because I really did not do it justice (in my own humble opinion). You see, Lizard Island was the last safe place to swim. Even though there were crocodile warning signs on the beach, the water was clear and nobody had sighted a croc there in a long time, so we all felt safe enough going in the water. And thank my lucky stars for that.

The reef right there in the anchorage was amazing. I already told you about the giant clams - clams that probably weighed 500lbs and wouldn't fit into your bathtub, so old they had hard and soft corals growing on their shells. It's strange how on some snorkels you don't see very many unusual things, but on my last snorkel of the week I saw all sorts of cool stuff. I saw a massive octopus that changed color every time I looked at it. He watched me watching him, and although I tried to make it very clear that I did not want to eat him, I'm not sure he believed me. I saw a Maori wrasse the size of a car door munching on coral. Jenny spotted a lion fish with his wings spread out so he almost looked like a bird. We swam through huge schools of fish which parted ways to our every movement, making me feel all-powerful. I followed a young turtle for a while, and though he was not huge he was healthy and beautiful. I spotted a few sharks but they were uninterested in me. While Dad and I cleaned the bottom of the boat a massive ray settled under the boat to eat the algae that came off the hull as we scrubbed. Its wingspan was easily the same length as mine, not to mention the long tail with a nasty looking barb halfway down it.


Lionfish!

Yes, the underwater life of Lizard Island was some of the best I have ever seen. The place was magical. One day we hiked to the top of Cook's Lookout, where Captain Cook himself had stood, trying to figure out how to escape the labyrinth of reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef. We could see out to the Ribbon Reefs as well as in to the mainland, and reefs and sand cays in between. Far below the boats in the anchorage looked the size of Battleship game pieces, sitting serenely in azure waters.

But enough. I don't get to swim anymore. Sure, I can hike, but landing the dinghy on shore makes me nervous. Why? Because this territory is infested with crocodiles. And crocodiles are scary. Hella scary. Saltwater crocodiles are one of (if not) the only marine animals that will hunt humans. They will watch humans, learn their habits - such as taking the dinghy into shore at the same time every day - wait for the perfect opportunity and CHOMP! You're gone. They live in the shallows but can run fast on land, are aggressive, territorial, not afraid of humans and are stealth hunters. They are also protected in Australia and, as a species, are doing very well. Where is the Crocodile Hunter when you need him?!

You might think I am exaggerating. Maybe I am, but I don't think so. Today a few of us cruisers went for a hike where we heard we could see Aboriginal cave paintings. We had to pull the dinghies through shin deep water to get to shore, and the whole time I kept a vigilant eye out for the ridge of a croc's back. After tying the dinghies up we walked through muddy mangroves - a croc's favorite hangout. When we got on the trail there were crocodile warning signs, although those are commonplace around here.

Maybe I am paranoid, but the whole time we were hiking along the beach and through the grasses I felt uneasy. As we got higher up into the hills I relaxed, and was able to enjoy the cave paintings we saw. They were mostly done in the past 200 years, depicting crocodiles, dugongs, birds and ships. Captain Cook and the arrival of the white man were definitely noted here. While the paintings were not that old, I read that Aboriginals had lived in the area continuously for the past 6,000 years, and in the land that is now Australia for the past 40,000 years. That is impressive. Unfortunately Aboriginal populations (like most native people whose land was invaded by Europeans) were decimated after Europeans showed up. But we can go into that another day.


Aboriginals of the area didn't like crocodiles either..

The cave paintings were nice. The hike, albeit hot, was invigorating. It always feels great to walk around after sitting on the boat for a few days. We decided to have a little lunch on the beach and as we were sitting down, one woman noticed a track sliding down to the water from the beach. "Did you make that?" she asked me, there having been nobody else on the beach. "Um... no," I said. "I think that's a croc track!" she said, quite excited. Upon further investigation, sure enough we could see claw prints on either side of the track and, just by the water's edge, the distinct mark of a tail.

Oh, shit. Ok, guys, eat your lunch and let's get out of here! Everybody else made jokes about how the croc must have had his lunch already and went for a swim (we know he was there recently because the marks had not been washed away by the tide) and the only evidence left of his lunch was a lone flip-flop. I smiled, and not because the jokes were funny, but because I knew that I could outrun every other person on the beach.

Alas, we did not see any other evidence of crocs for the rest of the excursion, but I hiked back to the dinghies quickly, relieved to see that they had not been used as a chew toy for a young croc (which they have been known to do). Tomorrow we are heading north again. As we head north it will get hotter and hotter and more and more tempting to go for a swim. I hope to keep you updated.

