We're onto Twice In A Lifetime!

We've got a new boat and a new blog (and a new kid!). Catch up at Twice In A Lifetime.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

the blog continues elsewhere!

I noticed that we continue to add followers here.. you'll be disappointed, since we're no longer posting on this blog!  To reflect the new start that is represented by our switch to a new boat, we've started chronically our life afloat at a new blog, Twice In A Lifetime.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's A Wrap

We're in the water again, living aboard in this second epoch of our lives afloat.  So the Pelagic years, and this blog, are now over.  Please join us at Twice In A Lifetime.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waiting for the Paint to Dry

That's exactly what we've been doing.  First it was too rainy to paint, then when we did get the paint on it was too cold and wet for the paint to dry.  We painted the last coat of bottom paint on Thursday, and it was finally dry enough for us to go into the travel lift slings today - Tuesday.

Now the painting is done, and the new name is on the hull, and the California "champagne" is cooling in the reefer.  Tomorrow at 0700 the yard guys will lower us into the water.  But before they splash her we'll take a moment for a bit of maritime ritual, and thereby mark and observe this remarkable moment,  the launching of this new boat that we have selected to be the home for our family and the vessel for so many of our hopes.

So tomorrow is a beginning for us, a beginning of things that we cannot yet guess at.

But it is also the end of something, the end of what happened when two people, a bit startled at what they found themselves taking on, sailed away from home with their ten month old son, completely unsure of their ability to carry through on the plans they had set.

Those of you who have been following the blog know that the three years that followed that departure day gave us more than we could have reasonably have hoped for.

This will be a different trip; we are four of us now, and Alisa and I (and Elias) know much more of the sea, and ourselves, than when we left on Pelagic.  And since we know more, we are of course looking for different things with this second incarnation of our life afloat.

So, to mark the transition between boats, and the "ending of the beginning" of our maritime lives, we'll be moving to a new address for the blog - if nothing else, the name of this blog demands the change.  And it's also nice in a way to end this particular blog, to declare a wrap on this particular phase in our lives, and to mark the start of something new.  We'll link to that new blog once we've christened the boat - I hope you'll all come along to the new blog to continue finding out what happens next.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cloth Diapers Afloat

This blog will only apply to the rare (dare I say, mad) sailors who chose to take infants as crew. While I was pregnant with our first son, Elias, our very good friend Debra thankfully informed me how dreadful it is for nonparents to hear about diapers and baby poop. So you have my blessings to skip this blog.
So cute! Elias in 2008. Note the blue swivel lids on diaper buckets. 
That said, I know there must be a few crazy parents out there that can benefit from what I learned sailing with 10-month old Elias… Most families we met with children had kids age 4 and older. In three years we met only one family that sailed with infants, and by the time we met them their children were 4 and 6 – but I was reassured that they were still cruising.  Living at the dock or on a mooring with children is different from cruising with kids; although many issues are the same, there are a few that are specific to cruising families. Cloth diapers is one of these issues, because with a proper landfill or the ability to burn your own dirty diapers ashore with kerosene, you have the option to at least entertain the thought of disposable diapers. But when you find yourself on a 3 week passage from Mexico to the Marqueses, cloth is the only option.  Similarly, when you find that many of the 'landfills' across the Pacific Islands are only a beach on the far end of town, you cannot with clear conscious use anything except cloth.

Jessica (SV Yare) and Marls (SV Sea Dragon) have both asked me for tips about cloth diapers, so I will present what I learned sailing with Elias. The timing is very good, as I am about to repeat the experience with 9-month old Eric this season so I will surely have updates to these methods and I’m hopeful that Jessica and Marls and other sailing parents will share helpful comments and tips as they discover them.

In 1997, months before we left Kodiak , I tried in vain to find a guide for dealing with cloth diapers at sea. So many families have done this very thing, but I could only find one reference to help me (possibly there is one written in French?). Don Street, who I admire as a sailor, wrote something along the lines of 'all you need is 4 diapers, one dragging behind the boat, one hanging on the line to dry, one in waiting, and one on the baby's bottom."  Well, now, that's real helpful isn't it?

