Friday, May 26, 2017

From Rags to Riches

There used to be a time I floated around the Mediterranean and the Isles of Great Britain on a small and leaky wooden Clinker boat. Pegged along the aft safety lines would usually be an assortment of rags. Some were my clothes, some tea towels and some rags. All ultimately became rags in time. It was argued by some, that this time had long since come; I simply chose to wear some.

On an old wooden boat there never needs to be a shortage of rags; to dry the bilge and oil sodden hands upon. Having coaxed a recalcitrant engine back to life or the almost constant struggle to keep two mutinous bilge pumps and float switches functioning, a cloth must always be to hand. In dire circumstances when a few remnants had been lost over the side and I was elbow deep in grime, an old holey t-shirt would be grabbed and the rag pile replenished.

So what's changed? Our boat though not wooden, has many of the hallmarks. We're blessed with grubby bilges, plenty of varnishing to do and an intractable engine necessitating plenty of time nursing it to servitude and cleaning up afterwards. My t-shirts are still purchased from charity shops and worn until bleached by the sun and decayed by sweat they fall apart. I still very much dress in rags but riches are now ours. Since Ravi recently hit the 8 months mark some of his nappies are starting to be too small, to fade, fray and rip. Yes, we're now becoming rich in rags.

We've become nappy origami pros. Our arsenal consisting of different outers; some bought and some homemade, different folds, fabrics and sizes to suits different occasions. Most we bought whilst in Fiji from the supermarket where they were cheap and still the norm. Some are made from a bumper pack of microfibre rags bought in New Zealand and some are made from cut up and hemmed towels. Adorning the safety lines as they flutter in the breeze are always an assortment of nappies.

The very notion of disposable nappies horrifies us. Of course they are not degradable, so can't be thrown over the side. Imagine a week or two's supply of soiled nappies festering in a cockpit locker, stinking. Then imagine trying to find a receptacle to put them in. Who would be willing for us to use their bin for this? Then they either get carted off to landfill to not fully degrade or blow about littering the beaches and scarring the countrysides we visit, where people are struggling to cope with their new found 'conveniences'. We're constantly trying to reduce, reuse and recycle so this was just not an option.

When water is short we sometimes wash them in salt water then do a final rinse in fresh. We've heard from a couple with a similarly young stowaway who have had the forethought to sew button holes in their nappies. Now they can be dragged along whilst on passage then raised aloft where the spray can't soak them. Since we've fixed our third water tank, water is often available onshore and it rains here enough, we find we need to use less detergent and heat by using fresh.

Because we're changing him frequently and only use water and cotton wool to clean him, Ravi has never suffered from nappy rash. There's no doubt it's pretty time consuming but with all the washing, our hands have never been so clean.

As Ravi grows older we're already starting to reap the benefits of learning when its time for him to go; often catching him before its too late. If we stick him on the toilet at an oportune time we are frequently rewarded. Cloth reared children tend to grow out of nappies when it's time sooner than those using disposables. I think its the advertised lock away pockets that does for them. When finally that day happens we will be truly rich in rags.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


I did recollect someone saying that it can get a bit blowy in the bass straights as I pulled the third and final reef in to the main. We had left sunny Sydney behind and were heading south to Tasmania. 

With dreams of being reunited with winter jumpers and socks that had languished in the lockers since fiordland, we were keen to investigate this sparsely populated and scenic isle. It was also a choice destination for all of Ravi's grandparents to visit him for the first time; since they too like inclement weather. 

The first was arriving in a few days time and we still had a little way to go!

Watching dolphins on the bowsprit just out of Sydney

In between all the smiles Ravi's getting pretty chatty

Last chance for bucket photos since he doesn't fit anymore... We're gonna be needing a bigger bucket!

We weren't alone in the anchorage at Eden, the jumping off port at the bottom of Austraila. There was to be a wooden boat festival in Hobart the next month so we were joined by pretty wooden boats who would frequently row over having spotted, or so they thought, one of their own. 

We were welcomed despite our plastic hull as one of the bunch and joined in the 'Eden shuffle' moving back and forth across the bay with each wind shift. When the weatherman said there was to be a longer shift to the north everyone was off; keen to get across before the strong westerly hit.

Early morning Eden with the noisy bell birds that sound like rusty wheels

We took our time setting off after a long leisurely breakfast; sailing off our anchor and tacking out into the Tasman sea. Our neighbours had all, in their wisdom, up anchored in the calm around midnight. 

But we hate to motor; the trade off was that we ended up in the blow. I set the tiller to lee and furled the last of the jib. As the westerly screamed over us; rather stronger than was forecast; totally blue sky and a searing sun rounded off our situation nicely.

