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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Woe Is Me Pt. III

The last of a trilogy, I hope.

I know you're sick of hearing of our mishaps and misadventures.  Or maybe not -- maybe you are smirking smugly to yourself thinking, "that's what they get!"  Either way, I am not sure what is up, but in the past few days we (Rutea, more specifically) has been a magnet for rocks, coral heads, squalls and, most recently, a fat ass piece of something that got stuck on the rudder.

There we were, sailing down the Straits of Malacca, 1.5 miles away from our anchorage at Bintan Island.  The morning was rife with rain squalls and freighters, but the current was with us so we were making good time.  The Strait was filled with trash and random floating objects, so Mom was watching the water keenly as Dad was at the helm.  I was down below doing a crossword puzzle.

All of a sudden: CHUNK.  CLUNK. BANG.  THUD.  There is that moment when you hit something as you are sailing along that makes your heart absolutely drop, followed by the thought, "Oh fxxk, not again."  I dashed up into the cockpit but Mom and Dad looked as bewildered as me.  They had not seen anything in the water.  When Mom tried to put the engine in forward the prop made a horrible clunking noise, so Dad went below to check the engine.  

We could all feel something banging at the stern of the boat, but Dad came back up and said nothing looked wrong with the engine.  Then he checked the stern of the boat: "Ha! Guys, you gotta come look at this!  Bring the camera," he shouted from the aft deck.  I grabbed the camera and ran out, only to find  four beams of wood sticking out from under the boat.  It looked like we had effectively docked ourselves.  

Effectively dry-docked

Here we were, in the middle of the Straits of Malacca with squalls on the horizon and three feet of wind chop on the water, a current pulling us towards the rocks and 1.5 bloody miles away from our anchorage, we get caught up on these massive pieces of wood.  (Any words come to mind?)

Dad decides to jump in the water to see what exactly is going on (in the middle of the busiest waterway in the world).  We tied a line to the stern so he wouldn't get swept away with the current, but I was more concerned with him getting bashed in the head by the boat, which was heaving and dropping in the choppy conditions.  He jumped in and, after a minute or so (maybe even less), decided that we would have to sail into the anchorage, beams in tow.  The four beams were connected by two iron rods, the square of which had managed to wedge itself over the skeg and rudder.  How is this possible?  I have no idea.  I just know that it happened.  

Fortunately, because we are all such competent sailors, and because we miraculously still had steering, we were able to sail up to anchor.  Soon after anchoring Dad jumped into the water, hacksaw in hand, and in 15 minutes sawed the iron rod that connected the four beams together, freeing the beams from the rudder.  He said there was minor damage to the skeg and hull of the boat, which was extremely lucky.  

We are now anchored off Nirwana Resort on the island of Bintan.  Singapore is a mere 20 miles away, and the prices at the resort reflect that.  We are definitely (almost) not in Indonesia anymore.  However, they let us use the pool for free and give us as many fresh towels as we want.  There are also showers galore.  I intend on making full use of these luxuries before we check out of the country and move on to Singapore.  And hopefully, HOPEFULLY, our encounter with the beams was the last misadventure for a while (although I kind of doubt it).  I mean really, we have hit more things in the past three days than we have in the past three years.  What is up with that?!

P.S. I thought it was very mature of me that I didn't mention to Dad that the Straits of Malacca have the most deadly and the highest population sea snakes of anywhere in the world.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Woe (Whoa) part. II

Two of my very least favorite ways to be woken on the boat are by: 1. lightning and 2. crashing into something. Yet both of these unpleasant ways to get me out of by bunk in record speed have happened in the past, oh, say, three hours.

Early this morning I woke up to an electrical storm. Call me a weenie, but I guess I didn't grow up around enough lightning and frankly, it scares the hell out of me. This could be because I sleep under a rather large metal pole (the mast) and should lightning strike it I am pretty sure my brains would be fried. I was consoled by the fact that there was a large cell tower on shore not a half mile away, and hoped the lightning bolts would head for that instead of Rutea. But you never know. As the flashes and BOOMS got closer and closer together, I thought of our evacuation route.

You see, we were anchored off a nice white sand beach lined with coconut palms. Earlier in the day after we got settled in, Kyle and I went ashore to stretch our legs, play some frisbee and get off the boat for the first time in four days. After we dragged the dinghy up on the beach and stripped down to our swimsuits, we were promptly attacked by mosquitos. I could actually feel the little buggers bite, they were so big and vicious. We both jumped into the water to escape them, but still had to drag the dinghy down the beach and back into the water to make our escape, and of course we were eaten alive in the process. So I had to weigh in my mind the thought of being marooned on a mosquito infested beach versus having my brains fried by lightning. I decided to take my chances with the lightning.