Enough dancing around the subject - Here are the supplies you will need: 1) enough diapers for 4 days 2) hemp liners for diapers 3) a mesh bag with line attached for towing diapers 4) two 5-gallon buckets with turn lids 5) rubber gloves 6) bungie cord or shot of line and clothes pins 7) a winning attitude!  
I washed diapers every other day. I washed 2 days of diapers at once, so you need at least 3 days of diapers so the baby can wear something on the day you are washing and the extra day's worth of diapers are there in case the clean diapers take longer than a day to dry (not in the tropics but yes in Alaska), or if you lose a diaper out of the mesh bag (happened  mysteriously to us twice), or if a shark comes and eats the entire mesh bag with diaper (happened to us just outside the pass off Tahiti).  In the tropics your diapers will dry in a few hours of sun or wind or even on a calm day if you rinse them sufficiently.  But in foggy, rainy, coastal Alaska you will have to pray for wind and then after a few hours of wind you will have to move the diapers down below to hang near the diesel heater while you bake bread. I know they are bulky but if you can take 4 days-worth you will be glad you did. I should probably say that I used the old-fashion cloth diaper that is a Chinese prefold with a cloth insert (or 2 at night) and a plastic outer shell. Elias was using about 7-8 diapers a day when he was 10-months, so we had a duffle bag just for diapers that got moved about 20 times from one spot to another around the cabin. I took approximately 32 Chinese prefolds, 25-30 cotton inserts, 10-15 outer plastic shells, and two huge rolls of hemp liners.  Clean Chinese prefolds stack very compactly and they are probably easier to wash than the newer diapers that are on the market…plus, I got them all as hand-me-downs from friends in Kodiak.  I think Eric will be the sixth child to use these diapers, and they have no smell whatsoever and only stains from the zinc diaper-rash ointment that I had to occasionally use. Truly amazing!
             Hemp liners are disposable and will dissolve in seawater, so while they don't catch all the poop they are helpful and can be immediately tipped over the side as you are preparing to drag the diaper. Also, instead of using baby wipes which are not biodegradable, I used hypoallergenic lotion (a cheap brand – nothing fancy) with toilet paper. Get a lotion with a squeeze top and just squirt some right on baby's behind and wipe with toilet paper.  This can then be tossed over the side or flushed down your head, depending how close to shore you are. 
            Dragging diapers works – yes, I know, I was skeptical at first too. I had a great anxiety about getting the diapers exposed to salt water because I worried that it would be impossible to dry them – especially at high latitudes- if I didn't rinse every last salt crystal out of them. Also I was concerned about diaper rash.  When our commercial fishermen friends in Kodiak laughed and said I just had to drag diapers behind the boat to clean them, I would ask 'but have you done this?' and then they would go quiet (very rare reaction for any fisherman and only furthered my anxiety).  But I decided I had to try it to find out, and dragging the diaper for 10-20 minutes flushes out all the pee smell. At anchor it is MUCH harder to wash diapers as I had to use the deck hose and it isn't nearly as effective as dragging diapers at 5 kts.  A heavy duty laundry bag with large mesh or a mesh SCUBA collecting bag will work fine. A draw-string for easy and quick closure is helpful and can be tied to a towing line.
            Once sufficiently dragged, diapers were wrung out to get rid of as much seawater as possible.  Then they soaked in either the pee or poop 5-gallon bucket that adorned the stern of Pelagic. I found swivel lids to be very convenient. I put ½ tablespoon of nappy san detergent in the poop bucket and no detergent in the pee bucket.  Each bucket had 2-2.5 gallons of freshwater.  Cloth diapers that are not rinsed properly will smell, so I used little or no detergent in them.  Pee diapers get cleaned by the sea.  I am not sure, but I think hanging diapers to dry also lets the sun and wind disinfect them.  Initially I boiled water and used that for the poop diapers, but I soon decided I could skip that step. If they smell then they need to be dragged for longer. The poop diapers, after a 2-day soak, would get wrung out and then swooshed around in a bucket with as little water as possible to rinse them. After all the poop diapers were wrung again, they were put with the wrung out pee diapers and then all the diapers were swooshed around in a very small amount of constantly changed fresh water and wrung out.  It is important to really wring out all the water between steps.  We carried 75 gallons of water on Pelagic and while it was enough, there was none to spare. Aside from the water I had in the soaking buckets (which was changed 1-2 times a week), I only allowed myself 4 liters of freshwater to rinse diapers every other day.  Elias got mild diaper rash less than 5 times, and I think the hemp liners probably added a protective layer.
            Hanging the diapers to dry could be the hardest part of the entire process when the trade winds were booming, simply because it takes two hands to hang diapers and that leaves you with none for hanging on! I would harness up and hang a line high up out of the spray and once it was done I would always think that clean diapers hanging in the rigging was a happy sight.  Over time, make it easy on yourself and cut a bungie line to fit your rigging so you can stretch the clothes line fast and move it quickly while leaving all diapers still pegged on. You will be doing this every other day so each small step that makes it easier adds up to a lot of time saved. 

