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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rough Riding the Bluest Oceans


Our pilot boat chugged in at 7 am. Having engine problems and a dodgy outboard has some limitations when reversing out of a dock. Yes, Yoldia was small enough to take for a walk, but we couldn’t walk on water [yet]

Departure was delayed a day [which in the yachty world is technically an early departure]. Supply shopping, fuel top ups and immigration procedures always take longer than expected – and besides; it’s bad luck to leave on a Friday!

Our special services tug boat service courtesy of captain Kirk


It was sad watching Chaguramus fade away in the background as we chugged away at almost 2 knots – not because it’s a great place, but it symbolised the end of three incredible months of cruising the Caribbean and most importantly, 3 months on board Fiddler – a boat that will always be my home – and the world’s best captain! 


Boats sped past us left right and centre as we sailed towards the wind – wherever it was hiding. Along with it we found ‘the blob” which I saw as a whale and The Swede saw as a ginormous ray. And then we caught our first [and only] fish… 


We think it was tuna. We know it tasted great.



I'd braced myself for 2 weeks of hugging the rail and spewing my guts out, but the little 27 foot Albin Vega was the smoothest sailor I’ve come across so far. In fact all my worries were calmed as the wind picked up: sailing without a chart plotter or fancy instruments was great – you have to pay attention to your surroundings all the time instead of electronic representations. And as I got to know the crazy Viking captain, I realised that he was unlikely to keel haul me or sell me into slavery and I thought that was quite nice of him.


Strange sleeping habits of the captain

Strange eating habits of the captain: caviar on everything

While we may have missed many other important events at sea, Saint Patrick's day was celebrated with 18 hours straight of Irish folk music, the painting of ourselves green, and the only alcoholic beverage of the trip




Our gib and home made genoa configuration
 More flying fish suicide themselves on our deck than I have seen in all my former sailing experience combined. Over the full moon I had two nights of sitting on watch being attacked left right and centre: they get in your clothes and your hair and as much as I tried to wack them back to sea with the breadboard, there was no way I could keep up. Weirdly they seemed to settle down as soon as I handed over the watch to the captain.

Someone once told me that if you kiss a flying fish it turns into a prince... Sadly that didn't happen
 The best part of Yoldia, was her toilet - it has the best view in the world! Generally speaking you dont even need toilet paper thanks to the crashing of the waves on the little bow. In rough seas (day 4-8) it's one of the best adrenalin rushes imaginable as you cling on!


Yes, things were great and I think I was quite sad when the captain yelled land ahoy on day 10... I didn't think I was quite ready for it.


Aren't we a lovely crew hey??

The last night bought with it a ton of maintainance (everything on boats seems to break all the time - its half of the joy of sailing) but it also bought with it a plethora of dolphins and a hitch hiking bird that spend most of the night sitting on our tiller.



|On the 25th we finally sailed into Panama and prepared to anchor. After my limited sailing experience being on big boats, the fact that you can lift an anchor (that can secure a boat) so easily was a strange idea


10 days, 1 hour and 58 minutes after departure, I licked land hello.


With no contact while at sea, it was nice to find my ride across the Pacific hadn't left without me

S/V Eagle Dancer - My soon to be circumnavigation completing vessel
 I havent seen or done much since arrival and that I put down to beer being cheap and cleaning out the soggy wet interior of Yoldia being a bigger project than you'd expect!



Thank you Karl for the most excellent journey and for reminding me what sailing is all about - getting really really dirty in an abyss of blue water with only imaginations and creativity and the wind to propel you forward. 



Friday, March 14, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

Every captain has a parrot, a wooden leg and an eye patch. Everyone knows that. I learned it when I was 4...

But as I rocked up at my very first sailing boat (Fiddler) back in Kudat (Malaysia) in 2012, I found nothing of the sort... Captain Kirk had 2 real legs.

Captain Kirk
Kirk patiently taught me everything I now know about boats, he taught me to always throw up to lee, he taught me that tomatoes were not to be feared, he taught me how to dive, derust, install pop rivets, use power tools, pretend to be a marine engineer, and most importantly, he instilled in me a luster for sailing.

The Fiddler crew


13060.8 KM later I finally bid the captain, the crew, and Fiddler a very sad farewell - After 5 years of travelling, I thought it was time to try a real life... 


Just your average work excursion...

I obviously pushed my employees too hard...

The view from my balcony
|Yes, real life was tough!
But then one day, I got a phone call and the ocean beckoned me back and I found myself sailing on a new boat with a new captain. 

Captain David


David surprised me, he had no parrot or eye patch, and I arrived just too late to witness the shearing of his beard... but he had life sorted out - he proudly wore his "I wish I was a South African" shirt everywhere he went and hopefully still does back in Australia.