Its hard to imagine if you've never done it; the calm that comes over a boat when you heave to. The lurching and pounding cease and an altogether calmer motion takes over. You're still heeled over quite steeply but the gentler movement lulls you. If only it weren't for the wind howling in the rigging overhead. We all cuddled up in the bow. Ravi was overjoyed that he had both of us there to entertain him and squealed with delight at the sun glistening through the rainbow spray that swept over the bow hatch.

We arrived in Wineglass bay the next day; the day before Austraila day. Owing to our recent exploits and new found chums in wooden boats we felt we deserved the holiday off. So early in the morning we set off to walk over a mountain and into town to buy some sausages. Arriving back knackered after a tiring and hot hike interspersed by hitching a lift along the road; why don't we ever learn?

Wineglass bay on the Freixnet peninsula is an absolute stunner. We hitched both ways after scaling over to where the road reaches. Everyone was jolly for Australia day. We've found Australians to be an uncommonly positive bunch

From Wineglass we sailed a day and then motored through the night up in to a windless hobart arriving as dawn broke. We'd made it; just. Getting to rendezvous on time is the dread of sailors. This totally mystifies guests who just assume its easy to make a plan and stick to it. The only real solution is to always arrive with weeks in hand so as not to risk wrong weather or breakdowns. Unfortunately this would never work for us; we're both 'last minute' people so when our efforts are combined it tends to result in us being a 'last second' family.

We then had six weeks in the Hobart area whilst first Ruth's mum and then my parents visited with a few days overlap so that they could meet. Their main reason for coming was to see Ravi (and us?) but it was nice to get to know the area and see many of the sights with them.

My parents Chris and Jean, Ravi and Ruth's mum Averil

Averil introducing Ravi to shore bound delights in her air bnb Hobart. She had a week there then another at a beautiful place in cygnet then we went back for the wooden boat festival all of which remains incredibly un documented in photos.

Here's one of my mum getting to know her grandson

Our first ever squid made a beautiful paella! We now have a squid jig but this one snagged on the normal fishing line.

Impetuous in Hobart

Where Mona is a highlight; a very unusual Museum of Old and New Art. This is hacked out of the sandstone and houses all kinds of unusual things. This display emits words in water which plummet to the floor in a second or so and are chosen from Google's most searched terms commenting on our transient attention and media. The next one combines sex acts and botany in tin can form...

Caves near Port Arthur.

Nappies fluttering everywhere we go!

Hobart views from up mount Wellington

Pademelons, platypi and waterfalls at Mount Field national park       



Ravi likes the spoon I made him for his mini meals...


With grandparents gone and a high lingering over Tasmania with the promise of good weather, we headed off to the Southern Capes and on to the remote Bathurst harbour. Only accesible by foot, light plane or of course boat, we hoped it would serve us a week or so of isolated beauty before heading north again to meet a friend, warm up and press on towards Asia.

Rounding South West Cape and it was chilly!

It was with quiet alarm that we rounded the last of the offlying islands, after dark, and headed for Bramble cove. The bay seemed to resemble a small town, with many lights illumiating it. 'Ruth, there aren't any villages here are there?' I enquired. 'There's no phone reception and everyone talks as if it were totally deserted'

The bay was full of some 40 + boats. The following morning we recognised that many sported the flag of a rally that had left Hobart after the wooden boat festival; a month earlier, and circled Tasmania. We had arrived on their last night, by mid day there where only a handful left. With the new space and daylight we moved to the north shore and dug out our walking boots, with ideas of taking Ravi up a mountain.

We weren't to be dissapointed. With still settled weather the views from the top of mount misery were spellbinding. Reminding us of why we choose to seek out these remote destinations. Over the coming days we were to enjoy some wonderful walks, making good use of the baby carrier that my parents had found in a garage sale in Port Cygnet. As well as sheltered sailing between secluded anchorages and the odd dip into the cold Southern Ocean seeking out shellfish.

Above Clayton's corner where there is an abandoned but maintained house and nearby a campsite and bird watching hut where we saw one of the most rare birds in the world. Only around 60 in the wild, the vaguely unimpressive orange breasted parrot.

From Spain bay this ocean beach was an easy walk away, famous for its aboriginal midden

Without any interpretation boards it's nice to be left to find your own understanding of what these huge mounds of shells must signify and where they were brought from since the beach was otherwise completely devoid of them. We kept at a respectful distance since there were obviously sizeable bones intermingled with the shells.

When we heard (from fellow cruisers with a HF radio) that there were to be SE winds for the coming few days we realised that our time in this beautiful corner of Tasmania must come to an end. This was too good an opportunity to miss meaning we could sail up the usually rough West coast with fair winds and little swell. 

By the time that the next strong westerlies came we had managed to get ourselves up the west coast and across the north to Flinders island. At times we even had to motor so settled was the weather. We stopped in the town of Stanley near the north west corner; trekked up the steep 'nut' and found the best ice cream in ages; dark chocolate chilli. Here we enjoyed the hospitality of the fishing harbour which was free and had great hot showers. 