Drying diapers in Mexico.   This is not the best way to tie clothesline, because in order to move the line to a better spot I would first have to remove half the diapers and then untie the line.

Elias eventually started to 'help' me wash his diapers and I would let him play with a clean diaper and some water in the cockpit while I worked. I never once let myself complain about the work involved. It is good, honest work and it is much better than putting plastic in the ocean. And it is just part of what has to be done to reap the benefits of cruising with infants and toddlers as crew.
Happy sailing! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What We're Doing

Well, such fun - comments from what Alisa and I always like to call "our people", both the Holland and Australia chapters...

So, to answer the question from Miles and Melissa, no, we haven't sailed her yet.  My parents visited this last week, and we had them all lined out to babysit the day before the haulout so that Alisa and I could sail Taiko for the first time without having to worry about the kids, but then the weather turned out to be crappy so we stayed at the dock.  So it looks like all of our sailing on this new boat will be as a family!

And where, you might ask, are we going to be sailing the new ride?

Well, right now we're here, in Alameda, California....

And where we would really like to be is in Iluka, New South Wales...

Iluka is the place that Alisa and I like to think of as our spiritual home within Australia.  And right now Iluka seems particularly attractive,  a great antidote to all the ambition chasing that we've been up to, with our simultaneous child rearing, working, and preparation for world sailing.  It's been a crazy six months or so for the team, and there's no better antidote that we can think of than a few months of beach time in Iluka.

So the plan is to sail to Australia, again.

Please, no comments on how we were just in Australia, and how it might of made more sense to buy a boat there.  Believe me, we know.

With the start of the northern hemisphere hurricane season approaching, we'll be looking to leave in two and a half months or so.  This idea has quite frankly kept me up at night in recent weeks, something that usually never happens.  There's a lot to do to figure out the new boat, and I have significant work commitments to meet.  And of course there are our two darling ones, both keeping us busy and making the idea of less-than-adequate preparation for the crossing unacceptable.  And, I don't want to say anything until it's final, but there appear to be developments with my book manuscript that will require some time from me before we leave.  If everything else wasn't enough.

Stay tuned to see how it all turns out...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Despair, or The Boatyard

Well, the Romantic Period with this new boat is officially over.  Starry-eyed dreams are a thing of the past, and we find ourselves immersed in a sea of inescapable practical details.

We're in the boat yard.

I don't know how other people handle being in the boat yard, but for me it's always been a scorched-earth experience.  I always do the work myself, which means twelve hour days, bashed knuckles, and plenty of time to reflect bitterly on the foolishness of dreaming about palm-fringed anchorages.

This time around is no different.  We've been on the hard since Tuesday.  Every day I work all day but conclusively finish few (or no) jobs.  The beautiful weather that we enjoyed in January has left us, to be replaced by a traditional California winter.  It's been pouring rain for days and the temperature has been topping out around 45/7 and so the boat sits unpainted.  Meanwhile we're staying in a hotel, so every day that we don't get back into the water adds to our boat-related money hemorrhage, and the forecast promises little relief.

And, well, you get the picture.  Luckily I have the experience of the Pelagic years to draw on, and the realization that even the darkest haul-outs eventually end.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What we've got

After a year of looking, this is what we ended up with.

Taiko is a 45-foot steel cutter, one of two hulls built to a design by Gary Noble Curtis.  She has a bit of a history - hull completed in 1989, but the boat not launched until 2005, she's only done one round trip from California to Mexico but has managed to acquire five owners in her brief career (we're owner pair #5).

As expected, we ended up compromising on about half of our boat-buying criteria.  For one thing, she's steel (though corrosion-resistant corten, and well done), rather than the aluminum that I would have preferred.  For another thing she's big - 42 feet was really as big as we wanted to go.  And her engine is quite undersized and, because she hasn't cruised, there's all sorts of gear to add to her (more on that later!).  And (there seem to be a lot of compromises), she is not a production boat.  This means she will be more difficult to sell when the time comes, and she is also a bit of a mystery as far as the design's virtues and vices are concerned.