Nereid crew
Together we overcame terrible weather and pirates and 4am mampoer and even though we set sail for the Meditaranean; we washed up in the Caribbean... right next to Fiddler.

Life is weird like that.

After staunch negotiations; Captain Kirk bought me back from Captain David for a box of cookies (apparently my net worth) and for the last three months we faced the hardships of cruising the Caribbean


Life was great.


Fantastic even.


And then quite suddenly, out of the deep blue, things changed... A prospective job offer materialised despite me rocking up barefoot and mangled after a 2 hour hitch hike... and I met my new to be captain; Eagle.


He's a very very interesting man on a 5 year trip around the world. I have yet to meet the rest of the crew or the boat (they are all in Panama); but I have a good feeling about this!


So it's going to be a tight squeeze making it to the canal in time for the crossing, but flights should be avoided at all costs which is why I made a mission out of finding a boat from here (Trinidad) to Panama


And I did, I met Swedish Karl


And first thing in the morning I set sail on his beautiful 27 foot Albin Vega heading straight to Panama. I hope I don't need the toilet on the way because there isn't one.


It's flipping scary having life plans again; but adventure beckons and I can't wait to see where I wash up.

This evening has been a bit of a sad one, saying goodbye and handing things over is never fun, although I must admit that I did enjoy handing over my official Fiddler to do list

As you can see, Katrin was thrilled to be taking over responsibilities
So maybe all captains are different, but I want to say that as far as I know (from my experience at least) any good captain has a big heart, an even bigger lust for adventure burning violently within, and a great sense of humour!

Thank you so so very muchly captains of old!
And new captains, I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Life's a celebration!!!

Because sometimes when you try and subtly lick, it backfires, and they lick back....

It's 4am and my alarms yelling at me to get up. It's the last thing that I wanted to do after 15 hours of sea sick sailing (It's amazing how throwing up 19 times saps your energy). But I pulled myself together, plastered on a smile and let the day begin. It was carnival Monday and we were in Trinidad.

The crew

The five of us piled into the dinghy and hoped for the best. Previous day's discussions with fellow boat people suggested that transport needed to have been pre-arranged weeks in advance and that traffic would be terrible! But as we stepped out of the marina, I held out my thumb and the very first car pulled over and drove us straight to the action in the Port of Spain.


None of us had a clue what to expect, so when we found ourselves in the middle of Jouvert, it was a bit of a shock to the system.

J’Ouvert The official start of Carnival, J’Ouvert takes place before dawn on Carnival Monday and bands of revellers dressed in old clothes cover themselves in oil, grease, paint, chocolate or mud and dance through the streets till the sun comes up.

Within minutes our group had been torn apart by the moroding masses of bumpers and grinders (what appears to be the official and only dance move of the country) and as we passed through the different bands of people we found ourselves getting coated in layer upon layer of mud, various colours of paint, chocolate and I dare to ask what some of the other substances were... What an awesome welcome to Trinidad and Tobago!!



Katrin being molestorised

The amazing cleaning crew followed close behind the masses leaving the streets spotless in our wake!

Even going to the toilet gets you in party mode 

|I was still spitting mud hours after licking this guy!
The streets quieted out in the heat of the day and the German (Katrin, my roommate) and I headed off to mingle, bar hop and explore the town. When we returned to the carnival scene we were in a state of shock... we found the whole of the island wondering about in the cleanest, beautifulest and most extravagant clothing imaginable... nobody warned us that we should be looking like this:



The thing that amazes me the most is how comfortable people are being scantily clad... and they really do pull it off quite well...




Darkness finally descended and our state of dirtiness was eventually masked to the point that we even managed to hitch a ride home with these guys:


And then began round two. Tuesday left us even more gobsmacked. And fortunately it didn't start nearly as early!

Armed with a teddy bear we headed to land and managed to get a ride into town with the army. A great start to the day!


Teddy was a great hit with the ladies:


And the police:

He even got us on the news....

The day just got more and more spectacularish  and while I'm sure carnival in Rio is awesome; the parties in Trinidad are a have to do!!!










It took us three rides to get home, but everyone we hitched with left us more enthusiastic about the human race and how many good people are out there! Trinidad has a bit of a bad reputation, but from the quality of people I have hung out with this week, I can only say that this country is rich in awesomeness!!!

Carnival's all over for now and most of the country is still lingering with hangovers... but the parties continue for no other reason than life being a celebration. 

No matter where you are or whats going on around you, make sure you're living it up because life is short, and you really need to make the most of it!!!