Fortunately, the electrical storm passed and my brains remain intact (relatively speaking). I fell back into a nice, blissful sleep, although I woke up half way when Mom and Dad started the engine and pulled up the anchor. I lazily stayed in bed and dozed for a while as we motored along longer until CRUNCH.

"Corie get out of bed now!" I heard Mom yell as my feet hit the cabin floor. "I'm up! I'm up!" Dad rushed up forward to see if water was gushing in from anywhere and I went up on the bow to see what we had hit. The water was not very clear but I could see the shape of a coral bommie about six feet under the surface. Of course there was no indication of it on the charts - or anywhere for that matter - but there it was. The depth went from 40 feet to 6 feet in a matter of seconds. Scary.

From inside the boat there was no evidence of hitting anything, i.e. water gushing up under the floorboards or a huge dent in the side of the hull. We will only really be able to tell the extent of the damage by jumping in the water and checking out the hull and keel from underneath. Dad is pretty sure only the keel of the boat hit the bommie and there should not be too much (if any) damage to the hull. Whereas the sickening crunch of fiberglass mashing into a coral head is a horrible way to wake up, it is very effective. I'm awake! I'm up! And in fact I'm writing you!

But really, this is getting ridiculous. We are fifty miles south of Singapore and I would like to get there intact. At least we completed our last overnight passage two nights ago, which wasn't fun either. Between the lightning (yes, more), the squalls, the erratic courses of dimly lit fishing boats and the massive freighters steaming along at 15 knots that wouldn't even notice if they ran over us, it was a bit... harrowing. I might be overly dramatic but I am pretty sure I sprouted my first gray hair during that watch. Hooray for no more night watches - at least until we get to Singapore. Who knows after that.

Can't you tell how much fun we're having?! Don't you want to be here too?! I won't even begin to delve into the topic of fresh food (or lack thereof), or how bloody hot it is. Just do me a favor and remember me as you bite into that tart, juicy apple after putting on a sweater on a crisp fall afternoon.
At 10/19/2013 9:34 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 00°28.48'N 104°26.38'E

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Woe Is Me

I shouldn't complain. I mean, I REALLY shouldn't complain. But - I am tired. Everyone is tired. Even the boat is tired. Not only has Sail Indonesia been an exhausting adventure, but it started long before that: since we left Sydney at the end of March we have covered around 5,000 nautical miles (roughly speaking), and have not stayed in any one anchorage, marina or port longer than three weeks. That is seven months of go, go, go - through some rather serious stretches of water if I do say so myself (Great Barrier Reef, Torres Straits, Gulf of Carpenteria, the Arafura, Banda and Java Seas to name a few).

The vibe throughout the Sail Indonesia fleet has become rather subdued. I can't help but feel sorry for the good people of Belitung who hosted the most recent event. Just as with all the other places we have gone, there was cultural dancing and a traditional feast, all of which were poorly attended by us yachties. You KNOW a yachtie is burned out on nasi goreng when he or she turns down a free meal. Fortunately there was a little warrong on the beach that sold cheap beer, so most of us hung out there in the evenings drinking and sharing stories of woe about how our boats are falling apart.

Like I said, not only are people exhausted but so are the boats. Everybody seems to be having some sort of failure - be it autopilots, engines, rigging or refrigeration. People (ourselves included) are looking forward to getting to Singapore - where apparently you can get anything in the world, and then to Malaysia - where we will berth the boat while we go back to the States and where Mom and Dad will have some serious work done when they return in the new year. (I plan to stay in the States and get some of that.. what's it called again.. structure - yes, that's it - structure in my life.)

However, it's not over yet. We still (only?) have 300 miles to get to Singapore, which ironically, is through the busiest waterway in the world - the Straits of Malacca. That should be yet another adventure. In the meantime, we are slowly making our way north toward the equator, and I feel it. Whereas the sun might gently kiss your bare skin in northern California, on the equator it bites you. We all crowd in the shade of the cockpit or try to lie as still as possible under the fans but even then we sweat because it is so humid. Everything feels wet all the time. Thankfully, the squalls that bring lightning and thunder also bring rain and a cool breeze, which is a relief.