But, there was a lot of good that came with the package.  We didn't get her for a song, but the price was probably "reasonable" for what she is.  The mast, standing and running rig, mainsail and staysail are all brand new.  Much of the other gear is from 2005.  She has a very non-yacht interior, which is something that Alisa and I always wanted - boat builders put a huge amount of money into making sailboats look like floating bordellos, and we were always keen to skip paying for that sort of nonsense.  Another huge plus is that she appears to fit the bill as an "expedition" yacht - with some modifications, I think she'll take us to whatever icy corner of the globe we care to explore.  And, with all that length, some good things do come...
The "makes me feel like singing" galley.

The "I'm just going to go work on my project" engine room.

The "it's all mine until Eric is out of the crib" forward cabin, complete with roll-away desk for homework.

   The "how long can we get away with living like this?" aft cabin.

So that's the new ride.  Of course, the only point of having any sailboat is to sail, a lot.  We've cooked up a plan for doing just that - details to follow soon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

No Place Like Home

The 24 days that Mike spent in CA boat buying were a whirlwind for me and the boys. There were so many things to do in order to close up the year we'd spent living in Hobart, Tasmania.   In 10 months of living ashore, we stayed in 8 different homes. Only one place was a rental, the majority were housesits, and what we didn't pay in outright cash we paid in the stress and effort of moving so many times.  Moving with very young children.  It worked for us in a lot of ways – kept us very light in possessions and allowed us to see Hobart from all sides of town.  But there was a time not too long ago when a very tired Elias asked me 'where is home, mommy?'.  And I began to ask myself the same question.  Lo and behold, we have finally arrived at the answer to that question. And it's an answer that I like very much!

How to describe the palace that is now keeping us afloat? She is every bit as good as she looked in the photos online. She is beautiful and has so much storage! The galley is about twice as big yet still narrow enough to be functional while sailing. The deck lines are lovely. I am chuffed, as they say in Australian. In fact I am so starstruck with this boat that I have almost forgotten how awful the flight over was.  Almost, but not completely.

Please imagine me with Eric (9 months) and Elias (4.5 years), 4 bags weighing a total of 67 kg (almost 150 pounds), 2 car seats, a stroller, 4 carry-on bags that were heavy and really unmanageable once the strap on the laptop case broke.  Thanks to wonderful friends, we were off to a smooth start leaving Hobart. But rechecking bags in Sydney was horrible. I will skip the boggy details and instead ask you to picture me dripping in sweat from neck to ankle after lugging each piece of baggage from the taxi curb to the United desk (all the while wearing 11 kg Eric in my Ergo carrier), I am swooning from the physical effort and I wonder if I might collapse. No exaggeration. Then while Elias is on the floor having a very loud, very epic meltdown, the unhelpful woman representing United Airlines asked me in an accusatory tone 'why are you doing this alone?'.  As if I had said to my husband, "no dear, you take the earlier flight and I'll go alone with the kids".  Instead of answering her, I hugged Eric and thanked him for not crying during the ugly episode.  Once the bags were checked, we regrouped and had a pep-talk and then tackled the lines for security and customs. Elias' pony jumped up and hit a man in the face. This man was not happy about it and my four-year-old said loudly 'but mom, she is soft, it didn't hurt' and I just kept going – not insisting that he apologize.  I viewed it all from outside myself, amazed at how exhaustion could wear down my values. Once through all the checkpoints, I looked for our gate and found it flashing 'FINAL CALL' so we got to sprint to gate 61, which was terrifyingly hard to find amidst all the perfume an booze shops.  Poor Elias was crying that he couldn't run and his legs were going to fall off.  You never see those carts ferrying people to their gates when you really need one.  The 13 hour flight was no big deal after all that.  I arrived with bloodshot eyes hoping for some due pampering, only to see Mike waiting out side the customs gate looking like he did after I gave birth to our sons…he looked happy but thoroughly trashed and exhausted.  I am sorry to say that I didn't give him a proper hug until I downloaded all the gory details that I spared you about the flight over. It was a long rant in the car parking lot of the airport, but then I finally found myself and we were off to see the new yacht!

