Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ravis' World at One...

Wow, Today Ravi turned one. A whole year old. He is currently fast asleep after a fun and busy day as I write this blog at almost 10 o'clock at night. Its been a year of learning for us all, as all new parents know. Last night at this time he was still scuttling around our feet laughing hysterically. The most recent lesson being 'don't give your soon to be one year old the cake mix bowl to lick too close to bed time.

Chocolate brownies the cake in question. Just over a year ago we sailed past and then later briefly met the Del Viento family. Ruth was on the verge of giving birth. Before they left the anchorage they kindly made us some chocolate brownies. They left them in the cockpit of Impetuous as we were out at the time. Infact we were out at the hospital embarking on what turned out to be the quite lengthy process of having a baby. So when I got back to the boat it was dark. Indeed it was still dark when I left the following morning.

I'm not entirely sure how long they had been there when I finally discovered them. They had clearly been through a few melt cycles but they were gooey, crunchy and delicious and it was quite an effort for me to save some to take in for Ruth; for whom i'm sure they were really intended, still languishing, knackered in hospital trying to persuade the doctors and nurses that they were ready to come home. So when it came to making some sort of cakey thing to celebrate Ravi turning one the chocolate brownie came to mind.

We are currently in Cairns having just spent the last few days stocking up and organising before we head up towards the remote Thursday island on the North East tip of Australia. Of course as well as provision we've been keeping an eye out for a suitable one year old present. Suitable for a sailor.

We stumbled on an environmentally conscious toy shop in Cairns thinking a little wooden trinket or nice little book may be the thing. There we were blown away by all the beautiful wooden toys, books, recycled plastic toys but one thing after a perusal leapt out. 'Hugg a Planet'. We turned it over marvelling at the detail particularly of obscure islands; some we've been to, most we'd like to one day and the lovely huggable squishiness of it. In our standard style we resolved it was very lovely but a bit pricy, perhaps we'll have a bash at making one ourselves and paid for the little dancing dinosaur we'd chosen.

On our way about town we discussed how we'd never manage the level of detail and accuracy on the globe and it would take ages... hey what about the money for Ravis birthday your parents sent. They'd love us to splash out on something nice for him, so back we went and here it is. Ravi's globe.

Last night after we'd all finally gone to bed, Ruth sewed on his route thus far; from Fiji, to New Caladonia and the east coast of Austraila and Tasmania. We will keep updating it as we sail from country to country. Lets face it, it's quicker and more fun than a traditional log. Our next stop will be Indonesia so there will be a little more sewing on passage as well as our new courtesy flag needed. 

Birthday splashes whilst his parents felt apprehensive about crocodiles...

Wrapping paper Impetuous style...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Drifting up the East coast; migrating with the whales

Actually it hasn't all been entirely laid back. Certainly we have had some enjoyable lazy days of slowly drifting along, hoping an offshore breeze might pick up later. But we have also had some stonking southerlies that have slalomed us up the coast.

The general run of the weather has tended to be against passage north, until, with some ferocity, a southerly change arrives. After an initial surge, the wind drops, dies and changes then the system repeats.

The trick lies in not being out when it howls with antarctic shrill nor still being out when the lumpy seas remain but all traces of wind have gone. Suffice to say our timing still leaves a little to be desired, but so, for that matter does the forecasting...

Kangaroo grazing with a seaview near Iluka

We see whales almost every day as they too migrate north, but have given up on trying to capture their feats on camera and have resolved to enjoy their displays instead. Sometimes they even come over after we've anchored and have a nosey around like snuffling huge but slow dogs.

We were sad to leave Sydney in our wake. Its a fantastic city which suits the sailor. We had made various friends in Tasmania and further afield who we could now meet on their home turf.  The anchorages and public moorings are all over the city and free. Right at the end of our stay we found some amazing free hot showers laid on for the swimmers of Balmoral. If only we'd found them sooner the tourists at the fishmarket would have had less of an eyeful of us showering in the cockpit.

It's hard to explain what was so lovely about Sydney.  Everything seemed to work and feel positive.  Getting around to far flung suburbs for engine parts and services (boring fuel injection pump) was easy, speedy and affordable between google and our opal card (prepaid transport card).  There was more cultural diversity than other parts of Australia and we felt welcome, interested and at home. Plus of course it's a stunning harbour where there is almost always some wind for a sail.

Whilst there we also splashed out on three very different treats.  The first was a fancy feathering propeller which we'd heard about whilst at the wooden boat festival in Tasmania.  George the boss had sent his apprentice Jake down to do a little touting and he managed to talk us round.

