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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SE ASIA (YEW)

HELLO FROM SOUTH EAST ASIA!!!

It is taking quite a while for me to wrap my mind around the fact that we have actually sailed to Indonesia. There could be a few explanations as to why my mind is such a whirl at the moment, ranging from the fact that I am rather sleep deprived to the fact that I am already a few Bintangs deep.

Yes, we arrived in Saumlaki this morning after a three day passage from Darwin. The first day sailing through the Van Diemen gulf was easy breezy - in fact we motored over glassy water for the better part of the day. When we left Australian waters the next night, however, the conditions changed. For the next 36 hours we had 2+ meter seas right on the beam and short choppy wind waves that threw Rutea on her side every once in a while. For his first passage Kyle did great. He suffered sea-sickness a little more severely than the rest of us, but still had a positive attitude and was able to laugh off losing his dinner. Fortunately the passage was short and we are now anchored in a beautiful, calm anchorage.

We dropped the hook at 8AM and had a nice breakfast while we waited for customs to come visit the boat and check us in. While the water in the anchorage is not the crystal clear blue I have been dreaming of, Saumlaki is a big, deep water port and I didn't exactly expect pristine waters here. After a few hours of waiting, seven customs officials arrived by boat and boarded Rutea. They were very polite and good humored while we arranged our boat papers. They were most impressed by Dad's boat seal, which prints our boat info on a golden star. They all watched with fascination every time he stamped a paper. Very official, very official.

After being checked in we were finally allowed to go on shore. From the anchorage you can see a bustling little town with markets, churches, mosques, houses and shops. We were excited to go in and check it out. This is my first time in Asia and I had no idea what to expect - although to be fair Saumlaki is not exactly a stereo-typical city to enter for one's first time in Asia.

We tied up the dinghy at the customs dock along with a bunch of other yachties. Everybody was discussing the passage across from Darwin and the general consensus was, "Could have been better, but could have been a lot worse, too." Upon arrival at the customs office we had to do more check in stuff, and I hung around for a while after and chatted with two lovely young women who work with the Sail Indonesia Rally (the rally we sailed here with). They taught me a few phrases in Indonesian and laughed hysterically when I attempted sentences, but all with good intent. They advised me to order Ikan Kuah Kuning, which I did later and it was delicious.

But first we had to get to the recommended restaurant. Saumlaki is a relatively small town with a few main streets, but Kyle and I had a most eventful walk through town. First of all we were trying to take in all the sights, sounds and smells. I wanted to smile at everybody as they openly gawked at me. I don't think they get many (white) tourists here. Along with saying "alo!" to everybody who greeted me and avoiding in falling into open trenches in the street was the art of not getting hit by a car or motorbike. Fortunately everybody who passed us honked, so we knew they were there (for better or for worse).

People stopped Kyle and me on the street and asked to take pictures with us. People were incredibly friendly, putting their arms around our shoulders and laughing with us. A few people were a little more than friendly, following us uncomfortably close for an uncomfortably long time before realizing that no, we did not need their services. After a few wrong turns Kyle and I made it to the restaurant where all the yachties were having lunch and we were treated to giant, cold Bintang beers ($4) and big plates of delicious food. Yes, Indonesia, I think we will get along famously.

After lunch Kyle and I went walking again and due to the stares and smiles I was getting I leaned into Kyle and said, "Hey, um, maybe, we are going to be married sometimes, ok?" "Yea, sure, good idea. Whatever is easiest for you." He, being the gentleman he is, replied.

Just then we noticed Mom and Dad in a cell store, so we went in to see what they were up to. We started chatting with the people working in the store (more of a wooden shack with a desk in it). Another guy asked for a picture with us. Then one of the girls working in the store walked up to Kyle. "You are very handsome," she said. "Can we take picture?" Once again, Kyle being the gentleman he is obliged and the picture was taken. "Ok, now we take one where I give you a kiss!" The girl told Kyle. "Ummm huh?" Kyle asked, only slightly panicked. "Kyle, she wants a picture with her kissing you," I said to clarify, trying my very hardest not to laugh. "Oh, um, this is my wife!" Kyle said to the girl as he grabbed me and pulled me next to him. The girl immediately started apologizing to him and me but I told her I had absolutely no problem with it, and it was up to Kyle. She backed off anyway and after saying our goodbyes Kyle and I walked out of the store howling with laughter. We both thought it was hilarious that not ten minutes before I asked if we could be "married" (sometimes) to make certain situations less awkward, but he was first to pull the card! Gotta love it.