And so, although we might be a little cranky and whingey and tired, all is well. Really, the past few months (not to mention years!) have been amazing. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
At 10/15/2013 1:02 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 02°31.03'S 108°59.64'E

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Ooo-Ooo-Aaa-Aaa (Orangutans in Borneo)

Possibly my favorite photo of the trip, taken by Dad

To be completely honest, I've had a hard time writing this blog. It seems that the more awesome an event, the harder it is to convey. How does one describe the feeling of thrill evoked from holding hands with an orangutan? Or waking up to the silent beauty of the Kumai river deep in the jungle of Borneo? I don't want to leave anything out, but to report on all events and emotions would be impossible. I'll give it a go but try to stick to the highlights, or else this epic epic will end up a bit too Homer-esque.

We, along with five other boats, were picked up from our boats in the Kumai anchorage by a klotok on Monday morning. A klotok is a traditional Indonesian wooden boat with two decks, brightly painted and more like a houseboat than anything else I can think of. The upper deck is open but shaded, with chairs and a table like a living room. This is where we ate, drank, slept and watched the world go by (i.e. lived). The lower floor contained the galley (if you can call it that), sleeping quarters for the crew and a head with a western toilet (yes!). There were 16 of us yachties on the boat, although we split up at night and slept on other klotoks.

After we were collected from our boats we headed up an arm of the Kumai river, headed toward the orangutan reserves in Tanjung Puting national park (insert Heart of Darkness reference here). After a few hours of motoring up the river we stopped at Tanjung Harapan, where orangutans are rehabilitated and orphaned orangutans are raised. We walked for about twenty minutes -- the perfect length of a hike through sweltering, sauna-like jungle -- to a feeding platform where orangutans congregate at 3 PM every day for lunch.

As you probably know, an orangutan looks like a hairy, hunchbacked, red-head. Aside from this and the fact that their arms are as long as their legs, they look quite human-like. So to see one hang from a treetop is a bit strange -- until you see her lean out and grab another branch, swing gracefully onto the next tree which leans way over, allowing her to access the next tree, shimmy down the trunk using her hands and feet, only to land gracefully on the feeding platform and start gorging herself on bananas, all the while her baby clutching her long red hair for dear life. There is reason behind their name: orang-utan, meaning "man of the jungle".

At 3 PM a ranger dumps a backpack full of bananas, coconuts, cassava and other treats on the feeding platform. There is no mad dash for the food as one might expect, but rather a cautious mama and her baby approach from above, always keeping an eye out for trouble. Others watch on as she eats her fill, and once she leaves another descends from the trees to grab a few snacks before jetting off. Obviously there is a hierarchy and the most dominant eat first, leaving scraps for the others if they are lucky. At Tanjung Harapan feeding time is civil, interesting yet mellow. Things were not quite as civilized at Camp Leakey.

After a night of playing cards, an average dinner and sleeping on lumpy mattresses in mosquito nets in our living room, we awoke to the shrieking of proboscis monkeys and the roar of other klotoks heading toward Camp Leakey. Soon we were underway to our next destination where our guides said we were sure to have some exciting encounters with orangutans. They were right. Upon arrival at Camp Leakey we tied up to another klotok which was tied to the dock. Most people went for a walk but I decided not to, and kicked myself when they came back saying they had a close encounter with the orangutan Percy, who got annoyed when he couldn't find the peanuts in the guide's pocket and proceeded to rip his shirt. And I missed it. I wanted to go for another walk right then and there, but we had to eat lunch first.

As all 16 of us were eating lunch on our boat, we heard a commotion and yelling coming from the boat we were tied to. Apparently Percy -- who is a very cheeky orangutan -- snuck onto the other klotok and stole a can of sweetened condensed milk from the table, right behind the backs of the other guides. When they saw him they charged and Percy took off, scrambled up a tree and sat back, gleefully enjoying his can of sweet milk while we took pictures, laughed and made wily comments. But the coolest experience of the trip, and possibly one of the top five coolest experiences of my life, was yet to come.

After lunch we set out for the 2 PM feeding. As we walked down the long, wooden walkway (like a dock above the jungle floor) a large orangutan swung herself onto the path. We all stopped. Cameras clicked away as she did a walking somersault not 15 feet in front of us. Then she stopped in the middle of the path, effectively blocking us from crossing. "Just keep walking, just go around her calmly," our guide told us. Oh, right, stay calm while this 200 pound orangutan, who could tear your arms off without second thought, watches you pass within inches of her.

No glass!  No walls!  No fences!