Since grinding our original fixed blade prop off on a reef in Fiji we have thought that this would be a good opportunity to buy either a feathering or folding propeller. When researching from Fiji however we couldn't find one that we liked which would fit in the  space between our hull and rudder, so at the time we ordered a replacement fixed blade from New Zealand in order to get moving again.

We were therefore ripe for persuasion when Jake showed us their design which fits, is simple requiring little maintenance, adjustable in pitch and affordable. We are delighted with our find, made locally in Sydney by JBC engineering; the Hydralign. They were extremely friendly, helpful and knowledgeable and whilst there we were able to introduce Ravi to the untold delights of engineering shops being shown around by guys who genuinely loved their jobs and were thrilled when we all showed interest.

The next came from a seed sewn whilst Sally was visiting us.  She happened to mention the number of British acts on bill boards and that she'd even seen a poster with Billy Bragg on it.  A few weeks after she'd left us that thought crossed my mind so we had a look at what was on... there he was, Billy Bragg was playing the main theatre at the Opera house and in just a couple days time.  How could we pass that up? We urgently went on a baby ear defender chase since the ones we'd used in Hobart had been inadequate.

The third was not to be available in Sydney but we ordered ourselves an inflatable kayak online and had it delivered to our friends in the hills above Brisbane.

Just a stones throw up the coast and a gentle drift for us was the inlet of Broken bay, a confluence of estuaries, many surrounded by native bush. Quite the antidote to the city life we had been leading.

After a day of chundering crew, a stop in Port Stephens seemed a logical but unplanned choice. It also gave me the opportunity to catch up with an old friend I had gone to school with decades ago. Surrounded by our children, its sobering to reflect that some of the offspring were only a little younger than we had been when we first met.

After a brief pitstop in a horribly rolly Coffs harbour we pushed on principally under motor to arrive at the delightful Clarence river prior to another northerly change.

What has made these passages so pleasant has been the ever positive charm of the Australians; many like us making their passage north to the tropics as antipodean winter takes hold. Indeed we have always; since arriving eight months ago; been  5°C too far south.

Bolstered by wine cheaper than anywhere we have known it, everywhere we go it is easy to find good anchorages with water available and when we need them, easy to find shops a nice walk away. In every mainland destination there has been another playground we can take Ravi to and now it's getting warmer the waterparks abound.

Brisbane offered us the opportunity to catch up with our friends from Fiji who had taken delivery of some books, toilet and gas parts and our lovely new kayak. They were pleased to show us their unusual and beautiful self built hilltop home so we spent a rare night ashore. We also met not one but two previous Alajuela owners; one having bought his when they were new years ago before setting off across the Pacific.

Ever conscious of the days ahead when we wont have shops close to hand, we stocked up from the Indian shops that we found within the city. We think this should last a while, semolina and dal being some of Ravi's favorite dishes, though to be honest he chomps on everything we feed him. Clearly a product of his parents.

Fortunately though we are now past Brisbane so with luck have returned to the trade wind belt. All whiffs of baby vomit have been vanquished from our pillows and bedding. We're looking forward to a return to trade wind sailing whilst nestled behind the great barrier reef.

We have pressed on up the coast visiting various anchorages behind the sand islands of both Moreton and Fraser. As well as Mooloolaba where we missed another friend from Fiji and her two children by a few days, they had returned to their floating home.

Wild dingos at Fraser island

Then it was on to the slightly odd sugar farming town of Bundaberg with it's wild west feel. One of the tasks we had set ourselves was to have our chain re-galvanised so it would no longer drop its rusting debris on to our foredeck. Getting it off the boat, ashore and in to the back of a hire car was the first task; fortunately its return was easy enough, everything being that bit nearer.

Google helps us to track down farmers markets at each stop. Plenty of pesto since Bundaberg!

For some reason our fishing in the colder climbs had been less successful but once more our freezer and bellies are full. In the last few weeks we've caught 5 tuna, one of them a prized yellowfin.

Next we commenced our barrier reef crawl at Lady Musgrave island which is a coral atol. Quiet, isolated and beautiful, though slightly busy with boats... until that is strong winds were forecast.  Then we knew our two remaining neighbours were more our kind of people.

Lady Musgrave with our brilliant new inflatable kayak

Since then we've been creeping up and up and are now at the edge of the Whitsunday islands.  Fringed by coral with sandy beaches these national park islands offer plenty to explore.

We are enjoying Australia so much we have extended our visas giving us plenty of time to explore just a small amount of the barrier reef and to get the boat more ship shape before pressing on. Ravi continues to thrive, develop and keep us highly entertained though we're determined to be stricter with ourselves and get some more boat jobs done whilst amongst the beautiful Whitsunday islands.      

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.