Today was our first day in Asia. We have a three month visa for Indonesia, about three thousand miles to sail in that time, waves to surf, hikes to hike, reefs to dive, and all sorts of other cool things. Not to mention the fact that the Sail Indonesia has almost every day planned with some sort of dance festival here or traditional feast there. I have a feeling our time here is going to go very fast.
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At 7/30/2013 1:10 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°58.53'S 131°17.30'E

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Croc of Croc Pics


Massive croc dinosaur thing


Mud bath


This croc is about 18 feet long

    
Ya such a bogan


 Kyle isn't scared... (right)


Mom isn't scared either


Hunk of meat or iPhone for lunch?


Jump!


Typical Darwin sunset

End of Days (in Oz)



It is a funny feeling to be gutted and stoked about the exact same event.  While I am off my rocker excited about getting to Indonesia, I must admit that I am feeling rather low about leaving Australia.

On the one hand it's hard to believe that I have spent the last eight months making Australia my home -- on the other hand I've started saying things like, "she'll be 'right, mate" and other Aussie phrases that help me to fit in quite nicely.  Alas it is time to leave this great country, but I must expound on my mixed feelings before doing so.

I have grown to love this country.  Although I have only explored the east coast and Northern Territory, I have explored it thoroughly and truly enjoyed it.  You might ask me, "what is your favorite part of Australia?"  This is a tricky and rather unfair question, but an answer might look something like this: my favorite part about Australia might be the people -- or perhaps a certain few.  Many of the Aussies I encountered were quick to go out of their way to help me, give me advice or open their homes to me.  

Another favorite part of Australia is the surf and the surf culture.  With tens of thousands of miles of coastline, you can bet that there are some world class waves.  Hundreds of them.  Some of the best are packed with some of the best surfers in the world, but hey, it comes with the territory.  Nobody gives you a dirty look when you go on a crowded bus with your surfboard; nobody scowls at boardies and thongs (flip-flops) unless you are trying to get into a fancy bar.  Surfing is a part of life in Oz and surfers are generally respected.  

Along with thousands of miles of empty beachbreaks, the metropolises of the east coast are pretty awesome as well.  I loved making Sydney my home for three months -- I even almost felt like a Sydney-sider once I stopped getting so hopelessly lost.    The short time I spent in Melbourne left me with an impression that it is worth a few months exploration.  Brisbane is another cool spot and a city I never felt I had enough time in.

And now it is time to say goodbye to Australia, goodbye to the western world, goodbye to massive supermarkets with familiar foods, a mild climate and air conditioning.  And I am stoked.  I am excited.  Adventure awaits!  I must admit it was quite nice not to be a spectacle in every port we entered, to understand the cultural norms and speak English (albeit the convoluted Aussie type) with everybody, but enough.  Time to push out of the comfort zone once again and take the path less traveled.  Saumlaki, Indonesia here we come!  


A few stats on Australia:

Favorite place visited: Noosa Heads, QLD
Biggest wave surfed: Manly Beach, Sydney
Miles traveled in Australia: over 5,000
Favorite hostel: Mooloolaba Beach Backpackers
Best snorkeling: Lizard Island, GBR
Best party town: Cairns, QLD
States visited: QLD, NSW, VIC, NT
Best music scene: Melbourne
Best radio station: Triple J
Worst part of Oz: cost of living/beer/everything and leaving


However, there have been a few changes aboard S/V Rutea, the most major one being that we acquired a fourth crew member.  My buddy from UCSC Kyle has joined us for a few months as we sail through Indonesia, and I am pretty stoked to have a partner in crime.  His presence will also make it a little easier to leave Australia.  