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At 6/18/2013 11:54 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 14°10.59'S 144°13.78'E

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lizard Island & Friends


Lizard Island anchorage (Paradise)


I must I was a bit gutted when we left Cairns.  Why would anybody want to leave that debacherous paradise with a party 24/7 and a nice comfy (albeit extremely expensive) slip in the marina?  However, am I of the school of thought that, 1. paradise is a state of mind and, 2. you never know who or what you will find in the next port.  And consider that we are in fact cruising up the Great Barrier Reef, you know there are some treasures to behold.  One of those treasures is Lizard Island, where we have been for the past five days.

I had heard good things about Lizard Island, but I set my expectations low so as not to be disappointed.  After staying the night at Cape Flattery we had a short sail to the island in the morning and arrived by midday, greeted by more than ten boats in the anchorage.  After we got settled somebody called us on the radio and informed us that there were sundowners on the beach at 4:30.  Keeping that in mind I launched the kayak and paddled into the beach.

 YES. YES. YEESSSSS.

The water was crystal clear as I entered the sandy shallows, a few rays darting away from my shadow.  As I pulled the kayak up on the sand I noticed how incredible perfect the sand is here -- powdery fine and bleached white.  It is this white sand that gives water that dazzling aquamarine color, and the anchorage varies from this to deep blue to dark over the coral reef.

I walked the beach and hiked up to get a bit of perspective on the layout and decided that, yes I like this place very much and would consider moving here if I decided a life in the bush was for me.  Of course, I could always pop into the 5 star resort on the other side of the beach if I needed a hot shower... Or a helicopter to fly in and out of the island.  Lizard island is pretty remote but still accessible if you are either wealthy enough to fly in or salty enough to sail.  Regardless, it is a stunning place that is well worth the trip, whichever way you decide to come.  Anyway, I kayaked back to the boat to get ready for sundowners (get beer) and noticed the crew on the super yacht anchored next to us going for a swim.  I smiled and waved, and headed into the beach with Mom and Dad.  


We also went on a badass hike but I forgot to mention that.

Most cruisers are in the 50+ crowd, and not that I don't like the 50+ crowd, but sometimes it gets a bit lonely out here.  I always make friends in ports with other young people (Carins, Sydney, etc.) but out here the population is much more limited.  Regardless, I can shoot the shit with anybody and had a nice time conversing with a German couple about their broken radar.

A while later Mom introduced me to a (younger) guy, Jase,  who grew up at Shipwreck bay in New Zealand. He and I talked about the perfection that is Shippies and New Zealand in general.  It ends up that his buddy, Gary, is the captain of the super yacht we were anchored next to, and is a keen diver.  I told Gary how I had never dived the GBR, as shameful as it was.  He, being as Aussie, said that was unacceptable and proceeded to invite me to dive with them the next day.  "Aw mate, we could probably take you out for a dive and bring you back before we head south again.."  Gary told me.  "Really?! You would be willing to take me out diving on your sweet-as yacht?"  I couldn't believe my luck.


Two Angels -- My dive buddies!

Sure enough the next morning I saw Jase and Gary having coffee on the bridge of Two Angels and I kayaked over.  After a cup of coffee and a tour of the boat -- it is about 30 meters -- they told me to go get my dive gear and they would come pick me up.  I kayaked back to Rutea and pulled out my dusty dive gear (had not dived since Chesterfield Reef!) when Jase came to pick me up.  They decided to tie up their super tender to Rutea while we went diving so that they wouldn't have to use the crane to stow it, and as reassurance to Mom and Dad that they would actually bring me back.

I met the crew of Two Angels and was given breakfast as we pulled away from Lizard Island.  We headed out to North Island where Gary said is as good a reef as any up here.  At this point you have to realize that I was on top of the world.  I went from not having any friends or dive buddies around to cruising out on a super yacht with six cool people to dive a secret spot.  Not only that but the dive spot was south, which is the direction Two Angels was headed, except that they would have to go back up north to drop me off.  Why would they go out of their way like that, just to take me diving?  I am still baffled.

The dive was great.  It was really, really nice to get back underwater, to "suck a tank of air."  We saw massive coral fans, big fish, little fish, sharks, rays, barracuda giant clams the size of bathtubs and other crazy creatures.  The water was fairly clear, probably 50 feet of visibility, which is respectable for an island.  After the dive we went back to the boat where two of the crew -- native of Indonesia -- made us a delicious fried rice and curry lunch.  We all sat around and chatted as we headed back to Lizard Island.


Giant clam so old that other coral has grown on it.

Within an hour I was back on Rutea watching Two Angels pulling away from the anchorage.  Easy come easy go.  I sat back reeling and reflecting on the morning.  I had to laugh -- you couldn't try to make something like that happen.  You couldn't plan it.  It just so happened that I was in the right place in the right time.  And there were very generous people at the time.  I felt a little low watching my new friends leave but as the cliche goes: better to have loved and lost than never loved at all; all I could do was chuckle at how ridiculous my life is sometimes.

Alas, after an epic snorkel around the anchorage with my friends on Mystic, we are leaving the lovely Lizard Island tomorrow.  From here on out I doubt there will be much swimming, so its a good thing I got my fill here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cairns (Cans)


You have not fully experienced Australia until you have fed a wallaby.