Where Pelagic was 37 feet long and had only 25 feet of waterline, Taiko is 45 feet long with 40 feet of waterline.  She is vast! But she doesn't have a very high freeboard and she looks like fun to sail – oh, I can't wait to sail her!! We are waiting until next week when Mike's parents visit and we can take her sailing without the kids aboard. I need to learn everything about handling her and handling such a big rig, and I want to focus without worrying about the kids. It was fitting that the day we departed Hobart on our way to see our new home, the potential new owner of Pelagic was taking her for a test sail and survey. A very big page was being turned.

And so now I am back in America after being gone for nearly 2 years. I enjoy the cultural diversity down every street, but I notice that people seem beaten down in spirit. I am also amazed at how disgusting orange cheddar cheese is, and I am reminded how strange I initially found the yellow (non-colored) cheddar cheese in Australia but I quickly came to prefer it.  More on cheese and other observations on America another time. For now, on this third night aboard, I will say with a tired and satisfied smile, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home". 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Full Crew

Alisa and the boys arrived two days ago.  I found my life partner a bit worse for wear when I met her at the airport.  The process of re-checking all her bags in Sydney seemed to have taken a particularly large toll - there was her, and the four huge duffels, and the four carry-ons, and the two car seats, and the stroller, and the two boys, all to be gotten from the curb where the cab dropped her to the check-in area inside the terminal.  All this with nary a baggage cart in sight, and a security guy warning her that she couldn't leave anything unattended while ferrying the load inside.  And, well, there was more.  When I met her at the international arrivals lounge in SFO she seemed to need to tell me every detail before she could accept a welcoming hug.

Elias started working on the boat immediately.

So when we got to the marina I showed the boat to Alisa and Elias for the very first time.  Alisa has been threatening to write up a blog post about her initial impressions, so I won't steal her thunder here.  I'll just say that the act of showing her the boat that we had agreed to buy before she even saw it was a very very special moment, long anticipated.  And like many long-anticipated moments it was just as powerful as I expected, and then quickly gone.  I made lunch, and we began to settle into the routine of our new life on this new boat.

Eric is nine months old - the same age Elias was when we moved on board Pelagic.

More soon, on both the details of our new ride and our immediate plans.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

She's ours

Just a quick note to share the news that we took possession of Taiko on Saturday.  In the picture the seller (Paul) and I are shaking hands on the deal during the "off-shore delivery" - our offer required that Paul had to deliver the boat to us outside of California so that the sale would not incur California sales tax - which is 9% in the county where the boat was docked!  So Paul hired someone with a Coast Guard six-pack license to drive the boat beyond the three-mile line which demarcates state waters.  Once there we signed all the final papers and took a picture of the GPS to document our location and I made first "functional use" of the boat outside of California waters by sailing around for a couple of hours before we drove back through the Golden Gate.  Paul is a Kiwi, and he was very aware of the farcical, only-in-America side of the whole thing.  The farce was pretty apparent to me as well, but I was mostly nervous that I would screw up on some trifling little legal detail.  But it all went fine.

It's hard now to remember just how nervous I was the night before we took possession - I literally haven't been so nervous since the day that Alisa and I were married.  But as soon as she was ours, all the nerves went away.  We've now made our choice and we'll be happy to live with it.  And, improbably enough, our full year of searching is suddenly over.  I love the feeling of living aboard again, even if it is only at a marina dock.  Alisa and the boys arrive Wednesday morning.

The picture below was taken much too late last night, as I was cleaning the bilges and taking stock of everything aboard.  Paul kindly left some tools and other useful items aboard (but, mate, I noticed that you kept the oil lamps!).  So now our big push to get the boat ready to cross the Pacific begins - more details on the boat, and the preparations, to follow soon.

Friday, January 28, 2011


We accepted an offer on Pelagic today.  The offer was quite a bit lower than what we had hoped for, but    with Taiko set to close on Saturday, it was clearly time to end the Pelagic years.  I have never been very nostalgic about boats, but I must admit that when I was tidying things up on Pelagic before I left Tassie to look at this new boat it felt strange to just be leaving her there, tied up in the marina indefinitely, idle.  She's been a very good boat for us, really as good a boat for sailing from Alaska to Australia as we could have gotten on our budget, and I'll be glad to see her passed along to someone else to be sailed around Tassie for a while.