The plan is to leave Fannie Bay in a few hours and sail the 36 hours to Saumlaki.  It is funny that we sailed for months on end and thousands of miles within Australia, and now a little 300 mile jump will get us to Indo.  I am quite stoked on this.  The winds and seas look decent, so it should be an easy ride.  I seriously can't WAIT to report on crystal clear water, psychedelic fish and insane coral formations.  Should be about... 37 hours after we leave.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Darwin


 Quintessential Darwin sunset

We arrived in Darwin at 0400 on the morning of the 6th (I think). Our sail
through the Van Diemen Gulf was rather uneventful -- just 20 or so hours of
motoring over sheet-glass water, sometimes going 7 or 8 knots, sometimes
going a slow 2 or 3 knots, depending on the tide. It felt like it took
forever to get through the last stretch of water -- we were so close to
Darwin -- but nothing is "close" in the Northern Territory (or in Australia
for that matter).

We spent our first day in Darwin a bit overwhelmed. You know you have been
out of civilization a long time when Darwin is overwhelming. Our last real
town we were in was Cairns, which we left a month ago, so you can imagine
my desire to get some space, meet some new people upon arrival and hang out
in an air conditioned pub for a few days.

Our first days, however, were devoted to sussing the town, cleaning the
hell out of the boat and restocking provisions. After going through
bio-security we were allowed to enter Tipperary Waters marina. Because the
tides are so extreme in Darwin we entered the marina through a lock, which
was an exciting and new experience. I now feel totally prepped for the
Panama Canal. (Ha.)

After the boat was cleaned, the stainless polished and Rutea was tucked
snugly in her slip, Emma arrived just in time to help me explore and get to
know Darwin. We stayed in a hostel the first few nights to get the full
Darwin experience, complete with pool parties, sunset wines at the lagoon,
bars packed full of overly aggressive guys on leave from the outback and of
course, air conditioning.

To be fair it is not really that hot here. It gets a lot hotter, but right
now is the "dry season" so the humidity drops and the nights are cool
enough to sleep with a sheet. Apparently it is absolutely miserable here
in the wet season (summer) but I hope never to experience it first hand.

I like Darwin. Aside from the fact that there is not much to do aside from
drink, eat, shop for kitschy trinkets (crocodile pot holder, anyone?) and
drink some more, I find it nice. I think a lot of Aussies come here to
retire -- think Florida -- and the pace, the people and the lifestyle are
all a bit slow. Get yourself a cold beer and watch the sunset at the
Darwin Sailing Club and you will find yourself getting lost in the deep red
of the sun, considering rethinking your retirement plan.

But Darwin is no paradise. Just like all the rest of the "Top End", Darwin
is infested with crocodiles. Not so much in the city, they try to trap and
remove any salties found on city beaches, but the surrounding areas are
chock full. We had seen lots of advertisements for "Jumping Crocodile
Tours" in the tourist office and so, for her last day Emma decided she
wanted to do a tour. We signed up for a day trip through Wallaroo tours
which took us on a jumping croc tour and a trip through Lichfield National
Park. It was amazing.

Our first stop was the croc tour. I didn't like the idea of seeing
crocodiles and then going swimming after, but hey, it all turned out A-OK.
Our tour group of 18 all piled into a little tinny with metal grates on the
sides that came up, oh maybe three feet out of the water. Our tour
leaders, real bush guys, hacked up frozen chicken pieces and tied them to
poles. Rather short poles, I thought. We cruised up the river and watched
as massive (and not so massive) crocs slithered off the muddy banks they
were sunbaking on to come check us out. Feeding time.


Corie and Emma: crocodile huntresses

The tour guides proceeded to taunt massive, 18 foot long crocodiles --
prehistoric, pissed off, primordial, and just plain sinister looking
crocodiles -- with chunks of chicken. Slap the water with the pole, dangle
the chicken at the croc's nose, pull the chicken away as he lunges for it
and hear his jaws snap on thin air as he falls back into the water, not
three feet away from the boat.