Naturally our guide was right and after passing her she slunk away, uninterested. It is bizarre to see orangutans walking around freely after being separated by the thick glass of zoos in all other encounters I have experienced, but I guess this is why people come to Borneo. One orangutan in particular was walking in the direction of the feeding platform. "Just follow her, she knows where to go," our guide Febri told us. We walked along, being led by this hairy, short little thing with an awkward gait.

Kyle and I were in the front of our group as we were walking and our guide, Joe, walked up along side us. "Hey, you want to try something?" he asked. "Ummmm, OK?" we both said, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. "Come here, just walk along side her," and he indicated toward the orangutan. Kyle walked up along side of her and I did on the other. She looked up at Kyle and, with her gorilla-like hand, grabbed onto his arm. Then she did the same to me. I can only describe holding hands with an orangutan as like holding hands with a cheeky, unpredictable, extremely hairy troll that has superhuman strength.

 As Kyle and I walked hunched over, in the iron grasp of this creature, I was not sure whether to laugh or scream. She did not hurt me, but she did not seem keen to let go, either. While her leathery hand was wrapped around my arm I took the opportunity to feel her wiry orange hair. I was tempted to touch the baby that was clutching her, but refrained with better judgment. We walked along for a minute or two while people laughed and snapped photos, until she got tired of me and Kyle, let us go, and grabbed onto the next two closest people.

Except this time, not only did she grab them with her hands, but with her feet as well, making the two people carry her. She looked back at the rest of us with a cheeky grin on her face, well aware of the fact that we were carrying her to lunch. People took turns carrying her most of the way to the feeding platform. Of course everybody wanted to be able to say, "I carried/held hands with an orangutan", because aside from being a bit smelly afterward, it was pretty damn thrilling.

Feeding time at Camp Leakey was exciting. Once we arrived at the platform I stopped and looked up in the surrounding trees (hard to do when you are walking for fear of tripping or stepping in a swarm of fire ants) where I noticed no fewer than eight orangutans waiting for lunch, most of them females with babies. Once the rangers had unloaded food the first orangutans approached the platform. They came from all directions, often sneaking up behind tourists who were taking pictures of orangutans already at the platform and pushing them out of the way to get by.

In one incident one mother with her baby drank all the coconut milk out of a bucket, which pissed off another mother (with her baby as well). There was a bit of a confrontation on the platform before the first mama took off, running through the crowd of tourists who parted quickly to help her escape. She passed right by me and I could hear her baby whimpering as she bolted up a tree. The other mama followed her, charging up the same tree. We all held our breaths as we watched the action above us. It looked like a one-way tree -- there were none others close enough for the first mama to get to. As the second mama approached closer and closer, the first mama leaned way out. The tree top swayed and bended and leaned way over into the neighboring trees. The first mama gracefully grabbed onto the next tree and swung herself into it, sending the other tree with the pissed off mama flinging back into place. The crowd below cheered and then released a collective sigh of release that she made a safe escape.

Exciting times in Tanjung Puting, my friend. We went on to see a "king" or alpha male orangutan, complete with the big, flabby cheeks that alpha orangutans have; we saw tons more proboscis monkeys; had another fun night of drinking and card playing and so on and so forth. Ironically, one of the most entertaining aspects of the trip was little Braca, my two-year old buddy from the boat Atea, who kept everybody on the boat on their toes. He was nearly as entertaining to watch as the orangutans -- never knowing where he'd go or whose face he would thrust his toy crocodile in next. I obviously have a soft spot for animals and babies, so the trip was a pretty massive score in that sense.

Me and my buddy Braca rocking out

Alas, one journey over and another begun. We left Kumai yesterday and are now headed to Belitung (wherever that is). We have just over two weeks left on our Indonesian visas (time flies, right?!) and have about 400 miles left to sail (or motor) to Singapore. We are at 2 degrees south of the equator, there is 8 knots of wind, flat calm seas, we are cruising at about 4 knots with the spinnaker up and it is 91 degrees in the cabin. All is well.

P.S. I promise I will post pictures someday!!
At 10/11/2013 4:07 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 03°07.84'S 111°32.26'E

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bali Bye

Bali exists in a time warp where ancient coincides with modern, where the people seem to be timeless because nobody realizes that the days have melted into weeks, the months into years and the years into eras. While one could spend a lifetime time-traveling through all the nooks and crannies of Bali, we were not given the luxury of infinite visas - in fact we have to be out of the country in about three weeks - and there is still so much to see.