So, we suddenly have agreements to sell one boat and buy another, and the end of the year-long boat-swap process is before us.  I hope it's a long long time until we change boats again!

The picture above was taken in the Kenai Fjords, about a week after we left Kodiak.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


It looks like we'll be able to take possession of Taiko by the weekend - the blizzard of paperwork that marks the sale promises to be over by then at the latest.

I'll admit to a few sleepless moments over the past week, as my mind refuses rest from the long list of new considerations that come with the new boat.

There are a few kinds of doubt that come with an enterprise like this.

First, there is the powerful doubt of the boat shopping period, as the potential downsides of candidate boats are plumbed and considered.  I'm well over that now - I'm comfortable with the bet we've made on Taiko, even though I realize that the days will come (hopefully infrequently) when I say to Alisa, "Why did we buy this boat?"

Then there's the doubt that comes with sailing across the Pacific, again, with such young children.  We'll have the huge benefit of experience this time around, and of course if we weren't fundamentally satisfied with our ability to do the trip safely we wouldn't consider it.  But still, there will be a part of me that will be on guard and tense until the crossing is through.

But the really big doubt, I find, comes from the big picture stuff.  How are we going to make this all work financially with the expense of such a big boat to maintain and no secure income?  How does all this galavanting around in our thirties and forties not end with us working retail jobs in our sixties?  Are we going to be able to support our kids properly with this haven't-had-a-job-since-2007 model of existence?

This is the source of one of my favorite axioms: true freedom comes when you have no choice.  Meaning that someone who is completely caught up in whatever passion has grabbed them will have little time to spare for these doubts, and will be free to pursue their chosen adventure single-mindedly.  It's an idea that is economically expressed by the shrugs that a couple of our French friends give when they say things like, "It was my dream, so it is how I have to live."

We're not at all so single-minded about sailing that we can pursue it with no thought to alternatives.  But we love living on a boat and sailing far and wide, and (touch wood) we've been able to pay for it over the last three years, even though we left Kodiak with just some savings and no idea at all of what would happen down the line.  And that's really the biggest consolation for my doubts - the knowledge that you can never know how an adventure will turn out before you go - you just have to jump, and have a bit of faith that things will work out.

Which is enough for me.


Some snapshots from this period of waiting between agreeing to buy the boat and taking possession:

Previous anonymous hotel room.

 Current anonymous hotel room.

And the list of boat jobs begins to grow!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Buy the ticket...

...and take the ride.

We reached a final agreement on Taiko today.  Tomorrow we'll exchange signed copies of the purchase agreement and then an avalanche of events will follow - money will be wired, documentation agents will be engaged, lawyers will offer advice, and insurance agents will be queried.

No one can be good at everything, of course, and I don't know if I'm really cut out for buying boats.  We have sailing friends who have swapped boats any number of times, and they have a real sang froid about the whole thing, an icy flow in their veins that gives them the confidence to make quick decisions and live with them.

Me, though, I'm a worrier when it comes to boats.  That quality might have stood us in good stead on Pelagic, as my habit of triple-checking things has likely kept us out of trouble at times.  But it makes the boat buying process a bit painful - everywhere I look, I see problems.  And really, as I've often said to Alisa, I don't actually like boats much at all.  The romance is lost on me - I just see the inordinate amount of money and effort that goes into keeping them going.

The trouble is, I really, really, like sailing.  And sailing relies on a certain amount of interacting with boats.

Our friend Paul, who has heard me moaning over the boat-buying process as much as anyone, had the perfect reaction to the news about Taiko - "I hope this boat gives as much satisfaction and pleasure as Pelagic", he wrote me.

And really, that's all we could hope.  For all the headaches that came our way with Pelagic, buying that boat and sailing across the Pacific as a family was the central event in our lives.  We should be so lucky with this new boat.

I can't wait to show her to Alisa and Elias.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I'm waiting for the surveyor's report, so no news on the boat yet.

It's been a hectic visit, but I've grabbed a few moments along the way, like going up to the Marin Headlands at sunset to watch the fog blowing in through the Golden Gate.  While I watched the fog erasing the City and the bridge glowing redder red, I was looking at the same scene three times - once now, once three years ago, when Alisa and Elias and I sailed through the Golden Gate on Pelagic, innocent of Eric and trying to figure the whole sailing thing out, and once again twenty years before that, when I used to live on one of those foggy San Francisco streets.  That's a lot of time to take in at one glance!