Feeding a little guy
 
To be honest, I got scared. There was nothing between us and these hungry
crocs but thin aluminum, a short grate, or nothing. At one point one croc
even butted the side of the boat. I don't know if it was an act or not,
but the guides kept saying, "Crikey! Aw mate, this is the scary part! We
don't know where he is! Oh, that's a big one there!" Real Steve Irwin
shit. But I was 100% convinced. That was the real deal.

After an hour of harassing crocs and scaring the hell out of tourists, our
guide drove us into Lichfield National Park. He was nice enough to stop at
the bottle shop on the way so that anybody who wanted could grab a few cold
ones for the road. Surprisingly, Emma and I were the only ones who
obliged, but I also think we had the most fun all day.

We spent the rest of the day swimming in stunning waterfalls and swimming
holes -- where there are only fresh water crocs which don't normally attack
humans and the few salties that get in are removed. Reassuring, yes. It
was pretty full of little kids and older people anyway, so I figured I
could out-swim all of them.

Swim at your own risk
 
Lichfield Park is stunning. And massive. You could easily spend a year
exploring the park, hiking, swimming, fishing, camping, investigating giant
termite mounds, and still find new things. The area is rugged and remote
but very beautiful. A national treasure, really. If you ever make it to
Darwin I would highly suggest booking a tour with Wallaroo Tours. They
take you on a great tour, are knowledgeable, fun, and (perhaps the best
part) they serve you prawns and champagne at sunset on the beach to
conclude the tour.

Unfortunately Emma flew back to Brisbane last night, however Kyle (my good
friend from UCSC) has just arrived in Darwin and is going to sail to Indo
with us. I am excited to have a partner in crime on this leg of the trip
and am hoping that maybe, just maybe, having him around will make it a
little easier to leave Australia next week. Don't get me wrong -- I am
super excited about Asia -- but I have kind of fallen for this country in
the past seven months and it will be hard to tear myself away.

I am sure we will manage to have a few more adventures before we leave for
clear waters and perfect surf, so stay tuned!


***
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At 7/5/2013 12:27 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 11°27.96'S 133°08.13'E

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

South Goulburn Island and Friends





Marcus, Thalia and baby Aurellio on Rutea


 After sailing all night from the Wessles with steady 25 - 30 knots of wind, we arrived at South Goulburn Island on Wednesday morning salty and cranky.  It was nearly impossible to sleep at all during the night as each time I finally dozed off we took a wave that put Rutea on her side and made me fly out of bed, or made a book fall on my head.  Regardless, we were so excited to arrive at Goulburn Island the next morning (and to have internet again) that I forgot all about my lack of sleep.

South Goulburn Island is Aboriginal land with a small community, and barred to all visitors unless one obtains a special permit to visit.  Interestingly, Emma has a friend, Thalia, who is doing her PhD and living on the island with her husband, Marcus, and their 4 month old son, Aurellio.  When I found this out I hassled Emma to make an introduction for me to Thalia, because getting a tour of Aboriginal land by knowledgeable people (who are also not afraid of crocs) sounded too good to pass up.

That afternoon Thalia, Marcus and Aurellio met us on the beach, along with a few Aboriginal kids from the community.  It is always funny to meet a friend of a friend for the first time, to feel them out and get to know them, but with Marcus and Thalia we were instant friends.  They were excited to have visitors and we were excited to be visitees, so we all set off at once -- but not before asking the family camping on the beach to keep an eye on the dinghy.  Marcus promised the parents a pack of cigarettes if we came back to a dinghy intact.  We brought the gas tank along with us in the car because, unfortunately, there is a pretty serious problem with teenagers huffing gasoline in the communities.

The six of us piled into the "Troopie", a big, white, 4WD Trooper (although covered in red dust), that is necessary for driving on the dirt roads and deep sand beaches.  Marcus and Thalia took turns answering our numerous questions about the community.  About 450 people live on the island, and few are outsiders (i.e. white).  Marcus and Thalia moved into the community two years ago and it took a while for them to be accepted as locals, although Aurellio is definitely an island baby. 