We briefly visited the sandy inlet of port sorrel where we got throughly soaked and the wind against tide conditions played havock with anything not strongly enough lashed down.  This gave us a job of patching a batten pocket to do as we positioned ourselves at the top of flinders island, in the bass straights, a perfect jumping off point to return to the mainland. 

Catching up with more washing in Stanley fishing harbour

Heading North back up the mainland we were treated to a stunning dolphin display

It would be wonderful to say that we had a hitchless return to the mainland and back to sydney. Though the weather provided us with swift downwind sailing, we had a roly time with a current against us. On the only occasion we ran the engine it spluttered a new complaint. 

We are now back in Sydney and have had a lovely time with our friend's visit pottering around the harbour by sail and seeing some sights. The faulty engine slightly hampered where we could go; the latest ancillary part at fault is the diesel injection pump that has taken to kindly sharing the precious diesel fuel with the oil sump much to our displeasure. So we're doning our 'working on boats in exotic places' caps whilst allowing ourselves the luxury of a launderette wash every now and again for a few weeks before continuing up the coast.   

Friday, March 10, 2017

A little something from New Caledonia and a big welcome to Sydney!

Catch up time! Sorry we've been so slack. We've been having a lovely time; been sailing far and wide and visited by lots of grandparents. Back in December we sailed from New Caledonia to Australia. We had Christmas at sea and new year's eve in Sydney. Here's what we should have posted on new year's day...

New Caledonia is French. It's not Europe but there's no doubt whilst you're there what country you're in. There might be palm trees and hibiscus flowers but there are also cars driving on the right, baguettes, cheese, wine and a slight undercurrent of cool.

Whilst there, we really went crazy with the Vin, du pan, et du fromage. Paté de Champagne has never tasted so good, we even tried a paté du cheval!

Checking in was blissfully free and just entailed trailing around a few offices. They even let us check in and check out at the same time since we'd arrived Thursday and planned to press on on Sunday.

Nouméa harbour is busy and anchoring is only permitted in small well marked areas. Sadly these areas are chock full of Moorings so anchoring on the edge or picking up a mooring are your only options. We picked one up just outside the marina expecting to have to move on later so were pleased when a Frenchman rowed over and said we were welcome to borrow it for a few days, the owner was inside the marina for cyclone season.

We'd only planned on a weekend but we ended up staying a week as our visa for Australia had the complication of requiring medical examinations and chest x rays. We weren't seeing new Caledonia at its best since we only stayed in the capital where officials, phones and Internet are, but it appeared to be a troubled place. There was a palpable animosity between the mix of cultures there. Shiny buildings and fast cars with some of the people left behind and despondent. Alcohol can only be bought at some times on some days such are the problems.

Having said this, people were nice to us and we'd like to visit again to learn more, but next time sail around the island. However we were deep into cyclone season by now so on the 22nd December visas in hand we headed out again.

Christmas at sea was a blissfully low key affair. We had a good meal, a nice bottle of wine and watched a film. The sea was kind to us that day of a generally quick and pleasant passage. We'd worried that the trade winds are lessening at this time of year but we had no such trouble.

Ravi with our Christmas roast. He had his first scrap of food on the day but it was lychee, not roast.

Having a chat about the weather...

Eight days at sea unusually for us clock watching all the way. And we made it! We had good wind until about 30 miles out of Sydney when it died, then so did Pip. Bloody engines! So we flopped about in view of our goal for a whole day and finally picked up the quarantine buoy as light faded on the 30th Dec.

We'd been reticent about visiting Australia; until it became the obvious thing to do given the changing season; because of stories about difficult check ins. Particularly those concerning their caution over wood dwelling insects. We had visions of being impounded, fined, our woodwork being carved up and our mast being carted off by over zealous bio security officers. Perhaps it was the season or that Sydney does not see many international yacht first check ins but the guys we had couldn't have been more delightful or reasonable. Once they heard that we only spend time at anchor and wouldn't be doing any modifications whilst in Oz, their concerns were allayed and we sailed through our inspections.

Then we had to sail off their dock! It was new year's eve morning and the wind had been picking up such that one of the officers had started to go green! It was hooning into the small bay with much gusto so an elaborate plan with dinghy and long ropes was implemented. We span round within a whisker of a beautiful moored wooden ketch, quickly getting in all the lines before tacking out amongst all the moored boats. It would have been a tricky manoeuvre with the engine but without it was nail biting stuff.

Ravi is used to having us both right there to attend to his every whim but at this time he had to be left to cry lonely bolstered up in the bow safely out of the way. He only cried less than 5 minutes before giving up and going to sleep.

We sailed out into the main harbour and found ourselves a good spot and waited.

We weren't disappointed. What a welcome!