Yesterday was Martin Luther King day, which I observed by driving into the City for a performance by poet Amiri Baraka and saxophone player Roscoe Mitchell of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.  A good-to-be-back-in-America moment.

Taiko under sail.  That's a big stick!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Back in America

Arrived in San Francisco after a somewhat eventful flight, featuring an unscheduled stop in Honolulu to fix the plane's bathrooms.  Good call there - imagine a 747 without a single empty seat, and every bathroom in economy class out of order...

I met the seller and broker this afternoon, and had a first look at Taiko.  Initial impressions are good - fingers crossed that nothing bad comes up on survey.

Afterwards, I soaked up the feeling of being back in the home country.  I'm particularly noticing the things that I do here that I don't do in Oz.  So far the list includes eating Mexican food, buying a six pack of good beer, and giving a panhandler change.

I find myself wondering why we don't say "beggar" in America.  Whatever people might say about declining literacy and the dumbing-down of society, the power of language, and individual words, continues undiminished.


Meanwhile the news out of southeast Queensland has gotten pretty grim.  Sounds like all the family is safe, though a couple have been flooded out and a few others are cut of from their homes...

Ipswich, my Dad's hometown, earlier today.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fast Forward

Things are moving fast.  We're packing everything up, getting quotes from movers ("removalists" in Oz), and getting new prescriptions for the expired drugs from our medical kit.  If the California boat lives up to our hopes on inspection, we want to be ready.  All the cruising accouterments that took us months to acquire for Pelagic are simply going into boxes, ready to be unpacked on the new boat - IF this is the one.

Organization has never been my long suit, and I don't do well when I'm feeling overloaded with things to do.  So this week of packing and dealing with lists of lists, while an inescapable part of busting out of our current routine to go sailing again, is not my favorite part of the the whole process.  Then again, this sort of thing isn't anyone's favorite part of the process.  We're just putting in our time, hoping that we're earning our way to another series of sublime moments of family life afloat...

What to bring?

Well-rested baby.  Tired dad.

Echidna face paint.

Watching the finish of the Sydney to Hobart.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Allure

So, our weird split approach to the short-term future continues.  On one hand I'm packing up everything to ship to California if the boat goes through, on the other hand we're looking for housing in Hobart if it doesn't.

I'm getting insurance quotes, and shipping quotes, and talking to lawyers and a mechanic and surveyors and the broker and equipment rental stores.

And every now and then I take a break from all that and consider the route before us if we do end up sailing out of California.  On the internet I read that the boreal spring will see La NiƱa or neutral conditions, which bodes for reduced hurricane activity in the eastern North Pacific, and enhanced trade winds.  In the storage unit I go through charts, surely the favorite "job" of any sailing romantic.  I come across mysterious atolls that I've never heard of, find myself scrutinizing passes through coral reefs that we'll likely never visit.  And I see our old positions, faithfully penciled in, from our last crossing that has receded far into the misty realm of Things That Happened Years Ago.

Alisa and I agree that if things do work out with this boat, and we do manage to navigate all the craziness that lies between now and the start of hurricane season, then we have some serious fun ahead of ourselves.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

To Leap?

I've said it before - the romantic part of sailing the world lasts until the moment you buy an actual boat, on an actual budget.  From that point on, everything is practical.

Information is starting to trickle in about the San Francisco boat that we have tentatively agreed to buy.  We have a mechanic lined out to look at the engine, and a surveyor for the hull and systems, and another surveyor to look at the electrical system and corrosion issues.  A couple of these people have been down to take a quick look at the boat, and we eagerly consume whatever bits of information they offer.  There are still some big question marks, like the insulation and the state of the water and fuel tanks, and, biggest of all, whether the under-sized engine will be up to what we ask of it.  I'll be going over in a week to get the best answers that I can to those questions, and then we'll make up our mind.

Meanwhile, preparations are underway to pull up stakes in Tasmania and shift everything to California.  I've got the standard five pages of to-do lists that presage any big trip involving a boat, and the firm hope that I can get everything lined out in the time remaining.  The kicker, though, is that we don't know for sure if we are leaving - if this boat proves not to be The One, then we're not going anywhere just yet...

Stay tuned.