A few days ago Kyle and I were sitting at the top of the cliff at Impossibles, watching the wave work her magic. "Dude, how long have we been here?" Kyle asked. "I dunno... a few days? A week? I really can't remember. We should probably find out when we need to be back on the boat." I replied. After talking with Mom and Dad we realized that we only had a few days left in Bali, and somehow over two weeks of our epic surf backpacking trip had passed.

"Ok, now we have to figure out what to do with our last few days. I mean, we have not seen much of Bali. But I feel like we are currently seeing the best of Bali, so is there really any reason to go anywhere else?" I asked pragmatically, still buzzing off the fact that after taking beatings at Impossibles for four days I finally got one of the perfect ringers of a wave that had been taunting and eluding me for days. "I kind of feel like we should see some other part of the island, you know, like Ubud or something cultural like that, although I agree that we probably won't see anything better than this," Kyle reasoned. I agreed.

We got the motivation we needed to leave the Bukit peninsula in the form of a message from my very dear favorite German surf buddy who I spent my entire study abroad surfing around northern Spain with. Ralf just so happened to be Bali and staying in Canggu (pronounced Chan-gu), and encouraged us to meet up with him for waves and beers. Kyle and I made arrangements to leave our beloved Padang-Padang and were soon on our way to meet Ralf on the beach at Canggu.

I can't tell you how sweet it was to meet up with my old friend on the beach in Bali after five years of little to no contact. We immediately fell into filling each other in on the past five years of our lives, lamenting how our surfing has not progressed as much as we had hoped, reminiscing about freezing our asses off surfing under the snowy Picos de Europa and planning future surf trips together. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling, but there is something about being reunited with a good friend in a foreign country that makes it all the sweeter.

Ralf, Kyle and I spent the afternoon and evening swapping stories and drinking excessively. Kyle and I were very impressed with Ralf's accommodations at Bali Surf Camp, where they provide three meals a day, guides to take surfers to the best waves, film all the sessions and provide all transportation. After shouting us dinner at the surf camp, Ralf promised to text us and tell us where the guides were going to take them in the morning for surfing so we could piggyback on their local knowledge.

The next morning Kyle and I walked 20 minutes down the beach to Old Man's, where Ralf said they would be surfing. The waves were glassy and overhead on the sets, but it was so crowded that I didn't expect to find Ralf. Of course I did - sitting in the line-up grinning from ear to ear - typical Ralf. For the next few hours we call called each other into waves and cheered each other on. After surfing Impossibles, Old Man's felt gentle and aptly named, and I surfed until I thought my arms would fall off. I am not sure there is anything in the world better than surfing good waves with great friends.

I spent the rest of the day eating and sleeping, catching an evening surf as the sun went down. The eat, sleep, surf, repeat lifestyle in full effect. So good. After a nice dinner we said goodbye to Ralf, as the next day we had to leave for Lovina Beach to get back on the boat. Our visit with Ralf was short and sweet, but it was the icing on the cake to an epic surf adventure.

Yesterday morning as we were packing up our bags to head for Lovina Beach I got an email from Mom saying that she and a friend were going to Ubud and, if we met them there we could catch a ride to Lovina with them. The idea of making the three hour drive in an air conditioned car rather than a hot, crowded bus was much more appealing, plus the opportunity to see Ubud, however brief.

We ended up sharing a car with two other backpackers to Ubud, where we were dropped off with our surfboards in the middle of the city in the middle of the island. It is always funny to walk around a landlocked city with a surfboard, and as we walked to find Mom taxi drivers incessantly offered us rides: "Where are you going? Padang-Padang?! Uluwatu?! I take you there!" Thanks buddy, very tempting, but we just came from there.

It was fun to meet up with Mom in Ubud. After being gone over two weeks I missed her a bit! We all did some shopping and had a nice lunch before heading back to Lovina. Ubud seemed like a very cool city - not the sleepy, quiet, monastic place that I imagined - but interesting and worth a few days visit all the same.

Last night we celebrated Dad's birthday with pizza but didn't party too hard because we pulled up anchor (or rather Dad did, I slept) at 4AM. It is very nice to be back "home" and sleep in my own bed, although it was hard to leave Bali and today I have to regain my sea legs. We are now headed to Kumai on Kalimantan, island of Borneo, where we are going Heart of Darkness stylee and going up a jungle river on the boat to see orang-utans. How crazy is that? How crazy is this life!?
At 10/2/2013 5:13 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 07°18.69'S 114°32.22'E

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