Thalia and Marcus pointed out the airport and power grid while we drove down dusty, red roads, passing wild horses and small (controlled) bush fires.  Our first stop was a billabong -- a sort of natural freshwater spring that had tall grasses growing out of the pools with lily pads on top.  It was stunningly beautiful, especially because the land surrounding it is so dry, at least during the dry season.  As the ocean is just over the hill, there are known to be crocodiles that crawl from the beach over to the billabong, so swimming is out of the question.

Next we visited Bottle Rocks, where allegedly the fishing is amazing, although we fished there the next day with no luck.  I think that is more the result of my and Dad's terrible fishing skills than the fault of the spot, but Marcus didn't catch anything either.  I told him we are bad juju.

After touring the beaches we went back to our hosts house.  They live right across from the beach and the sea breeze flows through the house keeping it airy and cool.  The five dogs that keep their property safe were all very sweet to me, although I am sure they would not think twice about tearing my head off if they thought I was a threat. 

We walked across the street to the Art Center, where Mom and Dad bought a beautiful Aboriginal art painting.  It is really stunning.  They met the artist and got a picture of him signing it, which is pretty special.  It was nice to be able to buy a piece of art where the proceeds go directly to a community, rather than to a gallery. 

Next door to the Art Center was the shop -- the only market on the island.  While it is not a mega supermarket, for everything being flown in once a week, I thought it was very well stocked.  We didn't buy much because we are close enough to Darwin to make our supplies last.

The community is interesting.  It is always interesting to see how native people cope with modernization, trying to maintain identity and a certain way of life, while adapting to having internet, cell phones and microwave popcorn.  One example is, at the market we saw lots of kids eating bags of chips and popcorn.  Thalia said they eat tons of junk food, and diabetes and obesity are becoming serious issues in the community.  Yet, when we went down to the beach the last night, we saw a family roasting a goana (giant lizard) on the fire.  The kids were eating goana parts with gusto, and one boy proudly showed me the head he was eating.  There are definitely bright and dark sides to this ancient civilization living in modern times, but it is nothing if not interesting.

Goulburn Island is a dry island, meaning there is no alcohol allowed.  This is probably a good thing -- whereas I am all for adults being able to make their own decisions, some adults are unable to make rational decisions when alcohol is involved.  So alcohol was banned on the island (as was kava, which might not have been as constructive). 

However, the water surrounding the island (i.e. the anchorage) was not dry so the six of us had a nice little dinner party on Rutea after our trip into town.  I think even Aurellio had a good time, and only cried for a little while when it was time to go.

The next day Marcus and Thalia took us fishing, but, like I said, our bad juju prevented us from getting any fish.  Fortunately Marcus had caught a bunch of mud crabs the day before, and Thalia prepared a crab feast for dinner which was absolutely delicious.  I spent the afternoon trying to keep Aurellio happy, although he preferred Dad to me. 

Around sunset it was time to return to Rutea so we could pull up anchor early in the morning.  The five dogs wanted to join us for the drive down to the beach, and Marcus had a hell of a time trying to get the dogs out of the Troopie.  He threw one out the door and two jumped in, one in the driver's seat and one trying to lick Aurellio's face... needless to say the rest of us were howling with laughter.

When we got back to the beach we were surrounded by a flock of kids who kept asking us our names.  We said goodbye to Marcus and Thalia and as we motored away from the beach they kids yelled, "Bye Neal! Bye Corie! Bye Ruth!"  It was really a very sweet send off.

In fact, the whole experience was very sweet.  Marcus and Thalia were so welcoming and giving with their time and space; they made me feel like I could stay forever.  And aside from not being able to swim in the water there (or at least not without keeping a keen eye out for crocs) and no surf, I could see myself spending some time in a place like that.  Learning the ways of the bush, hunting mud crabs and eating goanas, maybe roasting a kangaroo and improving my fishing skills all seem like worthy endeavors.  

Alas, I decided once again to leave a place I could very well call home (for a while).  After sailing for the past two days straight, we arrived in Darwin this morning.  Hooray!!!