I fully intended to post this while I still had internet but alas, we have gone too far out in the cuts and so my disjointed, rambling thoughts will have to suffice. Sorry.

Pre.S. "Cairns" is pronounced "Cans" as Aussies speak very nasally and refuse to pronounce the letter R.

I consider myself lucky that I made it out of Cairns alive. Yes, two weeks in Cairns nearly killed me. To be completely honest I didn't really even like the town the first few days I was there, but after meeting a few cool people, going on a few cool adventures and taking advantage of the "5 drinks for $10" at the dirty backpacker bars, Cairns grew on me -- to the point where I had to peel myself off the (dance) floor in order to get on the boat before we left port Friday morning.

Cairns is a funny place. It is absolutely filled with backpackers. But there really isn't much to do in Cairns. Anything you would want to do around here is actually outside the town -- but people stop through on their way to dive the Great Barrier Reef, visit the Daintree rainforest or, if you are an unlucky backpacker, get stuck for months (or even years) because you are not able to fight the lure of the lazy, tropical town turned madhouse every night of the week. To be fair, there is plenty to do in Cairns, but most of it involves drinking. However, if you like playing the ukulele I would highly recommend going to the Crown Hotel, where on a Friday night you can find thirty or so people all jamming on ukuleles. I joined them last Friday and had a blast. There is always good live music going on somewhere in town. (Note: our music wasn't exactly "good" but it was fun.)

The best part about arriving in Cairns was being reunited with Mark, whom I had not seen since he left me in Mooloolaba many moons ago. It was great to see him again and although we did not manage to dive together, it was great to hang out and catch up over (many) beers. The Couch Surfing community is pretty big in Cairns, and Mark and I went to the "weekly meeting" -- a good excuse to go for a drink on a Tuesday. I ended up meeting a bunch of cool people who I palled around with until a few hours before I left yesterday. One of the guys I made friends with, Allan, organized a fishing trip one day and although I did not catch one fish -- not even a bite! -- it was still a good time. After spending a few weeks feeling rather isolated on the boat with Mom and Dad it was nice to feel like I had a group of friends again. Sometimes when one is sailing off in far flung places they forget that there are people who still love and care about them... but I digress.

After fishing we all planned to go on an inland adventure the next day. The next morning ten of us showed up to go for a hike and a swim somewhere an hours drive away. I thought I was going to die as a very nice German girl raced her boyfriend's SUV through the windy mountain roads while choosing music on her iPod. I offered/demanded to play DJ and I am convinced we survived because of that. Nevertheless, we arrived at Granite Gorge an hour later. Allan got us into the park for a 'group rate' which included food to feed the wallabies. Do you know what a wallaby is? I didn't. A wallaby is a mini kangaroo (I think -- at least that is what they look like). They are very cute little animals that bound up to you with big eyes and batting their eyelashes, expecting you to feed them. Although 'wild' they have no qualms about eating right out of the palm of your hand. This is all very good but they are also mangy marsupials and well, lets just say that the stuffed ones are cuter. The wallabies were fun, the hike was short, the picnic was awesome and the swim in the murky river was great although I am sure there were crocodiles lurking in the shadows.


Couchsurfers -- Unite!

There are crocodiles everywhere around Cairns, in fact the beach in town is closed for swimming due to crocs and stingers and all sorts of other nasty things that can kill you. Instead of going to the beach, everybody in Cairns goes to the man-made saltwater lagoon all day to recover from their hangovers. I came to call it "Hangover Lagoon" (clever, I know) because inevitably you couldn't help but overhear 'how wasted I got last night' among other things. You see, my theory is that one reason people party so hard in Cairns, one reason people get so loose and wild is because it is such a transient place. It is filled with backpackers and most don't stay long, giving a kind of anonymity -- not to mention that scandalous behavior is encouraged in certain bars -- especially by cute girls. It is not rare to find a group of people running around the bars togas, another few in gorilla suits, half naked girls and half naked guys... all on a Wednesday night.

Cairns is just that kind of place. I consider myself lucky that I escaped Friday morning, especially because Thursday night I had a last hurrah with all my mates. We started with a BBQ at the lagoon before going bar hopping. I vaguely remember something to the effect of Jello shots and dancing on tables by the end of the night, but that all could have been a dream, too. Of course my hangover Friday morning would indicate otherwise, and as yesterday was our first day out to sea in a while, I was completely miserable with a seasick hangover -- the worst combination ever.

Alas, that is Cairns in a nutshell. We are now tucked safely away at Lizard Island, which reminds me a lot of the Whitsundays, except a lot better. My detox is going well (or at least was until tonight) but I will elaborate on all of that in further posts. Cheers!
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At 6/11/2013 3:17 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 14°39.60'S 145°27.08'E

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